Twisted Fairy Tale: The Three Sisters by Michelle Ceasar Davis
Welcome to the 8th annual #SpookyShowcase! The Spooky Showcase celebrates the dark minds of creatives around the world through short stories and artistic creations that are dark in nature, macabre, or horror themed.
This year’s theme is Twisted Fairy Tales. Expect twisted legends, creepy creations, and dark fairy tales that will keep you up at night. Visit each day in the month of October for a scare. The master schedule is here.
The Three Sisters
By Michelle Caesar Davis
Upstate New York, 1806
My sister Abigail didn’t understand the need to do chores around the house. Every day, she said the same thing.
“I hate sheep! I hate the way they smell. I hate the way they taste. I hate the amount of work it takes to make the shearing into usable wool. I hate the way the wool scratches my skin.”
She had other chores besides tending to the sheep, some that were actually harder than tending to the sheep, but it was the tasks associated with those animals that she complained about the most. One spring day, a few days into shearing season, her whining was louder than normal.
She stumbled through the front door of the house, carrying a bag of raw wool that was obviously too heavy. The poofs of gray, lanolin, and debris fell out of her sack and scattered across the wooden floor, some of it settling next to my feet.
“I am taking a rest,” she said, flopping onto a bench near the door.
Mother had her back to Abigail and didn’t see the mess. “See? That did not take long. Now we need several large buckets of water brought up so we can boil it. You can take Rebecca with you.”
She didn’t move. I squatted and began to collect the small wads in my apron. She continued to sit on the bench, watching me.
“Abigail, are you still in here?” Mother asked. She placed the last loaf of bread in the stone fireplace, careful to keep it from the direct heat.
“I said I was resting.”
“You can rest after supper tonight. There is work to be done.” She turned toward us and saw the raw wool on the floor. She eyed me and then Abigail several times. “What happened?”
“I had an accident.” She didn’t conceal her attitude.
“Why are you letting Rebecca pick it up then? Get over here and help.”
“I am resting. Once I am done resting, then I will help.”
“She will be done by then.”
“I didn’t ask her to do it. She could also wait.”
“No one else in this house is as lazy as you are, Abigail.” Mother walked over to her, shaking her head. “You need to help more.”
“I’m already helping more than she does.” My sister gestured to me. “She is gone several hours every morning.”
“You know she’s an apprentice for Mrs. Walker. She has excellent needle skills and Mrs. Walker’s clients appreciate it.” Mother stopped for a moment and looked intently at Abigail. “Are you jealous of your younger sister?”
“Of course not!” She stood quickly and nearly lost her balance. “I just don’t understand why she has work outside of the home and I am still stuck here all day.” She turned to face me, my apron full of wool pieces, and she bared her teeth at me. It was the first time I had seen the devil in my sister’s eyes. “Why does she get special treatment?”
“You think I get special treatment?” I asked.
“She makes additional money to help our household. Without those extra coins, we would not be able to get some of the creature comforts that you enjoy.”
She sat down again with a hard thump. “Like what?”
“The lace you like to trim your dresses with. The fancier ribbons you use to tie your hair. We would not have those without your sister.”
Abigail began to scratch at her wrists absently. “I know Father got her that position. Is he trying to get one for me?”
“You have a different set of skills.”
“What does that mean?”
“He is having a harder time finding you an apprenticeship. You are not known for being particularly good at anything.”
She slammed her fist against the back of the bench, and the joinings groined under the pressure. “I am a fair baker.”
“You get distracted and burn most of the things you bake.”
“I have other skills.”
Mother shook her head again. “No, you do not. Believe me, Father and I have tried to find someone to help you.” She shook her head. “We have not been able to find someone to take the chance.”
“Chance?” She stood and walked to the fireplace, dragging the toe of her shoes. “Am I that bad?”
“You have a reputation, a reputation that everyone in the village knows about. So Father is looking at something different for you.”
Abigail covered her face with her hands. Unseen by Mother but visible to me was a smile. “What is that?”
“He is negotiating an arranged marriage.”
Her smile broadened. I scowled and emptied my apron into the sack.
“Anyone I know?” She sniffled. I vomited a little in my mouth.
“He has not been looking for very long. We hope to have something soon, though.” Mother brushed a lock of hair from Abigail’s face. “In the meantime, we still have chores that must be completed. Work with Rebecca to get the wool cleaned outside.”
