Charity’s Ball
By Daisy Jones
Date: May 30, 2016
Ch. 1212

“What do you mean your fourth cup?” Charity choked on the words. She wasn’t sure if that much cider would have an adverse effect, but her panic-stricken gut was screaming. Then she began noticing other details. The demons projected wicked auras while the witches were cackling in high pitched tunes. The ghosts were lucid and the skeletons walked with slinking fragility. Even the scarecrow seemed to have lost his backbone.

Charity was almost certain she caught a glimpse of her Uncle Jesse flaring his Dracula nostrils in a black cape with a blood-sucking fixation on his new bride’s throat. Could this be possible? Could Charity’s cider actually be the catalyst for the costume to consume the persona of each individual wearing it? James’ transformation into the thieving, yet alluring character he mimicked was certainly leading credence to that hypothesis. And how far could this go? Would the demons and vampires be able to do permanent damage? Or even worse- take a life? Shades of a Grimm Fairytale gone horribly wrong filled her head, and she suddenly was cast as the evil witch!

There was only one thing to do; drink the cider – and quickly! She accepted the cup from James and swallowed the contents. Charity had not sampled the cider until that moment, and had no intention of becoming the subject of her own research by consuming any on that night either. As the unexpected transformations were revealed, she knew intervention was called for. First, there was a warm tingling sensation as the gothic brew splashed over her tongue and rolled down her parched throat. Her pale skin flushed for a moment, raising her body temperature several degrees. The ether washed through her and penetrated her essence, allowing her spirit to mesh with the surrounding air. She too had succumbed to the enchantment of her cider which manifested perception with illusion. Magically, Charity was at one with the universe. The elusive state of being she had pursued for most of her life was suddenly thrust upon her like an unwelcomed snakebite.

Estrangement from her physical self was immediate, casting her in a celestial role defined by fibers of her vintage garments that reeked with esoteric vibrations of her long gone parents. She wafted toward the ceiling, observing the chaos assembly of lost souls. Becoming a third-person voyeur of James’ pursuits while still in the first person granted fleeting pleasure. Delirium ruled, keeping time with the fiddler’s dizzying pace. Her airborne vantage point only served to validate her fears and although grateful for the experience, she frantically scanned for clues to calm havoc’s confusion.

“Charity, what have you done?” a familiar feminine voice whispered inside her head. She instantly recognized her mother’s tender tone. Charity, being of pure spirit, immediately detected Sarah’s essence was there to help with a solution and found her mother’s hazy image mingling within the atmosphere.

“Mother, thank the spirits you’re here. I was simply trying to ignite a spark in these half-alive people. Instead, demons and vampires have interceded and taken over. What can I do to fix this? Can you help me?” Charity responded to the familiar voice, accepting Sarah’s presence had no physical attributes.

“There is no incantation or spell that can reverse the effects of your brew. Only time will dissipate its influences. I hope now you can understand why I wouldn’t and couldn’t share your father’s secrets with you.”

“Time; how much time is needed,” Charity questioned.

“At midnight, the apples will lose their enchantment and order will return. I always meant to tell you about the apples, but couldn’t bring myself to open that door for you. I have brought this situation on by my own lack of admissions and we both need to set things right.”

“At midnight; the apples?” Charity was so completely overwhelmed by recent events, she could do little more that repeat key words and phrases perceived as relevant information.

“Your apples are the by-product of a special tree that appeared at the base of Josiah’s mountain shortly after you were born. They grant special gifts for thirty-one days each October, beginning on your birthday. Adding other ingredients greatly intensifies the effects. The citizens of Proctor are caught in the end cycle of their magic. Their revelry and abandon are acting as catalysts tonight.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about the apples?”

“Because of everything that had happened with your father, I was fearful you might succumb to the same fate. I knew that you would discover the splendor of the apples on your own one day, but I never imagined it would be like this or with Josiah’s enhancements.”

“I had a sense the apples were special, but not that they were cultivated from magical seeds,” Charity moaned.

“What would you have done differently had you known their full potential?” Sarah questioned.

“I don’t quite know. Certainly not this,” she replied while scanning the hall of confusion below.

“Are you sure?”

“What do you mean?”

“Charity, you live a solitary life, yet seek the splendors of the universe in your self-contained world. You are alive inside, yet your wisdom remains detached. Using your father’s potions, incantations and recipes to knowingly enhance the citizens of Proctor in this way proves my concerns weren’t unfounded. You long to ignite a spark in others, but in truth it is your flame that needs to be fanned.”

“I’m not unhappy.”

“Perhaps unfulfilled is a better word, and perhaps, I’m partially to blame for that by refusing to share certain information about your father with you before I left the earth.”

“Perhaps,” Charity heard truth in her mother’s long overdue words.

“Trying to change the personalities of your neighbors can’t substitute for what’s missing inside you.”

“I was aiming for something else. Most days, they are all so caught up in how much milk the Stewart cow gave, or whether Proctor General Store will lower the price of their homemade fudge. Some afternoons, the men line up in rocking chairs on dusty porches and entertain themselves with guessing games regarding the circumference of women’s skirts. They miss so much of life here in Proctor.”

“And it’s your self-appointed job to change that?”

“Well, no. I guess I was hoping to heighten their senses….to wake their spirits…to make them see the beauty in a morning sunrise, the magic of a perfect sunset, or the splendor of a child’s imagination.”

"I don’t doubt your intentions. It’s your methods that are in question. You are your father’s daughter in that regard. He carelessly plunged ahead, putting his very existence at risk, and as his child, you deserved better. Perhaps I knew what I was getting into by marrying Josiah, but he truly was the only man for me. I just never imagined he would be gone so soon, or in such a way.”

“Mother, I understand your concerns and am grateful for this chance to communicate so freely with you, however I’m still unclear about the events leading to his death, or why there is no known grave with his remains.”
“There are no known remains to bury. Your father simply went to the top of Josiah’s Mountain, spoke some incantations, drank a potion and was gone, never to return. Those of us that tried to ascend the mountain were instantly overcome with nausea and high fevers, leaving no choice but to abandon the search. You were so young; only five years old. You were an angel who cherished your father and I was not in a position to either support or renounce your love and devotion for him. Secretly, I hoped his memories would fade from your mind and be replaced with your own abilities, nurtured with restraint and wisdom and skilled in helping others willing to embrace your gifts.”

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