29 May Twenty-Fourth
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Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
The story I am about to tell will convince many that I am a madman. Others will only feel sympathy and not believe a thing. The tragedies that have transpired have proved that no man can escape destiny and fate, no matter how hard they resist. I am to die tomorrow but I have concluded that I will write all that has transpired.
When I was young, I was always the joker, if you would. I would often play jokes on others and basically be an ass. Some of my charades put me in school detention and jail. I didn’t care until that day.
I was roaming around a deserted alley that had a shop here or there. I normally didn’t take this route home but I decided that I was tired of the way I normally took. I paused at a shop that had fogged out windows with a wooden sign that said: antiques. The sign had paint that was cracked and peeling. Originally, the colours had been powder blue and white. I was never one for antiquities. But something drew me in. Something that seemed ancient and primordial. I left the road and crossed over to the rundown building. The door handle was rusted and hard to turn. Shoving it open with a grunt, the door squeaked open. The interior was littered with old things that seemed out of place. The light was dark and gloomy, adding to the effect. There was aisle upon aisle of morbid items that made me shudder. I walked through these aisles of horror stories, feeling a strange curiosity. This was peculiar. After a while, I found my way to the front desk. The clerk was an old crone with many cataracts in her senile eyes. She was dressed all in black with a shawl that covered her thin, white, straight hair.
As I approached, her head lifted and her eyes stared at me blankly. “Can I help you, dear?” Her voice was hoarse and quiet. I answered her with bravado. “Not much really. I’m just lookin’ ‘cuz I could.” A small smile played under her small nose. “The last time someone said things along those words died. Please speak with more respect for your elders.” I felt my bravado vanish. I was petrified with fear. “W-W-What happened,” I asked. She stared at me for a while. After what seemed like an eternity, she said, “It is quite a long story. But, I can tell you if you are curious.” I stared at her for a minute and then nodded slightly. She smiled, slightly amused at my fear. She then said,” Well, if you are willing to listen, then I will tell you.” She coughed quietly. “It all started some fifty years ago. A young chap came in and he was looking for a ring that his fiancée would like. He was a after a vintage style wedding ring. Just a few days earlier we had received many items. The original owner of this shop had just finished sorting. When the young lad asked, she told him that they would be in a cabinet over there.” She raised her warty and skeleton-like hand and flipped it to the left.
“He came back a few hours later with the ring he had chosen. It was gold and silver filigree with a large diamond that was encircled by blue sapphire and onyx. He left happy and we were happy for him. But fate was not pleased. We later learned that after they had been married for a month… he killed her.”
I felt horror swell up within me. She continued. “He had gouged her eyes out and stabbed her to death. The police found the body in a well. The police found the ring still around her finger. They returned it to us and the husband was given the death sentence. Upon ending her story, she looked at me with those blank eyes. All I felt was horror and strangely, a morbid curiosity. I asked carefully, “Was there any other occurrences with this ring?” She glanced at me sharply. “And why should a young lad like you want to know?” She cackled when she saw my indignation. She was like a witch. A very strange witch. She then said, “That story I told you was not the end of the misfortune that surrounds that ring. Another lad came in for similar reasons. He was shopping for his brother’s wife. He stumbled upon the ring and, he too, bought it. About six months later, we found out that the brother had raped his brother’s wife and had killed her by stabbing. He then went and killed his brother. When the police caught him, they claimed that he was a singin’ ‘Ring Around the Rosie’. He was tried and sentenced to death.” As she regaled me with these stories, I realized that the ring that was meant for happiness was causing death. When the old crone finished her tales, she said, “Well now lad, you don’t have to worry about anything because I hid that ring. I hid it and forgot where.” She cackled loudly. “Well now,” she said, “I had best close shop.” Cackling, she got up and left. I turned around and walked out of the old shop. For the rest of my years in school, I became the model student. When I turned twenty, I found a beautiful woman that brought me no end of joy. After two years of courtship, I proposed. When she said yes, I was overjoyed. When we went searching for a wedding ring, we somehow ended up at that antique shop I had visited so many years earlier. Feeling a bit anxious, I walked into the shop.
It was very much the way it had been all those years ago. Behind the desk was a woman who was of the age of fifty. She smiled and said, “Hello. Looking for something particular?” My fiancée answered that we were after a vintage wedding ring. The clerk pointed to the same area the old crone had. Feeling slightly fearful, I walked with my fiancée over to the spot. We looked through all of the rings. Sara, my fiancée, had picked out three rings. One had garnets and opals around a diamond and another had a diamond encircled by diamonds. The last one was that dreaded ring.
I watched her with baited breath, my heart pitter-pattering away. Which one will she choose? Oh , dear God, please don’t let her pick that ring… My thoughts started to swirl faster and faster until they were like a tempest. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, my dear fiancée chose. And to my great horror and displeasure, she picked the ring that was cursed with a bloody history.
She was extremely happy about the ring. I very much did not want anything to do with the cursed metal and precious stones. Very reluctantly, I told her that I would buy the ring on a slightly later date. She just smiled and nodded once, sending her hair bouncing merrily. I put the ring back in the case and, taking Sara’s hand, left the old shop. As we got in a cab, I glanced down and saw that the ring was still in my hand. I finished helping Sara into the carriage and ran back into the store, putting the ring down. Now very concerned about my sanity, I walked back to the carriage and got in. for the next two weeks, I stressed over the ring. I was terrified of the prospects of owning that ring.
