Under the Bed (Short Story)

by Mark Figueroa | Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen

In the basement lies Mother’s chest. She never spoke of it when she was around. 

It’s been years since Mother disappeared. 

“Petra, my dear, Petra, the jar is under the bed. The carving in the trunk will tell you what to do with it. Only talk to her at night, my love. I’m sorry,” was the last thing she said to me. 

That night, there was a man at the door. He had a neat, trimmed beard and a sick smile. The kind you would see on old men who watched children in the park. He stared at my mother as if she were a child herself. “Come now,” he said. His flamboyant voice sounded as if a man, woman and child were speaking in unison. 

That was over a decade ago. 

On nights like this, when the crescent moon was an orange fingernail scratching at the night sky, I’d overhear Mother speaking with the carving in her trunk. I’d never catch more than a few words, but a name always stuck with me: Őfelsége, Her Majesty. I have been doing her bidding since my mother disappeared. 

Her Majesty is an old carving of a woman with horns, stringy hair and fingers like talons. Her eyes are little black pearls that see and reflect all, including the things in the dark. Her dry voice sounds like flies surrounding a person dying in a cold place: buzzing accompanying clicks and wheezing. 

“Az üveg,” she says, her voice whispering as loud as the cold breeze outside. “Nyisd ki. Felfordítva.” Following her instructions, I make my way to my bedroom. My mother’s words echo in my head, “The jar is under the bed.” I turn the jar upside down, then open it. A thick mist of loud shrieks, wails and crestfallen sobs pours out of the jar. Per our usual custom, I slowly rotate the jar right side up when it’s completely empty and seal it tight, pulling the drawstring on the old hide sack surrounding it. I tie the container to my hip and grab the dense cloud of sorrow.

The thick ball is the accumulation of the souls I’ve gathered over the past month. Twisted, smoky faces of the strong-willed occasionally stick out of the mist, trying to separate themselves with no success. When I reach the basement, Őfelsége is a life-sized witch made of splintering wood. Her limbs crackle as she reaches for my offering and her mouth creaks as her jaw separates. “Jó kislány,” she whispers, before repeating, “Good girl.”

I motion to make my way upstairs as Őfelsége crawls back into the trunk. Before I reach the first step I hear leaves rustling and wood snapping, letting me know that she’s returned to her normal size. This is our usual rhythm; our contract begins with my work, ends with my delivery, then resets. The nights of my offering always occur under an orange crescent moon. 

When I first began serving Őfelsége, I did not understand why my mother left the trunk closed since she sleeps for months at a time. Unfortunately, when I did, the boszorkány, the witch, had grown accustomed to her freedom. I would find her on my nightstand, the bathroom sink, next to my television and other places where I did not place the half-foot tall carving. Near the time she gets ready for the next offering, she wanders the house as a full-sized creature made of wood. Her steps are generally silent, but her darkness seeps into my dreams and I awaken to her standing in the darkest corner of my room with her bony, wooden fingers pressed to her contorted lips. She cannot leave our home, nor does she try to, because of runes etched all over the inside and outside of the chest. The runes keep Őfelsége from wandering beyond the roof over the chest, but they also prevent anyone under the roof from resting anywhere else. If Őfelsége’s chest were to ever touch the outside world, the runes would fade and the chest would break. She would roam the densest woods and devour flesh, bone and souls without restraint.  

The souls I offer, as I surmise my mother and her mother have done, are obtained from evening walks around local hospitals, cemeteries, bridges, churches and other spots that the dying or  dead tend to roam. The jar is encased in an enchanted, unremovable sleeve made of skin. The lid can only be opened by one of the bloodline who cast the enchantment. Additionally, the jar itself can never hold more than 31 souls at a time to accommodate the moon’s phases and must remain under the bed of the woman who will make the next offering. Mother must have planned her departure, as unplanned as it seemed, because the jar was under my bed. 

Őfelsége’s servants, according to journals my mother left, live long lives, devoid of sickness and aging, but they are cursed to birth only women fathered by evil spirits since the only males who can sleep or reside under this roof must be as wicked as Őfelsége. My great, great grandmother discovered this the hard way upon ensnaring Őfelsége within a carving of her likeness. 

