Yamaye scurried through the gate, and it clanged behind her with a rusty holler. Looking back, she shivered and hurried down the road. Dusk was fast approaching, and darkness encompassed all. She had no desire to be at Sierpe Cay when night became complete. No sane islander normally came near the manse after nightfall. Yet, she found herself rushing headlong toward that very place.
Not in all its history had a native remained on Sierpe Cay when darkness fell. The Arawaks knew its curse. The Spaniards conquered the Indians in 1492 and soon they were followed
Only the pirate, Durwood, dared make the island his home. Legend had it he once declared his mansion the only safe haven on the island. Supposedly sat directly over the resting chamber of Aztecatl. It was a myth that had angered the Natives and brought on his ritual demise. His descendants defied folklore by pushing for acceptance of technology and development of the islands. They invited tourists to vacation on her sandy shores, begged swimmers and sunbathers to enjoy the pristine white sand and crystal waters. Others were tempted to explore sunken pirate ships off the coast. Yet, even they had left Sierpe Cay alone.
Her slender fingers clutched her leather bag as she rushed down the bridge from the ferry toward the estate. How she wished she could turn around and climb back on board that weathered old boat that saw her safely across the bay at the end of each workday. Even now, Yamaye could feel Mica’s call beginning, and she dared not look around at the land for fear of what awaited deep within Sierpe Cay. Mica rested somewhere on the island.
Just beyond the rusting gates and stone griffins, beyond solid oak doors with double brass knockers, Mica remained imprisoned. Inside the estate the graceful stairs with velvety carpet boasted elegance and pristine, but outside thunder boomed in the distance.
The sky clouded as a chill wind whistled through naked trees. Lightning crashed overhead. Only the ominous change in the weather foretold of Mica’s impending arrival. Yamaye grew cold. She must prepare. Aztecatl had to awaken now for Mica was coming fast, invisible, angry, and hungry for the human blood that would sustain him and make him whole. The islanders had come to regard Mica as an old myth. Locked away through the years, he had waited patiently; soon he would be free to carry out his destiny.
With the beginning of the culmination, Mica’s imprisonment was nearly over, and only Yamaye knew how to stop it. Lightning sailed past her and struck a tree across the road. Straightening up, Yamaye made the sign of the Cross and prayed, but her prayer was not Christian.
Clutching a string of guava beads she prayed to the old god, Aztecatl. She prayed for safety, strength and wisdom to see the culmination through to its proper end. She knew her time was drawing near; she only hoped Guatiguana’s magic was strong enough to send Mica back to the underworld.
She must fight Mica if sanity was to prevail. She must defeat Mica if mankind was not to perish. Her only hope was in reviving Aztecatl. Glancing skyward she mumbled prayers to the loas, the vodun gods, and to Sierpe, the serpent. She prayed Sama, the sun, would shine and keep the darkness away for nothing good could come of a night like this.
Yamaye glanced nervously over her shoulder at the bay as she approached the cemetery. The dark colors of her blouse and skirt matched the encroaching gloom of night. A black cape rested snugly on her shoulders giving pleasant warmth to her fear-chilled bones.
It was time.
Little snippets of air caressed her. With a single movement, she unfurled the collar of the cape. The fabric reached across her face covering the lower tips of her ears and ending just under her chin.
The moon was rising rapidly. Soon its silvery beams would create a ghostly effect on the stone structures in the meadow.
Within her mind there lurked an awesome power. Forgotten in her current state of turmoil it struggled for release from bondage to do battle against evil.
An unknown terror stalked the land about her, and within her. Who will win, and who will lose? Only the Master knew.
The invisible coils of night crept forward, opening into vast rifts, welcoming the arms of death. The unnatural coldness of fear seeped through the layers of the cape and paralyzed her. Memories locked behind granite gates in her mind contained pieces of a puzzle of which only she knew the solution, and she wasn’t sure she liked it.
A flickering orange-red light pushed its way through the broken shards of stone and dirt. With the pulsating light, she fancied hearing the hoarse chanting of ancient voices above the crackling of a fire. A black painted fiend with arms raised high uttered rhythmic phrases. Its body shook with a sexually arousing ecstasy. Its clawed hands clasped gleaming stone as it plunged the jagged blade into the body. Agonizing screams pierced her brain.
“No!” Yamaye cried dropping to her knees. Her hands flew into clenched fists so hard her knuckles turned white. “No!” She cried with a soft moan. Quivering, she peered again and saw the blackened fiend pointing.
It grinned widely, pointing first at her then to a spot in the circle on the ground. Rising slowly to her feet, Yamaye glanced down. She found herself standing on a thin layer of soil, where stone had broken through to form part of a circle.
Feeling tenseness in her hand, she looked to find her fingers gripping a broken piece of stone. Turning it over, she squinted and rubbed the dirt from it. There was an indentation on the handle. Looking up she glanced at the spectral creature. Moonlight, hitting the shroud and bone gave it a hideous grin. A hysterical scream threatened to escape her puckered lips as she raced headlong away from the hill.