“Of course, Mother.” Abigail gave her a small kiss on the cheek. I grabbed the bag of wool, and Abigail grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me outside.
In forty minutes, we had the outside cauldon filled with water and the fire below built for a boil. Abigail grated some soap into the water and I put the raw wool into the large pot. She stirred it for a few minutes, and we let the hot coals from the hardwood keep the water warm while the raw wool soaked for thirty minutes.
“Well, Rebecca, all this will soon be yours.”
“What do you mean?”
“I will be married soon.” She extended her left hand and looked at it longingly. “And I won’t have to do this anymore.”
“You are not getting married tomorrow. Mother said they have not even found someone for you to marry yet.”
“It is only a matter of time. If they look beyond our village, they will find someone soon.”
“They will need to look far away.” I poked at a log in the fire and it broke open, revealing more coals.
She spun me around so she could look at me. “What does that mean?”
“You heard her. You have a reputation. Everyone here knows how lazy you are. Your husband would have to be someone who knew nothing about you.”
“That’s just plain mean, Rebecca.” She crossed her arms. “I can’t believe you think so little of me.”
“I have been doing my chores and yours for years. You do the easy ones, like sweeping the floor and doing dishes. I have been in the shearing shed with Father and the sheep while you have attempted to help Mother with some baking. And she is right, your baking is awful. Actually, it is inedible.”
“None of that matters, because I will marry a powerful man. Someone who will take care of me. We will have a hired staff.”
“Father is trying to arrange a marriage for you. We do not know anyone who is like that.”
“They are like that in Europe. Maybe I can marry a prince.”
“Don’t talk like that,” I hissed. “People will think we want to be ruled by a king again.”
“There is no one else around. If we lived in town, then it could be a problem, but not when we live a half mile away.”
I looked in the pot. Some of the debris and lanolin rose to the top, and I skimmed it off. “And what if Father arranges for you to marry another farmer?”
She stopped before she could say anything, her mouth open.
“You didn’t think about that, did you?” It was my turn to smirk.
“You enjoy being cruel, Rebecca, crushing my dreams with the heel of your shoe.”
“You need to be practical. We do not know any wealthy people, only farmers. You will probably be a farmer’s wife and have to help with the livestock when you aren’t taking care of your children or household.”
“I will have to do all of it?”
“Yes, just like Mother does.”
She hung her head. “I can’t do that. I can’t work that hard.”
“And that is the reputation that is keeping you from getting an apprenticeship.”
“You have to help.”
“I am helping.” I looked inside the pot again. “Have thirty minutes passed?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” She looked inside the cauldron. “It looks ready. You fish it out and I’ll dump the water. Then we will get some fresh water.”
The second wool washing started another hour later, this time without the soap. Abigail stirred the pot again for a few minutes while I built the fire up. After a bit, we both started to stare at the flames.
“Do you really think I am going to become a farmer’s wife?” she asked.
“Do you want the truth?”
“If I wanted a lie, I would ask someone else. Yes, the truth.”
“Father and Mother don’t know anyone wealthy. They know farmers and farmers’ wives.”
Abigail rocked on her heels, her eyes darting left and right. Finally, she said, “You know wealthy people.”
“I know a few, I, I, I guess,” I stammered.
“Do any of them have sons of marrying age?”
I turned to look at her. “Maybe. What are you thinking about?”
The devil returned to her eyes. “That you can help me in a way that is unique to you.”
“I don’t like how this sounds.” I poked at the fire, breaking up more large pieces.
“It would not require much effort on your part. Just mention my name to a few of Mrs. Walker’s wealthier clients.”
“Are you mad? Why would I do that?”
She grabbed the stick I used on the fire and brought the ember-laden end near my face. “Because if you don’t, you could have a nasty accident out here some day and ruin your pretty little face.” She blew on the embers, reigniting them. She inhaled the smoke and exhaled it through her nose. “And it’s something sisters do for each other.”
I took a few steps back, wanting to put distance between us. The thought of being an ordinary wife had made her desperate. I didn’t know if there was anything she would not consider.
“I only work a few hours a day at her shop. I don’t see her clients every day.”
She closed the distance between us in two strides. “You will mention me to everyone you see. If they are wealthy, my name should be spoken.”
“I don’t know if all her clients are wealthy.” My eyes watered. I had never been scared of another person as much as I was scared of Abigail that day.
“You will mention me to everyone you see. No exceptions.”
