Don’t Speak Her Name

I died today. It seemed like every other day. I suppose it was, in many ways. But this day turned out much differently than I expected. Let me explain.

The alarm clock went off at 7am, as it always did. Yanked violently from a startling dream, I was thankful for night to be over. Every inch of my body felt stiff and sore, a daily reality I’d become accustomed to. No doctor could seem to explain why I always felt such pain in the mornings that took an hour or more to wear off. They tossed around blanket terms like Fibromyalgia but nothing quite seemed to fit my situation.

And then there were the dreams, each one showing me a new and violent way to die. Sometimes, those dreams seemed to blur the lines between fiction and reality. They felt so real. I was lost in an endless loop of horrible dreams and waking pain. Depression was an ever present companion of mine.

Each dream ended with my death and an eerie, sinister laughter bidding me farewell until we’d meet again. I was always left wondering what that could mean? I felt destined to live out every possible death scenario with no real end in sight. Until today.

Last night’s dream was unique in only one way. I died in a terribly gruesome way, of course. But this time, there was no laughter at the end. No maniacal voice reminding me of our date with death the next night. There was only me, sitting in a bath tub of scalding water running constantly until I boiled to death. When I awoke, I was covered in sweat and every inch of my skin felt raw to the touch, as if I’d actually died in the same horrific way as in my dream. That part was the same as always. Constantly feeling as though I had actually died in the way I dreamed but waking up to pain and no death.

I hadn’t tried to research these strange dreams in many months. I kept hitting the same brick wall of psychological explanations that didn’t seem to make sense for me. Today, however, I was shaken by the slight change and decided to give it another go.

Back in the beginning days of witchcraft, there was a curse that was considered so cruel that it was banned, even for witches that practiced black magic. Every spell, good or evil, has a price that must be paid. This curse was considered to be so vile that the price was the spell caster’s own life. That’s how the evil attempted to balance itself. Letting witches run a muck with this curse would put the balance of good and evil way out of whack and cause problems for the entire universe. And so it was decided that the price of giving someone infinite death was death, itself.

I read the words but couldn’t comprehend why someone would do such a thing to me. I didn’t know of any major enemies I could have. I always thought I was a decent person. I let people go ahead of me at the grocery store if they only had a few items. The homeless routinely got a couple bucks from me when I had some to give. Why would someone give up their own life to torture me until the end of mine?

Standing up from my desk, I began to walk away when a sentence at the bottom of the screen got my attention. A seeking spell. A spell that could lead one to the person who cursed them. Would that work if the person had given their life to curse me? I had to try it.

I’m no witch so I wasn’t sure if I could even pull this off but I did know of a little shop in town that advertised to be “witch friendly”. I had thought that a strange thing to advertise but now, I was thankful for it. Maybe they could help me? Walking into a shop so obviously dedicated to the study of witchcraft was a strange feeling. I felt very out of place and, judging by the looks I immediately got upon entry, I was indeed out of place. The woman behind the counter asked right away if I needed help finding anything, probably hoping to move me along and out of her store. I can’t blame her. I’m sure she gets looky loos and people up to no good from time to time.

“I actually don’t know what I’m looking for exactly. I have this spell that I’d like to try but I’m brand new at this stuff.” I said cautiously.

“Okay, lets see what you need for this spell. Do you have a list?” she answered politely. After taking a quick glance at my list, she looked back up at me, straight in the eyes.

“Why do you need to perform this spell?” she asked.

“I think I might have been cursed and I read that this could help me figure out who did it so I can reverse it.” I answered honestly. She seemed to see that I was sincere and motioned me into a room at the back of the store.

“Do you realize the depth of magic you are getting into with this?” she asked.

“No, honestly I don’t. I just know I can’t keep dreaming of dying and waking up feeling like it actually happened. My dream last night was a little different than normal so I researched again and read about some infinite death curse. Finding out who did it seems important to stopping it.” I explained.

“It is important to stopping the curse but not in the way you think. Speaking the name of the person who set this curse upon you will stop your heart. The only way to stop the curse of infinite death is to die.” she answered solemnly.

I stood staring at her for a moment, trying to take in the gravity of my situation. The only way to stop dying in my dreams was to die in real life. No wonder this curse came at such a high price. Who on earth would’ve done this to me?

“Sir, do you understand?” She seemed to see the look of disbelief and confusion on my face. “You need to come to terms with your price before you discover who paid theirs.”

“I wake up every morning from terrible dreams. I die in every single one of them. Then, I wake up with pain that seems to correlate to how I died in the dream. It’s been happening since I was 10 years old. Who would do that to a ten year old?” I asked with years of pain in my voice.

“Do you have living parents?” she asked.

“No. They passed in a car accident when I was a kid. I’m an only child.” I answered.

“Was that around the time the dreams started?” she asked with a tinge of fear in her voice.

“They passed a few weeks before the dreams began. Doctors thought it was my reaction to their sudden deaths.” I replied.

“It wasn’t. Do you have aunts or uncles?” She said.

“I have an uncle.” I responded.

