Blood Moon :
Long ago, in my grandmother’s time, the land was all in bogs, with great pools of black water and creeping trickles of green water and squishy mounds of earth that would suck you in if you stepped on them. Well, my grandmother used to say how in her time, a young girl was once dead and buried in the marshes. If you want, I’ll tell you all about it, just as she used to tell me.
The moon above would shine and shine and when it shone it lit up all the bog-pools, so you could walk about almost as safe as in the day. But when the moon didn’t shine, then out came the things that dwell in the darkness and they went about seeking to do evil and harm and mischance and mischief to all that weren’t safe at home by their fireplaces. Ghosts and ghouls and creeping terrors and crawling horrors, they all came out on nights when the moon didn’t shine.
Well, it so happened that a girl had to travel across the bog lands one night. She was very troubled because she had heard all the stories people told about the evil doings that transpired on the bogs.
“I’ll see for myself,” she said. “Maybe it’s not as bad as folks make out.”
So, sure enough, that fateful night, out she stepped, wrapped up in a black cloak and with a black hood over her long blonde hair. She went straight to the bog’s edge and looked about her. There was water here and water there, waving tufts of grass and trembling mounds of earth and great black snags all twisted and bent.
On she went, almost into the middle of the bogs and, looking about her, she could see queer things lurking in the darkness, grinning and grimacing at her as she passed. Evil eyes glowered from the darkest corners and the will o’ the wisps danced about with their lanterns swinging in the distance. But the moon shone down brightly and its light kept the dark things at bay.
However, the girl had no idea that she had chanced to go out across the bog lands on the night of a Blood Moon. That’s what they call it when there is a total eclipse of the moon. The moon passes behind the earth and its light is blotted out, leaving just a red glow in the sky where the moon should be. And so it came to pass that when the girl was only half-way across the bogs, the moon faded out and the blood moon appeared and she was plunged into darkness.
Before her, all was dark. Dark but for the glimmer of the stars in the black pools and reddish glow of that bloody moon. The girl drew her cloak tight about her and trembled. She was afraid to go forward, but she couldn’t go back, being unable to see her way in the darkness. So onwards she went, stepping as lightly as she could from tuft to tuft, picking her way between the greedy, gurgling water-holes. She couldn’t see where she was, or where the path was, or how she could get out of the marsh and as she walked, the evil things began to emerge out of their hiding places.
The frightened girl looked about her and she saw nothing but shifting, flurrying evil things coming and going here and there, busy with their own ill work. Then the dead folk rose in the water and stared at her with white, twisted faces and hell-fire in their empty eye-holes and the slimy dripping dead hands slithered about, beckoning and pointing and making her skin crawl with their cold wet feel.
And all round about her the grinning ghouls and the dead folk and the creeping horrors crawled and crowded. Their voices mocked her and the dead hands plucked at her and ahead, the will o the wisps dangled their lanterns and shook with evil glee as they led her further and further from the right path and closer and closer to the deep holes and the deadly quicks. Shaking with fear and loathing for the things about her, she struggled on towards the flickering lights that looked like help and safety.
Just as the girl came near a big black pool, her foot slipped and she almost tumbled in. She grabbed with both hands at a black snag nearby to steady herself with, but as soon as she touched it, the snag twined itself around her wrists, like a pair of handcuffs, and gripped her so tight that she couldn’t move. She pulled and twisted and fought, but it was no good. She was stuck fast, and she couldn’t get free.
So she looked about fearfully and wondered if help would ever come. The poor girl stood trembling in the dark. She called and called for help and then her voice died away with a sob. She began again with a screech of fear and called and called until the marshes were full of her pitiful crying voice.
“Help!” she shrieked. “I’m caught in the bog lands. Can anyone hear me? God and Mary save me from the horrors! Help!”
And then she’d stop and sob and moan and call on all the angels and saints and God hisself to fetch her out. And then she’d break out into a shriek again as the slimy, slithery things crawled over her face until she couldn’t even see the false lights in front of her.
And then, as if it wasn’t bad enough already, the horrors would take all sorts of shapes and handsome boys would peek at her with bright eyes and stretch out soft helping hands but when she’d try to catch hold of them they’d change in her grip to slimy things and shapeless worms and the wicked voices would mock her with foul glee.
And all the evil things came and whispered in her ears and danced about and shouted out the secret things of her own heart until she shrieked and sobbed with shame and the horrors crawled and gibbered round about and mocked her some more.
Then she heard footsteps floundering along, squishing in the muck and slipping on the tufts, and through the darkness she saw a white face with wild staring eyes. It was a man who lived on the bogs. An evil and depraved man who went out every night looking for young girls, hoping they might stray off the path and fall into his sweaty clutches.
And when the poor girl saw that he was coming nearer and nearer, she was so mad with terror that she struggled and fought and pulled harder than ever, but she couldn’t get loose, no matter how she twisted and turned.
When the man laid eyes on her he was overcome by a strange desire and dark thoughts were swirling about in his mind. The girl could see his feverish grin and the depraved look in his eyes. A great fear came over her, so she pulled and fought as if she were a mad thing, till she fell on her knees, spent with tugging, at the foot of the black snag. And as she lay there, gasping for breath, the man clutched her in his hairy hands and got on top of her.
With a screech and a howl, the evil things came crowding around her, mocking and snatching and beating, shrieking with rage and spite and swearing with foul tongues, spitting and snarling and that poor girl crouched trembling and sick in the mud and wondered when they’d make an end of her.
