ANother short sketch, this time opening with a bit of dialog. With a witch.
The image is again anonymous; I'll be sure to credit them when credit is available. If you know to whom it belongs, feel free to let me know.
"Again? This is the fifth night in a row."
"I need to unwind, honey. It's been a bitch of a week in the office. I'll be just outside."
A long pause, "OK, but we have to talk about this."
The nights are cool, not yet cold. Too cool by far for my wife to want to sit outside after sunset, but not that cool that I can't take a sweater and my cigar and last month's New Yorker outside, to the edge of the wood. My wife hates cigar-smoke in the house, hates the cold. Hates lots of things. So I've taken to enjoying a brief evening sojourn by the wood.
Truth be told, it isn't much of a wood, but there are trees and moonlight here in suburbia, what would have been an enchanted forest populated with dragons, witches, highwaymen when I was a boy. They're nice, straight, tall pine trees, but not connected to the famous pine-barrens. Perhaps they were some time in the distant past, but now it's just enough to inflate the property value just a bit, and to keep us from seeing our back-fence neighbors. Like I was saying, when I was a boy there'd be dragons, witches, highwaymen. Perhaps other things. Now I'm a man. The dragons have long since flown away, the highwaymen dragged off to their just rewards.
The witches have grown up.
I carefully cut the tip of my cigar, light it and draw deep. The night-air is cool, turning to cold, but that's OK. I hold the smoke in my lungs, breathing in fire. If you hold the smoke in your lungs just right and sort of click it out a bit at a time in measured gasps with your lips tightened just right into an o you can blow a perfect smoke-ring. Nobody knows save the witches, but I practice them out here sometimes, watching them drift upward to ring the moon before they melt away into the cool night air.
The witches haven't really grown up. There's just one, sometimes two. She dances in the moonlight, of course, arms all outstretched and wild like a marionette operated by a puppeteer who hasn't yet learned how to make his charges feel natural. The rest of her looks natural.
She sometimes moves close enough to the edge of the wood for me to see her, dancing that awkward dance. Skyclad. That's a lovely word, isn't it? and a lovely sight, her pale flesh illuminated by clear silver moonlight and the halogen glare of backyard floods jostled to life by a raccoon or stray cat running past the motion sensors. This is, after all, suburbia.
There is no darkness.
She's not quite naked; over her face is a bone-white masque, paler even than the milk-white flesh of firm high breasts, of tightly muscled buttocks never touched by the sun. I've watched her since midsummer, her with her dance and me with my smokerings. The Dragon and the Witch, together in the enchanted wood.
I'm sure that she knows I watch, I'm sure that she dances here because I'm here, the dragon to her witch, a ring of smoke to the fairy ring in which she dances. I'm sure that I've seen her in the neighborhood without her masque, perhaps at the bus-stop, perhaps the grocery store. I'm sure I've seen her because the world is a small one, but at night she wears the masque always. I'd not recognize her wearing her true face.
A brief moment or hour or eternity later she dons a white gown and vanishes into the wood, not to be seen until the next night. My fingers lazily circle the stub of my cigar, bringing it to my lips for one more deep draw of dragonsmoke and magic before I stub it out, letting the chill soak into my lungs before I turn and walk inside.
Perhaps someday I'll go to her, follow her, dance with her. Until then I'll douse the flame at the end of each night.
Until then, the dragon sleeps.
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