Fiction logo

The family curse

The family story.

By Monika ZalewskiPublished 11 months ago 14 min read

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window.

The fireflies happily danced to the reflection of the candle while the summer wind helped the nearby noises travel near and far.

It was a beautiful night with a full moon shining bright and a clear sky with an abundance of stars.

The cabin door opened slightly ajar with a squeak from an aged frame letting the neighborhood campground noises in.

A couple of curious bunnies hopped closer to the door to see if maybe someone left something for them to eat when suddenly a grey mist circled around them.

The bunnies moved their tails and ears in the rhythm of the mist, never seeing such a sight.

-Hello, my sweet babies! – someone whispered just before snatching the bunnies inside. - I was looking for some helpers and here you've come. I have a job for you and a great reward.

-Girls, girls! It's time to clean up. It's almost bedtime. – There might have been at the camping ground for a few days already, but for Amanda, rules were rules. As a mother of three children, she made it a priority to teach her kids responsibility. Everyone must take care of their messes, and they better clean up, or toys will be taken away until the children learn the lesson.

-Mom, please, couple more minutes. – asked the eldest, ten years old, Anna.

-You can clean up first, throw your plates into the trash and play for a bit after. -answered Amanda.

-But mommy- said the 6-year-old Matilda.

-No buts! We must respect the woods and pick our trash up. Mommy needs help too, so I can relax and play too. - Amanda insisted. -Now, where are your father and brother?

- I don't know. -said, Anna.

-Come on, girls! Let's clean it up before the witch comes over and takes away the one who left their mess. - Amanda jokily got busy cleaning up after their makeshift dinner in the woods.

-Did I hear something about a witch? - the dad came out of the bushes carrying a 3-year-old Mathew.

-No witch daddy-said the boy. -we got Odie!

Indeed, Odie was a fine and loving dog who followed his master everywhere, but he was approaching his old age and starting to rely on the family more instead of the family depending on him.

The father chuckled. - You mean our sweet grandpa Odie! - and gave the dog playful rubs behind his ears. The brown pit bull mix smiled at his master and followed behind.

The family cleaned up, got their sleeping bags ready, and gathered around the fireplace.

Dad added some wood and took his guitar out. Odie spread in front of the fire pit, warming his old bones. You could see more campers' fires lighting up the woods a couple of yards one way and the other.

-Little bit of music and time to go to sleep, my monsters. - said the father.

-What about a scary story? -asked Anna.

-Yeah- exclaimed Matilda.

-Now, now. What if you cannot sleep later at night? - asked mom.

-Mommy, please, we didn't have one yet this trip!

-Yes, please!

Begged the girls.

-Ok! It is settled! One scary story! -said, dad.

-Love, do not go overboard. I am going to put Mathew down. – Amanda scooped the little boy, visibly drifting off to sleep. - Your son at least knows when bedtime is!

She disappeared deep into their large tent.

Dad stroked the guitar once and asked if the girls were ready. Anna and Matilda giggled with excitement. And the dad started after clearing his throat.

I heard this story from my mother and grandfather. They said it is part of our family curse, so better be aware. And I do not want to hear crying at night. I mean it! - said dad before starting his tale.

The wind blew a tiny chill over the campers making the girls snuggle closer in front of the crackling fire. It felt like someone joined them for the story time, an invisible and mysterious force. Maybe the spirits of the wood came to listen on. The chill made the girls shiver again, and they giggled nervously and with expectation. Dad sight and looked at the stars.

-What a beautiful night! -he said.

You could hear an owl hooting in the distance and some birds calling each other home. Small animals were moving around in nearby bushes. The woods were settling for the nighttime. And the dad started telling the story.

A few hundred years ago, a family lived in a small village after the first settlers came to America. They had two daughters and a son. They built their home in the woods and lived off the fields they tended. They weren't rich, but they were happy. Kids grew up learning their parents' crafts and working in the fields.

Then a wave of newcomers swept through their village, and new settlers built their houses around. One of them was an older but wealthy man who arrived with many enslaved people and workers. He was going to pass by the village on the way to the city of New York, but the younger daughter of that family caught his eye. So he decided to stay and make the village stronger and more successful, hoping to marry the girl as soon as her family agreed. The girl's name was Matilda.

-Just like me? - asked Matilda.

-Yes, just like you. When your mom heard the story from my grandma, she loved the name, and that's how you got it! -said, dad.

-Matilda, the witch! -laughed Anna.

-Hey! -screamed Matilda.

-Sssh..-mom whispered, coming out of the tent. - Your brother is asleep. -she came to join the girls and her husband by the fire. - How is the story going?

-I'm about to tell how Matilda moved to her husband's home. -said, dad.

