Sacrifice

guy in water

When I was younger I never had the experience of being the popular girl in class or being pursued by a boy. I was the girl picked last for school activities, and had only imaginary friends to play with at recess. I was taunted and bullied throughout my elementary school years and became sullen and withdrawn by the time I entered high school. I was “overly sensitive” according to Mother and cried “at the drop of a hat”. I would linger off to the side, away from the center of activity and lurk in the shadows, where I would have full view of events as they unfolded, but remained comfortably cloaked in obscurity. I was the insignificant, passive observer to anyone who noticed me. I had a bleak perspective of life imposed on me by my circumstances, but within me I just craved acceptance, love and happiness, the same things everyone else around me desired.

I was enticed into the world of witchcraft when I was a teen through a popular television series, believing that magick would make me special and that in being so, would bring me the love and attention I sought, but I did not fully comprehend or appreciate the power that witchcraft possessed until I began a serious study into the occult. My mentor, Caraway, promised me that once I was initiated into the Coven I would gain a magickal family whom I could trust and who would love me unconditionally; unfortunately those expectations were never fulfilled.

Nothing prepared me for the life transformation that occurred after my Initiation. I read books and listened to the personal accounts of the Coven members, but none of them described what I had experienced. None of their stories even came close to what happened to me. The Witch Queen changed me in the most intimate way and in doing so created a fissure between the Coven and I that never healed. Nothing I said or did soothed the feelings of envy and resentment that had taken hold of their hearts. During my Initiation, the Witch Queen had bestowed upon me the power of the Ancestors, so while the members of the Coven believed they were powerful, I was powerful. My spells manifested just moments after casting instead of the usual weeks or months they had prior to the Rite; even the most experienced Witch in the Coven cast spells that did not manifest so expediently. While my transformation fascinated me, it also scared me. I desperately wanted and clearly required a mentor to instruct me, someone to ease my fears and guide my growth in the Craft, but none of the Coven members wanted the responsibility. I was lost, confused, and overwhelmed. I had no direction so I remained stagnant yet brimming with my newly gifted power.

It became a usual occurrence at Coven gatherings for my Brothers and Sisters to mockingly accuse me of secret pacts with dark entities. I did my best to ignore them and focus my attention on the High Priestess, but my mind would swirl with possible ways to placate their fear and suspicion. The snide comments continued until formal accusations, which could not be ignored, were made by Elder members of the Coven. I was devastated when I was summoned to attend a monthly Coven Counsel meeting. I had hoped that the pettiness would eventually subside, but it did not and although I defended myself against such absurd claims and begged the Counsel to allow me to stay even though it was clear that the other Members wanted me gone, the Counsel banished me during the next Dark Moon, cutting all magickal bonds between us. It felt like nothing I had ever experienced before and even though I had never been emotionally close to anyone in the Coven except my mentor, Caraway, I had been energetically bonded to them at my Initiation, so when the etheric cords were cut – I felt it. My physical body felt as if it had been ripped opened, allowing my insides to spill out onto the mattress I was laying on in my darkened bedroom.

I was forsaken. Unwelcomed and unloved. I never thought I would return to that wretched condition again, but there I was. And even though I may have been older and wiser, the pain of such an intimate betrayal triggered the misery of my younger self that I had suppressed for years. The wounds had festered in the shadows of my psyche; their toxicity bubbled to the surface and seeped into my present life. I was despondent and hollow. Nothing mattered. Nothing had any purpose. Overcome by the poisons of shame, frustration, and self-pity, I was dragged into a profound spiritual crisis, into the Dark Night of the Soul. I once held the belief that I was meant to be a part of the Coven; that I had found my tribe, people who accepted me for who I was,  and loved me unconditionally, but I was dreadfully wrong.

My fragile life had collapsed around me. I was fired from my job because I stopped calling out and did not bother showing up. My parents left voice mails to check in with me, but because we had become estranged during the early years of my Coven studies, they were unaware that anything was amiss.  My neighbors would occasionally leave sticky notes on my door, most likely from the concern that I might start emitting poisonous fumes from my rotting corpse. I occasionally placated them by replacing their notes with one of my own, a simple indicator that there was no need to call a hazmat team just yet. Many days I forgot to eat and would fall into the arms of malnourished hallucinations filled with talking ghouls and faceless people, I stopped bathing and would sporadically not sleep or sleep for hours, sometimes even days, existing within the world between day and night, the realm of twilight where I would meet and communicate with Darius, who consumed my tales of woe and self-pity as if they were the most decadent chocolate. Our exchanges were not only stimulating, but were informative, he graciously explained that he was a daimon and that his dominion was where the great artists found inspiration and that it was there, in the complete darkness, that true illumination was attained and inspiration found, but I was not so easily convinced by his carefully chosen words. I had become trapped in the blackness that was my existence and it seemed that the more I reached for the light, the illumination that Darius spoke of, the more it eluded me.

