Art logo

The Sisters' Feast

6.30.23

By Katrina ThornleyPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 14 min read
“A Wreath of Roses” by Marie Spartali Stillman

The sisters sat upon their bench, using flowers from the garden to create garlands that would hang in the hallways and from the windows. It was a tradition and their garden never failed to amaze. It was always bountiful, blooming in the brightest colors with the richest scents.

Every year, the flowers would bloom and turn the field of green to a rainbow of colors. And every year, the townspeople would wander to them. It was the only time that the people in town thought of the sisters and their servants who resided in the large cottage on the hill with its wide windows and standing towers, its fields and fences, and fragrant flowers.

There were whispers in town about the sisters. They had lived there for as long as anyone could remember, but they never seemed to age. Flora and Fauna, two redheaded sisters in thick velvet dresses with warm smiles and petal-like lips, their eyes as green as the flower stems.

Were they cursed? No, it didn’t seem that way. At least not on that one day, that one day where the townspeople flocked and the cooks and maids all went to work to help decorate the cottage and set tables upon the grounds. They would feast among the flowers and drink tea while the butterflies and bees fluttered around. Everything would be wonderful, bright and merry, at least until…

When the sun set they would light fires and gather around the flames. It was a peaceful gathering, one the sisters and the townspeople all enjoyed but many townspeople wouldn’t remember it when they returned to their homes. It would flutter in and out of their minds, fragments floating into dreams while they slept, careful reminders of the sisters that lived on the outskirts of town.

They wouldn’t remember anything until they received their careful invitations in the mail, opening the envelopes to find flower petals fluttering to the ground as they did. And it was at that moment that many of the townspeople remembered the happy moments of the party. They would remember the flowers, the food, the song. But they wouldn’t remember the fire or anything that happened after…

Although the townspeople loved the sisters, there was an understanding that they weren’t welcome in town. Nor did they have any desire to join the townspeople. They were content in their own homes with the flowers they grew so carefully, coddling them like children.

One year, a man that wasn’t from Ridgefield attended the party. He had been passed an invitation by accident. He resembled someone else, which was something he was often told. His birth name was Glen Durby, but he had gone by so many different names over the years that he no longer bothered correcting anyone that called him by a different name. In Ridgefield he let people call him Benjamin. He had heard the excitement from others in town about the lavish party and couldn’t pass up the chance to attend such a glorious affair. He was sure that if he wanted to make an impact in the town, he would need to attend and find someone worth speaking to or become someone worth speaking to. He was ready to settle down and had grown tired of traveling. He thought that perhaps Ridgefield would be the best place for him. It was quiet and quaint and for the most part the townspeople seemed to keep to themselves.

Except when it came to the party.

The second the invites were handed out he had seen neighbors go from house to house, talking excitedly about what they would wear and who would go together.

He had heard a repeated question. “Do you think one of the sisters will wed?”

The question was often met by laughter and very frequently by a firm “no”. It wasn’t that kind of party. It was a celebration of life, not of love. There was a difference. The flowers were in bloom, the sisters wanted to share.

He wondered what could be so marvelous about flowers, so inspiring, so enthralling.

He knew he wouldn’t understand, but the sisters had piqued his interest. He would go. Even if it meant pretending to be Benjamin Hinkley.

The event was 1 week after the invitations were received; Benjamin (Glen), who had been sleeping in the barn of a local farm, escorted three of the farmer’s daughters to the party. He didn’t know where they were going, but the girls did. They spoke animatedly about the event, the eldest daughter, Maria, occasionally remembering a particular detail about the sisters or their flowers. She was beautiful, but her voice made his teeth hurt. He cringed when she spoke and though he tried to hide it, he was sure she knew.

“Do you smell that?” The youngest sister, Anne, stopped walking, her nose pointed to the air. They could hear the excited voices of other travelers. Most townspeople had left together but stuck to their designated groups.

“Smell what?”

“Oh Ben. Stop being silly. Don’t you smell the flowers?”

Glen laughed, unnerved now as he too stuck his nose in the air and took a deep breath. Unlike Benjamin Hinkley, Glen Durby had no sense of smell. He had never had it, not as a child, and not as an adult. He didn’t know what roses smelt of, nor smoke, and unlike others he couldn’t smell when the tide was out. There were moments when his lack of sense of smell had aided him in odd jobs and in life in general.

