A Family Matter

My town is not one you will have heard of. That’s deliberate, it’s a dangerous place, a dark one built on cursed land. There are werewolves in the woods, something old and ancient under the pond and once and once only, our dead can return home.

It isn’t easy, coming back means denying whatever afterlife awaits, turning your back on the light or its opposite and making the long, difficult walk back across the blistering sands. You condemn yourself to an eternity of wandering, of loneliness and introspection, not a choice many are willing to make. Those who return are always one of two things; angry, or desperate.

Four hundred people live in my town. Overall we’re mostly solemn, careful and keep mostly to ourselves, family means everything because it’s all we have. Occasionally someone moves away, they get married, try to settle elsewhere, but we all come back here in the end. My sister Maya always felt like she belonged somewhere else. Our mother died giving birth to her, but none of us ever really blamed her for that: sometimes bad things just happen.

Our house was old and we didn’t realise how dark it was until she came along, her innate vibrancy illuminating every corner of the old, crumbling cottage we call home. We don’t have a father now, he left after Maya was born. We were raised by our grandmother, older than time, hobbled now by the weight of passing years. She was Maya’s opposite: dark where my sister was light and I was grey, balanced precariously between the two, waiting for the scales to tip. Together we were whole. A family.

This place is dangerous certainly, but we protected each other. You soon learn the paths that are safe and the ones where the hungry things roam. Our family has lived here a long time, we made bargains, mutually beneficial arrangements that mean none of us will be stolen away in the middle of the night by the long limbed white creatures that haunt the fields. But, living here takes something from you, eats your light until you are a shadow of what you could be and I couldn’t bear that happening to Maya.

I stood on the bowing porch as she danced gracefully around the sun dappled pines, long blonde hair flowing in the early spring breeze and it was in that moment I knew that I would not let this town have her. I couldn’t know then that I wasn’t the only one watching, if only I had. Someone else in town had seen she was special and they coveted her, at the same time, wanting no one else to have her after them.

She didn’t want to leave, but I think a part of her was relieved, just as I was when I regularly received the photographs showing her with her friends and eventually, with her girlfriend. She was making a life away from here, in a way none of us had been able to, she’d left before this place could sink its claws into her. It hurt to see her moving away from us, but the pain was sweet, she’d never be tainted like we were. Or so I thought at the time.

Our grandmother died suddenly, all bodies wear out eventually, but her death was not natural, nor was it easy. A spell went wrong, badly so, and rather than release what she had raised, she took it into herself, rotting away in a matter of minutes, miles from home. I tried to keep the news to myself, Maya would return otherwise and if she did so, might not be quite as willing to leave me here alone.

She found out anyway, though she later said she’d been thinking for some time about returning, as much as I wanted to deny it, this place was part of her too, fused into her blood and bones. She arrived without warning, coming inside, bowed down by the huge backpack she’d carried all the way from the next town over. I was equally furious and ecstatic, shouting in protest, but pulling her to me even as I did so. There are few bonds sweeter than those between sisters, she made me want to be better and in another life, I might have been.

We cried together, washed our grandmother’s skin and plaited beads into her long dark hair. We sewed the burial shroud together and Maya painted the symbols onto the marker. We buried her beneath her favourite tree, the one with the dryad. Maya lingered on, past the three watching days, when our grandmother’s body was most at risk and I knew then that she planned to stay. I was working out how exactly to change her mind without hurting her when she disappeared. I went to the next town, to sell the statues I had carved. I used the money to buy my sister’s ticket back to the city. When I returned in the thickening gloom of early evening, she was already gone.

I found her three days later, body left on the outskirts of my property, a deliberate act and no doubt part of his fantasy. The thing that stayed with me, through the many sleepless nights that followed, was her hair, or rather, the lack of it. He had cut it off, those beautiful honey strands I had combed almost every day of her life lay around her, stained with her blood. She was missing her jewellery, as he had wanted to keep some parts of her close, so that he might relive her final moments, their first together. I buried her beside my grandmother.

I tried everything to find out who he was, but someone in our town had done this, outsiders never make it through the woods alive. He knew how to counteract spells, to hide the traces of him that I might have found. There is also one rule in our town that no one ever breaks and even in the depths of my despair, I was no different. We don’t involve the authorities in village business.

Six months passed, the grass began growing over the two graves outside the house, eventually the crisp red-orange autumn leaves covered the ground and tucked them in tight. I can’t speak of who I became by the time winters bite hung heavy in the air. Maya’s death left a gaping, bleeding void in me, into which the shadows crept. I was no longer grey, but black, as dark within as the gritty soil that covered the two people I’d loved most in the world.

