Bloomington, Indiana; Spicewood Neighborhood. USA, Present Day…
“…huh…now she’s taking their mower to the yard…damn, if she went any faster, she’d qualify for Formula One!”
Bernice chuckled at her husband’s quip.“It’s like she’s in a hurry, isn’t it?”
Neither took their eyes off the young neighbor-wife across the street with her three, pre-teenage children running around the development’s cul-de-sac in a bike, scooter, or their own feet!Indeed, as the young, financially-successful couple noticed months ago, the family that Victor and Bernice Wood were eavesdropping on did seem to stick out of the very middle-class, professional neighborhood of Bloomington’s Spicewood.
“Yeah,” Victor finally said from an angle beside the window of their very large and open-concept house, “I guess you’re right…”A shrug, as he remained conspicuously back from that window while yet watching.“Could be she’s trying to help her husband before he gets home and—”
“And what,” Bernice, voluptuous and—like her husband—in her early thirties, challenged, “give her husband a foot-massage after he’s had a long day at work sitting on his ass at his office?”
By that point, Victor had finally walked away from the window and never liked how Bernice had perceived their private conversations about their enigmatic neighbors.
“Bernice,” he said with a slight exasperation mixed in, “Hon, we don’t know anything about that family!”
“But I know what I see…Whenever I come home for a few minutes from showing houses, I see her at the house—by herself; with the kids.She’s a stay-at-home-wife and mom.I thought they ran out of those models back in the 20th century!”
A caustic guffaw from Victor that matched his wife’s sardonic retort.Bernice stayed at her spot, just feet away from the large window to their kitchen, while Victor began to make himself some coffee for the afternoon before heading out to do errands.It was one of those rare days the real estate agent and the insurance agent—respectively—were home on an afternoon.Bernice, one of Indiana’s top-home sellers, was setting up their house for a ‘thank you open house’ for her highest-dollar clients.Victor had just helped her arrange the living room to receive the fifty-or so guests expected, and they had just finished up with the finger foods and drinks—adult and otherwise.Outside of that, Victor didn’t want to stick around for his wife’s clientele.Hence, why he was heading out…
“One other thing I’ve noticed about them,” Victor said as he poured his coffee; the creamer was next in line.“It’s almost like a flash mob of suburbia with them when Daddy gets home—and then you never see any of them the rest of the night!”
Piqued, Bernice walked away from the window and toward Victor; arms akimbo.Her countenance was part-curious; part-conspiratorial.“It could be because they’re still new to the neighborhood and don’t feel comfortable letting their business hang out…from nosey neighbors; like us!”She gave a poignant smile and nod to her husband.
“Just saying…”He said this with another shrug.“A couple of times when I got home early from the office, so I could cut the yard, Mrs. Mystery and the munchkins would be out—like they are now.But as soon as her husband gets here, the kids all go in and the garage door is shut…by the time I’m done with the lawn and get back from going to the store, I don’t see any lights on.Look, I don’t mean to sound like I’m being creeper, here, but not even a solar light post is spotted on that yard, Bern.Not just the house, but the whole damn property!”
“Hmm!”That last statement caused Bernice to pensively walk back to the window.The young family was, at that point, still out and about on their circle-drive and their yard.“I know your family situation was a bit different from mine, Hon.But I’ve grown up middle-class.All the years and neighborhoods of these kinds of developments I’ve seen, most families are almost genetically destined to do the same damn things…
“Usually the kids will go back out after dinner to play or take out the trash; maybe even a night job or something…but like you said, Hon, you never see the kids come out at all once that garage is shut!”
“And no pets,” Victor said as he made his way back to that window with his portable coffee mug, just feet away from his wife.“Even among most working-class families there’s some kind of animal involved…mind you, cats tend to stay indoors, so…”Another one of his shrugs.
She abruptly turned and looked at Victor straight in the eyes; almost startling him!“Maybe we should go meet them one of these days?”
“Uh…I don’t know, Bern.Those days of social decorum are pretty much gone, especially for Millennials.Besides, with today’s political climate and the increased gun violence, hate to say it, but it’s probably best not to walk over to strangers’ houses and go knocking…”He gave a benign look of warning to his wife and she silently nodded in agreement.
“Yeah…I’m sure you’re right.Just seems better than gawking at them from our home!”
A few more seconds of the Woods’ silent watch.