I nodded vigorously, but before I could answer, an older man on horseback rode up to us. He must have been nice looking when he was older, but the years had whitened his hair and heavily lined his face.
“Girls, I am looking for Widow Henderson’s house,” he said. “Can you tell me where I can find it?”
Abigail pushed me behind her before I could say a word. “Our mother knows the house well. I will get her.” She gave me the ‘be quiet’ look and went outside. She and Mother returned shortly.
“Hello, Madame. My name is Charles Simmons, and I have lost my way.”
Mother lowered her head slightly. “Hello, Mr. Simmons. My daughter said you are looking for the Henderson house. I’m afraid you will find it abandoned, as the owners have all past.”
“Not so,” he said. “I just purchased it and I have taken a different route than I did yesterday.”
Mother nodded. “Of course. Continue along this road until the fork. Take the left path and it will lead you to the property.”
“Thank you so much, fair lady.” He looked over my head. “I see you’re in the midst of cleaning your wool.”
“Yes, Mr. Simmons.” Mother turned to us and smiled. Abigail and I put on our best polite smiles. “My girls enjoy working with our sheep.”
Abigail coughed and I kicked her ankle.
“My wife is happy we have farm hands to do much of the work our flock requires.”
Abigail’s smile got wider.
“We have a few dozen,” Mother said. “How large is your flock?”
“Over two hundred at last count,” he said. “That is the reason why we need so much help.”
Mother’s eyes brightened. “My girls are very good with our flock.”
Mr. Simmons scratched his chin with a gloved hand. “I wish my children shared the same passion as your girls. My oldest son doesn’t care for the animals.”
“How old is your son?” Abigail asked.
“He had his twenty-first birthday last month. His mother and I have been trying to find a nice girl for him to marry for the last year.”
She and Mother looked at each other. “My oldest girl is nearly that age.” It was my time to cough, as she turned seventeen two days earlier. “Perhaps you would consider her for your son.”
Mr. Simmons got off his horse and walked to Abigail. She stood a little taller on her toes, keeping her back straight. I moved away so he could walk all around her.
“You said both girls enjoy working with your flock?”
“Yes, Sir. They often quarrel about who gets to help with shearing and who will card and spin.”
“Very interesting. Perhaps her enthusiasm will influence him.”
“I can be packed in fifteen minutes,” Abigail said.
“Madame, I have some extra wool that must be processed. If your girl can do it, she will marry my son.”
Mother extended her hand. “Mr. Simmons, you have an arrangement.” Before he and Mother should shake, Abigail was inside the house, packing her few belongings.
The next day, Mother sent me to the Simmons’ house with a loaf of her oatmeal bread. As I approached the house on foot, I heard loud crying coming from the barn. I opened the barn door and saw Abigail sitting on a stool and surrounded by twelve bags of raw wool.
“Oh, Rebecca, I am so glad to see you.” She ran to me and hugged me tightly. “I need your help.”
Her tears dampened my neck. “What have you done?”
She released me and spread out her arms. “Look at all of it! This is much more than some wool.”
“How am I supposed to help?”
“You don’t mind doing this, and I can’t do it alone.” She pushed me onto her stool and she towered over me. “This is what I want. It is a wealthy family, but I have to prove myself by working all this stuff and I only have a few days.” She kicked toward a bag of raw wool. “I hate this stuff.”
“Have you done anything?” I glanced around at all the raw wool and no sign of any clean wool.
“I have spent much of my time crying.” She pushed me slightly so she could also rest against the stool. “It is just too much. But I know if I don’t do it, I will be sent home as a liar. And Mother will also be called a liar. And I don’t know if I will ever get another chance like this.”
She cried harder, and I think actual tears fell. “I have work to do at home. I only came to deliver this bread. If I’m gone too long, Father and Mother will worry.”
“You can’t leave me here!” she wailed. “I know I won’t make it if you leave me.”
Three old women knocked on the barn door when Abigail started crying again. Each had dull gray hair pulled back and wore a gathered mop cap. Their jackets and skirts both were brown, either from age or dirt.
“Young lady, is there something we can help with?” the first woman said.
“I have to work all this into wool ready for weaving,” she cried again. “I only have a few days, and it’s all just too much.” She covered her face with her apron, and I recognized the smile barely hidden behind it.
The woman pulled her companions aside. After barely a minute, the first woman said, “My sisters and I will help you.”
“But I have to do all these bags.”
“It’s not too much for us. We enjoy the feel of the wool between our fingers.”
