I crumple over a snowy-white boulder carpeted in lichen. My eyes drift over the things around me; I see symbols, pictures written into white birch-bark, secrets left behind by moss lettering and fairy-feet. Patterns are etched into the soil beneath me; worn roots curl into spirals, and mushrooms, bearded with mold, make ancient villages in the shadow of the trees.
VERA HADZIC, THE SPIDER
They called her the Witch’s Daughter, but in truth, she was just a little girl.
From the tales in town, I’d expected to see a monster. Some terrible misshapen thing, too horrifying to behold, too scary to even begin to describe. From the stories, I expected bulging eyes, sharp white teeth, claws, an inhuman snarling voice, a hunched back and webbed toes.
So when I came to the place where they kept her, I peeked through the window to the little black room where she was held. There were no bulging eyes and sharp teeth. She was just a normal looking little girl.
Jenna held the small parcel in her hands tightly. “You say you’ve done this before? More than once before? Has it ever failed?”
She and Tom stood before the desk of the doll maker. He gestured to the wall behind them covered in thank you notes and snaps of happy customers with their purchases.
I stand at the bedroom window, my fingernails digging into the window sill and worry about Gregg’s prized Ferrari because there’s a bull—big and black and threatening like a bull is supposed to look—outside near the detached garage in the too-bright glare of the security lights. Sometimes the bull gallops back and forth across the lawn, tossing its great head, scaring me with its horns, other times it just chews its cud, waiting.
The Texas summer shone yellow with dust and dry grass and sun. Daniel was eight years old and lived on a triangular plot of land. Two sides of the triangle were bordered by oak woods, tangled and gnarled and parched. The bottom third of the triangle, though, was road, hot and dark and flatter than the earth was supposed to be and more dangerous than a rattlesnake. More than anything in the world, Daniel loved the wood and hated the road.
The wood loved Daniel in return.
The night They came was a thunderstorm night, the very sky a black-feathered bird calling: Now. Now you are at the place of oblivion. The stars above us were in flight, one moment visible, the next concealed, startling from the branches. In the day everything has its place and is confined to exist there. In the darkness, we all have the gift of wings. The moonlight unfurled along the razor edge of the leaves and the lightning pecked the Earth with the indifference of a beak: Now. Now you are obliterated.
Lizzie buried her best friend on a chilly October day, the kind that ushers in a cold storm and turns the sky a deep watercolor blue. Pregnant clouds hung low over the fields, threatening those who stood on the hillside—dressed in Sunday best—with their fecundity.
Heartbreak is a spider resting in your chest. I read an unhealthy amount of romance novels, and I know what heartbreak is supposed to feel like – a crack in your ribcage, a sharp, stabbing pain that splits your soul in two. I expect it should feel as though something inside you is broken, but I can’t feel any breakage.
It has been one week since the surgery and my stomach still feels taught and tender; the skin around my abdomen yellowed with bruising, a meaty red line bisecting me where my appendix used to be. If I look closely I can make out the white threads of stitching keeping my insides inside.
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We watch her from the corners of our eyes but say we’re looking elsewhere, somewhere. The neighborhood calls her the lady of the earth and pretend they don’t see her when they can hear her dancing.
GRACE SAFFORD, SHE IS BEAUTIFUL