I’m linking up with Master Class this week, with the prompt:
click the picture to go over to the Master Class page and add your own take on the prompt, or to read others. The requirement was that this not be the first or last line of the story.
My father was a poor man, rich in children. His oldest daughter he gave to a wealthy man three times her age for a hefty sum, her twin apprenticed to the thatcher down the road for a lifetime of roof repairs.
My father could have gained more profit from me elsewhere, as I was quite a pretty child, but the Sisters demanded me in payment for their service. Of two things you could be sure – the Sisters would help any who asked, and they would be paid. You didn’t survive leaving a debt to the Sisters unpaid, and you didn’t die quickly if you tried.
I remember fearing them, with their long dark robes, swaths of shadowy cloth obscuring their faces. They could not possibly see through that heavy black linen, and yet they moved gracefully as dancers through the narrow halls of their home, efficient and completely aware of their surroundings. I can now see the nuance, tell them apart and read what their intent is. Though nameless and silent, I can see that this Sister is the one who set the farmer’s bone in exchange for his only chicken, and that Sister cured the Magistrate’s cancer in exchange for his manhood. Payment is always exacted, and always something the debtor can pay, even if they would rather not.
I was a servant, though they treated me with the same kindly indifference they provided to all. I was well-fed and -clothed, and while my work was difficult, I slept on a soft pallet in a cool room. I was contented with my lot in life, a pale ghost drifting through the dark halls of the Sisters, silent and obedient.
My place with the Sisters changed the summer I turned sixteen, a man’s age.
And so here are the aromas that conjure for me the beginning of the end: burning wood, sweat, and peppermint, because that’s the oil she put in the diffuser. I spent a night with her, and forever more, I was a servant to the sisters, though also more.
My father came to the Sisters when his dimming sight had made it near-impossible to sew the tiny stitches required of a tailor. He was offered a trade. He grudgingly accepted the terms, and turned back to home without my guiding hand.
Ten years later, the air full of smoke, I watched in bewilderment as the heavy cloth fell aside, revealing soft skin as pale as moonlight, impossibly beautiful, and inhumanly long and thin. She cast off her gloves, thin hands tipped with razor sharp claws, then drew back her mask, and I could only gape at the beautiful monster before me, cat-eyes glowing in the flickering torchlight, Cheshire smile jagged with pointed teeth. Her auburn hair trailed to her feet, and as she mounted me, its silken waves caressed me like fingers.
The Sisters trade for what they require. On occasion, they had need of a laying hen, or a new goat, though what they required of the magistrate’s manhood, apart from retribution for his evil deeds, I know not. Of my father, they required a man, and, in time, his debt was paid.