The dead folk moaned and the evil things howled until the very tufts of grass shook and the squishy earthen mounds pulsed and the black water gurgled. And then it began.
“Hurt her! Hurt her!” shrieked the creeping terrors as they tore at her clothes.
The evil things howled again.
“Smother her! Smother her!” whispered the crawling horrors as they twined themselves around her knees.
The evil things howled again.
“Strangle her! Strangle her!” screeched the dead folk as they plucked at her throat with cold, bony fingers.
The evil things howled again.
“Bury her! Bury her!” screamed the ghosts and the ghouls as they writhed and grinned about her and chuckled to themselves.
They all shouted with spite and ill will as they fought and squabbled about what they should do with her and the poor girl lay there on the ground and wished she was dead and done with.
As a pale grey light began to come in the sky and the dawn drew close, the evil man caught hold of her, with horrid bony fingers, and squeezed the life out of her and laid her deep in the water at the foot of the snag. And the dead folk held her down, while the evil things fetched a big stone and rolled it on top of her, to keep her from rising. And the will o’ the wisps sat on the black snag and watched it all.
And then, as the morning came and the grey light grew brighter in the sky, tha shapeless things fled away to seek the dark corners, and the dead folk crept back into the water, or crammed themselves back into their coffins, and the man went home and the black, slimy water shone in the dawn’s light as if no evil things would ever come near it.
And there lay the poor girl, dead and buried in the bog, until someone would come to take her home, but who would ever know where to look for her.
Well, the next day, the girl’s parents grew tired of waiting for her to come home. They went out and searched the town, but there was no sign of her. The news spread fast and soon everybody in town was talking about the missing girl. Their tongues wagged at home, and at the inn, and in the garth but nobody knew what happened to her.
When night came, the people waited and waited, but the moon never appeared. The night was as dark as dark could be and the Evil Things were worse than ever. It wasn’t safe to travel outside at night, because the boggarts creeped and wailed around the houses and peeked in at the windows, and snapped at the latches, until the poor people had to keep all their lights on at night, or else the horrors would have burst through their doors.
It seemed like all the ghosts and ghoulish things had lost their fear. They howled and laughed and screeched around, fit to wake the dead themselves, and the townsfolk sat trembling and shaking by the fire, and could not sleep nor rest, nor put a foot outside their homes, all through the dark and dreary night.
And as the days went on, there was still no sign of the missing girl and the moon still never came back. Naturally the poor folk were strangely feared and amazed by this, and a lot of them went to consult a wise woman who dwelt in the old mill, and asked her if she could find out why the moon had disappeared.
“Well,” she said after looking in the brewpot, and in the mirror, and in the Book, “It’s very queer, but I can’t rightly tell what’s happened to her. If you hear of anything, come and tell me. Anyways, put a pinch of salt, a straw, and a button on the doorstep of your houses at night, and the horrors will not be able to come over it, light or no light.”
So then girl’s parents went to the wise woman and told her about their missing daughter and asked if she could find out where she was gone. The wise woman looked long in the pot and the Book again, and then she nodded her head.
“It’s dark still, childer, dark!” she said. “I can’t rightly see, but do as I tell you and you’ll find out for yourselves. Take every man and woman in town and, just before the night gathers, put a stone in your mouths and take a hazel-twig in your hands, and say never a word to each other till you’re safe home again. Walk on and fear not, far into the midst of the marsh, till you find a coffin, a candle, and a cross. Then you’ll not be far from your daughter. Look, and it may happen that you’ll find her.”
So when the next night came in the darklings, the townsfolk gathered by the edge of the bog. They all went out together, every man and woman in the town, with the girl’s parents leading the way. Each of them had a stone in their mouths and a hazel-twig in their hands and they were all feeling, as you might imagine, very afeared and creepy.
They stumbled and stottered along the paths that led into the midst of the bogs. They saw nothing, but they heard the sighings and flutterings in their ears, and felt cold wet fingers touching them; But they kept their heads and on they went, looking all about them for any sign of a coffin, a candle and a cross.
They came to a black pool of water beside a great big snag and all at once they stopped, quaking and amazed and scared, for there was a great big stone, lying half-in and half-out of the water, looking for all the world like a strange grey coffin. And at the head of it, there was a black snag, stretching out its two arms as if it were a dark gruesome cross. And on top of it, a tiny light flickered, just like a dying candle.
They all knelt down in the muck and crossed themselves and said, ‘Our Lord’, first forward, because of the cross, and then backward, to keep off the bogles; but without speaking out loud, for they knew that the evil things would catch them if they didn’t do as the wise woman told them.
Then they took hold of the big stone and shoved it out of the way and they saw a strange and beautiful face looking up at them from out of the black water. It was the face of the missing girl.
Suddenly, a light came so quick and so white and shining, that they stepped back in amazement. With that, a great angry wail came from the fleeing horrors and the very next minute, when they could see again, there was the full moon in the sky, shining down on them more bright than ever and making the bogs and the paths as clear as day, and stealing into every corner, driving the darkness and the evil things clean away.
So parents and the townsfolk went home, carrying the dead girl’s body between them. Their hearts were heavy, but they were glad they had finally found her. The next day, they gave her a decent Christian burial in the village cemetery and ever since, the moon shines brighter and clearer over the bogs than ever before.
I know this story is true, mark my words, because my grandmother herself saw the snag with its two arms, looking for all the world like a great cross and the black, slimy water at its foot where that poor girl was dead and buried in the bog and the stone nearby that kept her down while the townsfolk sought her and found her and set her loose and put the moon back in the sky again.