Miranda knew that there were people who didn’t believe in ghosts or UFOs or evolution or witches, and she should have figured her mother would be one of them. She should also have figured that announcing her intention to practice magic instead of physical therapy after graduation would not go over well, but then, she’d have to explain the hat one day anyway.
How could anyone in the twenty-first century not believe in witches? Who did Mom think kept the crows from taking over the world or the International Jewish Conspiracy at bay? Did she really believe corn and wheat could grow without magic after all we’ve done to the soil? Where’d she think Amelia Earhart went, into the ocean? Whose cats had stopped the plague? Who’d held Lady Diana’s hand while she died? Or Sylvia Plath’s? Or a thousand others’?
No matter what Mom said, Miss Kessel was NOT just a drunk old lady living by herself in a shack. Miss Kessel wanted the windows hazy and the vines thick. Miss Kessel liked that the postman tossed her mail onto the porch and ran. Miss Kessel wasn’t crazy. She was sane like no one else.
She walked among the trees, not on some stupid treadmill at the gym. She took herbs and roots instead of Xanax. She read ancient moldy books of leather and vellum instead of The Purpose-Driven Life. She watched the moon and stars, not Oprah. She didn’t care if every man on Earth divorced her—in fact, she’d like it. She never missed her father or her brother, never failed a test, and never felt the need to cover herself in the mirror.
Yes, Mother, they are real. And one day I will be one.
Will Ludwigsen's work has appeared in Weird Tales, Cemetery Dance, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and the second Interfictions anthology, among other places. He has a column at Horror World magazine and writes non-fiction for Fantasy Magazine. Summon him online at www.will-ludwigsen.com.
Thanks, Will, for such a great story!