It was Saturday morning (November 6) and Thankful played in her room with Stinkly. No need for the book now. There was never any homework on the weekends, so she played and she dabbled. No need for Oona’s things.
Images of the dark lady were prominent and with her now. There was no need to play in Oona’s room because the girl knew the dark, beautiful lady was with her now. With her mind Thankful plainly saw the lady. She was the leader of a group and there was a ceremony and people were all around her. What is your name? They called her houngan and mambo, but she knew those were not her real name. Thankful watched in awe; her hand was gently on Stinkly’s side, as she lay beside her on the floor near her bed. Young Thankful was left on her own in her room, it seemed, watching a movie in her mind. A weird movie.
The dark lady held a special chicken, a sanctified chicken, whatever that was, and she took it now by the throat and pulled its head off. Disgusting! How awful, but the child-witch was locked on the dark lady and simply could not look away. Thankful was mesmerized by the visions. The lady – someone called her the priestess – sacrificed the chicken now to a Loa named Papa Ghede. There were strange words and names, but all things she could understand. These things, these names were all weird to her, but she followed the “movie” and was not afraid. Then the child-witch saw Papa Ghede. He was blacker than black and all dressed in black. And still she was not afraid. Then the people who were all around the lady begged for favors. It sounded like French, kind of, and Thankful opened her eyes wide. She said, “But I don’t speak French.” She came back to her senses and asked, “Why do I understand it?”
The girl was immersed in the images of the lady and the events which surrounded her. A rickety old man suddenly appeared and asked for help. He sounded crude or sick. Then another old man was heard asking for advice, she guessed. Everybody had some purpose, some reason to ask the lady for something. These people looked to be full of problems; they asked for advice to make things better, or stronger, or even prettier. There were even more requests now; they seemed to come from all directions. The child looked on and then she knew what she had to do.
Thankful mechanically rose from the floor and looked around her room for something to feed the Loa. She still had plenty of candy from Halloween, so she fetched two big handfuls of sweets and returned to her seat on the floor. Just as she sat down, the young girl remembered the holy water she had “borrowed” from Church last week. She knew she’d need it for something, and didn’t want to risk her nanny’s suspicions by drinking any more of Oona’s. From her dresser she removed a small vial of the liquid. I’ll pick up some more at Church tomorrow.
Thankful settled down to the spot where she had sat beside her lovable dog. Stinkly nuzzled as before, and Thankful took a breath, and an extra moment to “tune in” to the “movie” again. The young girl quickly realized that things had changed and that the lady was in a trance, finally frozen, her reverie had completely ended. Those who surrounded her cautiously withdrew and the crowd started to break up. It was as if the lady showed with her blank face that her work was done and she was exhausted. And then it was as if a curtain fell onto the stage.
As she had done recently in Oona’s room, Thankful thoughtfully arranged pieces of bread before her on the floor. Stinkly stirred a bit, with her eyes glued to the bread crumbs. One by one Thankful took the chocolates and soft candy out of their wrappers and ate them one by one, with a sip of the holy water taken in between each bit. Her mind descended back to the ceremony. A soft voice – it was the lady’s voice – instructed her in a dreamy accent, “It is not the killing of animals that matter. It is the transfer of life’s energy back to the Loa, in periodic rituals that include sacrifices such as these.”
Stinkly stirred a bit more and let out a soft growl.
“Loas love to receive gifts of sweets, and these shall help achieve the noble aims of my sacred mission.”
Suddenly and more viciously than Thankful had ever heard from her sweet, cuddly dog, Stinkly barked loudly and frantically on all fours. Then something rumbled in her room. Stinkly threw herself against the closed door of Thankful’s room. She threw herself against the door, again and then again, and never stopped barking until Thankful was able to open it for her. Then Thankful closed the door and would have gladly locked it, had there been a lock. She turned around and took a deep breath and beheld once again the vision of the dark lady, radiant in all the diffused morning light of her room. Then the lady was in her mind no longer because now she stood in her room only a few feet away. There were dark bruises on her neck which seemed unattached to her head.
Is her body real? On her knees, the young girl approached the lady who smiled down on her warmly. She was dressed now like a pilgrim lady, in old-looking gray and white clothes. She looked very real. And in place of her regal aigrette was a plain white bonnet.
