Spring teaches us that new life begins again.
Summer teaches us that life needs nourishment to grow.
Fall teaches us that all good things must come to an end.
Winter teaches us death is long, forever, cold and unforgiving.
I studied my hands, trying to figure out why numbness and decay were inside them.
How had they aged so much in such a short period? I was only thirty-one- years old, and everything had become so hollow inside me. My black hair was pulled back behind my pale white skin. I was so pale I made Wednesday Adams look like the winner of Banana Boat tanning lotion. I was staring into space, waiting on my soup to finish boiling, when I heard a loud noise on my porch.
I knew what it was before it arrived. I quickly went to my front door, and the frost hit my nose and upper lip. It had been a long summer, too long. But fall was quick, and the leaves barely changed before the cold had snuck in to ravage my already short autumn. Snow and icy rain had been falling since late last night. It was odd for early October and brought that feeling of dread for my future like a nightmare you wake in sweat from. I didn’t wonder what could be coming. I could practically smell it in the wind as it blew its icy hands through my skull. I picked up the package, ripped the box open that the guy from UPS had dropped at my back door, and some snow fell onto the kitchen counter. I grimaced at the thought of it and took a deep breath.
I was nervous now because I had spent all of my savings on this thing I was now afraid to open. I had been waiting over a month for a woman from Mexico City to send me a hand-embroidered piece of fine cloth. What if it wasn’t just right? I had to have my precious gift finished by Sunday, two days from now. I had already been cutting it close with the last-minute arrangement. My hands shook as I yanked out the gift. I opened the paper it was wrapped in, and there in front of me was the most beautiful set of bright stars, all silver and gold, hand-made by an ancient seer in Mexico City. It would go perfectly with the pieces of fabric I had already picked out from every corner of the earth. The silver buttons of tiny crows would be perfect as another last-minute addition. Literal tears fell from my eyes as I could now relax.
I heard a bang at my back door, startling me from my euphoria, and when I went to see what it was, I saw a black bear.
“Figures,” I said to myself.
The early winter winds had been brutal on everything already this year. The garden is filled with slushy veggies and all the other treats I gave the animals earlier in the week.
“Shoo! Git now!” I yelled at the bear through the glass door.
The bear didn’t give a shit and stood up with his nose in the air. I looked over at my pot on the stove and saw my soup was now boiling. He must have smelled it from outside.
I banged on the glass again, yelling and trying to be as large and scary as possible. Finally, the black bear went off my patio and back towards the neighbor’s house. Perhaps they still hadn’t had their trash emptied by every Racoon in the area.
I turned off the soup and went to my craft room. I was too excited now to wait.
I took the new piece of cloth in and sat it on the sewing table. I went to my closet and pulled out the half-made quilt. Another patchwork pattern, and soon my corner would be finished.
Soon this winter would mourn for my death, and soon someone else would take over this curse.
Until then, I must get this quilt made.
There was something you see about the quilt- a witch’s quilt it would be. You might sew in a bead, a pentagram, stones, unique clothing, and even hair from a loved one to help bless the child. You would make it with all the blessings you wished to bestow upon a new baby-the firstborn female in every generation, to be the next Matriarch of the family. Once they are old enough, they will add to the quilt; therefore passing their gifts and blessings from all that came before them. Then that same child would become the next guardian until she was, in turn, to give – everything of themselves-every piece of magic, health, blessings that they were bestowed from the previous guardian all to the next firstborn child in the following generation. On and on, it would repeat.
That is how it began anyway. You see, all this would have been a lovely sentiment had my aunt Josephine not been unhinged from the day she was born into this world. My mother told me stories about her sister and how she was always on a dark path. In her youth, she held black masses in her room at night. Aunt Josephine would torture my mother by putting her in a pine box and trying to bury her in the backyard before their father found them and punished Aunt Josephine so severely she had bruises on her for a week. My mother never said it was right, but she never objected to Aunt Josephine’s harsh punishments. Aunt Josephine tortured everything around her out of pure boredom. Their youngest brother, Arnold, had a gift for magic by the time he was two and a half. He could speak to animals and had a pet turtle, Ted. Aunt Josephine was caught in the woods behind the house doing a curse and had the poor thing in a pot ready to boil when my mom saved poor Ted and released him into the wild to escape Josephine’s madness.
