This story is by L B Counts and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“STOP! PLEASE! STOP! I just can’t take this anymore.”
Overpowered by the flood of emotions washing over her, Cassandra bolts from the dining car of the train and runs to her private room. She is traveling to visit her sister, Sasha. Going to see her sister is a last resort for Cassandra. They have not spoken since Sasha ran away from their grandmother’s house years ago.
Cassandra was 16 and Sasha 15 when their parents left the house one day. They never returned. Cassandra and Sasha were sent to live with their grandmother who they never really knew, because for some unapparent reason they were never allowed to communicate with her. Their grandmother was a widow who lived in a swampy, remote area of Louisiana. Both sisters hated living there and Sasha took the first opportunity to leave – even dropping out of school at 16. But Cassandra, being the “good” girl, chose to stay.
But now, Cassandra needs Shasha’s help more than ever. Putting her pride aside and her opposition to her sister’s lifestyle – she decides to go see her sister, believing that she is the only one that can help her now.
Laying her head back against the seat, Cassandra allowed her thoughts to wander back to when her problem first started. How did this happen to her? As long as no one was around her, she felt safe, calm. Almost peaceful. Cassandra could deal with her own thoughts. But with this curse upon her she had to also deal with the thoughts, and worst of all, the feelings of everyone around her. Agony! That was the only way she knew how describe this affliction.
Cassandra turned her head to take in the view outside her window of the passing landscape as it rolled slowly by. Watching the blue water just behind the rise of the pine trees was so tranquil, so calm, creating a peaceful drowsiness that she had not experienced for a very long time. She could hear the wheels on the train meeting the surface of the rails underneath, lulling her into a sleep that she welcomed.
A hand is pulling her back. But from where? She looked up to see a sky full of birds and Dark ominous clouds. The sun trying to break through. The birds peering at her through human eyes. She felt herself floating. Reaching out. “I want to touch the birds. I want to fly with them. They are moving farther away. I can’t reach them.”
She woke with a start, arms stretched out in front of her as if she were still trying to reach out and touch the birds of her dream. She felt as if she was floating. Shaking her head to clear the remnants of the dream, she thought “I’m here.” She was scared and excited at the same time to see her sister. Not knowing how Sasha would react made her anxious. Not knowing what feelings would come up for her made her anxious.
“Sasha.” Cassandra exclaimed as she stood in front of her sister, not knowing if she should just stand there or hug her like she wanted to. Would Sasha hug her back? “I know we haven’t spoken in such a long time. I just had a hard time coming to terms with you calling yourself a witch and being in a cult.”
“Cassandra, I am not in a cult.” Sasha said as she grabbed Cassandra and gave her a big, long hug. She did not want to let her go. “My lifestyle as a witch is just as spiritual as yours.” Sasha explained to her sister.
“Yeah, but a witch? You know that goes against everything we were raised as Christians to believe.” She paused. “But right now, I’m so desperate. This pain is unbearable. I would do anything to make it go away.”
“Sasha, I’m begging you to do whatever you can; to use whatever magic you have to release me from this agony. I feel all the emotions of everybody around me. All of them. All at the same time. Whether they are sick, sad, mad, joyful or depressed. And that’s not even the worst. I’m bombarded with hate thoughts, evil thoughts. It’s like they are in this mental state that is spiraling down into a very dark place and taking me with them. I feel the mental illness of people. I just can’t continue to live like this. I think that grandmother cursed me before she died.”
“Cassandra, that’s why I left. And why I begged you to come with me. You didn’t owe that horrible woman that claimed to be our grandmother anything. She called herself a Christian, but we both know she was pure evil. I also believe that she put a curse on you. I never trusted her – why did you? But I will try my best to help you. First, I’m going to do a tarot reading to better understand what is going on with you.
“But…. but” objected Cassandra.
“No buts Cassandra. We’re trying to save your life here.”
Cassandra watched as Sasha pulled the cards.
“I hate to say this Sis, but these cards are not good or hopeful. It shows that Grandmother has been a root worker for a long time. Since she was a young girl. She had a beautiful smiling face that would lead you right to your death. She is the devil. They also show that this root work is very deep in our ancestral line. And then here is the death card.”
Sasha thought about it. “Hmm.” she said. “Maybe there is hope. If she had the power, then so do we. I’m going to need help from my group, and you have to be a part of the ritual. It may be the only way.”
After the ritual, Cassandra spent the next week holed up in her room. There just was no way she could go out only to be hit again with so many emotions. It was so excruciatingly painful. No one understood. Not even her sister. She knew that Sasha was trying all she could to help her. She also knew that her pain was causing Sasha pain. Another thing she knew was that the only person that could relieve her of this pain was the one that caused it. And she was dead.
Sasha had been working with her friends. Studying their Books of Shadows. Looking for the one spell they thought had been put on Cassandra so they could maybe find a way to reverse it. It was taking so long. Sasha knew that Cassandra was nearing the end of her tolerance. When she came out of her room this morning, she looked so haggard. Dark, sunken eyes; sunken cheeks. She seemed to have lost at least 10 pounds. Sasha did all she could to hold back tears that were threatening to spill. Instead, she grabbed Cassandra’s hand and said “Hey girl. Please hang in there. We are getting so close.” But the truth was, they were no closer today to finding the right spell than they were yesterday.
When Sasha got back home from another day of searching and researching, she went to Cassandra’s room to share her findings. No Cassandra. Running outside, she saw her sister standing on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the lake. Racing over the field to the cliffs, she knew what Cassandra had in mind.
Cassandra stood looking out over the cliffs behind her sister’s house. All she could think of was the peace she would feel floating down to the bottom.
She looked up to see a sky full of birds and dark ominous clouds. The sun trying to break through. The birds peering at her through human eyes. Reaching out, she tried to touch the birds. She wanted to float with them. A hand is pulling her back. It’s Sasha.
Holding her tightly, Sasha pulled Cassandra back from the edge of the cliff.
“Cassandra, please don’t do this. I have news for you. Some good, some bad. Which do you want to hear first?”
“I want the good news first and the bad not at all. Keep it to yourself.”
“Okay. Well we found the curse, the spell that Grandmother put on you. Now all we have to do is find the counter spell. And we’re all working on it around the clock.” Sasha told her.
Cassandra wrapped her arms around Sasha exclaiming, “Sasha I love you. Thank you for not holding the past against me. I didn’t know where else to turn.”
“You’re my family, Cassandra, and I love you too. We’re going to beat this. There is no way we’re going to let that evil witch win. I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Now. Whats the bad news?” asked Cassandra.
“Don’t worry about it sis. It’s nothing.” Sasha didn’t want to tell Cassandra that the curse had also made her immortal.