I run a museum of cursed objects. This newest one takes the cake.
Cursed objects have always kinda been my family’s thing.
Of course, they weren’t in a museum until it was my turn to be in charge of them. My mothers insisted on keeping them in the family’s heavily warded basement storage room, just as the previous generations had for centuries. I, on the other hand, have always been something of an entrepreneurial spirit, and especially after seeing how popular cursed objects and similar things have become, I didn’t see any reason not to put them on display. Hell, my family has looked after these sorts of things for as long as our recorded history goes back. Why not make money about it?
You may be wondering why I’m choosing to post here now. Apparently, a smallish first-floor venue in the middle of a bustling big city doesn’t, in and of itself, draw much attention. My girlfriend and co-owner Emelie insists that if I want to make this work, I need to get some people interested, people who actually care about that sort of thing. And she insists you are these people.
So, hello. My name is Alexis, Alex for short, and I’m here to tell you about the Hall of the Cursed. Em says the best way to go about this is to walk you through a day in my life, so I’ll tell you a little bit about our hallowed Hall, and I’ll tell you about the new “attraction” I picked up this morning. I tell you what, no matter how many times you go through things like this, it never stops being terrifying.
Upon entering the museum, you will undoubtedly notice a set of rules. After all, as you all probably know by now, anyone working with the occult keeps a list of no-nos to survive, especially if they’re involving random civilians who aren’t experienced in this sort of thing. Following these rules is paramount to having a happy and healthy visitation, and you will not be permitted until you sign a little, harmless contract stating that you will follow these rules, and that if not, we at the museum are not responsible for any physical, emotional, or otherwise harm that may befall you. The rules are as follows, for your convenience, as I am working on my customer service (Em says I’m abysmal):
1) DO NOT touch ANY object in the museum without explicit permission from the museum staff or an official sign, which will ALWAYS contain at least ONE capital letter and which will ALWAYS be properly spelled.
2) You MUST kiss the dog on the nose upon entering the museum.
3) Follow ALL rules posted around the museum, PROVIDED they contain at least ONE capital letter AND are properly spelled.
4) Wash your hands before leaving the washroom for at least thirty seconds.
5) Visit the Nokia cellphone room AT YOUR OWN RISK. The museum WILL NOT be held responsible for any chance deaths.
6) You MUST be kind to the crow. You MAY offer him snacks if you like.
7) The janitor is nonverbal and unresponsive. Do not speak to him, but nod politely if he looks your way.
8) ALWAYS hold your breath when walking by the road sign. If you breathe near the sign, the museum will provide you with a complimentary bag of salt and sage and send you home with more detailed instructions.
9) Say hi to Herman the Bug. He likes it. DO NOT say good-bye.
Each guest also receives a pamphlet with these rules, although I’m definitely getting a little weary of printing them. These rules are simple to follow, and after a couple of choice...incidents...with the pink bonnet, we’ve even placed yellow tape in a circle with a six-foot radius to keep idiots with poor estimation skills away from it. No wonder the pandemic is causing so much trouble--apparently all men are physically incapable of estimating a six-foot distance.
Of course, the list of rules for employees to follow is far more extensive, but that’s not generally a problem, since it’s just Em, Jan, and me (Jan being the janitor, of course, and that’s obviously not his real name, but we don’t know what it is, so bite me).
Anyway, this morning Em got a call from a panicked stay-at-home mom who was reportedly in big trouble about some sort of vintage wedding dress she’d found on eBay. Since Em is really more the management type, and I’m the one who generally deals with the hands-on bits, I was the one who somewhat reluctantly headed to the address. I say reluctantly because I’ve never found a single good thing attached to a wedding dress.
Upon my arrival, it became clear that something funny was going on. There was the sound of a screaming child somewhere in a nearby room, which I’ve never been particularly fond of, and the woman who greeted me at the front door was in poorly contained hysterics. She had stringy brown hair, although I suspected that it was generally less unkempt, based on the obviously expensive comb wedged near the back of her head. Tears were streaming down her face, and clearly had been for some time, judging by the tomato color of her face and the general swollen stretch to it. Possibly most troubling was the blood staining her hands, already browning as it dried.
