The winter Will Gannett’s mother died, the ground was so frozen they had to wait for the spring thaw to bury her, as if the earth wasn’t ready to accept her.
In the spring, the earth gave up her dead. The hole they opened in the ground for the widow Gannett revealed a skeleton: unknown, unnamed. A trade. A new body for the old.
An ill omen, said the elders.
Soon after, like trooping fairies ten lovely women arrived in town. Within days, each was betrothed to a young man of the village. In due course the weddings were accomplished. Each of the strange beauties, while barely able to speak the local tongue, were obedient, compliant wives to the young men who could scarcely believe their good fortune.
The first to die was the miller’s son, trampled by the donkey that turned the millstone. Soon after, the parson’s son fell ill and perished. The blacksmith’s son fell into the forge and was burned alive. Within a year, all ten were dead, leaving behind wives who were soon mothers. Within days of each other, each delivered a daughter.
Gathering in the field where the ancient body was dug up and the Widow Gannett and the young husbands now lay buried, the new mothers met in a circle. In the center lay the bones of the mystery corpse. The women chanted and sang:
“This is the spell that we intone
Flesh to flesh and bone to bone
Sinew to sinew, and vein to vein,
And each one shall be whole again”
as the bones again grew muscles, sinews, blood veins, and skin. And when it was whole again, the corpse that was now a woman looked around at the women assembled around her.
“The old god is dead, and we will reign again.”
And she led them back to the village.