Short Fiction: Witchcraft

Tae would always watch, after her husband left for the day and the house was quiet. Empty. Lonely. She would simply watch. They would not meet; they would not talk.

There was a story, a long time ago, that no one tells anymore.

Or… they do, but the words are silent and the mornings are grey. There was a story, many ages ago, that nobody finished, and now it sits on quiet lips and deaf ears, swinging its legs as if waiting to take flight.

There was a story, a long time ago. When Jun would wait for the bus and Tae would see her from the house across the street. She would part the curtains, just a little, peek through the gap, and there–under the rickety old shelter, checking her watch, turning her neck as if trying to get the tiredness out. There Jun would be, every day, without fail. She would stand there for exactly five minutes every morning, and her phone would go off sometimes. But she never answered it, Tae noticed curiously. Her hair would fly in the wind, but she would never right it. Her clothes would be immaculate, as would her make up. But she never flaunted it. Her stance was always eager. Impatient. As if hungry for the battle she was about to ride out to. Tae watched in awe every morning as the woman would smile at the driver when he arrived, then climb onto her chariot to be taken away.

Tae would always watch, after her husband left for the day and the house was quiet. Empty. Lonely. She would simply watch. They would not meet; they would not talk. They wouldn’t even breathe the same air. Tae wouldn’t dare. For a few years, it felt as if their story would never start.

But then it did. A long time ago, even if it never had an end, there was a story with a beginning.

The rain came one day, and the buses were nowhere to be seen. The rain came when Jun was late for work, and her raincoat started to leak. She stood under the cover of the bus stop, shivering from her sodden sleeves, waiting and watching, hoping for a rescue. But the deluge seemed to have swallowed the rest of the world, as if in a whirlpool. She stood for what felt like hours, never giving up, never taking no for an answer. For Tae, it was a frightening sight. She felt a shudder go through her bones, to see something like that, to witness something so fierce and not be able to touch it. Not be able to feel the pulse under her roving palms. It scared her to not have her hold on Jun.

She couldn’t stand it.

“Miss!” she’d called out from the porch. “Miss! Please come in! It’s dangerous outside! Please come in!”

Jun had squinted at that. She’d put a hand to her ear as if to motion a what was that?

“Come inside!” Tae had wildly motioned.

There was a story, a long time ago. The tea had steamed, the hair had dripped, the clothes had been exchanged and the thanks given. There was a story that took root there, germinated from the meeting of eyes and dug itself out through the earth with force. It was born, strong and burning with life. It was born out of nothing, really. But caressed by a brush of fingertips, cradled in the length of lashes, it grew. It was born, it came into being, and then Tae nurtured it like the child she never had. Jun reared it like the dreams she never reached.

They met, held on, and that was enough. They met again and again, sometimes soft as whispers, sometimes with the crash of lightning. But they always met. In the middle of this story, where their smiles arrived, and their breath whimpered. Where their secrets went from tongue to tongue, and their kisses from limb to limb. Where their touch began and ended with murmured compliments and hushed yearnings. They met at the point they separated, going in endless and edgeless, smooth-walled circles of need. They met in the press of fingers, the tremble of thighs, the steam of exhales, the loosening of hair and the sliding of deep heat. They met so much that when they were one, it started a storm inside them. Stronger than the one outside, raining harder than the drops that fell from the sky onto the loud and angry roof. They met and they met and they met until one day, they passed clean through–until Tae stood at the bus stop and Jun stared out of the lace curtains, swapping their battles with each other. 

A long time ago, they met.

Their story widened, lengthened, gained an unbearable weight. Its seedling sprouted into a tree, housed nests and fruit of its own. But what happened later, no one knows. The end was never written. Perhaps they disappeared, holding each other in their hands and spreading their wings. Taking off with a single push. Perhaps they were separated by the bus, when it finally arrived and took Jun away. Perhaps Tae had dreamt the whole thing, perhaps she was still not brave enough to cross that street, still not strong enough to reach for that ball of fire that stood against the torrent. Perhaps Jun moved too fast and Tae couldn’t catch up. Perhaps their circle was too dizzying to stay inside, and they tore an opening out to part ways. Perhaps the world was not kind to their steaming tea and dripping hair and borrowed clothes. Perhaps there is no Tae and there is no Jun. Perhaps only they exist in this world, not us. None of us. Perhaps we sit in that house now, look out of that fogged window now, into the snow-covered streets, and we look for our warrior. The one who waits for the bus every day, her sword sharpened and her arrows keen. We do not know. We can only speculate. We can only remember and retell.

Perhaps this story will never end, the roots gnarled the bark worn the branches overgrown. Perhaps there is no end to come.

But we do know that there was a story, a long time ago.

Illustrated version:

About the author

quagmireisadora

Vi. 29. Ace. "You can't say goodbye Kibum," Jonghyun smiled wide as he walked backwards to the door of the office. "There's a Jonghyun coming here to drop off a delivery soon. There's a Jonghyun who will come fix your air con when it breaks. All those brooms and vacuums and mops are for the Jonghyuns who come here every night, after you leave. Every cafe you go to, every restaurant you visit, every bar you drink at... that person serving you is Jonghyun. We're everywhere. We're all around you. You can never say goodbye," he shook his head. Kibum's words were in the air before he even spoke them. "They'll never be you."
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