Welcome to The Burning Hearth. As always, I hope that you and your families are safe and well.
The Burning Hearth segment featuring Myles Hopper will be out later this month, as we are working through this time of social distancing to bring together an interview and audio readings of My Father’s Shadow. Until then, I hope you enjoy reading this witchy Halloween tale I wrote titled “The Swallowing.”
Sutton crouched behind a large weeping willow; its trunk as wide as the small, one-room cottage she called home. Careful to stay hidden, she feared she had waited too long, jeopardizing her ability to be selective. She knew of a witch who had waited too long once.
“Crazy Issa thought she had all the time in the world,” Sutton sneered.
She rotated her side into the tree and rubbed against its bark, hard and deep. It took the drawing of blood these days before the sensation of anything against her hide-like flesh registered.
“Issa waited and waited,” she whispered to the tree. “That stupid, idiotic witch-bitch. I never liked her. Got what she deserved, as far as I’m concerned.”
Feeling a slight trickle down her side, she pulled away from the tree, inadvertently taking with her a piece of bark that had snagged her cloak. As it pealed down the trunk like a hangnail, the tree screamed in protest, as any tree in the forest would.
“Shut up,” Sutton hissed. “I’m trying to hide. I’m in waiting. Don’t you know that?”
Realizing the tree was not to blame for her current situation, she apologized and conjured a healing spell. Lucky for the tree, healing spells required little of her, otherwise she would not have wasted an ounce of energy, knowing she barely had any left for the transfer.
She placed an opened palm against the gash to heat the wound. Once sufficiently warmed, she removed her hand and breathed the words, “Oxnay co ver. Ver co oxnay,” upon the trunk’s exposed flesh. The tree shuddered its relief, its leaves dancing in the windless air.
Fearing that perhaps she had doomed herself to Issa’s fate, she stood, and with trembling hands, straightened her skirt. If no one came through the forest today, it could be her end. What a disgraceful way for a witch to die. All due to pride and the inability to let go of the current body one resided in. And, in Issa’s case, the fear that she would have to inhabit a male body.
Sutton, on the other hand, had been a man twice. And once, both (inside a female body), after borrowing an incantation from a neighboring witch. It was a delicious lure of a spell, that turned her cottage into candy. A young boy and girl, skip-hopping through the wood had discovered the lollipop doors and chocolate drop handles, the anise windows and peppermint shudders, and ate themselves into delirium. In their stupor, she coaxed them into a prepared stew and boiled them down for dinner, which she enjoyed with sourdough bread and blood-red wine. After consuming the hop-skipping pair, her body craved both the maiden fair and the stately prince, oftentimes simultaneously.
Living inside both had exhilarated Sutton for different reasons, and throughout the centuries she had come to learn that no woman could be as disarmed by a man, as a man could be by a woman: the yearning in men for a return to the mother’s lap far surpassed that of the wanting in women for a return to the father’s embrace.
Experience allowed for a flexibility regarding gender that fashioned her into a more adaptable and less desperate witch than she imagined Issa had been. But, as the day waned, and no one, male or female, came down the forest path, she couldn’t escape the fact that she might have made Issa’s mistake in judgement.
A whistling in the near distance replaced her dread with hope. She snuck around the tree and saw, much to her delight, a pretty, young, auburn-haired woman combing the forest for mushrooms.
Oh, you delicious young thing. What delight I will have in that body. Thrilled by the thought of lumberjacks, knocking at her door again after all these years, rendered her dizzy. Oh, how she longed to feel moisture return to her parched orifices.
In her euphoria, she stepped on a branch. The girl straightened. She looked in the direction of the sound, saw nothing, and turned away.
To entice the girl closer, Sutton cast a mushrooming spell over the ground surrounding the willow. Once the ground was covered in brown, spotted caps, she lifted their scent into the air. With the brush of her hand, their woody, damp aroma wafted in in the girl’s direction.
Eagerly, but with practiced patience, Sutton watched as the girl moved towards the willow and waited for her to bend down. It was necessary for the girl to be surprised, for her to react appropriately.
She began the transformation, leaving just enough form for the girl to see. When the moment was right, she lurched from the tree.
Startled, the girl jerked upright, opened her mouth, and asked, “Who are you?”
In the time it took for the girl to ask the question, Sutton had transformed into mist and had entered through her mouth, diving down deep, penetrating the whole of the girl’s body until possession was complete.
Stay tuned for my post with Myles. Until next time…