Joining a mom group changed my life. Honestly I thought I’d be all alone when my husband and I left our hometown for his new job. That was bad enough, but the fact I’d just had little Charlotte three months prior to said move made it actual hell.
I was out on the front yard cradling my fussy child when an angel came down from heaven, and that angel was my neighbor, Karen. She had truly mastered being a mother, all she had to do was hold Charlotte and my baby girl was cooing and quieting right down for her nap. Granted she had done this three times with her kids Staci, Cydney, and Kurtis, but she was exactly what I needed.
Several of the moms on the street were part of the group and I got to meet them all that Saturday for some much needed wine and chill time. Norma, April, Melody and Camilla. Each of them had kids under the age of ten and April was also a first time new mom, although she sadly joined the group before her first miscarriage.
“It was a hard time,” She said as she took a sip from her glass, “But everyone helped me through it. And now I have Zoe, and I wouldn’t trade anything for her.”
It made life a lot easier, having all these other moms around. But of course, it took me a while to settle in, be really accepted, you know? The one thing I was never invited to for those first few months was Friday night. Girl’s Night. The kids would be stashed with the husbands, I’d see everyone else’s cars parked over at Karen’s house. I didn’t know what went on at these girl’s nights, only that they never asked me to come along.
I decided one day that it was time I invited myself. I mean, maybe they didn’t ask me to come over because they assumed I knew I was welcome. I got a bottle of this really tasty mango wine, made sure Charlotte was in bed, and after telling my husband not to wait up, I marched on over to Karen’s house.
The party had just gotten started when I knocked on the door. Norma answered it, wineglass in hand. Her eyebrows raised as she saw me waiting outside. “Hi!” I raised up my bottle. “I saw you all coming over, mind if I join in?”
For a second, I saw Norma doubt, but before she could open her mouth to make an excuse Karen appeared from out of the hall. “Oh! Tammy, it’s so great to see you! Come on in,” She grinned widely and beckoned me in.
Proud of myself for taking the initiative, I glanced at Norma, who pursed her lips for a moment before shrugging and stepping aside to make way for me. Karen took the bottle from my hands and grinned. “Oooh, thank you, but I already provided the drinks for tonight. You can do it next time, or who knows, maybe we’ll go a little crazy and we’ll need it. You’re just in time, we were about to start reading!”
And now I finally had an answer for what went on during girl’s night- book club! Enjoy a few glasses of wine, discuss whatever we were reading for the week. I loved to read, well, at least before Charlotte. I barely had the time now.
The living room was lit by soft candle light. April and Melody were lounging on the couch while Camilla reclined on the armchair and flipped through a book on her lap. It was a large thing, bigger than some Bibles I’ve seen, and my father was a minister- I’ve seen some big Bibles.
“Cam, how dare you get started without us!” Karen said with a laugh, taking a seat in the other armchair. Norma seemed to relax now and she had scuttled off to the kitchen to grab an extra chair.
April noticed me and her eyes widened. “Oh, Tammy! Ummm, Karen-”
“Don’t worry about it, April, we can still continue with tonight’s activities,” Karen said, brushing her concerns off.
April and Melody scooched over to give me some room and I took my seat. “Soooo, what are we reading this week?” I asked.
Norma chuckled as she plopped down a dining room chair next to me and sat on it. “What we read every week, unless Camilla’s husband found another volume?”
“I’m afraid not, but we’re still going through my great grandmother’s library.” Camilla nudged up her glasses before handing the book to Karen. “I imagine she had more of this collection.”
Karen slipped off the dust cover, said dust cover was originally for the Great Gatsby but it clearly didn’t fit this monster of a book. The actual cover was made of black leather, and I saw the pages were lined with gold. “Is it a Bible?” I asked, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear.
I saw April’s lips twitch into a barely concealed smirk and Norma chuckled again, but Melody was the one that answered me. “Oh, not even close. Camilla, do you care to explain?” Melody asked.
Camilla nodded and had to push her glasses up again. “My great grandmother was a wealthy and incredibly intelligent woman, if not slightly eccentric. One thing she had a passion for was collecting books, she quite literally owned a library in her home. Two years ago, she unfortunately passed away, holding the book that Karen is now.”
I felt an uncontrollable shiver going up my spine as Karen began flipping through the pages. “What’s it called?” I asked.
“There’s no name on the cover and no author listed, but I imagine there may have been dozens or even hundreds of authors.” Karen tapped her fingers against the pages. “Since it is your first night here… how about you pick a page?”
The mood of the room rapidly shifted from casual to tense. Even the happy go lucky Melody seemed a bit off put. “Karen, are you sure that’s a good idea?” She asked.
“Why not? It’s not like she can do anything with it without our help.” Karen stood and crossed the room, setting the book on my lap. The weight of it was immense, easily making the textbooks I carried in college seem light as feathers. “Just… go with your heart, Tammy. Pick a page that just makes you feel right.”
I almost declined and passed it off to April, but that sudden burst of curiosity had me opening it up and turning the pages.
The book was all written by hand. Each page felt so fragile that if I breathed on them wrong they would crumble. It was the illustrations that got me, accurate depictions of human anatomy, plants that I couldn’t name even if my life depended on it, pictures of women throwing their heads back with a wail, holding knives above their bleeding arms, and… well, demons. I suppose they might have been actually demons.
“This is…” I swallowed and shook my head. “This is a little creepy.”
Karen nodded in sympathy. “We all thought it was at first too. But it’s actually not too bad, I imagine there’s some Stephen King that’s a lot worse. You feel anything?”
I was about to respond with a ‘not yet’ when I turned another page and I felt my heart catch in my throat.
