Hey there blog readers! Today is Teaser Tuesday.
Below is a scene from my novel MacDowell Sisters & AnnaBeth. Links to the book on Amazon and Smashwords follow the excerpt.
There is probably some spoiler-ish material in here, so if you are sensitive about that sort of thing, you might not want to read on. This is a scene from Chapter 6, Night at Reau House.
AnnaBeth (our 19 year old protagonist) has delivered some spare body parts from the funeral home for the MacDowell sisters, her elderly witch mentors, at their request. This part of the scene begins in mid-conversation. The MacDowell Sisters have just finished explaining that they use bones and bone fragments as vessels for their will.
A few quick bits of info. These witches call themselves ‘fates’ because they deal in people’s destinies and Havens Path is AnnaBeth’s house.
Vestra and Madeline MacDowell live in Reau House. This scene takes place in the cellar where there are old corpses piled on dirt ledges.
I thought of the pendant I saw Thomas Williams leave with on my first visit to Reau House. The MacDowell sisters didn’t want him to have children and he took their will home with him in the form of a necklace, a necklace with bone inside.
“What about Ophelia’s teeth?”
Vestra answered, “We were friends with dear Ophelia and didn’t want to take much from her.
Teeth are easily accessible and we don’t have to break them down.”
“We ordered only the teeth out of respect for our friend.”
Emboldened by how easily I was getting answers, I asked another question.
“Why can’t you use the bones of the people down here?”
“They do in a pinch but they don’t hold energy like the fresher ones.”
“Okay, that’s probably enough for today,” Vestra declared. She’d probably tired of my questioning. “Maddy and I have to deal with the bones, and it’s already so late.”
Madeline moved to show me to the door, then I remembered something.
“Cecile said she needed replacement because she took too much.”
“Ah, another use for our old friends down here. Is Rachel being cremated?”
“That really is the most earth friendly way to do it.” Madeline nodded.
“I think they call it ‘eco’ now, sister.” Then to me Vestra said, “AnnaBeth, before you go, would you pack up two femurs and two tibias into one of the bone bags. Lady Madeline will show you where they are. We’ll drop them off at Cecile’s first thing in the morning.”
“You want me to touch the bones?” I asked disbelievingly.
“Yes, dear. Fates have dirty work too. Our old friends don’t mind.”
I was willing to bet the old friends would mind if they knew and would say so if they had tongues with which to protest.
Madeline suggested, “Maybe some arm bones too.”
“AnnaBeth, help Madeline. I will stay here and get started on this portion of the dirty work.”
Madeline and I went back the way we came in. She stopped at a wide stepladder rammed up against the front of one of the ledges. She bent to pick up a canvas sack, shook a cloud of dust from it and handed it to me.
“Here we are.”
I was about to desecrate a corpse. There had to be some bad juju in that, bad karma or something. If there is a next life, I would end up as a dung beetle or a feeder rat for someone’s pet python. Dinner and a show. I stared at Madeline for a few seconds, hoping she’d expose the assignment as a joke.
Instead, she said, “Try to get the bones from one of our friends in the back. They are the oldest and have the least value to us.”
Why did they keep calling them friends?
As I reluctantly climbed the stepladder, pounding came from Vestra at the back of the cellar, rhythmic sounds of metal cracking bone. She was breaking Rachel’s bones down into smaller pieces.
I shuddered. Not that my dirty work was much better, but at least I didn’t know these people, these friends propped on ledges.
I reached the top of the stepladder and saw into the spread of dry bodies that went on to the far walls of the cellar. There was a thin strip of bare ledge which allowed room for me to climb up before I plunged into the sea of dead. I lay there on my side, staring into bundles of bones and ancient formalwear.
“Is something wrong, AnnaBeth?” Madeline inquired from the floor below.
“No, I’m just taking a moment to adjust.”
“Watch for sharp pieces.” She warned.
I shut my eyes tight and put a hand in. It landed on a dirt encrusted, ruffled lacy piece of a dress. Not so bad. Old and dry like everything else on the ledge.
Old and dry, old and dry, I chanted to myself internally as I clawed my way across bodies. I guess the idea comforted me because I preferred them in that state rather than the alternative, which is fresh and moist.
Dust flew where I stirred it and clogged my throat. I didn’t even want to think about what that dust was made of. I tried not to breathe, which only left me to gasping when I needed air.
Leaning on clothes to avoid direct skin on corpse contact, I felt bones snap beneath fabric. I officially had enough at the halfway point. I chose a skeleton which unlike everyone else around it did not wear clothing. I wouldn’t have to undress him or her.
The bones separated easily at the knees and elbows. I cringed every time I made a pull. The person wasn’t alive, but I still experienced some anxiety for separating the pieces. I wouldn’t want this for my bones or anyone else’s.
“Are you far in already?” Madeline asked me when she heard the sound of bones knocking together in the sack.
“Far enough.” The firmness in my voice surprised me.
I was caked in dirt and beyond ready for bed by the time I climbed down from the ledge.
“Here.” Still breathless from lack of oxygen, I handed the sack to Madeline. I couldn’t remember another day seeming so long and perfectly exhausting. My bones ached, perhaps out of sympathy for the Reau House dead. “I’m going home.”
I walked away without waiting for Madeline to respond. I didn’t want to see her or Vestra or even Justin for a while. Had moving Havens Path been an option, I would have moved her to the westernmost corner of Hawaii, the farther the better.
“Don’t worry about coming for your next lesson. We’ve covered enough for one week.” Vestra yelled from the back of the cellar.
“Good night!” Madeline chirped as I trudged up the stairs into blessed fresh air and darkness.
“Sleep tight!” Vestra chimed.
I added in a weak hearted mumble, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”