Friday Fiction: Witch of the Woods, Part 5

Rafia sat at my table, silent and sullen. She had finished husking the ground cherries and was now shredding the papery casings.

“I hope you plan to sweep the floor when you are done littering it,” I said.

She looked up, her face pinched. “Today is the autumn equinox,” she said.

“Is it?” The leaves were starting to turn, and the air tasted crisp and sweet rather than wet and loamy. “And so?” Continue reading

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Friday Fiction: Witch of the Woods, Part 4

I very nearly lost my temper with the alderman. For all his self-important pomp, he knew nothing of the dark things that hide in the corners of the world. As thoroughly nonmagical as his daddy and his daddy’s daddy and his daddy’s daddy before him, he had the luxury of pretending such things as Shadow-Spinners were the domain of folktales; never mind that folktales all have their roots in truth. I told him what I needed, but I could see disbelief and reluctance written in the creases of his frown.

In the end it was the women who convinced him; their mothers had told them about me. The Witch in the Woods, who could cure ills and grant favors. Get a child or lose one, though that they spoke of only in whispers. It was rarely enough they came to see me these days, but they remembered. And so they had brought all the children to the town hall bedded them down together. Spinners wish to feed on the young, for their blood is sweeter. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Witch of the Woods, Part 3

“Two pinches of antimony — no more, it’s very poisonous — what on earth are you doing?” I paused, spoon hovering over the bowl. Rafia was scratching at her arm again.

“It’s nothing, Maret. Just a bug bite.”

“Bah. Not just a bug bite, or you wouldn’t be scratching that arm raw. Let me see it.” I set down the antimony and rounded the table.

Reluctantly, Rafia held out the arm for me to look at. I took it in my hands, turned it over. “Aiee, girl! When did this appear?” Two red and raised bumps, with dark lines radiating out along her branching veins: a Shadow-Spinner bite.

Rafia was talking, something about checking on the goats last night and finding the bite this morning. I was not really listening. A Shadow-Spinner was stalking my village, and I hadn’t known. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Witch of the Woods, Part 2

My life, which for so long had traveled along the same well-worn tracks, soon took on an entirely different rhythm. For six days of the week I puttered around much as I always had: feeding and milking Goat, tending to my garden, grumbling at the state of the cottage. On the seventh day, I abused the little girl.

She was a hard worker, I would give her that. I gave her every chore I could think of, and she did them without complaint; she even came up with some herself. Early in the morning she would come down the path, rubbing sleep from her eyes; she worked all day with the exception of half an hour for the lunch she brought in her basket; just as the bugs were beginning to come out in the evening she made her way back home. She left just as exhausted as she had come: after a day full of fetching and carrying and cleaning, her little arms were barely able to lift her basket. But as successful as my attempts to tire her out were in the physical realm…they did nothing at all to stop her talking. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Witch of the Woods, Part 1

The spider was taunting me. It sat, fat and gloating, in the center of the web that encompassed the entire corner over the sink. Every morning its tendrils stretched just a bit farther; every morning I contemplated taking up the broomstick and clearing it out.

I hadn’t done it yet. What was the point? I’d get halfway through and have to stop, bones aching or out of breath, and the damn spider would have it up again by morning.

“Bah.” I let my frustration out in a puff of air. “So I won’t look at the spider.” Continue reading