Then in her teens, Josephine ran away from home, and she took up with a lousy bunch of witches. It was rumored they had killed someone, and shortly after, our family found she was in St. Michael’s rehabilitation center for teens. Josephine was released three years later when she was now twenty-one, learning upon her release, I was coming into the world. I was not a planned pregnancy, and my mother decided I was worth keeping, so once Aunt Josephine realized she would have to add to the quilt, she hatched a devious plan. She pretended to be sorry for everything that had happened before, so she arranged a meeting with my mother and grandmother to hold a truce. Aunt Josephine was the eldest and firstborn female of our family’s generation. So in our family’s tradition, she had to add something to our Blessed Be quilt to help me when I came into this world. Only my Aunt Josephine still wasn’t well. It had all been a lie because she had found out my mother was pregnant with a “girl” and was mad that she had to give up her gifts and bestow them on a “bastard,” in her words. It was an ugly day.
The rain was cold just as it was now; I was born in mid-October and prematurely. Noone had barely had enough time to prepare for me, let alone Aunt Josephine. She was secretly prepared well in advance, and when Aunt Josephine stitched the blessings into my quilt, my grandmother Gertrude was mortified when she saw what Aunt Josephine had done.
Inside the quilt was black stitching of some kind of sigil. It was covered in blood, and black hair and what looked like crow claws were all sewn inside it. My grandmother and mother tried to stop Josephine from bestowing her dark and evil sorcery upon my baby’s body. But she had already conducted her “cloaking” ceremony, which was tradition. She wrapped me with the quilt, making it too late for anyone to stop her. The deed had been done, and the spell was cast upon me.
My mother wept and wanted to kill her sister, but what was done was done. Once a quilt had been wrapped around the newborn child, it became part of them instantly. All the family traditions came with it, good, bad, and ugly. In my case, dark gifts.
My grandmother tried to do a reversal spell on my quilt, but she died of a heart attack in the process. My grandfather tried to burn the quilt and instantly set himself on fire and the family home with it.
It was as if anyone wanted to change it – they would be harmed by the spells that designed the quilt. Later, my mother enacted a plot to poison her sister. Upon giving Josephine a magical tea, she recognized that the tea smelled off. It was as if she could smell the poison, and my mother turned her gaze for only a second; Josephine had switched the glasses. My mother died within minutes of tasting her poison. Soon after, Aunt Josephine left and, according to my older brother, Sam, was never seen again.
I felt Josephine whenever I covered up with that quilt. It sounds strange, doesn’t it? I’d want anything to do with that thing, but you become a part of it. It becomes like a second skin carrying all your family traditions, spells, magicks, and spirits. All of your ancestors contribute to the firstborn woman of every generation, and they don’t leave you. I felt Aunt Josephine whispering to me in my sleep. I saw my death. I would be attacked by a stranger and slashed from my groin to my throat. Where I would meet this person was anyone’s guess. My time was near, and that was inevitable.
I had noticed hints of the curse inside of me at times. I had a terrible temper and would lash out, causing most people around me to be unwell or become frightened of me. When I was twenty years old, I had a car accident that stemmed from a road rage incident on my part, leaving me with a slight limp. My hands had begun to change overnight too. I was beautiful in my twenties, but about a week ago, my hands began to wilt, and my bones ached as if I were suddenly a hundred and ten. My face wrinkled, at first unnoticeable by the naked eye. I’m only thirty-one. Then Sam called me. I knew what he would tell me before he opened his mouth. It was something that what once could have made me so proud now killed me because I knew what I had to do. I would have to give up my gifts, and in doing that, you lose parts of yourself. Not all of your magic goes, but those things that kept you safe and guarded all go to watch over the next child. It was a sacrifice I had no choice in, no matter how much I loved my family.