He patiently listened as I incessantly contemplated my condition, seeking answers to the questions the Witch Queen seemed reluctant to answer.

“Darius, am I cursed to be alone, forever? Why doesn’t anyone love me?” I lamented, innocently resting my head on his lap.

“Do you love yourself, hellcat?” he asked as he stroked my hair.

I frowned. “Why did the Witch Queen give me power if it was only going to bring me misery? I was devoted to the Coven, I am devoted to Her. Why did She allow this to happen to me?”

“Is it fair to blame Her for your plight?”

“Yes!” I sat up from my position on the floor. “It is fair. She sees all, She knows all, and She can change it all.”

“So, you don’t take responsibility for your choices?” He eyed me suspiciously. ”What sort of Witch are you?”

I demanded answers from the Witch Queen herself, so I petitioned Her and made supplications to Her night after night in hopes to appease Her. I crafted elaborate rituals using ancient documented Rites in the oldest of grimoires that I had collected over my years of study prior and during my time with the Coven, but nothing changed. Nothing improved. I was mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. So I did the only thing I was able to do – surrender. I accepted that I was where I was meant to be and that I would remain there possibly forever. If the Witch Queen had allowed the Coven to banish me, then it was possible that I needed to be banished. I trusted that She knew what was best for me and released all perception of control, embracing my pain. I allowed the darkness to cradle me in its silent decay. And that is where She found me, in that vulnerable condition She came to me, the Witch Queen. As I silently lay in Darius’ arms, She filled my mind, my spirit, and body with a simple vision without any explanation, but I understood the implication. That evening after bidding Darius farewell as I closed my magick Circle, I cleansed my apartment, took a purifying bath, and slept soundly knowing that my life was about to change. My suffering had become the catalyst for enlightenment and inspiration, which lead to a great transformation and rebirth, just as Darius had predicted.

* * *

I first met my husband, Craig, at the coffee shop we both frequented each morning on our way to our respective jobs. He was a general laborer and I worked in the Admissions Office at a local community college. As we waited in line to place our orders, we would exchange polite conversation and banter. These exchanges went on for a few months before he finally had the nerve to ask me out. I could have encouraged him more, but I enjoyed the experience of the courtship as I had never been pursued before and wanted to savor the entire experience. We went to the movies, had dinner and drinks at a local pub and ended the date the next morning with breakfast in bed.

Things were finally changing for me and I was ecstatic. I recognized that it would be prudent to use the momentum of these events to attract more of the same, so when the moon was at its peak, I sat skyclad on my balcony overlooking the woods behind the apartment complex and cast a spell to bind myself to my new lover with the confidence that I would never suffer at the hands of loneliness again. I had finally met my soulmate. He understood me and accepted me for who I was even if he did not truly understand or believe it. I was never concerned about his ignorance on the topic because I understood that for some people physical evidence of the occult was the key to their belief and I was confident that in time Craig would become a believer, even if Darius was skeptical.

Exactly three months from the date of the spell casting, Craig asked me to move in with him into the luxurious Colonial home that he had inherited from his father, the founder of the company that employed him. I did not hesitate to accept his offer and had all my belongings moved in by the beginning of the following month.

Three months later and against Darius’ strong advice, we were wed in a beautiful yet simple ceremony held at night in a forest clearing at the state park. The autumn air was cool and crisp as the fire in the center of our Circle snapped and crackled. The sky above us was clear, enabling the handful of guests a spectacular view of full moon and abundance of twinkling stars. I falsely believed the Witch Queen approved and I could not have asked for a better start to our marriage. Darius remained pessimistic.