The turning time approached, the day when the veils between worlds are pulled paper thin, filled with holes through which the determined dead can pour. I knew my sister would come to me, the same way I knew whoever killed her would try very hard to stop this from happening. Death is bad, true enough, but there is something worse, a ritual we call dispersal. The dead are weak by the time the journey is done, diminished and vulnerable. The right combination of herbs and spoken words can scatter them to the void, condemning them to the endless uncaring nothing.

It’s cruel, forbidden, but then so is murder and my sister’s attacker had no problem with that. My second worry was that I didn’t know the route my Maya would take. She knew the roads we walked every day, but the dead need not be scared of the sharp toothed denizens of the forest and so, she might take the quicker path home. Despite my many abilities, I can’t be in more than one place at the same time, so I knew there was a terrible risk that I could miss her, lose her again. I might be too late to save her for a second time. I think even then I knew he was one step ahead of me, had likely planned this for years before he had even taken her. It had not been intuition that had brought Maya home, but words in the depths of the night, our grandmother, trying very hard to tell her something, but fading before my sister could understand. I wondered what my grandmother had been trying to say.

The dark dawned at last and I left the house. The turning day had cast its strange spell over the land and the air was alive with the whispers of a veil torn asunder, the restless dead awake at last. I burned with the need for justice, no, that is a lie and I promised to be honest. I wanted revenge, my pound of flesh.

I donned the black robes, painted my face and wove my spells, so that I might make Maya’s journey a little easier. I wished I could be beside her the whole way, holding her hand and have her tell me another story. One with fair maidens and knights, a world where the good always wins in the end, not this rotten unfair place we are condemned to endure.

The woods were dark and deep and I, like Robert Frost, had promises to keep. Blanketed by night, the miles stretched ahead like an endless, empty highway and I felt more alone than ever before. All was silent, even the wolves stayed snug and safe in their burrows, the crows already flown west, to the dead lands and the masters who waited there. The air was cold, overripe berries hanging bloated and leaking from their branches. Everything smelled like wet dirt and distant graves yawned open, like dark hungry mouths.

I hummed the song I had soothed her with as a child, when she had still been scared of the woods, before she had made her peace with our strange town. I hoped she might hear it, be guided to me sooner, for as much as I wanted revenge, in that moment I wanted nothing more than to see her again. The hours passed and there was no sign of her and I felt something inside me twist, tearing places unseen, for despair gnaws readily on the bones of hope.

I think it was then that I realised something, a huge flaw in my plan that I hadn’t even considered. Most of the towns inhabitants die naturally, a few from mishaps like my grandmother or sometimes from accidents. People fall from ladders everywhere, even here. It had been a long time since someone was murdered and because of that, I forgot something my grandmother had once told me. The souls of the murdered are different, often confused, drawn first to the place in which they died. I’ve already said that the murderer covered his tracks well. Maya had been found in that overgrown field, but had not died there. In that terrible moment I knew I would not see her again. He’d known she would return and of course, he had prepared for that as well. Possibly before he had even killed her.

I howled at the blood tinged moon and for just a moment, I heard my pain reflected somewhere distant, as what was left of my sister was lost in the wind. I felt her absence all over again and a wound within, barely scabbed over, burst open and bled anew. There was nothing I could do to end her suffering, any more than I could end my own, no spells I could weave to bind her scattered pieces back together. There would be no goodbye, no whispered words of love to soothe our raw weeping edges. Maya was gone forever and the world was worse for it.

I had forgotten the one important thing about my sister’s return and had doomed us both to an eternity apart, but I wasn’t the only one who was distracted. Her murderer had been as excited as I was for my sister’s return, albeit in a different way and I had no doubt that he’d overlooked one important thing. My sister wasn’t the only member of my family to die in the past year and was not the only one who could return. I hadn’t expected it myself until I turned to find the shade of my grandmother behind me.

She had sensed something awful was coming to our family, before it happened. She’d decided to call upon a powerful entity, one she didn’t entirely trust. She was too old, too worn out to stand against the entity when he demanded the ultimate payment. She gave her life to see, ahead of time, my sister’s murder, but died before being able to do anything to prevent it. I said that some spirits are desperate, others angry and I’m sure you can guess which of the two motivated my grandmother to make that long, dangerous walk back to me. In the loneliest part of the night we came together and made our plans against him.

