A Fistful of Banishment (from Of Death and Blooms)

Yvonne looked at the silver framed photograph that sat on top of Althea’s herb chest. “You look so different with your hair short,” she said, without taking her eyes off the picture.

Althea ran a finger over one edge of the frame. “That’s my Mama. I got her face and Jonquil claimed her wilds.”

“Are you three close?”  

“In a sense.” Althea picked up the picture, and put it back down in what seemed like the same movement. “She went to the Summerlands after birthing Jonquil.” She smiled, but her face didn’t brighten. “Fate’s bittersweet like that. Taking away treasures, replacing them with other joys, and fully expecting us to keep on keeping on.”

“I’m sorry,” Yvonne said. She knew what it was like to lose family. Before having her Cedrus, his father had been her entire world. Ash had been gone for six years, but every now and then the loss hurt her as much as it did on the day he died. She was going to share her pain with Althea, but the voices of the dead broke her thoughts.

“Hurt… protection… tell!” They shrieked, in the same jagged chorus that had been trying to conquer Yvonne’s sanity ever since she was a teenager.  

Althea was staring at her. “Are you all right?” she said.

“Yes,” Yvonne said, thinking, I won’t let them break me. She would go home, and that would be that. The dead would not ruin this connection for her or for her son. “I need to go,” she said. “Maybe you could show me the rest of the apartment later. After Cedrus and Jonquil come back?”

“What is that?” Althea looked over her shoulder, and took a couple of steps to stand next to Yvonne. In a calmer voice, she addressed an empty spot in the kitchen. “I know you aren’t evil,” she said, “no malevolence can enter my home.” She raised a hand when Yvonne tried to move away. “But your disposition will mean very little to me if you disturb anyone under my protection. Leave now, or I’ll do something we’ll both hate.”

“You can hear them.” Yvonne’s voice shook.

“No, I can’t,” Althea said.

“But you talked to them. I saw you. I heard you talking to them.” She began to cry. It’s starting again, she thought. The dead were going to take away the first friend she had made in six years. Yvonne stepped back from Althea. “I just—”

“I can’t hear or see the dead.” Althea put a hand on Yvonne’s left arm. “But my kitchen is full of thick, oily emotions that aren’t yours or mine. That’s how I knew someone else was here, and how I know he or she didn’t listen to me.” With those words, Althea turned towards her herb chest and yanked the door open. She grabbed dragon’s blood, rosemary, and two unlabeled jars. “Banishment is cruel magic,” she said, “I don’t care for it. But no one, living or dead, will terrorize my friends. Not in my presence.” Her jaw tightened. “Not in my home.”

Althea moved too fast, scooping a bit of this and a pinch of that into her hand. Yvonne was having a hard time following her actions, and the cacophony of the dead emphasized her inability to focus.  

“Third Eye… hurt… her… luck!” The coarse wails continued to push on the inside of Yvonne’s forehead and temples.

Armed with a fistful of banishment, Althea stopped in the middle of her kitchen. “I wish I didn’t have to do this.” She rubbed her clenched fist over her heart, blew on it, and began to chant.  

Yvonne saw Althea’s lips moving, but the dead kept her from hearing anything other than their screeches. She watched as Althea’s pupils dilated, the dark of the eyes spreading over the white. When the black-eyed woman raised her fist, the voices of the dead burst through Yvonne’s lips. “You were my protection, my first, my Third Eye. Let her be our love and luck.

Althea didn’t lower her fist, but she stood very still, her eyes fixed on Yvonne’s open mouth. “What was that?” she said.

“I don’t know.” Yvonne began to sob. “I never know what they mean or what they want.”

Althea relaxed her arm. “Can you recall what they said? The exact words?” She walked closer to Yvonne.

“Yes.” Yvonne nodded, and repeated the words of the dead. “They also said random things, ‘pain’ and ‘hurt’. I felt like they thought you would get hurt if you…” She pointed at Althea’s fist. “If you did whatever it was you were getting ready to do with that.”

Althea wrapped her arms around Yvonne’s trembling shoulders. “Shhh,” she said, “You’ll be okay.” Without letting go of Yvonne, Althea glanced at the floor. Yvonne followed her gaze. The picture of Althea’s mother had fallen from the herb chest. The silver coating was melting off the frame, oozing onto the kitchen’s woodened floor. The image shimmered like a heat mirage.

Yvonne looked up when she felt Althea’s fingers crawling over the back of her neck and through the hair on the back of her head. The sight of black eyes so close to her face made her pull back. But Althea had grabbed a handful of her hair, and Yvonne couldn’t move her head. She panicked. “What are you doing?” Yvonne fought to get free, but Althea’s grip was too strong.