My relationship with Craig began turning sour three months after the wedding when the receptionist at the warehouse he worked at retired and Krystal was hired to fill her position. Krystal reminded me of the popular girls in school; her clothes were stylish, her haircut was trendy, and her make-up was applied expertly. She wore heels too high to be practical and shirts too tight and low cut to be work appropriate, but no one at the warehouse complained. When Craig was home he was usually distracted by texts and calls that he thought he was successfully concealing from me, but no one can hide things from a witch like me. I knew he was cheating, but did not approach him about it until I had decided how I wanted to handle the situation. I had the power to stop him, but I wanted him to stop on his own and be with me because he wanted to be, not because I forced him.

“Craig,” I began, as I replaced my water glass on the table. “Can we talk?”

“Yeah. What’s up?” he asked, ripping a dinner roll in half and dunking it into the pool of red sauce on his plate.

I inhaled, resting my hands in my lap. I had decided that I would overlook the infidelity, anyone can make a mistake, but things between us had to change.

“We need to discuss Krystal.”

“Huh?” he asked. I saw a hint of panic. He had been caught, but he seemed uncertain of how to play it with me. “Who?”

“Seriously, Craig. Are you really going to deny it?”

“Deny what? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he dismissed me with a wave of his hand and a gulp of his ale.

“Krystal, the receptionist at the warehouse,” I prompted, giving him the opportunity to begin a dialogue with the hope that we could work through the mess that he had created of our marriage.

He glanced at me over the lip of his glass. I knew that he was trying to determine how much I actually knew, working out what he could get away with and what he could not. It was becoming obvious that I had imagined the depth of his understanding of me.

“Oh, right, her,” he placed his beer glass on the table with a bang. “What’s there to talk about?”

“You’re going to stop seeing her,” I demanded.

“What?”

I was becoming agitated with his feigned ignorance. I sighed, blotted my mouth with my napkin, and placed it on the table next to my dinner plate, which still held food.

“I said, ‘You’re going to stop seeing her.’” I held up my hand before he attempted to answer with some juvenile rebuttal. “And before you continue to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, I think it’s important for you to keep in mind that I’m a witch. I realize you think it’s all a joke; that witches don’t exist and witchcraft is make-believe, but it’s real.” I paused, allowing time for him to grasp the words I had just spoken and to emphasize what I was about to say. “I know you’re having sex with her, Craig. I knew the first time you did and each time after that. But you need to stop, now. Okay? It’s over.”

He looked at me with disbelief and suspicion then began laughing heartily from the depths of his belly as he picked up his fork and continued eating.

“Craig!” I slammed my palms on the table in frustration. “Do not ignore me!”

He glanced up from his plate and from his expression it appeared that I had crossed some arbitrary line.  He threw his fork onto the table as he jumped up from his seat.

“You little bitch, how dare you?” he growled.

In one graceful movement he pounced on me, yanking me from my chair, causing it to tip backward and slam against the floor.  He wrapped his large hands around my throat, his thumbs pressing against my trachea as his hot breath bathed my face, the aroma of garlic and oregano from the sauce he had just consumed, assaulted my nostrils. Although he was not much larger or heavier than I, he was significantly stronger and I instinctively knew that if he continued to squeeze my throat my brain would be deprived of oxygen and I would black out in minutes. I frantically grabbed at his fingers with my hands trying to pry them from my neck.

Something was dreadfully wrong. I was confused.  This was not the reaction I had expected when I was preparing to confront my husband, my soulmate, about Krystal.

“You don’t tell me what to do,” he snarled, his spit landing on my cheek. “Not anymore.”

My mind was clouded. I could not think clearly. The blackness was creeping into my consciousness. Did I make a mistake? Was Craig really my soulmate? Was it possible that the binding spell was no longer effective? What had I done?

Craig cautiously released my neck, causing me to stumble backward and fall against my overturned chair. I landed next to it on the floor. The tears spilled from my eyes as I caressed my neck where my husband’s hands had been. I tried holding them back, not wanting to give him the validation that I was vulnerable, but it was useless. I cried not only due to the physical pain he had inflicted on me, but because of the clear realization that he was going to leave me and there was nothing that I could do to prevent it from happening. I was going to be abandoned – again. I sat there on the floor. Sobbing. Watching him as he casually walked back to his empty place at the table and sat down to finish his dinner.

“You know, Krystal warned me. She said that you used witchcraft to get me to marry you,” he explained between bites of food. “But I didn’t believe her at first, ‘cuz you’re right, I did think it was all fake mumbo jumbo crap. But, that woman, she convinced me. And now look,” he paused as he leaned over so he could look directly in my eyes as I sat on the floor wallowing in self-pity. “Your spells don’t work on me anymore.”

