Author Topic: The Cleansing  (Read 1522 times)

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Offline The Cedar Witch

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The Cleansing
« on: June 21, 2019, 07:03:21 AM »

Astrid did not need to do this work, even less so alone, but she felt compelled to see the cleansing to completion.  The more time she spent at the house, the more it pulled at her while she was away, like the itch of something left unfinished.

After the infant's spirit had been laid to rest, Astrid began the cleansing in earnest by gathering up what the human family left behind when the darkness brought their end.  With exception to the dining room table, what couldn't be recycled, composted, or burned went in the dumpster out front that the witch had rented with her own funds.  It was a large undertaking that spanned several days.  The hound excitedly greeted her at the door each time she came by and watched her work until she left for class or to go back to the Parlour to rest.  By the third day, neighbors began to show curiosity, walking slowly by the house so they could see but still appear to be taking a casual walk.  The old woman who tried to turn her away before stopped at the beginning of the walkway, mouth agape.  Astrid, drenched in sweat, was in the process of dragging one of the old sofas out to the dumpster.  She stopped to wave at the old woman who merely shook her head and turned around to head back to her own home.

The basement was the nexus.  It was here that she initiated the final purge to rid the house of the energy left behind by Zeus' mistake.  Astrid spent a few hours in the hidden room in the basement, scrubbing the bloody sigil off the floor with a metal-bristle brush and bleach mixed with her specially brewed floor cleaning tea.  It was nothing like human blood--this stuck something awful and she had to go over it many times for the stain to finally lift.  She left the jars for later; their contents would need a different kind of disposal.  Some might even be salvaged, provided they hadn't been too tainted.  Maybe Sabrina would be interested in giving them a once-over.  They definitely couldn't stay here for humans who weren’t “in the know” to find.

The thought of having another family move in here, while it seemed far off, gave Astrid an unexpected pang of sadness.  That was what she was cleansing the house for; so it could go back to being just a house in the neighborhood.  Right?

She tried not to think too deeply on the future as she focused on the task at hand.  What she had intended to take only a weekend had absorbed much of her free time over the course of a week and a half.  With the house mostly empty, Astrid moved on to removing broken glass, debris, dirt, and ashes.

The hound accompanied her to the fireplace, keeping close to her heel and letting out a low uncertain growl when she squatted down and peered inside. 

“It’s okay,” she turned back to the hound and gave it a smile.  The hound huffed and sat, glaring into the fireplace.  Astrid reached her hand into the ashes and removed the metal object that she had seen in the vision before, sitting on the ground to examine it closer.

It was slightly smaller than the diameter of a soda can and was about eleven inches long.  There was an unexpected weight to it, and by sight Astrid couldn’t identify what it was made out of.  The silvery surface was carved crudely with symbols she couldn’t quite make out.  It didn’t look anything like the demonic scripts she was aware of.  In addition be being covered in soot marks, there was a dark brown mottled stain that ash had adhered to like glitter on glue. 

The hound whined and let out a soft howl. 

Astrid stood with effort and brought the object over to the kitchen sink to rinse it off.  She uncapped a gallon jug and poured the bottled water slowly over the metal, reaching over to grab some paper towel to scrub at it a bit.  The ash and soot marks came off easy enough but the dark brown stain remained.  Like the blood sigil she scrubbed off the floor in the basement, this would not be easy to remove.  The water did reveal an almost iridescent quality to the metal, giving it an otherworldly shimmer as she held it up to the sunlight streaming through the kitchen window.  Could this be hammered and shaped?  Probably not with earthly flame. 

Besides, there was no telling what it would create.

Wrapping the object in a rag, Astrid stowed it in her backpack and returned to cleaning the house.  It was not yet midday and with any luck, she’d finish by the end of the night. 

There was something meditative about cleaning that made the task less arduous.  Magic could be found in even the most mundane activities, and cleaning was always a time for cleansing and purification.  A little Bluetooth speaker connected to her phone played a mix highlighting Stevie Nicks and Faroese folk songs, the weather was perfect, and a light breeze gently rushed through the open windows.  Sweeping went from the inner parts of the house out toward the front and back doors to encourage the foul energy to move out of the house with the dirt. 

