Aphelion Issue 274, Volume 26
July 2022
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Family Values

by Sheri Downing

It was raining when she pulled into her driveway. She put the car in park and watched the wipers go back and forth, back and forth. She was exhausted. Her job as a writer and researcher for Channel 10 news had been grueling today. A ten-hour day of interviewing idiotic people for a weeklong series on the local fig festival could have been better spent.

She would have left this hick-town if she hadn't found a reason worth staying. Thoughts of what lay ahead for her this evening began entering her mind, breaking the hypnotic spell of the wipers. Looking in her rearview mirror, focusing on the home and driveway across the street, she was relieved she made it home before them. After a day like she had, the last thing she could stomach was seeing the beautiful, well-dressed and successful Mrs. Liz Walls arriving at her fabulous home, with its well-manicured lawn, from a day of reporting the news at Channel 10.

The rain slackened, and she made a run for her house. As she unlocked the door, the strong aromas of ginger, clove, rosemary, sandalwood and jasmine flooded her senses. She stood in the foyer, inhaling the comforting scents. They were a constant in her life, the smells of her childhood. Shaking off the remaining rain, she lifted the lighter from the hall table and lit two light blue pillar candles, to promote peace and tranquility.

She had an active night ahead of her, with much to execute this evening, and continuing activities over the next few days, there would be little time for rest. She was already tired, but excited.

Entering the kitchen, she pulled a pot from the cabinet and set it on the stove. Opening the upper cabinet to the left of the stove, she began emptying contents from the expansive selection of vials into the pot. Her motions were systematic and automatic. Her eyes never left the pot, her hands reaching in the cabinet, through and around existing vials, grasping the intended, pouring several tablespoons, adding drops and emptying vials.

Placing all the vials back in their exact place, she closed the cabinet and went to the freezer. Opening the freezer, she retrieved two small freezer bags. She carried them to the stove, emptying the items into the pot. Turning the knob, she set the heat to medium, confident in her timing and ingredients. The wheels had been set in motion. She could grab a quick shower before her doorbell rang.

The shower felt good. She was warm and revived. Clearing the fogged mirror with her hand towel, she reveled in her reflection. She had achieved what no other before her had. It had taken much time and effort, and many trials and errors, but she was proud.

Her breasts were the breasts of a young woman. Her skin was smooth and firm. She looked every inch the twenty-eight year old journalist she portrayed… not the sixty-year old grandmother she was.

Not one to stray from a regimen she created, she began applying the homemade lotions and oils from the many bottles on the counter, to her neck, hands, legs and face. It was a tedious routine, but the results were crucial to maintaining her identity.

The doorbell rang. Slipping on her robe, she went to the door, knowing what would transpire.

Liz Walls stood there under her umbrella, a look of concern on her face. "Violet, I hate to bother you, but I can't find my white Persian cat, Dari."

Feeling no remorse, actually feeling triumphant, as even in her active wear, Liz was just too nauseatingly attractive, Violet responded, "Oh no, Liz. I wouldn't think he would be out and about on such a miserable wet night."

"Yeah, I know. He has been missing though since this morning, but Dan left before I did this morning, and I was already running late. I just assumed he would be home waiting on me after work. I know he hangs around your place, so I thought I would check with you."

Violet fought to hide her jubilation. She could not have designed this any better. She held the key to Liz's future. She was a prophet, assuming that the remaining elements of her plans unfolded as easily. "I am so sorry I can't help you. I will certainly keep my eyes and ears open and let you know if I find out anything."

Liz was disappointed. She was certain Violet would have seen Dari. Recently she had been keeping him inside, not allowing him outside, as he was always lingering around Violet's. She had never seen Violet with any pets, never even seen Violet touch or acknowledge Dari. But if he was ever outdoors, he was always to be found lurking around her place. "Well, thank you. Sorry to have bothered you."

She turned to leave, but Violet grabbed a hold of her wrist, digging her nails into her skin. Liz winced and jerked away. "Ow! What was that for? You hurt me."

"I am sorry. I didn't mean to. I was going to tell you to check down at the Wright's. I have seen him over there once or twice." There had been no other way to obtain the final ingredient to incite the evening's impending incidents, without suspicion that is. Her past had taught her to not draw any unwanted attention.

Liz was rubbing her wrist, the bloody fingernail impressions evident. "Thanks."

