- The Gypsy's Dean Kuch
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Always be kind to strangers... or else!
The Gypsy's Timepiece. by Dean Kuch
    Midnight Death Contest Winner 

Brightway Railway Station, London, England, 1842

“All aboard!”

The crowd quickly gathers at the boarding platform, hurriedly jockeying for position in line. The train to Westminster sits on the tracks, puffing plumes of billowing white clouds as it ramps up steam for power.

A withered elderly woman is unceremoniously knocked aside as she attempts to mount the steps to board the waiting train. Harried, a young man brandishing a leather portmanteau glances down at her with half-hearted interest, then pushes past. He utters no apologies to her, nor does he excuse himself by asking her permission to move past. Smiling, he tips his hat as she tumbles to the platform below.


“In a hurry, old gal — you understand.”

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The Gypsy's Timepiece photo mOQCAqtJznzCfjjt7WCt_sA_zpsa0bdb6f2.jpg

~Scenes from from a train~

“Midnight was the hour of my birth and will be the hour of my death.”

The disheveled gypsy woman I'd knocked over earlier while in my haste to board the train now sits across from me. She utters the statement as casually as if she'd mentioned the weather.


“Excuse me, madam? I must have misunderstood you, You say that you're dying?”


She motions me closer with a wag of her bony index finger. Her response is barely more than a whisper.

“I will die exactly one year from this date, at the stroke of midnight. Very soon, you too will know my fate.”

After she's spoken, her head bobs heavily for a moment, then lowers onto the tiny embroidered pillow supporting her neck. Immediately, she goes back to sleep. As I lean in closer to within an inch of her face, I can feel her sporadic breathing against my skin. I detect an odor much like stale, molded bread. I notice that one eye remains unclosed, even though it is quite apparent to me that she's fallen fast asleep. A shimmering string of thin drool leaks from one corner of her mouth, dampening her pillow. The eye which remains partially open stares at me. Its murky gaze seems to bore a hole right through me. The train whistle blows suddenly and without warning, blaring throughout the compartment. My bones threaten to leap from my skin. I bolt upright, then quickly resume my position near the window.


Why has she mentioned her death to me? What's her purpose? As I sit pondering this thought, I spot it.


I've witnessed many strange sights over the course of my twenty-five years as a well-traveled explorer. I've been an assistant to an exorcism in Uganda, seen a leper receive a blood letting and subsequent leeching in the canal villas of  Lisson Grove — which ultimately led to the poor man's demise — and quite often, specters come whispering to me at my home in St. Marylebone while I lie sleeping in my bed. Why they trouble me, I do not know. I've continually had repeated visits from the restless spirit of one child who doesn't appear to realize she's no longer amongst the world of the living. She knocks on different windows of my home in the evening, beckoning me to let her inside because she's so cold. It's a request that I must regretfully deny her, of course.

Yet, never once in all my years have I had something affect me in such a way as it did. It was ghastly looking timepiece the gypsy crone dropped in my lap on that fateful day. Made of what appeared to be polished bone and silver, it gave off an ethereal, ghastly glow. Odd symbols of origins unfamiliar to me adorned the side opposite the mother-of-pearl face. Projected through this eerie, unholy light source was an eye, clouded by cataracts. The eye hovered in the mist, just outside my window, and when I turned 'round to wake the old gypsy and ask her what it might mean, she was gone. She'd vanished — as quickly as faint wisps of steam from the trains smokestack in a stiff breeze. The timepiece she'd dropped remained; as did the eye, hovering just inches outside my window.

I knew it was watching me.


The spirit, apparition — whatever name you choose to associate with the thing — continued to follow me, staring at me along the entire journey.  It remained hovering, unblinking, all the way to my desired destination of Westminster Abbey.


As the train came to a complete stop, I chanced a sideways glance out the window, and saw that, thankfully, the horrid thing had finally disappeared. Gathering up my hat and portmanteau, I quickly made my way towards the exit along with the other disembarking passengers.

It is here my memory becomes clouded and uncertain, for I scarcely recall what happened next. I do distinctly remember that although I'd left the ancient-looking timepiece on the train as I exited, I soon realized it had somehow found its way back into my coat. The greenish glow that had been present while on the train began to emanate from my breast pocket.

That is the last thing I recall before everything went dark, and I found myself here .


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Westminster Hospital, Westminster, England, 1843

I can tell you without question, while I've witnessed many terrifying things, I've seen things within this horrid insitution that would make your skin crawl. However, I remain completely rational and lucid. My mind is as razor sharp as it's ever been. Although I've been diagnosed by the doctors here with catatonic schizophrenia
, I assure you, I am not insane. However, you may think me so after what I'm about to tell you.

She's come here to visit me for the past week since my arrival from London. How she knew where to locate me is a mystery. The nurses that tend to my needs announce her as my mother. “Your mother is here to see you, Mr. Rasmussen,” they croon. Their jovial demeanor when doing so always nauseates me to the point of vomiting. She hasn't much longer to live, she told me as much while she and I were on the train a little less than a year ago.  Only 'til the morrow, at midnight. 