“How can I help you, ma’am?” I said in the least threatening voice possible. For god’s sake, she looks like she’s about to jump out of her skin.
“I killed my husband,” she said.
Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought. “May I come inside?”
She nodded, jerkily, like a badly made puppet, or one with a particularly anxious puppeteer. I followed her inside and was instantly hit with...nothing.
I should expand here and mention that I’m by no mean some sort of sensitive--that’s more Em’s thing, and how we met (a story for a different time, I’m sure). That being said, it’s hard to be around cursed objects for too long without getting a sense for the sort of evil miasma that leeches out of them. So either this woman just needed some haloperidol, or my circumstances at the time were not the right ones to invoke whatever was going on with this dress.
“It’s...in here,” the woman practically whispered. Hm, I thought. Not generally an awesome sign, the whispering.
“So why the museum? Why not the police?” I asked as I followed her into a modest kitchen, then through another doorway into an equally modest living room. In the other room, the child continued to cry. I assumed she had used the number my parents used to give out for any weird or unusual problems, but still, the police are usually the first choice for actual murder-related issues.
“I just...I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It was whispering to me, telling me...I didn’t want to...but for days, for days it whispered and whispered and it was right! It was right...but now I..., oh, god, oh, god, I don’t know what came over me, what did I do, what did I do...”
Mmkay, I thought, so she wasn’t going to be super helpful. All I was gathering was that the dress had apparently been speaking to her, no doubt persuading her to kill her husband. At least it hadn’t been very fast-acting. That meant it was probably reasonably safe to transport in the lined bag I’d brought. Most things were, provided they weren’t especially hostile.
“Do you know why it would ask you to hurt your husband, Mrs. Meyers?” Or Ms., I corrected mentally.
“It...it knew,” she said in hushed tones. We stopped in front of a large, closed oak dresser. Her shaking hand rested on the handle, but didn’t open it. “It knew everything. The late nights, the lies, the other women. It knew about his drinking, too. It told me...it told me I’d be safe. Happier.”
In one swift motion, she threw the dresser open. Hanging inside, all alone, was a vintage wedding dress in mint condition. It was lovely, all delicate lace and soft edges and white so pure it was nearly blinding. The arms were long and translucent, and the neckline was gently curved. The second the woman’s gaze fell upon it, her eyes hardened. Immediately, a chill ran down my spine.
“He’s better off dead,” she remarked coldly. “Or rather, we’re better off with him dead. Why do women fall into these toxic relationships and just allow themselves to remain there forever? It’s as if they have no self-respect. No, I had to do it, and I’m glad I did. I was far gentler than he deserved.”
A quick glance to the other side of the dresser revealed her husband, eyes wide in death, spread-eagled on the ground with a knife still stuck in his chest, alongside several other stab marks that no longer leaked blood, as his heart no longer pumped. It’s not like I haven’t seen death before, but...the look in their eyes never gets less creepy.
Not only that, but Ms. Meyers still had that look in her eyes. You might call it unhinged, insane, hungry for death or pain or something worse. But for me, it was the look of a curse. The look of blankness, of emptiness, of a person completely not in control of their own body. Of a person to whom the limits of humanity and right and wrong have ceased to have meaning. Ms. Meyers might have said the dress was whispering to her, but this was not just whispering. Whatever was in that dress was in Ms. Meyers, and I had no idea if it wanted me dead, too. Sure, I wasn’t a scumbag husband, but I was definitely intruding, and I’m confident it knew it.
I backed away slowly, nearly tripping over the carpet, sending a jolt through my body. My throat clenched up, and I swear I felt like the dress itself was watching me as I tried to subtly place one of the dresser doors between it and myself. Ms. Meyers’ dead eyes followed me blankly. I forced the words out of clenched teeth. Professionalism, Alex, you’ll get out of this faster, and more alive, if you remember your professionalism. Do your job. “Ms. Meyers, it’s a beautiful dress. I’m...I’m glad you were able to gain your...your freedom.”
“That’s the other thing,” Ms. Meyers said. She was definitely not whispering anymore. Her voice was louder now, approaching a yell, yet still remaining just as hard and cold. Her anger, not hot but icy, frozen, made my stomach clench. “She would appreciate it if you could stop calling her it. Women are not objects, you know.”
