People tend to consider my mother a saint for taking in a large group of somewhat”difficult” children, and it annoys her quite a bit when she hears it. At one event she told them that she had actually had some old books of forbidden magic and jar of toad’s blood up in the attic. They all thought it was hilarious, and I wasn’t quite sure, not that I wanted to, how I would tell them, well…
She wasn’t joking.
I found out about Mum’s illicit hobby when I was around twelve years old, I suspected that there had to be a reason that the rest of the family ‘politely requested’ that she take over in an overseas branch of our company , and cut off contact with us. To be honest I had always gotten the impression-not that I shared it with people- that Mum was something of a problem child. She did what she wanted and it seemed like she went about as if she were above the rules. “Above the conventional norm.” as she put it. It didn’t surprise me too much that she finally went too far.
I just wondered what did it. I found out one evening when a storm knocked out power in the house. Normally the basement was Mum’s ‘private place’, forbidden to me or the other children (only three at this point) but the power had gone out and after I checked around the only possible place it could be was either outside (Yeah. I don’t think so) or in the basement.
The taxing situation wasn’t helped by dealing with three early primary school-age children, one of them being my very mischievous ‘brother’ Shiro. At this stage in his life, he was an outspoken , spoiled little brat when he wanted to be. He was instigating while Cam reacted in her normal way, by hitting things (and occasionally him). The youngest whimpered and stuck to me-the one armed with a flashlight that would scare the monsters away- like one of the obnoxiously colored stickers spread around the playroom. It was up to me to take charge and do something.
I handed the little one a backup flashlight and told the other two under no uncertain terms that she was to be in ‘charge’ of holding it (young children always like to feel like they’re being given responsibility or importance) . Before I left I assured them that I would be back in only a moment and I would turn the lights back on. I left them briefly and headed for the basement, telling myself I was just going to switch the lights back on. I pushed all anxiety to the side and dove in headfirst.
Dealing with the fusebox wasn’t that hard. I recalled a few articles in a rather large how-to book I got for my birthday a few years ago, my relatives always knew I was a brainy, curious child. I could remember most things I read easily. Finding things with only the light of a flashlight was the biggest problem I had, that and trying to keep my hands steady.
In a few moments the lights turned back on, and when I turned around to face the whole of the basement I was hit right in the face with a large dose of temptation. There was a whole study down there. I reasoned to myself that maybe…just maybe mother might not know if I just took a peek.
And take a peek I certainly did. I made sure to recall just how things were so as not to let her know I was here. The jars on the shelf were filled with some unknown liquid; I carefully took one off the shelf and looked at it. It was dark red but just thin enough to see through, I unscrewed the top carefully to get a bit of the smell, as I tried to go through a mental compilation of all the chemicals I could recall. When I got a whiff of it I was reminded vaguely of something.
A hospital room…yes, so maybe it was some sort of medicinal chemical used in hospitals. It smelled strongly of metal but there was something else in there I couldn’t place my finger on. Mum wasn’t a doctor, she was a corporate boss. So why…
Then it came to me where I remembered this particular smell.
I was in the hospital after my Uncle Toshiro’s accident. As I waited, while Shiro played in the children’s room, some doctors rushed in with a patient, and I nearly got knocked out of the way. As I passed a sickly sweet metallic smell, enough to turn my stomach hit me.
“Get us to the ER, he’s bleeding profusely”
It was a jar of blood. I was holding tightly to the jar with my stomach turning and inching its way into my throat. A surge of something acidic rose up into my mouth, accompanied by a horrible taste. I clenched my mouth shut and worked quickly to get the lid back on the jar and the jar on the shelf again. Once I stepped away I opened my mouth again taking a few deep breaths. I could have left then but I noticed the books on her shelf, they looked a bit old but well treated.
I picked one up and read it hoping that I would find something to reassure me that my mother did not have ill intentions. I did find answers but they were not reassuring. I’m going to be honest; I didn’t believe in magic and to this day I’m no longer sure what to think. But my biggest worry was that were the police for whatever reason to find this room, my mother would hauled away. I put the book back and looked through another one, and another still unable to take such a thing as real. Sorcery was a thing that was found in stories, fairy tales.
In the real world at least there was no such thing as magic. Right?
I hoped it wasn’t. Mum was just wasting her time with a thing that would easily get her mistaken as a murderer. Yes, that was why I worried for her. I picked up yet another, small leather bound book and flipped through it.
It was written in my mother’s jagged cursive. A few “recipes’ here and there, a to do list. Looking over her lists of things to buy at the grocery store took a whole new meaning. It was astonishing to think that some spices, a bit of rare meat, and some chemicals could come together to make a potion. At least it explained what she did with all the garlic that she bought and why she continued to buy it after I told her that I couldn’t stand the stuff.
I also found a few passages of notes to herself. A bit like a sort of diary.
One of them dated from about four years ago.
Note to Self: Sophia is busy (again) must watch little one next week.
Church meetings-Monday, and Wednesday. Charity Dinner –Tuesday. Homeowner’s Society: Thursday.
The child needs more meat; the rabbit food his mother is feeding him is not fit for human consumption. If she can’t be bothered to actually parent him, then I shall do what I think is best when watching him. If she wants to champion a cause so badly I would suggest reforming her husband into a useful human being.
She kept careful notes about her nephew as she watched him, tying any and all flaws back to his parents. From what I could recall, I would admit she had fair points about my uncle. The man was often bitter and cynical towards the world, patronizing to his wife and rather rude to Mum about how she raised me. He denied he had a problem but it was clear that for him alcohol, his job and his status were all that mattered in the world. One might wonder why, if his status in society was so great, he was so driven to the bottle to deal with it.
He became angry- irate even-once when his son preferred to follow Mum’s orders to his. It was hard to forget the memory of him dragging the boy off wailing, and saying that his boy would “thank him one day for a proper upbringing.”
The relationship between them soured more when Aunt Sophia hired a nanny for her child and stopped talking to Mum. Mum responded to her with “Fine, but don’t blame me when your way of living or your husband is the death of you.”
I quickly stuffed the book away when I heard a commotion upstairs. I started on the way out, knees still shaking but then went back quickly for my flashlight. I walked in the kitchen to find mother standing there holding the backup flashlight and looking not at all pleased.