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by intuey
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Dark · #2299336
At first, I'd only hear the wind--or the dog.
My name is Lilly-Mae, I'm 105 years old. I guess my time is limited in this old world. Although, how am I to complain? It's been a grand ole' life. Oh no, not easy at all. Don't misunderstand me. It's been a hard life. Cruel at times. A lot of tears I've cried in my long life; oh yes, so many tears. I guess I'll start at the beginning. Well, maybe not at the very beginning. I don't think anyone wants to take that long reading this here writing of mine.

My momma raised me in an old cottage in the woods. Of course, there were more woods way back then. It wasn't as much of a novelty as it is today. Yes, many people lived in the woods back then. People worked from sun up to sun down then too. Of course, you had to if you wanted to eat. People were kinder back then. They cared about their neighbor, even if that meant traveling miles to see them. We took care of one another. That's what we did. I miss that.

Momma taught me the way of the plants. She taught me what each one was and what ailment they cured. Momma taught me the importance of how long to leave some of 'em open to the air and which ones to close away from the air. She taught me which roots and leaves to boil in water and which ones to eat raw or slow-cooked over an open fire. It's all important, every bit of it. No matter what you use: the earth, air, water, and fire are all critical parts of the cure. Whatever the ailment may be. Yes Siree, every part is as important as the next. And it's a surefire lesson if you forget.

People from all around came to our little cottage. They came for cures no one else could seem to fix. Momma would take a good look at 'em. She'd look at their eyes, tongue, fingernails, toenails, and skin. You can learn a lot just lookin' at those five things. Every part of the body tells a story, you just have to know how to read it that's all.

I'd watch Momma all the time. I'd watch her when the people came, I'd watch her when she was alone. She did more than know plants, she talked too. Some people would call them spells, Momma said it was just getting in touch with the spiritual part of us that humans have lost. She said if you listen real careful like, they'll tell you what you don't know. So that's what I tried to do. I tried to listen.

At first, I'd only hear the wind--or the dog. Momma said to keep trying. So that's what I did. I kept trying. Day after day, month after month, until one day, someone said ... something.

I was mixing up a cure for my dog, Ralph's ailment. He had scratched himself up real bad, going under some wired fence my daddy put up to keep the cows in. Ralph's wounds were swollen and starting to get infected. I was grinding up some lobelia to make a compress and adding in some slimy elk. When I started to add the water to make a paste, I heard a voice carried on the back of the wind .... C H A R C O A L it said. Now, I know what you're thinking, Why, Lilly-Mae, that was just your conscious talking to you, reminding you what else to put in for his ailment. But no. My conscious doesn't get carried in on the back of the wind and it's not in someone else's voice. It's my voice and mine alone. This, my friend, wasn't my voice. I was so excited, I ran in and told Momma the wind talked to me and what it said. She confirmed that I did indeed need to use charcoal for the wounds and then she just smiled that knowing smile at me. I was becoming a healer now in my own right.

I started doing more than help Momma. Momma started standing beside me while I did the healing. The wind talked to me all the time now. Just like I'm talking to you. It was always my friend. I grew older and moved about fifteen miles away from Momma. I didn't want to get too far because Momma was by herself now. Daddy left us and went to another world in the afterlife. No potion or poultice could keep Daddy alive. No. Sometimes, it's out of our hands and put into the good Lord's. When that happens, you have to know you've done all you can. Give Daddy a kiss, let him know you love him, and hold up the best you can when it's time to say that final goodbye. That's what Momma's doing now. She's trying to hold up the best she can. She and Daddy had fifty years together. Momma said she still wasn't ready to say goodbye.

That's why what happened, happened. Momma wasn't ready to say goodbye to Daddy. She got selfish. She didn't know when to stop. You have to know when to stop--if you don't, you'll learn a sure-fire lesson and it won't be an easy one to learn. Not for you, your loved one, or the loved ones beside you. No. It sure won't.

Momma quit listening to the wind. She started making her own voices. She spoke incantations from somewhere else. It's not a good thing to do. It's a fine line doing what we do and keeping it in God's hands and away from the devil's. Momma started to take things out of God's hands. She started mixing poultices I had never seen before. Doing things that shouldn't be done. Saying things that shouldn't be said. And she carried it to my Daddy. Daddy couldn't refuse. He was too sick. Too far gone. That is until Momma started doing what she knew she shouldn't be.

About a month after she started this, Daddy started to come around. Now, mind you, Daddy shouldn't have been coming around a month later. Daddy should have already been living his new life for at least three weeks or more now. Well, when Daddy started to come around, Daddy wasn't Daddy. Not the daddy I know. Momma got scared. She tried to play it off at first, but then she couldn't play it off any longer. Daddy started getting stronger. He couldn't get out of bed yet, which was a mighty good thing. Daddy's eyes weren't right anymore. They were as black as the midnight sky, with no sparkle of light anywhere to be seen. He didn't talk right, either. No. He sure didn't. He was spit-fire mean. Talked about doing things when he got out of that bed that no child should hear--no one should hear for that matter. I caught her in the kitchen more times than I can count. She was on her knees praying that God forgives her. Trying to make God understand why she did what she did.

In the background was my daddy, well, not my daddy, but the thing that now lived in my daddy. He was screaming that if he heard her talking to that imaginary man in the sky one more time when he got out of that bed, he was gonna let her find out how imaginary he was. And let me tell you something, you couldn't hear Momma a'praying. No. You sure couldn't. The kitchen was on the other end of the house than the two bedrooms and Momma would pray real low. A lot of times I couldn't hear her in the den, right next to the kitchen. There's no way that thing in there heard Momma through a closed door. No. No way at all. Momma quit treating Daddy then. She quit treating him for everything. Never mind the potions and poultices, Momma never went in that room anymore. She left him in there. Pretty soon the voices, they grew fainter. Not as strong. Momma was scared he was tricking her. So she waited until the smell came. Then we knew he was no longer alive. We wrapped him up in the blankets. Dug a hole as deep as we were able to, over four days long. We dug and dug and dug. I think any deeper and we would have found out if you can really dig to China. The hole was far out on the land. She buried him under an oak tree for the love of the man he once was, but down deep enough for the devil that he became.

We ended up burning everything in that room. Everything. We stripped it down to plum nothing. Momma used tons and tons of sage, sweet grass, and cedar to cleanse that room; using candles, too. She cleansed that room every day for a year, I know. She cleansed it and prayed and prayed and prayed--inside the room. Finally, she felt that it was clean enough to put a new rug and bed in. But we still didn't use that room. The door still stays closed to this day.

Using the earth, air, water, and fire you can sure cure a lot of things, but then you can hurt a lot of things, too. Listening to the voice on the back of the wind is a good thing if you know that voice is good. But when you stray, it can be a very bad thing. Yes. A very bad thing indeed.

2023 Quill Nominee

(1,604 Words)
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