WE’IRD ARE FAMILY.
I sat underneath the back stairwell
trying to process. It was newly painted black and the stench was incredible. Did the witness protection program take teens?
Maybe I could switch schools. It wasn’t too late. It was the first day of school across America. No Popularity Pact
could bring me back from this.
I took out a
purple sharpie to deface something. Make a mark.
mother came up under the stairs. Again, I smelled her powder before I saw her. “How did you find me?”
I asked. “No one even uses this staircase.”
“It’s the same place you hid when you were six. Can Gran Gran come?“ I looked at her blankly as
my grandmother made her way over, and leaned on the banister. “We just wanted you to have a final teenager day,”
the lady who birthed me said.
day before what? Even when I leave for college you’ll see me.” Unfortunately. I started drawing zig zags in
the palm of my hand.
“We thought that you
would have until you were 18 but the time is upon us.
The signs are multiplying.
Nature herself is angry.” My mother was babbling.
I threw the marker at the wall. “What are you talking about? Don’t bring me into your midlife crisis.”
Gran Gran creaked her way over and sat next
to me. “I’m sorry.”
are you sorry for Gran Gran,” I asked, glowering at my mother.
“We just wanted to give you one more act of normalcy.” Mom picked up the pen and put it
in her bag.
“Normalcy? Am I dying? I’m
dying. Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
will come to see this as a gift,” Gran Gran said.
“Dying?! As a gift?” I shrieked.
“Nobody is dying, Rory.” My mother was uncharacteristically fidgety. “At least not if you can
“Just tell the girl,”
Gran Gran said. “There is no easy way.”
squooshed in beside us on the stairwell. “Do you remember when Daddy used to tell you and Destiny Jumbee stories?”
I shrugged. “What do you remember?” she asked.
“I remember that he couldn’t get through one dumb story without you two fighting.” I saw my mother’s
face crinkle and realized that this was a low blow.
launched her teacher voice. “A Jumbee is a spiritual vampire. They suck the prana or life force from their victims.”
I un-wedged myself from between my mother and grandmother.
There are no skinny behinds in the Shepherd-Singh family. “Who cares?”
“Aurora, there is a prophesy.” The name was jolting. Gran never called me by my
full name. “Someone was born to hunt and kill these Jumbees and that someone is you.”
Ok, I thought. Somebody has been putting crack in y’alls’ curry.
“Seriously? Y’all are wilding out,” I said, facing the wall.
“Rory listen, and yes this is serious. You have heard me say that in 1692, our greatest
of great great grand’s was tried as a witch. Well before she was kidnapped from Guyana to be a slave, Tituba, our
ancestor, hid her baby Violet I in a bush. The child was our foremother.”
“I am born to fight Jumbees?!” What my mom said earlier just hit me. I was three
steps behind like I was communicating from Iraq.
She continued: “There was another child born in Massachusetts. That child was Violet II, but before she was
born, Tituba willed a prophesy on her first daughter. The old ones say it was destiny. Yours. You are Tituban, 15th
“Um, what are you saying,
mother?” I knew that my mom hated when I called her that.
“Rory, you are an avatar,“ Gran said. “As Great Tituba proclaimed ‘When the 6 peoples merge
in the water droplets of the Kaiteur Falls, 15 generations after my fall, she of ten thousand names, the daughter of god,
queen of heaven, will descend upon this land to finish what I have started. Jumbees will cease to be when her mask
is removed by me.’ Honey, you are a divine incarnation.”
“But what does that mean?” I looked at Gran. They were talking in circles. None of this
added up to them showing up at the school cafeteria.
Desi barged into the stairwell. “Oh now she’s a goddess!” A goddess? “No fair. Why does
she get to be a goddess? I am the dungeon master. Why does all the good stuff happen to Rory?”
“What?” This was madness. “A Goddess? And yeah, Destiny, join
My mom pulled Des toward her.
“Aurora, the visions. You’ve been traveling to the Astral Plane.”
Ok. Now they had my attention.
My mother cleared her throat. “Your episode last year was your body and mind preparing. You will
start to stabilize things on the earth. The prophesy says with virgin, mother and crone, the Jumbees will leave earth’s
bones.” My mother hesitated. “You are a virgin, Rory, right?”
I started laughing. “Yeah, let’s just get all Rory’s business. Am I a virgin?
I think that you just ensured that!”
are Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn. Look it up. Tituba. She’s in your history books. It says that in this year you will
battle Jumbees to free the earth.”
I am Aurora, Goddess of the Geeks, with the weirdo family, Aurora who barely passes her classes. And I have SATs this year
to free myself! “
I rubbed my eyes. There
was a weird golden glow around my mother, sister and grandmother.
“You can see people’s prana,” Mom said.
I shook my head so Gran took over. “The Jumbees are multiplying with the signs. They used to
be just parasites, energy thieves who would attach themselves to a willing host and reek havoc in that persona’s life.
The problem is that we have all become so negative that we’re naturally willing hosts.”
“Physics,” I said. “Every action has an equal and opposite
”I know that this is a lot to digest, Rory,
but on the day of Obatala, also known as the Autumnal Equinox, the Jumbees will mutate.”
“What?” I asked. “When is that?”
“Harvest time,” Destiny said.
“That right, Des,” Mom said. “Ten days.”
“And if I refuse?” I asked, picking at my backpack.
“I perish to think,” Gran said.
Destiny kicked my bag. “See Mom. Tell her, Gran Gran. Let me be the goddess.
I am totally prepared for it. I’m the one you named Destiny. What kind of goddess can Rory be? Who would even listen
My mom took my hand and Gran’s
hand, and a bolt shot up in the center of the room. It burned my palm.
“Ow! Fu-reak!” I jumped up. Destiny stood with her mouth hanging open.
