By Alana Hoare

It had been marked down in her planner for months. Alex usually loved decorating her planner, but this day was in boring black ink.

She didn’t need reminding what she had been dreading for months: The Family Reunion. Why after a lifetime of virtually no contact, save for the same birthday card she got each year that said, “One Year Down” with the strangest doodles, was this so important, but her mom wouldn’t yield.

So here she was, finishing the nine-hour drive. As Alex approached her final destination, she wondered if the bottles of vodka she brought were enough to get through this God-forsaken weekend. She had even added something special to them just in case she needed it.

“This is a scene right out of Wrong Turn,” Alex thought as she pulled up. There was nothing around except trees but when she saw her mom’s Honda, she breathed a sigh of relief. There were more cars than she had anticipated so she fumbled around for the pill bottle to add more to the vodka.

“Shit, Logan left his emergency bag,” she thought as she grabbed the bottle she found on the floor. Logan, her fiancé, was a veterinarian who specialized in horses. After screwing the caps on, she turned the car off. Suddenly her driver door flung open.

“We have been waiting for you,” the man said. Nothing about him gave Alex the warm fuzzies. He was forty-something, had dark, beady eyes and his stare made her uncomfortable.

“Yeah, it was a long ride,” Alex replied. She grabbed the bag with the vodka and tried to reach for her suitcase when the man placed his hand on the door and said, “Don’t worry about that. Just come inside.”

Alex was weirded out but tried to shake it off. “I’m sorry, who are you?” Alex asked.

“Damien,” he retorted as he grabbed her wrist and started toward the Victorian style house.

“I am capable of walking on my own,” Alex spit out as she tried to pull away. Damien’s eyes flashed; his face dropped, and it was replaced with something worse than anger. Without a word, he grabbed a fistful of her hair and began pulling her towards the house. Shocked, Alex struggled but he was easily able to overpower her. Screaming out in pain and terror, Alex crumpled to the ground dropping the vodka, but it didn’t stop Damien. Alex could see figures on the porch as she was pleading for help. No one moved.

Now at the porch, Damien began dragging Alex up the stairs. With each step, her fighting caused pain as she was slammed where cuts and scrapes had already formed.

“Damien do be gentler. We have waited years for this and can’t afford for it all to have been for nothing,” said a voice from the crowd. A woman stepped out wearing a long, black robe and shared the same dark eyes as Damien.

“Didn’t you see how difficult she was being, Cordelia? And the ritual needs to start!” Damien said.

By this point, Alex was panicking. Tears streaming down her face, she shouted, “Why are you doing this? What ritual?!?”

“Shh, dear. You’ll see,” Cordelia said as she crouched to Alex. She moved towards Alex’s face to wipe a tear away from her blue eyes. She put the pad of her thumb to her mouth and tasted the tear.

“Mm, perfect. Take her inside and get that vodka. Bloody Mary’s all around,” Cordelia laughed out as she walked inside. Between her screams for help, Alex could hear voices as she was carried in. They brought her to the living room where everyone was on their knees with their eyes closed, chanting. In the middle of the room was a table, draped in a cloth covered in symbols that looked like those doodles on her birthday cards.

“Put her on the altar and secure her. The Priestess mentioned she’s feisty.”, Cordelia said as she began placing chalices of vodka down. Alex’s voice had grown hoarse, so all she could manage was to sob uncontrollably as she tried to process what the hell was happening. And where was her mom? Did they hurt her, too?

Suddenly, the chanting stopped as a hooded figure stepped into the room. The figure walked to the altar and pulled the hood back.

“Mom?!?”, Alex cried out in despair.

Alex’s mom looked down at her, not with the look of love that a mother has for her child, but rather like a farmer who had raised a pig for slaughter. “The hour approaches where our sacrifice is to be made in the name of The Family,” Alex’s mom announced.

“Mom, stop. This isn’t funny,” Alex begged.

“The sacrifice was adopted as were all the others before her. To complete the ritual, approach the altar and insert your knife. Before you fill your chalice with the blood, you must first beget a tear. To value the thickness of blood, you must first ingest the salty tears of the sacrifice who represents the water. Only then may the Familial Bond be preserved for another quarter century until the next sacrifice is ready.”

Each person approached the altar and slid their knife into Alex’s body. She screamed as she felt each blade tear through flesh, muscles and tendons. Some even nicked bones. Each tear sliding down her face was licked off as her blood filled the chalices. She began to feel weak; unconsciousness was near. As her eyes started involuntarily closing, there were loud thuds around the room. This brought her back to reality long enough for her to realize that everyone was on the floor, dead. As she lost consciousness for the final time, it dawned on her: Logan’s vet bag. The pills she put in the vodka were not the Percocet she intended, but horse tranquilizers. As her breathing slowed, Alex smiled. The sacrificial lamb had done it; the accidental lethal cocktail she made proved that water can, in fact, overcome blood.