Into the Meadow
by Cassie O.
Thin slices of boar sputtered in the pan, the grease hissing and snapping at Mari’s fingers as she attempted to turn them over.
“Be careful.” Caritania shouted from her room. “You remember how angry Yagga became when you burned her boar last time?”
“Yes Nia.” Mari sucked a finger stricken by the fat.
“Your parents still won’t talk to you?” Caritania continued to shout.
“No Nia. They never return my messages.”
Mari dumped some potatoes into the pan and turned the heat to medium.
“Do they still pray for you?”
Mari jumped at her sudden appearance. The heavy carpeting silenced her hooves.
“No, you told me they stopped a few years back.” Mari answered.
“Ah, right, right.”
Caritania shifted her concentration towards the food. She stuck an obsidian clawed finger into the simmering dish, and licked it. “It’s better than before.”
“Thank you, Nia.”
“You’re welcome, Mari.”
Mari stirred the potatoes and meat. “You brushed your hair, Nia?” She asked.
Caritania’s thick hair flowed down her tall body like a river of black. Usually it was tangled with colossal knots that sometimes needed Mari’s assistance.
“You’re also wearing your jewelry, Nia?”
Clusters of lustrous rings decorated each of her spindly fingers, and were matched with a grand necklace she collected from a princess in Denmark.
“I look lovely don’t I?” She said.
A knock abruptly sounded from the door.
“Coming.” Mari answered.
“Ah, little thing, how are you?”
“Doing well of course, you?”
“Amazing! Simply fantastic!”
Yagga handed the servant her coat, and went to greet Caritania. Mari peeked behind Yagga to search for Ellie. The little girl did not come.
“I still can’t believe how much it rains here in Vancouver, my Caritania.”
“You dare think about moving away from me?”
“Let us move to Spain! At least one of us is allowed back home.”
“You left behind a mighty presence my Yagga. I hear they still worship you in Russia.”
Mari seated Caritania, then Yagga, at a make shift table in the living room. The table was situated directly below a portrait of Mari’s master; this piece functioning as the vocal point of the apartment. The painting defined Caritania in her prime; dated 1583, though it was too taint less to be 431 years old. Caritania’s delicate umber face accompanied by her preceded noble horns.
The horns were beasts in their own right; angled downwards into magnificent spirals on each side of her rosy cheeks, they were adorned with amethysts, and pearls. Caritania did not have to hide her abominable black claws; her hands proudly displayed, the right holding a purple scepter, and the left a crystal ball. Her arrogant golden eyes gazed upon the passerby with such pity. A wondrous creature summoned by royalty to end reigns, and promise crowns, reduced to a pair of burnt nubs hidden away in a decaying apartment.
“You things ostracized us for simply doing what we were told.” Yagga denounced. Her aching hands removed her crimson gloves, revealing dulled white talons, and hands covered in various tattoos. The faded black ink sprinkled with freshly dried red detail. Her hands worked on removing her shoes. Feet like those of a crow stretched beneath the table. Mari rushed over to collect the articles of clothing, and placed them by the front door.
“I’m sorry Yagga.” Mari replied, retrieving their plates.
“It’s not burnt.” Yagga beamed. “I guess I can forgive you things.”
“Well thank you Yagga.”
She acknowledged Mari’s cooking with a bow of her head.
“So how are you my Caritania?” Yagga asked, before gulping down some food.
“Tired, very tired.”
“Oh my poor baby, Mari have you been neglecting your master?”
“Never, Yagga.” Mari said, pouring each a glass of hot tea. Leaving the kettle on the table, she returned to the kitchen grabbing a small allotment of food, and retreating to the bedroom.
“Has she?” Yagga turned to Caritania.
“Mari’s been good. Though, speaking of servants,” she wondered, noticing Yagga’s missing companion, “where is Ellie?”
Yagga grinned, sauce dripping down her chin.
Caritania glanced down at Yagga’s red fingers. “Her contract was up already?”
“But did Ellie have to leave so early? Mari doesn’t have any other play mates except her.”
“You don’t completely isolate them.” Yagga suggested. “You allow them to feel happy and loved. These experiences give them more taste.”
“Perhaps I’m no longer doing it for the taste.”
“Is my little Caritania lonely?”
“They all abandoned her! They’re Catholics, Yagga. They haven’t said a thing to her in 11 years.”
“Yes, of course. You think she even remembers what her folks looked like?”
