Magic makes a maniacal meandering out of existence. Distorts up from down, body from ceiling, life from death. One woman’s dust is another domicile’s grout. Do you like the tea? It’s Earl Grey. It was the silver that did it, you see. The shoes. Witchery is like fire, can’t be contained just here or there. It blows, catches, burns. Can’t douse it outright, only fan it along. Now, tell me, are you booksmart? Lettered? There’s lots and lots about us, I’m told. Memoirs, tales, rumours. Scholars, even. You’ve never noticed though, have you? A witch and a house. Always. Ginger-enticement and her. Zephyred farmhouse and me. Now this: Chicken-Legs and Baba. Put a stop to us and we go on to the next place. On and on. Cursed Sequence, we first thought. Now, we think it’s balance. Can’t have roses without thorns, after all. Only, last go of it I conjured up them poxy shoes before the house fell on me. Confounded myself to inbetweenness. To this. Never try to spell by proxy! A conscious construction isn’t something I would wish on anyone. Well, except her. She’s enjoying it too much. Seeing me hump her worldly belongings around mountains, marshes and moors. Let me tell you something about witches - heck, people - they don’t clean their houses. Not really. Not like they say. I have mites in my attic, rats in my cellar, and mould in my plaster. I used to like mould. Made death-maps out of it. I don’t think I will anymore. Have you finished your tea? Sugar? No. Don’t be silly. Here, sit down. Hold tight. Let’s go for a walk. Tighter than that, you fool. There. There. Now we’re moving. Them the Carpathian Mountains. Dagger-woods we used to call them. More tourists than birch, these days. Easy prey, though. Baba’s there, you know. Air-skating close to the forest floor, playing silly with their peripheries. Herding and hunting. Your parents are out there, too. Probably hollering fierce into the canopies, yowling bloody ‘napper. Probably. It’s the moving, see. Captivates the unready. I just walk on in, go round in a circle, settle myself and you come. You always come. I think it’s the bleed that does it - the natural-unnatural of me. I belong but I don’t. I enigmatize you. Throw up question marks in those tiny catskulls of yours. I understand. Living in wood, being living-wood, opens minds. I’m a light in the cemetery that you can’t quite turn away from, can’t stop yourself from muddying your boots to look upon. You’re not the first. Oh, now. Here. Here is something pleasing. Bathory bathed in that clearing. Once. The moonlight made the virgins blood black. It ran down her back like greedy fingers. Like unfurling wings. Baba held a candle for her, you see. Was there at the sentencing. Witches do cry. They do. You don’t ever want them to. But they do. Baba was reckless then, a scullery maid playing innocent for the great Countess. Smitten by sensation. Do you know about crocodile tears? They make great poison. My, is that the time. Red means bed means dead. Look! No, the other window. Doesn’t it look like fire. Doesn’t it look grand. I’m not allowed to use the oven. She’s afraid it’ll happen again. Sunset is all I get. Sunset and athlete’s foot. That tea finished yet? You don’t like tea?! But it’s Earl Grey. Satan Below you’re a fickler. Hold still, now. I’m setting myself down again. Move over to the left. More. More. OK, stop. No candles, so we need as much of that gloaming as we can get. Yes, we. I’m dead on my legs with all this. Do you know what it’s like being a house? Always being thrown open, slammed, trod on. Dreadful, it is. I’m done. Always kiddies that do it, see. That’s why you’re here. Why I lured you from your breeders. See, Baba will be back soon and I want you to kill her. Start a new cycle. Set me off again. Let me be the witch. She might get you, sure, she does like stringy ones too. Uses the gristle to brush her tooth. Still, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Another thing about being a house: awful boring. You really do see things differently when they can stain your balding carpet. Now, listen close: the thing about magic is it is maniacal and silver and see-through, malicious and sinister and uncertain, malevolent and silly and all a pack of lies. I have a whole room of the latter. So, how do you kill a witch? Feed her what she wants with a little extra crocodile. How’s that tea?
About the Author: Ashley Bullen-Cutting is a creative-critical English Literature PhD candidate at The University of Sheffield. His poetry and prose has featured in over a dozen journals. He is the current fiction editor of the 2020 Route 57 special ‘Traces’ and a contributing editor at Barren Magazine.