The Making of Witches
by Paul McQuade
We started out as little girls — butter-fingered milkmaids with eyes of fashioned glass, dresses our fathers bought and our mothers mended, their fingers wearing to the bone on loom-needles and the endless turn of the wheel. At fourteen our mothers took us aside while our fathers whittled wood and they told us not to be scared in hoarse, cracking whispers, that filled the shadowed kitchen with the sound of moth wings and the smell of sweet camellias. Then morning broke. Our fathers took us in the cart while our hips bounded on the oak and we held each other's hands in fear. There were no songs like before. Our fingernails drew blood; our bones creaked like old wheels. All the girls gathered skirts a flurry and among them briar-thorned and tangled moved wizened women with crone-flesh and baskets of flowers. We thrust our skinny arms into the blossoms: the snow maidens with their raven-hair pulled white roses, while we dragged the nun's' hood of aconitus from its slumbering toxicity. Then we were taken away in sackcloth robes the colour of cinders. With age we were given gifts to reward us: burns and cuts, weary arms exhausted by the weight of grimoires, tongues flaccid and powerless beneath the spell of incantations: they gave us a prince and a mirror and said, One of these is love, the other only pain. This will be your final lesson; this will be your making. Owl-faced and gimlet-eyed, we wise witches knew that the princes would love us above all others — we crimson queens. We had forgotten the milk-flesh of the snowgirls, their bloodied mouths.
Paul McQuade was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but now lives in Tokyo. The thing he misses most is the rain. His short fiction has most recently appeared in Fractured West and Six Sentences. He has a tattoo of a teacup on his left arm and is currently working on his first novel.
His favourite fruit is the lime because it's sweet and sharp at the same time, and is often found with gin.
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