Two nights have passed since Őfelsége consumed her offering. The jar is almost full. I do most of my harvesting throughout my daily life to avoid drawing any attention from unwanted interlopers. Like my mother, I work in a large hospital in a large city near Lake Michigan. This allows me to roam other hospitals on my days off, but I rarely go through the trouble. What I cannot gather through my normal activities, I placate with my weekly church attendance and occasional evening walk through a nearby cemetery. 

Because of my lineage, I can see the dead and what my mother’s journals call the death brand. When I see a person close to the end, they appear darker or lighter than other people, depending on the wickedness of their soul. People with uncorrupted souls appear to have a dim light on them, whereas people with defiled souls look like they have a shadow covering them. Őfelsége’s offerings must only contain souls of a darker nature to preserve some cosmic order I have yet to fully comprehend, but it makes harvesting the dead simple. At 31 souls per fill, it also goes by pretty quick. I often have the next offering ready around a week after the most recent one. This time it will be just shy of five full days.

I walk through the hospital and notice a slightly obese man moving about the corridors. He’s nude, missing his genitals and has a shadow covering him. Judging by his limited lucidity, he must be aware that he isn’t alive and not much else. 

“Hello,” he mutters, shuffling through walls absently. “Don’t eat that! Marie, don’t eat that!” he shrieks, angry at a sudden memory. “Don’t hide the scarf! Don’t hide the scarf!” I tip the jar and untighten the lid. As I make my way toward the ghost, he turns into a mist and wisps into the jar. I sigh, relieved I no longer have to hear him. The scariest thing about the dead isn’t their ghostly image, the genital-less nudity or their erratic movements. It’s how they speak. Their disembodied voices make them sound like they’re speaking in a sealed chamber. The more wicked a soul is the raspier, deeper and more unsettling their voice. The only trade-off about being in the hospital is that there are semi-lucid good and evil souls calling out to their memories, giggling or shouting at a loved one. At worst, there are only a handful of them at any given time though. 

It’s times like these where I wonder, what happened to my mother? Is she still among the living? Did she join the dead? What is the tendency of her soul? Who was that man who came for her?

I make my rounds, chatting with other doctors, nurses, colleagues and the occasional friend or two, while scanning for more defiled spirits. My shift comes to a close and I drive toward the Lakeview Cemetery in Clarkston. The ghosts there tend to be more pacified due to the beautiful views of the lake. It’s the perfect place for a breather and harvesting. I pull up outside of the gates as the sun begins to set, and a woman eerily walks past my car. She’s clearly dead, but neither illuminated or enshadowed. She also isn’t nude. Something is wrong.

I continue staring in her direction as I hop out of my car. The woman walks through a stone pillar and into the cemetery. She nonchalantly passes gravestones and mausoleums, heading into the direction where I usually stand. The fear in me builds. Something about her calm but absent-minded movements terrifies me. She shivers while watching the waves on Lake Michigan. Her bones creak and snap like Őfelsége. I shriek, and her head immediately turns in my direction accompanied by the sound of crunching twigs. With empty eyes, she walks directly toward me.

I leap into my car and race home. Leaves rustle beside me. Wood snaps and cracks. I avoid looking to my right. There’s a long silence, but I can feel her sitting next to me. 

She shrieks, “The jar is under the bed!”

I cover my eyes and scream, then sprint into the house and slam the door shut. I call for the only safety I’ve known since my mother left. “Őfelsége! Őfelsége!” I wail. Limbs snap and crack, stomping up the basement and I feel tree bark around my face. “Őfelsége.” The tree limbs put splinters in my arms and on my face. Őfelsége’s embrace reminds me of my childhood. The scent of cinnamon and candles fill my nostrils. I stand up, remembering that I called for Őfelsége days after making an offering to her, exactly what the journals and diaries of women before me state not to do. To my surprise, there’s no one around me, and the basement door is still shut despite the sounds I heard and the embrace I felt. 