The lady regarded young Thankful for a long moment, and finally spoke aloud. “My ‘weird’ words and archaic language shall sound for you as clear as the daylight, my child.” She paused, and then added, “You shall hear Modern-speak from my lips.”
“Thank you,” was all Thankful could think to say. She had fallen utterly under the dark lady’s persuasion.
“And my body shall grow stronger with each passing day. I shall gain in strength and substance, my child.”
Thankful nodded in apparent agreement and said nothing.
“And we must take great care not to disturb the witch,” she continued. “Tell me child, what is the name of the witch who guards Pi Gran Liv?”
“Oona,” said Thankful. “She’s our nanny.” The girl went on to describe Oona’s recent arrival and stated purpose at the house.
“A strange term, ‘nanny.’ It sounds like a slave girl.”
“Yeah,” Thankful absently agreed. “Kinda. She does some bills too.”
“Yes, I sense her purpose here is more than tending to children.” Lucia rightly sensed that Oona was not presently at home.
“I like Oona. I love Oona. Please lady, please beautiful lady; be nice to her.”
“I am only here to help Oona, my child.” The great weight of Pi Gran Liv will be lifted and her burdens will cease. This is my cause, my noble and sacred mission. “I am here to help Oona and will succeed only if you help me, child, and keep our secrets between us.”
“Okay,” Thankful said blankly.
“This word is unconvincing child. You know failure will bring great hardship to you and to your loved ones.”
“Please don’t hurt them,” Thankful quickly pleaded.
Already Lucia’s presence affected Oona who was increasingly drawn from Pi Gran Liv, the precious book. The dark and powerful one’s unfriendly visibility was barely detectable and the more obstructions she cast to crowd and cloud her thinking and affect Oona’s judgment, served to dull Oona’s usually robust powers. Lucia was certain that Oona was already weakened under her magic, burdened with many things on her mind.
“These others are of no concern to me, child.” Lucia studied the child. “Keep them that way.”
“What about Louis?” asked Thankful.
“Who is Louis?” asked Lucia.
“Louis is my brother. Well, he’s really just one of my brothers. I have two.” The girl stopped and wondered if she had said too much. After a brief pause Thankful added, “Louis sees things.”
“What does Louis see?”
“He sees people like you.” She brushed back her five year old hair with a single sweep of a hand. “He sees things. He sees things like ghosts.”
“I shall strike anyone down who stands in my way,” thundered Lucia. “I will not hesitate to make gruesome examples of those in this house or anywhere else that stand in my way.”
The child-witch was frozen in fear. Then Lucia reached down and ran a ghostly hand through Thankful’s torso. “I command your obedience and fealty.” She stared with a deathly coldness.
“No one shall inhibit my commands,” she continued. “And remember: this (she gestured with one sweep of her hand) is our secret.”
Thankful reeled in terror. Her mouth moved but she spoke only in silence. She knew her mother was downstairs and her brothers were not nearby – And if there was one time Thankful wanted her brothers nearby, it was at that moment. Even if they teased me.
“Who else in this house of yours sees things? Who else has powers?”
“Uh, no one,” she said. Thankful thought of her brothers and then her mother and said, “But Mommy is trying to reach my daddy, with Oona’s and Louis’ help.” The child took a breath and declared, “Daddy died in October.”
Lucia looked closely at the girl. Distrustfully she added, “Is this all?”
“Yes,” Thankful answered, and her gray eyes gleamed in the low light of the room.
“Now, let us sit down.” Lucia shot another inquisitive look at the child-witch. “I want you to tell me of these times in which we live.”
“Will you tell me your name?” Thankful’s increased courage inspired the question.
“I was named for the beautiful land from where I was stolen.”
“Uh,” Thankful looked at the lady and considered the response. Fear gradually returned, when the lady gave her a cold, icy stare. And then the dark lady spoke:
“I ask you again: tell me of these times in which we live.”
Thankful drew in a deep breath and started to recite everything she knew about her life at the house, in school, and outside. She spoke candidly of the times. The young girl was a five year old talker, par excellence. She chattered and put herself quite at ease, and it seemed to be just what Lucia wanted. Lucia listened.
