WRAPPED IN BLACK
Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult
COMES THE RAIN
by Gregory L. Norris
As Grammy Rae slipped closer toward the shroud, the sky over Foster’s Pond grew dark and more threatening, filling with clouds the color of old bruises, jaundiced yellow-green edged in purple. No rain fell and the air thickened with the bitterness of ozone, becoming almost too heavy to breathe.
Jamison recognized that smell. Four years earlier, Grammy Rae and Momma had taken him to an amusement park for his seventh birthday and its acridity had rained down over the bumper cars, stronger than that of the grease, intensifying with every pop and flash of electricity in the network of metal honeycombs over their heads, those tiny balls of lightning that powered the cars into motion. In the past few days, lightning had crackled and thunder had boomed, but no raindrops fell.
“Don’t go outside,” Momma said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I have to water the pumpkins,” Jamison argued, his not much louder. “They’re gonna dry up and die on their vines.”
Momma’s eyes darted to the window. Jamison followed her gaze and saw a veil of mist sweep past, framed by the threadbare checked curtains. “No, stay inside.”
It wasn’t so much the pumpkins, which he had planted and labored over all summer, any more than the drooping tomatoes with their wooden stalks and plump, red fruit, or the carrots he harvested by the handfuls, loving it when they resisted being tugged out of the ground. It was the silence, the stagnancy inside the house. That, and Grammy Rae’s outbursts as the fever consumed her.
Whatever admonishment she readied to make died, cancelled out by another plaintive cry from the top of the staircase. The voice was Grammy’s, sweet to the ears as it normally was, but beneath the near-musical tones lurked another, sharper cord. At its utterance, sparrows darted out of cover from the cool green folds of the two stately willow trees that bookended the farmhouse and, for an instant, the sun broke through the sallow mists, forming prisms through the back windows that faced out across the pond. A ribbon of fresh air stirred through the house; the breeze, Jamison noted, smelled of roses and almonds, like Grammy Rae’s hand lotion.
Kitten raced out of the back room and into the kitchen, panic written across her tiny face and obvious in her wide eyes. She dropped the rag doll Grammy Rae had made her the previous Christmas in her haste to reach the safety of Momma’s arms.
“It’s okay,” Momma soothed.
But Jamison knew it wasn’t. He patted Kitten’s back and dropped the subject. For now.
“I need you to talk to me,” Momma urged.
Kitten shook her head. She possessed quite the vocabulary, far bigger words and meanings than many of the older kids in Jamison’s class. But she had stopped speaking the moment Grammy Rae fell ill. That had been a week ago, and the storm clouds had soon followed.
“Take your sister,” Momma whispered. She handed Kitten down.
Jamison recovered the rag doll and Kitten, who could recite entire poems and whole pages of stories from memory when she wanted to, clutched at it, her eyes sealed as tightly as her lips. The unexpected whistle of the kettle on the stove made Jamison jump.
Momma prepared another cup of tea for Grammy Rae. Mint, he could tell by the sweet fragrance as she passed by, balancing a tray between her shaking hands. The miserable silence that had blanketed the house resumed, its ominous weight not stopping flocks of invisible butterflies from fluttering their wings beside both of Jamison’s ears.
Read the entire story in
WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014
Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with numerous publication credits, mostly in national magazines and fiction anthologies. A former writer at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager and is the author of the handbook to all-things-Sunnydale, The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Alyson Books, 2008).