The Curse on Gallow's Hill

January 23, 2008
By Chris Lori, Attleboro, MA

We have boiled the blood of sin, we have cast all souls of evil out into a burning inferno,
leaving the high stench of burned flesh to remind those nearby that there has been justice and
sacrifice in old Salem.
Tyler Stikes continued to leaf through the pages of the book titled Historical Myths.
Section one: Ursula: the final Witch

Ursula’s skin crinkled in the fire, her bones snapped like twigs amongst the flames.
Everyone came to witness her death, as they bowed their heads, and removed their hats.
The deed was done. Another baron of evil had been burned at the stake. Ursula was the one they
wanted and on the second day of June 1693, her house was found deep in the thicket,
surrounded by enormous pines and oaks. There, she practiced her witchcraft, and it was there
that she was taken...
“Excuse me, do I know you...?”
Ty almost dropped the book he had grasped in his hands, and turned around.
“College, right? You’re going to Boston University next semester?” The person looked
familiar to him, but he could hardly acknowledge when or where he had seen him before.
Ty opened his mouth to reply, but found nothing, or wanted to find nothing, so he shut it
tightly. He was the intellectual type, rarely at a loss for words, and always prepared to
speak back, unless he didn’t want to.
Instead, he stood there in the quiet library in Salem, Massachusetts, motionless. Only soft
whispers managed to echo off the walls, and every now and then there’d be a loud holler or
voice, followed by, ‘Shhhhh.’
The ceiling of Thompson Public Library, painted in illuminous, vibrant colors reminded
him of the artist, Michelangelo, the Vatican even. However, the streaks of colors were of long-
been-dead famous authors, such as Edgar Poe, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare. Authors that
now only reminded people of English class reading forced upon many unwilling students.
“I don’t think I know you,” Ty finally said after working his way through his struggling
thoughts .

The kid standing in front of him really looked too obnoxious, too much of the intellectual type, even more than he was.
Ty bent down, removed a handkerchief from his back pocket and re-polished the shine
of his shoe.
“How could you not remember, ol’ buddy?, we went to Hillsboro High together!”
This guy was already getting on Ty’s nerves. It didn’t take much, and after a while the
guy could tell he was easily being ignored, and didn’t like it.
The head Librarian wasn’t far. She stood behind the front desk, and moved around

silently. She was caught up with numerous book borrowers that followed single file in an orderly
line. Her name was Theresa Boulier.
Two small kids and their distressed mother passed by, disrupting Ty’s renewed perusal on
Historical Myths. She was holding both their hands, and they pulled away violently. Poor lady.
She carried a few books under her arms too. The kids were really atrocious, just as everyone
else in his life was. They walked by the Historical section, which like most days,
was rarely visited.
Back at the front desk, Theresa Boulier was interrupted by a kid.
“Excuse me, miss, are you the—?”
“Yes, I can I help you?” Miss Boulier replied.
“I think you really outta have a word with the guy in the History section!”
The obnoxious looking man had finally left, and not five minutes later he heard the cue
that signaled Miss Boulier’s approach. It was the tip-tap of her high heels that gave her away.
Boy, she would have some problems if she was to sneak up on someone. Her heels tipping and
tapping across the checkered marble floor echoed through the library, just like every other sound
in it.

While the sunlight cast its brightness into Thompson Library, Ty looked paler
than ever, and an extreme glare easily blinded him through his large, round glasses. He ran his
fingers through his head full of black hair, and straightened the parting hairline he liked to keep
on occasions.
“Mister Stikes!” she said. Her tone sounded startling, angry, and he realized this was going to be a somewhat heated conversation.
“Tell me why we are receiving complaints about you?” He stood there looking at her like
a squashed rodent that had been the victim of an unfortunate accident. She realized almost
instantly his heart was not all in answering.
“A young man said you were being very rude when he asked you a question...”
Ty decided to intervene at this point.
“Let me tell you something, Misses Boulier. I get paid for helping those lost find their
favorite book, you know, the ones that cant find their favorite reading material, and I also get
paid for wandering amongst the various genres, pointing out my general readers opinion,
considering I’ve read many, I’m quite good at that, wouldn’t you say?” Ty made an

