The time is 3:01.
AM, if you must know.
The Witching Hour - such a whispered thought amongst society, a fun-told tale of mystery.
Inside a hospital, a bed creaks; a monitor beeps.
On the third floor there exists a nursery, and within the nursery exists a room 2B. Rows of plastic cribs and makeshift covers hold newborn babies, lightly illuminated by the wafting glow of the moon from a window. The shadows in the corner seem to shrink back, and if one were to blink a trio of women were to be seen surrounding the first crib. In a sound softer than a shaft of breath, they exist.
Three women, hovering over a beautiful baby boy. His African American heritage has given him a glow of chocolate purity, his long black lashes fluttering closed in sleep. His small fists twitch every now and then, his barely formed eyebrows lightly furrowed. The first woman on the left leans out of the shadow, revealing a face of youth and light.
She croons and smiles at the sleeping boy, her smile a blushing pink and her skin an opalescent cream. Golden ringlets spun of butter fall around her face, and she wears robes of white on her shoulders. Her beauty is unrivaled and unquestioned in her forever blossoming youth, and from within her robes she pulls out a strand of glowing thread.
3:05, and the nursery clock softly ticks.
She holds it aloft, braiding it and with a final smile passing it down. The middle woman steps out of the shadows, revealing a matronly face seemingly cut from quartz with a dull knife and thick brown waves pulled back. Her hands reach out for the thread, worn from calluses and hard work. She peers down at the child and works her hands over the thread, tears slipping from her eyes and a smile gracing her features ever so often. She sighs and cradles the baby's face in her hands, then passes the thread on to the last woman.
The woman's haggardly features wear down her visage, skin a wrinkled wax paper thinly filming veins and spots beneath. Her remaining white hair is strewn over her head, and from a stooping form of rags her arms extend, wrists so seemingly thin they could snap.
Her eyes glowing, she grimly handles the thread and has the middle woman extend a measuring tool and swiftly sheath it again. Placing her index finger and thumb on a place on the thread, the eldest woman pats a small leather bag hanging from what would be her hip. The others hiss and converse silently, words making no echo and presence making no shadows. Three women working over a baby in the Witching Hour, three women making decisions.
3:07, and so much more to do.
The last woman finally hisses a statement of decisive fury, and the other two fall silent, chastened but agreeable. They pocket the thread and move to the next crib. The baby's eyes never open once.
The nursery security footage shows nothing but forty-four minutes of silent and sleeping, the room 2B empty of anyone over the age of one. No doors open, no one enters. Forty-four minutes of stillness.
Four floors up, a hospital room is filled with three women. The small space seems to widen at their presence, and the lone bed sitting at the end of the room seems empty and dejected. They make their way over, and see a withered, sleeping soul.
Her head is vacated of any hair, and her ill palor has worn down her thin arms and strained neck. She wears a papery hospital gown. Her visage is crumpled in pain and agony. The trio of women stand by for a moment of gratitude and respect, dutifully ignoring the clipboard on the tableside, words like "cancerous cells", "chemo failure", "conclusive" bleeding onto white paper in blue ink.
The young woman pulls another thread from her robes, golden glow almost diminished, flickering with every second. The end of the thread begins to become mottled and covered in sickly green and black stains, festering and wittling down. She bites her lip and hands it to the second woman, who kisses every inch of it, even the terrible strings, and hands it over to the last woman.
She opens her leather bag and withdraws an impossibly large pair of gleaming shears, edges slightly rusted from use. They are stained with a red copper color, and she kisses each blade. She reaches for the sad thread.
It is necessary, necessary, necessary.
The shears swipe shut, and there is nothing but a silent Witching Hour.
The trio exits the room, door silently shutting as a glimpse of the bedside monitor displays a flat green line on a black screen. The hospital is still a silent, held-in breath.
Another hospital room opens.
And so it continues, with the hallway footage showing nothing but closed doors, nothing but silent footfalls.
The Witching Hour lets out its breath, and the hospital is vacated of any immortal women.
The Witching Hour has ended. The Three Sisters of Fate have left, the Past, Present, and Future maids leaving behind their work, a beautifully bittersweet creation.
There will be another witching hour in eleven hours.