I haphazardly make my way to the window in the living room and stare at my car in the driveway. The woman is gone, but a handprint remains on my windshield. 

I scramble to prepare myself a cup of tea with milk. The water boils and I pour it into a mug, setting a bag of lavender to steep with a generous amount of honey. While the tea steeps, I make my way to my room, remove the jar from my waistband, and place it under my bed. Then, I slowly walk to the bathroom and rinse my face. When I stare in the mirror, I see my mother staring back at me and I remember the expression on her face the last time I saw her. 

Memories of the past flood my mind. The golden setting of the Michigan Autumn puts me at ease, if just for a moment.

“Petra. Dammit, Petra! You’re going to be late for school!” Mom shouts. She’s wearing scrubs, but has a nice purse slung over her shoulder. “Why do I pay for private school if you don’t even appreciate the things I do for you?”

I stare at my young hands and unwrinkled elbow. I move and speak without controlling my actions. A passive observer of a lucid dream. “I don’t know,” my young voice says with a lack of confidence I left behind the day Mom vanished. 

My mother comes over and hugs me. She squats down to my level. “Things will only get harder and I will need you to be strong, okay?” she asks, stern but loving. She stands up and adjusts her sky blue scrubs. Mom grabs her keys and does a check of all the doors in the house. She locks her bedroom, my bedroom, the bathroom and both guest bedrooms. “You can never be too careful.”

I nod. 

We make our way outside and Mom walks around the house. She checks the front door,  the windows, the storm door and the back door. She looks at me and flinches. “Patty, get in the car. Now,” she says, in her usual zero to sixty voice. I watch her as she looks around. Her eyes are fixed in several positions. She unscrews the jar in her lucky pouch, then seals it. She takes another look around and smiles at me. Mom gets in the car feeling accomplished. 

She drops me off at school and the day continues as normal. English, Math, Science, Lunch, History, Gym, Literature and the last 15 minutes. My teacher rambles on about current events, the lack of morality and failing marriages. He stands over me, looking down at my neck. He blushes when I catch him and continues talking about why marriages fail and how we’re all sinners. 

“We all have to face the music,” he says. “Men, sooner than women. Women are gifted with the infallible gift of beauty and ignorance that allows them to absently wander on the surface of all of their life experiences free of any responsibility. That is unless they meet a man that teaches them right from wrong with the hand of discipline.”  He winks at me. “Isn’t that right, Petra?” he asks. 

I smile and giggle. 

As class breaks, I follow my friends outside the building, and my friend Meryl, shoves me. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” She asks, pulling the straps on her back pack and slightly dropping her skirt. “Didn’t you see him looking down your shirt?”

I shrug. “No, he was staring at my neck, Meryl.”

Ashley chimes in, “Ummm, no. He is like my grandpa’s age and he’s acting like the boys in our class.” She crosses her arms. “It’s because you don’t have a dad that you can’t tell what a creep looks like.”

“Ashley!” Meryl yells. There’s a slight giggle in her voice. She hides her chuckles and pretends to be serious. “You can’t say that!”

Ashley shrugs, then plays with her blonde hair. “Well, it’s true,” she says. “My mom says that girls without dads become strippers or lesbian shut-ins because they get raped by creepy men when they’re young. Look at Petra, she’s too stupid to see what’s happening. It’s her fault if she gets raped and becomes a lesbian.”

I shrug.

Meryl gives Ashley a dirty look.

“Well, ask her,” Ashley demands. She quickly glances at me. “Who’s your dad, Petra?”

In my ignorance, I smile. “My mom says he’s better than a man. My dad is a man of men since men aren’t allowed in the house.”

“That’s lesbian for your dad is a woman,” Ashley says. Her blue eyes are sharp and angry. “My dad says fags aren’t people and lesbians are the worst kind of fags. Your mom’s a fag! Your mom’s a—”

Meryl quickly punches Ashley’s mouth.