The murderer was not someone I knew personally, but I made it my business to change that, after all, I had little else to do. He lived alone in a home as old as mine, on the outskirts of town, split over two levels. The staircase was stone, uneven and mossy, easy to take an unexpected tumble in the depths of the night. I watched them carry his body out. his neck lolled strangely, but he did not have another mark on him, for I didn’t want anyone to suspect he might return on the next turning day.

I said that dispersal was cruel, but it is not the worst thing you can do to the dead, my grandmother taught me that. We have our own version of the voodoo doll, this one not designed to punish an external foe, but instead, to bind a spirit within it. Traditionally, the dead are bound within small earthenware containers, a bit like a genie in a lamp, so that the caster can harness their energy for more complicated spell work. That is not my intention. He is, after all, no longer the only human monster in town. You already know that I’m no fairy tale princess, more like the wicked witch and I want him there forever, able to think and feel every second of his eternity.

I sewed the doll over a few days, making it from one of my grandmother’s old dresses, as she had suggested and stuffed it with my sister’s bloody hair. I took breaks to write this, I think Maya would want her story told. Even so, I’m sure you understand that at its heart, this is a family matter and therefore, my grandmother and sister must be included in his punishment, in one way or another. His prison has to be made from cotton you see, because I will need somewhere to stick the pins.

The Mirror Game

man-in-the-mirror

(c)  google images. All images remain the property of their creator.

Disclaimer: I am posting this for fun and because people enjoy reading about these things. If you choose to play any of these games then you do so at your own risk.

How to play

Notes

  • In theory you can play this game as many times as you want. However each time you play you should be aware that minor, as well as major changes may happen. As such, you have no idea what may await in the parallel world.
  • Changing things in your life can cause a spiral of events you did not anticipate. You should be prepared for this.
  • There is a cost for playing this game. For example, some have said that wishing someone was still alive could cause someone else in your life to die instead.
  • This game can only be played on turning days/the equinox; Halloween, Yule, Summer Solstice etc. Check out the pagan calendar for days when this might work.
  • If you see anyone else appear in the mirror, immediately abort the game. They are attempting to cross over.

Equipment

  • 2 black candles.
  • 1 white candle.
  • A large, ideally floor length mirror.
  • A lighter/matches.

Steps

  • This game must be played at night in full dark. Otherwise, the time doesn’t matter.
  • Choose a place to play. This must not be your bedroom or any other place where you could fall asleep after the game.
  • Place the 2 black candles either side of the large mirror.
  • Place the white candle in the middle, in front of the mirror.
  • Light the candles.
  • Turn off all other lights in the house.
  • You should sit in front of the mirror and concentrate on your reflection.
  • Think about something in your life that you wish was different. This can be major or minor, but there is a cost involved and you won’t know what it is until afterwards.
  • While still looking at your reflection focus on the thing you want to change and imagine how your life might have been different had things gone the way you wanted.
  • This is your final chance to abort the game. If you wish to do so, blow out the candles and destroy the mirror. Make sure every single shard is removed from your home. It may be best to break the mirror outside, away from your home.
  • Reports differ at this point.
  • The first version says you should now reach out and attempt to put your hand through the mirror. Be aware that once you do this, there is no turning back. You must pass through the mirror. You can never return to the previous one, no matter what awaits you on the other side. This is a new world in which your wish has been fulfilled. Note that you cannot anticipate what effects your wish may have had on your life, or the rest of the world.
  • The second version says simply that you should go to bed. Once you awake the world will have changed around you. Even if your wish was not granted, the world may have changed in subtle ways.
  • It is said that there is a gatekeeper that guards the passage between worlds. Those who have played this game more than once have reported seeing someone in the mirror behind them. Initially this figure is far away, but every time you play the game she gets closer. You must never let her reach you. Even if you only play the game once she will be aware of you from then on. You will be in danger every time you are in a dark room with a mirror and should avoid playing any other summoning games which involve opening portals.
  • Never sleep in the room with the mirror. Not only do you need to worry about the gatekeeper, but you have opened a portal that can never be closed. Other things may try to take advantage of this. It may be wise to keep the mirror surrounded by a ring of salt.
  • Once you have played the game once, you may only play again using the same mirror.

Safety first

Broken mirrors leave shards that can stick into your feet at the worst possible time.

Risk level

High.

Would I play?

No. My current life is okay.

Scapegoat (game)

Image

(c)  google images. All images remain the property of their creator.

Disclaimer: I am posting this for fun and because people enjoy reading about these things. If you choose to play any of these games then you do so at your own risk.

