July 17, 2014

Excerpt: The Witches of Dark Root

Excerpt from The Witches of Dark Root.

Sister House, Dark Root, Oregon
December, 1995

Maggie stood before her mother, knees shaking.
Miss Sasha had her firm face on, the expression she wore when there was no debating the matter. Maggie looked to her sisters for help. Ruth Anne and Merry were already pleading her case, while Eve twirled the ends of her hair nervously. Maggie glowered at Eve. It was her fault she was in this mess in the first place.
“Now, don’t you think I’d know if there was something haunting my own house?” Miss Sasha put her hands on her ample hips and the layers of excess flesh caused a mild wave that rippled from buttocks to breasts. “Are you saying I’m not that talented? Is that what you are saying?”
“Leave da girl alone, Sasha,” Aunt Dora chimed in. “She’s jus’ a kid wit an active imagination. As I recall ya had an imagination like dat when ya was little.”
Miss Sasha turned towards her younger sister and narrowed her eyes. “Now, now, Dora. I’m not in the mood.”
“But there is something in there,” Maggie insisted, pointing to the nursery door. “Ask Eve.” Maggie nudged her younger sister but Eve just lowered her eyes and said nothing. She was probably more frightened of their mother than of anything that might live in her bedroom.
“I'm getting this out of you once and for all,” Miss Sasha said, grabbing Maggie by the elbow. Maggie planted her heels into the carpet, trying to make herself immovable, but her mother outweighed her twice over. “You will stay in there until you’re not afraid anymore. When you can tell me, honestly, that there is nothing inside the room I will let you out.”
“No, Mother!” Maggie’s eyes grew wide as Miss Sasha threw open the door.
Ruth Anne and Merry begged their mother to stop while Eve cowered behind Aunt Dora.
“It’s just a room...you’ll see. And you’ll thank me for it later.” Miss Sasha continued to drag Maggie into the nursery, past the crib, the toddler bed, and the old rocking chair. With one hand still on Maggie’s arm, she partially unscrewed the light bulb overhead, so that, except for the light coming in from the hall, the room was dark.
Maggie could make out the shapes of the toys around her––dolls, teddy bears, and blocks. A clown doll on the top shelf seemed to smile at her, causing goose bumps to rise on her legs. Maggie dug her nails into her mother’s arm and begged her to reconsider.
Miss Sasha shook her head. “It’s for your own good.”
With that, she marched out of the room and locked the door from the outside.
“What are you doing?” Maggie could hear Ruth Anne in the hall. “You’re crazy.”
“Please, Mama, let her out,” Merry pleaded. “I’ll talk to Maggie. She won’t make up any more stories.”
“I’m done discussing this. That child’s imagination needs to be reigned in.”
Maggie stood in the dark room, listening as her family’s footsteps disappeared down the hall. She gasped as the temperature dropped, the cold air closing in around her.
“Maggie,” Eve’s voice said from the other side of the door.
Maggie rushed towards the door and lay down, peeking under the large gap. She was nose to nose with her sister. “Evie...please tell Mother I’m not lying. Please tell her about the voices you hear in the nursery. Or about how you wake up bruised sometimes.”
“Mom says they are just nightmares,” Eve said. “If I tell her again, I will get in trouble.”
Maggie was exasperated.
She was here because she had been trying to convince her mother that Eve needed to be moved into the attic with the rest of them. There was something ‘bad’ in the nursery and it was getting worse since Maggie had moved out of the room. But under their mother’s inquisition, Eve wasn’t brave enough to back her up. And now Eve was free, while she was trapped.
Without warning, the room began to vibrate. Maggie could feel her cheeks rumble against the bedroom floor. She widened her eyes as she pushed her hands down to make it stop. Instead, the trembling increased, sending small waves across the room.
“Do you feel that?” Maggie whispered.
“Eve, unlock the door. Please. Please.” The entire room was shaking now, knocking toys onto the floor. Maggie could hear the crash of dolls and blocks around her and she covered her head with one hand to protect her face. “Unlock the door!”
Eve stood and Maggie could hear the jiggle of the doorknob. “Hurry, Eve, hurry.”
A book bounced off the wall above her, dropping down just inches from Maggie’s face. The jiggling on the handle continued, then suddenly stopped.
“Did you unlock it?”
Eve began to cry. “I can’t. I’m afraid...”
Maggie’s heart stopped as her sister’s soft footsteps raced through the hallway, and down the staircase. The light in the hall suddenly went out, and except for a dim light coming in from the small, high window, Maggie was in the dark.

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