“Ow! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Nigger!” she yells at Meryl. “My Dad says niggers are always violent. My grandpa was right. Niggers and queers are ruining America. I can’t wait till someone comes in and makes things right!” She spits blood on the ground. “Nigger lesbians! Nigger lesbians! Nigger lesbians! You’re not even black, Petra! How does it feel to be a nigger lesbian!”

“Like my dad doesn’t touch my private parts,” I respond.

Ashley’s lip quivers. Then, she erupts into tears. She runs off and Meryl shrugs. 

“She’ll get over it,” Meryl says. She pulls her curly hair back, then slides her hood over her head. “She doesn’t know better, so sometimes it’s just best to let her talk.”

Ashley’s dad pulls up in his pickup. He slams his palm on the side of his door. “Ass! Ass-Lee!” he shouts, demanding her. “Come on when I call, girl. Come on wit’ it.” He licks his lip and then winks at me.

Ashley follows his eyes to me. She blushes and looks down. “Yes, Daddy,” she says, weak and scared. She twirls her blonde pigtails as she makes her way around the car and into the passenger seat.

“Some people have it so bad, they only know how to project it outside,” Meryl inserts. “But, I won’t lie, Petra… I am curious about your dad.”

“What about him?” I ask.

“Well, does your mom ever talk about him?”

“All the time, but she says he wasn’t a man. She says my dad was an evil spirit. She says he was the devil.”

Meryl rubs her arm, then, hugs me. “I’m sorry,” she says. “ I didn’t mean to–”

“It’s okay. My mom has pictures of him. His eyes don’t show up in photos. My dad is evil. Only evil men are allowed in my house. My mom won’t tell me why, but she says my great, great grandma cursed us. She married a bad man and did him a favor.”

Meryl pats my back twice. “I get it. My great grandmother was raped by a white man, but he beat their kid to death. My grandma saw the whole thing.”

I sigh. “It’s not the same thing. My family is different from racism.”

Meryl rolls her eyes. “Whatever. You always act like you’re special, Petra. These white people treat your family the same as they treat mine. You live with your mom so it’s probably hard for you to hear how foreign she sounds.” She throws an arm around me. “I don’t agree with you, but it’s not your fault.”

The memory moves forward and I see a man standing outside the house. He has a top hat, a cane and a briefcase. His moustache is slightly curled.

I sigh, sip the last bit of my tea and make my way to the living room where I grab the control and flip on the television. After surfing through titles on FlicksNet, I stop on an old-time science fiction series. The intro fades in: “…You unlock the door with the key of imagination…A dimension of sight. A dimension of sound…”, but my mind wanders as the narrator sets up the episode.

I examine how clean the house is and how long it’s been since I’ve actually had a social life. Mom’s home life wasn’t too different from mine. She worked a shift schedule, so she was gone from 7 am to 7 am every two days, but she’d always come home to sleep for a few hours around 7 pm, like clockwork. When I think back on it, I can pick up on all the little things Mom used to do to keep Őfelsége at bay. All of the strange rituals that used to confuse me or downright annoy me now seem like common sense. Even though the runes keep Ofselge bound, I lock every door when I leave the house, then do a walk around the property. I keep the jar under my bed when I’m home. I don’t know if the spirits can get out, but I’d rather not find out. While Őfelsége has never done anything to directly frighten or disturb me, she’s still frightening and disturbing. I’d rather not see a 7-foot witch made entirely of wood prancing around my house eating wailing spirits. 

To my surprise, none of the journals ever mention a bad interaction with Őfelsége. The oldest journals only mention my great, great grandmother’s disdain for Őfelsége.

It was a cool Fall afternoon. The leaves were moist but crispy and the air was just cold enough for you to see your breath. My great, great grandmother and my great grandmother were preparing supper, while my great, great grandfather and their youngest daughter had gone out picking berries and apples at a nearby orchard. As she traipsed the orchard my great aunt saw a tree move. She shrieked, but by the time my great, great grandfather reached her, it was too late.

Őfelsége was crouched over my great aunt, violently tearing her skin and devouring her flesh. The sound of wood snapping as Őfelsége feasted and the echoes of  the girl screaming attracted several onlookers to the horrific scene. It ended as soon as it began. Őfelsége smirked at the witness as she sauntered deeper into the woods.

