I have been such a space case the past couple of months that I completely forgot I was working on something. A writing project, if you will. It started very spontaneously. So spontaneously that I wrote it down on our dining table, the words easily seeping out of the black gel pen that I so highly favor. I still remember that feeling I got while writing it down: electric, seemingly charged. Lightning coursing through my veins. Before I knew it, I had created a newsletter about a fictional place I created for my finished story.
Long story short, to spare you from painful ramblings: I was struggling with continuing that story. I was in the middle of book two and I just stopped. I was in a slump. No scene seemed fit or exciting. The characters were uninspired. I was ready to stop writing altogether and just numb my brain with junk food and reality TV shows. But then I started writing this… dispatch. I didn’t know which direction it would take. I just started writing about one of Maroon Island’s folklores. (Maroon Island is the fictional place I mentioned.) It picked up from there. This has been written last August, but I still want to share it with you. I’m hoping it’ll come across as unsettling yet fascinating. Here, dig in:
THE MAROON DISPATCH 8/15
Grab your raincoats and put on your boots, folks of Maroon Island. The rain will not deter the cloying and hospitable locals of Ravine Rock from going about their annual Moon Festival next weekend. If you’re into parades and floats displaying gods and goddesses, re-enactments of their famous local lores, and food carts offering scrumptious sweets and seafood alike, then mark your calendars right now.
Ravine Rock is, as we all know, famous for their strange yet beautiful location: near the restless sea, snuggled by cliffs. Their strong beliefs centered in the unseen also offers visitors a unique taste of thrill and wonders. Did you know that one of their popular folklores is that of The Strangest Stranger? Supposedly, one night bearing a bright full moon hundreds of years ago, a stranger washed up on shore. He began howling and shrieking as he staggered in a zigzag path by the seashore. The locals reported that chills traveled up and down their spines as they heard him make those terrible, terrible sounds. Here’s the irony: Not one of them rushed to help him. He went on howling and shrieking for hours, folks. Right up until the first rays of sunlight. The locals, on the other hand, started putting up cloves of garlic on their doors and windows as some sort of protection from the stranger. Legend has it that when he was finally hauled away from the seashore (unconscious but alive), he was brought to the witch doctor. When he woke up, he refused to speak. He was always staring off into space, eyes glassy and mouth opening and closing, never making a sound.The witch doctor took pity on the man and offered him shelter until he started getting better.
The months following the stranger’s arrival was normal. That is, until another night of full moon. That night, one of the children fell ill — feverish and unlike herself. The child, no more than a year old, started staring off into space and began screaming her lungs out while crying the whole day and night. The witch doctor was called and a ritual involving herbs, incense, and chanting was done. The child’s fever broke the next day and started to recover quickly after that. But then a few days later, another child had the same symptoms. And another and then another. Panic and fright swept over the small town. When fury overtook everything else, the locals blamed the stranger, saying that if he didn’t bring the curse upon their land, then he was the curse.
The story did not end well for the stranger who, at that time, was already fully recovered and was good friends with the witch doctor. (What happened to him when he was washed ashore and why he was howling and shrieking, he never told anyone.) This stranger, this man, was seized by a good number of locals in spite of the witch doctor and his family’s objections and pleadings. Keep in mind that this was ancient times, a time well before courthouses and law enforcers. The stranger was promptly punished, as agreed by the majority. He was beaten to death and then burned at the top of a cliff (today known as Amthist Point). It was said that while all this was unfolding, the daughter of the witch doctor, a quiet and meek girl of sixteen, wept inconsolably. The next day, she was gone. Not a trace of her. Because of this, two rumors began to circulate:
- The stranger exacted revenge by taking the young lady through evil, supernatural means.
- The young woman had an affair with the stranger and, too brokenhearted over his cruel death, left her hometown.
The curse believed to be carried (if not started) by the stranger did not stop with his death, however. In less than a year, children below two years of age died mysteriously. The chilling similarities of their deaths was that each and every child had a black, web-like mark sprawled across their stomachs right before losing consciousness, only to never wake up again.
To this day, the Moon Festival occurs NO MATTER WHAT because it is believed to ward off the curse and protect their town. But of course, we are now in a modern day and age. We know better than to believe a bunch of supernatural local lores, yes? It could be fun to think about, sure. And the festival itself (all those fireworks and parades and food!) is exciting and beautiful. So let’s just all enjoy this once a year treat of an event and go to Ravine Rock for an experience that will haunt us forever.
[END OF DISPATCH]
And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂
(Update: Vol. II is now available here.)