"I tell you Martha, it's real! Ever since Great Grandpa Sonny Pillanor was wrongly accused of horse theft by his own son, our family line has been cursed."
"But how? Rob, are you saying that your great grandfather was a warlock? And that he deliberately cursed his descendents?"
"Nah! Nothing like that. Remind me to tell you the story one day. If I'm still able to... But for now, just know that each male child who bears the name of Pillanor always suffers at least one major loss, before his sixteenth birthday."
"And tomorrow, your brother turns sixteen. You really believe this, don't you? And you think you might be the one he loses."
"I don't know. It could be anyone, or anything. Just so long as it makes him feel deep loss. It could be Mom, Dad, or Linda. Or Quacks. Or his comic collection. Or the house. We won't know until it happens."
"Has anyone ever tried sacrificing something important? To make sure it's not a loved one?" asked Martha. Not that she was convinced, but her boyfriend was certainly scared. She could see it in his eyes.
"Yes... It doesn't work. It seems like the curse picks who and what it wants." he said sadly.
"Oh my. I can't imagine living life in fear of losing those who mean the most to me. Is there any way to break the curse?" she asked, wishing that he would tell her the full story.
"Yes, but it involves a lot of luck. Not every person affected has the chance to even try. Sometimes the loss isn't even a living thing.
And it's dangerous. The one who is to suffer the loss has to save the victim, at great risk to himself. And the victim has to be willing to risk their life too. Only then will we be free of this."
"Maybe it'll just wear off..." she said, wanting to ease his worry.
"I don't think it works that way. Anyway, it probably won't be me. Nate doesn't even like me very much." Rob laughed, but he was forcing it.
"I need to go pick up Mom from work, but I'll see you first thing tomorrow morning." she promised, as she gave him a quick hug and kiss.
"I'll see you then! And you are coming to the party?" he asked.
"Of course. I'm not leaving your side tomorrow." she replied, smiling.
"Let's have it in the backyard. It's such a nice day!" exclaimed Nate. He had decided that since nothing bad had happened, maybe the trauma of losing Gup the Guppy when he was eight had been his measure of the curse.
Either way, there was nothing he could do to stop it, right? At least not until he knew who, if anyone, it would target.
"Alright, Dear. Let's wait until everyone is here, then we'll cut the cake."
"Yes, Mom. You did an amazing job on the cake!" he said enthusiastically. Nothing was going to go wrong, everything was perfect. Soon the yard was filled with friends and family. Mom brought out the cake.
"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy - "
"QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!"
Everyone looked towards the garden pond, where Nate's beloved duck Quacks lived. He was flapping wildly in the middle of the pond. Nate sprinted to the scene.
"No! Not Quacks!" he wailed, diving into the water fully clothed. As he did, the duck dove into the depths. Nate followed him down, a full eight feet. The water was murky from the algae, but he glimpsed the white feathers. Soon he caught up. A child was firmly and frantically grasping the bird, who was struggling unsuccessfully towards the surface.
Quacks stopped struggling before Nate could reach the pair. He had probably had the air squeezed out of him by the frightened child. Nate tucked him under his arm, then grabbed the child's hand.
He tried to surface, but one of his shoes had become stuck in the ooze at the bottom of the pond. He started to panic. The frightened youth was inhaling water by the time he managed to remove the shoe. Disoriented, he fought his fear and weakness, and grabbed the child and his beloved pet before heading towards the surface.
Minutes later, all three were alert. Exhausted, but obviously well on the way to recovery. As it turned out, his four year old cousin, whom he had only met once, decided to go see Quacks. He probably thought that the pond was like the little wading pool in his back yard.
"Do you know what this means?" asked Dad, in awe.
"It means we all get to live?" asked Nate, still coughing up water now and then.
"Yes - and you and Quacks broke the Pillanor Family Curse! Congratulations, and happy birthday!"
Please remember to use the hashtags Dreemport and dreemer - and submit your story on the Dreemport website.
Cover image made on Canva using their gallery