The laugh that bubbled out of me was mildly hysterical, and I shoved down the awful feeling in my chest. I was still backing up, which I only realized when my foot hit the late Mr. Meyers’ limp leg and I almost tripped. “I’m very sorry. She is beautiful, and she took good care of you.”
I held my breath painfully. After an impossibly long moment, Ms. Meyers seemed to relax, and some light, some humanity, returned to her eyes. They were quite pretty when they weren’t blank and evil, a nice green. I allowed the green to soothe me. The dresser doors shut on their own.
The tension slipped from the room at once. Feeling as though I’d been released from an invisible vice, I gasped in a breath of fresh air and relaxed, although I definitely did take a step away from the body of Mr. Meyers.
“Ms. Meyers,” I said, still somewhat breathlessly. “I would love to take the dress--” The dresser doors wobbled dangerously. “I would love to take her with me and check her out.”
Ms. Meyers blinked, her eyes becoming dewy again. Poor thing. The influence of a curse tends to leave you with an awful hangover, not to mention the obvious guilt of murdering your husband, regardless of how icky he was. “I’m, um. I’m not sure if that’s okay.”
So, then. I glanced at the dresser. Her nerves made me suspicious that the dress could still exert some control, even out of the line of sight. That was inconvenient. “I do run a museum, Ms. Meyers. I wonder if she would not appreciate the opportunity to meet more women.” There was a pause, and I continued cautiously, “Women with partners, from all over the city. Multiple women every day, in fact.”
Ms. Meyers’ eyes glazed over for a moment, and I tensed, but in the end, she nodded. “I think that would be best.”
“Thank you, Ms. Meyers,” I said, relieved that the dress had apparently given her permission. Either that, or its influence only lasted so long when out of eyesight. Hard to tell, but I was glad for it. “Just relax, okay? Everything’s okay. You did the right thing by calling.”
Short minutes later, I was at the door with the lined bag carefully nestled in my arms.
“Is there anything else you can tell me about her?” I asked. “Anything that may help me?”
It was strange. It didn’t target us in the same way at all. If it had wanted to expand, the way some cursed objects do, it would have exerted its influence directly on me. Instead, it seemed it connected with Ms. Meyers, like there was a trigger, as there often is. I wondered vaguely if it was her feelings about her husband himself. Once I made it clear I wasn’t going to be a threat, it didn’t hurt me, so it must not have been random. Either way, I wanted to get as much information out of this poor lady as possible, especially because you would not catch me messing with that damned thing again.
“She’s beautiful,” sighed Ms. Meyers, and went into a dead faint on the floor. In the distance, her child sniffled.
“Hmm,” I said, and dialed the police. I made sure to tell them that I’d seen someone else fleeing the scene and the wife desperately trying to save her bleeding husband. The timeline won’t be right, and it’ll be overall pretty obvious that that’s not what happened, but the police have long since learned that when someone from my family, adopted child or not, says something, you trust it or pay the consequences. Not her fault, after all. He just ran into that knife. He ran into that knife...about six times.
Back at the museum, Em pretty well confirmed my suspicions: it seemed that the dress carried some nasty energy from a scorned new bride who had died tragically after some sort of cheating-related betrayal from her new husband. As usual, Em got an awful headache after interacting with the thing, leaving me to settle it into what we call the test room. Obviously, before it hits public viewing, it’ll have to be exposed to some visitors on an individual test basis--first one by one, then in pairs, then in threes, and so on. We’ll have to test couples, of course, although we suspect it will only exert its influence on women in unfulfilling relationships. We’ll have to see about same-sex versus opposite-sex relationships, double-check whether it’s actually a visual line of sight that’s the issue or whether it’s physical proximity, et cetera. It’ll be an entire process, but by the end of things, we’ll have a lovely vintage dress hanging in the Hall of the Cursed.
Anyway, I hope to tell you all more about this soon, as soon as I get a break--things keep me pretty busy around here. After all, with every day comes a new vintage wedding dress that convinces you to murder your unfaithful husband.
Or something. You know.