She showed him the horror again.
Clear as crystal. His own. It can really affect you, that.
It was the curse, she told him.
He had heard about the curse before. From her as well as the elders. Three centuries ago, an ancestor had burnt a witch in cold blood. The witch’s sister, who plied the same trade, hadn’t been impressed. Every male heir since then had met with a gruesome, albeit creative, end.
He believed what he’d seen. He believed in the curse. But he also believed that he could undo it.
It had required a lot of effort, but it was finally ready. He sat at the controls and drew in a deep, purposeful breath. This was it. He was ready to rewrite history, and his own future in the bargain. He pressed the button, the science did its thing, and the machine hurled back into time.
He peeped through the window again. The witch still lay asleep. There was no sign of any tip-toeing ancestors in the vicinity. He guessed he had some time to kill before he’d have the opportunity to prevent the deed from being perpetrated. He sat down in the bushes, lit himself a cigarette, and waited.
The screams jolted him out of his nap. He rushed to the source. The machine was up in flames. So was the witch. She must have gotten inside, curious to determine what the contraption was. Maybe she had fiddled with the engine. Maybe there had been a short-circuit. It was too late to save her, or the machine, which would soon become her coffin.
A cold tap on the shoulder caused him to turn around. It was who he’d thought it’d be. And she was mad.
“Don’t eat that pear,” she said.
“But why?” He asked, giving it a look over.
“It’s forbidden.” She tried to snatch it from him but he dodged her attempt.
“Who are we, Adam and Eve? And this isn’t even an apple!” He chuckled, taking a huge bite out of it anyway.
“Well, it isn’t a pear either.”
He was too busy choking on the wax to notice her joy at having nailed the punchline.
“How can you not believe in yourself?” The others always ask me. They find it amusing.
Maybe they have a point though. I can fly like a bird. I’m faster than a train. Bullets don’t even tickle me. I can perform feats which no ordinary man can. Why do the doubts still persist then? I’ve tried to push them away. I’ve tried to see what they do when they look at me. But the doubts always return. I can’t do it. I can’t get myself to believe in ghosts.
After years of heartbreak, the adoption agency finally called. We were happy. We were complete. At least, until the sickness engulfed his tiny frame.
He offered to help. In exchange I’d have to sacrifice another human on my son’s first birthday.
I’d have taken a worse deal.
He kept his word. When the dreaded day came, I kept mine. Her eyes will haunt me forever.
I hid the body and returned home. My hands still trembled.
My wife greeted me with a bemused look, “The adoption agency called. Apparently there was a mix up with his birth certificate. They said his actual birthday is on the fourth of next month.”
She looked around at the decorations she’d worked on all day, and laughed.
“What a waste,” she said.
I nodded in agreement.
I followed the screams. I had to reach her. She continued to run down the wrong path. I tried to warn her, called out to her to stop, but my voice muffled by the thunderous rain always seemed to fall short. For the first time in my life, I was truly afraid.
And then I heard the sickening thud. She had fallen. I filled with dread when I saw a figure run towards her, with a pistol gingerly extended in front. I had to reach her before he did. Her screams were barely coherent between her frightened sobs now. “Help…daddy…please,” she repeated, over and over. She finally looked in my direction. I waved at her between strides, trying to tell her everything would be fine, but I could sense the fear in her eyes as they darted between me and him. I suddenly realised, with almost paralysing apprehension, that her life depended on who won this race. I think she did too. She closed her eyes, and waited.
Luckily for her, I came in first, and I knew what I had to do.
I plunged the knife into her ribcage with all my might, twisting it in, until all that remained was silence. I looked up to him as he finally reached her. The family resemblance was obvious – she had his eyes. I watched calmly as those eyes, now brimming with tears, aimed the pistol at my head. I wasn’t afraid anymore. The screams had finally stopped.