This week, we have a series of flash fiction tales, starting with a story from our host Tonia Ransom that explores funerary rituals.
Narrated by Tonia Ransom.
Produced by Davis Walden of the Viridian Wild Podcast.
Executive Producer and Host: Tonia Ransom
All episodes are brought to you by the NIGHTLIGHT Legion. Join us on Patreon for as little as $1 per month to help us produce more stories for you to enjoy.
Hi. I’m Tonia Ransom, creator and executive producer of NIGHTLIGHT, a horror podcast featuring creepy tales written and performed by Black creatives from all over the world.
This week we have a story that explores funerary rituals.
But before we get to family tradition, just a reminder that all episodes are brought to you by the NIGHTLIGHT Legion. We’re working toward our goal of bringing you new episodes every week, but we need your help. Just go to patreon.com/nightlightpod to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion and get a shoutout on the podcast. And don’t forget, our merch store is open. Just go to merch.nightlightpod.com to get your t-shirts, hoodies, notebooks and more!
Now sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy “Family Recipe”, written and narrated by me, Tonia Ransom.
“When I die…you’ll be the next…to receive…the family recipe. Promise me…you’ll honor…it,” she said, gasping for breath.
Those were my mother’s last words to me. Not “I love you”, or “It’ll be okay”. Just her checking with me to make sure I understood that I would be responsible for the family recipe in the coming hours. Making sure that I would carry on our legacy.
That’s how important that little slip of paper is to my kin. More important than motherly love or reassurance. More important than the very air we breathe.
The location and code to the box were in my mother’s will. Only I was allowed to see it. She didn’t even hire a lawyer to write up the document; she did one of those self-service templates to ensure our secret was safe.
As instructed, I burned the paper with the sensitive information when I was done. I was now, well and truly, our family’s keeper.
I sat beside my mother’s body, a shell of what she once was, and carefully dialed the right numbers that would open the box that held the sacred knowledge that had been passed down for at least a dozen generations.
As I expected, there was an envelope inside that contained our family’s secret. In my mother’s careful handwriting, it read simply “Recipe”.
But there was more in the box. Teeth. Lots of them. And a blade, sharp and gleaming.
Beneath that, a piece of paper: an inventory list.
“This box contains the following:
- Teeth of your ancestors.
- The family blade.
- The family recipe.”
I understood the blade. The special meal we always served after funerals was meat, thinly sliced, expertly seasoned and roasted. Looking forward to that meal had always taken the sting out of losing a loved one. We’d sit in a pew and cry, barely able to see the urn at the front of the church through our tears, our mouths watering for that comforting taste we’d come to associate with grief and togetherness.
I did not understand the teeth. I hoped what was in the envelope would clear that up for me.
I considered using the blade to open the envelope, but decided against it. It seemed blasphemous somehow to use something so special on paper. Plus I’d heard somewhere that paper dulls blades quickly.
I stepped away from my mother’s corpse to find a letter opener. Returned to her, and slid the blade in, carefully opening the envelope. Inside was a slip of paper. Yellowed, ink faded, but traced over carefully to ensure the recipe wouldn’t be lost to time.
There was also a letter, far more recent. The paper was still white and crisp. I unfolded it to reveal my mother’s handwriting:
I am sorry to say it is now your duty to safeguard this recipe, and to prepare our family’s funeral feasts.”
Sorry?, I wondered, but continued reading.
“As you know, this recipe is not to be revealed to anyone until you pass on, at which time you will leave this box to a female relative younger than you, but the oldest of our clan.
You are probably wondering about the teeth. What you must do now will not be pleasant, but it must be done. If you do not carry out this task, our family will perish. Everyone. It’s part of a deal made long ago. Long before you or I were born. Long before this country even existed. I’m sorry, but you do not have a choice.
The first thing you’ll need to do is remove one of my molars. A pair of pliers works great for this, but you will need to apply a great deal of force. Place that molar in this box.
Then you will take the blade and flay the flesh from my body.”
I dropped the letter. Looked at my mother, at peace at last, my own heart hammering hard enough for the both of us.
I bent over to retrieve the page with shaky hands.
“Everyone has their own method for this. I researched how to field dress a deer to learn, but there is no right or wrong way. So long as you get as much meat from my bones as possible. You’re a nurse, so your anatomy knowledge will be useful for this step, thankfully. You won’t struggle as much as I did my first time.
Once you have the meat, follow the recipe to the letter. Measure carefully. It’s imperative that you are exact. Set a timer on the oven. Again, our family’s existence depends upon your ability to prepare me properly.
I am truly sorry it had to be you. I love you with my entire soul and being.
I looked again at my mom, grabbed the blade, and smiled. She wasn’t as good at keeping secrets as she thought she was. I’d been waiting for this day for a long time.
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Audio production for this episode by Davis Walden.
And to thank you for listening until the very end, we have a creepy fact for you.
In 2013, archaeologists found a 14-year-old girl’s skull near the early American settlement of Jamestown. Marks on her skull indicated that she’d been eaten by fellow settlers during the horrendous winter of 1609. Furthermore, the United States Government even acknowledged that colonizers were eating human flesh. One report by the government said that “the flesh and excrement of…our own nation, as well as Indian” were consumed by early settlers.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more flash fiction.