The voice was close to my ear. I turned quickly, expecting to see another restless spirit, but instead I came face-to-face with the old Gypsy I’d seen a couple of days earlier. I touched her wrinkled cheek. It was warm. She was real. She grinned a toothless grin and pushed a sprig of purple heather into my hand. My skin tingled at its touch. I remembered the heather that filled my living room a few days earlier.
Was she trying to help me?
Looking into her eyes, I saw strength, and wisdom. I looked back at the fading glow of the young gypsy girl and my heart began to ache.
“Don’t go!” I pleaded in a voice that didn’t sound like mine.
The smoking man appeared behind her, reaching out his arms, trying to hold her, but she was barely visible.
Laughter bubbled from behind me. It was nasty and malevolent. I turned around almost losing my balance, and looked upon pure evil, in the form of a man. Horns were all he needed to make him look like the devil itself. I knew he was long dead, I could see it in his eyes, but he looked strong. The smirk on his face was terrifying.
“You can’t help them, they’re my playthings.”
I tried to speak, but my mouth wouldn’t open.
His laughter surrounded me.
“Every year they suffer. It’s what they deserve. He took her from me. He took her from the Romany way of life. Stole her. Common thief that he is.” He spat on the ground. The grass died around him and the air turned putrid. “I’m going to take you too. Every year I add a wonton creature like yourself to my collection. Young girls who fall under his spell, all too stupid to resist his pathetic charms. I get them all in the end.”
There was movement behind him. A dozen or more young girls huddled together. Some naked, all unhappy! Snatched from life and made to suffer by this evil, restless spirit. I didn’t want to be one of them.
“Why do you want me? Let me go. What good can I do?” I whispered, trying to sound brave.
“I don’t want you, I didn’t want any of these pathetic creatures,” as he spoke he turned around. They all cowered away from him. Could he still hurt them in death?
“I want her! I’ll give them all to him, in exchange for her. ”
I looked back at the fading light that was the beautiful young gypsy girl. I could barely see her now.
Another voice came from the darkness. I’d forgotten about the old woman.
“She’ll never be yours Luca. She didn’t love you.”
Her voice brought a look of fury to the ugly face. A bird fell to the ground at his feet.
“I didn’t want her love. I wanted her body! Love is nothing. I needed her beside me to bear my children.” His voice boomed like thunder. He smiled an awful smile and licked his lips, “I wanted to play with her a little too.”
“People like you should never be allowed to breed. If you’d given her a child it would have died in her womb.” The old girl cackled. Her voice was strong.
“I’d have torn it from her body before that happened.”
More birds fell to the ground behind him. I could smell fire. Maybe it was the fires of Hell. Somewhere close by a tree fell smoldering to the ground.
The heather I held tightly in my hand became so warm I wanted to drop it.
A voice from deep within my head whispered to me.
Make him angry now. Distract him! Let Mala escape. Let him focus his anger on you and me.
“I’m scared.” I answered. “He’ll kill me!”
A pain ripped through my skull.
“Be quiet you old Hag, I hear you”