indication with his boney finger as he tapped his temple “ I know for a fact, and let’s get this
straight, I know I don’t get paid to have the pleasant conversations that you might prefer. If I
decide to mind myself, that’s my own business.”
Theresa’s eyes lay open in amazement, and her mouth lay right with it. Ty placed the final
book he had looked through back on the shelf, and Theresa just stood there. It seemed like it
took her quite a while to move on. She finally did, and he decided to get ready to settle down.
For a while, things seemed too quiet. No voices. No whispers even. No clickety-clack of nearby
computers. Even his thoughts seemed quiet.
Eight-o’clock was closing time, and Ty passed by each library section, making sure every
book was neatly alined. He also straightened out the poster, reading:


that some inconsiderate kid had knocked out of whack much earlier on in the day. Theresa was

somewhere off in the back room. He really didn’t give too much of a damn about her at all. She
looked like a person you could undoubtably bring your problems to at any distinct moment, but
deep down inside that’s not the kind of person she was. In his mind, he’d see her walk by him
after hours when she was occupied in the back office. She’d walk prissily, with two large books
pressed against her chest like a school girl. Her red, braided locks would sway back and forth as
she walked along stacks of fiction.

Ty brushed by the books, section by section, glancing down every ill-lighted aisle to make
sure everything was in proper order. Ladders mounted on tracks leaned up against book-shelves,
and they were pushed neatly down in an assembly. Miss Boulier would no doubt be by to check
everything, and she’d most likely point out several things he didn’t do correctly, just to waste
his time.
The library was now deserted. All the floors were vacuumed and washed, and all the
books were neat and orderly. He finally heard the vast echoing ‘tip-tap’ sound from the hall. She
came over, and he wasn’t at all surprised to see her holding two books, just like a school girl.
“Just finishing up!” Ty said, turning away from straightening the last times article on the
magazine shelf.“Should be done in a min—“
”No, everything looks fine, just, there’s one book in the Horror/ Suspense section on the
floor, don’t forget that before you leave!”
He was surprised that was all she had said to him before leaving. She turned, and started
for the exit after a long pause seemed to divvy up the space between the two of them. She still
walked with that prissy manner she was famous for.
Ty scrolled down each library section looking for a book that lay on the floor like she
had said. Finally, he found it, standing at the foot of the Horror/suspense section. The books title
was what caught his eye first. Historical Myths.
“Now, how on earth did this get here?” he said out loud, realizing how awkward he’d
sound if people heard him, but no one was around, even Miss Boulier had left.
“What the–?” The book’s spine appeared to be crushed, and its pages were torn up.
There was also the obvious to account for----Historical Myths belonged in the
references section, and was misplaced.
“Well, I know I looked at it last, but I know for sure it wasn’t me who put it here.”
He opened to the first page, the contents.
“Oh, shi–“ he drew his hand over the blurry heading that was plainly unreadable. The
page was crispy black, like it had been burned and then reluctantly enough was saved from
disintegration. His accusing mind glanced around; he got the feeling someone was watching
him. Someone had also managed to deface the libraries property too. It was probably those two
rug rats he saw earlier, the ones that were crying and whining as they pulled at their mother.
Ty slung his bag over his shoulder not ten minutes later, ready to leave. The Historical
Myths book was sitting at the front desk table next to an accident report form that he would fill
out momentarily. This form would ensure replacement for the ruined book, and Miss
Boulier would no doubt blame him the next day for its ruin.

He was about to start the accident form, but for some reason he could not take his eyes

away from the books cover. It was staring at him accusingly, and he couldn’t help but stare right
back. Given his knowledge about Salem’s history, and the fact that the book had mentioned
‘witches’ creeped him out. They actually did that stuff back in the 1600's, burned practitioners of

witchcraft at the stake. He decided to fill the form out at home, and meanwhile try to read
sections of Historical Myths, just for the night.

The clock read quarter to nine, and he started abruptly towards the main exit doorway to
lock up. Outside the afternoon accumulation had iced over, coating the steps in a dangerous
layer. He would have to exercise some serious caution going down.
Historical Myths was tucked away in Ty’s nap sack, and he repeatedly continued to
take a glance in the bag at it, just to make sure it was still there, and still alright.

Some part of him couldn’t wait to get home and start reading, despite how tired he was.
Ty made it faithfully down the final step, and that’s when he slipped. Before the pain
came, he thought of how funny he’d actually look to someone else as he slipped, losing his bag
and book from the fall. His glasses were also thrown, and slid a good fifteen feet across the
parking lot. They were broken. He cursed, getting up and thinking of ways he could get back at
the city for not throwing down salt to thaw the ice. He wouldn’t act on any
violent means, it wasn’t in his nature, he was proud to say he had never hurt anyone.

He got up, nursing his aching elbow, and went to the book. Historical Myths was the
first thing he picked up off the ground, looking at it end to end for any more damage.

