There are nights when you question just about everything: who you are, where you've come from, what your purpose is, and how you got to your current place in life.
And then there are nights when you just accept things.
Nights like this, when you stand beneath a bloated yellow moon, digging a shallow grave for the man you murdered -- a man who probably has a wife and children, a job and a mother -- a man who probably wouldn't have tried to molest your kid sister if you weren't out hustling money in the first place and if she hadn't been wearing a perfume meant to turn men into drunken love slaves.
These are the nights you try not to think. Because if you think - about the corpse sitting in the passenger seat of his own car just a dozen feet away, about your inability to determine wrong from right anymore, about the fact that your mother was right, you are a fence sitter just like your father - you just might go mad.
And I couldn't go mad. Not yet anyway. It was Thanksgiving, officially, and I wasn't going to let this little incident ruin the holidays. I had already screwed up and not gotten Merry her organic turkey. One fuck up per holiday was all I could handle.
“No,” I said, hearing myself speak the words as I plunged my shovel into the earth and tossed out another spade full of sand. “I can’t go mad until after the holidays. It’s just five more weeks, if you count New Years.”
“Maggie, you okay?” Merry stopped digging and faced me, her eyes wide with concern. In this lighting, as her golden hair framed her round face, she looked more angelic than ever. “You can take a break if you need to. We’ll be okay.”
“Me? I’m fine, Merry. Thanks for asking.”
I caught my sisters shooting each other knowing looks, looks that said I wasn’t all right, in fact I’d lost my marbles.
“I’m fine,” I repeated, throwing out an extra large helping of dirt and wondering how much deeper we would need to dig. The spell said to encase the subject in a box then bury him under the light of a full moon, but it didn't’ specify how deep the grave needed to be. An unhelpful omission, if you ask me. Since the subject would eventually dig his way out of it, clawing his way through the makeshift coffin and layers of sand over his face, I conjectured we shouldn't dig it too deeply. Just an inch or two above the box should do it.
We had one lucky break, however. We had killed him on a night with a full moon. If I’ve learned anything from this little ordeal it’s that if you are going to commit murder, and have any intention of bringing the deceased back to life, always plan it around a full moon. Lucky break for Maggie!
“I think,” I said, continuing to dig, “that this might be a lucrative business. Bringing people back from the dead. If it works out, we might start charging for it. Gotta bring in more money than that stupid magick store does.”
“Maggie, stop,” Eve said, wiping her forehead with her cashmere gloves, which were now caked in mud.
“I’m just saying…why not? We can call it Zombies R Us. You kill ‘em, we heal ‘em.” I grinned at Ruth Anne, sure she would appreciate my joke. She shook her head and continued digging. “What?” I asked, throwing my shovel onto the ground. “Are we too good for death jokes now?”
Merry pressed her lips together. “Honey, you’ve had a terrible shock and now its setting in. Go sit on the steps and we’ll finish this. We’ll call you when it’s done.”
“No!” The sound that came out of me pierced the night, like the call of a wounded screech owl. I waved at the air with both hands, as if I were being assaulted by an invisible man, tears stinging my eyes. “I won’t sit by while my sisters bury the man I…” I choked, unable to finish the sentence. “Neither hell nor jail is good enough for me.”
I felt someone’s arms wrap around me, and recognized the scent, vanilla and lavender, as Merry’s. I hyperventilated, choking on my own snot, as she cooed me to quiet. “It’s okay, honey,” she said, running her fingers through my matted hair as she worked out the knots. “It will be okay.”
How could I explain to her that she was wrong? Nothing would ever be the same. Even if we did manage to raise him, I was a killer. I had the deathtouch, just like my father. And there was no going back from that.
“What if we can’t do it, Merry?” I sniffed, wiping my nose on her shoulder as I stared at the Christmas tree box we had retrieved from the basement; the box that would soon be a coffin.
“We will,” she said, pulling the hair stuck from tears away from my face. “And everything will be okay. You’ll see.”
“I think this is deep enough,” Ruth Anne announced, tossing her shovel onto the ground as Eve followed suit. “We’d better hurry.”
I took one final sob of self-pity and nodded. Merry grabbed my hand and we marched to the car.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the man as I opened the passenger door. He was still buckled in, staring straight ahead. I leaned over and removed his seat belt, feeling the coldness of his skin as we hefted him out of the car. You hear that dead bodies grow cold, but you don’t know how cold. It’s not the type of cold you’d find in a freezer or in snow. It’s an empty type of cold, like floating in deep space. A coldness without hope.
For the first book in the series click here: The Witches of Dark Root: Book One