On Monday mornings, I send out a story via email: ultra-brief tales of 1,000 words or more, usually in genres including horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. Those stories collectively are called Once Upon A Time. I’ve also published several ebooks and compendium volumes of those stories so far.
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Daughters of the Moon
The women stood in a circle under the night sky, as they had on many nights before. This far out from the city, the stars were visible between the gaps in the clouds.
There were three of them tonight, and their names were Louise, Eileen, and Pat. The fourth and fifth members of their group were absent, one due to COVID, and the other because her son had a football match earlier in the evening, and there just wasn’t enough time to get home, do the bedtime routine, and then come back out. At their shared stage of life, personal time was a precious and scarce thing indeed.
It was a Tuesday night, cold but dry, and all three of the women present were tired from the pressures of the day. Louise had a job in local café, which had extended opening hours on Tuesdays, so she’d only recently finished work and come straight out for this meeting. Eileen worked from home, as a customer service representative for a glazing company. Both were married. Pat had also been married up until recently, and was adjusting to life after divorce.
In fact, her ex-husband would be coming around to the house at the weekend to pick up a few things, and drop off some paperwork. She wasn’t looking forward to it, exactly, but she found that she was no longer dreading such encounters. The finality of the divorce being granted seemed to have taken away most of her anxiety about those things. Her own work helped, too; she was a keeper — and trainee veterinary nurse — at the local bat sanctuary, and she had never done anything so personally rewarding. The animals were her children, and given the path of her life now, she was very glad she hadn’t created any young of the human variety.
“Bloody weather,” Louise said, but the other two knew that her complaint was mostly a performance. There was no wind, and little humidity, so the low temperature was barely noticeable. They could stay out here for hours, but they had neither the desire nor the need to.
“We should probably get started,” Eileen said, knowing that her husband would be keeping tabs on when to expect her back, via the family tracking feature on their phones. It had been Eileen’s own idea to enable it, mostly for the sake of their daughter, who has embarking on the journey of puberty with the usual equal portions of rage and bewilderment.
Pat just nodded, distracted by a sound from the nearby trees that she thought might be from one of her favourite species of bat. She turned her attention back to the group. “Ready when you are,” she said, and then the three women formed a circle, and joined hands.
The meeting wasn’t one of their regularly scheduled ones; the date was unremarkable by both the lunar and solar calendars. It was Louise who had requested it, using the WhatsApp group they used for daily chat, sharing anecdotes from their lives, and of course posting pictures of their various pets and children. Need some balance, she had said, and they all understood.
Louise cleared her throat, and the other two closed their eyes.
“There was a man who came into the café the other day,” she said. “He was about my age, a business type. He was awful.”
Eileen and Pat nodded, as if they had been expecting such a thing. Their eyes were still closed, and the night seemed to have become silent around them. Louise continued after a moment.
“He made a pretty racist remark to Gita who was serving him at the counter, and then he was very rude to me when I brought him his food. I should have thrown him out, but I didn’t. He was one of those red-faced men, in a pinstriped suit, and I knew he would shout at me and say all kinds of nasty things.”
A solitary bird called from somewhere out in the night, and Louise tilted her head in the direction of the sound. It was wise to heed the words of nature, even if they were unclear at first.
“He should be punished,” she said at last, and now Eileen and Pat opened their eyes once more.
“I agree,” Eileen said.
“I agree,” Pat said too.
“Then so be it,” Louise replied.
With their hands still joined, they looked up towards the sky, and the clouds had begun to recede, leaving a void of blackness far above, studded with the brilliant light of the stars. Hanging there in the midst of it all, not quite full, was the softly-glowing orb of Earth’s only natural satellite.
The three women began to speak in unison, eyes fixed on the vault of heaven.
“Mother’s daughters, sister’s daughters, daughters of the moon. Bring peace to those who live by the law of the earth, and to the wicked bring consequence. Let it be done, in the name of all our sisters.”
A cloud which had not been there a moment before suddenly blotted out the moon and the stars, and there was wind now too, as if something had come down from the cold sky, swooping overhead, but then the shadow passed and all was quiet and still again.
The three women released each others’ hands, and then they all embraced.
“Thank you,” Louise said, and Eileen waved off the remark. Pat just smiled and nodded.
“Let that ham-faced bugger get what’s coming to him,” Eileen said, her green eyes briefly too bright for the surrounding gloom, luminescent like a cat caught in headlights. Her own bloodline was the oldest of the three, at least in terms of their ancient sisterhood’s unbroken lineage, and the voice of the earth was always insistent in her ears. “But I’d best be getting back home now, girls.”
Louise sighed. “I’ve not even been home yet. I think it’s wine and whatever is on the telly for me.”
Pat didn’t say anything, but the other two looked at her with gentle smiles of kinship and support. The message was unspoken, but they all heard it clearly. The thoughts of one were the thoughts of all the coven.
Her ex-husband would be wise to behave himself when he visited on Saturday.
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