A Family Tradition
- Heavy Metal/Hard Rock- Mother by Danzig
- Pop/Hip-Hop- Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
- Country/Singer Song Writer- What Part Of No by Lorrie Morgan
- Instrumental/Soundtrack- The Hanging Tree by Jennifer Lawrence from The MockingJay Part I
- Wild Card-Danny Boy- Irish Traditional
What I Chose and Why:
Something unexpected happened when I listened to my prompts. I got into a really dark and twisted mood.
This Danzig hit came out during my high school years. I was an angry young man at the time and I listened to a lot of hard rock. Hearing that music again brought me right back into that dark, angsty mindset. I usually try to avoid wallowing in dark or creepy ideas, but this time I simply had to go with it.
Thanks to the BBBGals for inviting me to submit another piece to their blog and their patience with my schedule. This piece is very different from my previous submission, but with Danzig for inspiration, how could it possibly be the same?
“Girls, wake up! I took the tree down. I need you to sweep up the needles.”
Great-Aunt Cora whisked in and out of their room before Samantha knew what happened. Sam rolled her head in the direction of the alarm clock, but her heavy eyelids refused to open.
Sheets rustled in the neighboring bed as her sister, Julie, sat up. “Aunt Cora took the tree down already? It’s only day after Christmas.”
Sam’s eyes rolled behind closed lids. She decided to go back to sleep and covered her head with her blanket.
From underneath the covers, she could hear Julie wiggling. She was reaching, moving stuff on the nightstand between them. Sam’s alarm clock fell to the floor and Julie dived after it.
“Six in the morning!” Julie said. “No wonder its so dark outside.”
At least she didn’t break it, Sam thought. “Aunt Cora’s going home tomorrow, Julie. Just one more day of her antics.” Then Julie will have her room back, I’ll have my room to myself, and my stuff will be safe again.
“Want to help her pack?” Julie suggested.
Sam would do it in a heartbeat, if it would make life normal again. But the problems started before Great-Aunt Cora came for the holidays. If anything, Cora’s eccentricities masked whatever was really going on with Mom.
Aunt Cora flitted back into the room. “Come on kids. I’ve got a big day planned for us and I need you to get moving. Please do it quietly. We’ll surprise your mom when she wakes up.” Then Aunt Cora was gone again.
“I want to be like that when I’m old,” Julie said.
“Who wants to be old?” Sam smirked. She reached for her headphones but her cell phone was missing.
“At least she asks nicely,” Julie said. “She’s not mean and bossy like Grandma is.”
“Was,” Sam corrected
“I’m glad Aunt Cora didn’t get Grandma’s meanness.”
Sam flipped the covers down off her head. “Aunt Cora’s like fifteen years older than Grandma was. If anything, Grandma should have learned to be nice from her.”
“Fifteen years! For you, that’d be like mom having a baby now,” Julie said. She got up and started her morning routine.
Sam squirmed in her bed. The way their Mom churned through boyfriends, she lived under constant fear of yet another half-sibling. Julie shouldn’t joke about such things. She’s old enough to know better.
Running her fingers through her choppy, tri-colored hair, Sam wondered how much longer she could keep it. Sam was too young for tattoos yet, but she had the hair, the clothes, and multiple piercings. It was her armor. With all the guys mom brought home, Sam wanted to look as off-limits as possible.
Grandma hated Sam’s new hairstyle — no surprise, Grandma hated everything. Now that Grandma was gone, the matter should have been settled.
But that’s not what happened at all. Mom totally freaked out at Grandma’s death and is now trying to be just like her. Change everything. Control everything. Mom is becoming the new Grandma.
Grandma 2.0, Sam thought. Grandma with a vengeance!
That’s where Sam’s trouble really began, and it was becoming a nightmare.
“You coming?” Julie was dressed in a hoodie and pajama pants.
Sam sighed, “Hold on. I’ll come down with you.”
The two sisters shuffled down the stairs to see what their great-aunt had planned.
Trying to talk to Aunt Cora was like trying to talk to a tennis ball during a match, your head was constantly moving to keep up with her.
“Good! You’re up. There’s the broom and dustpan.”
Sam looked at the trail of pine needles across the living room and out the door.
“Usually we keep the tree up at least through New Year’s,” Julie whined.
“No yoga class today?” Sam asked.
Cora paused for a brief moment, then brushed a thought away, “No time.”
Sam picked up a half-empty bottle of vodka. “Did you drink all this in the few days you’ve been here?”
Cora plucked the bottle out of Sam’s hand. “Don’t be silly! This is an old bottle I found in your house.” She placed it on the dining room table instead of the cabinet.
Julie swept the needles into a little pile.
Sam knelt down with the dustpan and whispered to her sister. “I bet Aunt Cora died years ago. We just don’t know it yet because she’s so well pickled.”
Julie laughed. “She sure is a nimble little prune.”
“And my hearing is good too,” Aunt Cora stage-whispered from the other room.
