Looks can be deceiving. People can appear to look nice and innocent but inside, their hearts can be dark as night.
Sharise and her sister Sasha looked out to the vast ocean as they hugged their dresses tight around their knees. “Where are you taking us?” Sharise inquired the man rowing the boat, clattering her teeth. Their mother had woken them early this morning, telling them she was taking them on a trip.
“Do not question him.” Her mother snapped. Sharise shrank. They have been sitting in this shallow rowboat for the past hour and as far as anyone could tell, they were venturing further from land and approaching the freezing fog.
“Mother, can’t you see land is no longer in our sights?” Sasha pleaded as her mother shot her an icy glare.
Their mother stared straight ahead, her hands folded steadily at her lap as they journeyed. “This is far enough,” she muttered.
At her words, the man stopped rowing. Willingly, he let the oar slipped between his hands into the water. “What are you doing?” Sharise asked. The man said nothing as he stood and fell into the water. The moment he fell into the water, he struggled as if he was coming out of some kind of trance but it wasn’t for long before he was dragged down into the water by something mysterious. “Mother, what is going on?” Sharise frantically pleaded her mother for an explanation.
“Punishment, for your defiance.” Her mother replied indifferently and wrapped her fur coat tighter around her body. Being observant as she was, Sasha noticed the large crystal ring around their mother’s middle finger instantly turned from red to black. “This shall teach you girls to do as you’re told. Now it is your responsibilities to make your way back.” Their mother grinned and with one wave of her hand, she vanished into thin air.
The instant their mother vanished, Sharise began to panic. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” She gasped as if she was hyperventilating.
Meanwhile, Sasha was calmer than usual, despite the cold. She placed a hand on Sharise’s shoulder. “Relax, I know a way out.”
Sharise stared incredulously at her sister. “What?”
“Grandmother told me something about our family a few weeks ago. I thought she had gone nuts but I guess mother’d just proven it.” Sharise blinked, confused, frantic, and anxious. “We’re witches.”
Sasha shook her head. “I’ll tell you what Grandmother said later. Now, come on, take my hand and let’s get out of here.”
“Are you sure it’ll work?”
“Just do what I do.” Sharise grabbed Sasha’s hand and they closing their eyes. “From this boat please take us home.” They repeated in unison and it wasn’t until the third time when they felt a rush of wind.
They opened their eyes and found themselves sitting on solid ground. “We did it.” Sasha shrieked proudly.
Sharise looked around, displeased. “Just one problem, THIS IS NOT HOME!”
“I got us off that boat, didn’t I?” Sasha retorted.
“And you brought us to this park with ducks, boo hoo.”
“Well, if you’re so clever, you can find your own way home.” Sasha whipped her hair and stormed off.
“You can find your own way home.” Sharise mocked as her sister stormed away. “Fine, I don’t need your help anyway. I can find my own way home.”
She turned and one of the ducks glanced up at her. She smirked. “What are you looking at? You’re lucky I don’t know how to turn you into dinner.” She stomped a foot on the ground. “Oh, darn you servants for spoiling me.”
Sharise walked along the path, trying to find the exit to this ridiculously gigantic labyrinth of a park. Along the way, her brain was busy working, coming up with a spell that really could get her home. She bit her nail. “What the heck rhymes with home? It was so easy for Sasha, all she had to do was be nice.” It’s always easy for Sasha, she thought bitterly.
Stomping hard on the red brick road, she didn’t realize the brick road had turned into a pavement nor did she realize she was heading toward a gazebo. “Welcome,” a voice said as she stepped into the gazebo.
“Oh my gosh,” Sharise jumped, clutched her chest, and turned around. “Grandmother?” Her grandmother smiled. The wrinkles at the corner of her eyes stood out, making her look older. “Grandmother? How-what are you doing here?” Sharise asked with disbelief.
“I’ve been watching you and it looks like you need my help.” Her grandmother replied.
“So you know what mother did?”
“No, I did not know until your sister used magic.” She held up her hand to show Sharise a green ring. “It’s a magic ring and comes in a pair. It helps me to detect her magic. Where is she, by the way?”
Sharise’s face reddened. “We got in an argument.”
Her grandmother shook her head. “It doesn’t matter now. Come, take my hand. I want to show you something.” Sharise obeyed and took her grandmother’s wrinkly hand.
The moment they reached the first step of the gazebo, she felt a burst of wind. A force of habit, Sharise shut her eyes and when she opened them again, she was sitting on a familiar bench. At once, she recognized this place. She was in the church just blocks from home.
“What are we doing here?” Her grandmother didn’t answer. Instead, she stood and walked down the aisle. Sharise followed her to a small door by the stage, pushed the heavy wooden door open and was surprised by what she found. “Grandmother, do you practice here?”
