It happened almost 40 years ago. At that time, the investigation ruled that everything had been a terrible accident, you must know, it was not so. The building burned to the very foundations which could not be the result only of a lot of burning books. Unwittingly, we took law into our own hands with that evil woman. Yes, evil. Ursula was the librarian for almost 50 years. Virtually since the library opened.
All children knew it. She wasn’t a good person. She was a lonely, aggressive, angry and always moody woman. She didn’t like people, nor human contact, much less young people. I remember perfectly how she shouted at us as soon as we whispered something between us or made the slightest noise. First we listened to that “shhhhh” that I don’t know how, she was able to emit at a deafening volume. If that didn’t seem enough, she approached us and pointed at us with that long, bony index finger, while saying:
— Silence, little vermin. Don’t they educate you at home? I don’t think so. But don’t worry. I will teach you to behave.
None of us understood why she behaved this way. I remember that the little ones were afraid of her. In fact, there came a time, the rumor began that she was a witch.
I won’t go into many futher details from here on. It is true that we could never prove it was her while she lived. And it is true that on that unfortunate night, we just wanted to scare her. But now, many years after all that, I know it was her.
We thought that if we scared her, she would end up leaving. One day, it occurred to us to enter the library at night, and make noises, move things, with the stupid idea that she might believe there were ghosts or something. Kid stuff, you know. I sneaked up to the corner of one of the shelves. I bowed my head a little and looked at her table. There she was, the witch. Even when she was alone, she seemed angry. The lights were turned off. Only a couple of candles lit her, which she carried in a small candle holder. I turned my head towards my companions and whispered:
— There she is, guys.
I turned my head again to continue watching her while my friends would do their job. But my blood and my whole body froze instantly when I find her damn wrinkled face, ten centimeters from mine´s. I don’t know how she could have moved that distance in just a few seconds and without making the slightest noise. The witch smiled as she looked at me. Her face was illuminated only in part by the light of that small candle, which made her appearance much more terrifying.
Then, she brought the index finger to her almost invisible lips, and as always, she emitted that sound that now seems terrifying to me.
Everyone cried except me, who had to restrain myself so as not to stain my pants. My teammates ran away out of panic, but I stood there frozen for almost a minute. It was when she grabbed me by one of my ears when my body reacted. I pushed her on the floor and ran as fast as I could without looking back. When I left the building, I didn’t stop until I reached my house. I entered my room, grabbed a baseball bat and stayed all night huddled in a corner of the room, shaking.
The next day, firefighters explained that having candles in a completely paper-filled building had been a fatal mistake on her part. However, they said that the old woman had something else there. That the strength and intensity of those flames hadn’t been normal. They couldn’t even put out the fire. They simply roped off the area, until everything had burned down completely. I’m sure we all had nightmares thinking about that horrible night. In fact, we still have them. We didn’t want to hurt her. Just scare her. God forgive me.
Ten years later, coinciding with the anniversary of the tragedy. The first kid appeared. Rafa. He was one of those who was always riding a mess. Ursula had to tell him off constantly. And he simply mocked her cruelly. “Come on grandma, isn’t it time to take the pill”, “Why don’t you go back home, to take care of your eight cats?” – he used to tell her. I hardly knew him. I was in another classroom. He was one of those that teachers described as “conflictive.” Popular, an elite athlete and with loaded parents. In short, a complete moron. However, he didn’t deserve to end up like this. They found him one morning in the park behind the library. He had no mark, nor sign of abuse. But the gesture of his face was something that we never forgot. Completely pale. His eyes, wide open and his mouth completely disengaged in a gesture of horror. It was, as if he had died… of fear. But the most terrifying thing was… they had… cut his tongue out. My goodness. It’s been almost 40 years, and I shudder when remembering.
The police began to look for a murderer, a psychopath. But we immediately knew who it had been. That damn old witch, in her obsession with silence and order.
We had another version, but of course, we dared not tell anyone. On the one hand, ten years had passed since that terrible event. And on the other, we didn’t want to reveal the truth. Now we were all adults, and possibly, we would end up in jail for that crime. So, we didn’t do it.
The next one to suffer her anger was poor Alex. The boy appeared in a cinema, almost in the same conditions as the previous one. Marks on the wrists, marks of a whip, signs of having been slapped and without part of his tongue. Although, he was alive, but with an obvious shock, and on his face, the same gesture of terror as in the previous victim. Alex, never spoke again.
You want to how we did know that it was her? We simply knew. We recognized that gesture of terror on the faces of our poor companions. The same terror that witch produced when we were just children. For a few years, I became almost manic. And I guess my old classmates too. I lived surrounded by crucifixes, bibles and religious objects. I spent hours studying book on witchcraft and exorcisms trying to find a remedy no matter how delusional it was. Iron objects, holy water, kilos and kilos of salt… but nothing helped.
Marcos and his girl, were in their car one night, parked in a well-known viewpoint, just outside the city. Although it is close to the city cemetery, many young people use it as a “hideout” to enjoy that uncontrollable passion of youth. You know what I mean. The poor girl, who still hasn’t recovered until today, although at least she survived, said that, at one point, the car radio went off and everything remained in that almost total silence, which only offers the campside. When Marcos tried to start the car, it didn’t respond. Then he said:
— I hope we havn’t run out of battery….
But only a second before he finished the sentence, he heard:
The guy froze for a moment. He perfectly recognized that sound. I knew what was happening. We all had it engraved deep inside our brain. He swallowed and tried to start the car again. She began to get nervous and ask what was wrong. But he only replied whispering again and again:
— Shut up, don’t say anything. Please.
— What’s happening Marcos?
— Silence! – he repeated trembling.
— Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! – was heard again.
— What was that? – she asked.
— Silence, damn it! – Marcos shouted, panicking.
Then, it appeared before his eyes. There she was standing in front of the car. She could describe it perfectly, before falling into a catatonic state, as a result of stress. A tall and thin woman. Big eyes sunk in her face. Factions and bony hands. Her clothes, and some parts of her skin, had deep burns. It was horrible, the poor girl explained. The wounds were still smoking and that smell…. She barely couldn’t talk.
No one knows how she escaped. She even became a suspect in the crime, but this was later ruled out. Marcos appeared the next morning. Not far away from there. He was as pale as candle wax. His face had a grimace of terror that we already had seen before. And like the rest, he was full of bruises, but this time… not only had his tongue been cut, but before that, according to the doctor who examined him, his teeth had been ripped out. Marcos didn’t survive his injuries. The rest, although they tried, could not tell. After this, some people, among whispers, began to believe in Ursula, the librarian.
Some years have passed since then. And I write my epitaph silently, now that I know what my ending is. Here, sitting and surrounded by books. In the now rebuilded place, where it all started. I will stop fleeing, and I will pay, my sentence. I hope that with this email, that the truth of what happened that unfortunate night will finally be known. I just have to get up and say my last words out loud.
— Here I am, damn devil. End this nightmare. Someday, we’ll meet in hell…
What can I tell you, little anomalous. This could be considered one of those stories of revenge from the underworld. But what I think is, that it just seems that there are people who don’t know that, in some places, out of respect for others, you have to be silent. How inconsiderate.
© Copyright of texts and drawings: David Iglesias Ferreira.