"Rachel? What is all this?" Helene pressed.
Her mouth was pulled tightly into a frown, as she came to her feet.
"Why are you tearing apart my bobcat skull?"
Rachel shivered at the trace of irritation in her mother's voice.
She struggled to come up with something that resembled a reasonable answer.
"I....I....don't know...I just felt like I should..."
Rachel trailed off and stared up at her mother.
Helene shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"Is this because of all the Catholic crap Nan shoves down your throat? You think my witchcraft is evil? You think I'm going to Hell?"
Rachel sorted through the muddle of harried thoughts she held. She wasn't sure what the right answer might be. In the end, the answer that she came up with was something that was very nearly the truth.
"I had a lot of bad dreams last night," she mumbled. "I woke up scared, and I think that's why I'm being weird."
Helene's brow came down low over her eyes, and she twisted her lips together in one corner of her mouth.
Finally, she sighed and nodded.
"Fine," she huffed. "Don't touch my damn altar again. You don't know what kind of forces you're messing with."
Rachel's eyes bulged.
"Yes," Helene snapped. "What do you think this is here for? Decoration? Make pretend? Nobody here is making pretend. We are witches. We do real spells, with real magic. If you alter the forces of energy at play, you could release something terrible. Once a person is haunted, they're haunted forever. Sort of like how houses are haunted forever. Would you like that? You want something icky following you around forever? Always clinging at your elbow and whispering to you when you try to sleep?"
Rachel twitched. Her body gave a little spasm. A zip of fear shot through her, electrifying her nerves. She was thinking of that man on fire. Was he something icky? Was he a real spirit that was following her? Had she done something bad like this already? Just as she'd torn apart the bobcat skull without realizing that she was doing something dangerous, had she interfered with magic in the past? Had she invited something horrid to attach itself to her?
"Will I be haunted now?" Rachel asked.
She could feel the hot sting of tears pricking at her eyes, and Helen only rolled her own.
"I don't know," she said. "Probably not. I can't think that would happen with the spells that I have in effect here, but you never know. There are beings and forces of energy all around you that you can't see. That's why you have to think about what you're doing."
Rachel shook her head frantically.
"I get it. I'm sorry. I won't touch your altar again."
"Good," Helene said. "Clean this up and get dressed. I haven't left the house in a few days. I think I'm gonna call my friend Tierney. The three of us will go get some food and maybe go to the mall or something."
"Okay," Rachel said.
Helene drifted across the living room, and then down the hall into the bathroom. Rachel could hear her clanging about, as she showered and got ready.
Rachel found some paper towels and collected all of the shards of animal bones. She carried each piece across the room and dropped into the overflowing trash bag that lay on the kitchen floor. This process took about five minutes and the hiss of the shower could still be heard from down the hall. Rachel decided that she would keep cleaning. The disgusting state of the house was really starting to get to her, every bug-traveled, food-encrusted, cluttered surface filled her with a jittery sense of unease. It seemed to Rachel that a state of such filth seemed to be begging for something ugly to happen. She feared that evil was being invited towards them. Or maybe that was only her mother's warnings about the alter that were making her feel that way. Either way, she started to clean.
She started to clear the table. Plates. Ceramic brushes and tools. Paint brushes. Belts to go around the molds. Several tattered and food-stained copies of Guns and Ammo magazine. Rachel took these items and began to bring them to each of their respective homes. The filled to the brim kitchen sink. The small white pins on the plastic shelves under the window. The cup on the counter. The hook on the wall next to the microwave. The hutch against the wall by the backdoor.
Putting these items away created a sense of order and Rachel felt her nerves calm as she contributed to that order. She manipulated the environment around her.
YOU ARE READING
***Long-listed for the Watty's 2018***Rachel lives in constant fear that she will burst into flames. She can feel the heat building in her gut. She keeps buckets of water under the bed. She keeps them to fend off the flames that her body may create...