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Prologue to a curse . . .

The boiling cauldron poured off rancid smoke. The smell didn’t bother Mary much, but Meredith always waited outside during this process. She’d never gotten used to the odor of rotten eggs.

“Sister, what do you see?” Meredith called through the open front door, a wisp of coal-black hair sticking to her shriveled lip. 

Inside the cabin, Mary stirred a vat of molten silver liquid. She thought it looked pretty, like a pot of melted rings and bracelets. “Nothing yet, Sister,” Mary replied, blowing a lock of cotton-white hair from her eyes. “Now, let me work!” 

Only a few drops of the girl’s blood—Meredith corrected herself—the woman’s blood were required. If the process killed her in the end, it wouldn’t be their fault. Meredith and her sister, Mary, would be restored to youth and beauty—one with hair as black as coal, the other as white as snow.That was all that mattered now. Besides, Meredith reasoned, one more death could hardly make a difference now, could it?

A picture began to form on the liquid and her attention shifted. “Closer . . . closer . . .” Mary muttered to the silvery liquid as if it could understand her. Meredith bit her jaundiced fingernails and blew a lock of graying black hair from her face. She whispered, “Is she here?” An unbearable moment of silence settled between the sisters. Mary stared, unblinking, at the picture in the pot.

The young woman in the liquid appeared to gaze directly at Mary. Mary flinched. The resemblance was uncanny. A head of tangled blond hair, deep brown eyes, and something in the woman’s gaze told Mary all she needed to know. In the purest and deadliest of voices, Mary replied, “She is, Sister.” Mary clambered to Meredith, and the sisters embraced, their hair becoming a tangle of salt and pepper.

They felt each other’s hearts beat against their own chests, felt the blood they shared coursing through their veins. And as the sisters pulled away with tears in their eyes, all worry melted into mist, for they knew that soon, very soon, life could begin again.

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