A spot in the backyard bordering the woods had been designated as a composting pile, and all of the dirt, dust, and ashes from the house went there instead of into a trash bag.  On one of the trips she made back to the house, a glint of white in the overgrown grass caught her eye.

It was the hound skull.

Astrid’s heart dropped and she knelt before the pile of bones, knowing that when she touched them she would see (and feel) what the poor creature had suffered.  She wasn’t ready for that yet.  Not if she wanted to finish cleaning the house before the end of the night.  Instead, she took a few sticks from the edge of the wood to mark the spot so she could find it again.  The bones were in marvelous condition for being so exposed.  They deserved a proper ceremony when it was time to send the hound on. 

Another thing she was putting off.

Armed with a rag, a sigil-engraved mop stick, and bucket filled with her cleansing tea, Astrid went through the house, cleaning the grime and dust from every surface from top to bottom.  By now she was in a rhythm and finding more to clean as she went on.  A rag wrapped around the T-shaped end of a mop stick made washing walls much easier and time melted away as she worked.  She was thankful for a lack of carpets, finding the wood floors much easier to give a thorough clean.  Stopping only when she remembered to eat some of the food she had packed, Astrid worked through the whole day.  By the time she had finished, she soaked through her shirt and changed to one of the spares she brought with her. 

The house felt lighter and it seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as the last bag of trash left for the dumpster.  Astrid piled all of the used rags on the front porch to take with her to wash later.  All there was left to do was a final floor wash and a smoke cleanse.  The first she accomplished with great focus, the sigils on the handle of the mop-stick glowing a faint yellow.  Just as the motion she took while sweeping, the floors were cleaned from inner to outer.  The house seemed to hum with her, its energy finally freed from the clutches of the black tar prison, and it worked in tandem with her to banish the final echoes from its walls.

It was sunset by the time the floors dried, and Astrid had set dozens of white pillar candles throughout the house, lighting them one by one from a single white taper candle.  The light cast an almost romantic glow about the house, the air holding a current of anticipation.  With the final candle lit in the basement in the far corner of the secret room, Astrid used the small taper to light a bundle of herbs.  The flame settled, allowing a consistent tendril of smoke to trail from the glowing tip.  She dripped white wax from the taper onto the center of the floor where the demonic sigil had been and stuck the end of it into the slowly-hardening wax so it would stand upright.  Astrid stilled herself and took a large raven feather in her other hand.

Inhale.  Exhale.  Ground.

That last bit was significantly easier now, centering on her heartbeat and anchoring to the base energy of the house.  Astrid mentally squeezed a few pulses into the bundle of herbs and the tip took on a whitish-blue glow.  As she went about the room, the candle flames took on the same glow at the touch of the herb’s smoke.  From corner to corner she moved, rhythmically fanning the herb smoke with the raven feather to ensure the smoke would touch every corner as she went along.  She began with a quiet hum, barely above a whisper, which evolved into a chant that she sung louder and louder with more command as she progressed through the house.  It was a familiar tune from when her family was called to cleanse homes.  This service was performed for new homes, those plagued by malicious spirits or particularly argumentative relatives, families who were expecting a newborn, or for the homes of newlyweds.  They promised a clean slate and a safe place to nest.

Extra care was taken at each doorway, each window, and every threshold leading into another room.  She went from the basement directly to the top floor of the house, working widdershins, followed closely by the hound.  Each closet and every cabinet was opened, leaving no corner untouched by the smoke.  When she came to the main floor of the house, she went slower, spending a great deal of time at both the front and the back doors of the house.  These were the most important, to ensure that everything that had been banished stayed that way.

Finally, Astrid came to the front of the house, the last candle flame a soft whitish blue, and she crossed through the front door.  Following her through the door was a mighty rush of wind, as though the house had exhaled, and each flame throughout the house was simultaneously extinguished, including the bundle of herbs in her hand.

Astrid sighed loudly, a smile on her face, and stretched her arms above her head.  Together with the hound, she sat on the crooked front step and leaned her back against the railing.  She’d go back to the Parlour in a little bit.  For now, she wanted to spend the afterglow of spellcasting with the hound and the house.  Her fingers reached for her cigarettes in her pocket, and she smoked while watching the night sky. 
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente