Always Bad

She’s never been that strong. That’s strong. She’s changed hands, changed fortunes; a tarot card with a papercut. Thin enough to hold between your fingers. People like that about her. People like a lot of things about her that she doesn’t like about herself. She likes to cut her bangs low so they cover her third eye, because she’s magic, man. And sometimes they call her a prophet: she knows what they want, when they want it. If she wanted she could take all your bones out, pull them apart like plastic. Sometimes she does that, just to see if they’ll melt. She’s fascinated by fire. It can be so thin and so full in different places, a fed beast. And she’s intrigued by that. Warm and comforting until you want to hold it. Don’t hold it. She lets people hold her and she doesn’t like that about herself. She doesn’t really like anything anymore, come to think of it. Anymore, at least, that’s true. Sometimes when people yell at her she makes them disappear in the yard out back. They say natural burial is the best way to kill your darlings. She’d like that, maybe. To be buried as a flower, even, or a small black cat. A kitten, warm and soft and finally asleep. When she says her eyes are brown she means that they’re golden, that they’re slits like an animal’s. Like an animal’s. She can make people disappear, at least. Death is another way of coming apart. And sometimes she burns them when she’s too poor to buy fire, watches. When she cooks they inspect vinegar jars like they’re full of newt eyes. I won’t eat this poison, they say, and she says that’s all she’s making for dinner tonight. Don’t talk to her. She’s never been that strong, not really. She could hang on a cross like Christ if she wanted to and it wouldn’t make her any more righteous. She thinks it’s time to put the match out: witches get burned.

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