“Hey, have fun with all your snobs tonight,” Victor bantered as he smiled and feigned a drinking-cheer with his aluminum coffee mug!
“Yeah, OK, creepy-version of Mr. Rogers,” she threw back as Victor began to leave the house; both smiling as they did so.
Later That Evening at the Woods’ House…
The open house get-together was almost like a standing room only party!Perhaps with that night being warmer than most Fall evenings helped put more of Bernice’s clients more in a social mood than usual…
Despite the well-to-do’ers populating the Woods’ residence, Bernice kept the form of the festivities simple:catered finger foods and drinks with an easy-listening genre playlist emitting from the Woods’ smartspeaker system installed in their house.
The new generation of professional middle-classers did not flaunt their money like the Gen-Xers did in the 1980s.Bernice’s clients and friends had a more relaxed look about them:Hipster beards for the gentlemen; colored and styled hair for the ladies; fitted jeans on just about everyone…but where they did advertise their money was more in tech: smart-watches that were able to track one’s health and conduct scheduling for the wearer and advanced smartphones and other media-devices.
Bernice was making the rounds among her tribe as she schmoozed from one conversation about the real estate market world-wide to more mundane topics from the latest gossip about her real estate firm.Aside from being an excuse for an informal seasonal party, the open house was also an excellent way for all the professionals to network amongst themselves and actually get some wheeling and dealing done!
Bernice was about to grab more ale when she ran across Frances Burnes, a good friend of hers from a previous job at another real estate business.
“Oh, hey!” Bernice announced among the throng of people in the living room as she gave her old friend a hug.“I didn’t see you come in!”
“Well I’m not going to stop the Mistress of real estate maps while she’s entertaining some of Indiana’s top home-buyers!”
“Oh, whatever, Fran…enjoying yourself?”
“Great show, Bern!Why, you must have impressed even ol’ Count Dracula across the circle there…”
A couple of other friends close by that heard the exchanged laughed with Frances, but the reference was totally missed by Bernice.Noticing this, Frances jutted her head toward that same window that she was looking out with her husband just hours ago.
“Come on, Bern; you must know about the Addams Family setting up shop across the way!”
Bernice had a shot of guilt, thinking about the several conversations she had with Victor about the new family in the neighborhood.
“Well,” Bernice started, “…let’s just say they haven’t come over and asked to borrow sugar from us!Why did you say I must have impressed the husband?”
Frances gave a slight inquisitive look at her friend, then lightly pulled her through the ant hill of party-attendees and straight to that very window facing the cul-de-sac, where the new family’s house was prevalent in view, though it was darkened by that time given it was night and the new family’s entire property had no lights on…except one…
There was a big glare from the interior lights from Bernice’s own house, but she could, now, see it.The light was from the second floor of what some people might consider to be a 21st century version of a castle—just more domicile in appearance and Americanized.From a structure that almost resembled an ancient European turret, the room that was lit had curtains—as one could see at the sides of the neighbors’ window.But most importantly, there was a single figure, silhouetted against that low-light; merely standing right at that window…directly in the line of sight from the Woods’ own window!
Bernice’s heart jumped upon seeing the figure, but she had to play it off.She didn’t want to embarrass herself in front of her friends and clientele!
“Christ!”Bernice craned as she tried getting a better look at the figure through her window’s glare.“That’s the first time I’ve ever noticed any light on at that house at night!”
“That you noticed,” Frances emphasized, with a knowing look.Bernice gave a surprised look and then gave a nod; indicating she was listening to her friend.“You know Linda, from Hoosier Estate Homes?She has a client out here that talked with one of the delivery truck guys that makes the rounds in this development…Linda’s client said that this delivery guy mistook the address on one of his deliveries and took it over to that house when that family first moved here.
“From what was told to me, the delivery guy rang the doorbell several times—since they were moving, I guess the guy wanted to make sure the family could hear the doorbell.Anyway, while he was waiting, Linda’s client said that this delivery dude thought he heard—” Frances had to think for a few seconds.“She said, to this guy, I guess it sounded like some weird chants!”
“Chants?What, you mean like—"
“Witches, pagans, and shit…yeah, I know, right?I mean, this is Indiana, not California or Miami!Anyway, you know how when mail carriers drop off mail at the wrong address and people leave a note saying it’s the wrong address and that carrier has to take it back?Well, Linda said the next day the delivery guy was out here he noticed that the package was still at that house’s porch.But this time he noticed there was a big piece of paper on it with a note—”
Bernice had a thought; the noise of her open house party grinding on.“But wouldn’t the family call the delivery business?It’s not the US postal service where they make the exact, same rounds.”
