by Nicholas Ozment
Once upon a time, a witch--though some said she was actually a prophetess or an angel of judgment--came to a small town called Urnpost.
Before entering Urnpost she cast a spell, so that her wrinkled old face and stooped, sagging body were cloaked in the guise of a young lady.
As soon as she walked into town, she was assailed by catcalls and lewd remarks. Men undressed her with rapacious looks. She encouraged them, however, and invited the men to join her. She led them to a secluded glen, and there she revealed her true form, to their great astonishment and disgust. Then she pronounced a curse on their town: thenceforth, the women of Urnpost could neither give nor receive the pleasures of the bed.
After the witch left, the men returned to find that the curse had come to pass. They raged at their frigid wives and mistresses, but to no avail. Eventually, all the women of Urnpost were banished.
Except for one. There was in Urnpost a man named Abe, who lived on a farm outside of town, and he loved his wife, Sarah, too dearly to send her away. Indeed, they were the closest of friends, and would converse and laugh by the hearth. On warm evenings they walked hand-in-hand beneath the stars. At night he held her, resigning himself to a celibate but otherwise contented life.
Soon the townsmen began to mutter amongst themselves, speculating that the witch's curse had passed over Sarah. One night some of them, knowing Abe to be on an errand in another town, set out from the bar to Abe’s farm.
Sarah fled into the woods, but they caught and overpowered her. Yet they quickly discovered that she was impenetrable.
One hot-headed man in frustration drew a knife and slit her open.
To the amazement of the mob, water began to issue from her corpse, and kept flowing until they were ankle-deep in it. Horrified, they fled.
Abe returned and learned of the deed. Where his wife had fallen, he found a new spring. He wept bitterly, and on the banks of the spring his tears turned into pearls. He loaded his wagon, and the last good man left Urnpost.
After that the men did not go near the spring, for it was a place of foreboding.
By and by, a drought came. The wells of Urnpost ran dry. In desperation, the men tramped out into the woods to Sarah's Spring, which still flowed unabated.
They all drank deeply of the water. Suddenly, one man began to twitch.
The spasms spread through their ranks. Their stomachs churned. Their skin
began to shrink in on them, their ears became long and pointed, and their
noses stretched into snouts. Soon, the spring was surrounded by pigs, snorting
and wallowing in the mud. From the ground surrounding the spring, they
began uprooting pearls. How the pearls came to be there, the swine could
not know. But they swallowed the pearls, and choked.
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Nicholas Ozment is an adjunct professor of English at Winona State University, where, in addition to the usual composition courses, he has taught classes on Horror in Fiction and J.R.R. Tolkien. His love of fantasy and horror has spanned three decades, and his own contributions to the genres have appeared in such magazines as Weird Tales, Mythic Circle, and Mythic Delirium. He has an essay forthcoming in Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language (McFarland, Spring 2007). He lives in Minnesota with his wife and a hyperactive black lab, who drops bones in Nick's lap when he is trying to write.
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"Sarah's Spring: A Fable" © 2006 Nicholas Ozment.
Used by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2006 Karen A. Romanko.