My contribution to this years Bloody Parchment 2016 Anthology
Waking the Dead
“Tell me again why I agreed to this harebrained scheme?” Sarah Carrick took a deep breath and tightened her hold on her best friend’s hand.
“You want to speak to Scott don’t you?” Steph asks. At Sarah’s nod she continues. “This is the only way. Mona assured me this woman’s mojo is strong.”
“And we trust Mona?” she murmurs eyeing the decrepit building in front of them.
To describe the structure in front of them as a house would be too charitable. The four wooden walls of what must have been a rectangular Wendy house are collapsing inwards into a weird polygon shape. The path leading to the place is made of cracked tar. Around them the streets are empty but she can see one or two curtains twitching into place whenever her eyes flicker past. If she wasn’t so desperate to talk to Scott she would back in the car and get out of there.
“Uh-ha,” Steph mumbles back tapping in a quick message on her smartphone.
Looking around at their less than stellar surroundings Sarah wonders how Stephanie could be at ease. This was the type of neighbourhood where you kept your purse out of sight, pepper spray on the ready.
“Are you sure it’s safe to leave the car out here?” Sarah whispered.
“Sarah would you relax already!” Steph replies in obvious vexation. “Do you really believe I would lead you into a potentially dangerous situation? Mona and her friends always come here and nothing bad has ever happened to them. According to Mona the lady has a reputation around here. No one would dare to steal on her doorstep.”
Shoving the phone into her coat pocket she starts pulling Sarah along. “Come on.”
Sarah allows herself to be dragged towards the broken wooden door. Steph knocks on the door and it is opened by an old black woman.
“Hi I’m Stephanie and this is my friend Sarah,” Steph says brightly thrusting her hand into the woman’s hand.
The woman smiles widely opening the door wider for them to enter. “My name is Tandi. I’ve been expecting you. Come on in.”
Steph moves inside and Tandi turns towards Sarah to shake her hand. Sarah takes her warm hand and smiles politely.
“Hello,” she mummers as she passes through the door. Tandi glances outside briefly before closing the door behind them.
“Please take a seat ladies,” Tandi said indicating the two-seater sofa. “What I can do for you.”
Sarah is pleasantly surprised to find a warmly decorated room. The floor is covered with a large red carpet and on the walls are framed family photographs. Somehow Tandi has managed to make the place look comfortable. The furniture is old but sturdy-looking. Sarah is convinced that the table between the two-seater and Tandi’s chair is an antique if her eyes aren’t deceiving her.
Sarah sits next to Steph on the surprisingly comfortable sofa. She studies Tandi while pretending to look at her home. In her yellow polloneck jersey and brown wraparound skirt Tandi is not what Sarah expected at all. She knew it was stereotyping but she’d had been expecting those feathery headdress and other fetishes—not all this crazy normal.
“What can I do for you?” Tandi asks again, her dark eyes alight with amusement. Sarah wonders if she can divine what she was thinking. That would be mortifying.
“I want to talk to my fiancé Scott. He’s been gone for two months now...” Sarah’s voice tappers off at the end. She wipes away the stray tears from her eyes. Just talking about him brings fresh grief. He was the love of her life and he’d died so young. They’d had so many plans but none of that would happen because he was gone.
“It’s okay sweetie,” Steph’s arm goes around Sarah’s shoulders and she draws comfort from the caring embrace.
“Is it possible...Can I speak to him?” she asks Tandi.
“I’ll do my best,” Tandi replied. “But you have to understand the rules. The spirits of the dead are unpredictable.” As she spoke Tandi took out a small wooden bowl with strange carvings on the side. From a side drawer she produces a tiny bunch of herbs tied in the middle.
“Contacting the spirits of the dead is dangerous work, for you and for me. That’s why you have to follow the rules to the letter. No matter what happens you do what I ask you to do. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Tandi’s serious expression is a bit scary but Sarah was undaunted she would do anything to see Scott again.
“Alright then we can get started,” she said at last. “Did you bring anything of his?”
Steph takes out the watch Sarah had bought for Scott last Christmas. Tandi takes it and places it in the bowl. Then she takes a sharp quill and reaches for Sarah’s hand. Sarah gasps at the sharp pain when Tandi pokes her. Holding her hand over the bowl she lets Sarah’s blood drip over the gold watch. Sarah counts six drops, enough to cover the glass face of the watch. She pops her finger into her mouth watching Tandi work.
Tandi picks up the herbs and lights them with a match. The fragrant scent of burning herbs fills the house as Tandi begins to chant in her native tongue. Sarah is captivated by the cadence of the low rhythmic words and her eyes are drawn to the little bowl in the middle of the table where her blood was being absorbed into the watch’s golden metal.
As Tandi chanted waving the little bunch of herbs in swirling circles she notices that the smoke from the herbs is collecting into a solid mass. It keeps pilling up next to the table into a tall column of grey smoke. Sarah stares open mouthed as the smoke takes shape and distinct features emerge. She can’t help but gasp when Scott smiles down at her from his great height.
“What is it? Do you see something?” Steph asks excitedly.
Sarah doesn’t answer as she rises shakily to her feet barely noticing Steph looking around obviously not seeing anything. “Scott?”
“Sarah I’ve missed you so much.”
Scott’s voice brings fresh tears to her eyes. She really missed hearing that deep voice. “OMG it’s really you!”
“It’s me baby.”
“Oh Scott I miss you so much,” Sarah’s hand trembles up. “I hope you don’t mind but I was desperate to see you.”
“Don’t touch him!” Tandi’s urgent voice gets through to her just in time and she lowers her hand to her side.
“I always knew you loved me,” Scott smiles sadly. “But it’s time to let me go.”
Tears start streaming down her cheeks, “How am I supposed to live without you? Losing you was so hard.”
“I know baby. I didn’t want to go but my time was up,” he said looking behind him. “At least we get to say goodbye this time.”
His joke makes tears stream down her face harder. She’d just got him back now he was being taken away from her again. Double the loss. Double the pain.
“What happens if I touch him?” Sarah asks keeping her eyes on Scott’s flickering image. Already the white light surrounding Scott is fading. They have very little time left.
“You would die,” she replied in a solemn voice.
“Sarah, what are you doing?” Steph is on her feet too trying to hold her back.
“I meant what I said,” she murmurs back. “I can’t live without him. My life is not worth living anymore.”
“That’s not true! You have family that loves you and...me.” Steph’s voice breaks at the end but Sarah’s mind is made up.
“I know,” Sarah smiles and touches the column of smoke. “I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.”
Everyone cries out but it’s too late her fingers have touched the dead. A cold icy pain races up her arm and envelopes her entire body. Yes, she thinks, I am about to die. She is vaguely aware of Tandi and Steph kneeling next to her.
“I love you Stephanie Richards,” she forces out of her lips.
“Do something!” Steph grips Tandi by the arm shaking her in her desperation.
“It’s okay Steph. This is my choice—” Her words end in a long shuddering gasp. The cold has spread to her heart and she can feel it falter.
“There is nothing I can do for her.”
Sarah would have smiled if she could. She wasn’t afraid. In a few moments she would be with Scott again. The pain is receding and she feels like she’s floating on a cotton cloud. This must be how death feels like, she thinks.
“What’s happening to her?” Steph asks Tandi. Her friend is lying on the floor eyes wide open, a silly smile on her face but she’s still breathing.
“The dead cannot return to the living but the living can join the dead,” Tandi replies. “Her body is dead but her spirit will be trapped within it until her time comes.”
“No!!!” Sarah screams but no one can hear her. She no longer has a voice.