Mica had warned her on this Halloween night.
The storm hit without warning. One minute the sky was a normal dusk color and the next it was pitch black. Yamaye knew Chango, the god of thunderstorms, was angry and letting loose his temper. Chango was releasing a maddened tropical storm to vent his fury against the tiny islands that night.
His raging howl echoed fiercely as white-capped waves crashed against slippery rocks; moaning wind smashed his unseen fists against the shore sending the branches of palm trees clattering against the mansion.
Yamaye struggled against the wind. Looking toward the tomb, she pulled the flaps of her cape together and steeled herself against the angry lashing of the howling storm. Without a backward glance at the road she had traveled, she dashed headlong into the voracious tendrils of nature. She grabbed the door and yanked as the wind whipped around, buffeting her body like a rag doll.
“Guatiguana?” She called, pronouncing it as Goo-ti-ana. She leaned into the heavy metal doors and shoved them closed. Stepping further inside, she removed the hood of her cape. Her fingers fumbled in the darkness for the lantern she knew was there. It took only a few moments to locate it and light it. The lantern cast a dim pallor through the giant maintenance shed.
“Guatiguana?” The grave appeared vacant. Where was she? With such a fierce storm raging she could not blame Guatiguana if she had become afraid and gone home.
“Guatiguana where are you?”
“Over here, Yamaye,” She pronounced her name as Jamaica and cackled like an old crone, by the tractor.
Yamaye turned and stumbled toward the voice. A second later her lantern threw light upon the witch doctor. With each passing year, Guatiguana grew more wrinkled and withered. Yamaye feared grandmother’s participation in the ritual would be her last.
Behind Guatiguana, Yamaye could make out the blackness of the hidden stairwell. “You opened the chamber?”
“I got the altar ready, too.” Guatiguana clasped her hands like a small child. You bring the herbs?”
“Yes. I couldn’t get a chicken or goat for the sacrifice without having folks asking questions.”
“Don’t worry. We got blood if needed. Come on. Time is short.”
Yamaye followed the old crone onto the platform and pulled the door closed behind her. Facing forward she peered down the narrow staircase as it wound downward into the bowels of the cemetery. Taking a deep breath and letting out a hearty laugh that echoed hideously in realms below, she descended into the blackness. Down into the dark hellish acres of a vast pit she went.
Her left hand lightly touched the stone. It was damp with age. The wall felt slippery with slime. It brought a shiver of revulsion through her body. She hated dirty, oozing things. Only the feeble light from the lantern cut through the solid blackness of this hidden region deep within the recesses of the Durwood Estate. She seemed to walk endless miles in the narrow passage, always winding down.
Yamaye smelled the cavern before she reached the end of the stairs to the below ground tomb. She sniffed appreciatively of the scents of cedar, sage, and sweet grass wafting up from below.
Guatiguana, had indeed, come early to set up and purify the cavern for the ritual. The pungent smoke was still noticeable. To properly rid the chamber of filth and evil she had dusted the floor with Sage. She had added Cedar to draw forth more energy. Sweet grass sprinkled around the room assisted them in preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the ceremony to come.
Guatiguana, a few steps ahead of Yamaye, reached up and grabbed a torch. She lighted it with the flame from the lantern and replaced the torch on the wall. She quickly walked the room repeating the lighting ceremony.
Soon torchlight penetrated the darkness, illuminating the cavern that lay hidden beneath the maintenance shed.
Yamaye could see from the positioning of the torches the altar sat in the center of an Aztec sun symbol. The eastern wall was festooned with bird feathers to represent air. The plumage ran in a straight line toward the South. The southern wall, meaning fire, was soon alight with the flames of dozens of candles. Each candle led to the western point of the star. Cups and chalices interspersed with seashells decorated this wall to indicate water and nourishment.
Chalices came first, followed by earthenware cups. Each followed the invisible line north to the final wall that symbolized earth.
Crystal bowls containing salt, dirt, and rocks finished the outline of the star. In the center, a flat boulder lay across the ends of two stone slabs and looked much like a prehistoric bed. Between the two slabs, kindling formed a circle. On top of the boulder was a mound of ashes and bone fragments. This central piece completed the altar.
“This is not exactly vodun, Guatiguana.”
“No, its not, but it is the altar our ancestors used,” she nodded. “My grandmother taught me the resurrection ritual just as it was handed down to her by her grandmother, just as I have taught you, granddaughter.”
Yamaye looked doubtfully around the cavern. “Do you think it will work after all this time?”
“If Mica is coming, we will need the help of Aztecatl to defeat him. It must work; we have no other choice. We can use a magic circle instead, if you wish.”
“No. We’ll do it your way. I just wonder if this ceremony has ever called forth a god.” Yamaye walked to where Guatiguana had put their supplies and lifted a crystal bowl and rock instrument used for grinding. She moved to the stone centerpiece where she set the bowl and tool next to the ashes. On the other side, she placed a long white candle.
