Part I: Carefree
A piece dug up from the relics of my blog. It is a continuation of my short story, Purge.
Bullet point summary:
- The banner in the square writes “Feast and be Merry! The 15 of May is here!”
- Anita and her sister is hired for the night.
- In more ways than one, the 15th of May bears a darker connotation than the people of the town will let on.
The arrival of a stranger
“It is half past six, and the Blacksmith’s is an hour away.”
“So, we’ll take the horses,” replied Anita. Pearl had been pestering her with the time the moment she had gotten back home.
“And risk them being slaughtered? I do hope you are not suggesting such a waste of -”
“-of what” Anita said. “-of lives?” She had her arms draped over the back of the chair and wiggled her fingers as they drifted towards the ceiling in an imitation of ghosts.
“-of poor horsey souls? Am I to be scared of the hauntings of a few dumb beasts? ”
Pearl just watched her with quiet eyes. And once again, Anita found herself wishing that they would burst into flames, slice and dice without inhibition. A long time ago, Anita used to be afraid of her sister’s wrath and cruelty.
Now, she missed it.
Far away, the muffled ring of the town’s clock tower struck the half hour warning. While it tolled scattered and shivering in its timbres, Anita felt herself drifting down the edge of the couch until its frame covered her entire body, hiding her from her sister’s eyes.
Pearl returned to her mirror. “Of course, that. But I was going to say supplies.”
She smoothed across her forehead, and covered them with the habit taking particular care to bury the frays into the dark wool. Pearl searched and tucked until every single one is hidden away. She did so with her nose pressed against the mirror. Her neck bent at an impossible angle to have her face meet the glass. Pearl efficiently tucked and prodded at her head until what invisible creases and folds were laid to rest. When her head finally rose up again, it looked pinched and red like a swaddled bald baby.
So ugly. Anita thought. She couldn’t help but hate it. Hate the roughness of the wool. Hate the plainness of the black. Hate how Pearl carries the rosary against her chest and mutters into it like how she used to mutter incantations.
Her sister had died the moment she gave herself up for everlasting life.
It was the night of her christening. Anita had opened the door to her sister in the storm. She was dripping wet, swaying against the wind blowing past her like newfound Judgement. She was buried under six feet of heavy black cloth.
“Admina,” Anita had said.
“Don’t call me that, ” her sister had replied coldly.
The rain outside battered against her sister’s body, and Anita pulled her into the house. Anita fought against the wind to close the door. It rushed through the cracks between her belly and the wood sounding like hell had been let loose. The great winter wind had snuck its way into their home, found its mark and was keening, singing, and rejoicing.
“Shut up!” Anita screamed as she heaved one last time onto the door. It crashed into its frame and became very very still.
The wind still screamed outside, but at least inside, it was warm.
“Let’s get you into dry clothes.” Anita reached for the black around her sister’s shoulders. “Come on, let me help you take off that habit,” When her sister didn’t move, Anita patted her coat. Admin- ”
“-Don’t call me that!” Her sister sent Anita flying against the staircase. Anita’s head cracked against the iron, and a line of blood trickled down her temple. Something was wrong. Her sister was weak.
“Admina!” Anita’s voice cracked.
Admina was gazing at her hands. They were shaking.
“Look at what you made me do,” Admina said.
She gripped her fingers in each other to stop the trembling.
“It’s my very first day, and I had already failed. Look at my hands. They’re rejecting me. No matter how hard I try, I feel as if I won’t be able to control it.”
Admina spun on her sister.
“I told them to take it away. All of it, and they tried they really did. But in the end I was too strong. Magic like that wants to come out, Anita. It has been bullying my bones, oozing from my pores. And Ani, it hurts so much.” Her voice broke a bit on the last word. She turned to look at her sister, but her eyes found a spot between Anita and the doorframe. She stopped. Quietly she said, “Magic…it really is an evil thing. I wish I had never been born with it.” For a long time, Admina and Anita was quiet.
Finally, her sister muttered deep and low, “Do you know what Admina means?”
Anita shook her head.
“It means of the red earth,” Admina said. “Earth as fine as the plains. But no matter how you put it, it still means dirt.”
The night was still trembling outside with the tree branches lashing violently against the planes of the house. Inside, everything was still. Admina stood erected like a marble statue, hands clasped in front of her belly, features of her face starkly soft against the hardness of her figure. A light outside, from the moon perhaps, fell across the scratchy film of the habit. The unrefined hairs of the wool caught the light in such a way that Admina seemed to glow. As she watched her sister, Anita slowly began to realize what her sister had meant. It dawned on her a truth that seems as frightening as it seems unexplainable.
Admina was happy.
It was then Admina opened her eyes and saw Anita gazing at her.
“Dirt, how very fitting,” Admina said.
Anita stood very still. She was afraid of what her sister had done.
“I don’t want to be Admina any more.”
Anita leapt to her feet. “A- But, you can’t. After all you’ve just lost, you’re willing to throw even that away? Your name?” Anita couldn’t believe what her sister had done. She couldn’t fathom all that her sister gave up. But if it was her sister’s will, Anita knew that she couldn’t refuse.
Anita sat heavily back against the staircase. “So be it. What shall I call you then?”
The marble statue shifted. For a moment, it seemed to be disappointed that it had fallen short in its imitation of perfection. It shifted its great weight and moved down the hall. The creases in the fabric of its cloth shifted in hue, rolling across each other, and letting Anita know, in whispers of fabric against wood, that they are still incredibly alive.
“Call me Pearl,” said the marble woman. “Sister Pearl.”
On the other side of the door, thrashing in the night, the wind howled bloody murder.