Among them, was an old Celtic priestess who had recently sailed into the New World. She had heard tells of Őfelsége, but had never seen her or her kind. The priestess consoled my great, great grandmother by offering her the gift of closure through vengeance; however, the closure she offered came with great risk. They were to make an offering to Őfelsége, then trap her in a blessed effigy.

“You must cut a piece of bark half the length of your arm, and stain it with the blood of your living child. Then, boil and dehair the skin of a black cat under the light of the full moon. Next, store a drop of your blood in an unused jar. Place the bark, skin and jar in a chest, and bring that chest to me.”

When my great, great grandparents brought everything to the priestess, she recited a prayer, then said, “Return to me when the crescent moon is an orange fingernail scratching at the night sky.”

My ancestors did as they were told and the priestess gave them a rune-protected chest containing Őfelsége’s effigy and the rune-engraved jar wrapped in a sleeve of skin.

“The idol is bound to the chest matching its hidden runes. So long as the chest and the idol are intact, the demon cannot go beyond the roof that houses them. Anyone can move these items, so keep them somewhere safe. However, the jar can only be opened by any who match the first blood it housed, and Őfelsége. While one of your lineage holds the bottle, they will be able to see the departed; the good will be enlightened, the bad clouded by shade. Be not afraid of their presence for they are ever present, even now. The jar will collect any spirit it is pointed at, but it must only be used to collect the shadowed spirits. It can hold no more 31 spirits, for only 31 spirits are to be served as an offering when Őfelsége beckons. The offering must be given when requested or the demon will leave the effigy and plague the lineage of those who bound it. Last, and most important, if the jar is put down between offerings, it must rest under the bed of the person who will make the next offering. If not, the jar will break. I pray that if that moment were to ever occur, that the jar is empty.”

After giving them the rundown, the priestess explained how they could catch Őfelsége. The process was similar to the offering process. Under the orange fingernail sky, a full offering was to be made to Őfelsége by pouring the spirits over the effigy. The effigy would contain the souls and attract Őfelsége. If Őfelsége rejected the offering, the offerrer would be devoured. 

Unfortunately, due to a lack of education, the first count of spirits was wrong and Őfelsége claimed my great, great grandfather, but during the next orange crescent moon my great, great grandmother was able to capture Őfelsége with the help of my great grandmother. Because of her determination, my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and I are forever burdened with keeping Őfelsége satiated and upholding all of the other rules and boundaries my foremothers discovered. 

Each of the women, except my great, great grandmother, has roughly 5 journals a piece. The front covers each include the author’s full name and age when the journal was started. Each entry contains the exact date the journal was written. The back covers have the exact date the journal was filled and the author’s age at the time. All of the journals mainly cover the dates that Őfelsége was fed and any noteworthy things, like romances, children, fears and concerns. 

As the night passes, I decide to thumb through their journals and something attracts me to my grandmother’s final journal. I begin looking for any information on ghosts, the woman I saw and any objects of interest. As I skim through the entries, I notice how much her handwriting resembles my mother’s.  The details of this journal are unremarkable and only mention offering dates; there are no notes of any odd occurrences or noteworthy events, or personal things about a random thought or consideration for a member of our lineage to be aware of. This is so unlike any of my grandmother’s other journals, that I grab one of her previous logs and one of my mother’s diaries. The comparison is uncanny and raises several questions.

Despite our solitary life, my family has some close friends and relations that help with things like maintaining the jar, upkeeping the runes and general protection and cleansing rituals. Some of these friends call for small favors, like beridding a person of a malevolent spirit, as compensation. 

Cassandra Caulderon, is one such friend. Her family is made of brujas de la 21 divisiones, witches of the 21 divisions practicing Dominican Vudu. While most of the practitioners focus on only one of four branches of this Syncretic Religion, Cassandra’s family is well-versed in all four segments: 

  1. Rada: The White Division. The spirits are of African origin who are usually Fon, Ewe and Nago spirits. 
  2. Petro: The Fire (or Bitter) Division that’s mostly of Bantu origin spirits. 
  3. Gede: The Black Division. The spirits of la division negra deal with death and the ancestors 
  4. Lastly, there’s the Taino, or Native Hispanolan, Division. The spirits are of Pre-Columbian origin.  

