The Curse of Elijah Avery

5 min

Reed is a librarian, author, editor, instructor, and avid reader. She also narrates books for the Texas Talking Book Program. A native of New England, she has lived in Austin, TX for thirty-five  [+]

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Elijah Avery brought his curse to the town he founded in 1649. He swindled hundreds of people in the New World, selling them worthless land claims. A merchant discovered his scheme. Avery murdered him rather than repay him the doubled amount demanded to keep quiet.

Avery fled to Scotland, leaving his curse simmering in the souls of residents he’d robbed. The curse continued for centuries, seeping its putrid puss into their psyches as it emboldened them to hate.

In Scotland, he married, found religion and was ordained. He returned to the New World after convincing himself that his previous activities had been justified. He landed in Boston but was soon convinced that the colonists there were not true religious tenets of the faith. Elijah formed his own sect and longed to have a separate colony for true believers. A furrier told him about land in Connecticut occupied by the Nipmucs and agreed to take Elijah there. Elijah thought the trees and knolls rolling toward a tidal estuary were a sign from God. He was determined to bring his community to this spot. The trapper introduced him to Chief Running Deer who appreciated the beauty of the land but knowing of the desecration by other colonist—refused to sell.

Avery assured the trapper that he knew his way back to Massachusetts and urged him to continue on with his plans to travel to New York. Once certain the trapper was gone, Avery lured Running Deer to a meeting to say goodbye and to exchange gifts for the hospitality the chief had shown him. He told the chief he wanted the meeting to be between them only—leader to leader—a sacred act. Not wanting to offend the minister, the chief agreed. Once alone in the woods, Elijah Avery murdered Running Deer. He left the furs, pewter, and grains he originally offered for the land. The body was never found.

The tribe assumed Running Deer had indeed made the exchange and then banished himself for deceiving the tribe. Elijah Avery and his sect arrived six weeks later to establish their colony.

While Avery’s curse took root, Running Deer’s aura swirled around the town, intent upon revenge. It tried through war and scandal to eliminate the blight, but the curse continued to prevail.

As Avery’s curse continued to strengthen, the pain inflicted on the aura in 1913 was almost too much to bear.

Most of the Connecticut tribes had been moved to a reservation near Chadam in the 19th century. Adam Fairweather left the reservation when he was eighteen and moved to Avery. Fairweather was known to be a troubled youth and had been arrested previously for theft and public intoxication. Rumor was he'd met a girl in Avery when her parents and she were visiting the reservation. Her father was researching a book on New England Indian arts and crafts. Adam fell in love with her and ran away from the reservation to find her.

Fathers feared their daughters would end up the desire of the reservation’s savages and looked for any excuse to run them out of town. There was a fire; Miller’s bakery burned to the ground. A flour-sack boy claimed he saw Fairweather at the back of the building where they threw away the bread's charred crusts. Although the fire chief attributed the blaze to a faulty oven, rumors quickly spread that the Indian had started the fire.

A year later, Fairweather’s body was found hanging by his neck from an oak tree in a wooded area north of Avery. His death was ruled a suicide. But the aura knew this was a lie. Adam’s hanging looked just like the lynching of Blacks in the South.

The aura hid in the trees and tried to regain its strength. Every time if felt the hope of a new generation, it was thwarted. In the 1960s a black man named Walter Tobey owned a tow truck and a snowplow. He lived on the outskirts of town and people never paid much attention to him until winter came. At seven o’clock on a Monday morning, after a weekend of blowing and plowing falling snow, Walter Tobey was the most popular man in the town.

The winter of 1964 had been a particularly harsh one and Walter had been so busy clearing driveways and pulling wayward paneled station wagons out of snow banks that he bought a second plow. His brother Charles came up from North Carolina to help. Walter also brought his wife and young daughter north and enrolled her in school. Walter made so much money that winter, that by spring of 1965, he was able to put a down payment on a small house in Avery.

The aura looked down and saw the blaze burning; a fuzzy white light emanated from the windows. Curls of smoke encircled the wood-frame house. The profile of a man, his arms around a woman, a little girl clutching his legs appeared. The fire department declared the cause of the fire was faulty wiring, but the fire suspiciously started the night the Ku Klux Klan group from Georgia arrived in Boston to hold a rally.

It would be fifty years before the aura again tried to rally against the curse. Avery considered itself to be a progressive town. The aura found its strength in a fourteen-year-old girl named Jennifer Lynn. Jenny’s class was holding a Sadie Hawkins Day dance and she wanted to invite a boy named Ethan Salazar. Ethan was the son of Alberto and Ramona Salazar. Migrant workers came to Avery every fall to pick apples in the abundant orchards that remained despite the increased building of houses for wealthy New Yorkers who wanted to have a house in the country. Most of the Puerto Rican community kept to themselves but the Salazars insisted their son be allowed to enroll in the local high school.

The community was mostly homogeneous and apolitical, but most also absorbed the curse of Elijah Avery when they moved to town. When Jenny brought Ethan over to meet her parents before the dance, something in her father snapped. It started as a simmer. Jenny saw he was upset but wasn't sure why. He claimed it was because the world is cruel, and he didn't want his daughter to get hurt. Jenny remained unconvinced and defied her father.
When the young couple entered the gymnasium, they were met with taunting and cat calls. “Go back where you came from,” a classmate shouted. “What do you think you’re doing with an apple picker,” yelled another. The aura shivered with each assault and was tempted to allow the curse to prevail. It looked down again, and in that moment surged with the pride of the long-dead chief.

Jennifer Lynn grabbed Ethan Salazar’s hand and walked passed her agitated classmates. The band had stopped playing when the shouting began. The lead singer stood there petrified as the young girl with blond pig tales and the Hispanic male in blue jeans and a t-shirt crossed the stage toward him. Jenny reached up and took the microphone from his hand.

The principal moved toward the stage anticipating the riot that would ensue, but he heard a whisper in his ear: “Let her be,” and stopped. An aura glowed around the couple on the stage, but Jenny Lynn knew that the words were not meant to come from her. She handed the microphone to Ethan.

The scared young man took it from her. She looked in his eyes and said, “Tell them.” He turned to his classmates and said: “Fear will destroy us, and contempt will bury us. We have this one moment to reject what has been passed down to us for millennia. We can choose another path.”

As Ethan spoke, the souls of Running Deer and Adam Fairweather and Walter Tobey, his wife and daughter broke free from the curse’s chains. They stood in a circle around Jenny and Ethan and held hands. They aura burned brightly and invited all in the room to join the circle. As people accepted the love they offered, Elijah Avery screamed and ranted, threatening to obliterate them all. As that one curse was rejected, the earth sighed as other auras and curses awaited their fates.

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