“Exactly!But, that’s just it, Bern; Linda said that this client of hers had said the delivery guy decided to take his truck and quickly swing by to see if the box was at the wrong house…when he got to the porch, the note on the box did not say ‘wrong house,’ but the note was in some foreign language mixed in with some symbols!”
That did not make sense to Bernice, as she re-directed her attention to the house across the street.Now, that light on the second floor was gone!But Bernice stayed on task.“So, what did the delivery guy do with the package?”
That was when Frances’ face contorted with conspiracy.“It was, in fact, the wrong address, so that wasn’t a big deal.Delivery guy double-checked it on his e-system and took the package…what’s interesting is Linda said he took a pic of it with his personal phone.Luckily, the delivery guy’s one of those curious geeks…”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because that weird note was some Dark Magick shit, Darling.And I’m talking, spelled with a ’k’!”
Bernice and Victor were not the most urbane and culturally adept couple.Given she grew up middle-class in middle-America, Bernice had not been exposed to, rather, alternative ways of lifestyles and beliefs.
“I don’t get it,” Bernice admitted.“Are you saying—”
“A Spell, Sweetheart…Bernie, the delivery guy found out from his online research from the picture he took of the package that the note was a way of casting a bad Spell on whomever the package was delivered to!”
Well, even a quintessential Midwesterner like Bernice understood that!Her eyes, now, were wide-open and they both went silent…Bernice lifted a pointing hand toward the window, regarding the now-missing light, but Frances nodded; indicating that she had already noticed as much.
“So,” Bernice, having a thought, broke the silence.“Whatever happened to that box?”
This time, Frances had a worried look on her face.“Linda never found that out from her client…maybe the delivery company just keeps such unclaimed boxes in a kind of lost-and-found area?”
“I doubt that…those delivery companies are pretty good about finding people, especially with today’s tracking-tech abilities.Personally, I don’t believe in all that Voodoo, but I sure hope nothing happens to whoever—”
Someone else within the party spotted Frances, so she gave Bernice a big hug.But before going off to socialize with those other friends, Frances gave a subtle look of warning to Bernice; her eyes darting toward the darkened house, then back onto Bernice…
Three Days Later.Premier Realty; Bloomington, Indiana…
“…got it…Ok, then, I’ll just gather the paperwork and meet you two there…congrats, you just bought yourselves a new house!”
Bernice ended the call with one of her newest clients.There was a smattering of applause from fellow co-workers within the relatively small firm.The mid-sized facility was open and had a loft.
“I see the Mistress is at it again,” one of her male co-workers jested from the loft.
“See, Paul,” she threw back as she gathered her files for signing off on a new contract, “if you had gone to my party last week you could’ve gotten some of this knowledge on how this is done, Bro!”
Shared laughter and claps.
Bernice had to drive out to the South Griffy neighborhood, not far from a major golf course.It was a very nice sector, though not quite on the same economic-scale as Spicewood.Bernice arrived at the sturdy middle-class house and found that her new clients, an even younger couple, were already there.They were transplants from Eastern Europe.Both, yet, in post-grad school while working professional jobs and found a new life in America’s Midwest region.Both were in business-casual, and the wife wore a retro-styled hat that she tucked all her hair into.What was a little different, the husband, also, wore a rather vintage hat.Like one would’ve seen men wore in the 1920s!Vintage was popular among Millennials, but…?
Both were standing next to their mini-van; holding each other’s hands with concerned looks!
After Bernice got out of her high-end car and locked it with her keyless, she slowed her pace and took off her sunglasses.Over the years, she learned that the smallest of gestures made a difference with clients.
“Mr. and Mrs. Vidas…is there something wrong?”
The couple glanced at one another while they bickered something in Lithuanian.Whatever it was, apparently, the wife won!
“Mrs. Wood,” Justinas said after she and her husband let go of one another, “we are very sorry, but we can no longer buy this house!”
Bernice’s jaw visibly dropped!It was a few hundred thousand dollars just lost in a few minutes, and Bernice didn’t even know why!“Look, Mrs. Vidas, whatever it is you ran across since the last time I was here with you, we can work some deal out!Premier Realty gives each agent—”
“Forgive me, Mrs. Wood, but we are not talking about the house…”
Now, Bernice looked as though she were slapped in the face!