As I think of dialing her, my phone rings. 

“They told me you’d be calling soon, Petra,” Cassandra says before I have a chance to say hello. “Your grandmother’s journal and the jar. The fake one. Across from the Deer Lake Beach parking lot on White Lake Road. We need to be on the edge of Middle Lake. 30 Minutes.”

Thankfully, we don’t have to exchange pleasantries. I hang up and make my way to the meeting spot. There are four spirits standing beside Cassandra. A still-faced African woman with short, curly hair in tribal attire; An angry spirit whose face keeps changing, in clothing I can’t place; There’s a nun clad in all black who’s a complete shadow with white dots for eyes; lastly, there’s a Native American woman in an earth-toned tunic. She has strong facial features.

Cassandra and I hug, stare at each other and smile. 

“A friend in need,” she says, smiling and somewhat curious. I hand over my grandmother’s journal. Cassandra’s hair starts lifting up and out like it’s being attracted to a balloon over her head. Her eyes roll back as she thumbs through the pages. “Madre,” She says, speaking to one of the women. The strange spirits chatter in whispers and the shadow nun extends her hand. “Give her the jar,” Cassandra says as she continues thumbing through the book.

I do as I am told. As Cassandra continues combing the pages, birds flutter from trees and fly far away from us. Then, a voice echoes through the woods around us. 

It’s Ofelsege. She says: 

Törd össze az üveget.

“Shatter the jar.”

Az üveg az ágy alatt van.

“The jar is under the bed.”

fejezd be az alvásomat

“End my sleep.”

Cassandra slams the book shut and her hair goes back to normal. “They see all,” she whispers, pointing at the four spirits around me in a strange formation. Cassandra hands me the forged journal that my mother wrote. “There’s no way to get the original diary back, but the spirits showed me everything,” she says. She crosses her arms, sad and pensive. Cassandra rubs her face. “Petra, The blood in the jar… Your great aunt, Szófia… her blood keeps her bound to the jar. She was the woman you saw.”

“What? How is that even possible?” I ask, pacing around. The spirits stand proudly beside Cassandra. I squat over the dirt and sigh heavily into the wind. My breath is visible in the Michigan late night air.

“Witchcraft isn’t an exact science,” Cassandra begins. “White, black, red, blue and twilight magic, spells and rituals are made by a person who fucks them up and then other people get it right over time. The witch who helped create the jar knew her shit, but she didn’t know that using human blood would trap the blood-owner’s essence. The person would be trapped in place between life and death, neither here nor there, but inside the container. She was able to age, really slowly, but still… Anyway, she saw and met ghosts as they were sucked into the jar and then released. The inside of the bottle is like a giant void with a glass ceiling, so she walked and walked among waves of mindless souls, going nowhere, slowly losing her own mind.”

“I think I understand. So, when my great grandmother’s sister, Szófia, was killed by Ofelsege, the priestess bound her to the glass jar, and she experienced every offering until she went crazy?”

“Bingo, girl, but that’s not all,” Cassandra clarifies. “Your great grandmother realized her younger sister was trapped in the jar. She spent years trying to free her, but instead she accidentally separated her essence from her blood. The runes around the family home kept, and still keep, Sofia from re-entering the house,” Cassandra says, she takes a deep breath and exhales. She puts a hand on her chest and takes another deep breath to catch her bearing. “Unable to enter the home, or even the jar, since she isn’t quite a spirit. She regained herself by having romances with men in their dreams, helping spirits come to terms with their deaths and protecting random people. Most of her time was spent watching over her niece, your grandmother. Your great grandmother and your grandmother would have picnics with Szófia and try to figure out ways to help, but they did succeed. Eventually, your great grandmother died, and your grandmother continued where she left off. She resorted to the black arts and had a friend help her ask demons for assistance. She offered her soul and her flesh, but the demons lied. Eventually your mother was born.”   