“It smells lovely Anne.”

The youngest sister smiled and turned her attention back towards the path. Up ahead, he could see brilliant colors poking through the wall of trees. Pinks, purples, yellows, and blues. The colors were so bright they seemed to glow. As they drew closer, he realized how large the flowers truly were. He had never seen anything like it. There were rose blooms larger than his head, and Lillys stood tall and proud. Bees swarmed, passing by the townspeople who gazed at the field in amazement.

The flowers were dazzling, but Glen’s eyes were drawn to the small house and the two women standing before it. They were beautiful, with long wild red hair and soft smiles upon their faces. The shorter one wore a pink dress that paled in comparison to the petunias growing to her right. They tilted towards her as though she were the sun. Her sister, Fauna, was taller and thin with a long green dress that dragged upon the earth. Upon her head she wore a crown of flowers. Yellow and white petals adorned her. Her sister wore a necklace made from blooms in their yard.

Glen couldn’t help but stare at them, there was something otherworldly about them. They were glowing, it was as though everything rotated around them. They were the sun and the townspeople were blessed to be in their orbit.

“Welcome to our home for our yearly festival. Join us in the garden where we have prepared our usual tables. Teas and cakes, sandwiches and tarts. Whatever your heart’s desire you will find there. Follow us.” Flora’s voice was high pitched, mimicking the cry of the birds in the morning. It was a soothing sound, it reminded him of home. He watched as the townspeople turned with her, as she passed them, they all stepped in line behind her. A congregation heading towards the garden.

But the entire property seemed to be a garden. Where were they going?

Glen turned to the sisters he had arrived with but they had gone pale. They didn’t look at him as he said their names, but stared straight ahead. Their eyes were glossy, as though any moment they may close and the girls would fall asleep where they stood. He gave the eldest sister’s arm a poke, but she didn’t stir. She continued following Flora and Fauna.

Confused, Glen joined in step. There was little else he could do.

They walked down a slight hill and ahead, Glen spotted a stone wall with a shining metal gate with intricate floral designs. Beyond the gate and the wall were flowers that towered into the air, as tall as trees with petals the size of the quilts upon the bed in the main house. The colors were vibrant, reminding him of the prettiest sunsets he had ever witnessed. He could understand the awe, the amazement. How had these flowers grown in such a way?

He imagined they smelt wonderfully, but still, he smelt nothing.

Bees and colorful butterflies fluttered past him. They paused on the shoulders of townspeople, landed on noses, and got momentarily snagged in hair. But none of the townspeople moved to shoo them away. The townspeople stared straight ahead, marching in unison.

Flora stopped, turning to face everyone. Glen shuttered, the woman he had thought was beautiful had turned into something else. Where her green eyes had been were now dark empty holes. Her hollow face scanned the crowd, reading faces. He froze as her gaze landed on him and he did his best to stand still, staring straight ahead, his eyes empty just like everyone else.

“Okay sister. Open it.”

Fauna didn’t turn around. From her shoe, she pulled a key. In a quick motion, she opened the gate and stepped inside. Everyone followed.

Under the tree-like flowers were tables in assorted sizes. Just as they had promised, there were teas and cakes and food in dazzling colors.

As the gate closed behind them, a raucous cheer broke forth. Whatever spell his comrades had been under, was suddenly lifted.

“Oh, isn’t this just lovely?” The eldest sister clasped her hands together. “Benny you must try the lemon cake, it’s to die for. I had it last year. Let’s see if we can find some.”

“Are you alright Maria?” Glen asked, following her to one of the tables that was decorated with plates of blue and white. Pollen from the flowers above littered everything like fairy dust.

“I have never been better dear friend.” Maria handed him a plate with a thick slice of cake upon it. “Eat. You won’t regret it.”

Glen smiled at her, but stared down at the cake skeptically. There was something not right about it. The longer he stared at it, the more he noticed. The color was fading. Going from a pale yellow to a pale green. And something was moving in the icing. Something slithering. His stomach squirmed. He watched as she took a bite from her own slice, closing her eyes in pleasure.

He set his plate down just as Flora and Fauna drew near.

“Hello Maria. How are you enjoying things?”

“Wonderful sisters. Simply amazing.”

