Cursed



A middle-aged man finds an old photograph of a woman resembling his dead wife. Little did he know what would follow.
Reading time: 17 minutes.


Cursed

beastboysuraj suraj singh sisodia xtales.net



It had been raining all day, so I waited until it stopped. Those drenched streets and the stormy grey clouds reminded me of the day I had met my wife. Maybe that's why I was missing her so much that day. The pain of losing your loved ones can leave you broken and lost. It had been more than twenty years since I lost my wife. I used to come to this flea market every time I missed her. All those memories would come rushing back whenever I walked through these makeshift shops. It felt like she was still with me. After walking for an hour, I was at the flea market she used to take me to. Suddenly, I stopped at this handicraft shop. An old, charred, wooden photo frame has caught my attention.

"How much for the frame?" I asked the man behind the pile of old antique stuff.

"Whatever you feel like, good sir."

"Thirty bucks?"

"Ahh—" he hesitated.

"That's why I asked you in the first place," I sneered, handing him a fifty.

I was a fifty-four-year-old English teacher and a peace-loving citizen who had been living alone for the past two decades. I never bothered anyone and minded my own business. I didn't have a habit of getting into bargaining. That faded after the passing of my wife. I was a government teacher; I earned more than enough. Who or what would I save money for, anyway? The truth is that I would have given him five hundred for that frame had the man asked. But it was not for the frame. I did not pay him a fifty for that almost charred piece of wood. It was the picture in it.

The rain had started back again, and the clouds began to thunder. I turned on the lights of my one-bedroom flat, threw the keys on the table, and headed straight to the living room. The coffee table felt like a perfect place for that photo. I rarely had any guests, so no one would touch it. I spent most of my weekends in the living room, either reading or napping. So I'd stay close to it.

For the entire week, I'd come home from school, sit in front of this picture, and stare at it for hours. A beautiful lady stood in the frame, wearing a silk gown in a black & white polaroid picture. There was something about her that reminded me of my wife. If I took my glasses off, I couldn't tell her and my wife apart. I'd observe the frame in my hands, run my fingers on the edges, scratch it, and polish it with my cuffs. The burn marks were evident that it had been in a fire. Sometimes, I'd wander away with my thoughts, thinking about the tragedy that might have struck this beautiful lady. It resonated with me because of mine. I had finally found a hook.

It all started a month after purchasing that frame. I had been losing interest in my life. Teaching kids did not give me that pleasure anymore. I just wanted to finish school, so I could get back home and spend time with that picture. Some days, I would just call in sick. Who would doubt that a fifty-year-old man who lived alone had fallen ill? I would lie down all day, staring at the ceiling or out the window. At night, I would dream about her.

...



"Honey, what are you doing?"

I was on the balcony looking down at the kids playing football. My wife came from behind me and took me tightly in her arms. I reached around to embrace her warmth, but she was cold as ice.

"Nothing, I just...I was just looking at the kids playing down there. Tell me, sweety. Why did we never have kids?"

She swung in front of me, looked straight into my eyes, smiled, and said, "Oh, you want kids?"

"I mean... yeah. It wouldn't be the worst idea. Remind me again why did we decide not to have kids?

"You know, honey. You know it very well."

I tried to think but couldn't remember, so I asked, "Why?"

...



I blinked in disbelief, then let out a disappointed sigh. The sky outside my bedroom was still very dark. I tried to remember what I was dreaming about but couldn't. All I could remember was my wife screaming something at me. I turned to my side to go back to sleep again, but my heart gave up for a second.

A figure stood at my bedroom door.

I jumped up with the strength of a young man, blinked a few times, and the figure was gone. I stayed there for a long minute. The silhouette seemed to be of a woman. Was I seeing things?

The following morning, I woke up with the picture in my hand on my chest. I must have walked to the living room during the night and brought that picture back to my bedroom before going back to sleep again. The previous night was a little hazy. I shrugged, put the picture on my bedpost, and went to get ready for school.

By the time I got back, I had totally forgotten about the previous night. It's common for people my age. I had brought some work home with me just to fill my evening. I sat on the couch and stared at the picture for a few minutes before starting the work.

At night, after finishing my work and having a light dinner, I went to bed. Faint memories of the previous night came back, and my final thoughts lingered around my wife before drifting away.

...



"Look, honey. It's coming up."

I looked away at the horizon. A reddish glow appeared behind the massive body of water, illuminated by the first rays of sunlight.

"It's so...beautiful," I whispered to my wife.

"See? I told you it would be magical."

I looked at my wife's glowing face. She had never been that happy.

"Not as magical as you, my love," I said.

Suddenly, it all went grey. The water slowly turned black. I couldn't understand what was happening. The only thing I did was run away from this rising wave of a black abyss as fast as I could. And then, it occurred to me that I had left my wife behind. I turned back and saw her engulfed in the abyss, and I couldn't do anything to stop it.

