The whispers thundered through the forest.
‘I heard a woman whispering,’ my father wrote, ‘and it was a terrible sound. One I could not ignore.
‘For half a day, I followed that whispering through the woods, and soon, I gave up hope of ever finding her. Shortly after midday, I came upon a small glen and an old woman sitting in a ladderback chair.
‘I paused at the edge of the glen and considered whether to approach her.
‘She, in turn, fixed her eyes on me, nodded, and called out, “Come, Ezekiel, you’ve kept me waiting long enough.”
‘I had no choice but to obey. Her words commanded me, and I stepped forward against my better judgement. Against any choice I might have had. Had she told me to run, I do not doubt I would have done so.
‘When I reached her, she stated, “Sit,” and so I sat. I am not afraid to admit that my heart was thundering in my chest. I cannot recall a time I was in another’s power in this way. Not even when I was a mere child.
‘She sensed my fear. “You shall come to no harm by my hand, Ezekiel Blood. I’ve waited nigh on a hundred years for you, as you bade me do. I was but a girl then. What do you see before you now?”
‘I answered that I saw an old woman, and she laughed. “Honest still,” she nodded. “It is good and just that it is so. I have the warning you gave to me. Will you hear it?”
‘I told her I would.
‘She closed her eyes. “Nine days hence you’ll find it. On the tenth, you find me. Leave them both where they can be found.” She opened her eyes and peered at me, one hand wrapped loosely around the handle of her cane.
‘She sighed. “You told me I would be an old woman when you came for the message and that you’d not remember it. Little did I know that it would be a century. I never married, Blood. I held the message in my heart, and so there was room for nothing else. Will you offer me compensation now?”
‘I told her I would and asked what she wanted.
‘She whispered her answer, and in the coolness of the afternoon, I killed her.’