The Curse of the Juniper Tree
My mother was so delighted when she held me, that she died.
I know right? What a load of crock. But my father used to tell it that way. He used to say that she’d cut her finger on a knife while eating an apple under the Juniper tree, seen her blood on the snow, and had known that she would have a child with red blood lips.
And so it came to be. A squalling son, with red blood lips, and his mother bleeding out of post-partum haemorrhage.
He buried her under that tree. My step mother used to guilt me with that tale. I figured it was because she worried about my sister – our family was one of tradition, and as the first son, I could get everything while she got nothing.
I think I was nine when she killed me? She convinced Marlinchen, my sister, that she was responsible, then made my body into black pudding, and fed it to my father. Marli gathered up my bones and laid them beneath that tree. I don’t remember much after that. When I woke up amongst the ashes of my old house, my father stood across from me, my little sister’s hand clutched in his. A gold chain lay around his neck, and a new pair of red shoes graced the soles of Marlo. I’d apparently turned into a bird, lured my family out of the house with gifts. The gold chain had been for my father, the red shoes for Marli. My step-mother had received a millstone on the head as her gift.
Why I was phoenix-born and my mother wasn’t? No idea. My father had some issues after that. Tried to revisit the pain of eating his only son’s body on my sister more than once. I packed her up and left. Even after I’d used my only chance at rebirth, I still had the ability to be heal myself – work wasn’t hard to find.
And then our father’s corpse appeared under that Juniper Tree.
We were in our early 20s. Marli had just finished her degree and I was working as a detective in a small town out of Harling.
Marli heard first, and she was crying when she called me.
“David? David, can you hear me?”
She had nightmares about talking to me and not having me answer sometimes. Our parents have a lot to answer for, let me tell you.
“Yeah, I’m here Marli. What’s up?”
“It’s papa.” Still, even now, she called him that. I’d stopped long ago. “He’d dead.”
Alright. Not exactly a shocking development, given the way his liver had been packing it in after his last bout of alcoholism…
“Someone killed him under the Juniper tree.” She didn’t have to say what Juniper Tree it was. We both knew. “They can’t move the body.”
My hometown managed to push on after the scandal of what happened when my step-mother killed me. Some lucky bastard had even had the nous to make a tourist attraction of it. A little fence around the millstone that I’d dropped on my step-mother’s head as a bird, a couple of plaques at the places I’d apparently stopped as a bird to sing my ghastly little death song.
Anyway, my father’s body was there, posed against the tree, the gold chain I’d given him still around his neck. Marli had long burned the shoes I’d used to tempt her out of the house. She said she didn’t blame me for what happened, but she still burnt them.
As I said, I don’t really remember it. Except in my nightmares. And I’m not a very nice person in my nightmares.
By the look of it, someone had strangled him with it. A detective stood a metre from his body – female, brown skin, cute upturned nose – and she glared at me as I walked up. Around us all was quiet, the snow falling, shadows reaching through the air
“I’m half of a mind to arrest you here and now.” She said, pointing at the flash of gold. “You gave that to him, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but I haven’t seen him since I moved away with my sister.”
I stepped around her, and came up against a glowing barrier. Shit. Paranormal influence.
“Well, I see why you think I did it.”
Silence. I waited for a moment. Still nothing. I looked to the top of the tree. No bird there, no rebirth for my father.
A hand gripped my shoulder, and calm stole over me. Peace. Quiet. Frozen.
The cop – not a cop, definitely not a cop – leaned forwards, breath brushing at my ear.
“You ever wonder why you had three things to lure her out with? Ever wonder why you just didn’t wait for her to come out and drop the stone on her then?”
I had actually, but it wasn’t something that had occupied my mind after we’d left my father – I’d had a teenager to raise.
“Well it should have.”
I tried to turn, but couldn’t. A hand gripped my chin tight. My neck crawled – it felt as if she could snap it at any moment.
“Three things, my child.” Her tone was calm, controlled, insistent. “Not two to lure and one to kill. Three people were party to your death, three things to right that balance. A millstone,” my face was jerked around to the site of my step-mother’s death, “A necklace,” now I was wrenched around to look at my father’s corspe. “And two shoes.”
“She burned them.” Triumph. There, she wouldn’t have Marli.
“Yes, she did. Smart girl, that imposer. But still. Ash has a way of just getting everywhere, doesn’t it.”
Marli. I had to get back to…
“Child. Why don’t you listen to your dreams? They deserve it. They should have looked after you. Listen to what your dreams tell you.”
Nightmares, they were nightmares. Why should I listen to…
“Because mother says so.”
1) Image taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:El_Hierro_Sabinar.JPG Attributed to: Eckhard Pecher