Susan's Blog

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Lonely Witch

Near a small village where the river flowed into a deep narrow valley lived a young witch woman with hair as black and as long as a winter’s night. She lived with a cat the color of smoke, in a curious house painted a strange blue such as no one had ever seen before in this village of brick huts. Though the woman was a witch, the people were not afraid of her, for she had never set an evil spell in anyone’s memory. She made music, and she made magic. Her music was sweet and high pitched, like the hum of honeybees. And the only magic she practiced was making potions for the townspeople’s ills. If someone had a sleeping sickness or the ague, or a broken foot, the witch would retreat to her little blue house, shut her vine-covered door and then a few moments later she would return, producing for them a glass ampule full of some magic liquid, and with a few words of instruction, she’d send them gratefully on their way.

The witch was called May, for that was when she could be seen most often, gathering herbs and bits and pieces of animal leavings, bones, fur, and fewmets. She could be found staring intently at the sunny sky, or the stars at night, scribbling odd notations and jumping up and down with joy as she solved some strange puzzle that only she could know about.

Though May was a young woman, she was always alone because of her strange ways. There had been a young man or two who had dared venture to her door, seeking her company, but she had never answered their knock. A few bold children would call to her to come and watch their games, for they were young and intrigued by the idea of a witch. But she would remain inside. Only the townswomen would be allowed inside but just the doorway, and only when they sought her help.

It was said that May did not like people, but this was not the truth. May was very lonely and wanted a friend, but she could not be in the company of children or the townsmen. Everytime they drew near, she would have the most powerful pain in her head, and she would have to stay very still and think of nothing until they went away. There were no unguents or potions she could make to soothe this pain.

Each year in the late spring May would venture forth into her deep valley and fill her apron and her heart with the bounty of the earth. The newborn animals and the fresh seedlings were her only friends.

One particular spring, the sun did not show its face at all. The rains fell day after day, turning the grassy meadows into mud, and causing the young plants to droop and grow soggy. May’s heart ached more than ever with loneliness for she had to stay indoors during her favorite time of year. Finally she grew so weak and tired that she sought the help of her book of enchantments. Thumbing through the gilt-edged dusty pages she searched for something that would help. She came across an entry labeled “Life Force,” and she read the words. The Life Force spell was the most powerful of spells, and May had never known anyone to use it. But the spell told her that Life Force could be summoned in the most dire of times, by only the most skilled of witches, and it would bring to life something that had never drawn breath. It could not revive a dead soul nor could it keep a dying person alive, but it could create a life.

There was one condition to the Life Force spell: once this life was created, there would then come another being, someone who would need tender care the rest of their life. The spell book did not say anything else about this child, but May decided she would take the chance nevertheless. How she would tolerate the voice of a child? She knew not the answer. She would have terrible pain the rest of her life. But the pain in her heart was even greater, so she felt she could accept this condition.

She looked around her room of bottles, vials, and beakers. They could not become a person. She studied her oaken casks, her black iron pot, her stove. Her cat was alive, and so he could not be changed.

Suddenly she cast her eyes on her violin. “Ah, this will be my friend,” for the violin already had a voice that brought a smile to her face. She corrected herself. “My husband.” Her head pounded in response, but she knew that this was the only way to ease her loneliness. She shut her eyes and she whispered the powerful sounds of the Life Force spell. She waited. Suddenly she heard a voice. But it was not the deep rumble of a man’s voice. It was a young woman who stood before her.

The woman was small, and delicately formed. She had hair the color of spring earth, and eyes the shade of lilac blossoms. “Hello, May,” She said, smiling. “I’m June.”

May’s heart leapt with joy. Women never brought her pain! She would have this beautiful friend and she would have no pain! How could this be?

As if hearing her thoughts, June said, “Yes, your heart summoned a woman spirit, a summer being, and so here I am. “

May wanted to fall on the floor laughing, and weeping with joy. For June’s voice was the sweetest sound she had ever heard, that of the birds awakening in their nests, in the pinkening sunrise. The music of wings in flight, of eggs hatching, of gentle breezes that shake rosebuds awake.

June pulled May into an embrace and May felt her strength return, like sap through a tree. When at last she lifted her head, she asked the question that made her heart ache: “Where is the other one? The babe?” Her voice shook because she was terrified of this, knowing the pain that would come.

But June said, “Come outside with me, even though the rains still fall, and we will search for him. Don’t be afraid,” She held out her hand and May followed. The outdoors was so wet that their boots sunk into the ground, which sucked and pulled at them. May’s cloak was wet through. June did not seem to notice her own soaked cape.

They heard a noise, the tiny chatter of small animals. Out from a log sprung the strangest creatures May had ever seen. They looked like mice, but had rabbit ears and deep fur. “Oh there are my friends,” exclaimed June. “What do you have to show me?”

The three creatures chattered a little more, and then ran away, deeper into the woods, stopping at a small cave. “Here?” June asked. The three creatures chattered some more and then darted off into the cave. May and June crept inside.

There sitting by a small underground spring, sat a young man. But as their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they could see that he was not actually a man, for he had elfin eyes and the legs of a pony. His body was long and thin, and they could see his bones through his delicate skin. He looked at them, shook his head, and a golden forelock fell forward between his frightened eyes. He opened his mouth and made a sound as soft as moss underfoot. May’s heart turned over.

June said, “He is lost and hungry, poor thing.”

“Oh, he is so darling,” whispered May.

June smiled.

May said, “But this can’t be –“

And June said, “Why not? He is all alone here, in desperate need of food, but he knows not what to do, because he is merely a colt.”

May said, “We must help him!” And she knelt to touch the tousled head. The creature made the sound again, but it was quieter this time, and he closed his eyes.

June said, “Let us take him home and we will make him well again.”

But May’s heart leapt in fear. “The townspeople. They will be afraid. They have likely never seen someone like him, a boy-colt.” June laid a finger across May’s lips and said, “It is of no consequence. He shall be ours.”

May was still filled with fear as they led their foundling back to the blue house. Almost immediately the townspeople learned of the strange creature in their midst, and of the stranger who had come to live with May. And they shook their heads because they did not know what to make of it.

But as the days grew warm again, and the sun came out, young women ventured out into the valley where May, June, and their foundling lived. The door still opened for the townswomen, and one by one, they would return home with their potion to heal whatever ill had come to their household. They could sometimes hear the soft whisper of the creature’s voice, but it only reminded them of the sounds of the forest, and it did not make them afraid.

In fact, some of the townspeople started to notice, out of the corner of their eye, other similar creatures cantering at the edge of the forest. At first some of the children would laugh and point, but there was something about the soft whinny from the colt-children that stopped their laughter. They could see that the colt-children were suffering, in pain, unable to feed themselves. How they had lived this long no one knew. The parents would take their children by the hand and creep closer to try and understand what the creatures were saying. They started leaving food and drink at the edges of the forest.

The creatures came around more often, bringing the sounds of quiet with them. Men, women, and children alike would find themselves relaxing, resting, and enjoying the world around them whenever the creatures came near. Some found that their sons and daughters refused to leave the creatures, delighting in their sounds and their large bright eyes.

Many families eventually took the creatures home with them and raised them as their own. And no one knew where the colt creatures had come from. Eventually the townspeople forgot that they once had not even existed.

Only June knew that they had likely always been there, perhaps in another form, waiting to be seen. For some beings can only been seen when the heart is truly ready to do so.