Still ignoring her, her grandmother walked to the table in the corner. On which was a large wooden bowl of what looked like ashes with incense sticking up. Her grandmother picked a fresh incense from the jar beside the bowl and placed it between her palms. She stared at it as Sharise watched with excitement. Within seconds, the tip of the incense glowed red.
Slowly, her grandmother bowed eight times, Sharise counted, before gently sticking the incense into the bowl. “Who are they?” Sharise asked a short while later. She was looking at the picture pinned on the wall. It was a picture of eight boys, all looked similar as if they were related.
“Your brothers,” Her grandmother answered.
“My what?” Sharise shrieked. Clearly, she didn’t know about her other siblings.
Her grandmother sighed. “Your mother has a nasty habit of sacrificing the people around her for their powers. That was what she was doing to you and Sasha.” Her grandmother led her to the mats in the center of the room. “Come, sit, and let me tell you a story.”
Sharise’s grandmother sighed, “Your mother wasn’t always like this. When she first began to discover her powers, whenever I asked her to light or burn something, she hesitated. She saw life in everything and everyone. Then her power glitched. I don’t know how, she wouldn’t tell me so I took her to her favorite place, the aquarium, to try and coax the truth out of her.
There, she told me about how the girls teased her and called her a freak. So, in anger, she took their power or the force that was keeping them alive and converted their energy to power. Once an individual’s life has been taken, there’s no returning it. So I told her to give it to the earth, let it evaporate. She never did. Instead, she kept all that power and used it for some evil purpose. She got creative with the acquisition process too.”
“Grandmother?” Her grandmother’s neck stretched, eyes widened, gasping.
“Hello, mother, I told you not to meddle in my personal matters.” Sharise’s mother appeared suddenly before them.
Her mother grinned. “Why, hello Sharise, time to say goodbye to your grandmother.” Sharise watched her mother’s hand twist and before she could react, her every limb became numb as she helplessly fell and watched her world turn to darkness.
“Sharise,” Sasha hissed as she looked out the dusty window. It was morning and their horses, Mary and Joseph, were nibbling at the grass. It’s all she could look at, ever since her mother ambushed her in the park, brought her back to this shed next to the stable, and tied her to this chair. “Sharise,” she hissed again. Sharise let out a low moan behind her.
They were tied back-to-back to each other on two wooden chairs. Patience running low, Sasha ground her teeth and braced for pain as she banged her head against Sharise’s. “Ow!” Sharise yelped.
“Finally,” Sasha grumbled.
“Sasha?” Sharise whined groggily. “What happened?”
“You tell me, what do you remember?”
Sharise groaned, “Not much. How did you get here?”
“Mother ambushed me.” Sharise jumped suddenly as though she had a realization, “What?”
“Grandmother,” she sagged, “Grandmother, I was with her when it happened.”
“When what happened?” Sharise began to sob, “What?” Sasha asked, slightly irritated.
“She’s dead. Mother killed her.”
In that instant, Sasha suddenly felt as if a part of her was missing. Perhaps it was. She and her grandmother had always somehow felt strangely like two peas of a pod, almost as if they should had been sisters instead of she and Sharise. She looked out at Mary and Joseph. Her fist clenched, angry. “Do you know what mother is planning?”
“Unfortunately, I do.” Sharise answered solemnly and went on to retell what her grandmother told her. “Unbelievable, right?” She said after.
Sasha said nothing, she just continued to stare out the lone window at Mary and Joseph. She had eight brothers? How is that even possible? She wondered. Their mother looked so young and the part about their mother killing people for power? She could’ve never thought their mother was capable of killing anything. Sure, she’s cruel but that was just to raise them to be better people. Surely, their grandmother’s tale was exaggerated in some ways.
Just then, the door flew open and their mother walked in. “Hello, my lovely children.” She smiled. This morning, she donned on her black dress with the high collar, her nails were painted in the shade of red that almost resembled black to match the color of her lips. “Ready for a lovely trip?”
“Where?” Sharise blurted.
With a snap of her fingers, the ropes fell off. “I’d like you to meet someone. Follow me.” At her command, Sasha felt her feet move automatically beneath her without her control. Together, Sharise and Sasha exited the shed with their mother behind them. They walked across the field, past the main house, and toward the church. With another a wave of their mother’s hand, the doors flew open and they proceeded down the aisle to the back room.
Sasha almost screamed but she slammed her hand on her mouth at the last second to stop the scream from coming out. She peeked at her sister and the expressionless look on Sharise’s face was puzzling since Sharise was always the drama-queen. Sasha looked again at what was before her. It was her grandmother, hung upside down from the ceiling by an invisible rope, her mouth gaped open and eyes opened wide as if in shock while her skin was gray as ash.
How could her own mother do this? How could she murder her own mother? She clenched her fists and felt something glowed at the center of her entire being. She stared into her grandmother’s ashen face and suddenly, it felt as if things no longer mattered.
