The Wizard Girl of Waterville – a story by John Zurn

The Wizard Girl of Waterville

The isolated village of Waterville remained dreary and cold all year long. Hidden from the modern world by high, rugged mountains on one side, and a vast, dangerous desert on the other; the villagers lived a dark and lonely existence. These grim inhabitants of this forsaken valley could often be nervous and bad tempered, caring little for strangers or even each other. Because of their agonizing loneliness, they believed in both gossip and superstition.

But by far the strangest thing about Waterville seemed to be its unusual climate. For as long as anyone could remember, a mysterious phenomenon had darkened their unusual sky. From dawn until sunset every day, it rained continually. This peculiar condition included thunderstorms, drizzle, and even hard, steady downpours. Because of this strange weather, the villagers of Waterville spent almost all their time indoors, which made their lives almost unbearable.

Incredibly, the villagers faced yet another bizarre weather calamity every night. Every day at twilight, a howling wind swept through Waterville, completely drying out the entire village. Because of these biting winds, the people of Waterville often became sick easily. Not surprisingly, they rarely left home at night except for emergencies. Ever since the great fires of a century ago, these strange weather conditions had been ceaselessly recurring. It always happened in the same way. Storm clouds gathered at dawn, followed by rain until sunset. Then from sunset until dawn, harsh, freezing winds would slowly cause the rain to recede.

Because of their strange predicament, the people of Waterville began to look for supernatural reasons for their hapless lives. Over time their tendency to trust superstition took control, and the villagers looked for more comprehensive answers for their problems. Eventually the villagers blamed their despair on a lonely old man named, Jeremiah Bard, who lived in a shack at the edge of town. Being suited for the role of sorcerer, he was a bad tempered man who had black rotten teeth, and long, stringy white hair.

Since Jeremiah looked old and seemingly defenseless, the suspicious villagers of Waterville blamed the old man for what they called the “The Waterville Curse” that had frustrated their lives. Labeling Jeremiah Bard as a “wizard”, the villagers stayed away from him, both fearing and loathing him. When the old man slipped into the village once a month to buy supplies, the other customers insulted him and made secret plans to eliminate him. However, in the end, they didn’t have the courage to follow through with their violent threats. Finally, they simply endured the weather and despised Jeremiah.

However, one young teenager named, Lily White, didn’t believe the stories about Jeremiah Bard, and sought answers for herself. She knew about the rumors, but she needed proof, so she frequently spied on the old man from behind a boulder near his hovel. Unbelievably, one day at sunset, she observed for herself that the rumors appeared to be true. From behind the boulder, she witnessed firsthand the wizard’s magic and his spells. The old man’s wild movements and enigmatic words became alluring and powerful. As she secretly watched and listened, his rituals made Lily nervous but she was also deeply stirred.

As Lily observed Jeremiah Bard each day, she became more interested in the old man, until finally she gathered her courage and decided to steal one of the wizard’s magic books. While he shopped in town, Lily grabbed the spells and ran home where she immediately hid the secret volume in her parent’s attic. Understandably afraid of the anger of both Jeremiah and the people of Waterville, she sat alone hidden in the attic and memorized all the spells in the book. When she finally finished, she burned the esoteric book to ashes.

However, despite all her efforts, Lily could not defeat the wizard and his incantations. Whenever she attempted to break the spell, she only managed to make things worse. The rain fell. The wind howled, and even the storms seemed more intense. The wizard easily overshadowed Lily’s naïve attempts to cast spells and the curse dragged on.

Finally, Lily began to panic. She now began to fixate on her wrath for Bard and, one day in desperation, she decided to murder the old man. She imagined that a grateful village would understand her actions, and might even reward her courage. By doing away with the cruel wizard, the village could thrive again. Then, late one night when the old man was drawing water from his well, Lily thrust him over the side, and the wizard collapsed at the bottom. She nervously observed the wizard’s contorted form for several minutes until she was absolutely convinced that he was death.

Normally, one would expect that such a courageous act might elicit praise from a grateful community, but instead the superstitious residents became outraged and vindictive. When Lily told them the news they rebuked her. Fearing the old man would return as a ghost, they quickly sent her away. Lily, alone and confused, returned to the wizard’s shack to think about her future and what she’d done.

But while she sat crying alone in the shack, a miraculous event occurred. The rain stopped. As she looked out the window, the sun appeared and it warmed the village. It then became Lily’s deepest hope that the people of Waterville would at last understand her actions and welcome her back.

It was at that moment that Lily White’s fate became sealed forever. All around the property, a fierce fire suddenly broke out, igniting the yard, and setting the shack ablaze. As the raging flames quickly made their way toward the Waterville road, Lily grew ever more terrified and bewildered. Filled with foreboding, she herself cast the rain spell, until at last a heavy rain storm extinguished the deadly flames. She now understood for the first time that she must replace the old man and protect the village.

Previously ignored by the villagers, Lily, like Jeremiah Bard, was now feared and hated. None of her explanations regarding the fire and the rain sounded believable to the others, so she was banished for good. She now had the onerous title of The Wizard Girl of Waterville. With every new day of rain and every night of fierce winds, the villagers hated her ever more intensely.

As the years passed, Lily White adapted to her role. She let her hair grow long and snarled; let her teeth rot and she often mumbled to herself. The villagers and even her own family would have nothing to do with her. Hoping to make amends for killing old Jeremiah Bard, Lily faithfully cast spells until the day she died. On that day, the village of Waterville burned to the ground.

 

John Zurn has earned an M.A. in English from Western Illinois University and spent much of his career as a school teacher.  In addition, John has worked at several developmental training centers, where he taught employment readiness skills to mentally challenged teenagers and adults.  Now retired, he continues to write and publish poems and stories.  As one of seven children, his experiences growing up continue to help inspire his art and influence his life.

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