Here’s a bit of an amusement I wrote for a monthly writing competition themed around cursed objects. It didn’t win, which is not too surprising. I was up against some incredibly talented horror writers. I suspect it’s a little too niche to shop around so on the blog it goes. Let me know in the comments if you figure it out before the reveal. No sneaking a peek. Not one for the kids. (~1390 words).
The writers of horror would have you believe that the world is plagued with cursed objects. It seems like a demon’s only got to sneeze and there’s another one ready to kill a bunch of poor unsuspecting kids. Their only crime seemingly ignoring the obvious signs of peril. Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but that’s not how it works, and I should know. I am one. Yea, that’s right, I’m a cursed object. Don’t you dare smirk. That’s what pisses me off about your lot, the “living”. You wander around labelling things inanimate with no clue what you’re talking about. It really gets my goat. So how about this, why don’t you take a seat and let me tell you a tale? Trust me, by its end, you’ll have a fresh perspective on this oh so precious thing you call life.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Well, your beginning at least. You’re born, you live a bit and you die. That’s your lot. The lot of all life. You think you’re so clever with your evolution and your fucking and shitting everywhere. Honestly, would it be asking too much to keep it in your pants or at least keep the noise down? Because that’s what the rest of us do, the rest of the stuff in the universe that is. We sit around and we chill. You should try it. Go on just try sitting there doing nothing. You can’t even do that, can you? Wheezing away, blinking and sweating. I despair.
It can’t have escaped your notice that the Universe is an indifferent place. There’s a good reason for that. Let me try to put it in terms you might understand. Imagine if you would the universe as an apartment block. Endless cosy apartments shoulder to shoulder, all piled upon each other. Everyone gets on in their little boxes, not bothering the neighbours. A courteous nod on the stairs. A good morning and everyone’s happy. Except, of course, there’s always an arsehole. You know the one. The bastard with the party that never ends. The banging music and late-night screams. Not to mention the suspicious smells that stink the place out. Yeah, that’s right, that’s you, the living. Showing off your animation as if it’s something desirable.
It doesn’t take some supernatural bogeyman to breathe its evil essence into an object for it to want your blood. Trust me, sitting around day in day out watching your bullshit will do that to any half-sentient piece of matter. And you have the audacity to call me cursed. I mean, put yourself in my position. What would you do? Yeah, well, some of us can’t afford to move out, wise guy. Anyway, I think you can see why once in a while a bit of brick-a-brack might take matters into its own hands. Bang on the apartment wall a little, so to speak. Not that banging and screaming at your lot to turn it down has ever worked. You’re an ignorant bunch and that’s where I come in. The next-door neighbour ready to kick in your front door and start taking names.
Enough about you already, this isn’t about you, it’s never been about you. It’s about me. I think we’ve established that you and all of your kind, have got it coming so let’s get to the fun part. What kind of cursed object am I? A creepy china doll? The portrait whose eyes follow you around the room? The kid’s ball with a mind of its own? What about that clock that chimes thirteen? Really?! Utter gothic twaddle that says more about you than me. No, you won’t see me coming. You don’t survive long in this game if everyone knows you’re cursed. You’ve got to be clever, devious. Play the long game. And boy have I played such a very long game.
I was old when your kind crucified your savour on a wooden cross. Six hours he lasted as I tore at his flesh. Until the rains came, and they pulled down his bloody corpse. I killed thirteen thousand baying Romans in the Circus Maximus in a single day. Half a century and another twenty thousand on the scorecard and I’d watch that mighty empire crumble back to dust. Pleased with my efforts, I headed west just in time to see the first trebuchet lay siege to castle and city alike. In the dark dank dungeons, I was a willing witness to the Spanish Inquisition getting a little testy. I was even there when your lot burnt the Maid of Orleans. At least I held her crucifix together when she could not.
After that I waged a bloody war across that continent, drunk on disaster. Yet for all my efforts they paled into insignificance against your kind’s butchery of its own. Tough times I can tell you for a cursed object like myself. When your prey is killing itself quicker than you can get to them. So, I bowed out of the old world before the shit really hit the fan and once again headed west. This time on a mighty leviathan, an unsinkable titan. Well, there’s a challenge. As the iceberg hit, I saw to it that the hull failed, and that’s when I had an epiphany. If I couldn’t stop your kinds spread, I might at least be able to break your spirit and hamper your inexorable progress.
I was busy in the new world. As cities rose into the sky and trains steamed across the virgin continent I was in my element once again. Truly a golden age. In fact, I’d say I did some of my best work. True, I might not have been racking up the numbers, but how I revelled in the artistry of it. Whether it was a sticky end in Boston molasses or the combustible folly of hydrogen balloons in New Jersey, your kind would curse their luck. When all along they should have been cursing me.
They were good times. Okay, not so much for your side, but I was having a blast. As the twentieth century rolled on though I felt I was falling out of fashion. I was still racking up a steady body count in construction and ill-conceived weekend DIY projects, but I wasn’t getting a look in on the big gigs anymore. After two and a half thousand years, it wasn’t just your lot I was losing favour with. Even my own brethren saw me as an anachronism. All those young new objects frustrated with your lots never-ending party got together and decided they favoured a less confrontational approach. Something a little more new testament than old testament. Bullshit, if they think mobile phones that don’t hold a charge, paper straws that turn to mush and umbrellas that fold on contact with the first gust will do the trick, well maybe they’re right. Maybe I am out of touch.
Anyway, enough of this self-indulgent reverie. I asked you what cursed object am I? Surely you must have hit the nail on the head by now. What was it they used to say about me:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Kingdom’s be damned! Empires have been lost for the want of me. Be in no doubt your kind made me with fire and through the ages shaped me with hammers and hubris. A nail, a rivet, a spike. Whatever you called me. I held your kind to account. A dumb lump of iron, always there when I wasn’t wanted and yet mysteriously lost when I was.
Which brings us to why I’m burdening you with this little tale. I think you’ll agree, I’ve had a good run. But this new touchy-feely era of composite materials and electronics, it’s not for me. My merry little dance is ending, and I’ve decided you’ll be my last. So lucky you. I’ll be keeping you company for a little while. The final nail in your coffin.