'I'm not having this conversation right now.'
She pushed me aside and went to the cupboard to get a mug, preparing her usual afternoon tea.
'There's nothing to discuss. I was just...confused. It was fun, but now it's too heavy.'
I didn't look at her as she was saying it. Partially because I didn't want to believe her, partially because I didn't want to break down in front of her.
'Look at me when I'm talking to you. Please.'
I glanced over at her, feeling the lines creasing over my face, my muscles tensing. We stared for a moment.
'You mean to tell me that nothing that was said, nothing we shared, mattered to you at all?' I asked her.
'Of course it mattered. It's always mattered. Do you think I wouldn't be freaking out right now if it didn't matter to me..?' she trailed off. She started to shake a bit.
I went up to get closer to her, and started stroking her arm. She relaxed a bit, enough to let me wrap her up in my arms; she breathed onto my neck, nuzzling into it for a moment. I didn't want anything else, at that moment. I started to run my fingers through her hair, when she realized what was happening and broke away from me.
'NO! Go. You have to go now.'
'Baby, please, I'm just--'
'NO! I can't do this right now, goddamnit! Back the fuck off!'
'FUCK IT!' she cried out as she swung an open palm to my face.
She got me so hard I bled out the corner of my mouth. I placed my hand to the blood and looked down at it, then back at her, astonished. I stared at her, my eyes opened wide. She was rubbing her hand gingerly as she stared back in horror.
'Fuck this,' I said quietly, turning on my heel, grabbing my jacket and making a mad dash for the door as she reached after me, repeating my name. I let my fingers slip through hers as I reached the front porch, and she stayed behind the screen door and watched me as I jumped into my car and took off, hiding the tears in my eyes.
Little lumps of snow started falling from the sky as I drove towards the mountains. They seemed to be the only movement; there just seemed to be stillness all around me. I had pulled over to one of the parks I frequent to calm myself and clear my thoughts. This spot in particular had sentimental value: we had some of our closest moments here. I could almost hear the laughter echoing amongst the floating snowflakes; I could almost retrace the footsteps underneath the white blanket taking form. My memories began to wash themselves all over me at once, when I regained focus long enough to reach up to touch the dried blood at my mouth's corner.
I don't quite know what I'm doing here..., I thought to myself.
I felt the tears welt up in my eyes again and let them drop to the ground, joining in with the rest of the frost and cold. It felt like being punched to your very core, whatever that feeling is. I bent over and placed my hands on my knees, trying to breathe steadily and catch myself. Trying to not collapse from all the memories rushing back to me all at once. I took in a deep breath and walked a bit further. I didn't want to go back to my house any time soon.
I wanted to feel the cold biting at me.
As I got further away from the main road, and more into the woods, I noticed small roots and twigs along the sides of the path protruding through the snow in sort of an odd manner. One could almost imagine them being bony fingers reaching through the soil, desperate to grasp a hold of you.
I walked further through the woods for what seemed like hours, the evergreens still full and blocking out whatever light was available. The dusk was fast approaching, though I didn't mind. I was nearing the end of the path, just around the residential areas of scattered cabins full of creature comforts, my body feeling entirely numb. I watched my breath steaming out of me with every passing step, occasionally staring down at the twisted roots around me. My mind was so off in its own space that I didn't even pay attention to the scenery changing around me--how I broke out of the canopy for an instant and happened upon an open field in the distance just ahead. I pressed forward, noticing a solitary dead Oak tree in the middle of it. As I came closer, it became apparent to me that this Oak tree was shielding a lonesome grave site, some sort of decrepit family plot. Something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye, on the ground.
As I came closer, I noticed someone had laid out a design in front of the plot, underneath the tree's barren branches, clearing out the snow just for it, especially. They used some sort of corn meal or powder to draw the shape of a large, perfect circle, a cross placed in its center and dividing it into four. In the center of each piece, a copper penny was placed heads-up. I stared for a moment, then started to investigate the plot.
An odd red moss covered the few scattered headstones in the decent sized enclosure, a type of moss I'd never seen in the area before; even odder, the snow didn't seem to stick on nor around them. I traced my memory back to my youth, as I'd remembered hearing tales of a hidden witch's grave built some hundreds of years back, and how the children used to frequent it every Halloween in hopes of a good scare. Some of the ones I spoke with said they'd never go back.
The snow continued to fall steadily around me, a gust of wind occasionally blowing past. Though there were no visible leaves on the ground, I could swear I heard the rustling of someone approaching me while I was hunched over, trying to decipher the barely-legible names on the stones, trying to note the designs etched into them. For an instant, I thought I heard a woman's laugh, but thought nothing of it. Then, another--two this time--seemed to be getting closer. I stood up and whirled around, already a bit on end. Nothing. Just my imagination, it seemed.
