's 2018 Horror Write-off:

A Forceful Quilt

Submitted by Winnifred Wexford

Inside the Museum's collection, outside of the public eye, there is a curious relic that all interns are regularly bullied into interacting with. It's nothing impressive, really. It's a plain and unremarkable quilt in appearance. It has quilted trees and animals on the front, and a plain cream-white reverse. It was found in an estate sale ages ago, and was donated to the Museum when it was discovered to be the work of an Irish artist from the thirteenth century. We know it's that old because the estate sale hocked an old writing desk that contained letters of provenience. It's debated whether it could even possibly be so ancient, as it's a fairly unassuming blanket that doesn't seem that faded or worn. It's rather large, about queen size, but it's nothing special at all. You'd assumed it was someone's final home economics project, if it weren't in a Museum. I hear the obvious question from each intern: "Why don't we just try dating it? Cross reference the material?" But I never have the heart to explain it to them. My throat gets dry and clenched each time they ask me. Instead I always say something like: "Hey, that's a good idea! You should head that up." The problem about the blanket is that anyone who touches it is followed by it for a week. When I first touched the quilt, that week it mostly haunted me on the bus. To and from the Museum it was worn by different people. Usually men, since it's fairly large, by each time it's worn as a cape. Like a child would. I tried to draw attention to it. Ask the man how he got that quilt. Accuse him of stealing it from my work. But if you draw attention to it, no one pays that attention, and the nightmare gets worse.

The nightmare is the same the whole week. It gets worse as it goes. You're in some European country, it's different each time. You witness, helpless, as something horrible happens. I can only explain what I saw my week.

Monday, I couldn't tell where I was. The language was unfamiliar. It looked to be a Renaissance town, judging by my Museum knowledge. A father and son are arguing. It gets more and more heated. I try to interfere, the mother is crying. I don't know the words, but I know what they're yelling about. Money. A girl. He wants to elope. The father throttles him by the neck. They struggle. The son falls. His neck bends unnaturally. It begins to fade away, but not before the tall, green, mossy, thing pulls the quilt around me. "Do not fight with your family." It whispers in a feminine, yet hoarse and animalistic voice.

Tuesday, a man is angry with his wife. He is Italian, and it is the modern day. He is re-tiling the roof when he slips and lands on the fence. He takes minutes to die, blood pooling. "Do not be blinded by rage." It says.

Wednesday, it is the middle ages. It is a filthy town. A man steals from a richer neighbour. He dies from infection as his hand was cut off in punishment. I thought the lesson would be about theft. But the creature, furry and clawed smiled at me and said: "Be forgiving."

Thursday, a French man drink too much and rows to the middle of a lake. I see with full clarity the horror of his drowning, thrashing death. "Don't be reckless, don't waste your life." She coos. I look into her face. It's moss covered. It's like an upright sloth, but her face... It's pottery. Flat and fairly smooth, but pitted. Grey. A smiling woman.

Friday, It's raining in Belgium, I can only tell because I piece it together as the person I'm following boards the train. He goes home to his wife. He is not well. He chokes in his sleep. The sloth like ancient points to his cigarettes, I don't need her to speak. "Don't waste your life, like before." I say, but she shakes her head and points to his wife, who awakes to a lonely bed. "Don't hurt those around you."

Saturday, I witness a man slip in a puddle in a country I don't know. I have trouble seeing the moral at first, but then I notice no one help him. He moans in pain. Blood leaks from his head. I get very upset myself, and I try to help him. My hands blur away as I try to interfere. "You have learned enough, let us go." She says.

Sunday, it is a dark and warm place. Shadows dance around. There is a fire somewhere. "Take a seat on a young woman's bed." The sloth woman calls to me. "I'm making something for all the good little children." The bed is warm and very soft. "You have done very well. I think you know what I've been trying to teach you." I cough and look at the fire. She hands me a bowl of stew with her large fuzzy clawed paw. "Is it kindness?" I ask, looking into the Dogu like eyes and the ceramic smile. "Very good. You are a good child." She hands me a thick folded quilt and I feel the room spin away beneath me, warm stew filling my belly. When I awake that Monday morning, and drive to work, I bring up the quilt to a coworker. He immediately gets suspicious. It spills out that I had a strange dream. He brings up Thomas, who died of a fever last year. I can't seem to get him to explain why Thomas is relevant. I bring it up with him and other coworkers. Eventually the janitor pulls me aside. "Those who learn the lesson don't get a fever." And that was the last I ever heard of the quilt. But every time we get a new intern, I go home and curl up with my quilt. Unremarkable. Cream white on one side. About Queen size. And I know that in the morning I will have to trick them into touching the quilt at the Museum.