Words

An envelope was sitting on my doorstep today. No return address, just my name printed in block letters, stark and official. I cautiously opened it, and pulled out a sheaf of papers.

The pages were yellowed with age, stiff and crackling. The blue ink was faded and pale.

Puzzled, I began to read. The story was unfamiliar, the language flowery, prose-like, an ode to magic and mystery. The secrets of night and the glory of dawn, all wrapped into a few sheets of scribbled notes. Diagrams and equations filled the margins, complex mathematics beyond my comprehension. Theories of gravity and coincidence, planetary alignment, faerie magic and brain chemistry, the Answers were here. It was all here.

The handwriting was mine.

My hands began to shake, the brittle pages trembled. I had no memory of writing these words, filling the lines with such care.

How could I have written this?

The clumsy cursive was unmistakable, the smears from my left hand were an unequivocal signature. I still had ink blots from a letter I had written this morning, freshly marking my skin like a tattoo. The stains matched, mirror images. Like birthmarks, fingerprints; there was no doubt.

My words. How could these be mine?

I stood there for a long time, trying to make sense of it. With each reading, I felt farther away from the conclusion, farther away from what I was supposed to understand.

And then the pages began to crumble.

Disintegrating before my eyes, the fragile words turned to dust, leaving nothing but glitter and ash in my hands.

The Cantle Witch

The old witch eyed me for a moment, muttering to herself. She snorted, then spat in the dirt.

“Aye, I can do it. Your molar. Third back on the left.” She turned away and started rifling through the refuse again.

“My-… wait what? You want a tooth?” I laughed nervously and ran my hands through my short hair. I still wasn’t used to that feeling.

The Cantle Witch - Watercolor

“Not a tooth. Your tooth. Third back on the left.” She cackled triumphantly as she pulled a bottle from the pile and peered through the glass. The witch gently brushed it of

f and stowed it in the shapeless sack that hung from her belt.

Wary, I shifted from foot to foot. This was an even weirder request than the last. Hair grows back. You can’t replace a tooth so easily.

She tilted her head to the side to look up at me. The bird-like motion and her shiny, dark eyes reminded me all too much of the ominous crows circling above. She raised a wrinkled hand and pointed a gnarled finger at me.

“You want the truth? You want to find her, don’t you? Left molar. Third. Back.”