“My father used to quiz me a lot, and everybody says that, for a five year old, I know a lot about the world. I know we live in Massachusetts –.”
“Stop!” Lucia drew even closer to Thankful, and both sat now on Thankful’s bed. “Which part of the Province is this?”
“I’m not sure what that is,” Thankful said innocently.
“In which settlement are we?”
“Uh, Westbridge?” Thankful said it so softly it was as though she were asking. The young child looked at the lady and hoped for an acknowledgement from her. The dark lady was beautiful in all her powerful glory. When the girl got none, she continued. “Uh, we live in the United States. Does that help?”
The lady said nothing. The corners of her thick mouth stirred.
“There’s Boston and a lot of other places too.”
“Boston?” Sold there, sold like a piece of fruit. She looked thoughtfully at Thankful.
“Like, is that where you were stolen from?” Thankful warmed to the dark lady.
“No,” said Lucia. Then the witch turned. “Tell me about that,” she said, and pointed to a small television, “And to that.” She pointed to a telephone.
“Okay. Those are called gadgets, I think.”
Lucia knew the child-witch was sincere.
“The TV is mine,” Thankful continued. “And I can watch it sometimes. Mom doesn’t want me watching too much.”
“What do you watch? Why do you…watch…it?” Lucia studied the television, which was not turned on.
“For TV shows. I’d rather have a computer, but Mom won’t allow it in my room.” Thankful was increasingly at ease with her new lady friend. “So I have to go downstairs to get on.”
“To get on what?” asked the witch. When Lucia received no answer, she added, “What are you getting on?”
“Uh, the internet I guess. Usually.” Thankful twiddled her thumbs and, with her head to one side, added, “You can use computers for all different stuff, but I like the internet most.”
Lucia hung onto each word the young girl said.
“Look, there are lots of things to watch on TV. Please lady, tell me your name.” She waited only for a second and, before she could yell at her, Thankful calmly said, “Do you wanna watch something?”
In the direction of the small television the witch blankly stated, “I watch this and I see nothing,”
“Well it’s not on, silly.”
“What?” Lucia’s big voice caused the room to shake as she cast a sinister glare at the girl.
“I’m sorry. I just wanted to watch TV.” Thankful burst out in tears.
“Put an end to this nonsense! Silence! You shall tell me now about this world, quietly, or I shall freeze the hearts of everyone in this house; and that pathetic dog as well.”
Once the terror returned, Thankful struggled to keep her poise. She needed to be calm, like Mom always said.
“Uh,” she began. “There are gadgets and computers and smart phones. There are lots of restaurants and stores, and places, parks and stuff, and wars on TV. Uh, sometimes we don’t get haircuts at home. Here, let me show you.”
Thankful rose and stiffly walked to a small stack of magazines piled on a night stand. There she pulled out Hairdo magazine and sat back down next to the dark lady. She talked about hair salons and styling, fashions and the latest trends. With all her struggles to remain calm, Thankful succeeded once again in softening up the dark lady. She talked about nail polish and their kitchen, and she told the lady about what they had in their cupboards. She talked and she talked. She talked about school and her friends there, and about grown-ups. And Thankful talked about the Church; and she told the lady she knew that not everybody was Catholic. She could tell by her expression that the dark lady knew about Catholics.
As best as she could, Thankful tried to describe trains and planes, and cars and bikes, and she showed the dark lady plenty of pictures. She told her she lived in a beautiful house, that a lot of people didn’t live so well, and that there were some other people who lived even better than they did. Thankful told the lady about her dad and his passing, and about her mom and how badly everybody felt about daddy dying.
The lady listened attentively and was not shy with her questions. And for over an hour, the house stayed quiet and no one disturbed their orientation. Everything went remarkably smooth.
Eventually Thankful found it odd that no one had checked on her. She had grown quite relaxed and could have carried on right into night time. Thankful took a breath and asked, “Do you remember what Massachusetts was like when you were sold like a piece of fruit?”
“I was brought to Salem Town in chains.”
“Daddy took us to Salem once. I have ancestors there – witches!”
Lucia regarded her young subject. “Of course you do.” Lucia was sympathetic in her manner of speaking and in her expression. Then she smiled caustically at the girl and howled, “I will annihilate you all!”
