“Exciting times we’re living in,” she says through her lips, closed around a cigarette butt. She cups her hand around it, touches the end of it with a finger. Flame. Of course the witch named Rage would be able to start fires in a forest. I see her smirk through her cupped hands.
“Very funny. You’re really fucking some shit up, you know that?” I say, staring across the water. Rage sits next to me, taking a long drag on a cigarette. She balances her arm across a knee and looks at me, breathes smoke deliberately into my face.
“You know I’m not everyone’s Rage, right?” she says, casually flicking the ashy end of the cigarette. They land in the grass beside her. She stares at me directly. “I’m just yours.”
“That’s really bad for your lungs, ” I say.
“Honey,” She laughs. “I’m really bad for your lungs. Ha! ha haha!”
“I’m asthmatic,” I say nasally. She cackles, and then is silent. I’ve grown used to her nakedness. Rage would be naked after all, uncloaked and unashamed. Behind us, the forest is quiet and dark. In the river, the sun and moon hang below, reflected from the strange sky of my garden.
“Not-so-little witch,” she says, grinning. “Many times you have come to me, asking What do you want from me?! I think it’s my turn to ask you now. What is it that you want from me?”
I smile, because for once, I have the answer. “Maybe I want nothing,” I say calmly. A whip-poor-will calls nearby.
Her eyes widen and she bursts out laughing. “Nothing? Not even . . . this?” She asks slyly. She holds my ankle and I feel it start as we lock gazes. The river beside us suddenly feels more solid, and from the corner of my eye, I see the water harden into a translucent stone slab. But I am different now, and I smile back at her, and she laughs. When we both look down, I see a patch of my foot has turned grey stone, but brown skin still surrounds it.
“Stone Lady no more, then?” she laughs, taking her hand away. The stone in my ankle dissolves into flesh again.
I shake my head and hold up my hand. The tips of my fingers slowly turn grey, and stone travels down to my wrist. The stone river dissolves again, and a sturgeon moves swiftly in its depths. “Stone Lady at will,” I say. I turn to her and am sincere. “Maybe I want to say thank you,” I tell her seriously. “Thank you for the Stone Spell.” The creeping stone halts in my hands and dissolves again into flesh.
“There you go,” she says, tilting her chin at me in a sign of respect. “Ah you really don’t need me anymore!” She says leisurely, taking a long drag and leaning back against the tree.
“Maybe I do,” I say. “Not in the old way, where you . . . turned me. But like this. Conversation. Insight.”
She pauses. “You know,” she says thoughtfully. “Insight is a word witches are very familiar with. Insight. True Sight. Second Sight. The Sight. Seeing. Scrying.” She turns her hand in front of me, and a small flame appears. “But what we see is never perfectly true. Maybe this is because there is no perfect truth. Tell me, what do you see?”
“Power,” I say finally. Her smile looks a little sad. I ask her: “But they never have it, do they? Not really. Do you notice that by the time you arrive for most people . . . by the time you turn them into fire or stone or water or air, the damage is . . . is already done? That they’re exhausted after? That you take over them? That they’re mindless in it?”
“People let me in like that . . . after the fact because . . . they need me,” Rage admits. “Or well, they sure need something. But vengeance will never feel as powerful as never needing me. It’s a rare skill to just talk to me like this, to share knowledge. You could say it takes . . . some insight. The ones who master the Stone Spell or the Fire Spell or the Air Spell or the Water Spell – whichever resonates with them first – they are the only ones to talk to me like this, on a riverbank.”
“So then, maybe that is what this feeling is,” I say, carefully. “I feel . . . equal in strength to you because I am finally able to have this conversation with you.”
She laughs and shakes her head, and for the first time, I see a strange soft light in her eyes.
“No, little witch,” she says, taking a last drag. “You are much, much stronger.”
She gets up, flicks away her cigarette, and in one smooth motion dives cleanly into the water under the strange sky with its sun and moon casting shadows across the water and her body as she disappears under the surface.
I feel tears for some reason prick in the corner of my eyes as I watch her leave. I lift my hands and close my eyes, and watch as I turn them to stone and back to skin. Stone Spell. I wave them in the air and watch as little flames appear in my hand, warm and ticklish, and extremely real. Fire Spell. In the water, I see them burning bright inside my eyes. I breathe cold air to put them out and stare across the water to the bank on the other side. Air Spell. I pass my hand over the river from right to left, and watch as ripples glide effortlessly across the surface in the direction of my hand.
I tilt my head and take a step into the water, feeling gently rocked and buffeted by the liquidy rubbery molasses-like surface.
But it holds.
* * *
This piece is one in a chronological series.
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
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation 13. Memory and Mudbaths
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
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A naked brown femme is illustrated, sitting on a large tree stump. One leg is crossed in front of her, providing some privacy. She has long black hair, large mischievous eyes, and a big grin and is holding a lit cigarette. There are rocks on the ground around her, some foliage behind that, sand, and then flowing water. Large green leaves frame a rock wall that's just past the stream.
Nifel is a Mexican trans artist who works as the head of cultural development at her city council and freelances as an illustrator. As an illustrator, she focuses on drawing people of color and takes inspiration in the folklore of her country. She can be found at twitter as @thenifel and is always open for commissions.
Kshyama is a writer at nuance, a publication featuring first gen, second gen (im)migrant youth. She lives in Toronto and works in the field of HIV/AIDS and sexual health. She writes at Kshyama's Attic, which you can find on facebook or wordpress. She is super excited to publish through Rest for Resistance.