Later that night, Ty drifted into relaxation into his favorite lounge chair and carefully
opened the book.
He had only a small house outside of Salem, an affordable, but tiny house since he
awaited college in Boston. The size of the house seemed to surprise and gather up a lot of
attention. He would notice this when he was outside. People would drive by, decrease their
speed and cock their heads.
In front of his lounge chair, the tv room was crowded with his old personal collections of
historical memories and souvenirs. One from Washington DC, one from Rome, Paris, London,
the Middle East. He had been many places, and why not? He was a top honor student from
Hillsboro high, who’d been accepted in a program and participated in numerous class trips,
following his dream to be able to see every continent. At least once.

His knowledge of history never seemed to escape him, and after many tedious
applications, and the whole deal of ‘accepted, unaccepted’ got past him, he chose Boston
University. A great college. He figured he would perhaps take a teaching job somewhere after he
The long awaited stillness conforming all around him was comforting, and he opened the
chapter of the book titled, ‘Ursula’s curse.’ Setting his broken pair of taped up glasses at the end
of his nose, he began to read:
Some in Salem believe that Ursula’s spirit lives on. Some people think she holds a certain
vendetta towards the city. Some others believe in ‘Ursula’s curse’, her promise to punish the
souls and do to them what they did to her.
Ty woke up the next morning on the floor, staring up at his lounge chair. The book lay
open on his chest.

During the night, he had a dream. Most of the occurrences were fogged out in his memory
bank, and he scrambled for them quickly. He remembered his high school teacher in history
honors talking about witchcraft in the dream. They had sat together, talking calmly, and the
whole shamble ended up with his teacher preaching and towering over him like an uneasy force,
reprimanding him for believing Ursula’s curse was a myth. He was always into believing that

such things were true, ghosts, aliens, and now witchcraft. He had a separate-from-the-world kind
of mind. Separate from true reality, and believed his own made up theories about history. Even if
they couldn’t be proved, and he said it was true, you had to believe it. That’s what kind of man
he was.

The phone rang six times at precisely 6:03am . Ty still lay on the floor in a daze,
staring into the white, blank abyss that was the ceiling. His mind ran helplessly to conclude that
Ursula, the last witch, had cursed this book.

He fumbled with it, turning it over in his hands as if it were a diamond he’d found on the

“This is so weird,’ he exclaimed to himself.

At 6:07 am, the phone rang for the second time, and Ty answered it on the third ring.

“Tyler Stikes, this is Salem City Sheriffs department, We’re calling in regard to Ms.
Theresa Boulier.”

His heart thudded and jumped a beat or two, then started whamming frightfully in his
chest. It would have struck a nine point five on the Richter scale if correctly measured.

Not an hour later, the city’s police department pulled in his driveway. In the morning
sunlight, Ty glared at the unit patrol car number twenty one. Their logo for Salem was as usual.
A witch set on a broomstick and the silver letters gleaming out at him read: POLICE.

Ty opened the front door before the officer knocked and let him in.

“I’m a busy man, so I’ll cut right to the chase...” he paused, inhaling deeply. “Ms. Boulier
was incinerated in a house fire last night...” the officer said. Ty took a seat, moving slowly to the
chair until him bottom reached the cushion. He realized almost immediately that he was sitting
on something. It was the book. It would probably have been better to keep it there in the first
place anyhow. He considered for a moment that this ‘house fire’ had something to do with the
book. It seemed slightly strange, though, that a book could inflict such destruction. and he
dismissed the idea before his thoughts continued. If they needed any evidence, and they saw that
the book was burned as it visibly had been, they may think it had something to do with the fire.
They’d think maybe he did it, accompanied with the book at the scene.

The officer suddenly removed a plastic zip lock bag from his back pocket, and opened it
so that Ty could see properly .

“Broken pieces of glass?” he said.

“That’s right, and it doesn’t look like this fire was accidental, either.”

“I spose I could help, but I must say, me and Theresa never really got along.”

“What was the last thing you did last night, before coming home?”

“Work,” Ty replied. “I came home from work at the Thompson Public Library.” The
officer folded his arms across his chest, looking at him with two large, demon black eyes, they

were accusing. It seemed like the police officer knew something, or saw something, or just
figured out the whole incident with Ms. Boulier all at once. Ty stared back at him, then took a
quick glance at himself, examining his feet, arms, and legs quickly, wondering what in the world he could have possibly been staring at. Especially with the look he had.
“What?” Ty asked. “What’s wrong?”
The officer blinked, and jolted back, almost losing his balance, but seemed to gather himself and his mind at a conscious level, then proceeded in the line of questioning.