On the beginning of the third week, I bought the object. As I left the store, I wished that I could just throw it into the Thames. (Though now I realize that I could have done just that and told Sara that the store had sold it.) Two days later, we were married. I was happy for that time but I did not know that that was going to be the only ray of happiness. For the first two months of our marriage, nothing happened. I was still employed and did not have any murderous tendencies. Then the business I was working for closed. After that, I could not find any other means of work. We went straight to poverty after two weeks. Sara somehow stayed positive through that whole mess. I on the other hand fell into drinking. I slowly became a very unrespectable man, a horror, and menace to society. (All of this took place in two years.) I became abusive and condescending, trash if you will. My wife, my poor wife. She was always quietly taking everything head on. She withstood my furies without a word. Then, after another two years, I began to feel another emotion.
The emotions that I felt upon looking upon her for the first time were a longing to have her by my side. Now, all I longed for her to leave. Once, when I was slightly sober, I told her that we needed to get rid of the ring. I told her about my encounter when I was younger. I pleaded for her to burn the ring, throw it into the Thames. Anything but keeping the object that I believed is cursed. She just smiled and said, “My dear husband, this object is a symbol of our marriage. I will keep it.” I felt my old horror and hatred rise as I stared at her and the ring. I promptly went out to one of my favorite haunts. Two weeks later, I was contemplating divorcing my poor wife. I had come to hate Sara with such a passion that it could be considered murderous. Then one day, I could have sworn that the devil was walking with me.
I was sitting at my table, drowning myself in my cup when my wife walked over, tripped, and knocked my glass to the floor. I tried to hide my anger, but then she lost her balance and knocked my chair over. When I hit the floor, I grabbed a butcher knife. While she was cleaning, I buried the blade into her back. She screamed and I continued stabbing until she collapsed, quiet and still. I then washed the blade and put it where it was originally.
I stared at her body, debating on what I was to do. I looked at the ring and, plucking it off of her finger, shoved it into my pocket. Then I looked at the body, a small pool of blood forming underneath. I pondered on how I was to dispose of the corpse, along with the ring. In the end, I decided that at twelve o’clock midnight, I would throw the corpse into the Thames, along with the piece of bewitched jewelry. The time at that point was nine o’clock. Feeling surprisingly calm, I took to my drink once more. I must have fallen asleep because when I awoke, it was nigh on eleven. Pushing my body off of the table, I stood up with a groan. I looked at Sara, and some part of me began to mourn her absence. Tears were suddenly playing in my eyes and tickling my cheeks. It lasted only a matter of three seconds, then I was the most elated and gleeful.
Now eleven-thirty, I moved her to the table, my fingers tingling over her cold skin. By then, she had bled completely, leaving a large puddle where she had been. Now eleven-forty, I threw her over my shoulder and walked out the back entry way. I used to have pets, but we had to tether their leashes outside under heavy racks. Setting here down, I took the racks and tied them to her ankles with the leashes. After securing them, I picked her up with a grunt. Looking towards the Thames, the only obstacle was the main thorough fare and a street lamp. With a feeling of triumph rising within my breast, I walked to the edge of the light. Looking around, I noticed that to my dismay that there were people roaming. Feeling anxious, I ran to the other side and tossed her over into the Thames. I watched her pale, angelic face sink beneath the waves. With a sigh, I pulled out the ring and threw the cursed thing as far as I could throw. I listened for the sound of the ring to hit the water. A small smile playing on my lips, I stood and looked over the Thames. I was about to leave when I heard a voice say, “Well, well, well. What do we have here?”
A gun barrel was shoved into my head and I put my hands up. Then I slowly turned around to see a policeman staring at me with a look of horror and disgust. His eyes widened when he saw my face. He shoved his hand into his uniform’s pocket and pulled put a wanted poster. Unfolding it, he looked at it then at my face and back again. When he looked up again, his face was very pale. He looked at me for a long moment, and then said, “Now, if you would hold out your hands and I’ll cuff ‘em. Nice and easy now.” After my hands were cuffed, I asked, “If I may, what is on that there poster?” My language was slurred from still being intoxicated. The officer looked at me with disgust and threw the poster in my face. The poster stated that I had murdered twenty-three women.
There was a partial sketch of my face but the information on the paper was enough to send me reeling. The officer grabbed my cuffed hands and took me to the police station. As they locked the lock on my jail cell, I felt my legs partially give. I had killed twenty-three women. How? As I sat and pondered, a realization struck me. I thought back to my earlier years when I had first heard of the ring. I couldn’t remember exactly, but I thought that the old crone had told me roughly twenty and three tales of marriages that ended in tragedy. I thought back to each individual tale and realized that as the number of owners increased, so did the number of deaths. I was the twenty-fourth. If what I thought was true, then I had killed twenty-four women. The poster had said twenty-three. My wife. They didn’t know about my wife. She marked twenty-four. I sat down on the cot, feeling absolutely drained and stunned. I thought back to the old crone and realized that she had been wearing a ring that had a pentagram on it. I felt dread rise as well as something else. I smiled gravely as I realized that she had planned everything from the moment I met her. In a frenetic state, I have written everything down. I know my sentence is death, and I will gladly accept it.
Even now, I can hear the old crone cackling.
Credit: k. broussard
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