“I want my mommy,” Thankful moaned and looked frantically at the door. She tried to lunge from the bed and felt glued to it.
“There I was raped by my master and mistress. I was probed and abused in unspeakable ways.” I was twelve when it started and for twelve years I was a slave. I was given a bed of straw in a small outbuilding behind my master’s home, and was chained to it every night.” She looked at Thankful with flames of hatred in her eyes. “That is, when my master and mistress were done with me.”
“Uh, that’s too bad.” Thankful said for lack of words. “So, what should I call you then?”
“You may call me, ‘My Lady,’ as I so called my mistress.”
“Here, look at this,” Thankful finally offered. She rose off the bed and reached into the pile of magazines. She pulled out an old atlas. The girl showed Lucia the atlas and she easily found the page for a modern day map of Massachusetts. Thankful found the lady’s knowledge of Massachusetts was very impressive, and that she seemed totally impressed with what the “Province” had become. That moment played out nicely, then Thankful pulled out various other books and magazines to show the lady. She went through Woman’s Day and Family Circle and a bunch of other magazines. Thankful showed the lady her Kindergarten books – the ones she could take home – and a dozen other books taken from off her shelves. The girl browsed her books for comprehension, and contemplated her next move.
Lucia was smitten by the luxuries of the times, with the girl’s private quarters and what else she had seen of her house. She remained very attentive to Thankful and was at times quite appreciative of the child’s efforts. For Lucia, who was self-taught and whose reading skills paled by comparison, her lack of reading knowledge in no way limited her from absorbing knowledge telepathically.
For Thankful it was clear that her reading skills impressed the dark lady. They spoke now very softly and were on guard for any sounds from beyond the bedroom door. At some point her mother would come up and check on her. Her brothers could even sneak up and barge into her room.
Thankful leafed through an American Girl magazine as they sat on the bed. The dark lady pointed down to one page, from which the girl’s small hand slipped and passed right through her ghostly leg. The girl shivered and tried to stay calm and positive as Mom had always taught her. The lady didn’t seem to mind and Thankful steadied her young courage and reminded herself the lady was not really real. It was as if she had poked an arm into a bowl of dry water; the same temperature as the room; neither warm nor cold.
“Uh, I think electricity’s been around for a couple a…thousand years, I think.” Then Thankful calmly told Lucia what she knew about electricity and Cable Television. The girl reached for the remote and quickly turned on the TV.
The dark lady reeled in surprise. And through Thankful’s innocent eyes Lucia learned.
“Such a strange century this is,” Lucia declared, “with the TVs and iPods and iPhones! I am truly agog in all the items of this century: It seems women of all shades are empowered, and that all people of all colors are free. There is apparently no slave class and the races are, in fact, intertwined, as are the sexes. And the manner of dress! And all the fine fabrics and garments!”
Thankful politely nodded.
The Dark Witch found their manner of speaking quite odd, especially those who had no fear of God…or the devil. Yet there were some things that had not changed for Lucia. She plainly saw the cruelty of her own times had carried forth in many disguises. The bitter memories of her cruel mistress and master riled her; she recalled the horrifying perversions that were meted out upon her young body.
And now Lucia knew her unfortunate execution, though for crimes of murder, were but a dark prelude to the following weeks and months of 1692 as nineteen lost souls followed her to Salem’s gallows. More importantly – much more than the Witch Hysteria – the child-witch was her portal to the twenty-first century! The former slave girl had successfully found her way from those times of suffering and death after over three hundred years of darkness.
“So what strange century is this?” asked the five year old girl.
Stirred from her contemplation, Lucia snapped at the girl. “Go now and leave me here! I must gather my strength now, and be away from you and the witch Oona who struggles to guard the Great Book.” With angry eyes the Dark Witch snarled, “Now Go!”
“Will you be living in my room for a while?” asked Thankful sheepishly. The girl was less convinced now that the lady was not real.
“Go!” demanded Lucia again.
“My Lady: I can’t go. I can’t leave my room. My mother will kill me,” begged Thankful. “I’ll sleep in the corner over there and be quiet. Please.”
Lucia soberly considered the consequences if she banished the child-witch from her own quarters.
“You may stay here.”