This piece is one in a chronological series, set in a universe.
Feel free to find the others here, and to browse through any companion piece, set in the same universe.
1. Three Frenemies 2. Fall Coven Meet 3. BeingLovedAgain 4. The Fourth Witch
6. The Three Questions 7. Seed 8. Garden Graveyard Heart 9. The Cook
10. River Witch 11. Rage
12. Reincarnation 14. Hate
15. Rage and Her Spells of Power
17. Truth – Rhymes With Ruth
22. The Summoning
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation 13. Memory and Mudbaths
16. OtherSide 18. Pillow Talk With God 19. She, Named E 20. The Girl Made of Smoke and the Not-Boy 21. Other Garden
May 22 – Part 1 Stone Lady Paper Boots Dredge Half Yours, Half His Flower Seller
When You Must End Love Talk Scorpio Rising Pretty Men, Stone Lady
From The Olive Pit to Gratitude Reliability dead girl Soft Witch
I stand in the room, the little witch hut, its log cabin structure too flimsy to keep out what I am letting in. Outside, the river is turbulent, crashing against the stones in the valley with enough to force to break them into sand. Soon this whole place will be river, will be water, will be drowned. (It’s alright, I have remade the world many times after many floods)
The sky is dark, the waters darker, and they meet in me. I need no talisman. I need no clever incantation. Just a thought will do. All it takes is a whisper. All it takes is a turn of my stiff neck, all the way around like a doll’s head mutilated by a small unwitting child. All it takes is a mirror. All it takes to switch is a witch witch witch. All it takes is a witch’s wish and she is there, filtering in through all the cracks and crevices of the cabin, black violet fog entering through the cabin window, through the logs along the floor and all the cracks in the closed log door.
Thick fog that smells like river and rain and sweat and blood and fight and – Rage, I call, softly, not out loud, not even from my mind, just from the little place inside me when I first met her, that deep dark deep space of tissue-time, scarred hardness and cracked tissue. Her cackle starts low, from the floor and then, I hear it in the single flickering lightbulb, and it rises into a screech with the river outside as she climbs to meets the sky in tidal waves, lightning dances in every wave, crashing against the rocks, thunder inside the waters.
Her voice rises to a scream and I feel the knife-sharp edge of it against my skin, razor thin, always sharp sharp sharp enough to cut air.
“So!” she says,ghostly, ethereal, a voice echoing in the cabin in time with the water crashing like a building falling in a war zone. “Aha! At your most preferably bloody service! Where can I help, oh but where can’t I! Look at this place – ” and the fog sweeps through the room, knocking over a bookshelf. “Look at this softness, just look at you!” She is, of course, enraged. Mirror next, cracking on its own against the wall. I smile a half-smile, watching her at work, hold my hand up toward the mirror, whisper don’t fall to the shards of glass sitting in the air, resisting gravity, lazily floating. If she notices my magic, she does not take note.
“Look at you” she says, her voice close to my ear. I feel a little nip and then a sharper one, and then I hear a chuckle. “Fuck the books, the throw pillows, the couch and the coziness – this is where the real bullshit is -” I feel a finger along my cheek.
“Yes, let’s fix this all of this – just like old times, let me in” she says, a tendril of fog diving into my wrist, into my throat, tapping against a single cornea like a piece of contact lens glass. I feel the eye narrow on its own, eyebrow pulled like a marionette, high and haughty. I feel my pulse quicken in an arm, racing against the length of it, curling my fingers. I feel the straightening of my spine, electricity thrumming against my brainstem and in the river outside, lightning flashes again. The water is so high, I think the moon might be drowning. I feel my wrist turn to – “Stone. Yes, do it. Now, do it! In your eyes, and in your fists – no, wait. wait a moment – where I work best is here -”
And then, there the gentle, cotton candy deceptively sweet fog flavour, and under it, the taste of blood, old blood, the taste of a sword, many swords, many souls, the metal in my tongue like a magnet for its taste and she sinks into the wire of my vocal cords, and I feel that old thrill trill in my throat, a million words, like darts, like arrows, ready – a million shards of glass ready for spitting, witch voice, first voice, old voice, kill voice, end voice, ruin “him, yes let’s end this, let’s finish this, let’s! let ME! DO IT! ” The old nails in my old palms, the length of fog curling against my lungs, in my nose and against me, and an ancient magic curling through everything I know. “Break him, break IT, I WANT to. Let me rip. Let me vent. Let me burn – let me drown – let me evaporate – let me do aaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll of the hurting you’re just too fucking soft to take care of.”
I look at the fallen books, smile softly, look at the mirror, broken and hanging in the air. Reassemble, I ask my room and things snap back into place. The fog pulls back, coalesces in front of me, solid, solid, more real, less water, more woman, less condensation, more skin – until she’s there. Naked, and ever so slightly violet-hued, black hair like mine, brown skin like mine, blood lips, but everything else tighter narrower harder, her whole body an arrow, her smile, a dagger.
“It’s nice to see you,” I say softly, a little helplessly. “It – ”
“Oh did I serve you well?” She asks, sneeringly, somehow ahead of me in thought, in words. Outside the sun is bright, the river is calm. We are maybe not having the same conversation.
“It was nice to…feel powerful,” I said softly. She wrinkles her nose, scoffs. I lick my lips; I try to explain. “I can’t actually – let you, you know that right?”
She cackles again, her mouth opening unnaturally wide, and in it, I can see the whole universe, the earth, myself and every moment.
“What did you want, softie?” She asks, mockingly, lazily, hand behind her head, leaning back against nothing at all, ankles crossed against the air. She twirls like that, reminding me of The Exorcist, a slow strange circle in a witch’s log cabin. “What did you fucking want? Why did you call me, hmm? This is all I offer! Stone and bone and witch and blood and hunt and blade! ”
“It’s just… nice to see you. That’s all – it’s nice to know you’re there and it’s nice to…to talk, and I… I just like having you around – you know, not – like not all the time, just sometimes…I like getting to know you. You’re – ” I trail off as I see her laughing soundlessly, entire body shaking so hard she’s holding her stomach, her eyes tearing up in humor.
“You stupid, soft idiot bitch,” she says, finally, straightening up and staring at me, hands on her hips. Yet she says it not unkindly. It’s the kind of thing you tell yourself. She scoffs again and spells it out: “That jumble of bullshit is exactly what he wants from you. Anyway, me, I can do nothing for you but put on a fun show – was that enough, dumbass?”
And then she is gone, suddenly and swiftly. No need to wait for a reply, I guess. I smile and feel myself in my broken mirror smile too, the reflection stare at the back of my head.
How well she knows what she can give, Rage.
How quickly she leaves when there is nothing for her, that River Witch, that Stone Lady.
Rage is never the witch I allow to consume me, possess me, live in me, become me.
But I’ve never met a witch more ruthless with her magic, more clear, more exacting, more sharp with her boundaries and her borders.
She knows who she is.
“Thanks for making me feel strong,” I say to the empty room.
Outside, the waters are still.