The police were called and they looked high and low but no trace was ever found. There was speculation it was a Halloween prank gone wrong. Lisa began to think her strange dream had something to do with it but his loss had changed her fortunes for the better.
They appeared out of nowhere. A group of three elderly women living out of a dirty red van. They set up shop in the local gas station parking lot. Selling pictures they painted on black canvas and reading palms. They planned to stay through All Hallow’s Eve. The folks in the town referred to them as gypsies but Amy knew they were really witches.
‘They can’t be witches’ said Nancy ‘they don’t have any brooms!’ She brushed some dirt off her school uniform. Keeping clean in the fifth grade was turning out to be more difficult than she thought.
‘It’s 2017, witches drive now. They’re tired of being burnt at the stake for flying around on brooms.,” said Lisa matter-of-factly. She had been studying witches on the internet.
“You’re impossible Lisa! Why don’t you just admit the lady with the weird eye freaks you out?”
Lisa laughed. “She did! Then I did some research, it is a hereditary trait, which removes the iris from the eye. It’s called Aniridia and it’s passed on from parent to parent. Only one in fifty thousand people have a chance at getting it.”
“That sounds gross but it still doesn’t make you a witch.”
“It does if you are a descendant of the Kult Ov Occulus.”
Nancy rolled her eyes. “What the heck is that?”
“Just an obscure cult of witches that began their reign in Ancient Rome during the tenure of the last Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos. There were rumors his daughter Ocuthea had Aniridia and could capture your soul if she painted your portrait.
“What a load of crap” said Nancy pinching her nose.
“It’s true! She was a worshiper of the Egyptian God, Horus. They called him the eyeless son of Ra. Ocuthea started a cult and children started disappearing.”
“Really?” said Nancy.
Lisa nodded. “Constantine ignored it and eventually there was an uprising. The temple burned. Ocuthea was killed but there were rumors she’d passed her soul painting technique to others.”
Nancy laughed. “And now the descendants of the cult are living in a gas station parking lot in Pennsylvania. Painting pictures of neighborhood houses?”
“Girl. I think you’ve been drinking with your dad!” said Nancy in a stabbing tone.
Lisa stopped. Her feelings clearly hurt.
“That was a low blow. I’m sorry Lisa. It just sorta slipped out.”
Lisa’s dad was a functioning alcoholic. He’d make it to work but he’d come home and drink himself silly. He had time for little else. Lisa’s mom had given up on the family two years ago.
“Forget it. I’ll just see you Monday” said Lisa. She turned away and headed towards her house.
Nancy watched her friend go. She heard a soft sob as Lisa turned the corner.
Lisa wiped the tears from her eyes. She used the time alone to clear her head. It was a beautiful October afternoon and it was only three days before Halloween. She couldn’t wait to wear the princess costume her grandparents bought her. She was thankful they didn’t abandon her when her mother did. She spent every weekend there, it was all her father would allow.
“Look at this painting I bought” he said with a slur. “It looks just like our house.”
Lisa gazed at the painting. It looked like their house. Ramshackled and unkempt like her father. The fall colors were dull giving the artwork a realistic feel. It was painted on black canvas.
“Where did you get it?” she asked.
“I got it from those Halloween hags at the gas station, it was only five bucks!”
He stumbled then set the portrait down. It was in a makeshift frame made of cheap wood.
“They insisted I take it, said they had some big plans for me!”
He laughed and pulled some crumpled bills out of his pocket.
“Will you go down to the gas station and buy your old man a six pack?”
Lisa frowned. These conversations made her sad.
“I’m not old enough to buy beer Dad, remember? How about some dinner? I can make macaroni and cheese?”
Greg Lannister gave his daughter a blank stare. It was as if she was not there.
“I’m going to get more beer”.
He grabbed his jacket and left the house without saying goodbye.
Lisa straightened up the house, made herself dinner and had just finished some homework when the telephone phone rang.
“Hello sweetheart! Its grandpa Earl.”
“Grandpa! How are you?”
I’m fine, how was school today?”
“It was ok. We had a substitute teacher; they always let us get away with murder.”
Earl chuckled. “I suppose they do. Can I talk to your Dad?
“Um, he’s in the bathroom,” said Lisa.
“That’s fine. I can wait.”
“I think he might be sleeping in there, you might have to wait awhile.”
There was a pause on the other end. Earl exhaled. “He’s not there is he, Lisa?”
“No.” She closed her eyes and waited for the eruption.
“God dammit! There’s laws against leaving a child your age home alone. I’m calling the police!”
“Don’t do it grandpa! He’ll be home any minute, I swear. If he see the cops here again he’ll put a stop to my visits for good.”
“The bastard! Was he drunk? He didn’t hurt you again did he?”
“No. I already made myself dinner and I did all my homework.”
“We have ways of dealing with him!”
“Please don’t do it grandpa!” said Lisa beginning to sob. “I really wanna see you and grandma tomorrow. He’ll make a big scene and you know he has full custody.”
Earl sighed deeply on the other end. Right or wrong, this was a life no child should have.
“Ok. Get yourself bed. Make sure you lock all the windows and doors. I will be over first thing in the morning and I won’t care if that sonofabitch is hung over or not.”
“Thanks grandpa! I’ll see you bright and early. I love you and tell grandma I love her too!”
“I will. Sweet dreams Lisa.” He said something else but his voice was mumbled.
“Sweet dreams grandpa. Good Night!”
Lisa went to bed shortly after and had the strangest dream….
She was floating through the sky then diving down into the darkness. She was in a basement. The floor was made of dirt. The cement walls all covered in a black soot. The room slowly came into focus. It was dimly lit. Four cloaked figures were standing around another lying on a table. They were quietly chanting. Lisa moved closer. The figure on the table was her dad! She let out a gasp and moved to help but one of the cloaked figures blocked her path! It was the old woman with Aniridia. The woman gave her a toothless grin and held up an object. Lisa was expecting a dagger but it turned out to be a tiny mirror made of gold. The etchings on it were clearly Egyptian.
They were holding the mirror up to her father’s eyes as she passed out into darkness.
The next morning Earl arrived bright and early but Greg still had not returned. The police were called and they looked high and low but no trace was ever found. There was speculation it was a Halloween prank gone wrong. Lisa began to think her strange dream had something to do with it but his loss had changed her fortunes for the better.
She became a custodian of her grandparents. The ramshackled house got put on the market with the proceeds going towards her college education.
A couple of weeks later, Earl and Lisa were unpacking some things and came across the portrait Greg purchased from the gypsies the night he disappeared.
“Here’s the picture my dad bought, doesn’t it look like my old house?”
Earl stopped working and looked at the painting. “It sure does sweetheart. That even looks like your dad standing in the window”.
Lisa froze. She looked at the picture again. A figure was painted in the window, one that had not been there before. There was a smile on his face but when she glanced back, it changed to a frown.
She never told her grandparents but as the week went by, she saw the figure of her father move several times. One day he’d be at a front window the next day in an upstairs bedroom.
One morning she woke up early and found her grandfather in the bathroom.
“I didn’t know you wore contacts grandpa?”
“Yes, I do. Almost all of us wear them now sweetheart, it keeps us inconspicuous.”
He turned and smiled at his granddaughter with his two black eyes!