Short Story – Tears of Smoke and Pain by Tammy Breitweiser
There was no fast pass to Heaven.
Last night I dreamt of my sisters’ gravestones. The headstones looked like they were drawn with thick black pen and ink strokes. The names remained, but the death dates kept morphing.
They would show up soon. Time was running out on my spell or they would screw it up like always.
To get close to the children I carefully dressed so they only notice me at the last second, if at all. Undue attention is not wanted. Joyful children only notice what they are required to. In order for me to steal the joy from the moment I couldn’t scare the little people.
Stolen happiness required precision.
The next event I attended was a birthday party with only pie. No traditional cake for this little one. A special chair with balloons, streamers, a tiara and a sash was set for the birthday girl. The French silk chocolate pie was already on the table. This whole party was full of candles and colorful sugar sprinkles. At the end of the night was a huge bonfire. Everyone wrote wishes for the year. One color was for guests and another color for the birthday girl. They said their wishes and then threw them into the fire. I liked a group with a birthday ritual. It strengthened the happiness. I watched from the edge of the forest until the perfect moment, when the happiness built up from the whole party. I whispered so only the trees and sprites heard:
bread and circuses
Panem et circenses
A tendril of white spiraled into my bag held open with dry cracked hands. The smoke had to be contained.
A cold wind moved my hair the wrong way. I looked past the trees on the far side of the fire and spotted them. They did not approach.They scowled at me and I heard their warnings in my head. I sent back expletives and insults of my own. They are afraid of my power and stayed where they were.
The finish line was the best place but it was always the hardest to navigate. I had to reach the winner right before she broke the tape. My sisters were running and tried to shield the runner. I am more stealthy than they are and more motivated. They thought they could interfere because of all the spectators.
I found the perfect lookout spot that was just close enough. I shielded my own emotions so they did not find me again. It is like a bell jar I place over myself. The protection only lasts for a short time but it’s enough to take what I need.
It tortured me to wake up in the middle of the night and think about her pain. The pain engulfed her and made her delirious. She talked of camels, elephants, and missing limbs. Never was there chatter of flight or singing that occurred in other children’s dreams.
I walked in the park like every morning. The energy had been sporadic and unpredictable. I watched a couple standing close to each other but like they were in separate invisible force fields.
There was whispering and weird hand movements. I saw their heads moving toward each other for a first kiss.
I felt the energy change. I stood to the side and waited for their lips to meet.
Panem et circenses
The looks on their faces were blank after the kiss. A pang of guilt punched me but didn’t change me enough to stop me.
A full bag meant a full day of happiness had been saved up. Happiness and peace bestowed to someone who has never had it their whole life required a lot of magic.
The crack of the bat and the soft thud of the mitt brought me to another area of the park. A son who was the spitting image of his dad swung and missed all the pitches. There was no look of frustration from the dad. They were dressed in matching White Sox jerseys. I paused a moment and considered walking away. The happiness aura was so strong I couldn’t resist. I approached slowly. I was able to get close enough to the boy at the backstop.
I uttered my incantation. The pause only I noticed resulted in the blank looks of the boy and his father, and my deed is done.
My walk home was slow and deliberate – a meditation. The weight of my deeds was heavy on my shoulders. Consequences were imminent but I pushed that thought to the back of my mind. Tamsyn was my focus. I crept into the house, trying not to wake her. The pain was not prominent in sleep. The dream spell worked for short bursts so at least she could rest.
My daughter’s name was Tamsyn. It means twin, and she was named after a famous witch from England who could eliminate curses and spells. She could not take away her own ailments.
Morning peeked into the windows to see if we were up. Today was the day.
I took the full bag and woke Tamysn up with a tickle on her foot that always stuck out at an odd angle. The covers were pulled up to the top of her head. A giggle escaped and I saw her radiant smile.
“I have a surprise,” I said.
“Ooo, Mama, what is it? Chocolate chip pancakes?”
“Well, no, but that can be arranged,” I smiled now too. “This is a special bag.”
“A new spell? Like the dream one?”
“This is much more powerful than that,” I sigh now with the weight of the burden. “Let me show you.”
I opened the bag and whispered the words. The thin tendrils of smoke emerged and wrapped themselves around her. Her face looked calm, then a few seconds of surprise, and then joy.
With wide eyes Tamysn says, “Mama, there is no pain. I feel I can run outside!” There were tears that filled her eyes brimmed to the edge but did not fall.
“One day is all you get,” I say.
“Oh Mama!” Tamysn bounded out of bed with an energy I had never seen. She quickly dressed.
“Lets go!” She was out the door and down the hallway before I could catch her.
She rode her bike.
She walked to get a double decker ice cream cone.
She played tag with children at the park.
We ate lunch at a cafe and she swung her legs in the chair stabbing at her food playfully.
She ran to the lake and splashed in the water.
She ran on full throttle all day.
When night fell, she was tired as quickly as the spell started. The end was here.
She fell into bed and mumbled with almost asleep eyes, “Mama, it was the best day. I am so happy. Thank you mama, thank you.”
I kissed her forehead.
For one day she had no pain, and had joy like no other day in her short life.
Her eyes never opened again but I looked at it as a gift.
The sisters come to take me away the next morning. I wait for them on the porch with coffee mixed with vodka and chili pepper.
“Ah, you remembered.”
Of course I did.
“You know what is happening, yes? We tried to warn you,” they say without speaking.
“I knew what I was doing. It had to be done,” I answer.
“There were other ways,” they insist.
“No, there weren’t. You know not what you speak of, none of you have daughters.”
A sadness descends as the three sisters surround the fourth and utter their own words.
A tendril of gray and black smoke is carried off into the wind with tears from three sets of eyes.