Flora smiled and then turned her attention to Glen. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before.”

Maria laughed and patted his shoulder. “This is Benjamin Hinkley, he comes every year.”

Except…he wasn’t Benjamin Hinkley. Flora and Fauna both knew that. Although they smiled, he could see something in their faces. Their eyes had again returned to green but if they moved quickly he saw what was underneath. The black holes. The hollowness. The wrinkles.

Who were they really?

“Benjamin Hinkley?”

Glen nodded. “Yes, Benjamin Hinkley. I come every year.”

Fauna grinned, showing sharp teeth. “You must have a forgettable face.”

“So, I’ve been told. Mingle, don’t bother with a bore like me,” Glen waved his hands towards the people surrounding them. Conversation and song erupted. A few people were dancing around the tables. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Everyone but Glen.

This was nothing like what he had expected.

Flora and Fauna stared at him a bit longer, each turning their nose in the air and taking a deep breath. Their eyes met, but they said nothing before walking away.

Glen exhaled, not realizing he had been holding his breath.

“That was strange,” He said to Maria, but her attention was elsewhere. Like her sisters, she was singing and dancing.

He decided it would be best to at least blend in and try to enjoy the festival. He would just do his best to avoid Flora and Fauna. The flowers were beautiful at least. They hadn’t been lying about that, but he was vastly disappointed in everything else.

The groups danced and sang, the hosts even leading a few ballads, until the sun sank beneath the trees and the moon showed itself. The moon was in all her glory, full and bright, illuminating the garden and the people within in a ghostly hue.

“Thank you friends for joining us. And now it is time for the fire, the moment you have all been waiting for!”

Beside him, Maria stiffened. “Fire? We don’t usually have a fire.”

But they did. Every year. And every year the townspeople forgot.

Despite the confusion that could be heard in the low murmurs of the townspeople, everyone followed Flora and Fauna deeper into the garden. Glen wondered how far it went. The flowers growing above them created strangely shaped shadows, fluttering with each movement of the petals. Rabbits ran in and out of the stems, staring at the people in curiosity.

Ahead, Glen could see an opening. A wide clearing among the flowers. A pile of brush and dried petals lay in the center, around them were benches crafted from fallen logs. A soft violin song filled the clearing, a man with a hunched back played solemnly. He didn’t look up as the group approached, his arm continued to move in the same motion. Glen felt himself slipping, the world felt as though it were spinning.

The song continued and soon Flora and Fauna were chanting along, but he couldn’t understand the words. He stumbled towards the benches, dropping heavily onto one as the women he was escorting did the same. His breathing was labored and his eyelids heavy. He refused to sleep.

Others were losing their battle. He watched as the hosts bent down and blew flame upon the brush. Had he imagined that? Did the fire truly come from their lungs?

By the light of the flame, he saw the other party goers beginning to doze. Some hadn’t made it to the benches but instead lay upon the earth, their bodies contorted in strange angles.

The sisters’ voices died away, but the man with the hunch backed continued to play. Glen stared at him, watching his arms make the same motions over and over again. The same soft slow melody played. A lullaby. He had heard it before, but where?

He took a deep breath, his limbs had begun to shake.

The sisters moved away from the fire, starting to walk around the circle. Their noses pointed towards the sky, they took deep breaths. Flora put out her hand, Fauna walked into it.

“What is it sister?”

“Someone is awake.”

Glen quickly closed his eyes, feigning rest as his heart hammered in his chest. He felt as though he were falling, but his hands rested securely on the log. He would hold himself in place. He would not go under. That was what they wanted. There was something wrong, very wrong. He felt Maria’s body sag against his, her arm sliding across his leg. He shifted his body slightly to stop her from falling.

He could hear them drawing close, his hands began to sweat making the dirt of the log stick to his skin. He could feel the sisters drawing closer, their dresses dragged across the ground. He tried to relax his expression, to appear at peace like the others.

They paused in front of him. He felt Maria fall to the ground at his feet, a loud thud as she hit the ground, part of her crushed his feet. He fought the urge to bend down and help her up. He waited for her to wake up, but she didn’t. She stayed where she was.

He opened his eyes a fraction, only enough to see a hazy view of what was happening. Flora was bent over Maria, one hand resting on the side of her throat, her ear pressed to the woman’s chest as she listened to her heart beat.