“My Yagga, it doesn’t matter. I saved her; they didn’t.”
“I know, I know.”
“Yes anyway,” Yagga said through a mouthful of food, “I’m lucky and already made a deal with another naïve thing. It starts working tomorrow.” She continued, “Remember when we were truly summoned. Their vicious chanting, and those fearful eyes when we ascended the smoke and flames, the respect they gifted us for our very presence.”
“Yes and the gifts! Oh the gifts!” Caritania trumpeted, showcasing her jewels. “Anything I wanted, it was there for me.”
“They gave me things for eating.” Yagga interjected. “Dragging them off the street to keep me happy, hoping my fat stomach meant a longer contract.”
“We used to have thousands of worshipers,” Caritania gleamed, “Shaking their embraced fists at us, and now-”
“We scavenge.” Yagga jeered. “Confused cries from children and desperate whispers from poor students are all that call to us now.”
“It’s not too terrible; at least I have my Mari.”
“On that subject,” Yagga began, wiping her hands on her pants and placing her plate aside, “when is her contract up?”
“Oh I don’t want to think about it…”
“I’m assuming very soon?”
“When does she get the teeth?”
“I’m taking her to the meadow.”
“The meadow? Caritania, you’re allowing infatuation to cut your eyes.”
“She’s my little Mari.” She spoke lightly, looking down at her full dish.
“What if she doesn’t think of you while she’s there? You really think you’re what she wants the most!”
Mari reappeared. She placed her empty bowl in the sink, and came by to fetch Yagga’s plate.
“You should be thankful for having Caritania as a master.” Yagga spoke to Mari.
“Oh my Yagga, stop it, but don’t.” Caritania playfully hit Yagga’s hand.
Yagga laughed. “I’m serious though! Has Caritania told you?”
Yagga’s dark verdant eyes focused on Mari. “Other masters are becoming impatient and greedy. Breaking contracts before they’ve ended, and even swallowing those who never made one in the first place.” Yagga frowned. “My dead Mari, what has happened to us?”
Caritania spat out a bit of tea. “You said dead Yagga.”
“I did? I did!”
Yagga and Caritania giggled which easily broke into howls of amusement.
“You said dead!” Caritania screeched while pounding the table.
“MY DEAD MARI!”
Yagga did not leave until midnight. Mari stood at the door patiently waiting for their guest to be dismissed, but she was in the midst of receiving many kisses by Caritania. Yagga gave Caritania a final kiss, and Mari shut the door behind her.
Mari felt sharp nails gently petting her coarse hair.
“I’m so happy you summoned me.” Caritania cooed.
“I’m so happy you answered.”
Caritania held Mari’s head and kissed twice on each cheek, finishing with a sweet kiss upon her forehead.
“We should get a dog.” Caritania suggested three days later over eggs and toast.
“Nia, you can’t even properly water your plants.”
“I forget, they’re plants, they can’t tell me when they’re hungry. If we had a dog I wouldn’t forget.”
Mari seated herself at the table next to her. “Nia, you managed to set fire to the fake flowers I gave you Mothers’ Day.”
“I forget to clean the sulfur out from under my nails sometimes.”
“Then remember our fish tank, Nia? Remember when the fish started to go missing?”
“Okay, that was actually Yagga. She kept stealing them…”
“No dog, Nia.”
“She doesn’t like the taste of hounds, so our French bulldog would be safe.”
“A French bulldog, Nia?”
“They’re a nice size. I can’t imagine a larger breed wishing to live in this tight space.”
Mari drank some orange juice Caritania made for her.
“Franz. I always admired that name, powerful, yet casual.”
“Nia, we’re not getting a dog.”
Caritania placed her fork gently on her napkin. Rising out of her chair, she knelt down adjacent to Mari, and studied her servant with shining eyes. Raising her left hand, she softly started to stroke Mari’s hair.
“My Mari, your family sliced you open with their words and ignorance, while I protected you. I have given you food, and clothes, and love, so much love.” Her hand stopped, and motioned towards her neck. “I love you Mari.” Her grip tightened. Mari exhaled a quick gasp. Caritania’s right hand pulled down Mari’s shirt, just enough, to unveil a small X shaped scar on the center of her chest.
“You are mine.” Caritania whispered, while her hand traced the mark. “This says I can keep you, this says I own you.”
Mari struggled to remain placid in the secure grip of Caritania, but soon her long nails burrowed beneath the skin, and she screeched in pain.
