by Vanessa Kilmer
“That’s going to leave a scar.” Lily wiped blood from her wrist before it dropped on the green kitchen floor. Her tears fell there instead.
She picked up broken pieces of Ouija board from the counter and slammed them down on the floor. She kicked them. She stomped them. She spit on them. The kid’s game brought the demon, Zozo, into Sara’s body and destroyed their lives. She kicked the pieces again. A splinter lodged in her big toe. She threw herself to the floor and cried.
Those few minutes of self-pity exhausted her. She took a deep breath.
“Why can’t you ever do anything right?” Lily stared at the mess around her.
Shattered glass, chicken broth, lumps of cream of wheat and stringy, mucous eggs covered her.
The paper with Esmerelda’s scratched instructions lay near her face. The witch broke the process down: three simple ingredients to cure Lily’s daughter, three simple steps to saving the world. Lily failed her task.
“I can’t let Sara down,” said Lily. Her voice echoed in the empty kitchen. She sold her table and chairs two weeks ago.
Her phone rang. She answered without looking at the screen.
“Lily Smith?” The voice on the other end quivered.
“We’ve been trying to reach you for several weeks.”
“What?” Lily clipped the word with her teeth.
“Your test results aren’t good. You’ve only got 24 hours to live. You have to come into the doctor’s …”
Lily disconnected the call. She dropped her phone. Ran to her sixteen year old daughter, not noticing glass cutting into her feet, the grit of uncooked cereal, and the raw eggs soaking her socks.
Lily rocked Sara as she held her, despite Sara being tied down like Regan MacNeil.
“Release me.” Zozo’s eyes glowed red through Sara’s blue ones.
“Help me, mommy.”
“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word…”
Lily sang to Sara.
“Release me or I kill the girl.” Zozo screamed in Sara’s voice.
“Esmerelda said you kill Sara you go back to the pits,” said Lily.
Zozo convulsed Sara’s body, straining the strips of tied toweling.
Just past midnight, Lily called Esmerelda. No answer. She needed more ingredients.
Lily prowled her apartment until sunrise.
She left her daughter sleeping, the demon silent. Both were exhausted. Lily couldn’t afford to rest.
Lily walked. She sold her car last week. In her neighborhood, sycamore trees shaded even sidewalks, large pots of Sweet Williams hung from white porches.
Two hours later, she knocked on Esmerelda’s door. Yellow dandelions, pink creeping thistle and blue speedwell grew in Esmerelda’s lawn.
Sara’s phone rang. She looked at the caller ID and ignored the call from her doctor’s office.
The last time, the ritual took three hours. It would take three hours to get to the doctor. Not enough time for both.
If Lily saved Sara, she saved her daughter and the world, maybe the universe. If she saved herself, she’d die with everyone else when Zozo escaped Sara and ran amok.
Esmerelda opened her door dressed in a shiny, neon-colored muu-muu. She held her unruly, orange hair in check with a purple scarf.
“I’ve been expecting you.” Déjà Vu. Esmerelda said those exact words when Lily found her on the internet and emailed her for help. Esmerelda wiggled fingers covered in large rings: blue on thumbs, green on index fingers, red on pinkies. Lily’s vision swam in smeared rainbows as she placed a roll of hundreds in Esmerelda’s palm.
Lily sat on the floor in the living room while Esmerelda chanted some unintelligible words over a box of cream of wheat, a carton of eggs and a can of chicken broth.
The doctor’s office called again.
“Take the call,” said Esmerelda, “you won’t disturb me.”
“Don’t hang up.” The woman on the phone took a deep breath.
“You’ll die a horrible death if you don’t take the pill,” she said. “Convulsions, vomiting, stabbing pain, blood seeping from your eyes, your eardrums bursting.”
“I appreciate your efforts to help me,” said Lily.
“You’ve got less than three hours left.”
“I can’t get to you in time.” Lily disconnected. She hung her head.
Esmerelda nudged her and handed her a grocery bag with the ingredients in it.
“I don’t suppose you…”
“Your daughter invited the demon.”
Lily nodded. She knew what she needed to do.
Lily walked two hours home carrying her heavy groceries. She wanted to give up.
“It won’t be long until you can rest,” she said, hearing her own voice a comfort.
She poured one cup of chicken broth in a plastic bowl. She took no chance that she’d break another dish. Six minutes in the microwave boiled it. In a coffee mug, she mixed an egg with two teaspoons of cream of wheat. Lily drizzled the egg-cereal mixture into the bubbling broth, stirred. Nothing special happened. It looked like egg drop soup. Lily doubted it would work.
She took the Sick People’s Soup and a butcher knife into her daughter’s room.
Lily fed Sara magic soup a half spoon at a time. Zozo convulsed Sara’s stomach, but Lily patiently spooned the soup in Sara’s mouth. Most of it stayed down.
Lily cleaned Sara, wiped her face, and brushed her hair. She took a shower and put on fresh clothes: her best panties and bra, her favorite dress. She braided her hair and tied it with a pink bow that matched the one in Sara’s hair.
Lily lay down next to her daughter. She yawned, stretched her feet and toes. She looked into her own eyes reflected in the blade of the knife.
The police broke into Lily’s apartment. The medics followed, their cases carried on a wheeled stretcher. They found Sara’s room. Blood soaked the pink carpet. Lily had bled out.
Sara strained against her restraints, whimpering. The police untied her. She leaned over her mother’s body and vomited. She dragged her hand across her lips.
She looked up at the humanity surrounding her, red, glowing eyes hooded and smiled.