There is a reason you stay away from the frozen pond.
This is not a story of fragile women trapped in towers. This is not a story about gallant knights and princes who sweep these same poor, trapped maidens off their feet and into another type of cage, just one more gilded. No. This is a story about wronged women who have no choice but to cut like shards of glass. This is a story about women who want nothing more than to see those who hurt them bleed for the pain they have inflicted. If this is not the kind of story you want to hear then go elsewhere. I am not here to coddle you like a mother does their child. I am not a guide nor a guardian. I am simply a storyteller. Still here? Then I shall continue.
In my village there is an old legend, a fairy tale told at night by cautious parents. Like all fairy tales it aims to teach you about the world, but this is more than that. This tale is a warning to those who delight in hurting the lesser and the weak.
Surrounded by trees, amongst the crags and rocks in the valley, is a pond. It is called Widow’s Rest, though that is not its first name. The reason for the name change is tragic, and now the pond stands as a vigilant reminder to do better. But it is not the pond per say that is the subject of our legend, rather the creature that dwells within.
During the spring and summer months the pond is no more dangerous than a daffodil. Its waters are cool, and children are allowed to play in its shallows. But in winter, when the pond freezes over and the ice cracks and groans, then it is out of bounds. It is the most dangerous of places for one simple reason: the Grey Wraith.
The Grey Wraith haunts the pool, lurking beneath the ice, waiting for foolish ice skaters or fishermen to wander onto a patch too thin to bare their weight. She will reach up from her watery lair, wrap her thin bony fingers around your ankle, and drag you down into the murky depths.
It would be enough of a deterrent for the Grey Wraith to simply exist with no further explanation as to who she is or why she is there. Children will stay away from the pond, and the dangers of the ice, if all you tell them is that it has a vengeful guardian. But it is not the children we are trying to teach. It is the men.
Long ago, but not so long ago that nobody still remembers, there lived a young couple in the village. Abel and Hilda Sheard they were called. Abel was a miner at the copper mine, and Hilda spent her days taking in sewing from her neighbours. She would sit in her garden, hum to herself, and darn the villagers’ socks and shirts.
Abel was a very lucky man to have married Hilda for she was heralded as the beauty of the village. The English rose amongst the dandelions. And by all accounts Hilda was beautiful. She was elegant with a fire within her eyes, fierce and vibrant. She was the kind of woman who would walk in thunderstorms and smile at the lightning, caring nothing for the rain.
By all accounts the pair were happy together. But their bliss was to be short lived, for not three years into their union, Abel was killed in a mine collapse.
Hilda was left a widow. And a very desirable one at that.
It was well known that several of the young, unmarried men lusted over Hilda and had set their sights on her. Many had tried and failed to win her heart, for Hilda had preferred the soft touch of Abel rather than the loud, boisterous boasts of the others. But now that her husband had died, these same men once again aimed their desires at her.
To each and every suitor Hilda gave the same response. “No.”
“Why not?” They’d always ask, utterly unable to understand why she’d reject such a good and decent man as themselves. “Abel is dead, Hilda. You’ll have to remarry at some point. Why not me?”
“Perhaps I will,” Hilda would reply. “But not now. Not yet. My heart still belongs to Abel.”
Most of these men had the sensibility to take no as her answer and move on to other dalliances. But not Simon Falkirk.
Simon Falkirk wanted Hilda and no one else. She had no right to refuse him. None at all. He deserved her. He deserved to have such a pretty thing sat upon his lap singing whatever tune he desired. He wanted her more than anything, but if he couldn’t have her, no one could.
Poor Hilda stood no chance when Simon forced his sister to lure her down to the pond one winter. Poor Hilda stood no chance when she was greeted by Simon and two of his friends. Poor Hilda stood no chance when they grabbed her, flung her out onto the ice they knew was too thin, too weak, to hold her.
As she stood there, listening to the ice crack beneath her feet, Hilda asked one question. “Why?”
“Because you said no,” Simon replied. “And because I can.”
Hilda’s body wasn’t found for three weeks. The ice grew thicker, freezing over her as she sank to the bottom of the pond. The village assumed she had gone elsewhere for the winter months, gone to visit family so as not to be alone. Nobody suspected the true horror.
She was buried in the church yard alongside her husband. But her spirit did not dwell in that wooden coffin deep beneath the ground. Her spirit remained trapped beneath the ice.
Then, one night the following winter, Simon Falkirk’s friends rushed into the village raving about the monster in the pond. The unspeakable horror that had snatched Simon away. The indescribable creature that called that place home.
A search party formed, torches and weaponry gathered. They marched down to the pond. What they saw there none of them would ever forget.
Hovering just a little above the pond was Simon Falkirk, screaming and shouting for help. Gripping his leg tightly, bony fingers digging into his calf, was a terrifying spectre of ice and flesh, bone and blood.
“Help me!” screamed Simon.
Not a single member of that search party moved.
The spectre unlatched its jaw, let out a blood-curdling scream of sheer agony and rage.
“Somebody do something!” Simon begged.
“No,” said the village elder. “This is justice, and we all must pay the price for our crimes.”
The torturous cries of Simon Falkirk still haunt those that remember to this day. Nobody had the courage, or perhaps even the urge, to try and stop the horrors that were to follow.
The sound of bone cracking against ice split the air as the spectre threw Simon down time and time again. As blood seeped across the frosted glass of the pond, the ice broke beneath the force of his body. No attempts were made to stop the spectre from tearing him apart. Blood splashed onto the frozen pond before what was left of Simon was tossed into the icy waters.
With a final wail, the spectre dived into the pond and disappeared.
As for Simon’s sister, she was never the same. The village allowed her to stay, knowing that it had not been her choice to partake in the murder of Hilda. But still she was haunted by that night.
You can tell your children that if they trespass upon the pond the Grey Wraith will come for them, and yes they will be afraid and will heed your advice, but all children will run at the mention of a ghost.
Tell any foolish young man who thinks he knows better, thinks that he owns everything around him, that the Grey Wraith will come for him one cold, dark winter and he will understand. For he knows full well that Widow’s Rest is haunted, that Hilda Sheard sleeps in those waters. He knows it well enough, for every night during those long winter months he can hear her screams upon the wind.
About the author
I'm a drama student currently in my third year at university, and I've always been passionate about writing. Writing for me is an escape, a way to explore worlds I will never see except for in my own imagination.