Fauna, with her dark black eyes, was staring at Glen who had again closed his eyes, afraid of meeting her empty gaze.

“Leave her. Check him.”

Glen’s blood turned cold. He went perfectly still, trying to calm his heart. It was going to betray him.

“Sister, I’m so hungry. Can we just begin?”

“Flora.”

“Fauna, I’m fading. I can feel it.” He could hear the tears in Flora’s voice. She was pleading, begging her elder sister. He hoped it worked.

“Pathetic.” Fauna’s voice was sharp. There was a loud smack, and then Flora’s sob filled the clearing, heard over the sound of the violin. “Stop your crying. You’re going to wake them. Then we’ll have a mess. Eat.”

Glen couldn’t help himself. His eyes flashed open and though he was afraid of the horror he may find, he was curious. He hadn’t seen any food in the clearing, they had just left the dining tables…

Flora was still bent over Maria, her mouth pressed to the woman’s neck. Her hands were upon the woman’s shoulders, holding her against the ground. But Glen knew she wouldn’t awake. She was asleep, just like everyone else. Fauna had walked away from him and was touching the throat of a man sitting on a log a few feet away. She shook her head and gave him a shove, he fell backwards to the ground. Fauna continued moving, repeating her process a few times.

Glen gulped, wondering if he could get away.

But he couldn’t leave the farmer’s daughters here…

Suddenly, Flora sat up. Her eyes were bright, no longer empty holes. Her skin had taken on a radiant glow. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, licking the blood away.

Glen closed his eyes again, but it was too late.

“He’s awake!” Her voice was shrill. The pace of the violin escalated, matching the thumping of Glen’s heart.

Should he play dead?

“The dust!” Fauna screamed. “Quickly!”

Glen opened his eyes again, preparing to run. But it was too late.

Flora’s face was close to his, her palm level with his nose. She took a deep breath and blew, sparkling dust fluttered through the air. He tried to move away, but Fauna held him in place. There was no avoiding it. He breathed in, the dust entering his nose, his mouth. He coughed, his breath more haggard than before. His eyes closed once more, he could no longer fight it. Like the others, he fell asleep in Flora and Fauna’s garden.

***

The townspeople awoke the next morning sore but content, their minds completely free of thoughts of the fire. None of them knew it had happened. Most of them had forgotten the event completely.

Maria walked out to the barn. It was her job to get Benjamin Hinkley for breakfast. Although he helped work the fields, her father didn’t treat him like a servant. He had become a member of the family.

“Ben!” She called. But the barn was empty. She stared at the empty straw bed. His blankets were still folded neatly to the side. His work shoes untied and waiting for him to start the day. Dread settled into her soul.

She ran back to the house, finding her sisters in the kitchen. “Have you seen Benjamin?”

“Who?”

“Benjamin.”

The sisters exchanged confused glances. “Are you well Maria?”

Maria leaned against the wall. “Of course. Don’t you know Benjamin?”

Her youngest sister laughed. “Of course we know Benjamin, he left last week. He was returning home, to his family.”

Maria couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but felt foolish pushing the subject. Hadn’t he just been there? She thought so…

He had attended the party…

But why didn’t anyone else remember?

Benjamin Hinkley, Glen Durby, never returned from the garden that night. Flora’s dust had taken his will from him, his spirit. The hunchbacked man was another victim, but he was no longer alone. While the violin played, Glen danced. He couldn’t stop.

InspirationPaintingIllustrationFiction

About the Creator

Katrina Thornley

Rhode Island based author and poetess with a love for nature and the written word. Works currently available include Arcadians: Lullaby in Nature, Arcadians: Wooden Mystics, 26 Brentwood Avenue & Other Tales, and Kings of Millburrow.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For FreePledge Your Support

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

Add your insights

Comments (1)

  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock12 months ago

    Incredible story. Extremely well written. Editorial Notes: In the first paragraph you have, "and their garden never failed to disappoint." I'm pretty sure you want the garden not to disappoint. In the paragraph beginning, "He knew he wouldn’t understand...," you have "peaked" rather than "piqued". In the paragraph beginning, "Flora stopped, turning to face everyone...," you have "shuttered" rather than "shuddered".

Katrina ThornleyWritten by Katrina Thornley

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.