I find myself in an unusually dire predicament. For my rudeness, the old gypsy saw fit to place a curse upon me. As long as I retain the timepiece she bequeathed to me on the train, I can not move a muscle, nor can I speak a solitary word — to anyone. I can't make a sound. She's forced me to slow down, quite considerably, as it were. Punishment for my rudeness to her that day at the station.
I have remained in this silent, immobile state since that terrible day.

“You'll forever take your time now, young man, and I die tomorrow at midnight," she reminds me. "It has been foretold to me by the elders. Once I am dead, you will be forever forced to think about what you've done, unless you can convince me to remove the spell, and take back the heirloom.

Unfortunately, you are quickly running out of time...”



As I cannot speak, nor beg her to remove the cursed thing from me, what am I to do?  I fear I am already doomed.


It is nearly four o'clock on the morrow, and she's come once again to torture me during her last hours. She sits singing some Romanian melody, and while I admit I'd love to strangle the old bird for what she's done to me, I can not help but feel pity for her. Her weathered skin and deep wrinkles indicate she has lived a life knowing deep pain, heartache and sorrow. I know not how old she truly is, but as she sings to me her voice sounds like that of a much younger woman. The melody she sings is in Romani dialect, and I'm unfamiliar with the meaning of her words. Nevertheless, the song penetrates deeply into my soul, and I feel genuine sympathy for her. She's going to die within a few hours, and she is fully aware of that fact. That I remain a mute invalid is secondary to me. If I were to step back and look rationally at what happened, I can arrive at no other conclusion other than I was wrong. I'd been an inconsiderate fool, and now, I was paying for it.


It's eight o'clock, and after I've had my spoon-fed supper and been given a bath, they return me to my ward. Oh yes, sadly, I am still able to swallow food. Still, the old gypsy sits patiently, singing. My night nurse comes in after a short while to inform her it is time for her to go. We are to be put to bed. She stops singing, then rises from the spot she's been sitting in for the past nine hours since her arrival here today.

I struggle with every fiber of my being to tell her how truly sorry I am for what I've done, that I would never think of being rude or uncaring to another soul for the rest of my days. But I can not. I can't so much as blink. I weep. My adams apple heaves and bobs with every wracking sob, as I realize this is my last gasp effort to form any semblance of what could be construed as a word. The tears I shed are not only for my punishment, which I so richly deserve, but because I can't tell her that I wished her life had been happier somehow. That I wished she did not have to die.

Just before she exits, she glances back one last time, then walks over to where I'm sitting, strapped into my chair. Gently, she brushes a tear from my eyes with a crooked finger, and smiles. She leans close, then tenderly kisses me upon my cheek. She removes the timepiece from the chair's side compartment, then pats me atop my head as a caring mother would her terrified son. She leans in further and whispers into my ear.

“Always be kind to others, young man. Your kindness will be rewarded greatly in the afterlife, and by those you show true kindness to in this one.”


After she's been gone for what seems like an eternity, yet in reality could have been but a few minutes, the nurses hoist me up, then put me to bed. Sensation slowly begins to return to my limbs and extremities. A warmth rushes throughout my entire body in rippling waves. I jump from my bed, screaming, "Wait!" into the darkened hallway. Stumbling in my weakened state, I tumble to the cold floor, wracked by sobs brought about by a sense of great relief, and honest remorse. It seems one honest, emotional show of genuine remorse was what she'd been looking for all along.

My thankful pleas echoed along the darkend corridors —

“I'm sorry! May God forgive me, I'm so very sorry ...”

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St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, England, 1901

Looking back on my experiences that day on the train with the old gypsy woman, I've often smiled.  I've played it over and over in my mind many times during the course of numerous years spent in the Priesthood. I'll tell you honestly ... I am truly sorry.

As I lie here some fifty-nine years later this midnight in my comfortable bed, I'm faced with my own death. I wonder if what I've done for others has been enough. I pray I've adequately kept my part of the bargain. I was only able to express my gratitude to her for agreeing to remove the cursed talisman through my tears. I'm at peace now, knowing I've done my best. I hope to see her when I get where I'm going. I wish to thank her for making me realize that day things in my life needed to change.

I've appreciated the joyful life she and my God have allowed to me to live since that day.
And now, I must go to greet them.




Midnight Death
Contest Winner


Author Notes
The most well known of all peoples to supposedly utilize the evil eye curse are the gypsies. How much of it is actually real, and how much is more the cloak of superstition and fear among those that were not gypsies themselves, I don't really know. Still, the effect seems to be as real as any, because there are many people all over the world who still fear getting handed the evil eye from strangers that they may have insulted. Also it is common in several of the Mediterranean countries (Italy, Greece and Turkey) to wear charms and talismans to ward off the effects of the Evil Eye.

The gypsy curse is, in and of itself, not responsible for any direct contact with the spirit world. However, because it requires a significant amount of paranormal psycho-kinetic energy to cast, it will attract the attention of any spirits with an affiliation with the recipient. This may manifest as something as benign as 'dreams' from past loved ones, or may invite the attentions of malicious poltergeists who merely happened to be in the vicinity. As a result, many gypsy curses will appear to be accompanied by paranormal phenomenon. It is important to note this this is incidental, not a direct symptom of psycho-kinetic transference.

As always, thank you so much for reading!


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