“Shhh, shhh, quiet my Mari.”
“You love me, you love me.”
“I love you Nia. I love you, I love you, and I love you.”
Caritania released her.
“Make sure you find one in black so it matches my hair. Okay?”
Mari rushed into the bedroom to pull on a large sweater. She pulled the collar high to ensure the marks would remain unknown to prodding eyes.
“Mari, please drink the rest of your orange juice.”
She adhered to the command.
“Drink all of it, all of it.” Caritania tilted the cup.
Mari coughed, though she kept on.
Mari pulled out some cash from a drawer. “Should 400 be enough, Nia?”
“Alright, I’ll try to be back before 8, Nia.”
“I love you Mari.”
“I love you too Caritania.”
Fog skulked low to the ground, embracing the thick trunks of trees, and clinging close to row houses. Mari went down E Hastings, towards Gastown. Her eyes embraced the ground as she strode briskly amongst passerbys congregating on the roaring streets. Her restless fingers wandered about her collar checking for blood.
“How could I tell her no? How could I tell her no? She deserves to have something after I’m… gone.” She rushed around a corner, her pace quickening. Her darting eyes observed the faceless beings passing by, whose bodies she pondered over, seeking a mark like hers.
“How many of you are in a contract.” She breathed.
The fog rapidly surged upward, suffocating her surroundings.
“How many of you had a sick mother like me.”
Shrieking cars lulled to sleep, and passerbys vanished eternally into the mist.
“How many of you couldn’t afford food like me.”
Mari turned another corner and continued forward.
“How many of you regret it.” She hissed at someone. She twisted round to watch them disappear into the clouds.
Mari halted, finally looking up. She realized she was the sole entity within the haze. The buildings disappeared, and the howls of the city, silenced. She peered downward to see dilapidated sidewalk had surrendered to sweet green grass.
As if feeling her confusion, the sun’s rays charged through the thick clouds, frightening and scattering the fog, giving way to the new land.
She was in a meadow.
Blushing red poppies nearly smothered the curved emerald hills beneath, the flowers huddled close to one another like animals sheltering from the cold. Mari noticed a white shape moving amongst the red.
There, rested a woman.
Perhaps in her late fifties, she possessed thick brown ringlets that curled wherever they pleased. An ivory rosary interlaced between her praying hands. Her eyes opened.
“Hello Mariana Razo.”
“There is no need to call me Miss, my name is Luciana.”
“You look a little underfed, would you like something to eat?”
“No thank you, Luciana.”
“Please? She is not here.”
Mari gulped hard. “You know-”
Luciana disregarded the coming question, and pulled out a bowl of great size. She tied the Rosary around her wrist, and plucked heavy portions from boiling pots of menudo, and pozale, adding gorditas, and chicken with mole. She squeezed flan, empanadas, and two slices of pastel de tres leches onto the remaining space. Food Mari had not tasted since 11 years.
“Hold it with two hands, mija.”
Mari joined her, and shyly held out her hands.
Luciana handed her a fork, and a spoon. “Please eat something?”
“Mija…” Mari mouthed. She tried some pozale.
Luciana watched her eat, Mari’s tongue examining a bit of each.
“They still pray for you, Mariana.”
Mari ignored her, savoring the thick slices of pastel de tres leches.
“Do not believe her, Mariana. They forgive you.”
Mari burned her mouth slurping the menudo, but paid no mind.
“Mariana, your Mother didn’t jump.”
Her bowl fell. Mari finally collapsed.
Luciana cradled her.
“He did not answer me! I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed.”
She rocked Mari to and fro.
“But I didn’t ask for her! No, not her, I didn’t ask for her!”
Luciana held open Mari’s hand, giving her the rosary. Mari held the beads between her fingers, and her crying softened for a moment.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
The poppies began to bleed.
Mari felt a sudden pressure about her neck. It was warm, and sinking in deeper.
Luciana’s touch fell away. The rosary faded.
Mari saw the money in her hands become dyed with dahlia droplets.
Her chest slowed.
She slumped onto the heavy carpet.
A black figure caressed her.
“I love my Mari.”
About The Author
Cassie O. is a brigand and a fiend. She is not to be trusted, and will steal your first born on the night of a full moon. BEWARE MY DARLINGS, BEWARE THE BEAST THAT RESIDES HERE. She also attends Moorpark College and enjoys roaming the internet in her spare time.