He snickered, focusing on his dinner. I watched him shove forkful after forkful of food into his mouth, clearly enjoying himself. How long had he been immune to my spells? Was Darius aware of the situation? Did he have a premonition about this? Is that why he was unconvinced that the Witch Queen approved of my relationship with Craig?

Without my power, which allowed me to manipulate Craig, I was defenseless. The control I once wielded was gone and I was vulnerable, completely at his mercy. His name was the primary on everything; the bank accounts, the house, the cars, the credit cards, even my cell phone. Nothing was mine. Up until now the fact that he claimed sole ownership of everything we had acquired was never a concern for me because he was under my influence, but now he proved that our situation had changed and he was free from my manipulations. What was I going to do?

Craig drained his glass with a loud belch and stood so that he towered over me, clearly enjoying his new perspective.

“Honey, you did a great job with dinner. It was delicious,” he said with a pat to his stomach. “Make it again next week, but instead of serving those plain dinner rolls from the grocery store, be sure to bake some homemade garlic bread.”

He winked at me as he left, leaving me alone in the dining room to clear the dishes.

That night marked Darius’ return as my devoted companion. Once Craig and I were married Darius had become a shadow in my life, lingering just beyond the peripheral, but once the marriage shifted and Craig made it apparent that he viewed me as a live-in maid and occasional sex slave when he wanted something that Krystal would not provide, Darius and I rekindled our intimacy. We began secretly meeting, most often during the early hours of the morning when Craig was still out from the night before or sleeping in his bedroom. He understood my emotional pain and would listen attentively and without judgment as I complained about the condition of my life and marriage, how I felt abandoned, once again, by the Witch Queen, and how much I despised Krystal and all she represented. When I shared my sinister fantasies concerning the unfortunate demise of both Craig and Krystal, his smiles would slightly lift my mood. He was my confidante, my comfort, my foundation. He was the salve to my deepest wound and the lighthouse in the densest fog. His presence was empowering to me when I felt so disheartened. I trusted him implicitly and knew I had inadvertently fallen in love with him.

***

It was not long before Craig stopped hiding his relationship with Krystal and would often spend the night at her place without providing me with an excuse, but he never once mentioned separation or divorce; to our families everything appeared just as it had always been – perfectly normal, but I lived with the constant fear that Craig, possessing all the power in our relationship, would spontaneously decide that he was done with me and throw me out. This fear fueled my frustration and anger, which seethed for weeks until I no longer could remain stagnant. My life could not continue as it was. I was in love with Darius and wanted him as a focus in my life. I wanted the freedom to be with him, so I began transforming my dark fantasies into reality.

My intention was simple: get rid of Craig and if necessary Krystal, but to do so would require careful planning. I did not want to get caught and spend my life in jail or worse, be put to death, so I needed to be meticulous. When I confided in Darius, he helped me brainstorm scenarios in order to find the best and most plausible plan of action.

“When he’s sleeping, you could inject him with a cocktail of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. If it’s good for death row inmates then it’ll be good for Craig.”

“Great idea,” I nodded. We were sitting next to each other on the floor in the living room, leaning against the sofa in front of the fireplace. I reached over for the wrought iron poker hanging from the stand by the mantle. “But I don’t have access to any of those drugs.”

“Well, that’s an integral part of the plan so, scratch that and on to the next,” Darius said. “What about bludgeoning him with that poker? Or stabbing him straight in the chest with a kitchen knife?”

I shook my head as I prodded the embers of the dying fire. “No, remember: I don’t want to get caught and I’m not strong enough to fight him. Anything that requires strength is out.”

“Right. . .,” he agreed. “Okay, so what if you snuck into his bedroom while he’s sleeping and slit his throat? It doesn’t require strength and if you hit the jugular vein, he won’t suffer, so it’s humane.”

“But there would be a lot of blood to clean up and what would I do with the body after?”

Darius shrugged.

“Humane is good though,” I pointed out. “I’d like this all to be as compassionate as possible. I’m not a monster.”

“Well, what if you cook him that pasta he loves and drug it with something to knock him out, then you could put him in the bath tub filled with lye. In less than an hour his body will be reduced to stew. So no body to dispose of! No fuss, no mess!”

“That is disgusting!” I shrieked. “And what am I going to do with the Craig stew after that?”

Darius chuckled. “I love that you even considered it as an option.”

