Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me…
But He wasn’t with her.
She leaned against the cold steel door, her eyes closed in prayer. “Father, why have you forsaken me? What sins have I committed that you would punish me this way?”
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.
“Fiank-o!”[i] she screamed.
Her eyes flew open, and she spread her hands in front of her. Blood rimmed her manicured nails. Out of the corner of her vision, she saw the blood-soaked blouse plastered to her chest. So much blood for such a tiny body.
Ripping at her blouse, she mewed like a wounded animal. “Then take my eyes, so I no longer see the blood of my child on my hands. Take my ears, so I no longer hear the shrieks from below, the clanging of the chains.”
Silence met her cry. God was no longer listening. She sank to her knees and ripped at her hair, bordering on madness. How could they do this to her? Had she not served them well for more than ten years?
For a moment, rage blocked the pain squeezing her heart. “You!” Her eyes filled with hatred, fists clenched at her side. “You brought this upon us with your superstitions and your curses.”
“Mwen pòv zanj pèdi[iv]—you know I speak the truth. I was here when she was born without life, her body blue, her soul already beyond this world. Five years have come and gone. As she grows, so does the evil. They warned you this day would come.”
The old woman’s words washed over her like a river of ice, extinguishing the fire of her rage, leaving only a cold, still emptiness.
“I begged them, Mother. Begged for her life as her blood seeped through my fingers. I have served God, and I have served the spirits. But they have forsaken me.” She raised tortured eyes to beseech the old woman, her efforts met with stony silence and beady eyes filled with accusation. “I begged them!” Her voice tapered to a whimper. “She is only five. I have lost Catherine. Must I lose Mary also?”
The old woman knelt beside her. Taking her right hand, she pried open the fingers and closed them around the cold steel of the knife. “You can’t cure a mad dog, Aggie; you can only put it down. You disobeyed. You have been punished. Now pick up your cross, and carry it.”
The silence in the room was broken only by her whimpers; the old woman had left as quietly as she’d come. The knife lay heavy in her hand, just as the task before her lay heavy on her heart.
She rose and opened the door to the basement, ignoring the shrieks and clang of the chains. Her feet descended the steps slowly, the old woman’s words echoing inside her head: You can’t cure a mad dog, Aggie; you can only put it down.
[ii] Devil lights, will-o-wisp
[iii] The Devil