...



I jerked awake and sat upright, sweating profusely. I took a few deep, slow breaths, and it occurred to me that I was thirsty. I tried to reach the water jar I kept on my bedpost, but my hand grabbed the photo frame. I had a tiny heart attack just like that. I clearly remembered that I had left that picture in the living room. There could be no doubt about it, none. And yet, here it was.

I stood up to take it back to the living room, turned towards the door, and had another heart attack. The silhouette of a woman had just disappeared from the bedroom door where it stood. I sank into my bed and did not get up till morning. Until then, I lay wide awake, trying to make sense of recent events.

By the morning, it was clear that the picture had something to do with it. It was messing with my mind. I had to get rid of it, but I didn't want to throw it out. So before leaving for school, I put the frame in the locker where I knew it would be safe, and I could look at it whenever I wanted. But as anyone can guess what happened next, I woke up the following night after a different dream about my wife.

This time, I woke up but could not move at all. I have had this experience before. It's called sleep paralysis. I was aware of the phenomenon, so I wasn't scared. But then, I looked at the door from the corner of my eye. The dark figure stood there, quiet and still. I had a feeling it was staring at me. The fact that I could not move made it worse. I thought I was going to die that night. What happened next made my heart race faster.

The figure took a step forward.

I jerked awake again. This time, I was trembling with fear. I did not dare to turn my head to the door or the bedpost, but I didn't need to. I knew that the frame and that figure were there. Still, I slowly turned my head, and what I saw made me freeze dead in my spot.

The woman was right next to my bed.

I tried to scream, but no words came out. There was no question of running out because I was frozen out of fear. Never had I ever been this scared in my life. I was sure that these would be a few of my final moments. All I would ever going to see now was darkness. I thought I would be submerged in deafening silence, that I would never hear a word; certainly not—

"Honey?"

My wife, who was calling me. Only that thought could have given me the strength to speak.

"Dear? Is that you?"

"Yes, who else?"

"How could this be...?"

"Why? Don't you want me here? Didn't you miss me?"

A stream of hot fluid trickled down my face. "Of course I did, my dear," I said while crying. "I missed you so much."

The entire night quickly went away. It was morning before I knew. I woke up with the picture in my hand. The memories of the night, the conversation, her presence, and her voice made my heart ache with pain. I could not wait for the day to end. I skipped school, told them I was sick again and kept pacing impatiently in my bedroom all day long.

This was what had become of my life. Sometimes, I would attend school just because I could not bear to wait all day in my bedroom. My nights with my wife were the only joy left in my life. She would just sit next to my bed while I would be paralysed on my bed. We would talk until the breaking of the dawn. It would feel like I was twenty all over again.

"Do you remember when I took you to the beach to show you the sunrise?"

"How could I forget that, my love?"

It was about to dawn again. Maybe, that was what triggered this question.

"Why did you leave me there, honey?"

"I didn't want to, but I had received an important call."

She didn't say anything. I realised that wasn't what she was looking for.

"I'm sorry, my love. I know how important that was for you."

"That's okay, honey."

The first ray of sunlight hit the empty chair adjacent to my bed, and I felt my muscles gain control. The night was over. I went to get ready but didn't go to school. There was an old friend I had to pay a visit to. I hadn't been there in a long time.

When I returned home at night, I went straight to my bedroom and lay on the bed, thinking about my wife. Soon, the darkness engulfed the entire room. Slowly, a dark figure crept into my bedroom through the door and sat on the chair.

"Dear, is that you?" I asked.

"Who else could it be?"

"I missed you so much, my love."

"Did you, though?" she said with a tone I had never heard before.

I was confused for a second. "What do you mean by that, hon?" I asked yet so innocently.

I could not move my body. Otherwise, I would have run for my life because she screamed in a demonic voice that turned my blood cold.

"YOU KNOW WHAT I FUCKING MEAN, YOU LYING PIECE OF SHIT!"

I started trembling on my bed. Words couldn't seem to find their way out of my throat. I was in shock. What had happened suddenly?

"YOU WENT TO MEET THAT BITCH? DIDN'T YOU? YOU STUPID FUCK!"

Her voice sent shivers down my spine. The dark figure stood up, and I realised it was so tall it reached the ceiling. Then it bent down, stared at my face, and looked straight into my eyes. It was dark in the room, but I still saw its burned face, charred just like the wood of the photo frame.

"It was her who called you that day? Isn't it?" she asked me in her demonic voice.

I just kept crying. Even if I wanted to say something, I couldn't.

"You were happy when I died, weren't you?"

I wanted to scream 'No', but I couldn't. Fear had jammed my vocal cords.

"You didn't mourn me. Did you? YOU CHEATING BASTARD!"