Shutting the door, Violet hurried to the kitchen. She knew her window of time was small. Picking up the dried chicken foot from the utensil drawer, she scraped the blood and skin from under hair nails into the pot. The mixture was boiling. She watched the rolling liquid. Mesmerized with the concoction, she caught a glimpse of an eye, Dari's eye, and then his tongue.

Turning down the heat, she retired to what she referred to as her office. It was cold as she entered. The pentagram painted on the floor, covering the entire middle of the room, glowed. Lighting more candles, she picked up a book from her worktable. The table was covered with herbs, powders, crystals and gemstones. She would be up late. By morning, she would know if she had been successful.


The sound of sirens woke her from a deep sleep. Rolling over to see the clock on the nightstand, it was 4:30 a.m. She had been in bed less than an hour. She quickly got out of bed, slipped on her robe, made a quick detour in the office lit a few more candles, and opened her front door.

She was pleased with herself. Not a single glitch so far. The ambulance was parked in the yard directly across the street. Already several neighbors had gathered on the sidewalk. She really did hate this part, acting concerned, shocked. Thankfully, Dan and Liz were just acquaintances of hers, not someone as close as, say, a husband. People expected great outpourings of emotion from a widow. After months and months of playing that role in the past, she empathized with Rose, her granddaughter, and understood her fatigue and need to return to their family home after an emotional role.

Now, it was Violet who was eager to return to the family farmhouse. It had been a long time since she had been the one with the need to call on the others.

The air was cool, damp, but the rain had stopped. She went up to the small group where the Wrights could be seen. "Oh, my. What is going on? Are Dan and Liz okay?"

"It is just the strangest thing," Mrs. Wright said. "Mrs. Cook said she heard that during the night sometime Liz just began to moan and thrash about. Dan thought she was having a nightmare, but he couldn't wake her and she was having difficulty breathing." They watched as the paramedics maneuvered the gurney carrying Liz out of the house to lift her into the waiting ambulance.

"She hasn't been sick or complaining about anything," Mrs. Wright continued.

"Dan said the two had dinner, did a little work and went to bed watching the news," Ms. Franklin, a nosy little thing, added.

Violet had never cared much for Ms. Franklin. She was one of those neighbors who were always looking for an excuse to gain access to your home, always "needing" to borrow something from the kitchen, or the garage, or extending an invitation to a luncheon or a meeting.

Violet's eyes never left Dan, watching him as he stepped into the ambulance to ride with his wife. Violet desperately wanted to approach him and display concern and take any opportunity to console him, but reminded herself, patience is a virtue. He would be hers soon enough.


Two days later

Violet really did hate hospitals. Sure, no one particularly likes them, but they just served as a reminder to her of how ignorant normal people are. She believed in pharmacology -- the lore of herbs and potions accumulated over the centuries -- but she found it brutal to see how "science" and narcissistic personnel twisted and abused the power of the natural world.

Stopping at a drink machine, she bought a cup of coffee. She slipped a vial from her jacket and emptied it into the cup. She had spoken to several people, called ahead, and knew exactly when and where to go. She entered room 2217 to find Dan, sitting in a chair beside the hospital bed where Liz lay in a deathlike sleep.

Liz had never regained consciousness. Inexplicably, she had to be resuscitated three times in the first twenty-four hours since her arrival, and was currently living off life support.

Dan sat up straight in his chair and gave Violet a small smile. "Violet, how nice of you to come by. I am waiting on her parents to get here so the final arrangements can be made."

He certainly was handsome. Violet felt a rush from just being in the same room with him. "Yes, I heard. I am so sorry. If there is anything I can do, I mean anything, please don't hesitate to ask."

She ached over his apparent exhaustion and confusion. It won't hurt for long, my love. I have made sure of it. Handing him the cup of coffee, she rubbed his shoulder. "Why don't you get out of here for a little bit. I will sit here with Liz. Go drink your cup of coffee, away from here."

He didn't resist, not that she expected him to. Every little detail had been thought out, premeditated and any possible hindrance considered. Once she was certain he had left and wouldn't be returning any time soon, she got busy.

Pulling the bed sheet back, she lifted Liz's arm and applied a salve she had brought with her onto the nasty looking fingernail impressions she had left on Liz's wrist. Within the next twelve hours, they would no longer be visible. She smiled as she handled this minor inconvenience.

Having learned from Ed's death, and the "accidental death" of his previous wife, she wasn't going to leave any shred of evidence that could be linked back to her.

Next she retrieved a sachet containing her meticulously prepared combination of herbs, she removed Liz's wedding ring, dropping it in the mix and closing it up. She placed it back in her pocket. All she had to do now was sit and relax, with Liz, and wait for Dan to return to relieve her of this dull, but necessary task.