“Well, not directly,” Darius, the husband, clarified.Apparently, his English was a little better.He then turned to his wife, and for the benefit of Bernice, said to her in English, “My Love, these Americans will not believe us!Let’s not make it a scene, ok?”
Bernice made a universal surrender gesture with her hands; fearful of losing the sell!“Go ahead, Mr. and Mrs. Vidas, trust me; I’m open to whatever it is that’s on your mind…I won’t judge you…I promise!”
The young couple gave long looks then waved Bernice on to walk with them to the house’s porch…where she saw a large package, affixed to it, a large piece of scrap-paper with a foreign language and odd symbols written on it!
The Vidas noticed how Bernice reacted upon seeing the parcel.They looked at one another; apparently realizing the situation!
“How does she know about this,” Darius asked with the sound of incredulity.
“My heavens,” the wife said, ignoring her husband, “please tell me you did not receive one of these…”
At first, Bernice was in too much shock to have even noticed that the couple was talking to her.All concerns about losing the sell were now forgotten by Bernice at this point!
“No…I, it wasn’t me!I just heard about this—wait a minute!Just a few second ago you said, One of these…you mean there are more?”
Again, looks by the couple.
“Mrs. Wood,” Darius explained, “there are as many Curses as there are Blessings, yeah?So, who knows how many of these Spells there are?”
“But I think I know who sent this!”She thought about what Darius just said.“At least, if it’s the same package as I believe it is…after all, I’m guessing there are only so many of these sent in Bloomington, right?”
“Why can’t you say it,” Justinas put to Bernice; almost accusatory in tone.
“My Love, no!”Darius had a hand up, as if here were directing traffic.
Bernice gave a look.“What is it that your wife thinks I should say?”
Darius grimaced a bit.“Well…there are some within some beliefs that if one does not have the courage to identify an evil, one will not have the power to defeat it!But that is not for us to fight—”
Ignoring her husband, Justinas nudged him to the side and looked at Bernice.“Spells…Curse…Hex…Magick!”
Bernice sighed.She thought back on her conversation with her friend, Frances, during her open house party.“I know, with a “k.” So, this is what I don’t understand:what’s in the damn box?”
Another one of those glances from the young, clean-cut Lithuanian couple.“Honestly, we’ve never had to even worry about the vehicle used via a Spell,” Darius explained.“This particular Spell—you say you believe you know who sent it—the sender just happened to have whatever vehicle it is, parceled…the point is not to accept the sent-Spell, Mrs. Wood!Worse even, when that Evil one sends such Spell into your own abode, before you’ve even had the chance to start your new life there!”
Bernice was still a skeptic in all this!But she did not want to “tempt Fate,” as an old saying went.More to the point, she still had a chance of selling this house to the Vidas!So, if it meant Bernice had to do some dance while interpreting some chicken bones thrown down onto the ground, that’s what Bernice would do!
“Ok,” Bernice went on, “so what do we need to do with this situation?Would it help if I moved the box for—”
“I understand what you are saying, Mrs. Wood,” Justinas came in, “but even to move a be-Spelled item is pretty much the same as receiving it—”
“But if I’m at work and take a piece of mail to my boss,” Bernice persisted, “that’s not the same as me receiving that piece of mail…I’m just delivering it!Or, are you saying to even touch an object used in a Spell—”
“Bad Spell,” Darius interjected.“A Curse is a type of Spell.”
“Bad Spell, then…” Bernice corrected.“Just one touching that Cursed item is doomed to whatever that Curse is, right?”
That couple’s glances!
“Well, yes,” they said simultaneously.
All went silent as Bernice thought of how she could accommodate this young, superstitious couple.Of course, from the Vidas’ perspective, they were thinking along more Supernatural lines!A thought came to Bernice.
“Ok…according to this particular Curse, that you two are able to read and see—based on the wording and symbols, do you two know of a remedy for this Curse?”
This time, there were no deferring glances.Darius spoke direct and, almost, with intimidation!“From what’s been taught by my family from the old lands, there is a kind of loophole…since this person targeted my wife and I, you were not the subject of the Spell, Mrs. Wood.For two reasons, you could have the power to repel the Spell:As I said, you were not the target, but, also, you must believe that you are helping the targeted person or people by removing the vehicle-item that the Curse travels through.Secondly, since you are not a believer of Magick…”Darius posture relaxed a bit.“Well, then, I guess all this should not matter to you, should it?
