My Sister’s a Witch, or They’ll Always Find Someone to Come For
“There’s a lack of mystery in the air,” I remember you saying. It was an odd, poetical thing to articulate, but you were always a strange one.
You flipped over tarot cards and mumbled incantations. You said they were just words—hopes and wishes and things to ground yourself—but you once gasped when you saw the position of the moon.
I thought it was weird.
You dried herbs and grew the greenest plants. You had a cupboard filled with tiny bones and equally small bottles. You smiled a lot, and it all seemed a contradiction. Your pointed fingernails clicked against teacups as your long hair sat twisted in knots.
People looked at you sideways, and you didn’t care.
I did though. I cared a lot.
We grew up in a small town—an everyone knows everyone else type of place—and everyone certainly knew you: the witch. Which made me the witch’s sister, a moniker I didn’t ask for and did not appreciate. Still, you didn’t care.
You picked mushrooms and hummed songs and dreamed of the ocean. You baked bread and laughed and lived for yourself. You were happy even as I wilted in misery, wondering why you couldn’t just be like everyone else.
And, I’ll have you know, it was their idea—not mine. Although, at the time, it sounded like a good one.
We walked to the edge of the clearing, and by “we,” I mean my friends and me. And by “friends,” I mean the people I went to school with. We walked to the edge of the clearing and we watched your house. At first, we just looked at it, waiting for something to happen. But nothing did.
And I don’t know what they expected to see. You riding out on a broomstick? You returning with a baby clenched in your claws? You communing with Satan himself? I didn’t expect to see these things, but maybe they did.
(I already knew you didn’t eat babies. You didn’t even eat meat.)
You were hanging laundry on a sagging line when they set your house on fire. I say “they,” but I also mean “we.” And if I’m being honest, which I suppose I should be, by “we,” I mean “me.” But I’m sure you knew that. (You always seemed to know so much.) I threw the match that ended up catching. I threw it into a patch of dried-out lavender. Because I knew how fast it would burn.
And it did.
It burned your house down. It burned all your plants and it burned your cards and it destroyed everything you held dear. And that included me.
As the smoke mixed with the soggy, soupy air, I saw the look on your face. It was crisp and smooth like the flesh of an apple, but sad. Resigned. I remember you said, tears beginning to stream down your face, “Why do you want me to hate you?”
It wasn’t a question I was expecting. Of all the things you could’ve asked, I would’ve never guessed that assemblage of words would find itself on the tip of your quivering tongue. It wasn’t the point I would’ve belabored, but you…you always knew. You always had your sights set left of center.
The truth was, I didn’t want you to hate me. Why would I set out to achieve such a ridiculous objective? I didn’t want you to hate me, but I liked taking things from you, so maybe that’s what you were really asking: Why do you seek to claim the things you hate?
You then asked me if I knew what I had done—if I had meant to, and some girl—I think her name was Jocelyn—yelled, “It was her idea!” before hooting and running away.
“Why couldn’t you just be normal!” I asked. “Don’t you know how hard it is to be your sister?”
Your face twisted and the pain turned into anger and you left. (I can’t seem to erase your apple-cheeked grimace. Like I had taken more from you than just a house.)
I don’t know where you went. No one does.
It’s almost as if they barely remember the flesh and blood you. You’re a character in a story told with distance; reverence and fear are placed on your name. You’re the star of cautionary tales. You’re the threat the keeps children leaping into bed on time. You’re a piece of local lore—a legend.
Your house is a shell and kids go there to get high. They go to ditch school, to drink and hook up. They aren’t afraid until they want to be.
I think that’s confusing. But I often find myself confused these days.
In your absence, I noticed my hair beginning to fall out. I started twisting it in knots so that could be the reason…but I bet you know more.
I also watch the moon and imagine you’re looking at it too, but it hurts my eyes even though it never used to.
And I took some of the ashes from your burnt-up house and I used them to fill a little leather pouch. They’re too hot to touch, so I don’t. I just leave them hanging around my neck.
That girl, Jocelyn, she threw a rock at me the other day and it bounced off my back. I remember when that would happen to you, and I wonder how you smiled so much. I wish I could ask you.
But you left when your house burned down, and with you gone, I’m no longer the sister of a witch. I’m just a witch, my shoulders hunched and my eyes milky.
All this is to say, are you the reason my teeth are loose? Why my skin peels, and animals howl outside my window? These sores and rashes on my body? Did you do that?
Are you the reason I’m falling apart?
If I said I was sorry, could you make it stop?
Would you know if I was telling the truth?
Christine Makepeace is a weird fiction writer and film essayist living in the Pacifc Northwest. Links to her work can be found at christinemakepeace.com