What do you know of superstition? Take this on faith.
Winter in the Lowlands is a marvel. Temperatures plummet to the negatives. Drifts shroud every dwelling to the hilt until March’s end. Above any other season, Winter is favored most in the Lowlands.
In June the Spring fades, and with it comes Summer steam and humid rooms. Windows open wide, letting in the smells of Dogwood and Lilac. It is pretty for a time. Seven nights or so if we are lucky. After that first good week of heat sweeps the land, we board back up. Not because we miss the Winter — which we do — but instead we prepare for the evening.
Neighboring townspeople that happen by think we are fools. Lowland summers are lush in both climate and fauna — nature’s reward for the brutal winters we endure. “Only fools would close out weather like this!”
In fairness, from their standpoint, we do look foolish, downright disturbed. Lowland days are sweltering at the best of times and the evenings give little reprieve. To conceal oneself away in a small house with the windows boarded for blizzards during summer months is speculative. Then again, if all one ever does is speculate, how could that person know the contrary?
In defense however, they are wrong. We are not fools. Rather we know exactly what we are doing. True, the Lowlands have an abundance of heat during the day, enough to make anyone in doors regret their station. However, it is still easier to brave the sun’s savagery with boarded windows than it is to un-nail and re-nail them each night. Not a truer word said that our night’s give us little reprieve. Especially in the Summer.
Less than a mile south outside our village lies a bog ensconced by a thicket of Aiya trees. In the Fall, the soft grounds cover over with leaf and other dying detritus. The exposed Aiya roots fill in. Winter soon assures the ground will freeze solid. It remains concrete long past April. As the air warms, some of us feel confident to take down our wooden curtains, though not all. Some never wish to take the chance.
Understand that when the climate shifts and the Spring gives way, the ground begins to thaw. By June, the bog is viscous once more, and those who have let down their window boards begin to put them back up. Neighboring towns can think as they see fit, but passersby do not stay to ask further. Passersby do not deal with the Dekketyks.
Farmers complain of wolves thieving sheep. Cities talk of vagrants and vandalism. What do they recall of the old world? Superstition is merely a funny word. A farmer builds a fence high enough and the wolves stay out. Perhaps he fires a gun from time to time. Problem solved. People in the city avoid contact with the destitute. Should their unfortunate paths cross — or when their locks do not work — they have police to call upon. In the Lowlands fences are as worthless as locks and police. Dekketyks seem to respond only to more natural methods. We use what we have found to be helpful.
In the first days of Summer, lavender blooms in the field and from window boxes. Days later Dekketyks rise from the bog, the last veil of their concealing ice gone. Bunched in stems of twelve, the lavender is nailed perpendicular to every window. Three to each window barricade, which itself is held in place with six copper nails. An additional six nails hold the cedar planks themselves over the window bay. Lavender has been observed to work as many a Dekketyk has backed away from it with teeth barred and spine hackled. Three bundles of it are key. Eliza Münter will attest. The mistake cost her three children and her right leg. Stems of twelve work where eleven will not. The Dekketyks rove in packs of nine and more. It is better to outnumber them than they us.
Our cedar planks and copper nails are derived from an elaborate crate that was generations before left at our village’s doorstep. Towed by a four horse tea, it was grand in scale, large enough to house a small family. The driver left no name or reason, only the passing instruction “do not sow”. Restless curiosity and a lack of happenings in the village led to several men prying the box open during a most searing of afternoons. A single panel pulled back revealed a contained unit of creatures. Pail and shriveled grey, they moved little, only to cower into themselves from the light. They appeared weak but bore the physical capability of being dangerous. Their eyes, if that’s what they were, were large slits that ran almost the length of their heads. Mottled skin layered itself transparently over what could have been talons. The men watched agog, as they shifted about in their cramped container, each creature dodging the light. The women pulled their children closer, demanding the crate be closed. The men took little time to agree.
It was asked what should be done with it. One offered to burn it, then another. The idea was declined as the valley was temperate enough without a rolling flame. It was then suggested to sink it in the bog. Unanimously it was agreed upon. A team of six towed the crate out to the bog, planting it atop the muck, watching as it was slowly overtaken. They were successful.
That first evening was particularly balmy. Each household in the village opened it’s doors and windows wide. With the lanterns out, moonlight swept into the homes. It greeted the humidity with Dogwood on it’s breath. Crickets sang in the long blades of the moors. For those awake, a clicking could be heard as well. It grew louder, forming a chorus it’s own that overpowered the insects. Armand Festo heard it too but did not rouse his family. Before he died from injury, his account was that a group of at least seven lumbered towards his home from the south. They were smooth, almost glowing in the evening light. Despite his vocal protest, they descended on his home. They sought the children. Armand hurled himself at them, pitchfork in hand, as they ate his youngest. By morning, the creatures were gone while several people tended to his injured state. Few had seen what he did, the rest only heard.
A hesitant militia went to the bog. No sight of what slaughtered Armand’s family was present aside from footprints in the mud. Followed back, they traced back to the bog itself. At the foot of it, large remnants of the cedar crate were found.
For several nights thereafter, the Dekketyks — as we came to call them — birthed from the bog and entered our village. Initial vigils and violent stands had moderate outcomes. In time we realized the crate remnants that once contained them could be used to keep them away as well. We followed the nail patterns of the boards and used it to forge our own blockades. The use of lavender was a piece of random fortune happened on by accident. Linda Sarely first observed that Dekketyk tracks went wide around patches of lavender growth. She noticed this while collecting the remains of her two boys from the night previous. We also came to understand that it was the bog which gave virility to the Dekketyks. It infused them and permitted breeding.
When the first frost came, we noted a decline in their appearance and by that first winter they were gone entirely. Sadly, in that following June, we heard their ravenous clicking once more.
So despite the heat, we board our homes, collect our lavender and wait for the winter. Passersby can remark at our practices. What do they know of superstition?