We stared into the fire contemplating other possibilities. This was not as easy as I had imagined it to be. I hated that witchcraft was not a choice, it would have made this so much easier.

“Darius, you might have come up with a valid idea,” I said, my thoughts firing inside my head quicker than I could vocalize. “I could drug his dinner with something, like a poisonous plant. Something not traceable, like Death Camas. A lot of people confuse it for wild onions, right?”

Darius grinned.

“And if Craig eats enough of it, it will kill him,” I stood excited by my plan.  “We have a patch of it growing not far from here where I wild harvest my herbs.”

It was precisely six weeks after Darius and I had birthed the plan for Craig’s demise before it had been fulfilled. The delay was not due to any difficulty with harvesting the herbs or preparing the meal, but with the orchestration of the execution. During those particular weeks Craig consumed the majority of his food outside the home, which was suspicious. Someone or something was clearly influencing his behaviors and changing his usual routine. I was confident Krystal was the source. She had warned Craig before, it was logical to assume she had done so again. It was crucial for me to become more aggressive when baiting Craig and my efforts succeeded when the aroma of baking garlic bread and simmering pasta sauce enticed him to dine with me that Thursday evening. He consumed more than his usual share and graciously complimented my cooking skills before retiring to his bedroom. In the early morning hours I found him unresponsive in his bed and dutifully called 911.

The medical examiner listed “sudden cardiac death” on Craig’s Death Certificate and noted that the toxicology report was negative so no criminal investigation was conducted, even after the authorities received an anonymous phone call suggesting foul play. The call was dismissed as a prank.

Once the funeral had passed, my life returned to a new version of normal. I had earned my freedom and believed that it meant I was under no restrains or restrictions and that Darius, who had temporarily faded into the shadows of my life after Craig died, could reemerge and take his place by my side as my beloved, and eventually my husband. I was unconcerned with disapproval from the Witch Queen since Darius was aware of Her existence, Her influence and power, but I was being naïve.

It was clear that She objected to our relationship when I began having the nightmares. Since most of my communication with the Witch Queen was either in dreams or during trance I was certain that the unsettling visions were direct messages from Her, warnings to stay away from him, to stop planning a future with him because it just was not meant to be. In my dreams, which began pleasant enough always ended with torture and painfully annihilation by a dark force beyond my sight, but terrifying just the same.  It seemed that I was fated to be alone, to live out the rest of my days a lonesome spinster deprived of the presence and love of my soulmate. My concerns were confirmed once Darius answered my call.

“Darius, why didn’t you come to me sooner? I’ve been calling and calling, but you never showed.”

He frowned. “I was being kept from you, hellcat, and after tonight I will no longer return when you summon me.”

“Why? I don’t understand,” I bemoaned, slumping to my knees within my Circle. “Why am I being continuously punished by the Witch Queen?”

“Why do assume it’s because of Her?” he asked. “You call yourself Witch, yet you never take responsibility for your own choices in life.”

“I take responsibility!” I glared at him.

“No, you don’t,” he shook his head. “Even now, you’re blaming Her for the repercussions of what you’ve done.”

“Of what I’ve done?” I questioned. “What have I done to deserve to be kept apart from you?”

Darius appeared bewildered. “You took a life prematurely, hellcat.”

“But I did that so we could be together.”

“It was selfish and you didn’t consider the consequences of your actions. His death wasn’t justified,” Darius clarified. “As much as you wanted him gone, you didn’t consider the possible karmic repercussions.”

“But you let me do this,” I pointed at him. “You helped me come up with a plan! If you knew it was going to turn out this way then why didn’t you stop me? Why didn’t you warn me, Darius?”

“I didn’t allow you to do anything. You are the only one who has complete control of your life. You make your own choices. I was here to support you, not to stop you, or warn you, or convince you to do otherwise.”

“Fine,” I sighed. “So how do I make this right? How do I fix this so we can be together?”

Darius was silent as he gazed at me. It was evident that something between us had shifted. I knew then that there was a serious price to pay to reestablish balance.

“We can never be together in this realm,” he said solemnly, “And there is only one way we can be together in mine.”

I was desperate. I had to fix this.

“Tell me how.”

“You already know.”

He was right. I did. There was nothing left here for me. I was alone. I was miserable. I wanted to be with Darius, my daimon, the only one that really did understand and love me and if that meant joining him in his realm, the realm of twilight and shadows, then so be it.

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