My one and only brother, Sam, was having a baby. His wife had had a tough pregnancy, and we were unsure if the baby girl she carried inside of her would make it. However, she was through the worst of it and was expected to come any day. I had already felt the pains of childbirth, but all were stillborn. Something for once that had nothing to do with my Aunt Josephine, but rather just plain sad luck. I had been married once, but he left after too many issues with my instability. I wish I could say I missed him, but in this case, I felt relieved. I believed I had no one to protect or care for. I was a free woman in every sense of the word. I lived alone, hunted, and ran a small online shop making soaps and trinkets. It paid the bills, and that was all that mattered. Yet, soon I would have to hope that everything I put into this quilt would be my final duty in this short life, and then I could finally be free. I’d be free of Aunt Josephine too.
So I began my work on the quilt. I have attached some of my favorite jewels, including a locket of hair from my firstborn. My darling baby had lovely soft blonde hair. If only she had made it, she would have been my gift to the world, for her heart was still but beautiful. I cherished the memory of her even though it was brief.
I had a silk black and gold piece of fabric with my favorite pattern, the silver crow buttons, and finally, the part I received today. I had searched the world over for a unique design. I knew that it was just the thing to help my new charge.
I spent the weekend working on the quilt and patching up some holes here and there with old ivory-colored threads. When I was finished, it was perfect. I held it up in the sunlight the morning I had to make the drive to Sam’s. It was positively stunning, and I cried at my own handiwork. It wasn’t like me to create something so beautiful. Unlike my mother and grandmother, my sewing skills were rudimentary, yet it was as if I were possessed when I put these lovely final touches into the quilt. My patchwork was stunning, and you couldn’t tell whether my work was at all. I wrapped the quilt in a fine wooden box with sigils of good fortune and got my things ready to leave. I knew the moment the compartment shut it that my niece had come into this world at that very second, and I smiled. There was excitement that I would soon meet her.
It was a fall night close to Halloween when my niece was born.
I received a call from my brother Sam to let me know she had arrived.
I was expected to bring the quilt to his residence the following day. I was excited but also apprehensive. What if the quilt did not allow the blessings to be accepted? I had bestowed upon my newborn niece upon its offering to her?
So I woke up at five in the morning, dressed in a fine cloak, which doubled as a warm blanket because the fall air was crisp. Then I got into my black Volkswagen and drove to my brother’s residence.
As I drove, I began feeling odd, as though someone was watching me. I couldn’t place the feeling, except maybe I was nervous about the quilt. I was hoping my good blessing would outweigh all the bad ones Aunt Josephine had put into it.
It was still dark outside, and suddenly I saw something dart in front of my vehicle. I slammed on the breaks and waited. It happened so fast; I guessed it was a deer as it was prime season for them in the area.
I slowly drove on, this time slowing my pace to pull onto my brother’s street. I saw cars in the driveway, and the lights in the small cottage told me my entire family would be there.
I pulled in, grabbed the box, and exited the van. In doing so, I took a long breath and sauntered towards the door of my brother’s cottage and knocked.
“Celine, you arrived just in time. The baby has had a moon bath and is ready to receive you as her guardian,” said Sam’s wife, Jezelle.
Andy and Marcus, distant cousins of mine, stood in braids with their long white hair. They were older than the rest of us and had come bringing gifts of their own. I smiled at them, greeting them in the ways of our clan, which was to press your forehead against the other persons.
“Please tell me you have blessed the quilt after-“
“Yes. I am not daft, Sam,” I smiled at my brother. I could see he was a nervous father for the first time in his life.
My brother nodded, smiling at me, and we sang a hymn to baby Adelaide. She was as beautiful as I expected. Auburn curls covered her tiny head, her fair skin was wrapped in green cloth, and the birthmark looked a bit like a dog’s head on her shoulder. It told me she was of the wolf clan, which would mean a spiritual leader later in life. My mark was my black hair which was dark as Raven’s feathers. My pale white skin is a sign of those of us marked by the moon’s magic. I did my best in the light of the moon. I should have mentioned this, but I was almost an exact replica of my Aunt Josephine. Another of her traits thanks to her wicked blessings.