“From your view, Mrs. Wood, you’d only be removing an obstacle to your success, no?Just so long as you can have those superstitious fools’ money, who cares—”
Bernice reacted sharply!“That’s not the attitude I have about it, Mr. Vidas!Do I believe in all this—” She measured her words.“…all these ancient beliefs?Why should I lie to you about that?But, we’re all here to get some business done, is the way I see it…”
She gave them both her own hardened look!This time, Justinas seemed to give her husband full authority on this matter at this point.“Very well, then, Mrs. Wood…By removing the parcel from this house’s porch, with the full belief that you are helping the targeted victims of this Curse, you will be helping us, and you will have the power to repel the Curse…”He held out one of his hands in the direction of the manicured, one-storied house.He, being a handsome, trim fellow, seemed practiced—as if he had been one employed by some monarch, or, perhaps, in politics.
Bernice gave a thought while the young European held his stance and the beautiful young wife looked on.“Seems kind of paradoxical, doesn’t it?You’ve acknowledged that you know, very well, that I am not a believer in your—Faith, let’s just say.Yet, in order for me to help the target of this Spell—you two—it is required that I believe while performing the duties of removing the Curse to help out!”
His arm down now, Darius eyes went down as well.“Yes…that is an interesting conundrum, isn’t it, Mrs. Wood?I suppose you’ll have to balance how much one thing is to another!Of course, you could always walk away from this…”His brow raised as he waited for her response.
Bernice was taking her time with this situation!She appraised the couple, wondering about them.“If I did simply leave that parcel with the Spell on that porch—so none of us here would risk a Curse!—how am I supposed to sell this house, ever?”
“You could always just leave it,” Justinas said, almost in a whisper; seemingly knowing how wrong, morally, the thought was should an innocent unknowingly run across the Cursed box!Bernice looked at Justinas with steel eyes after that suggestion.
“I move that box, are you two still up to signing the contract on this house?”
Darius gave a strong warning with his even-sharper arched brows, as a reminder of their whole conversation!
“I know, I know,” Bernice informed with a wave of a hand.“I understand…but one last question, Mr. and Mrs. Vidas:So, what’s the Curse on that parcel?”
Justinas’ eyes glanced at the sizable parcel-box while she let Darius handle this.“Not a perfect translation into English, mind you…this Spell is not specific to Lithuania.Basically, what the Curse casts is the knowledge that unseen eyes are always, and forever, watching you!No matter how many doors you close; no matter how far away the desert you run to…you will always be watched!”
Bernice was horrified by the thought of such Curse!She thought on the implications of, literally, having the perception—real or imagined!—that someone; some people were watching every millimeter of movement you did—sublime or profane, legal or illegal, was no way to live!
Of course, like Darius said, from Bernice’s perspective, she was not a Believer in the Supernatural nor superstitious.So, what would be the harm in moving the damn parcel off the porch, plus with the very much added benefit of the Vidas signing the contract on the sell of the house!
But, no matter the logic, she just could not bring herself to do it! In the end, after the long, weird conversation about a mystical parcel-box and a somewhat modern-day morality fable, and before that her conversation with Frances at the open house party—which, basically, started it all…in the end, Bernice, for the first time in her life, actually walked away from a presented challenge!She went on with her life with Victor.An even more successful career for both, in fact.But as the years went on, Bernice had never stopped wondering what truly would have happened if she had decided to move that box off the porch of that middle-class house years ago. Indeed, she never got the satisfaction of knowing what was even in the damn box, as she used to say!
There simply were too many moving unknowns to risk a peace of mind…and all for a box with a cryptic note on it.A box, till this day, she wondered, even had anything in it!
As for the Vidas?They did no further business with Bernice after she decided to leave the box.What was strange was the fact that no one else at her former company had even heard of Darius and Justinas Vidas.That’s significant, because in addition to Bernice filing the mandatory paperwork for each potential house-sell, the young Europeans should have popped up in the Premier’s computer system!
It was almost as if they had disappeared right after that last conversation Bernice had with the Vidas about the Spell and the box…strangely enough, about the same time that neighbors in Bernice and Victor Wood’s cul-de-sac saw a big moving truck leave that house across the circle-drive; where the young family had lived for a short time.
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