The Legend of the Harvest Moon

A horrifying tale of Burnaby Mountain

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Illustration by Hannah Zaitlin

By: Gabrielle McLaren

As all nights are under the harvest moon’s light, this one was cold. As little Susie Anne walked home, her breath materialized in puffs. The moonlight shining through the branches reminded her of her mother’s warning to come home from grandmother’s before the sun dipped behind Burnaby Mountain. She clutched her basket to her chest and walked faster — her heart racing as her steps quickened. It was like Susie Anne knew what was coming for her, even though their paws were soft against the ground and their hungry growls were too low for the human ear.

Little Susie Anne was found the next day with her bowels knotted around her throat with such dexterity, one may have been suspicious of cannibalistic girl guides.

“It’s happening again,” wise Friar Lawrence said, looking towards the woods before mysteriously retreating to the church and losing himself in prayer.

The men of the village puffed up with bravery and patriarchal expectations, and they organized themselves in pairs (no homo though) to patrol the village’s perimeter. However, the Petter family farm lay outside of the town borders, which for the interest of our story meant two things. First, that it was the perfect place for Mary Lou Petter and her boyfriend John — the smith’s son — to meet for some secluded, romantic moonlight tomfoolery. And second, it meant that when John ran from the scene, there was nobody around to hear Mary Lou scream.

The next morning John was found curled up in the fetal position in the village mall, his eye twitching while he murmured incoherently. This was all an hour before the Petter Patriarch rode into town, announcing the murder of his daughter. The Friar took this occasion to emerge from the church and herald:

“Men and women of the Mountain! The records of our village tell of horrors in our village’s history! Of children lost and of families ruined by violence in the night! But only rarely . . . only under the harvest moon are the monsters in our village awakened!”  

As quickly as they had mobilized, the village turned against itself.

“That new woodcutter is so hairy,” Neil the Peasant said. “I bet it’s because he’s a werewolf who’s just so bad at being a werewolf he can’t transform completely.”

“No, it’s fucking Donald,” the baker muttered. “He’s just a garbage human being.”

“It’s the midwife Gertrude,” the women whispered in the market.

The accusations became as routine as the overnight murders. You would think that the villagers would just stay in their fucking houses and outwait the harvest moon, but these were the Middle Ages and people didn’t know about bathing either. And, somewhere along the way, brave Friar Lawrence realized that the villagers were killing each other more than the actual monsters were.

“Men and women of the Mountain! Let’s approach the situation more pragmatically and set traps for the werewolves in the woods! Trip-wires and nets! Man-pits!”

The village sprang into action, but since they were all leaving their houses in the night and stumbling about in the dark, the villagers ended up in their own traps. So they died twice as fast, and soon started killing each other all over again.

A traveling bard wandered into the village, filled with stories and knowledge from all corners of the tri-city area. With the wisdom of an outsider, he thought, “What a shit show.” He told the villagers of enormous fortresses and epic wars, and inspired them to build walls around the village and convert their structures to concrete. Still, the werewolves were inside the damn village, so this actually made the problem worse.

“For fuck’s sake,” said the smith, who had just lost his seventh child to the ravenous beasts. He forged silver daggers and bullets for all of the four men who were left, and they set out to ambush the wolves one night.

The men perched in the trees with their weapons.

The only survivor was Friar Lawrence, for the wolves could not penetrate the church, and the Petter Father, who lived outside of town.

“We made it,” Friar Lawrence said. “We survived . . .”

The Petter Father nodded before drawing his blade and running it through the Friar’s chest. Three times.

“If you had spoken on the first day, my daughter wouldn’t have died,” he said. He pulled the dagger out and walked away, determined to abandon the village and the cursed mountain forever.

However, once he reached the single road that led down the mountain, thinking of the luck he might have of starting a new life in Surrey, or perhaps by the waterfront — an invisible barrier blocked him out. For the sin of killing a friar, old man Petter was doomed to stay on the cursed peak in his concrete tomb forever. And it is said that his descendants still roam the mountain to this day, desperate for the escape they will never have, and doing their best to keep others tied to Burnaby Mountain forever.