I slowly opened the box and reached for the beautiful quilt. I was a guardian now, and it made me feel confident that I now knew Adelaide would be in good hands. She was protected by her mother’s origins and our Corvus clan.
I opened the quilt and flung it open. There were audible sighs and ahhs. It was beautiful, and I was proud for once in my life. Golden sigils covered all the things aunt Josephine had sewn inside the quilt, complete with wolf hair, added protection, and lavender oil for luck. I wrapped the quilt around Adelaide and smiled. We stood in front of the family altar with honey, cinnamon, clove, and other fine offerings. There was a beautiful red ruby athame that was my great grandmother’s. There were photos of my mother and Jezelle’s father.
Her tiny body shimmered with the quilt now wrapped around her. I could see hints of gold in her hair and dark, thanks to Aunty Jo. Yet, the good outweighed any bad, and a surreal calm passed over the tiny cottage. You could feel a warmth that erased all my fears. My skin was warm to the touch as I gave my niece the things I thought I’d miss. I wasn’t going to regret it going because it was still there, to my surprise. It was not as painful or depressing as I had imagined. It made me feel good that I could help her.
All was well.
All was quiet.
I barely recalled what happened next. It comes to me in flashes of traumatic imagery that now feels so far away from me. As if I dreamt it all. My hearing seemed to fail me in my memory of those events. I only recall the terror and the fear that followed.
The windows in the cottage shattered.
A cold breeze broke through the windows, causing the entire cottage guests to scream in fear. Something was amiss. Then something was in the room with all of us.
“I thought you said you fixed the damn curse?” Sam yelled at me.
“I did!” At least, I thought I did.
That is when the cottage went black as night.
I could not hear nor see anything around me.
Then I heard a growl and the sound of something like that of a butcher in the kitchen slicing meat.
Within seconds the same creature, I believe, ran across the road earlier and was now standing in the cottage. I could not explain the amount of fear I felt standing in this beast’s presence. I can’t describe it because it moved so quickly all I saw was a black cloud, and then I felt something wet on my chin.
I felt the child ripped from my arms, and the creature escaped into the black of night with my niece.
The lights flickered and came on to what I can only say was a nightmare.
The others all stood with blood coming from their necks; Jezelle went to move her mouth and say something but her head slipped from her shoulders. It fell onto the beautiful Venetian rug that seemed to scream in multiple colors of red flowers matching the color of Jezelle’s blood. The flowers framing her head, soft red hair bloody body too was on the ground in a slump. Her face was in permanent distress as her eyes stared at me, pleading.
I looked around the room and found myself surrounded by witnesses who were all now dead except myself. Two other guests, my distant cousins Andy and Marcus, were hung from the ceiling by their neckties, which seemed kind in contrast to the others.
My brother was standing behind me. He may have been the worst of them all, eyes gouged out, bleeding from his mouth as his intestines leaped from his body, coming out his back end in one swoop of a devil’s hand. The creature had ripped them from his body and pulled them as if he were a wound-up cassette tape.
I fell to the ground in dismay, trying to understand what had gone wrong. Blood covered my face and my cloak. Who could have done this? Why would anyone do this?
I didn’t want to think that my Aunt Josephine was behind this too, but I knew she was capable of anything in my heart. She was a murderous, vengeful bitch. She had now taken everyone I loved in my life, and I was not going to let her take my niece. I’d find a way to find her. I had to get my wits about me and figure out what I would do.
To my luck, I noticed that in the heat of everything, the quilt was still there on the floor, untouched by the bloody massacre that had just occurred. Picking it up, I grabbed the ruby athame from the family altar and sliced the palm of my hand. I let the blood drip onto the region of the quilt with Josephine’s spell of her own hair and used it to trace her.
I concentrated on the blood, drawing a map with my mind till my head felt like it might explode. Her image appeared, and a symbol of a cliff appeared on the quilt. I knew where the bitch was now.
I would do what no one in my family could do before me. I was going to kill her myself once and for all.