Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sketch: Motherly

                She met him at a state fair, one her mama forbid her from going to. Something about how the sky looked over it, or how the wind felt around it, the ground beneath it. But forbidding Magdalena from doing anything was similar to buying her the ticket and driving her there. Her mother had a word for it, had words for a lot of things, but Maggie never bothered learning the language.
                “It’s fine,” her father had said. “She was born American, so let her speak it,” though, her pa might have wanted a reason not to put up with the little fetishes and dangling sigils. Maggie didn’t know why they had stayed together if they had such differences, but she wasn’t likely to care. At least, not on that day, the day of the fair.
                Luke was tall and put together in a fine sorta way, standing by the Ferris wheel. Not waiting, just standing. Maggie had been attracted to the highest point in the little mobile amusement park, had wanted to stand up when her bench was at the apex of the machine. She never got her chance, however Luke did take her away and showed her great heights. Three in particular were inside of her, and when each popped out, she named them after their father, in a way. Matthew, Mark, and John. Life was good, so good that she never once questioned what her mama had been so afraid about on that day.
                Maggie came to know fear, growing into motherhood. When Matthew jumped off the roof of their modest little one-story. Not fell, jumped. Or when Mark put a nail through John’s foot. Then later when John put a similar looking tool through Mark’s hand. She knew fear, but also laughter. Then, one day, like it was perfectly normal, Luke sat all the boys down and told them about his other self, the side even Maggie had rarely seen. Like all the scars on his body were a language she couldn’t quite read. Maggie just thought it was because Matthew had opened his father’s trunk, and found out where the man went sometimes when he claimed to be hunting. But no, the revelation came because strong children, nothing but boys, meant it was a sign to pass on the legacy. It was a bit of a sour note that Luke believed as much in portents and omens as her mama. That’s when Maggie learned the difference between the small fears, the ones that kept the heart strong, and the big fears, the ones liable to kill a whole person.
                Maggie found her first gray hair when they left on the first trip. Luke was going to introduce his sons, the youngest of whom was 15, to his friends, the ones Maggie forbid from ever coming around. Like her mother. When they came back, all of them, and whole, she kept quiet about it, but she liked to beat Luke to death in his sleep for the terror. That went on for seven years. Long enough for Maggie to learn some things herself, and to grow complacent. And for her boys to grow confident.
                By then they had moved, and she had memorized the look of a car that meant to turn down the long dirt path instead of keeping on down the interstate. She was on the porch, like she always was when her boys were gone. Then, she saw it, the pick up with the smoking engine. It was Matthew’s, Maggie knew, and she could see that it was alone. She was up and on her feet in an instant, hoping that maybe if she was upright, then the nightmare wouldn’t affect her so. Still, on it came.
                The windshield was busted, a rear mirror was missing. The hood was bent partially open so the smoke could come out in big gouts. It made the driver difficult to make out. Maggie didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know who to wish it was. Then the door opened and out Luke stepped. Or, out the thing wearing Luke stepped. It sneered with her husband’s bloody lips and stared at her with his vacant eyes. Maggie had overheard from the kitchen what they had been planning to hunt. A demon. The kind of creature that consumed lives and wore the skin of its victims.
                “Magdalena,” Luke’s voice called from the end of their dirt road. “I’m home, Honey.”
                Maggie ran inside, in tears. There was nothing else to do. She was afraid to admit to losing them all, in ways she couldn’t imagine and to such a degree that not a stitch of them could be retained. It took its time coming up the stairs, dragged its boots across the porch. When he opened the door, he seemed more than a little surprised to find her brandishing a shot gun in his direction. Her hands were shaking, and gripping hold of the weapon was of extraordinarily little comfort.
                “Maggie, darling,” Luke’s voice said. She wanted to close her eyes, so, so badly, but she was listening to a different voice, right then.
She had told him about her mother’s fear, the day of Matthew’s birth. But he hadn’t laughed it off at all. He had told her that a parent’s worst fear concerned the fate of their children, and obligations that such a stern responsibility entailed. It was the most articulate Luke had ever been, and it was a sentiment that put his beautiful soul in words. It hurt, but she could never dishonor such a man.
                She pulled the trigger, killing them both. That is to say, he was already dead, and blowing the body of her husband in half didn’t so much end her life as it set her down a much different road. Previously, there was no reason to go off with her boys, because then there would be no one to keep the light on for them, or make their meals, or tend to their wounds. It wasn’t that she couldn’t. With each of her boys growing, she knew more and more each time that they weren’t getting all their strength from their father alone. So, from there, she ceased to be one woman, and became someone else.
                The last thing Magdalena did was admit, if just a dash, that maybe she ought to have listened to her mother that one time.

                So last we have Maggie. By the time we see her in Where Shadows Lie: Hunting Grounds, she has officially achieved ‘tough old bird’ status. She’s the leader the hunters Nick comes across. She is no nonsense in the same way her favorite weapon is. No one points and fires a shotgun casually, and neither does Maggie go about anything without the ones she lost in mind. It makes her driven, and sometimes a bit obsessed, which itself can be good, but also bad. When she first gives her name, she tells the listener that Maggie isn’t her real name. A truth and a lie. It is her name, but she also doesn’t think she is who she was.

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