A coven harnesses the cosmic energy of the universe under moonlight the same night a Jesuit priest prepares holy communion. Both of them are trying to make sense of this incorrigible world. Elsewhere, above my house, the moon blankets the sun, blinding the human eye as the earth turns on its axis like it’s done in every solar eclipse before this one.
How different my life and the life of the Jesuit must be—he has faith; presumably, he believes in an after-life. I’m not so sure. My sister has other ideas; she says that life is like a game of hopscotch: sometimes, you land in the right spot and, sometimes, you don’t. I like that.
Sometimes, my sister can be kind of smart. But here’s something I know that she doesn’t —I was more upset when my dog was put down than when we went up North for my grandmother’s funeral. She’s from Quebec, by the way, which is exactly a six-hour drive from my house. The skeletons of trees had been licked raw by glacial winds and the world that day was caught in the silent, bone-crunching cold of winter. The Vikings sent their dead down river in a raft of flames. Grandma was put into a wooden box that cost 5000 dollars and buried in frozen earth.
No offense, but, when I go, I want a Viking funeral. I don’t know what kind of a grandson that makes me, but I do know that there is this personality test the school makes every kid take—it’s supposed to tell you what you’re going to do when you grow up and is a helpful indicator for the school administration to find out who’s a psycho. My sister said she scored ‘detail-oriented,’ and I asked if that was the same thing as ‘bossy.’
She is always telling me I need a goal in life—she and the personality test call this an objective. Sure, I have an objective. Only problem is their idea of an objective is astronomically different from mine. Sometimes, I think it would be easier, in cases like these, to just pack myself up and move to another planet; to simplify things. But you can’t jump into a car and go to space like you can to Quebec.
My folks’ favourite saying is that they like to face things head-on, as if they are Roman gladiators in the colosseum. What things do they need to face head-on? Taxes? Neighborhood gossip? Getting locked out of Netflix?
“You need to face things head-on, Henry. No use squirrelling your life away,” is a greatest hit that’s always playing at the breakfast table. Sometimes they say they are going to unplug me—like I’m a toaster or something. “You can’t be around electronics past your bedtime, Henry; it’s not healthy.”
“I’m a night owl,” I say to no one in particular. They would never listen anyway. I wonder if my grandma ever knew what it was like to want to live on another planet from her family, or if her family ever wanted to live a planet away from her. Then I think I might want to tell her about Laika, the first dog in space. Just like my dog though, Laika didn’t make it. Space ended up killing her.
Today, I got a message. Not in the mail, but in my head. I know that sounds crazy. But I read once that wise women said dreams talk, so I guess mine did. The dream was straightforward, as far as dreams go. My mom, or some off-brand version of my mom, told me that something was watching us through the mirrors. That was it. No ifs, ands, or buts, which really does sound like my mom. So, the next morning, I spent a considerable amount of time covering up every mirror-like surface in the house—which, in case you were wondering, is an awful lot of mirrors.
“Henry, why are you doing that?”
My sister wants to know. She’s still in her fluffy housecoat, pink and damp from the shower.
“I’m trying to save us,” I tell her, figuring it was best to keep things simple. She doesn’t say anything, which is just as well. I know what she’s thinking—this isn’t the first time she hasn’t agreed with what I choose to do. I see she’s frightened. I want to tell her I’m scared too, that I’m just doing what dream-mom told me to do. But I don’t.
Instead, I use a bed sheet to cover up the mirror on the medicine cabinet. Our house looks like it’s full of ghosts.
My folks are not happy about the mirrors. They say I’ve really done it this time, which I think is a pretty poor ‘thank you’ for trying to save us from an unknown force spying on us through our mirrors. My dad tells me to fix my attitude. I tell him I’m just trying to face things head-on.
“Don’t get smart with me,”
“Do you remember when grandma got that priest in after granddad died, to bless the house with holy water?” I say, trying not to piss him off, “because she was afraid of evil spirits? It’s like that. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe we should burn some sage, just to be safe,”
“Sage?” mom’s mouth is turning down like she just tasted something sour.
“Sure. It’s traditionally an Indigenous practice, but I think I’ve heard of Wiccans doing it too.”
“You’re not Wiccan, Henry,” my father barks, face red.
“…It cleanses a space, makes it pure…”
“Oh, I think you should let him,” that’s my sister. She was probably listening in from her bedroom. “What can it hurt? But maybe not sage, I don’t really like the smell,”
“Thanks,” I say, because I can’t think of anything else. My mom had thrown up her hands before going downstairs to cook dinner. Dad made an excuse about cleaning out the garage. My sister looks at me. She does not smile. Like this, I notice her eyes look just like our mother’s.
“I felt them too,” she tell me quietly, practically a whisper, as if she’s afraid something might trap her words, “I could feel them looking,”
There is this video on YouTube that I can’t help re-watching—it’s a woman being possessed by the Holy Spirit. Everyone in the congregation looks really happy for her. I start feeling bad for the people they say are possessed by the devil—no one is happy for them. They get exorcised, which is never a good time, or so I’ve been told. I just can’t help thinking that, according to this logic, the devil can hypothetically do anything God can do. The two greatest forces in the universe duke it out over someone’s soul.
We keep the sheets on the mirrors over night. Even now, we don’t know when it will be safe to take them down. Because in the dream, mom never told me how long it would take. She also never told me how long they had been watching.