The Witch of Illinois

It’s not easy being a sorceress of the arcane in this hexagonal land, with its pizza parlors and its seismologists. First problem: I required a toad. This would take work. It would not do to hunt one down the fens.

I strangled my gentleman lover. I buried him with crown of sawgrass, fava beans in mouth. Paddock appeared that evening, squat atop the cold grave-clay. Paddock has tiny eyes, dead like agates. He can see through the cracks between Now-it-isn’t and Never-was. What’s on the other side stares back.

Cooking down my Philtre of Loathing. Trying to concentrate. A school bus goes down the road by my house. Peals of merry laughter. This dust and noise. I do not wish death upon these moppets; death will find them as it chooses. As for the bus, may its tires go flat, its pistons crack.

A proper witch needs a cat. The Humane Society has them, perhaps? Won’t do. I don’t fill out “paperwork.”

Thus did Malkin come to me: I set fire to the abandoned mall on the night of the wild winds. I tossed in the caul of a stillborn child, mouthed incantations to Azazel, Behiroth, Peg O’ The Heather. Returned home. Malkin was waiting for me in the cold ashes of the fireplace. Now here is a useful familiar. Malkin speaks the tongue of muttering spirits, they who live in the corners of walls that don’t meet. Nothing escapes her staring tourmalines. She warns me that Bifrons moves upon the shadows of the darkening October sky, that I must scatter bones of farrow slain at midmoon to appease Astaroth, he who avenges the rightfully hanged. But for Malkin’s advice, I wouldn’t know these things. I was never able to get my hands on the right books. They’re out of print and cost rather a lot.

The mail’s here. Publishers’ Clearing House. AARP. Get Rich Quick. Look Years Younger.

Weak magic. I scorn it.

Pentecostal youth at my door. Flee from the wrath to come, Ma’am.

I am that wrath, boy. I am the devil ye seek. Church picnic? No thanks. Come to the graveyard where the dogwood creaks, we’ll talk there.

Death-caps grow round my house in a ring. Grind them into fairy-cakes, invite local moms to tea.

Each night brings a different moon, each moon has its song, its tint of torchfire. Green flame for the Wine Moon, a ballad of burned moths. White tongues for the Huntsman’s Moon, a chanson of predatory vigor. Fox tooth on crake’s neck, curdling call of wolves over the snow.

The landlord comes sniffing around. “Why this smell of death, my lady? Why holes in yard, dead hen next to telephone? Painting bloody pentagrams on plaster? Not in your lease.” He will bloom with cancer when the Bee Moon wanes.

The rhythms of this barbarous age pulse outside my walls. Thrice the vacuum-cleaner salesman hath knocked. Thrice and once the crossing guard cried aloud. I move in sinister geometries. Do not ask me to join Friends of the Library, the PTA. Tonight is St. Wistow’s Eve. Paddock calls, anon.

I hear police sirens in the distance. Villagers these days have moved beyond pitchforks and torches. Yes, soon it will be time to sleep beneath the frost, until this mad world has forgotten me once more.

A cerise nightgown, a candle of human wax, the bitter and triumphant winter stars.

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