Tears had blurred my vision. I could feel them slide down the sides of my face to my ears.

"ANSWER ME, YOU STUPID FUCK!"

Then, that dark abyss returned and started rising in the room like flood water. It filled my entire bedroom and engulfed me in it.

...



I was brought back to my senses by a blinding flash.

"Oh, it's too bright," I said, squinting my eyes.

"That's it, sweetheart," said a sweet voice. "It's done."

I blinked a few times and looked at this handsome face. His long dark hair could charm anyone. He was swiftly shaking a piece of glazed paper. Then, he showed it to me.

"Wow, is this some kind of magic?" I asked, looking at my picture. "How did you develop it so fast?"

"It's a polaroid camera, new on the market. You said you wanted a picture of yourself in the gown, so I bought it."

"Aw, thank you, my love." I looked at the picture again. "I look so good in it," I said.

"Oh, sweetheart, you always look good. Wait!"

He reached into his pockets and took out an empty wooden frame. "Let's frame it," he said.

"No!" I replied immediately, pulling the picture back.

"Why not?"

"Oh dear, you know, very well, why."

"Don't worry," he said in his sweet, calming voice. "Nothing will happen." And he snatched the picture from my hand in a swift motion. I watched him set it in the frame, and I don't know what came over me.

That moment made me lose control over my body and let my desires take over it. I was then an animal without a sense of its social bounds. At that moment, I wanted to become one with the man, and soon enough, I did.

The night was silent, and we lay next to each other after forgetting the world for some time. It was the heat of the moment and the passion of our desires. We let ourselves be controlled by the carnal instincts of our bodies.

"I love you," I said. "You know that?"

He grinned. "Whatever, I don't give a shit!" He got out of bed and started putting his clothes back on while he laughed, looking at me with evil eyes.

I was in complete shock, unable to find words. I went through all five stages of grief in a second. "What are you saying, my love?"

"Love?" his laughs echoed through my empty head. "Your husband made enemies with the wrong folks," he said with pride in his eyes. "He is on his way now. You will see."

It wasn't long before the front door opened and closed, transmitting yet another shock through my weary body. I saw my husband's face go from smiling to confused when he entered the bedroom. Then, it turned red with anger upon seeing him grinning.

"What the hell are you doing here?" my husband asked with rage.

"Didn't I tell you that you would pay for what you did?" He then tossed the frame toward my husband.

"What is happening here?" my husband asked me.

I couldn't think of one thing to say except, "Forgive me, my love." I burst into tears. I wailed and wailed, but it changed nothing. "I committed a grave mistake. Please, forgive me."

My legs gave up. I fell on the wooden floor, squealing like a pig to be slaughtered.

He stood there and laughed. "I just bedded your so dear wife, tasted every last inch of her bo—"

My husband jumped him, but nothing mattered to me anymore. I could not care any less about the cursing and the punching. It didn't even matter to me who was winning. I just wanted to end it, so I did.

My husband did not notice me pulling the gun out of his holster. I took a last good look at my husband, fighting to avenge my pride and his own. Soon, nothing mattered anymore. The last thing I felt was a dark abyss engulfing me, making me one with it.

For the longest time, it was just darkness and dead quiet. I didn't know where I was or who, for that matter. Was it going to be like this forever? Then I saw it.

Someone found me buried in the ashes of my home and my life. This guy put me on the counter of his antique store just a few blocks from my house. I stayed there for years, decades even. All this time was like a never-ending show of lights, colours, and shapes. After what felt like an eternal cycle of days and nights, someone landed his eyes on me. I switched hand after hand until I was on a sidewalk in some thrift market. That's where I saw myself, walking down the street, lost in my memories on a gloomy day after a heavy downpour.

...



It was still dark, but I could still hear those demonic whispers. I knew there was no way out. My soul will be consumed by this woman's cursed spirit. I could not ask for help, so I prayed. I remembered my wife and what it was like to be with her. If I was going to be devoured by a demonic entity, the last thing I would want was to remember my wife. And as if she had heard me—

"Honey?"

A bright angelic light tore apart the darkness, and after almost twenty years, I saw my love, my wife. It seemed as if she had descended from the heavens to rescue me.

"My love," I cried. "Dear, I never cheated on you. I only loved you."

She was floating like an angel. "I know, honey," she whispered. Her voice made my heart race. "I know."

"Tha—that d—day," I stammered. "I went—I went to e—end things with—with her." Tiny hot droplets of salty fluid filled both our eyes.

"I know, my love," she said, caressing my cheek. "I know it now. I have seen your soul and your heart. I know why it was important to you."

As she said, I burst out crying like a baby. A pathetic mess I was.

"And—and yesterday, I only—I went to apolo—apologise to her for—for what I di—what I did."