“You need to talk to him about this. Come tell me what you discover. Do not do this seeking spell until you talk to me.” she said with an authoritative sound in her voice. “Doing this spell on your own will surely end in your death. If you do learn the name of the person believed to have cursed you, do not say it aloud. Write it down. Do not speak it.”

“I understand.” I said with a tremble in my voice. Walking out of that shop left me feeling more fearful than I had been walking in. I guess I thought there would be some quick fix to my dilemma after what I’d read online. How wrong I was.

While I waited for my uncle to pick up the phone, I sat wondering how on earth I was going to broach this subject with Uncle Steve. He’d always struck me as a no nonsense, straight shooter kind of guy. Didn’t like to beat around the bush or talk for the sake of hearing his own voice. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. My grandparents had finished raising me after my parents died and Uncle Steve was always the one to take me fishing or teach me to work on cars. Ya know, dad stuff. But, he’d never been the fun time uncle. Always the here’s-what-you-need-to-know kind of uncle type. He had no kids of his own. Never wanted any.

Try as I might, I couldn’t come up with a way to ease into this conversation. When Uncle Steve picked up the phone, I found myself blurting the question out like a nervous child who’s asking about something they know they shouldn’t.

“Hey, Uncle Steve. I have a weird question for ya.” I began.

“Okay, Josh. What’s up?” Uncle Steve replied.

“You know how I’ve had these weird dreams about dying since I was a kid? Well, I was researching it a bit more and wondered if you know of any enemies that my parents might have had? Someone who might have wished ill will on them?” Try as I might to word the question carefully, it still came out sounding strange.

“Ill will? There’s only one person that comes to mind, I guess. Wilma Hatchet, Old Lady Hatchet is what we called her. She hated living beside us and was always yelling for us kids to get off her lawn. Your dad once threw a ball that broke one of her weird statues in her yard and she had a fit. Demanded that your grandparents whip him with a switch in front of her but they wouldn’t.” Uncle Steve explained. I sat and listened in shock. I hadn’t expected him to take my question so seriously, much less give a name so quickly.

“When your parents bought her foreclosed property after she lost it to the bank, she vowed a grudge against your family. I’ve never seen anything like that. She showed up at the house one day, yelling at your dad, and threw some glass bottle in the middle of the lawn. I remember because I was over there helping you guys move into the house. You were at school. The glass jar broke and your dad and I had to be sure to get all the glass up so you wouldn’t get cut on it. Your dad was pissed.” Uncle Steve continued.

“What was in the jar?” I asked.

“Not sure but it didn’t smell great. It was mostly liquid so it just killed the grass in that spot. You know that crazy old lady died that very night. Your dad was glad she wouldn’t be harassing him anymore.” Uncle Steve fell quiet.

“How much longer after that did the accident happen?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe a week or two later. Everything feels like a blur after that.” Uncle Steve answered. We both sat quietly for a moment, remembering that horrible time in our lives.

“Anyway, to answer your question, she’s the only person I ever knew of who hated your dad. He was a good guy with lots of friends. No one else comes to mind.” Uncle Steve finished.

“Thank you. I’m sorry to bring up a tough subject. I was just thinking back and couldn’t remember anyone ever really having a problem with him. I better run. Thanks again.” I said as I concluded the call and hung up. Now, I had a name and a motive.

Upon returning to the shop just an hour later, the lady behind the counter didn’t look very surprised to see me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. She immediately motioned for me to join her in the same back room again. I handed her the slip of paper I’d written the woman’s name on along with the details of her feud with my family. She read it and looked up at me with a solemn look on her face.

“If you truly want this to stop, there is only one way to do that.” she began.

Just two hours later, I walked into the ER department of a hospital that was known for their excellent heart attack and stroke department. I’d just finished having my favorite meal at a local restaurant I loved to frequent. I’d eaten my favorite vegan tacos, taken a walk on my favorite local hiking trail, and now I was standing in a hospital. I had no idea what to expect next or if I was just going to look like a crazy person. All I knew is that I needed these dreams to stop or I didn’t want to keep living.

I passed through security and the man behind the counter asked if I needed medical assistance.

“Wilma Hatchet” was my only reply. No sooner had the name escaped my lips than I felt a sudden jolt in my chest, like my heart had skipped a beat. It caused me to gasp quite involuntarily and grab at my chest. The man behind the counter first looked confused. His look of confusion rapidly changed to one of recognition as he realized I was having a heart attack right there in front of him. My heart kept fluttering a few more seconds until it stopped completely and I dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. The next thing I remember is waking up in this hospital bed and being told I was clinically dead for 4 minutes before they were able to restore a heartbeat and pulse.

So, yes. I died today. A witch cursed my family and killed us all but I paid her price. I’m finally free of her horrific death dreams and lifelong torture. I outsmarted a witch with the help of another witch, whom I consider my rescuer. Life is funny like that. I hope somehow, from the great beyond, Old Lady Hatchet knows what I did. I hope she knows the grave she intended to torture me into is still empty and that I said her name.


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