The Dark Spells were simple. And because they were simple, they could seem like nothing at all. But seeds are always small, and with the Dark Spells, it was the victim who tended the garden.
Carla had been cursed when she was 11. Up till then, she hadn’t even considered that she might have to worry about things like whether water had calories in it, or whether eating in a dream counted.
The door to the communal lounge was heavy and running to keep up with her mum had cost her too much already. ‘I told you, I hate it,’ her breath came in short bursts, ‘I hate that food…is the enemy. I hate the…atonement for failing. I hate that only spoiled food feels… good enough.’
‘Good enough! Honestly, I don’t think you know the first thing about it.’ The older woman was looking around the room, trying to manage the unfamiliar nature of the space.
Carla tried again, ‘Anorexia lays out the foundations of my life, and every fucking thing is built on top of it.’
‘There’s no need to swear darling.’
‘You wouldn’t say that if you knew…’ the girl eased herself down onto the sofa, leaning forward as a wave of dizziness swept over her, ‘…about the voices.’
‘Don’t be so dramatic, Carla. Everyone has a critical voice inside their head,’ she snapped out a smile along with her words, ‘you just choose not to listen that’s all.’
Carla tried to sit up, but the dizziness wouldn’t shift, ‘How can you choose not to listen when it’s roaring inside your head 24 hours a day? When you’re too tired to try anymore? When it’s easier just to listen…’
Each time someone said it was a choice, the spell bit a little harder into the victim’s flesh, a little deeper into their mind.
‘They say that we have two fighting wolves inside of us, one good and one bad,’ her mum glanced around again, ‘and the one that wins is the one we feed.’
‘Wolves?’ the girl’s voice faltered then, and she held her fingers to her mouth, like it was a secret, ‘They never leave me alone, Mum. They tell me that I don’t deserve food, that I never do enough, that my body is repulsive, that I take up too much room, that I don’t deserve a life… they tell me that I should never have been born.’
The Dark Spells were cunning, and they ate their victims from the inside out.
The woman cleared her throat and turned to look out of the window. A long stretch of grass ran down to a row of trees, ‘Minnie sends her love, and Alex.’
‘Great,’ the girl curled her fingers around her arm, measuring how much her fingers overlapped.
‘You hurt them too you know, doing this, being here. Alex is too scared to ask how you are anymore, he doesn’t even want to come home because he says you’re still there, reminding us of how we failed.’
‘People think anorexia is all about control,’ Carla finally sat up, ‘being in charge of your own death.’
The woman sighed, perching on the sofa like it could infect her with the same contagion that had spoiled her perfect child, ‘Everyone has stuff going on in their lives, we don’t go around starving ourselves to death.’
The sun filtered through the slatted windows, chopping up the light into sections. Carla shifted in her seat, ‘I know… it’s just it’s taken me a long time to realise that I never really wanted to die, I just wanted the pain to stop.’
‘I actually think that’s what this was always about, right from the very beginning,’ her fingers traced the line of bones in her wrist thoughtfully, ‘but I just kept eating the poison until it was all that I could eat.’ Gently she bent forward and touched her lips to her arm, ‘But I’m done with sleeping away my life. It’s time for me to wake up, because we all get to design the fairy tale dresses of our lives, and honestly, I don’t want a short, grey one made out of laxative packets,’ she grinned shyly then, ‘I want a sequinned ballgown.’
And in that one beautiful moment the spell was broken. Because although the Dark Spells were bastard powerful, the magic of love’s first kiss could still shatter them like a hammer through glass.