At your work, You saw Theresa Boulier there I presume?”

“Yes. And I came home after I was done working. She left before me.”

The officer took a deep breath.
“Do you recall the last thing she said to you?”
Ty thought, racing through his memory back again, that toppled with memories and

“She told me there was a book—“ The officer nodded for him to continue.

“Yes go on..”

Ty pushed his back up against the lounge chair.

“If you know something, Mister Stikes, you should tell me now, and keep in mind that
this involves an innocent lady incinerated under the circumstances of an arsonist. This is

“I know,”Ty replied. “I’d like to help.”

Not ten minutes later, Ty stood looking out his bathroom window. He told the officer he
was willing to follow him to the station to continue in the line of questioning. He told the cop he
needed to splash some cold water on his face beforehand, and that he’d be right back. The
officer waited patiently.

He went to the sink after staring thoughtfully out the icy window, and ran the hot water.
He heard the old furnace kick on downstairs and come to life, stirring heat and warming the
water. His terror struck and his eyes grew ten times large at the sight of his fingernails, and he
turned his head abruptly to the mirror, looking at his reflection, and noticing the horror in his
eyes first. The same horror that seemed to take over the police officer. His nails were black,
stained with remnants of dried blood.

He thought of nails scratching on a dry chalk board, but scratching hard. The sound,
uneasy for anyone to bear, much less the look. Nails drawing, and cutting in, peeling the finger
skin off, leaving black and blood. That had to be what caught the officers attention.
He moved his sleeve up as he managed to scrape the dirt off his nails. His arms were
soot covered, black like burnt logs, or a dusty unkempt chimney.

He washed it off quickly, so confused he was almost scared.
He pushed his fingers hard against his forehead. The sink billowed steam, and fogged the
bathroom mirror. His reflection faded.

Looking down, Ty’s heart jumped another beat.
Soot marked tracks ran from the doorway to the bath mat where Ty was standing.
He jumped back, releasing a heated uncomfortable gasp of hot air, and removed his shoes

They were full of a dark chalk like black that was soot. He knew it was. The aroma of a
dusty, old unswept fireplace stood stiff in the air.

“” he said, carving his words out carefully from his extreme horror
stricken pale face. He looked at his finger tips again, noticing his knuckles where completely

He held his shoe in his hand, looking as if he was not sure what to do with it. The steam
had completely layered the bathroom mirror, inclosing any visible reflection he could see from
the frightened look on his face.

AT THE STAKE!’ suddenly popped unwillingly into his subconscious .
What he began to make of it, was the sight of witches hanging from gallows, some even
burning on the peak of a high hill.

The book passed like a nightmare into his sleep. It had to be a nightmare. Nothing so
horrorific could have stricken him subsequently. He was slowly exiting the realization of his mind.
He remembered standing on Gallows hill.

His feet standing on a long, worn out path, leading to the fire, and the burning stack of
hay that was used to keep the ‘accused witches’ aflame.

At the peak his unsure mind saw nothing but tall grassy fields that moved slightly with
the wind, and a cabin set discretely near a dormant oak tree. A mist covered the ground slowly, creeping up onto the cabin. (Just like the hot water had managed to seal visibility from the mirror.) There was a large crowd standing amongst the gallows, cheering wildly over the smell of burnt flesh and hair. They were obviously sincere in their maniacal intentions.

“I’ll make you pay, honest to the lord! I will seek you!” a crowd was coming toward him
with Ursula being carted off against her will. She promised the bunch again. “ I will find you, I
swear it!”

The priest came into view, holding a lit torch, dressed in head to toe in black. Others
began tying Ursula down to the pole, and stuffed hay around her as an accelerant.

“Thou shall dwell with the lord, and keep from the snare of the devil...forever this may be
our last burning here. We’ve carried out the death of many, placing evil to where oust it belong.
On the date of July second, Ursula Aaronson was convicted in court of witchcraft, and as a final
punishment will stand the burn of the flame where she’ll at last come into contact with Satan!”
Ty could see her, and suddenly noticed she was looking back at him. Her eyes were
bloodshot and frightened, and like lasers watched him over from the grassy knoll.

Her lips did not move, but he heard her say: “Get back at them for me, Stikes, get back at

The flame the priest held was lit, and she burst into a giant ball of fire that instantly froze
the audience.

Ty looked down at his hands, and there he held a lighter and a torch himself.

“I will” he said. “ I know I can do it!”

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