I shrug. “I know this much. I just never knew why. My mom told me I was the child of a demon, just like her. She blamed my grandmother for it and swore we would never be like her.”

“She did her best, but she ended up making things worse. Your mom was extremely jealous of all the shit your grandmother tried to free Szófia. I don’t know if it was the demon blood or that she was just fucked up to begin with, but she hated your grandmother for neglecting her.” 

“I could see that,” I chime in. I think of my mom and her diligence. “She used to tell me that there were times she maintained herself and the house because grandmother was obsessed with her own little world. She never told me why but it makes sense now. She did her best to keep me from knowing about Ofelsege and away from all of this, until she disappeared. She left her last journal under her bed, next to the jar.”

Cassandra sighs. “She didn’t mention that she put a rune on your bed frame to keep you from seeing Szófia. Your mother also didn’t tell you about the lengths she went through to fix her own mother’s mistakes. She tried to find ways to re-enslave Szófia in the jar, but she failed. Szófia’s memories are trapped in the jar, but she herself isn’t.”      

“I understand why my mom would do that, but trying to keep her trapped in the bottle… That’s beyond cruel.”

Cassandra pats me on the arm. “If you break that jar, you unite her with her memories and allow her to cross over, but you also free the witch in your basement. You also free your family too though, so it might not be a bad idea. And, who knows, you might get reborn as a girl in a normal family. Just something to think about.”

“Yeah, but that still means I die. Ofelsege will tear me apart,” I respond, shaking my head. “What about my mom and the women before me?”

“Well, your grandmother and your mom are both in hell, Petra. Regardless of what you do with your life, you’ll go there too because of your grandmother’s good intentions. I’d say don’t sweat the small stuff. Just break the jar and let it go,” Cassandra says, sympathetic, but with a very matter-of-fact tone. “You do realize a descendant of yours has to maintain the witch if you don’t, otherwise, the crafty bitch will break the jar herself?” She asks. 

“I mean I’m aware of it…”

“Then, you understand that you’d literally be having sex with the demon who fathered you and your mother to produce another daughter, that he’s going to fuck too.” 

“It’s better than being torn apart by Ofelsege,” I respond.

“You fuck your demon dad, who then fucks your daughter, and when your ass dies, you’ll be in hell. I don’t see how one minute of dog bites from a tree is worse than an eternity in hell, knowing all the shit I just told you,” Cassandra mutters. She adjusts her hair and shrugs at me. “You might die a shitty ass death, but it’s better than this shit. If you live, your father’s gonna come for you and then inside you. Not worth it, if you ask me.” 

“I need time to think about it, Cassie. If I don’t save my great grandmother’s ghost, or spirit, or whatever you want to call it, I’ll live a pretty long time. Ofelsege will also be contained and people will be safe because our lineage keeps her bound,” I respond. “There’s no one or nothing that scares me more than Ofelsege.”

“She also makes you feel safe. That’s because Ofelsege is a natural entity. She exists, and is supposed to exist, in nature. Neither good nor evil.” I roll my eyes and the women around Cassandra vanish. Cassandra catches my surprise. “Oh, they’re still here,” she says. “They just don’t want to be seen by you.”

I shrug and ask why.

“I told you, they see all, and they see you. Anyway, your choices are not mine. I’ll still be your friend, but I’ll judge the hell out of you for being a cobarde. We’re all cowardly one way or another, even when the solution is in front of our faces. Anyway, Kruse’s?” she asks.

I nod and we drive to the nearby diner on Deer Lake Rd. Our meals come as we chat. The lights flicker, and I hear weeping. I look to my left and Szófia’s sitting next to me sobbing into her palms. Clutching the jar, I stare at Cassandra.

Cassandra’s four guardians gaze at me. 

The sound glass shattering on tile echoes across the restaurant section of the inn. 

Loud clicking accompanies crunching twigs and breaking branches. A woman shrieks and people panic. There’s a loud crash, then darkness.  



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