Friday, April 18, 2014

The Light and The Dark

By: Krystalyn

For just over a year, darkness has engulfed the house. Dark halls. Dark conversations. Dark magic.  

I didn't know whether the witch was my mother or father, but I saw the rat skulls hidden in the corners, and I smelled the blood-soaked threads in the hems of my dresses. I longed to find out, but I often couldn't remember what I had done during the day, much less piece together any theory that made sense.

I lurked behind doors and tried to follow the muted discussions between Mother and the chef. They always led to more questions.

"...the cellar is the best place..."

For what? To find rats or to store spices?

"...the expected outcome..."

The outcome of a spell or a recipe?

Father was as much of an enigma. He wandered the gardens, picking herbs and twisting the heads off of flowers. There were certainly reasonable explanations for that. Mother liked to place flower petals and scented herbs in her dresser to keep her clothes smelling fresh. But I had also read in a very old book that those same herbs could be used in spell-casting. I didn't have the stomach to read the complete spells so I didn't know what outcomes could be expected. Nothing good, I was certain.

Once, I asked my maid about it.

"Martha, have you noticed anything odd lately? Anything," I glanced to my door to make sure no one was listening, "wrong? I have too many holes in my memory. I think it's witchcraft."

Her face contorted into a frightened grimace. "Oh miss! You mustn't talk about such things. Stay on the path, you hear me? Stay on the path."

When I lifted up my skirt and showed her the thread, she skittered away like a nervous mouse. I liked her, but I wished she had the guts to stand up to Mother and Father. If anything was to change, it was up to me.

I marched down to the library, where Mother was certain to be. I decided it had to be her. She spent most of her days combing through the crinkly volumes that lined the shelves. I knew there was at least one book there with dark words, because I had seen it myself.

I swung open the door and stood tall in the doorframe, ready for the confrontation.

Mother whipped around. Her eyes opened into round, black circles. A strong wind roared through the stacks, spilling book after book onto the floor. Dust puffed into the air and swirled into miniature tornadoes. A statue flew toward my head, and as the darkness engulfed me, I decided I had taken the wrong approach. I wouldn't be so careless next time.

I awoke in my bed. Martha removed a warm cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one.

I tried to sit up, but my limbs didn't work right. They felt too heavy. Trapped. "Mother! Where is she?"

"Shh, now. Everything will be all right, miss." Martha petted my arm like she used to when I was small and had nightmares. But this nightmare was real and no amount of soothing would make it better. What had Mother done to me? Was Martha in on it too?

I twisted my head left and right. The room was dark, the drapes drawn. The only light came from the crackling flames in the fireplace. And hanging above the fire was a black cauldron. Dark puffs of smoke rose from the bubbling liquid. Martha walked toward it.

My heart jerked. My breath hitched. "It's you? But how did you make the storm in the library? I saw Mother's eyes go dark."

"Not everything is as it seems, miss. It will all be well if ya trust me." As she stirred the pot, a hideous stench rose from it. She ladled a small amount into a teacup and brought it towards me.

"No! Mother! Father! Help me!" 

She tilted the cup to my lips. I clamped them shut and turned my head away. I shook my body, trying to break free of the binding spell she had put on me. It was useless. The only part of my body that worked was my head. Was she going to kill me? Or burn me? Or turn me inside out? Witches could do that. They could trap you inside a living hell for centuries if they wished.

Martha pinched my nose.

No! Mother! Father! I fought to hold my breath for as long as I could. Too soon, my mouth popped open. It was long enough for me to gulp in air and long enough for her to pour the concoction down my throat. 

It burned. Oh, it burned like hot lava. My eyes teared until I went blind. My stomach heaved until I felt sticky sweet liquid covering my body. My body convulsed for what felt like hours. Or days. Time blended together into one dark line. No more soothing pats or cold cloths. Just an endless onslaught of pain, fear, and then hatred. After hatred, the next emotion came easily.


I must get revenge.

But for that, I had to break free of her spell. I had to wake up. 

I scoured my memories for something that would help. I couldn't find it in my childhood or my adolescence, but I found a tiny scrap that had been tucked away for just over a year. The discovery of the spell book. It no longer made me sick to think of it, because I knew it was my salvation. I remembered now. It had changed things before, and it would change things again.

I dove deeper into the memory. I flipped through page after page of spells. The words were blurry at first, but the more I concentrated, the clearer they became. A spell to cause warts. A spell to attract swarms. A spell to draw in the darkness. 

An unbinding spell!

I chanted the words, hoping it would be enough. Whether they were spoken aloud or simply in my head, I had no idea. It didn't seem to matter. 

My sight came back first. I saw Martha working on her needlepoint in the corner rocking chair. Oh, the surprise she was going to get. 

My arms came next, but I didn't dare give myself away, not if I wanted to survive. 

And then my legs. 

I had full mobility, but what to do with it? 

Slowly, I thought. Don't let her see.

I brought my hands together and wove a spell in the air. I played the words through my mind, over and over again. I knew exactly what I was doing as if I had done it a thousand times before.

Martha's body went rigid. She screamed. I had trapped her inside her own living hell, and I was proud.

My bedroom door slammed open. Mother stood in the frame with angry black eyes. A fierce wind shot through the room, strong enough to throw my flower vase into my forehead and to being the darkness once more.

I awoke with both Mother and Martha standing over me. The curtains were open. A strong beam of sunlight shone in and played across my bed. I shielded my eyes from the intrusion.

Martha removed a warm cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one. Mother went to the cauldron and filled a teacup with the liquid. 

"Witches," I whispered.

"Yes," Mother said. "But enchanting rat skulls and wearing their blood, that is not something we do. We all have a choice between the dark and the light. It's time you saw the light."

She forced the liquid down my throat, and it burned.


Story by: Krystalyn Drown
Photo by: Carros de Foc


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