I’m not doing this,” I said and left.
Needless to say, I bailed on classes
for the rest of the day. Probably not a good start to senior year. So sue me. When everyone else came home they pretty much
left me alone. Krissy said that after I left, Moira fell down the grand staircase so everyone forgot about my birthday jam
at Café Terror and Moira became the talk of the day. I know that she was just trying to cheer me up. Aleksis sent
a smiley with a <3. I am sure that at this point that Danté wants nothing to do with me ever again. Fine because
I want nothing to do with him either. What a difference a frigging day makes.
My classmates got cars, plastic surgery, vacations and cash for their birthdays. I got a bloody
prophesy. I can’t wait to leave for college. I’m going far, far, away. Like Alaska. It was one thing when my
family kept their weirdness to the ‘hood. Mom’s crazy outdoor veggie garden in NYbloodyC, curry everything,
Gran’s reading the future in coconut shells, dad’s lecturing, a live chicken once. But to bring it to my
school?! With the whole prophesy mumbo jumbo? This was just beyond.
Sitting on my bed, I opened my laptop and googled Tituba. 136,000 entries. For my ancestor? Some were
articles. Some were books. There was even a movie called The Crucible. Accounts of how they mistakenly thought
that she was born in Barbados but she was actually born in Guyana. Some said she was Arawak. Some said she was African.
People were really up in arms about these stupid little details. Who cares? If I don’t care, why should they? It wasn’t
like she was willing them to have a doomed life of jumbee fighting. Jumbee fighting? The whole thing sounded ridiculous.
We grew up hearing mom and Gran go on with the whole “we’re Titubans” nonsense, but Des and I just ignored
them. At least I did.
I hunted around on the academic
bases. We used Dad’s university codes to explore the web’s hidden corners. Legal cheating. Hmmm. Interesting.
A website of actual transcripts of testimony, accusations and depositions from the Salem Witch Trials. A link caught
my eye that said The Tituban Prophesy.
Note: This is not found in the published transcripts, but only in the secretly recorded transcript. As she testifyeth
under oath on the Witness Stand by Tituba Indian, Slave Woman, in the year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety Two on the Fourteenth
Day of September. My birthday!
“I humbly submitteth my person to this inquest. I am not a witch nor in covenant with the Devil. There is not one
whom I have afflicted. They do me no harm and I hurt them not at all. I am of the Great Mother, of Arawak and Oyo
Royal, in El Dorado born. If I be hanged so shall ye be hanged. My eye that sees more sayeth that nature herself is angry.
Convict me if you will but I am the divine embodied in flesh. Three hundred years hence, when the Jumbees multiply with
the signs, fear the great grand daughter of my great granddaughter doubled plus one. The divine child shall be called after
twilight. The war be not on the earth but of the earth in the space between thoughts. She, the fifteenth of my line, will
return this place to Eden. Power be this virgin huntress, her mother and crone, to fight until the Jumbees leave earth’s
bones. On the day of Obatala in the year when she reaches mine age, the battles will begin to rage. I am not a witch nor
in covenant with the Devil. There is not one whom I have afflicted. They do me no harm and I hurt them not at all.
I am of the daughter of God, of Arawak and Oyo Royal, in El Dorado born. If I be hanged so shall ye be hanged, ye oath breakers.”
No way! Another page had an addendum:
And Tituba Witch said, ”When the 6 peoples merge in the water droplets of the Kaiteur Falls,
15 generations after my fall, she of ten thousand names, the daughter of god, queen of heaven, will descend upon this land
to finish what I have started. Jumbees will cease to be when her mask is removed by me when she begins her 17th
year and nighttime equals the day.”
my God, that’s me. The fifteenth of her line. Virgin huntress. She was talking about me. Possibly. There was a knock
on the door.
“Go away,” I yelled.
My father opened the door. Why did I even bother?
“Can I speak with you, Rory?” he asked, rhetorically.
I closed my laptop as he sat on my bed. “I know Mommy and I haven’t been getting along.”
“If you’re getting a divorce,” I said, “You might wanna
look into your timing.”
nothing like that yet.”
I shouted. And then suddenly the entire day was just too much and the tears just started flowing.
“Come baby,” he said, holding me as my boohooing soaked his shirt.
“I just wanted to say that…” he took a breath. Your mother and Chia are very wrapped up in this thing,
and I just… I just figured that someone should point out that destiny is not the same as fate. The ranting of a mad
woman some 300 years ago doesn’t need to define you today,”
That was the best thing that I’d heard all day. “Thank you, Daddy,” I said.
“You have choices, Rory. That’s why your mother
and I came to this country. Chia too. For the choices.”
I chose my words carefully. “You know, last year when I stood up and started screaming in class, I really
thought that I was being attacked. I saw the whole thing. It was a meadow and all of these disembodied spirits were coming
said. “Preparing for war.”
wish somebody would have said something instead of letting me think I was crazy all this time,” I said softly. “When
you used to tell us Jumbee stories you never said it was real.”
“How do you say that to a child?” he asked, scratching his arm. I think he forgot I was
there for a moment. “But Mommy and Chia have their lives. You and Destiny have your life, and I have mine.”
I didn’t like the way that he grouped
himself alone. I thought about this as he stood and turned to leave. “Daddy,” I asked. “What would you
“I don’t know,”
he said, thinking for a moment. I don’t think I’ve ever heard my dad say I don’t know before. He smoothed
the front of his sweater vest. “But I don’t have to know, Rory.”
Neither do I, I decided as he left.
I would just proceed as if none of this had ever happened.
“The prophesy can kiss my ass,” I screamed. There was a small rumbling; and then
my bed and everything in the room was shaking. I looked at the clock. 11:12pm.