“I don’t have any money to pay you.”
“What is your reward when the task is finished?”
“I get to marry the land owner’s son.”
The woman looked at her sisters, who nodded. “Allow us to attend your wedding as your aunts and that will be payment enough.”
“It looks like you’re in good hands,” I said. I left the barn, put the bread on an open window sill, and ran home without looking back.
One week later, Mother stopped by Mrs. Walker’s shop while I was working. I was sitting by a window and Mrs. Walker was cutting out a pattern on a table.
“Faith, we have heard such good news. Our Abigail is going to be married in a month.”
“Congratulations,” Mrs. Walker said. “Will you need anything special?”
“She would like a new ivory dress made with silk and lace. And of course, it should have some of Rebecca’s beautiful embellishments.” Mother smiled at me, and I felt as though I didn’t have any opportunity to refuse the work.
“That will be a very expensive dress, Sara. Rebecca’s work here won’t pay for the material.”
“That’s not a worry.” Mother dropped a handful of silver coins on the table. “The Simmons are helping with the wedding expenses.”
“We will need to order the fabric today, but we will have the muslin version ready by the end of next week.”
“That is perfect, Faith.” She looked at her own dress. “Maybe I should order clothes for us as well.” She pulled another stack of silver coins from her small purse. “This should be enough for a new shirt for Albert and a new cotton dress for me.”
Mrs. Walker quietly counted the coins. “Yes, Rebecca and I can have it all done in time. Please see us next week for all the fittings.”
Mother nodded and left. I exhaled, hoping Abigail wouldn’t make any further ridiculous demands.
On the day of the wedding between Abigail and Benjamin Simmons, I had a very bad head cold. It was probably from all the late nights working on the wedding clothes for my family and Abigail’s new wardrobe. Because I was feeling so awful, Mother excused me from the wedding but said I needed to be at the dinner afterwards in honor of the couple. I nodded and threw the blanket back over my head.
About an hour before the wedding, I started to feel a little better so I bathed and changed into my nicest clothes. I had nearly twenty minutes before the ceremony, so I walked quickly towards the village church.
As I approached, I saw the three sisters, dressed in much finer clothes than when I last saw them, standing at the door into the church, talking to Mother.
“We are her aunts,” the first sister said. “She is expecting us.”
“I am her mother. You are not her aunts.”
The sisters gathered together and spoke briefly. “Please ask her. She will tell you.”
I moved behind a nearby tree so I could see and hear everything without giving away my presence. A younger man who looked very much like Mr. Simmons spoke to the women. I guessed him to be Benjamin.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“We are her aunts,” the woman said again. “She is expecting us.”
“Her mother says she doesn’t know you, and neither do I. Go away.”
“Please ask her. She knows us as her aunts.”
The door slammed and still the sisters waited outside the church. Then the door flew open and Abigail stepped outside, the dress I made her almost glowing under the setting sun.
“How can I help you?” She nearly spit the words out.
“We are your aunts. We are here at your wedding as you promised.”
She sneered and the devil inside Abigail came out again. “I don’t know who you are. I have never seen you before. Now leave me alone. I am about to be married to the man of my dreams.” The door slammed close again and I thought I heard the bar drop down to lock everyone else outside.
The sisters moved away from the church and spoke amongst themselves in hushed tones. I blinked and saw their shapes change. Their skin fell away, leaving thin, walking skeletons with sunken eyes and mouths full of sharp, pointed teeth.
Windigos! There was nothing else they could be.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t shout.
The three creatures walked up the steps of the church and tore the doors off. I heard someone shout – I don’t know who – and then the calls for help echoed through the village. My feet moved after the first scream and I went to the window to look in.
I should not have.
The windigos grabbed the wedding guests, tearing their bodies apart, taking bites from some of the dead and still living. Blood coated the floor, the pews, the walls, even a few windows.
One of the creatures saw me looking in and threw a body at me. I recognized the shirt as my father, even though his head was gone.
I vomited on the side of the church.
I heard more shrieks and saw Abigail get dragged from a closet, kicking at the creatures.
“You promised,” one of the windigo said before tearing her head off her shoulders.
About the Author
Michelle Ceasar Davis has contributed to several showcases, including the e-book anthology Dark Carnival: An Anthology of Horror. When she’s not writing, Michelle likes to read, watch scary movies, and bake. She lives with her husband and fur babies in North Dakota.
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