Ginger knew what awaited her before she entered her "secret" room. The pentagram painted on the floor was glowing. Violet, her mother, needed her once again. It had been many years since Mother had been the one to beckon, but the last time had been hard on all four of them.

Rose, Ginger's daughter and Violet's granddaughter, was on location shooting in the latest Steven Spielberg film. Ginger was certain this was not a summons from Rose.

As much as Ginger wished this was just a request for a social visit, she knew her mother too well. Violet couldn't go very long without possessing a man, always someone else's man. Being successful in the largest real estate brokerage firm in California, her real estate brokerage firm, was enough for Ginger. Sure, Douglas, her live-in boyfriend was nice entertainment, but he was not a necessity.

The timing sucked. Several important closings for the firm were scheduled this week, and though Douglas would get over it, she hated to renege on a charity fundraiser she promised to accompany him to. As far as she knew, her mother was keeping a low profile. After the enormous mess she made with the murder of her last husband, the philandering Governor Ed Blythe and the subsequent opening of an investigation into the death of his previous wife, also due to Violet's handiwork, Lily, Violet's mother, had banished her to a small country town and denied her the use of powers involving other people for a two year period. The two years had expired.

As with Ginger, love was not Rose's sole objective. Her focus was fame and fortune. She was a Grammy Award winning musical artist and currently a much sought after actress.

Rose and Violet shared the desire to use their gifts and knowledge for personal gain, but Ginger enjoyed a professional career, honest success, and rarely relied on nor strived to increase her inherited gifts. Ginger insured she securely closed and hid the existence of her private room so Douglas wouldn't stumble upon it while she was gone, and began to pack a small bag. It would be good to see Rose. And Lily. She was not so sure about Violet.


Violet drove the final stretch to the family farmhouse. As she closed in on her childhood home, and the home where both Ginger and Rose were raised, an annoying feeling of guilt interrupted the peace that usually accompanied her on this journey.

Once Dan had returned to Liz's hospital room the day before, he extended an invitation to meet for coffee, soon. The effects of the coffee and her possession of the wedding ring, a token of commitment, even if originally given to another, were already taking effect.

Ecstatic over her trouble-free victory -- Dan was now hers for the taking -- she walked right into a neurosurgeon on her way to the elevator. His name tag read Dr. Stanley Fitzgerald.

Ginger would be furious with her and could possibly refuse, and attempt to persuade Rose, to not participate in the ceremony. She could not, would not, let them find out. They should want her to be happy. She didn't have many good years left. Sure, she externally looked healthy and fit, but her own mother, Lily, relented to age. She was eighty now, and even though Violet made all her resources available to her mother, her mother was aged, internally. She had rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. No spell or potion could slow or alter the natural process and physiological effects of time.

Violet discovered that Dr. Stanley Fitzgerald was married, with three children. She had used what strengths she had left to begin preparations for the upcoming fatal car accident involving the Mrs. and three minors. She was unable to complete the spells; she needed her family, she needed to revitalize her powers.

She pulled in front of the house and saw two other cars. Ginger and Rose arrived before she did, an unusual occurrence, as they had to fly cross-country. The door to the house was open, and as she entered, the intensity of the scents stunned her. It had been a long time since Lily utilized them to this extent. If Violet hadn't personally witnessed the decline in the use and in the ability of her mother's skills, she may have been suspicious. She detected the scent of lemon, used to evoke protective spirits; clove, used to ward off hostile negative forces; and sage, a very powerful scent used to drain or remove negative energy.

Violet found them gathered in the "family" room, and the candlelight flickered as the wind from the open windows swept through. Lily, Ginger and Rose were already in position around the pentagram. The altar table was set, the necessary items laid out on the altar cloth. A cauldron and representations of the four elements (earth -- pentacle, air -- sword, fire -- wand, water -- chalice) were placed within the perimeters of the pentagram.

Black and magenta pillar candles were lit throughout the room. The whole scenario was unexpected and unnerving. Especially the use of black, completely uncharacteristic, as it is used in banishment rituals.

Lily appeared strong, thriving, more so than the past several times Violet returned home. Her eyes were alive and determined, as they bore into Violet.

"Are you ready? We have been waiting on you," said Lily, handing Violet a cloak.

Violet donned the offered cloak, but remained hesitant, worried. "Mother, why did you begin without me? You know the renewal of any of our powers can't be completed without all four of us. What are you performing?"

