The parents knew it had been a mistake to have a girl. At birth, the girl’s long, elegant fingers wriggled and grasped forward, motioning to strangle the very air from her mother’s lungs. As she grew older, she grew more like her father, whose ancestors would dream of those soon to die. She walked and talked in her sleep, and her parents warded themselves, telling the girl that she was evil, unlovable, their burden to bear only until her eighteenth birthday released them.
The average person on the streets of Los Angeles would look at the girl and see a young woman with dark chocolate eyes, curly long hair, and tanned skin of her Filipina heritage. Her teachers praised her for her scholarly achievements and extracurricular activities, from academic decathlon to cheer.
The girl knew she was different, especially as she grew to accept that the other children’s parents didn’t despise them. Her parents whispered about their pact as odd and disturbing occurrences continued to happen around her. The girl thought being an evil demon should require the skies to bleed, the ground to tremble, an animal sacrifice to seal the bargain, or at least cause some general mayhem. Did other demons work so hard to find friends, do well on their homework, and protect their spoiled younger brother?
The demon was patient. It could afford to wait, to remind the girl when she was hurt that power was hers to take. She needed only embrace it. It could wait. The girl’s parents were doing much of its work already.
Excerpt: Chapter 1
The fear in the air tickled the girl’s nose with a touch of frost as she stepped off the plane. It had been only a few months ago that she watched the World Trade Center towers in New York fall from terrorist attacks. She and her family boarded the train from Heathrow Airport in London and traveled to the hotel. There was a mumbled agreement among them that anything warm sounded good for dinner after such a lengthy trip. It was the day after Christmas; tinsel and holly wreaths decorated the hotel lobby, and the scent of oranges and cloves wafted through her nose. Once they received their room keys, father and son took one set, leaving mother and daughter to the other room. The parents did not trust the girl to be alone with her brother. It was supposed to be a quick change of clothes and a freshening up before heading out the door for fish and chips. But the girl had made a mistake. She had lost the key to her red plastic suitcase.
When the girl first received the suitcase, it had been one of the few presents she’d gotten in her life. It was a belated-birthday gift from her grandmother for her first trip to Asia as a child. It was shiny red-patent-leather-looking plastic, a sign of luck for the girl. She took as much pride in that case as another person might in purchasing their first Ferrari. It was one of her few personal possessions that hadn’t come from threats or fear or the pretense of looking normal to the neighbors.
“You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” her mother asked, her cheeks tightening as her lips flattened. “You couldn’t just listen when I asked if you had everything at baggage claim?”
“It was an accident!” The girl’s voice wavered. “I thought I had it in my pocket.”
“You’re already ruining the first night here. You knew how hungry your father and brother were. What do you think he will do if I have to call him to fix your mess?”
The girl’s face paled as she tried to control her rapid breathing. She knew her father would be worse to have around for this, so she started digging her nails around the plastic locks to see if she could pry it apart herself.
The mother picked up the crystal paperweight from the hotel’s desk, shifting the heavy, pointed star back and forth between her hands as the click from the silver buckle on her black leather Chanel boots echoed in the hotel room.
“There has to be another way than breaking it. It’s my case! I don’t want it broken!”
The girl flinched, backing away from her mother until her legs hit the cold metal radiator. The mother’s eyes appeared black, nostrils flaring. She looked down on the girl, who sank to the faded blue carpet, avoiding her mother’s gaze.
The mother’s voice came out cold, the veins in her neck straining against her skin.
“You’re an idiot. It’s never an accident with you. You don’t think I wanted something other than you? Haven’t you noticed that people keep you at a distance? That your relationships with your classmates, friends, even those boyfriends who claim to ‘like’ you… they’ve all left, haven’t they?”
The girl barely had time to blink as the flash of the crystal soared toward her. She raised her forearms reflexively, feeling the air shift as the object missed her, before hearing it crash against the wall. Her hands trembled as goose bumps rose on the back of her neck.
“Things like you… you use people… chew them up and spit them out until they have nothing left. You appreciate nothing you have because you can’t. You’re evil. You create chaos and despair. Did you never notice the violence and death that follows you? The earthquakes, the riots, the shootings? You feed off it. People can sense it, and God help them so they learn what you are and leave before it’s too late.”
Her mother walked across the hotel room and grabbed her black Dior purse before turning back to narrow her eyes at the sixteen-year-old girl on the floor. She smoothed the wrinkles down on her black Hermès slacks and shirt before turning the crystal hotel doorknob.
“You bring nothing good into this world,” her mother said, baring her teeth. “You just corrupt and destroy everything. You’re a catalyst, a demonic catalyst. You’re only fit to annihilate. One day you’ll understand the destructive nature of your power. You’ll see the damage you’ll bring to those around you when it’s too late. All those people who tell us you’re amazing, they’ll figure it out.
You’ve fooled them for now, but they’ll learn.”
The mother slammed the door as she walked out with that last statement. The tears flowed from the girl’s face as she looked at the door. Her breathing sped up as her stomach roiled, sending her sprinting to the toilet. Her hands were shaking, clammy, as she collapsed to the floor, chills running through her body as she looked up at the ceiling. The orange and bergamot scents of the soaps mixed with the stark, white porcelain tile floor were the only anchors she could focus on to stop herself from throwing up again. Deep in her gut, at the core of her being, there was only one thought she could grasp: she’s right.
“I don’t want to be evil,” she said, whimpering to herself. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“But you aren’t alone, pretty girl,” a voice said with a throaty laugh.
Book available for purchase here.
About the author
Victory Witherkeigh is a female Filipino/PI author originally from Los Angeles, CA, currently living in the Las Vegas area. Victory was a finalist for Wingless Dreamer’s 2020 Overcoming Fear Short Story award and a 2021 winner of the Two Sisters Writing and Publishing Short Story Contest. She has print publications in the horror anthologies Supernatural Drabbles of Dread through Macabre Ladies Publishing, Bodies Full of Burning through Sliced Up Press, and In Filth It Shall Be Found through OutCast Press. Written during NaNoWriMo, Victory’s first novel, set to debut in December 2022 with Cinnabar Moth Publishing, has been a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2020 Claymore Award, a 2020 Cinnamon Press Literature Award Honoree, and long-listed in the 2021 Voyage YA Book Pitch Contest.