She clenched her teeth as she heard her mother say, “Tragic, isn’t?” Their mother stood before them and grinned. “I hope you know, my girls, I was never planning to kill you. I was merely just going to take your powers.” Lie, a strange voice in Sasha’s head said, taking away one’s power is the same as killing them. “You wouldn’t know how to use them anyway. I was just doing you a favor by allowing you to live like normal human beings.” Their mother turned as if she was addressing her own mother. “Alas, my mother had to meddle and plant lies into your heads.”
“Is that why you killed her?” Sasha snarled.
Her mother turned to her, surprised. “Yes, you see, she was always in my way, always the obstacle that is obstructing my happiness. I lost your father and my boys because of her.” Tears were in her eyes now. More lies, Sasha’s inner voice said, she killed her husband and sons and harvested their power and kept it all to herself.
Sasha was becoming puzzled, the scene before her blurred as she felt like her head was about to explode. “H-how do I know y-you are t-telling the t-truth?” She gasped as her entire body shook.
“Because I am, you just have to trust me.”
Sharise stood there as she watched Sasha fell to her knees. The words, “I don’t,” escaped Sasha’s lips but it wasn’t her voice. Grandmother? Sharise thought immediately. She bent down and was about to asked if Sasha was all right when she stared into their mother’s dark-blue eyes and continued, “No! You killed Russ, Scarlet,” she spoke slowly, “and Rex and Raul and Rylan and Richard and Ramsey and Rowland and Ravi and Russell. You killed them all, Scarlet.”
Her mother bent down to Sasha’s eye-level. “I never did want to kill them, Mother. I just don’t want them to end up like me. I want them to have a normal life, one without power, one where they don’t have to worry about staying in control, one where they are free.” Her mother was crying now and as Sharise stood there, she had never been so confused in her life. Just 24 hours ago, she had learned that her mother was the villain. It made her want to run away from her own mother but now, she learned that her mother had good intention for the horrible things she had done.
“I don’t want to die, mother.” Sharise blurted.
Her mother stood, her eyes softened. “I know you don’t, sweetie. No one do.” She wrapped her arms around Sharise and pressed her head against her chest as Sharise began sobbing. “I’m sorry.”
“I want to learn,” Sharise sobbed, “I don’t want to die. Please tell me you won’t do it.”
“I won’t do it, sweetie. I promise.” As she spoke those words, Sharise felt her mother’s hand pressed against the smalls of her back and before Sharise could do anything, she felt as though something was being pulled from her.
“What. Are. You. Doing?” She managed.
“I’m sorry, sweetie but I can’t let you live like this. A mother will do what’s best for her babies.”
The pain was agonizing, as if her chest was experiencing some sort of gravity pull. She couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t speak. Goodbye, she thought and opened her eyes just a slit as she let the darkness take over.
“Sharise? Can you hear me?” A voice called. Is this heaven? She wondered. “Sharise!” The voice grew louder and irritated.
Out of nowhere, sharp pain shot through the side of her face, jolting her awake. “Ow! You have got to stop hitting me!” Her sister sighed or was her grandmother still occupying Sasha’s body? “What happened?” She moved aside, revealing their mother, her face was an ash-gray color and her eyes were wide open, similar to their grandmother. She turned to Sasha, “Did you…” she asked, skeptical.
Sasha sighed. “I had to,” she spoke in their grandmother’s voice. “She was withdrawing your power. It was either you or her. She had killed enough people.”
“What about you?” Sharise asked.
“What about me?”
“Are you going to hijack Sasha’s body forever?”
She laughed, “No, I merely hijacked her body to save you.” She sighed and looked around the room. “I’m going to miss this place but mostly, I’m going to miss you and Sasha.” They stood up and hugged. “I’m moving on, Sharise.”
“I’m going to miss you so much, Grandmother.” Sharise sobbed.
Reluctantly, her grandmother released her. “I’m going to miss you so much too. Take care of each other, okay.”
Sharise nodded. “Thanks for saving me, by the way. I will try to learn to use my new powers.”
Her grandmother smiled, “Whatever you need, just ask Sasha. I’ve already given her everything she will ever need.” She waved her hand and at once, the two corpses in the room vanished. Her grandmother smiled again. “Goodbye, Sharise.” As she said those last words, Sasha’s body fell limply onto the ground.
“Sasha? Can you hear me?” Sharise ran to her sister. “Sasha!” She said loudly before giving her sister a good slap across the face.
“Ow! What was that for?” Sasha woke, complaining loudly. She looked around the room. “What happened?”
Sharise helped her sister up. “I will explain later but for now, let’s go home. I don’t know about you but I need some time to process this before I can explain to you.” Sasha nodded in agreement and together, they walked out of the church.