Mar 24

The Slaughter Star

Alice picked up her little brother and tucked him into the fold of her hip that had only just begun to blossom last year. Nico wound his small hand in her dark, golden curls that fell down to her mid shoulder. His chubby three year old body leaning into her expanding chest. Alice took one last look at the old decrepit graveyard, it looked almost beautiful, shining in the sunset. All the same, she clutched Nico to her chest and felt bursts of regret for the dead, even though she knew no dead slept beneath these headstones. She heard Liam from down the road, calling her name. Alice turned, not bothering to tie her shoe laces, if not for perfection, for safety... she was too consumed with the slip of paper burning holes in her pocket. Their older brother, Liam, was closer now, Alice hurried to catch up with him. “Alice, mum's waiting for us!” Alice walked faster. “Coming” she cried. She turned out of the little cemetery and onto the dead-end, dirt road that lead to nowhere except their own overgrown house. The sunset thrashed against the trees bordering the dusty road, causing shadows to dance before them. Liam was walking toward them. He was tall, with long blonde curling over his high forehead. His green eyes peeking out from under his heavily weighted eyelids.

Liam was fifteen, Alice was thirteen, Nico was three and their youngest sibling, Serena, was six months. They lived in the deep woods of Salem Massachusetts. They lived alone with their mother, Charlotte, none of them could ever remember having a father, but sure enough, Charlotte gave birth. Time and time again. They owned a small homestead at the end of an old dirt road which lead to nothing else but a cemetery. Which they paid regular visits to, Charlotte normally brought the children there once a week to practice seances. But that wasn't where the real fun happened.

Liam and Alice walked down the road, taking turns carrying Nico. “so you remember mum told us we're going to the Slaughter Star tonight?” Liam recalled to Alice, “yeah, I know, that's why mum sent me to the cemetery...” Alice shifted Nico to her other hip. They were quiet after that. They kept walking until they reached the front porch, it was covered in plants and herbs in pots and just growing up around the cracks in the floorboards. They could hear Charlotte inside, the windows were open and out. They opened the creaky screen door and were overtaken with the smell of sage burning somewhere in the house and various herbs simmering on the stove. Charlotte was in the Altar room, they could hear her chanting. Alice set Nico down on the floor and pushed her way toward the Altar room. She wiggled between cabinets stocked with books and rows of jars filled with dried herbs and squeezed under charms and chimes hanging low from the high rafters. Everywhere pentacles could be spotted, marked on cupboards with charcoal, features on statues of goddesses, even drawn on the children's skin. Each one had a tattoo of the pentacle on their right wrist. Instead of lamps, candles lit the household. Piles of dusty books and bottles of medicines reclined in the empty pockets of the house. The Altar room was a small room with a low table in the center of it. Statues, charms, and ritual bowls were laid all over it. Charlotte was hunched over the table, a lamb from their sheep pen dangling limply in her lap. Its slit throat pulsing with blood which she was catching in a gold bowl. The lamb's blood poured over Charlotte's hands, staining her apron and even showing on her inky, black dress. Charlotte's hair was a deep auburn, even though most people her age would have graying hair and wrinkled hands, Charlotte looked timeless. “Children” she said, in that sweet, deep voice of hers, “Get ready to go”

They hiked through the dark woods, carrying candles. Liam carrying leather bags of plants and extra candles. Charlotte carrying Serena on her back, and a bag of seeds in a satchel. Alice following behind them, carrying Nico and a water skin full of the lamb's blood. “Alice” Charlotte said in her low, charming voice, “was the scouting trip successful?” “yeah, I found a good one, not too old” Alice replied. Feeling the weight of the paper in her pocket. She had gone to the cemetery for a reason. She didn't like what they did, but it was necessary.

When they reached the Slaughter Star, it was far into the night. The moon shone down on the Star and caused shivers to slip up Alice's back. The Slaughter Star was a large stone slab in the woods. Real stars fell light down upon the platform. Charlotte stepped onto the stone floor. Liam and Alice followed. The sharp clicks of Charlotte's boots echoed in the October night. Charlotte stood in the middle and beckoned for Alice to hand her the water skin of lamb blood. Which she spilt fruitlessly in the little divots in the stone. The little unnoticed channels ran all over the stone slab, eventually forming the pentacle they knew so well. A star with a circle around it. The stone shuddered and slowly, soundlessly started creeping open.

The stone spilt in half and a staircase lead down into the dark. Alice followed her mother and brother down and into a large cavern. Although it was dark underground, the cavern was full of growing green moss and translucent bugs flitting in and out of holes in the rocky ground. The rocks were covered in greenery and the tall ceiling was out of sight. It would have been beautiful, Alice thought, if not for the corpses hanging from tall cavern's ceiling. Although the cemetery is where you would think the dead would lie, if you go digging, you will find very few bodies. Only empty coffins and lonely headstones await you. The real graveyard is down here. Thousands of bodies hang overhead, hung from their broken necks and entangled in vines. Eye sockets wedged deep in their skulls and their rotting Mouths agape. Charlotte's boots snapped across the rocky surface, echoing in farther places. “Alice, the name please.” Alice reached into her pocket and pulled out the paper. “John Brecker.” Alice read her handwriting she had written earlier today. “born 1758 - died 1807.” Charlotte's hands had already begun searching the high fields of the dead. Her hands buzzing with light, tugging at her magics to find John Brecker.

It wasn't too long before she dropped her hands, exhausted from the exercise. John Brecker would have been bones by now but the magics of the cavern had preserved him so he looked like most other corpses in the cave. The corpses in the cavern rarely finished decomposing. Charlotte lit a few candles and took out the satchel with seeds in it she had been carrying. She then took the bag Liam had been carrying, a bag of soil. She filled dead John Brecker's mouth full of soil and planted seven seeds in it, one of each of the Goddesses.

It was prayer. The seeds will sprout and twist in their hosts. What makes the plants peculiar is that they grow upside down, their roots reach up and out of their pot's mouth and the greens twist down the host's throat, eventually flowering in their lungs. You may see them pouring over the rim of the mouth, rupturing through their esophagus and entangling the dead body in vines. The roots, that grow up and out of the throat, stretch and grow into the roof of the cavern. The strong roots, these roots growing from the dead, savoring all the body has to give, are the only things keeping earth from splitting in two. Growing out of vertebras, strangling windpipes, stretch out to one side and the other, then persuade them to fall back in love with each other. Most cemeteries have no bodies beneath the tombstone, but most are near a witch's Slaughter Star.