-Her name is Matilda, like me. - said the younger daughter.

Amanda grabbed her daughter's chin, looked into her eyes, and chuckled.

-I know, I gave you her name! Love, please continue.

And the dad did.

The rich older man, and he was ancient, about eighty years old, made Matilda's father an offer to train his son and find a suitable husband for the elder daughter, as well as offered him money and a high position in town for her hand in marriage.

At that time, parents decided on their children, so the youngest daughter had no choice but to listen to his father and be thankful for the family's lucky break. That was the way of life then. She didn't have a choice, and no tears would help. She was distraught when she heard the news and ran into the woods. There she met a black woman from her future husband's household. The woman sat by the pond, soaking her feet while singing a strange song.

-What's wrong, my child? Why are you crying? -she asked.

-My dad told me I must marry the old merchant. Your master. -Matilda cried.

- I'm sorry, my child. I promise I'll take care of you well and help you. Sit next to me. Let's look into your future.

-You can do that? My mama said it's a bad omen to look into the future.

-Do not worry, my child. Your mama doesn't know everything, and she is mistaken. - the woman continued- People fear the unknown and shouldn't. If you want to learn, I will teach you the secrets of life. We will spend a lot of time together.


-Yes, but you must keep it a secret, or the people who fear might do us harm. Wipe your tears and look at the sky. See how beautiful it is? You have a beautiful future ahead of you.

And the friendship between a servant and future lady of the house started to form.

Right away, at twelve years old, Matilda was married and taken into her future husband's household to be taught how to be a perfect wife. The older man promised that he would wait until she gets of age before making her fulfill her wifely duty. After that, he had to leave for New York to look after his business and wouldn't be back in a few years. He assigned a couple of female servants, including the older woman Matilda met in the woods, whose name was Ginny, as her helpers.

Ginny was to be with her all the time, including sleeping in the same chamber to ensure that she would not have any male visitors.

This arrangement overjoyed the girl. She wasn't used to the luxury and now had less contact with her family. Everything was new to her, and having Ginny around was a blessing. What Matilda didn't know was that Ginny wasn't an ordinary servant. She was from a family of witches and knew things that would make Matilda's life magical and rich in the most unexpected way.

Ginny not only taught the girl how to be a wife, but she also taught her the centuries-old craft. Matilda had a talent for magic and loved nature. She quickly became one with her magic.

With her new learned powers and together with Ginny, she took care of her people and her village. She healed people and animals and helped the town prosper with increased crops and plentiful harvests.

She also loved to spend time outside, one with nature, and be involved in the villager's life. Some nights she ran into the woods to play with wild animals that came to her like flies to honey and dance in wildflower fields celebrating every achievement. She was happy and carefree.

On her 16th birthday, Ginny took her to the woods to celebrate the magic of life.

Other witches from the neighboring farms joined them. Today they were going to awaken Matilda's true power. The ritual took half the night, dancing around the fire and drinking the magical potion. Finally, Matilda's real potential has been awakened. She became aware of herself and nature and became stronger than any witch Ginny had ever known. This was amazing.

Unluckily during their ritual, a few men on horses coming back ahead of Matilda's husband saw what was happening. Witches have been hunted and burned at stakes. They recognized Ginny but not Matilda and made the rich old master know what was happening.

The husband wasn't happy to hear the news. He was expecting to see his wife waiting for him obediently at home with her servants. But instead, he had to deal with the servants first.

Ginny was dragged to the center of the town despite Matilda's pleas and cries. She was tied and set on the stake to be burned.

-My sweet girl, remember what I taught you! -yelled Ginny, giving her life and power away to Matilda, screaming her lungs out and trying to run away from the clutches of her husband's servants.

-You will never have me as your wife. -yelled the girl, and the vast storm came upon the village.

The sky became dark, and the wind gushed. Soon after, the lightning stroked and killed the girl's husband. People started to scream- Witch! -and the rain poured, putting out the fire on the stake. There was chaos. Servants lost hold of Matilda. Then, amid everything, a sharp sword hit the girl's neck. -Die witch! -yelled the owner of the sword.

Before Matilda lost her head and life, she promised the young man, who took her life way too early, that every lifetime she would possess a daughter from his line and live a rich, fulfilling life the way she wasn't able then.

This is the curse my grandmother said our family was given. And we should be aware of our little girl's safety!

-Now time for bed! - the story ended with dad's loud clap and an evil fake laugh. - Don't let the family witch find you!

-Come on, girls! We need sleep. We will be heading home tomorrow.

-That's it! -said Anna getting up. -It wasn't even scary.

-Yes, it was! -quarreled Madeline, who followed her sister closely.

