April spent her Christmas Eve in solitude. She enjoyed a long bubble bath before retiring to bed with her scriptures, and her tapes. The Garden had a long tradition of utilising strange recordings with subliminal messages to unlock their minds and their connection to their treasured Goddess Invierno, and as she had ascended to leadership, April had found herself less and less able to reach their treasured Goddess.
Too embarrassed to ask for help, she locked herself away instead, spending every evening in her room, lost in the sound of the tapes, and the hopes that she could find her way back to Invierno. As the clock struck twelve, April was already fast asleep. Had she been awake, she would have noticed the stereo suddenly fall silent, or perhaps she would have heard her window creak open slowly, maybe even have felt the air around her chill as wind whipped around the bedroom.
She was undisturbed by what was happening around her but her sleep was just shallow enough to be disturbed by soft fingertips that ran gently through her hair, with a tenderness that seemed so familiar.
“Merry Christmas April.” She jumped, shooting up from bed and looking around the room feverishly. There was almost silence throughout the room, but just behind April, back where she was afraid to look was a laboured, ragged breath. Slow and struggling. In and out.
“Who are you?” She already knew the answer, but she could not accept it. Despite the mysticism and far fetched ideas that she preached to the children of the Garden, the one thing April had never allowed herself to believe in was ghosts.
“You know who I am, April.” April had never allowed herself to believe in ghosts, and yet, just inches away, where she dreaded looking, was the one thing she could not believe in. “If you search within your heart, you know why I’m here.” April shuddered as a cold, clammy hand clamped down onto hers, but still, she would not look, closing her eyes tightly as the hand’s grip tightened. “She won’t come to you because of what she can see.” April didn’t want to believe, but she was surrounded by reminders of her mother, the strongest of which was the shallow, struggling breath just beyond view.
“Mother…” April watched her mother rise from the bed beside her, pacing the room, so impossible, but so clear to her eyes.
“She stopped appearing to me too towards the end.” Celia walked into the path of the moonlight and April gasped, clasping her hands across her mouth as she saw the true horror of her mother’s face. The flesh hung loosely, a canvas of blood, scratches and bite marks.
April had never been able to face her mother’s corpse after her death, and now, on a moonlit Christmas Eve, she was seeing it for the first time, horrified and disgusted. Her eyes traced along the stems of the roses that were wrapped around the spectre’s wrists and up her neck, the sharp thorns piercing what was left of her flesh. “She came to me one last time as I lay dying at the Highland compound.” Celia leant against the window sill, drumming her fingers slowly on the ledge, the moonlight dancing across her gaunt face. “She told me that our children would be safe with you…”
April turned away, her throat tight as her mother continued, knowing that nothing good could come from the unwelcome visitor..
“You’ll meet a sticky end if you don’t keep the children safe.” She shrank, her mother towering over her as an icy wind whipped around the room.
“I’m trying, but…” Her mother glared in her direction and April fell silent, fear fluttering in the pit of her stomach.
“She’ll show you the way…” Celia whispered, wistfully watching the snow fall outside across the moonlit sky. “You’ll see.” April followed her mother’s gaze out to the snow swept garden, unsure how to respond to her mother’s warning, but as she turned back to where her mother had stood, she was astounded to see that she was alone.
Chilled to the bone, April glanced around the room in a panic, trying to make sense of what had occurred. Her mother was long dead, and her Goddess had abandoned her, but April had a feeling that both of them had more to say to her, on that fateful, forlorn Christmas Eve.
The girl was uneasy, but she was also incredibly tired, so as she lay back against her pillows, it wasn’t long before sleep overpowered her and she was lost in lonely dreams.