God. I can’t remember the last time my head hurt this badly. Who are the voices? Why are they shouting?
“Shit! Has she said anything?”
“No, you idiot, she hasn’t even opened her eyes yet. Give her a moment, will ya?”
Oh. I remember.
I’m not alone. I told someone how I got to this point, and I-
And they stayed with me?
“Yeah, I’m sure. Get her some water, will ya? She’s been out for a while.”
But I’ve wasted too much time already. The water helped, but I need to-
“Careful! You’ve just been out for a couple of hours, don’t just get up like that.”
To be honest, I’m not sure how much to tell you. My Mum’s story is more personal to me than all others, because I lived it. To a small extend, at least. I want you to know who she was, that she did what she did because the curse had invaded every part of her life and her thinking, not because she was a bad person. I want you to understand her. But it’s personal, and she tried her best with me. I don’t want to repay her by telling you all her secrets.
So I’ll give you the basics. I’ll give you the most important parts of her life, so that you can understand enough. Deal?
She didn’t have an easy life, of course, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that any more. None of us have had an easy life. By the time she found Grandpa Ashton dead in their basement she was already scarred, but seeing him like this – in a pool of his own blood, next to a dead dog and inside a circle of candles – changed her. You can understand that much, can’t you?
Then maybe you’ll understand her next actions, too.
She was too young to live on her own, so my grandfather’s adoptive Mum took her in. She locked his books and notes away, but Mum had no desire to see the things ever again anyway. She knew that magic had killed him, and while that’s hardly the whole story it was enough of one. My Mum became depressed, and barely left the house. She had the gift, but she was too scared of it to use it and so her days grew empty over time.
Until she met Stu. Stuart Lee. You know all those stories your parents told you about meeting strangers on the internet? Not all of them are true, and they definitely can’t be applied to everyone you meet, but they are meant to be warnings, tales of caution. Stories of what could be. And in Mum’s case, they were all true.
She used to be a drug addict, my Mum. I remember her telling me never to take drugs because they nearly ruined her life. Of course the curse did that anyway, but she never wanted to talk about that. It was a sore subject, so I read Grandpa’s diaries in secret, when Mum wasn’t watching. The curse – our birthright – was this thing that was definitely there, whether we liked it or not, but we never discussed it. She just told me I couldn’t change it, and that was that.
But I digress. Let me move on quickly before I pass out again, shall we?
As I said, Mum ran with a bad crowd. She turned to drugs, and I think she broke the law a number of times although she never told me about that. I found a few mentions in her diaries of break-ins and theft of cigarettes and drugs, but her writing at the time was always blurred and never clear.
Her Grandmother wasn’t very happy with her and grounded her nearly every night, but Mum sneaked out anyway and didn’t care if she was punished.
She never said so to me but I think she wanted to die. She knew the curse was coming for her sooner or later, and she tried to end it before it could claim her. I think that’s why it allowed her to live for as long as she did. The curse knew it would do its job for her, so it didn’t bother. I don’t know if any of you have ever been depressed, but it was punishment enough. The curse couldn’t have done worse to her had it tried.
Mum could never have won this battle. She fell in love with Stu, who was her drug dealer. She often told me that he loved her, too, although he eventually went to prison and always refused to see her when she went to visit him. Prison changes people, as I hear it told. I never met him, and I think he died there but I can’t say I ever chased it up.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter and this isn’t me hurrying up. I’m running out of time.
I’m sorry. There’s something I need to tell you. I haven’t been entirely honest with you but my hands are tied. There’s a reason I’m telling you this, and there’s a reason you’re h-