I bent back down to read the dates. 1787. 1787. 1787.
Why did they all die the same year?
I heard the laughter again, this time alarmingly closer, and spun around. To my utter surprise, two women were standing just outside of the grave's fence, smiling at me and holding arms together. There seemed to be a hunger in their eyes.
'Good evening,' the dark haired one smiled.
'What does this beautiful creature bring on such a biting winter's night?' the red haired one inquired.
Their clothes were tattered and grey, dirty corsets over ripped, flowing gowns. Their skin was pallid, blue and grey veins protruding from their nimble arms, while their eyes appeared to be a striking shade of green.
'Who are you?' I asked.
They looked at each other and laughed a bit to themselves, coming through the fence and closer to me.
'I don't think that should be your concern, kind friend...' the dark one said, circling around me, eyes roving up and down.
'You see, we know who you are,' said the red one, playing with the buttons on my jacket, 'and we have waited for so, so long. The cold is just so unbearable, wouldn't you say?' She stopped to reach up to my mouth, where I was bleeding earlier.
'We will need that,' she smiled to herself, her green eyes seeming to flash excitedly.
Though my heart was racing, I felt in a trance being around these women. I knew I should run, that I should push them away, but my legs were left completely immobile. It was as though the twigs and roots were coming out of the ground and grasping onto me, refusing to let me go. I stared at them cautiously.
'What do you want?'
'You will find out soon enough, pet,' said the dark one, giving a bit of a curtsy as she rejoined the red one in front of me. I stood frozen in place as they started to dance around me in a circle, never breaking eye contact with me whenever they came to my front. They kept chanting unintelligible things, the only word I could recognize was 'fourth.' They stood at my back as I was unable to turn around, slowly raising their voices as they repeated the guttural invocations. As it became almost unbearable, they stopped and came to my front.
The red haired one held a large snake.
The black haired one held a large dagger.
'Our fourth is arrived,' the red one said, almost licking her teeth eagerly.
They began to stalk forward towards me. I wanted to move, I was screaming inside my head for my legs to break whatever this spell was and to sprint as far away from these women as I could, but there was nothing I could do. I stood there wide eyed and speechless, bracing myself for whatever torture was about to occur. As they got not more than a few feet from me, I felt another presence come up from behind me.
'Stop,' a stern woman's commanded.
The other two women froze and looked behind me, their excitement immediately drained from their expressions. They took a few steps back and stared as a stringy blonde figure dressed exactly as they were came around my back. Though the features and dress were similar, her expressions weren't as fierce as the others. She stared at me quizzically and gave a bit of a smile after some thought. She looked back at the other two.
'What are you doing?'
'That is the fourth. We called for it and they have arrived. After this, we will be unstoppable!' the black one roared.
'Revenge is oursssssss!' hissed the red.
The blonde one let her eyes study me, a pitying expression coming over her face. She came up to me and stroked my cheek.
'No. No...this one is too pure. Too pure to be our fourth. Another mistaken identity,' she decided, flippantly.
The other two looked disheartened and completely disappointed upon hearing this. She came close to me and stared deeply into my eyes. I almost got lost in how vibrant a green hers were.
'You're free to go, innocence. Never come back here again.'
She went to wrap her arms around my neck, and gave a nudge into my ear. She began to whisper to me.
'As far as your lover goes, allow her the distance. And if that's not enough consolation, I still love you, my darling.' She looked at me for a moment before kissing my lips, her own as cold as the snow and air around us. I felt a chill run through my entire body and deep into my chest as it ended. She smiled at me once more before stepping back and disappearing into the night. The other two stared for a few seconds more and looked disgusted with me before fading away like the first. Everything was as still as I arrived. The sensation regained in my legs, I made leaps and bounds back to my car all the way back at the front of the forest.
About an hour later, completely out of breath and still a bit shakey, I made it back to my car. I stopped at the trunk to catch my breath, hunched over and coughing, the numb air stinging my lungs. I stopped to stare up at the full moon for a moment in an attempt to truly recount what just went on. I couldn't decide if it was real, and maybe I didn't want to, as I wiped my brow and made my way to the driver's side.
I got in and slowly put the keys in the ignition, trying to steady myself. I heaved a heavy sigh, and started the car up, flipping the heat up to the highest setting, waiting for the windows to defrost. Everything was blurred like an impressionist painting from within the car, the frost melting into droplets rapidly. Finally, after a few minutes they had melted enough for me to engage the wipers. As they swept away the sleet on the window, I was shocked upon seeing the dead vulture curled up some 10 feet in front of me...one wing precariously reaching upward toward the sky, almost specifically posed in that manner. I gasped and peeled out onto the main road.
I can't say for certain, but I almost swear I heard laughter as I drove away.