Julie blushed, but Sam just shrugged it off.
Sam noticed bags packed by the door and nudged Julie. “You packed already, Aunt Cora?”
Cora shushed them as she walked back to talk. “Yes, you should pack too. One bag each. Make sure to bring something of great sentimental value… in case you get homesick.” Then she went off doing things again. The house was already immaculate. No one would guess there was a big Christmas day feast last night.
“Mom didn’t say we were going anywhere,” Julie said.
“It’s a surprise,” Aunt Cora answered. “How would you like to spend New Year’s with me down in Florida?”
“Is it near Disney World?” Julie asked.
Aunt Cora shook her head. “Not really. But we could go there too.”
“Mom’s not coming?” Sam asked.
“No,” said Aunt Cora. “My surprise is to take you two so your mother has some time alone. Vera’s death is hard on all of us. I lost a sister, you lost a grandmother, but your mother lost her mother. That’s hardest of all.”
Sam nodded. “She’s really not been herself since Grandma died.”
“How so?” Aunt Cora asked. “I’ve been living in Florida for so long, I’m afraid I don’t know any of you as much as I’d like.”
“She’s been aggressive,” Sam answered. “And bitter. She dumped her boyfriend. Usually she latches on until they dump her. She used to be so… mousey.”
“She snores like Grandma now,” Julie added. “She never snored before, then all the sudden, poof! She’s like a lawnmower.”
Aunt Cora had a pained expression on her face, but turned away to hide it. “Go pack girls. Do it quietly and don’t wake your mom.”
“We’re not leaving without saying goodbye. Are we?” Julie asked.
A voice called from the top of the stairs, “You two darlings aren’t going anywhere.”
Julie, and Sam turned to watch their mother, Katherine, descend the staircase. Her flowing sleeping gown and robes added to her imperious glare.
“The only one leaving is Cora,” Katherine said. “Nice of you to visit, but you wore out your welcome. Why don’t you come again in another twenty years.”
“I’m eighty years old!” Aunt Cora said. “Not sure I have another twenty years in me.”
Katherine guided her daughters away from their great aunt and said over her shoulder, “No, I suppose you don’t.”
Cora dashed around to confront Katherine. “I know what you are. I couldn’t stop you before, but I will now.”
A surprised laugh escaped Katherine’s mouth, but she quickly recomposed herself and looked down at her daughters, one on her right and one on her left. “I think Cora is showing signs of dementia, girls. It happens to people her age.” She looked straight at Cora and added with a raised eyebrow, “Maybe it’s time to think about putting you in a home?”
Aunt Cora reached into her back pocket and said, “I’m sorry you girls have to see this.” She pulled out an amulet and thrust it forward into Katherine’s face. “Vade spiritus mali! Vade daemonium! Exi de cognatione mea et non revertetur huc amplius.”
Sam looked at her Mother, then her sister. “Is that supposed to mean something?”
“It’s Latin,” Katherine answered with a curled lip. “I think she’s trying to perform an exorcism.”
“It didn’t work at all?” Deflated, Aunt Cora looked at the amulet and tried to figure out what went wrong.
“Aunt Cora,” Julie said. “Why don’t we sit down and I’ll make you a cup of tea?”
Cora nodded and tucked her amulet away in her back pocket. “Well, there’s always Plan B.” She withdrew a derringer and shot Katherine twice in the chest at point blank range.
Katherine stumbled backwards and collapsed in the middle of the oriental rug in the living room.
The girls screamed.
“Get away!” Cora yelled. She waved her gun, kicked, and shoved the girls to separate them from their Mother. Cora wouldn’t let them within ten feet of her.
Sam ran to the phone to call the police. “Phone’s dead!”
“I cut the line,” said Aunt Cora. “Call them later, if you want. Watch this.”
Katherine desperately tried to keep the blood contained in her chest, but it gushed out everywhere. Her face was morbidly white. She reached out to Julie, who was kneeling at the edge of the carpet. “Baby! My Baby.”
“Mommy,” Julie sobbed.
“Don’t touch her!” Cora yelled to Julie as she ran around the carpet to keep them separated. “She’s not your mother. Not anymore.”
Sam grabbed a frying pan to hit her psychotic aunt with.
With the amulet in her hand again, Aunt Cora shoved it under the oriental carpet. “Liga antiquis malum. Protege parvulorum innocentum.”
This time something did happen. Katherine lit up in a green glow that matched the massive jewel in the amulet. The glow encircled her.
Sam froze. She was looking at her mother, but a cloud of green light rose from the floor and illuminated a ghostly image of her grandmother; like a hologram projected around her mother tracking every movement she made.
Aunt Cora looked up and saw how close she had come to being hit with the frying pan. She lowered Sam’s arm from its striking position and eased the handle out of Sam’s grasp. “She’s not your mother anymore. Hasn’t been since your grandmother died. You know that. It switched hosts. Your mother died then.”
Another pulse of light, and the image of another woman lay there on the carpet.
