She lies on her side by the riverbank,and looks up at me lazily. Looking at her is like looking at a far off building on a hot day; the air around her is melting but her eyes are cool stone. “Did that feel good?” She asks.
“Yes,” I say, softly. My body feels like something electric, humming in the wind like a drone about to fall out of the sky. I am talking to the witch named Rage. The naked witch. The witch who needs no protection. The witch who does not have a single fuck to give. The witch who has been the only one to slip into my bones like no other, moved my mouth into words like no other witch can.
When Rage is in me, I am her, and no one else.
“Good. You needed that,” she says, glancing across the river at some unknown target.
“I’m exhausted,” I say. I just spent a day screaming at a man. A whole day. Seven hours. A work day. I wonder what kind of occupation that would be – and who would pay the money to fund a position where a woman gets to scream at a man. Probably some rich Lean In executive type of woman, disgruntled by the World. Beyonce maybe, in secret. Rihanna, maybe publicly. Rekha, that actress who boasted a sindoor though unmarried, would gleefully let it slip in an interview. Maybe no one. Maybe it’s not the kind of position that’s paid in money, only in favours, backroom dealings.
Rage laughs, curls her toes into the mud by the riverbank, like a little girl at the beach. “Well you are only human – of course you’re tired – but a good tired – like after seven hours of jogging, or seven hours of focused studying, or seven hours of straight fucking – that’s what it’s like.”
She’s right. That is what it’s like. An insane rush followed by an exhausted peace. An earned peace. This time, it was like that and lately, she and I have been on good terms. But I remember a time when Rage and I did not get along so well.
“You really hurt me a few years ago,” I say quietly.
“I know,” she says. Her voice carries no trace of apology. I wonder if she can apologize. A witch like Rage may not really feel such a thing as regret, or apology, or sadness.
I want to ask why but I realise I already know the answer. I had to know the answer before being on such good terms with her now, today, in the present.
“I didn’t let you fight for me,” I say, with equal lack of apology. I realise suddenly there will never be the question of apology between Rage and me. She is. She lets me be. I let her be. We let each other be. There is something magnificently freeing about that.
“No, you didn’t, and I had to go somewhere. I had to be somewhere, in someone. It wasn’t easy for me either, eating away at you from the inside. I’d rather eat him – all the hims, all the hes, all the ones in your way – any day,” she says, a glint in her eye. A cackle erupts from her throat – it’s neither bitter nor mean. She’s gleeful. Clean. A clean Rage. A perfect Rage.
Left to her, she would obliterate the bridge and all surrounding islands. An ocean on fire. But that’s the problem too. When Rage is there, none of the other witches have a voice. I don’t even have a voice. I feel how she turns my tongue into a forked thing, a whip that cleanly severs people from their bullshit, and yes, sometimes their dignity.
“But have you ever regretted anything I’ve done?” Rage asks me.
The answer is surprising, even to me. “No,” I say. “Shouldn’t I, though? You – you’ve hurt a lot of people, I think.”
Rage smiles, leans back on her elbows. Her body is a sword. I cannot look at her without thinking of weapons. She looks like an ancient carving. A Goddess made of rock, shaped by water, standing guard at the river. Stone Witch. River Witch.
“Yes, I have” she says, and looks at me with her cat-eyes, a predator’s eyes:
“But they hurt you first.”