Thursday, April 30, 2015

Flash Fiction: Witch's Duel at High Noon

There's not been much fiction here as of late. This one is a trifle, entirely inspired by a single image. My sympathies are usually with the witch (witches get an undeserved bad reputation), but sometimes a young witch isn't very nice, and sometimes those with more traditional faith deserve our respect and love.


Sister Amanda had little against witches. Perhaps it's because - before she came here to the city -  she'd grown up in the country, among the empty places between moonlit crossroads. The kind of place where if you had a baby to be born or a sick sheep or a pain in your bowels you'd best be friends with the old, wise woman living by herself. The one who grew the herbs with magickal-sounding names, the one who always kept an open bowl of salt near her windowsill, for reasons unknown. Even before she'd taken her orders, before the hours spent in prayer and meditation, Amanda had the trick of mindfulness. She saw the sprig of mistletoe crushed between gnarled fingers, heard the whispers in a tongue older than the very hills in which she lived. Was the old woman whispering the names of demons, or a secret name of God? Amanda had never asked her but, years later she looked back at the well-birthed babies and easing of little pains she knew that the crone had done God's work.

No, Sister Amanda had little against witches.

Most of the time.

There was little question that this witch - the one who called herself Perdita - didn't care for the Lord's work. She'd seemed at first like so many other disaffected youth - all black leather, badly died hair, cheap tattoos.  An inverted crucifix clearly meant to shock, but evoking nothing but pity. She'd be another lost soul for whom to say prayer if not for the words Sister Amanda overheard. Gutteral, primitive speech from the back of her throat, a language older than the hills on which the city was built. On a bright spring day, she heard the girl whisper, saw the blood-red petals on the season's first tulips  whither and fall to the ground.

Sister Amanda had little against witches, but she'd not let this vile creature leech from  her city its beauty.

She'd grown up in the country, where one learned to respect and listen to the old wise-women. Grown up with old stories about old rules. She prayed long and hard on the matter, but with little doubt as to how the spirit would guide her. Following old customs, the challenge was made, the challenge accepted. How this was done - or how so many spectators found out about the coming duel - mattered not.

At high noon, Sister Amanda arrived at the park, her weapons rattling comfortably against eachother in the worn canvas backpack. Before her stood the young witch, in battered black and bad tattoos, a yew branch in one hand, a silver knife in the other.

Shoulders hunched forward, Perdita muttered the ancient words it had cost her so much to learn, felt the vibrance of the young spring day flow into her body, felt color fading from the flowering plants around her.

Sister Amanda drew her weapons - three bright-painted clubs, red green and blue, their handles worn smooth by decades of use. They flashed in the sunlight as she threw and caught, threw and caught criss-crossing in the ancient cascade pattern. Reflected sunlight blinkflashed the eyes of spectators and tourists with their cameraphones and smiling faces and laughing eyes.

Perdita's chanting faded behind the noise of an increasingly attentive crowd as, all around them, the flowers returned to bloom.
Image by Karen Buryiak


No comments:

Post a Comment