“She’s not even my mother,” Cora added. “Or my grandmother.”
“Samantha,” Katherine said in a voice that sounded like a chorus of many. “Come to Mommy, there’s no time.”
Samantha didn’t move.
Katherine tried to crawl across the carpet to them, but couldn’t move outside the light.
“I drew a pentagram under the carpet,” Aunt Cora said. “She… it… is trapped inside.”
Another flash of light, another ghostly form superimposed itself over their mother’s body.
“No. No!” Katherine screamed. “I’m don’t want to die! Julie? Don’t you want to save your mommy? Come here! Take my hand. Take Mommy’s hand.”
Another flash of light, another face. The pace was accelerating.
“How many?” Cora demanded. “How many generations have you preyed upon?”
Katherine’s head snapped to Cora. “Who are you to challenge me? My descendants number in the millions you barren harpy. So what if I keep a single bloodline for myself? So what?”
“Which one will you choose then? Sam or Julie?” Cora asked.
“They’re mine to take,” Katherine snapped.
Aunt Cora put her derringer away. “What do you think girls? One of you willing to sacrifice yourself so this thing can go on? It can’t stay in your mother’s body anymore. It’s got holes in it.”
The ghostly images were flashing by faster. Some wore fancy few Victorian gowns.
“They’re all women,” Sam said to Katherine. “You’ve been taking women for generations?”
Losing the strength to keep her head up, Katherine fell back onto the carpet, soaking her hair in a pool of blood. “My own fountain of youth,” she gasped.
“But,” Julie interrupted, “all these women are old.”
Katherine rolled her head to her daughter and stared out glassy-eyed. Ghostly images of past lives continued to flash across Katherine’s face.
Shivering, Julie crept forward and whispered, “Mommy, I don’t want you to die.”
“Julie! Stay back,” Sam cautioned.
Face slick with tears, Julie acted on pure instinct.
Sam lunged to stop her, even though that meant crossing into the pentagram.
Aunt Cora knocked Sam aside and landed on top of Katherine herself.
Reflexively Katherine grabbed Cora’s hands and mouthed some words, but no sound came forth.
There was one final, brilliant flash of light that blinded everyone.
Then it was over.
Katherine lay dead on a blood-soaked oriental rug. Great-Aunt Cora lay across her niece, filthy and gasping for air.
Sam ran around to embrace her sister who was in hysterics.
They both watched Aunt Cora slowly stand up and try to wipe the blood off her hands.
Sam eyed her guardedly. “You still you?” she asked.
Aunt Cora shook her head. “No.” She looked around distractedly, “I mean ‘Yes,’ I’m still me and not that… thing.” She nudged Katherine’s corpse with the tip of her shoe. “But I got a glimpse of who she was, what she did.”
Aunt Cora shuddered. “She could only follow her bloodline down. Not across, not up. That’s why she…” Aunt Cora started to tear up. “That’s why she took my baby sister instead of me. She always picks the daughter with the most daughters. All this time I’ve kept away. I was never in any danger. You were.”
Aunt Cora grabbed a bunch of tissues for her eyes, but saw how pointless it was with all the gore on her hands. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it in time for Katherine. I came as soon as I heard Vera was ill, but I was too late.”
No one knew what to say. They stood there for a long time watching Katherine’s corpse bleed out.
“So…” Sam said to break the eerie silence. “What do we do now?”
Aunt Cora pulled out her cell phone and dialed. “Hello Mr. Drake? Yes, it’s Cora Wexler… Yes… I’m calling to tell you I’ve decided on option C, so you can tear up the others… Yes ‘C’ as in Charlie… Yes I’m sure. And that’s backdated to our last meeting? Perfect. Thank you.”
“Who was that?” Sam asked.
For the first time ever, Aunt Cora sat down. She opened the bottle of vodka and took a hearty drink. “Mr. Drake is my lawyer. I’ve set up a trust for you both. It’s not much, but it will help until you can get Vera’s and Katherine’s assets through probate. Maybe some college.”
“You’re not dying anytime soon, are you?” Sam asked.
Aunt Cora snorted derisively. “I’m 80 years old and just murdered my own niece. I don’t have much of a future.”
Sam couldn’t think of anything to say.
Julie just stood there, staring a her mother’s lifeless body.
“You both have your futures now. No one will take it away from you. You’re free!” Aunt Cora took a big drink of Vodka and slowly reloaded her gun.
“What are you doing now?” Sam asked.
“I’m done.” Aunt Cora replied. “Take your sister to the neighbors’ house and call 911. Make sure you stay there until the police arrive.”
“Come with us?” Sam asked.
“Can’t,” Aunt Cora answered. She traced her finger over the contours of the tiny gun. “You girls are innocent. I need to make sure there’s no question about that. Now go.”
Sam guided her traumatized little sister out of the house. Closing the door, Sam glanced one last time at her great-aunt.
Cora hoisted the bottle of vodka in a toast. “Merry Christmas!”