Ginger and Rose remained in place at the pentagram, still, not acknowledging Violet, or the exchange between mother and daughter.

Lily's eyes narrowed, her stance firm. "Don't be asking me any questions, girl! You have been out of control for far too long! You don't listen and you never learn!"

Shaken by her mother's outburst and the force behind it, Violet pleaded, "No, Mom. I followed all the restrictions you placed on me. I did."

"Don't underestimate me Violet. You have been doing it since you were a little girl. With the understanding and dedication you have given to your gifts, one would think you wouldn't have used your first opportunity in two years to make the same mistakes."

Ginger and Rose began to chant, as if they had received a silent command from Lily.

"Goddess Mother, hear our cry.
Always in your honor, we await your reply.
To aid us in our endeavor, on this magical night.
Please bestow upon us, your all powerful might."

Grabbing Violet and pulling her in place around the pentagram, completing the circle, Lily stated, "Don't fight it, Violet. It has begun. It is too late."

She knew the consequences of using her powers to harm others, and she took that risk. She didn't want to be stripped of her powers. The use and abilities of herbs, gemstones and scents would still be available to her, but only for the purpose of good health and mental well-being. She would no longer be able to use them in combinations. She would no longer have the means of manipulating events or people. Her new dream of becoming Mrs. Dr. Stanley Fitzgerald would never be realized.

With the four elements bodily represented by the women -- earth, air, fire and water --another incantation began, led by Lily, joined by Ginger and Rose, and reluctantly Violet. All four had learned this chant as children, and Violet thought it in her best interest to contribute.

"I am the Air.
I am the Mother.
I am the fire.
I am the Mother.
I am the Water.
I am the Mother.
I am the Earth.
I am the Mother.

Lily's amulet glowed brightly against her chest. The wind rushed around them, extinguishing several candles. The cauldron placed in the center of the pentagram bubbled and smoked. Lily, Ginger and Rose dropped their hands, retrieving anthames (ceremonial knives) from inside their cloaks.

Cutting her own wrist with her black handled anthame, Lily leaned over the cauldron squeezing the flow of her blood inside. She then reached for Violet, who backed away, frightened and unfamiliar with the proceedings. Ginger grasped her mother's arm, displaying her wrist, and Lily quickly pulled her blade across it. Jerking Violet, she held her bleeding wrist over the cauldron, mixing it with the contents.

The chanting resumed.

"Oh Mother, all powerful one.
To disrespect or anger you, will not be done.
Oh Mother, you are our one of choice.
Hear us honor and aid you, hear our voice."

Growing light-headed, weak and disoriented, Violet knelt to the floor. Her ears were ringing, and her head was pounding violently. Though her eyes were open, she could not see anything. "Mother, what are you doing? I am sorry! I am so very sorry!"

Then it was over. The pressure in her head relented. The ringing subsided. There was complete silence. She could see, but her vision was blurred. Standing, a sharp pain reverberated through her legs, traveling into her hips, back and up into her shoulders, arms and hands.

Looking to her mother, she saw Rose. Confusion set in, she wondered when they changed positions? She looked to Ginger and saw herself. Oh no! Oh no! What have they done to me? She looked at her hands, and she saw Lily's hands.

"You abused it my daughter. You have been a threat to us. It is my duty to remove threats, but you are my child. You are Ginger's mother and Rose's grandmother. This is the best I could do."

Never had she felt as much anger and hatred as she did that moment. She wanted desperately to take one of the anthames and pierce her mother's chest with it. All she had created and taught them. No one before her had ever experimented and studied their gifts as she had. If not for her, they would just have a small amount of healing power and foresight, nothing compared to what she had learned for them.

Ginger and Rose came over and hugged her, giving their farewells. No exchange of words was needed. They knew what they had done, and they would have to live with it.

Violet, or rather Lily in Violet's body, came over next, but she kept her distance. "I will come back and see you soon, Mother. I have a coffee date planned with a very nice gentleman, Dan Walls."

They left. Violet may not have received the rekindling ceremony she returned home for, but she always used her gifts to the greatest capability. From what she knew, her powers were not stripped. It would just be a matter of time. It won't be long Dr. Stanley Fitzgerald.


© 2008 Sheri Downing

Bio: Sheri Downing is a member of the Emerald Coast Writers, and thoroughly enjoys the sharing involved with this group. She loves to read and write and am proud to encourage this interest in her children.

E-mail: Sheri Downing

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