"Shhhhhhhh..." She placed a finger on my mouth. "It's okay. It will be okay."

The sunlight hit the walls, and it all disappeared just like that. The last thing I heard was my wife whispering something to me.

I jumped up and sat upright on the bed. The photo frame was still on my bedpost. I grabbed it and dashed towards the exit. I had to get rid of it.

I drove all day endlessly with a destination in my mind. My only stop was at a gas station to refill the gas and grab a quick snack. By the time night approached, I had reached this distant town. I stopped in front of what remained of the house. It was in ruins. It wouldn't take a detective to figure out what would have happened. The woman shot herself. Her husband must've murdered the man and set the house on fire before killing himself. It could not have been clearer.

The old age had got to me, but I managed to get in. It was all but ash covered with another thick layer of dust. I entered what must've been the bedroom where it all went down. I stood there for the longest time, reliving those moments. The innocent gullible woman lost her life because of the feud between two men and their egos. How many women lost their lives for the same reason throughout history? How many more would lose theirs in future? Was that why she cursed the picture? Was that how it survived the fire?

I buried the frame under layers of dust and ashes. After returning it back to its home, I left and headed towards my home. It was again morning when I entered my living room. My eyes immediately fell upon the coffee table and—

Nothing. It was empty. I threw my keys on the table and paced toward the bedroom for a nap. As I entered the room, I instinctively looked at my bedpost. The frame wasn't there either. It should have made me happy, but it didn't. I couldn't tell why, but I didn't think much about it. My eyes were weary because I had not slept for a day, so I laid down on my bed and closed my eyes.

A few minutes passed, then a few hours. I kept turning in my bed. Tried everything, but I couldn't fall asleep. Maybe I couldn't sleep because of the daylight. I got up and went out for a walk. Tiring oneself always works. I was back in the flea market before I knew it. There were only a few shops. When I say shop, I mean a table on a sidewalk full of stolen items.

I reached the shop where I had bought the picture from. The guy was nodding with his stuff in front of him on the table. I scanned all the items and— nothing. What was I even hoping for?

I quickly left the market and went to the beach. Since it was noon, rarely anybody was there except for a few young couples. I saw myself and my wife in them. I sat there for, I don't know how long, kept thinking about everything that had gone down in the last few weeks.

When I returned back home, it didn't feel right. I had this feeling that something was missing. Why was I feeling that way? What was wrong with me?

I fixed myself something to eat, tried to watch something on television but gave up pretty quickly, and went to bed. I was sure that I'd be able to fall asleep now. Something was not right. I stayed there on my bed all night with my eyes wide open. And just like that, it was dawn again.

I ignored everything, thinking it would take me some time to get over the trauma. Since I hadn't been to school for a few days, I got up to get ready and went there.

Everyone kept staring at me in the corridors as if I were a ghost. All the students, teachers, and janitors turned their heads as I walked past them. No one said anything, but I sensed it. During the lectures, all the students kept staring at me blankly.

"Something wrong?" I stopped my lecture midway to ask them. No one said a thing, so I went back to my lecture.

That night, I tried to fall asleep again, but nothing worked. I couldn't drift off for even a minute. As the dawn broke, I was angry and pissed off. What was happening to me? Should I have considered therapy?

'No,' I decided. I didn't want people to think I had lost it because I was up for retirement in a few years. I kept with my routine, thinking it would get all right after some time.

It didn't.

Everything got even worse. I screamed at one of my students. It was the first time in my life that I had snapped at a student. He had come from behind me and tapped on my back to ask me a question. It startled me. Everyone who looked at my face up close questioned only one thing, "Are you alright?" I came home one afternoon and looked into the mirror.

A charred face stared back at me.

I jumped back and blinked in disbelief. My fear-stricken face looked older than it was. My eyes had no life in them. I couldn't understand why it was happening to me. I had gotten rid of the photo frame. The curse should have been lifted. And then, it occurred to me. The reason that frame affected me was not that it was cursed.

It was me; I was cursed. That was why it only affected me.

Curses don't work as one might think. Once you are cursed, you are cursed for life. It doesn't matter whether you get rid of the carrier of the curse or not. The curse sucks the life out of you. Once you are hit with it, you become the carrier until the day you die.

I knew that it was over for me. And as sure as day after night and night after day, I knew what I had to do. It was the only way. At that moment, I accepted my curse.

That following night when I returned home with the picture, I was alive again. I placed it on my bedpost and lay down on the bed. Nothing made me happier than the thought of what was about to follow. I smiled and closed my eyes. Within a few seconds, a calming peace took over me. Everything was dead quiet, and then I heard it.

"Honey?"




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Comments

  1. I liked the story , I belevie you should develoe the story for a novel , I'll make sure to be one of the first buyers ,
    Or at least continue to part two
    Ps I loved the open ending

    ReplyDelete

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