Mabel is the littlest witch. Pointy cap framing her impish head, quirky cute face, and fluttering brown hair spilling over her oversized cape and robe, cinched with twisted pumpkin vines charm every lit-up house’s folks when they open their door.
“What a sweet little witch.” The woman drops candy into her bucket.
“Where’s your warts?” A man at another house drops a quarter in.
“What’s your trick?” An old lady drops a green apple in with a clunk.
“You’ll see,” Mabel lisps sweetly, then hugs the elder, wrapping chubby arms around the old lady’s neck and plucking a silver hair off her collar. Twisting it into a tight ball between her fingers, she drops it into her bucket as she walks away.
Mabel is the littlest witch, but not so young. The fields crackle as she walks them, leaving the spreading town behind, just as the other little ones cede the streets to the dark of Samhain and its wanderers. Double-hung window and aluminum doors, weather-stripped against the wind keep out the howls of the spirits free to walk. Spirits follow her moaning about what’s been done to them. She grins at them with the big square teeth and gaps of a child, only those spaces will never fill and the mouth will never get big enough that the jutting of the adult tooth will be normal. Mabel doesn’t mind. She promised to stay until all debts were paid.
Mabel is the littlest witch, but not so weak. She settles on the ground outside her hand dug fairy hill cave on the edge of the old forest. It’s comfortable enough. Cold crackled in her veins ever since, as long as she remembered, so the frosty nights of fall felt like home. The only fire she needed crackled under her cauldron cooking the spell she’d prepared every year since time stopped and her heart turned to ash in her little chest.
She’d been so little they’d left her when they took her witch kin.
Next to the cauldron, she smokes Mistress Olive’s pipe while the spell boils off all the new. Plastics wrappers, styling gel from the hairs, pesticides from the apple, and the stamped face on the metal they’d given so freely that night. She’ll say words over the things once she returned them to their mean parts.
Mabel is the littlest witch, but she’s got a long memory.
And she’s patient.
The sun sparkles on the pretty snow that crunches under the rabbit’s flight and the fox’s fleet pursuit. Mabel still sits next to the cauldron, as she does every year. Every year since they took the elders and pressed them with rocks. Since they stretched her mother to pieces. Since they’d burned the witch village all those generations before.
Mabel is the littlest witch and always will be, because Mistress Olive took her soul with her to the flames, leaving only a string of words in its place. Words and hate. Nothing grows in the dark. Nothing but mold and death.
Every year, Mabel gets closer. Maybe this is the year.
Mabel is the littlest witch and she’s the last.
She’d on the castle green when her sisters spat and kicked and bled. When her brothers held their own guts in their hands. Together they’d sang the curse in the old tongue that held her in thrall.
One more season. One more batch of gifts and then she’d say the dark words.
Sayeth the spring and so it comes
Worship the fall and bring the turn
Without the witches
The summer is curse
Fire that melts deepest snow
And the turn isn’t spoken
By the last witch
And you reap
The crop you plant
Our end not your poison
But not your refuge
So end the turn
And so end you.
Mabel is the littlest witch, but she’s seen signs. Garbage patch makes the fish scream loud enough to hear on land. Bird dropping as ash from the sky. The cauldron barely bubbles because no matter what she adds, the heat of the world fire burns it away. And humans? They skip and sing as they slid down the throat of summer, burning, burning, but all unknowing.
Mabel is the littlest witch, but she crackles with power. She scrapes at the sides of the cauldron knowing that the spell is done. And even as she leans against the moss-covered wall of her warren, staring out at the last winter snow, the last winter snow, she pities them. Remembers that Mistress Olive pitied them, too, even as she’d burned she’d told the fools that they couldn’t turn the seasons. That their god didn’t care if the world turned at all. The fools’d mocked her.
Mabel is the littlest witch and she dumps the cauldron, releasing the elements the witches used to care for, before the burning. They rush away filling the sky with the madness of their anger, finally strong enough to live on their own, big enough to set things right. The spirit of summer, full of flames, rages catching Mabel’s forest on fire, and she smiles with the knowing that she’ll see her mama again. As the flames drive the creatures toward her, ash faces and smoking fur, she promises them that they won’t have to hurt long. That a world that can’t turn won’t last.
Mabel isn’t the littlest witch at all, anymore. She burned up when the first heat storm took the western forest in one breath, her ashes powdering the sky. Now she flows on the doings of the elements. She’s the sun that beats the grain down into burnt stubble. Then she’s white capped waves swamping every coast, sweeping the old out to be eaten by the currents, bones buried in the silt. She’s the red tide and the algae bloom and the melting caps and she whispers as she works, “So end the turn and so end you.”
Donna J. W. Munro’s pieces are published in Dark Moon Digest # 34, Flash Fiction Magazine, Astounding Outpost, Nothing’s Sacred Magazine IV and V, Corvid Queen, Hazard Yet Forward (2012), Enter the Apocalypse (2017), Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths II (2018), Terror Politico (2019), It Calls from the Forest (2020), Borderlands 7 (2020), Gray Sisters Vol 1(2020) and others. Her upcoming novel, Revelations: Poppet Cycle 1, will be published by Omnium Gatherum in 2020. Contact her at https://www.donnajwmunro.com or @DonnaJWMunro on Twitter.