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
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation 13. Memory and Mudbaths
16. OtherSide 18. Pillow Talk With God 19. She, Named E
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 follow the sound of arpeggios across a harp, until I find BeingLovedAgain. She is sitting by the riverbank, in long plum purple harem pants, and a cardigan to match. There’s no t shirt or bra, and I see faint scars criss crossing across her chest. “It’s rude to stare, you know” she says mildly, staring across the water and skipping stones across its surface. I notice every time the stone touches the water, a note arcs through the air.
“I’m glad you’re healing,” I say, finding a patch of grass beside her. Stones sing across the river, and she reaches to tuck her hair behind her ear. Another scar along her temple. I wonder if she is showing me on purpose. I see the scar is slowly, slowly fading, and she is slowly, slowly smiling. “So, would it work if I did that?” I ask, gesturing to the stones in her hand.
“Only one way to find out,” she says lazily. I search for a flat stone. Something suitable for skipping. The air is serene and I can hear crickets in the distance, chirping like little birds.
“Tell me something,” I say, trying to decide between a pink stone and a black stone. “Why haven’t I met Hate, yet?”
“You’ve met Hate,” she says flatly, immediately.
“When?” I ask. “Is she Rage, the witch with many names? I know I called her Anger and the Stone Lady, and the River Witch – is she also Hate?”
“No, Hate is a place. Like Hel. Like Hades.” She is talking about the graveyard side of my heart, and I remember the way my heart would be garden-like some days, cemetery-like on others. For many many days – years – it was a cemetery every day. “You were living in Hate for a long time when you met Love,” she explains, turning to look at me.
“So Love is a witch, but Hate is a place?” I ask. I don’t like it. There is a dissonance there. “Shouldn’t Love be a place too then?”
BeingLovedAgain tilts her head, her gaze still trained on me. “Have you seen Love around these days?” She asks.
“No,” I say, shocked. I haven’t. I haven’t talked to her in months.
Still looking at me, BeingLovedAgain flicks a stone across the water. A harp sings.
“Of course you have,” she insists. “Look around. What is this place?” A river as wide as the amazon, calm and still. Fish circling in the depths. Water gurgling in nearby brooks. Trees casting shade. A midnight sun hanging in the sky beside a moon. Silver trees with leaves made of glass paper. Squirrels and chipmunks and other animals burrowing for winter. Snow that isn’t frigid. Sand that doesn’t get everywhere. She chuckles. “You’re in Love.”
“Not what it felt like any other time I’ve been in love” I admit.
“No, not in love. In Love. A place.” She sweeps the air with her arm. “Congratulations. This is it. Paradise. Love. Serenity. Peace. Whatever you want to call it, this is it. Earlier… you were having trouble reaching this place. So Love came to you as a witch because she needed a voice because it would have been pretty weird to hear a disembodied voice speaking at you, right? Something tells me you wouldn’t have enjoyed that at all.”
“Is this why people pray?” I ask suddenly.
She laughs. “People pray for all kinds of stupid reasons. Never doubt people’s capacity to fuck up even the most basic concept on the planet. But yeah, if they do it right, Love answers.”
“And so… after I’m here, She…is everywhere?” I ask, amazed.
“More or less. The earth feels solid here, right? The garden doesn’t have another side anymore. The crust of the earth isn’t thin, isn’t some portal to the Otherside, Cemeteryside. The single grave that was here – well you took care of that. This place is…is life. Life. But,” she hesitates. “that doesn’t mean the work is done. First of all, the chances of a wormhole like that occurring again is very rare – I don’t think you will ever invert your heart again like that. You are building something sacred here, and that helps. But, I said rare, not impossible. So that is the first thing you must be vigilant of. The second thing -” she stops abruptly, and I think I know why. I feel a soft whisper that I don’t like in the trees and the temperature dips suddenly in a way I don’t like. In a way that feels… unkind. There is a sudden darkness, as though we are in an eclipse. This is not the magical darkness under moonlight or the playful darkness of shadows under sunlight.
BeingLovedAgain stays silent. She sits and closes her eyes, reaches for a stone and skips it across the water. It sinks. She does it again, knuckles tight, and it skips, but there is no music. A third time, and there, a few muffled tones. An out of tune piano. A muffled harpsichord. I see a thin line of blood bloom under her clavicle and my eyes widen. “N-no,” I say. Her eyes fly open. I grab a stone and send it skimming across the water, and notes fly out, strong and sure and a wall of sound, a harp the size of a redwood.
She stays looking at me with unblinking eyes, and brushes away the red brushstroke across her chest with her middle finger. She dips the scarlet stained tip between her lips. A snake tongue slithers out and I see her small vampire fangs lengthen and turn pink as they drink blood. Sunlight and moonlight, a comfortable twilight, returns like a warm summer evening. She smiles and blinks, and there is no scar, but her voice sounds tired, hoarse when she speaks. “As I was saying: the second thing is that Love came as a witch to you in a place called Hate. But now you are in a place called Love. You know what this means don’t you?”
I swallow hard and look across the river at islands I do not know, unknown landscapes of my garden heart.
“Will I meet Hate, as a witch, here if she wants to…to speak to me?”
BeingLovedAgain smiles sadly, and shrugs. “Who knows?” she says. “Maybe. Probably.”
“That was Fear, wasn’t it?” I ask. “A second ago.”
“I thought she cannot exist where Love exists,” I say. “And this is Love, so how – ?”
BeingLovedAgain purses her lips. “It’s the way we’re talking about Hate,” she says, finally. “When you name a thing with…Fear, you give it strength and power over you. When you name a thing with Love, it’s…different.”
“I don’t know how to talk about Hate without Fear,” I say.
“They do tend to go hand in hand,” BeingLovedAgain says, wryly. “But… I think we’re already doing it, sort of. Right now.”
I am silent and staring across the calm water. I skip a stone and she sings. I skip a stone harder, and there is still music. My jaw is tight. Harder – and it sinks. I wait. The stone suddenly comes whizzing back, lands like a dart in treebark between me and BeingLovedAgain.
“You want to watch it with that,” I hear a sharp voice echoing under the water. The River Witch.
“How am I supposed to fight Hate?” I ask BeingLovedAgain, but she is asleep against the tree, stomach rising and falling gently. She’s exhausted, I think.
“Rage?” I call out tentatively.
I hear a laugh, a chuckle. “You know I can’t help you in that fight. But BeingLovedAgain is right. Hate can visit you, if you let her, call for her. Think of it like stones. Make music not war, silly girl,” her voice is like a lazy bend around the river. “And if a witch called Rage is telling you to avoid war, well you might want to take it at least a little seriously.”
“You can’t help me.” I say. “Is that a riddle? Are you saying you will help Hate, not me?”
But I already know the answer.
“Maybe!” Rage chuckles. “It all depends, you see.”
“On what?” I ask.
But I see the flash of a metal tail move like a machine snake under the water, and she is gone.