I wish for a tropical breeze to lighten the intense humidity that hugs this August morning. The porch, thank goodness, is high off the ground and the mildewed screens somewhat block the steamy rays from the sun. The sky is intensely blue and the ocean is still and quiet—waiting. I breathe in slowly through my nose and exhale gently through my mouth, waiting for what I know must come. I am powerless to change my fate.
My notebook is before me and I stare at the blank pages. I have been siting here now for what seems like hours trying to begin a story that I must tell. I must make sense of it, at least in my own mind. Perspiration drips from the corners of my temples. Tendrils of fading blond curls are damp across my forehead and I push them aside with the back of my hand.
The old mahogany armchair I sit in, with its old cane seat, presses into my bare legs making my skin feel sticky and I am sure that deep patterns, now imbedded on the backs of my thighs, will blister, courtesy of the mahogany chair. I shift uncomfortably, and vow to retrieve a pillow from the sofa when next I rise.
The breeze I had been waiting for finally arrives like a soft whisper across my cheek and I turn my face toward its source, the sky and sea. In the morning light, I open the notebook that is now somewhat damp from the humid air and I begin again searching for the right words, the truest of words. It will come to me…..I know it will. I close my eyes and I try to remember all of it.
Out of the gathering darkness, a whispering voice, close to my ear, speaks, “Dare ye not linger lest she bring a curse upon ye, child.” I turned quickly to the voice, but nothing was there. A chill went up my spine. Moments later, again, the disembodied voice spoke, “Dare ye not linger lest she bring a curse upon ye, child!” This time the voice was urgent and fearful.
I feel an unreasonable fear, of what I did not know. I grabbed my cousin Jordan’s arm to plead with him to let us head for home. He took no notice of me and continued to stare at something that was standing beyond the gate. I turned to look and before us was something that could only have materialized out of a Grimm’s fairytale. She glared at me and her dark crystal eyes began to glow so brightly that the darkness disappeared around us. The hag-like woman, lifted by unseen wings, soared over the gate.
The whispering voice behind me suddenly gave out an ear-splitting scream that shook the ground where I stood. The hag-like apparition in front of me screeched with such an unearthly sound that I dared not move, even if I could. I was still holding Jordan’s arm and he turned to me as if to wonder what I was doing.
“Jordan”, I whispered, “What is that?”
“What is what, Ana?”
“You know, the old hag, the woman, Jordan.”
“Ana, there is no woman, only a light in the window, but there was nothing to it. Let’s go home.”
I was incredulous. Was I the only one who saw and heard the unearthly screams? My young cousins, Richie and Anise seemed not to be at all aware of what had happened.
I couldn’t understand what was wrong with them and then once again, I heard the whispering voice behind me and I angrily turned to respond. The whispering apparition was floating in the air, in front of me, her hair aflame, burning as brightly as a bonfire, “Thou art hexed, forsaken in ye life, poor child,” she said. “I begged thee not to gaze upon the Harpy.”
The apparition’s voice was sad and low as she slowly disappeared into the night.
The Mahogany chair is now hot against my thighs as the chair begins to rock back and forth. I know what is coming. The Harpy now stands beyond the screened porch. Her dark crystal eyes peer out from under the dark mane covering her head. Another form appears on the porch, near me. It is the apparition, I now know as Nellie, who has been protecting me all of these years. The Harpy’s unholy screech suddenly pierces the air and in turn, Nellie’s high pitch scream drowns out all else. These are the truest words. Listen, now, to the screams, should you hear them and abide, for it is far to late.