Curses, a Short Story

Curses, a Short Story

I am afraid of curses.

Especially now that the curse I placed on my mortal enemy has worked, and he is nearly dead.

I left him in the hospital. He was struggling for breath, his eyes vacant, his cheeks sunken, his skin ashy and gray, when the week before he had that vital glow that I always hated.

It’s true, I wanted him to suffer, but as I left him at St. Jude Hospital I almost felt sorry for him.

I’d never meant for it to go this far.

 

My roommate Camilo introduced me to curses. A friend of his had received a curse from an ex-girlfriend he had cheated on. He'd lost his voice. It was revenge for all the lies he told her, Camilo said.

He had to pay money to get the curse reversed, but even now, his voice was weak. He had to stop his career as a flamenco singer to become an accountant in his father’s firm.

 

Jonathan Moore. I hated his boring name. His perfectly cut hair, his suits, his smile. He was my competitor at work, ingratiating himself to the bosses and rude and insolent to anyone he didn’t consider useful.

Yes, he could be charming; yes, he had a dazzling smile that made you feel special when it was aimed at you, but all this didn’t make up for his arrogance.

He stole a client of mine. That client, Sylvia Guilding, was going to buy a very expensive apartment. I was the broker and was going to get a large commission. He stole her number and introduced himself and took her to the apartment. It was all very sneaky and unprofessional.

I complained to Mr. Lanston, my boss, but he did nothing. Instead he threatened to fire me if I didn’t increase my sales quota.           

I had to teach Jonathan Moore a lesson.

 

Camilo took me to Sharon. She lived in Westchester in a lovely craftsman style home. As we walked to her private office, I saw photos of her two smiling blond children with her smiling blond husband. He worked on Wall Street, she made sure to point out.

Do you have it? she asked inside her office.

I brought out a lock of his hair. That had been challenging to get.

She put the hair in a small metal container and burned it.

She said her curses, curses that she made us promise never to repeat, and said that it would take effect within the week.

Afterwards we drank lemonade on her back patio and talked about the local public school system.

It’s really excellent, she said. We just got tired of the city thing. You should really consider moving out here. It's very safe and the public schools are excellent and the commute is only about an hour into the city.          

I paid her the two hundred dollars and we left.

 

The next day Jonathan was as vital as ever.

On the second day he had a slight cough. The third he looked a bit corpse like. The fourth he collapsed at work and we had to call an ambulance.

I visited the hospital to see what my money had bought me.

I told his family I was a good work friend. We were all very concerned. Jonathan stared at me with his wild eyes. 

I did this to you, I whispered. If you apologize, I’ll see if I can reverse it.

I'll curse you back, he muttered.

His sister was hovering protectively, glaring at me.

As I left I overheard the doctor saying that they had done all they could. 

 

That night I stayed up late. Could I be responsible for another man’s death? Could I live with that, even if he had been a horrible person? The next day I went back to Westchester. I hadn’t made an appointment. Sharon was ignoring my calls. 

I knocked but no one answered.

On the sidewalk a woman was walking her dog.

Looking for Sharon? she said.

Yes, I said.

They went away this weekend camping, she said. They’re out of cell phone range. I'm Amy. I’m looking after their house.

I had to see her about something important, I said.

She smiled. Come, I will help you.

I went over to Amy’s house. Her kids were away at soccer practice with her husband.

It's very hard to reverse a curse, she said, after I explained what I wanted. It's possible, but complicated. It will cost you.

How much? I said.

One thousand dollars, she said.

I got a text. Jonathan was dead. It’s too late, I said.

It’s never too late, she said. It’s just more complicated. Should we bring him back to life?

You can do that?

Two thousand dollars.

That’s a lot of money.

He’s dead, she said. What do you want?

Will you take fifteen hundred?

I don’t negotiate, she said.

Seventeen hundred?

Eighteen fifty final offer, she said.

 

It was open casket funeral. I poured the contents of the vial into his mouth, and muttered the incantation.

During the eulogy, I watched him closely.

I thought I saw him twitch at one moment, and got ready to stand up and run to him. But he was still.

At the cemetery, I was nervous.

They were lowering the closed casket into the ground.

His mother and father were putting dirt on the casket.

Stop! I said.

Everyone looked at me.

He’s not dead, I said.

Camilo tried to pull me away. It's too late, Camilo said. Come, let's leave.

No, listen, I said. I’ll explain. It was all my fault. I put a curse on him but I had it reversed. I paid two thousand dollars. He's going to be fine.

Camilo and one of the ushers were pulling me away again.

My boss was hissing at me, You’re fired.

Stop throwing dirt on his casket, I said. Open it. You'll see. Open it.

As they were taking me away, the sister said: Wait. Do you hear that? Everyone be quiet.

We were silent.  

We heard very faintly someone yelling.

The workers brought the casket back up.

When they opened it, Jonathan said, I’m hungry.

 

Camilo left to teach literature in Peru.

I needed a new roommate.

Jonathan moved in. Dying changed him. We're friends now. He quit his job and became a certified yoga teacher. Death yoga, he calls what he does.

My therapist claims I didn’t kill him, that the curse didn’t kill him. That he wasn't really brought back to life. That was a mistake to think he died. That’s something for the doctors and the hospital, who are being sued by the family, to investigate.

It was me, I said. Well, me and the Westchester ladies. But don't worry, I'm never going there again.