Ten Lessons for a Curse-Breaker

Edited by Chelle Parker

Copyedited by Chelle Parker

December 2021

584 words — Reading time: around 2 minutes

Content Note:

This story contains references to intimate partner violence.

1. Do not try to fix generational trauma with a spell.

2. Do not consult your great-great-grandmother’s forbidden spell book, even if you think it’s the best way to get to the root of said generational trauma. She was the first one in your family to marry a less-than-stellar man — a warlock with a sharp tongue and hard fists — so it would make sense to start with her, wouldn’t it? Yank out the root and let the rest of the plant wither and die. And besides, the root is safer. Farther away from your green leaves, easier to turn into a story that has nothing to do with you. Even if it does.

3. When trying to find a spell you wrongly think will erase generational trauma, recall the lessons taught to you in boarding school. Several of your teachers explicitly taught you that spells cannot be mashed together like a sandwich. Do not assume you can mix a seduction spell with a spirit-cleansing spell to wipe away all of the bruises and screams and hurts from the love lives of the women in your family. Pick whichever spell you think is closest to what you want, and pray it works.

4. Make sure you have the proper ingredients for whatever incorrect spell you choose. For instance, if the spell calls for pig’s blood, do not substitute goat’s blood instead. It will not work. It will blow up in your face, just like your father always swore everything you did would.

5. When you accidentally summon a demon — because your father was right and you’re an idiot — pretend you know more than you actually do. Be calm. Act confident. Thankfully, you’re good at both of those things. Years of weathering loud, angry men whose moods shift like storm clouds has made you an excellent actress.

6. Do not be charmed by a demon, even if he seems very sweet and gentle and compliments you on both your spellcasting and your furniture choice. You’ve always had great taste in secondhand furniture, and you’ve dreamed of a man who would appreciate the exceptional skill it takes to find a chair that’s just cute enough to still be shabby chic instead of only shabby. But this is not a man. This is a demon with man parts. There’s a difference. Right?

7. When you realize you don’t know how to unsummon a demon, do not panic. Furthermore, do not kick over your shabby chic chair when the demon tells you he is now eternally sworn to do your bidding. What you’re trying to fix cannot be solved with the power of a demon, even if the demon offers to fix the furniture you just broke.

8. Grant yourself grace when you realize far too late that therapy is, perhaps, a better option than spellcasting when faced with trauma.

9. Be kind to yourself. Realize that generations of bruises and screams and hurts have made you terrified — gun shy, like a rabbit in the desert brush. And while there’s no spell to reverse the pain that’s led you here — you already knew that, even from the start — you know there are ways to break curses, magical or otherwise. And perhaps, with enough time, you can become a very good curse-breaker.

10. If you take a demon on a date, pay for his drink. Don’t worry too much about the whole “eternally sworn to do your bidding” thing. He’s totally into it.

© 2021 Ellen Meny

About the author

Ellen Meny

Ellen Meny is a writer living in Seattle, Washington. She began her illustrious literary career writing Pokémon fanfiction in middle school, and hasn’t graduated much past that. She has work in Nocturne Magazine, Aether/Ichor, and the flash fiction anthology Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (Atthis Arts, 2019). Her muse is her hamster, Martini. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @ellenmeny.