“Alms, alms for the poor,” the gypsy begged, holding out gnarled fingers. She was wrapped in filthy rags and stood hunched on the packed dark earth of the town square.
“Out of my way, you old whore,” said a passing knight, brushing her aside with his gauntlet.
I watched the old woman lose her balance and collapse into the dirt. She began to weep.
“Curse you,” she wept, “curse you all! Twenty-five years I have roamed the earth, relying on the kindness of strangers. Twenty-five years I have given back and brought joy where I could. No one in this wretched village will help me. No one in this heartless place will offer me but one meagre piece of copper. Truly you are most heartless in all this land.”
She arose and gathered her wretched rags. “All that you have known and loved shall come back to haunt you! All those you once loved shall be your destruction! This, I vow. Curse you! Curse you all…”
I thought nothing of the old gypsy’s words that day, nor that I did not see her in the square the weeks following. But two weeks hence when the dead rose from the earth to besiege our town, I do remember clearly the sad voice of the little girl who ran out to embrace them. She ran out into the empty field between our village and the cemetery in the dark woods, into the gulf that separated the living from the dead.
I remember the strangest feeling, a horrible mixture of terror and sadness, when I heard her young voice ring out against the empty blue sky: