The water in the sink slowly turned from clear to pink as I washed the blood off my hands. The red rose like vapor from my skin to whirl and blossom in the lukewarm water before fading as I rubbed the bar of soap between my palms. I looked up. Looked into the mirror above the sink.
The blood spatter stood out starkly against my too pale skin. A tremor went through the glass and the reflection of the cream-colored bathroom tiles disappeared. Instead the mirror showed a black hole, an empty void. Unable not to, I looked at myself again. My eyes were as black and empty as the void, and blood ran in rivulets down my face, plastering the hair against my skull.
The symbol on my forehead flared up, burned brightly for a heartbeat before fading, turning into a black and ugly scorch mark.
I closed my eyes and the planes shifted. When I opened them again I was inside the void, looking out at the porcelain sink with its stained water. There was a bloody hand print on the tiles and more blood on the floor. It pooled around the head of the young woman who lay like a discarded doll, staring at the ceiling with broken eyes, her face frozen in a mask of terror.
I had stolen her sanity before I took her life. I didn’t know what she had done, nor did I care. All I knew was that Lou had called me in to ‘resolve’ the situation.
If sell your soul in exchange for the ability to play the guitar or sing, or to get the lover you’re pining for, or to get even for some transgression or something, you better be prepared to pay up when the time comes. Or else the next face you’ll see in the mirror might be mine, and honey, you don’t want that, trust me…
I stared at the dead girl, feeling as empty of life as she was. Once I had been like her, filled with dreams and hopes. My future had seemed so bright, so filled with promise. But then the accusations had started… The whispers and rumors… And when little Abigail Williams and Beth Parris started telling the good folks in town about the things we did out in the forest, about the things Tituba taught us, all hell broke loose. Literally.
Abigail was clever enough to portray herself as a victim, and as always Beth followed her lead. When Tituba was taken away, I knew it was only a matter of time before they came for me. I fled. I ran out into the woods, and they hunted me as if I was a deer.
It didn’t matter to them that they had known me my whole life. It didn’t matter that my mother’s herbal remedies and potions had eased their suffering when they were sick or injured. They called her a witch now instead of wise woman, and me the daughter of a witch. If she hadn’t already been dead and buried, I am sure mother would have been the first to burn.
I knew I was just postponing the inevitable. I knew I couldn’t escape them with their horses and their hounds and their guns, and I wasn’t trying to. I had seen what they had done to my friend Tituba. To poor Bridget Bishop, Sarah Cloyce and Elizabeth Proctor. Neither of whom had ever so much as thought wicked thoughts or wished ill on anyone. Unlike me.
I had made Goody Nurse’s cow sick because the woman had dared to call me a bastard child for not having a father. And I had summoned snails to Reverent Parr’s garden because I didn’t like how he looked at me. Petty childish acts… But I was capable of much, much more, and as I ran, I opened myself to the wild energies of the forest: the damp soil under my bare feet, the wind that made my red hair stream out behind me, the rain that slapped my face, the fire that burned inside of me. I found a small clearing and fell to my knees in the wet mud, filling myself with the elements. I started weaving my spell, screaming out the words at the top of my lungs as I quickly gathered the ingredients in a circle around me:
“Hecate, I call upon you, witch-queen, dark mistress!
Make me a dagger in your hand.
Aid me on this day of vengeance!
Let not the swift flee, nor the strong escape!
Let my blade devour until its thirst
is quenched with blood of those that does harm unjustly.
So mote it be.”
I took the small knife I used for harvesting herbs and made a cut across my palm. Squeezing my hand into a fist, I let the blood drip down on to the hand mirror that had been my mother’s prized possession, sealing the spell, the deal with the dark forces of revenge, just as my pursuers burst through the tree line and into the clearing.
I looked up through the rain. Reverend Samuel Parris had dismounted and came towards me, pointing at me as he walked. “See here, gentlemen!” He called out in that nasal voice of his, gesturing at the mirror stained with my blood. “Even now she is summoning the Devil, asking him for unholy aid!” He stomped down, breaking the mirror-glass under his boot, then grabbed me by my hair and yanked me towards him, making me cry out. “I told them you were the worst one”, he hissed into my face and I choked on his bad breath. “They didn’t believe me at first, but they will now. You’ve damned yourself to Hell, Mistress Mary.” He grinned, showing rotten teeth. “And I will enjoy watching you burn.”
Well, he wasn’t far off. But he never had the pleasure of watching me on the pyre. The shard of mirror-glass I had managed to grab and hide in my sleeve saved me from the torture and the flames.
I still have the scars, faded now, but still visible, running along the insides of my wrists.
AS ALWAYS THE MEMORIES OF those dark days in Salem left a bad taste in my mouth. I turned my back to the girl lying dead in a slowly congealing puddle of blood. Even in death, with her lips pulled back in a frozen scream, her beauty was intact, unmarred by my ghostly touch.
When it comes to murder, I prefer to make the act as neat and clean as possible. Unlike the serial killer who had the city in a state of panic, and who had been given the moniker ‘the Angel of Death’ by the newspapers because of his habit of leaving his victims on church altars with their entrails draped around them like some morbid sacrifice. Compared to that, my kills seemed almost humane. Or at least that is what I told myself as I stepped through another mirror and into a bathroom that couldn’t have been more different from the cream-colored vision with its fluffy towels, gilded faucets and large Jacuzzi if it tried.
“I’m home!” I exited my dingy bathroom and entered an equally dingy living room. The large black cat curled up in the mold-green couch gave me a look full of contempt. “Hi, Islington.” In a death-defying act of bravery I scratched the feline between its ears and managed to snatch my hand away just before it made a swipe for it, the long curved claws shredding the air. “Love you too, kitty cat.”
The green stare of icy rage followed me as I headed for the kitchen. “If you’ve spread the garbage across the floor again I’ll kick you out, and I mean it this time, Izzy.”
He had, of course, ripped open the garbage bag and spread its content across not only the floor but the table too. Great, now I was going to be late for work. I sighed and got a new plastic bag from the vast collection I kept under the sink, and started to pick up empty cans of tuna and fast food boxes.
The creator of chaos wandered into the kitchen to watch me clean up his mess, his whiskers vibrating with cruel amusement. Then he jumped up on the table and started making those ugly coughing noises before throwing up a string of saliva and a half-digested mouse.
Being a spectral bringer of death and terror really isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.