How to play

Notes

  • Please note that I have credited the original source (the one I found first) Synchros for this post, but I have found additional blog entries with slight deviations. I have included some of these deviations where I feel they enhance the game.
  • This game is very similar to Hitori Kakurenbo, which I’ve previously talked about on this blog. According to the source the difference lies in the dolls reaction. Instead of confronting you, if it discovers your hiding place it will be smiling at the end of the game. The source also states that this game is far more dangerous than One Man Hide and Seek, so proceed with caution. Also note that I personally feel that playing this game in your own home would be a big mistake and should ideally be avoided.
  • Hide the scapegoat very well. Some sources claim that it is very dangerous for the other doll to obtain your hair. Some suggest hiding it within a series of boxes, like a set of Russian dolls.
  • Please note, the longer the game goes on, the more likely the doll is to find you. Most sources suggest starting with one or two minutes as you can play this game again.
  • You must play alone.
  • Do not make a sound while the original doll is searching for you.
  • Do not run away without finishing the game properly.
  • Do not leave the house while playing.
  • End the game before the sun comes up. Do not play for too long or the doll may find you.
  • If you choose to replay the game use completely new materials and do not hide the scapegoat or yourself in the same place.
  • Once the game has started never cross between the mirrors.

Equipment

  • Two tall mirrors that you don’t mind destroying.
  • A humanoid doll that isn’t smiling.
  • A second doll to use as a scapegoat.
  • An alarm clock.
  • A candle of any colour except black or red.
  • A blindfold.
  • A single hair strand.
  • Five spoonfuls of salt (doesn’t say whether table or teaspoon size, but given the amount you need I would suggest the former).

Steps

  • Place the mirrors facing each other with the unlit candle in the middle.
  • The scapegoat doll functions as a distraction so tie your hair onto it as tightly as possible.
  • Hide this doll well. It should be far away from your intended hiding spot, but near the other doll. It gives you time to hide which is why it must be closer to the other doll than you are.
  • At midnight go to the room with the mirrors and the candle.
  • Set the alarm for however long you intend to play the game.
  • Say 5 times, ‘I will leave a new body here for you in the shape of a doll.’
  • Place the original doll in front of the candle.
  • Now say, ‘let’s play,’ 5 more times.
  • You may feel strange or uncomfortable at this point, which means things are going as they should. If you feel any sense of pressure on your body you must immediately abort the game. The spirit is attempting to possess you instead of the doll.
  • If you wish to abort the game sprinkle salt and basil on both the mirrors and both dolls. The dolls should be salted and burned before you move the mirrors. Once you have done this, place the ashes of the dolls into running water, as far from your home as possible. The mirrors should be taken apart, salted and destroyed, as far from each other as possible.
  • Assuming that you wish to proceed, keep the salt with you.
  • Now say, ‘find me please. I allow x (you know the drill, replace x with desired amount of time). Once the alarm sounds, your power fades and you must return from where you came. If you win, I offer my life as tribute.’
  • Start the alarm.
  • Cover the dolls eyes with the blindfold and say, ‘the game begins.’
  • Head to your hiding spot, sprinkling a little of the salt on yourself, without leaving a trail. Hide. One variation suggests creating a salt circle around yourself once you are in your hiding place and remaining in it until the alarm sounds. Do not leave the hiding place until the end of the game.
  • The original doll should now be searching for the scapegoat.
  • Once the game is over you should take your remaining salt and go to the room with the mirrors and candle.
  • In front of the candle you say, ‘you lose, the game is done. Thank you for playing.’
  • Sprinkle salt on yourself and blow out the candle.
  • Now try to find the original doll and the scapegoat. Sprinkle salt on both.
  • The original source suggests that within three days you should send the original doll to a shrine so that they can perform a ritual to soothe the spirit. If this is not possible, I would destroy it. Destroy the scapegoat, but reclaim your hair before doing so and burn that too.
  • Dispose of the mirrors, as detailed above.
  • Smudge through every room of the house. Some suggest leaving offerings for the spirit before you do this as a way of appeasing it.
  • Please note, if at the end of the game the doll is smiling it means she found you and your life is in grave danger. You should avoid lingering in dark places and continue to smudge the rooms every day until you feel safe. Also avoid looking for long into mirrors or reflective surfaces.

Related articles

Safety First

The usual warning about candles left unattended.

Risk level

High to oh my gosh, I’m going to die.

Would I Play

Nope. I won’t play any games that require the use of blood or hair.

Urban Legends: Video Games and Hollywood

Proper blog posts will resume shortly. It was my birthday on Tuesday and have had various activities planned for this week.

Until then enjoy some of the creepiest urban legends about video games.

Also, some creepy myths and curses from Hollywood. Enjo