“I’m sorry,” Althea said. Then she was rubbing the contents of her hand on Yvonne’s forehead, shouting, “With earth and will I banish you from her thoughts!”

Yvonne heard her mouth screamed the mind-breaking agony of the dead, as she collapsed to the floor, taking Althea down with her. 
viaThe Whacky Broomstick 

35 comments:

  1. I still don't know what was missing in the last piece, but this one is very vivid in my mind, even with what little visual description is there. (I really, really dislike stories laden with visual description - it kills my imagination.)

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    1. I've been wondering if what you feel is missing from "Lick It to Make It Better," might be the way the characters look. Not a detailed descriptions (as I can't stand those either when they are unnecessary) but something that showed how they fit together, and why the idea of not seeing each other for two short days awakened such a fire in them.

      It was one of the reasons I almost didn't pick that excerpt. It was hot, but it gave no foundation (the whys and hows are in the previous 30 pages).

      The description in this excerpt feel natural, methinks. They add to the plot, thicken the mood and suspense, and might even offer a better view of how both women see the world.

      Wow. Don't you just love it when I critique my own work? lol Okay, it's not funny, and I'll always thanks dear Prof. Lyn Di Iorio.

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  2. Stunning imagery, Magaly. I could feel the heat in the fear, and smell the herbs as Althea selected them.

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    1. There is a lot of sensory teasing in the pages of the novel. I get hungry while I'm writing it ;-)

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  3. Truly amazing... funny, I was listening to Omnia's "Toys in the Attic" when I read it, making it even more vivid :)

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    1. I just searched "Toys in the Attic" and listened to it. Love the mixture of voices!

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  4. Love it. I got excited with every paragraph. :)

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  5. Gah! Magaly!!!!!...what happened next????? You better write this story out in full or I may have to do something we will both hate...like stamping my foot or something :p XXX

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    1. "something we will both hate" LOL

      A little bird told me that you might have the whole thing pretty soon, especially if you want to be a beta reader *cough, cough*

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  6. You go, Althea! Now that my curiosity is roused, I expect a great many more words....

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    1. You sound like my characters. They all "expect a great many more words...."

      And I'm happy to provide ;-)

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  7. ooo Also like the jars ;)

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    1. Aren't they pretty? I've been collecting some jars (from this really disgusting concoction my doctor is convince my kidneys need), I think they will look very similar. I just have to make some labels ;-)

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  8. Thank you Magaly, I do love Althea, and want to read more!

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  9. Intriguing. More!?!?!

    So much puzzle in this fragment. But a lovely one at that.

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    1. I know, fragments are such such a tease...

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  10. Wow. Just wow. Vivid feels like understatement for this excerpt. Having grown up in a house that was home to more than just the living, this piece really got to me. I find myself empathizing with Yvonne so much, but liking Althea immensely for standing up to uninvited guests.

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    1. Now you must tell us about your home and its spirits! I love houses that have soul ;-)

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  11. I love this very much. I love a story that bombards me with too much info....it makes me go slow and read it again and again......gives me pleasure to separate info.....
    You best be getting more of this so that I can calm my inner curiosity. Fabulous. Oma Linda

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    1. I suspected this was going to be one of your favorite stories of mine. I like the setting a lot, and the characters, so I tend to almost over describe. But the place is so stunning. Wait and you'll see...

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  12. Amazing! I love the pacing and the details you share with us. I can smell the herbs, feel the atmosphere closing in, and hear the other voices as I read.

    I'm adding to the chorus asking for more!

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    1. Thanks sooo much for that comment on pacing. It is one of my biggest weaknesses--I tend to rush. But I've been trying extra hard with this one. It helps that I already know what's going to happen...

      I hear your song ;-)

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  13. Curse you Cliffhanger! *shakes fist*

    I'm totally hooked - more soon, right?

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    1. I think I saw a cliffhanger run for the hills lol

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  14. This was a powerful scene because of all the words you chose and made the event run very fast. It is like I could see what was going on in there... I hope Yvonne was healed.

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    1. I'm glad you were able to 'experience' the scene with these ladies. I can't wait to share the rest ;-)

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  15. This makes me want to know more! I want to hear the rest of the character's stories.

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    1. Muahahaha, my wicked plan to get you hooked on Of Death and Blooms is working like a charm ;-D

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  16. Excellent Magaly! I am really enjoying this story! I love the images in my mind ;o)
    (Did you get anything from me??? ;o))) )

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    1. Ha! I just replied at Pagan Culture that I got something glorious from you. It's perfect. You are the best!

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  17. Oh oh oh! You can't leave us hanging like that! Can't wait to read more!!

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