“Once. It was at the beginning of the time of our people. Aztecatl had grown weary of the childishness of the tribes and left them to suffer whatever fate befell them. Before leaving he gave the eldest of the tribe specific instructions for a ceremony to call him back should they need his presence. During Aztecatls absence, Jicaque, the goddess of eternal night saw this as her opportunity to take over the world. For three hundred forty days and nights, the earth knew no light.
No trees bore fruit and the animals became sickly and killed each other for food. The people became afraid. They built the altar as told to them by their elder and sacrificed a chicken and a goat. They begged Aztecatl to forgive their immaturity and help them defeat Jicaque. Aztecatl heard their pleas, and took pity on their plight and vanquished Jicaque to the underworld.”
“That was a long time ago. I hope it applies to today.”
“You must have faith or you might bring disaster upon us.”
From within the folds of her cape, Yamaye brought out a leather medicine bag. The bag had five sections stitched into the center pocket. From the first pocket, she pulled out a chunk of black charcoal. Setting the charcoal into the bowl she picked up the tool and began to grind the charcoal into a fine powder. Guatiguana handed her a pouch with water. Yamaye poured the water into the bowl.
Dipping her fingers into the bowl, she chanted, “With this powder I purify you for the reviving ceremony.” She brushed the black powder across Guatiguana’s brow and then smudged herself.
She then turned her attention to the altar lines. These lines had to be perfectly straight. The slightest variance could destroy their chances. Aztecatl had to have a perfect balance to return his powers to their fullest. Each line played a pivotal role in creating this balance. The first line represented his soul, followed by his heart, and his spiritual body.
Moving clockwise, Yamaye sprinkled charcoal until she had three complete lines of each leading from the far edges of the cavern to the center.
“Let the ceremony begin.”
Guatiguana moved to the line of feathers and anointed their tips with oil. “Kali Ma, I call upon your powers of creation and destruction to assist us. As you dance in the graveyards bring about the transformation we seek today. Help us, Kali Ma.”
Yamaye bowed her head over the ashes and sprinkled ground seeds over them. Using a stone athame, she dipped it into the bowl of charcoal water. “As this charcoal is the end of ashes, so this water will mix with the marrow before me and return this charcoal to the bone where it belongs.”
Guatiguana reached the line of candles. Pulling a pouch from her pocket she sprinkled a fine dust over the candles. The flames fanned out and shot upward, straining for the ceiling of the cavern. Their colors flickered wildly from orange to red and yellow. “I call upon Oya to lend us your powers to bring back the one who can defeat Mica. Oh, mother of Africa, let us reanimate Aztecatl.”
Yamaye peppered the mound with wax from the dripping candle. “Just as the charcoal became bone, let this wax, the flesh of this candle, become the flesh of his body.”
Guatiguana continued to line of cups, chalices and seashells holding water. She spooned powdered fruit into the water. “I call upon the Great Corn Mother, Chicomecoatl, to give nourishment to Aztecatl to see him through his resurrection. Strengthen him, Chicomecoatl that he might regain all his powers and be strong enough to kill Mica.”
Picking up the pouch of water, Yamaye drizzled the liquid in a clockwise circle starting at the base and working upward to a point. “Just as the charcoal became bone of his bone, and candle wax became flesh of his flesh, let the water become blood of his blood.”
Guatiguana reached bowls of salt, dirt, and rocks. “I call upon Estsan Atlehi, the Earth Mother, to bring transformation.” She picked up the torch at the northern point of the star and touched the flame to the containers of salt, dirt, and rocks. “I scorch the earth with the flame from this torch to bring new growthnew life. Estsan Atlehi help us create new life. Let this new life protect the heart, soul, and body of Aztecatl.”
Yamaye spread a mixture of dried grass, herbs, and seeds over the mound. “As the grass protects the earth and herbs promote healing and from seeds spring new life. Let this mat I place over him become the skin of his skin.”
Guatiguana stepped next to Yamaye. “I offer the blood of my veins in sacrifice.”
Yamaye looked at Guatiguana in alarm. “What are you doing?”
Guatiguana lifted the athame and quickly pulled the blade across her wrist. Blood spurted from the wound. She moved forward until she stood in front of the altar. She watched as her blood dripped onto to the mound of ashes.
In a cavern deep beneath the bowels of the tomb, two witches completed the ritual that would bring back an ancient god. As one woman watched her blood dripping onto the altar, the other offered the blood to the ancient gods and goddesses to complete the ceremony. A fine mist-like smoke rose from the ashes on the stone slab.
All-round a dark wind whipped barren trees bending branches and snapping twigs. Whistling, it cascaded across the land and separated around the mansion. Lightning crashed on either side of the house and rain pelted down, barely missing the massive structure. Even the elements dared not touch its putrid essence, preferring to split around and over than rest its unseen tendrils on the hulking form.
Reedsy writing prompt: Write about a group of witches meeting up on Halloween night.
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Copyright 2020 FM Burgett, all rights reserved. First publication in Reedsy.com. The contents of this story may not be used in any form without permission from the author.
I liked the way you present it.