A Witch’s Lullaby to Her Unborn Child
The sun is brilliant, bright and warm, shining on my island and its many creatures like a babe being swaddled, rocked by its mother. But I have not had a mother for centuries; I bet her fat tongue still floats heavy in its pretty mouth spewing secrets and jealousy in my father’s radiant halls, trying to keep his interest.
I, on the other hand, shy away from the light, preferring the shadows, the crevices in between. I have always found familiarity with darkness, with the cloak that blocks the sun.
My father is golden, eternal, and he watches me closely, intent on keeping me caged, on keeping in me in check, fearful of the storm swirling, brewing up above on Mount Olympus. Yet still I collect my herbs and build my spell in spite of his burning gaze. In spite of the god of lightning. They will not command me.
No man will.
I work slowly yet pointedly, I must not make an error. My child, a boy sitting low and kicking fiercely in my belly, must be protected, shielded from both Titan and Olympian gaze. No one is coming to save him or me, not his father, a mortal, or any other creature.
My son and I are alone.
He will be half god, half man, and that makes him a threat to many, but mostly to me. Finally my father, the god of the sun, and Zeus, the god of lightning, will have something that can destroy me. If my son dies I will be undone, a hollow conch shell with no song, no longer the farmica feared for her transformations or her intoxicating and sometimes deadly herbs.
My son grows larger each day and more eager to escape my belly to enter the world. So I continue to gather my herbs and add layer upon layer to my spell, and I will everyday for the rest of eternity.
The hardest part is getting the facial expressions right. The slight slant of frown lines on the forehead, the curve of a smile forming. Worry in the eyes. The eyes are how you know whether or not it work work.
He comes to the gallery late, after hours. He has been my companion the last three months. I don’t like the term boyfriend, yet he insists on calling me his girlfriend. His name is Robbie. I have a three-inch tall oak wingback chair in my hand and am ticking light brush strokes on the tiny legs to give them a more weathered look when he barges in. I am almost finished this project–a replica of the old manor on Boston Avenue. The commission will pay my rent for the gallery for six months, so no detail can be overlooked.
I left the door unlocked, which is my custom of late. This manor project has consumed me, making me forget that sometimes things go bump in the night. That I should lock up the gallery after hours, especially if I’m inside working. I know better, I know how men can be, yet I never saw him as a threat. I’ve become so used to dealing with the inanimate, with shaping something into the tangible, a beating heart in a pliable chest, that I forget I can’t control every person or situation with an X-acto knife and my hands.
At first Robbie was sweet and shy. His face flushed lightly when he first asked me to tell him more about my work. About what it’s like to create miniature versions of homes, towns, and people. Have you ever thought about making me? Or, or someone you know? Color spiked his cheeks. I smiled and said, Trust me, you don’t want me to make you. He frowned. It’s just that I usually make miniature versions of things from the past, I said. Manors from a former time, those of glory. Historical figures to be commemorated, immortalized. He nodded. So for you to make me I’d have to be dead, he said. I remember he laughed at this, and it crackled in his throat. I swallowed and smiled, my lips pressed tightly together, acidic bubbles forming on my tongue.
My once timid, joking companion is now drunk and angry, the wormy veins on his temples beating. I am distracted by the thought of how to carve such a thing onto a doll when his fist goes through the wall of the manor’s parlour. The burgundy velvet chaise lounge is cracked in two, one half skittering across the gallery floor. I marvel at how small it looks, how fragile, when in the parlour it seemed large and opulent. It took me two days to make the parlour, and six hours to make the chaise. He doesn’t care though. He is shouting, telling me he’s had enough. That I always choose my dolls and houses over him. That he’ll show me just how stupid they are. I let him finish, trashing two months of work and six months of rent.
He doesn’t realize the power my work holds, but he will.
He stumbles out when he’s done, King Kong smashing into tiny buildings as he goes. It looks like a tornado has come through the gallery, leaving houses, schools, and museums totally obliterated.
I allow myself one sob and then I go to work.
I leave the gallery in its annihilation; I can clean up the mess later. I go through the door to my office and then down the stairs to the basement where the old kiln is. It rumbles, gurgling to life as I fire it up. I head to the supply room to the left of it. Inside, I grab six square pieces of wood and one of my premade male dolls. I go back upstairs, lock the front door, and set up a station among the wreckage. Then, with an X-acto knife, I begin to whittle the doll’s face, giving him Robbie’s u-shaped chin and a thin line for his mouth. I take the tip of the knife and ever so gently dip it into the wooden flesh of the doll’s temples, twisting to make it look like a tiny snake is wiggling on each side.
The last thing I do is his eyes. I want to capture Robbie’s rage and ignorance and the baggy, darkened half moons underneath his eyes. When I’m done my former companion stares back at me, his eyes wide and crazed. This will work, I tell myself.
I set up a room with the pieces of wood and a hot glue gun. I place the Robbie doll inside my creation and press down to make sure his feet are secured to the floor. I have made a room with no windows and no doors for him. A prison to teach him. A prison he’ll rot in. I swear his eyes are pleading with me, the half moons blackened with fear. “You have no one to blame but yourself,” I say to him before sealing him inside his prison.
Carefully, I lift the room. I carry it on flat palms down to the stairs and to the kiln. It is humming now, buzzing with fiery hunger. I unlatch the door; it swings to the right. I place the room and Robbie inside. Leaving the door open, I take a step back. I want to see the edges of the room blacken and curl in on themselves. I want to hear the pop of the wood disintegrating and the cough of the Robbie doll as the real Robbie’s lungs fill with smoke and he begins to choke.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not often I use my powers for such ugliness. But you don’t mess with a woman’s livelihood and get away with it.
It won’t be long now; things work faster in miniature. Robbie, my jealous, idiotic companion of three months, will be dead in a few minutes. The official cause of death will be smoke asphyxiation after a random fire started in his apartment. The coroner will report his blood alcohol level was through the roof, and the police will decide he was too drunk to make it out in time.
I sigh, shaking my head. “Such a shame,” I say. “I could have had the dining room done by now.”
A croak whines from the flames. The room and the Robbie doll are a shapeless mass now, which means real Robbie’s almost gone. My mouth twists into a smile. I step forward and close the door to the kiln. It’s time to go back upstairs and begin the Boston Avenue manor again; I have a deadline to meet. I decide to leave the kiln roaring while I work, the fiery blob bubbling and snapping with my companion’s last smoke-filled breaths. After all, I’ve always preferred my meat overdone.
Christina Rosso is a red-headed siren and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and two rescue pups. Her work has been featured in Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Across the Margin, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and more. Visit https://christinarosso.wordpress.com/ or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.