Earlier today I gave Shona Kinsella a writing prompt and she came up with this awesome story about a dream merchant. Today is Flash Fiction Day where you’re supposed to write as many pieces of flash as you can. I’ve only had time for one so far, so here it is:
The Last Sorceress
She stands by the open door, thumbing a bracelet of wooden beads. Her garden is a riot of rose in the fading light; autumn is near – she can see it in the curl of the leaf, that soft creep of decay. The beads are smooth, polished. Blue, green, yellow – she twists each one between her fingers, recalling their stories. This one a sad tsar, broken by his people; that one a soldier, her sword-hand silent. And two violet beads – her favourites – a pair of guilty lovers who tried to buy her favour with blood. She smiles and twists and smiles. Such stories. Such lives.
The last of the pond’s fish cooks in a pan behind her. She will eat it with lemon and thyme and then she will wash the pan and bury the bones. Autumn will become winter. The cottage must be cleared out, closed up. But she has many things, things that cannot be tossed away like so much clutter. Her shelves groan with books, spells, legends, relics of lost times that should be passed on.
She slips the bracelet from her wrist, places it carefully into a drawer, shuts it. The rose is leaving the sky and soon it will be night. She must leave too, closing windows and doors to the long dark. She drops a tear at the thought of the cobwebs that will come and the emptiness. The dust destined to gather on the long necks of her phials. When she departs, so too will the charm that keeps the potions from curdling in their jars. She has overthrown kingdoms with a thimbleful, restored the dead to life with but a single measure. Now they will moulder and mildew and there shall be no more miracles.
The fish is cooked. She seasons it well, but every bite is more bitter than the last. The cottage torments her with memory, ashes of the once-bright, afternoons in the great cities of her girlhood. When she goes to scrape at the loamy soil, laying the fish to rest, she thinks she sees them there: her brothers and sisters, the scrubbed hands of her mother, her father’s face, skin sweat-streaked from the smithy, as dark as her own. She buries them with the bones, as she did long ago.
The moon is rising and the wind. Perhaps one day another will come to open up the house, inherit its secrets. Perhaps she will run her hands over the beads, feeling the grain of their stories. Perhaps with a sip, she will fell kingdoms and raise gods like the dead. Perhaps she will fill the pond again with fish.