The image was horrifying, of a man upside down with his throat slit open, and underneath was another demon with its forked tongue out, lapping up droplets of blood. But it was the title on the page that really had me pause.
‘Converse with The Satisfied One’
I knew this was the page I wanted to read. I tapped the picture with my finger. “I think I like this one,” I said.
April peered at it before grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Oh, you got good taste! Karen, do you think tonight’s a good night for a summoning?” She asked.
Karen shrugged. “Well, why not? It’s what Tammy wants to try.”
The women all gathered around, kneeling in front of me. Camilla gestured for me to read the page and I cleared my throat before doing so. Or well, trying to do so. The words coming out of my mouth sure as hell weren’t English, but I got a distinct impression about what to do. And so did the others, as they all got up and began to commence with the instructions.
“Please tell me you didn’t forget to grab a sacrifice this week,” Norma said, giving Melody a long stare as she pulled several black and red candles out from a basket under the coffee table.
Melody froze while she sharpened a silver knife. “Shit! It was my turn?” She asked.
Norma groaned and looked ready to slap her when Karen cleared her throat. “Don’t worry, I remembered that Melody always forgets when it’s her turn to bring the sacrifice. He’s in the basement.”
Melody sighed with relief while Camilla and April ran for the stairs. Karen dragged a positively enormous cauldron out from the coat closet, behind all the stuff stored away for winter. “Don’t worry about anything, Tammy, you can help us prep next time,” She said with a grunt.
So I just watched as preparations continued.
Norma grabbed what I initially thought was one of the kid’s toy chests in the corner of the room and dragged it to the center, popping it open and it transforming into a miniature table. A miniature table with chains.
As Melody lit the candles, I heard April and Camilla drag something behind them. I turned to watch them bring in a man, stripped down to the waist and clearly out of it. The women all teamed up to tie him down to the table, his neck hanging over the edge and above the cauldron.
Karen handed me the knife and all the other women joined hands. “Before the sacrifice, we need you to take a piece of yourself,” She said.
“I have to… what?”
It took me until this moment to realize that each of the women in this room were in fact missing a part of themselves. April’s hair was carefully arranged to hide the fact her right ear was gone, Camilla’s left ear was missing too. The tips of Norma’s left fingers were missing, along with the entirety of her ring finger. Melody was missing the big toe on her right foot, only visible when she wasn’t wearing shoes like she was now. And Karen… Karen pulled down her blouse to reveal her chest. Her breasts had been removed, the nasty scarring making abundantly clear that it wasn’t done in some sort of hospital room.
“It doesn’t have to be a lot of you, but you have to remove something. Something permanent, not just your hair or fingernails.” Karen pulled her shirt back up as she stared at me. “If you can’t do this, then you’re free to go. You won’t remember anything of this night, but you will remember that Friday nights just… aren’t for you. We won’t think anything less of you either. You’re still our friend, Tammy.”
I thought for a few minutes. I looked at the front door. I looked at the knife.
I took a deep breath before I gripped the knife ever tighter and brought it up to my face. I didn’t let myself hesitate before jabbing it into my eyesocket. I heard Melody gag as I worked the knife around, managing to pop the eye out and slicing it free. It landed on the ground before I let the pain hit me.
I wailed as I clung onto the side of my face, Karen gingerly picked up the eyeball before dropping it into the cauldron. “That’s good, that’s a great choice, the beings in the book will appreciate it. Do you think you can make the final cut?” She asked, nodding at the barely conscious man at the table.
I shook my head, I couldn’t think, I just hurt so much. Karen planted a rather maternal kiss on my forehead before taking the knife from me and slicing open the man’s throat.
The cauldron filled with blood as the women around me began to chant, and I don’t know how I managed to join them between my sobs but I did. The candles all glowed impossibly bright before snuffing out one by one until the chanting was done and there was only one left.
For a moment, all was quiet. I was getting close to passing out when I saw something crawl out of the fireplace. At first I thought I was seeing things, the slinking black shape crawling on the ground. I saw its face, its twisted features grinning before it blew out the final candle.
Now I couldn’t see, but I could hear. I could hear it slurping and lapping up the blood in the cauldron, draining it dry of its contents. I heard it walk around the room, whispering things I could not make out. It got closer and closer until it finally stopped in front of me. I did my best not to throw up at the smell of its breath, like rotting meat and spoiled milk.
“… You come for satisfaction?” The quiet voice whispered, its acrid breath tickling my ear.
Unable to speak, I just nodded.
I felt its lips brush the spot where Karen had kissed me before its twisting tongue licked at my gouged out eye. The pain slowly ebbed away until it was a dull ache.
“Feel satisfied, new daughter of the coven.”
I think I fainted after that, only waking up the next morning to birds singing and the smell of coffee. The cauldron was gone, the candles put away, the table was back to being a toy chest, it was like none of it had ever happened.
The other women had long gone home, but Karen made sure to text my husband to let him know I just konked out on the couch after I had a little too much to drink, and I looked so peaceful that she just couldn’t wake me. She also let him know that I’d accidentally cut my eye, so that’s why I’d be wearing that patch for the next few days.
It’s funny though, the eye might be gone but I can see just as normal. Even with the patch on, my sight is strangely unhindered. And the creature was right, I feel satisfied. Even when I don’t live up to my own expectations, I’m strangely okay with it. I’m not anxious, I’m not constantly putting myself down when things go wrong. I feel good.
And according to Karen, the sacrificing the body part deal was just a one time thing! I passed my initiation into the coven and it’ll all be smooth sailing from here. I hope this Friday goes even better than the last.