-Because you are a baby! - Anna teased her sister.

-No, I'm not! - Madeline stomped her feet.

-Girls, your brother is sleeping! Please don't wake him up. -Amanda asked before turning to her husband. - I remember the story ending a little bit differently. Didn't your grandma say that the witch promised to kill the same way she died every male from your line after he fathered a daughter?

-You're right, but do you think we needed to include that? This part always gives me this weird feeling. I can not explain it. I'd rather not talk about it.

-Girls! - He lost Amanda's attention when the girls started pushing each other, claiming that the other was taking up too much space. He loved his family. And they had such a lovely time together here. He looked around, put his guitar away, and petted his faithful doggie. -Let's go to sleep, Odie! Tomorrow, we are going back to reality.

Around midnight Matilda woke up needing to pee. She tried to wake her sister up so she could go with her as mom instructed -Anna, please. I'm scared to go alone. – but Anna only turned around and continued her slumber. Finally, after a few minutes, Matilda had no choice, she couldn't hold it for much longer, so she climbed out of the tent and ran to the side to relieve her bladder.

At that moment, the faithful dog Odie stirred and stood on alert waking dad up.

-What's going on, boy. Did you hear something? Come on, lay down, boy! - but the dog wouldn't move, just listened.

Outside after satisfying her need, Matilda was ready to go back to the tent when a firefly showed up in front of her eyes. -You are so pretty. - the girl smiled and tried to touch it. The lightning bug seemed to be playing tag with her, and soon enough, Matilda moved towards an open pathway filled with dancing fireflies, forgetting her parents' warnings. Then she saw a bunny, then another one. She almost touched one. They were playfully jumping around her feet and into an old cabin. Matilda, so endorsed in her play, didn't realize it when she entered the cabin.

-Hello, my child! – the girl froze, realizing she had wandered away. - Don't be scared. Did you get lost? Can you help the old me outside, and I take you back to your tent?

-I'm sorry. Yes, I think I walked away too far. My mama and daddy will be upset. Do you know where my tent is?

-Yes. I know. I know everything. Can you please pass me your hand? I need a little bit more help to get out of here.

Innocent Matilda reached out to the old lady. Whoosh! The dark mist enveloped the child's body. -Thank you, my girl! I was expecting you! Let's go back to your family! From now on, I'll stay with you and take care of you! Together will make great things.

Odie did not calm down and started to paw his owner. The father thought maybe he needed to go outside for a minute. But instead, he left his sleeping place and woke his wife by accident.

-Love, is everything all right! - Amanda whispered.

-I think so. Odie is behaving weirdly. I'll take him outside and be right back.

-What is it, boy? -he asked, seeing his dog was looking for a trail. – Go potty, and let's go back to sleep.

But Odie took off into the woods. The father cursed and turned on his flashlight, following his best friend's steps.

Matilda left the cabin. The candle flickered and burned out. The witch whispered a spell, and the woods covered the cabin with thick leaves and bushes.

-I knew your grandmother. -said the witch.

-You did? -asked, surprised Matilda.

-Yes. We were best friends, just like you and me will be. I was always with your grandma, and I remember when you were born.

Suddenly Odie ran to Matilda and started barking wildly.

Dad followed, screaming in shock-Matilda! What in God's name are you doing here alone?

-I'm not alone, daddy. I'm with my new friend, and her name is Matilda too.

-Honey, what are you talking about? You know you cannot go outside the tent alone. So why didn't you wake us up?

-I just needed to pee. -she answered.

-Thank God Odie woke me up. What if you got lost?

-I wouldn't, daddy. My friend was bringing me back. She knew grandma, you know.

The father froze in disbelief. So was the story a curse and not a scary camping story?

He looked at his daughter, confused. Odie runs back towards the camp.

-Let's go back! -he said when a black mist sprung out in a shape of a sword of his daughter's body and, with one swing, beheaded him.

Amanda let out a scream and fell to her knees. Her family dog whimpered and licked her face, pacing. She followed her husband after realizing that her daughter was missing. She never thought she would witness something like this. Her little daughter looked at her and smiled.

-Hi Mommy! I have a new friend, and she knew grandma! She says hello! She says she will take care of us, and we always will be happy!

Amanda looked at her daughter and her husband's body, which was suddenly claimed by the woods and swallowed slowly underground.

Matilda moved closer and stretched her hand towards her mom. -Let's go, mommy! Anna and Mathew need you! I will take care of you! I promise!

Short Story

About the Creator

Monika Zalewski

I am a writer, copywriter, creator, entrepreneur, and photographer. I was born and raised in Poland and spent most of my adulthood in the United States of America. I am also a mother to a 10-year-old autistic boy. Writing is my passion.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.