February 8, 2019

SATURDAY TALE - Made for Their Hands by G.D. Watry

The enchantress sacrifices all,
including her life with him...
The enchantress murmurs the incantation, her voice a lisping whisper in the snow-swept night. Despite the chill, she stands unmoving on the canoe’s bow, her body wrapped tight in a ratty peacoat. The cold seeps into her old bones, but no visible shiver passes through her body. She keeps the tremor locked in her spine, blocking its spread to her extremities. All she feels is tension radiating outwards and flurries kissing her wrinkled face. The balance between the internal and external stimuli is ethereal, a reminder of the eternal touch of Gaia, for whom the enchantress sacrifices all. 

Including her life with him. 

Wind sweeps across the thawed lake, creating spirals in the snowfall. The canoe wobbles in the chop. Ice chunks scratch against its cedar wood. 

Through the flakes, the enchantress can make out gas lanterns on the shore. The ones attached to the dock bob gently in the distance. They trace a path up from the dock to the cabin, lighting its deck. The enchantress can see the knots in the cabin’s wooden door. 

She could row to the dock and walk up that familiar path, hands touching each lantern along the way. She could knock on the door and wait for him to answer. She wonders if he’d be able to recognize her, be able to see who she used to be. 

The enchantress could do all that. But she won’t. She’s as close as she needs to be for the spell’s sphere of influence. And if she’s being honest, she’s as close to the island as she can bear. It hurts to be this close. 

The enchantress knows that memory has a geography, that places revisited can unbury the past. And sometimes those memories eclipse lessons learned by new experiences. They can occult progress, and worse, ignite reversion. Suddenly, you’re no longer what you are but what you were. 

The enchantress remembers… 

What are you? 

She was asked this question at the Altar of Devotion, hidden in the mines of Schwarz Mountain. 

Weak, the girl who became the enchantress replied. It was how she felt after that last ordeal. Her hands were stained with his blood. Though he was safe, his cries still echoed in her ears. She was ashamed she allowed him in harm’s way. Again. She had to do something. Her work was dangerous and he was insistent. He would never leave her side voluntarily, so she found someone with the power to help. 

I can make you more, the earth mother promised, powerful enough that you can protect the ones you love. But only if you promise your life to me. 

The enchantress swore her life away and became more. She became someone who could control the elements and exert her influence over the minds of others. Adventure filled her life as she fulfilled Gaia’s will, and often the fates of many were in her hands. The enchantress became a savior, revered and deified in certain corners of the world. She did her best to cultivate detachment, but still…

It isn’t enough. 

The enchantress doesn’t miss who she was, but she envies the love she used to have. She longs to be on the shore, to feel his arms around her and hers around him. Their bodies one; not on the outside looking in. 

But she knows it wouldn’t be the same. Her presence would only complicate the life he’s made without her, without the memory of her. 

Made so by my hand, she reminds herself. For his benefit. 

She stops the spell mid-cast when the cabin’s door opens, and he shuffles onto the deck. He raises a hand to his forehead, as if searching the darkness. The enchantress knows what it’s like to be under the influence of a waning spell, to feel its mystical grip slip. She knows he’s searching for her, that he can feel her presence. An impression of her is forming in his mind. A vague mask that he at first only saw in dreams is slowly becoming distinct, morphing into a face. Her face.

Not all ghosts are dead. She smiles at the thought.

He looks feeble from a distance, his face is scrunched in confusion. Gray curls spill from beneath his knit cap. She remembers brushing his hair with her fingers as they lay in bed in the morning, how he’d fall asleep under the spell of her touch, before she learned the ways of real magic. 

The enchantress wants to go to him, but she can’t and the reason why steps out onto the deck. 

The old woman materializes from the cabin’s darkness and touches her husband’s shoulder, rousing him from his midnight search. The enchantress doesn’t want to admit it, but she sees a smile break across his face. He loves the woman; she’s someone he can anchor himself to while weathering this storm of confusion. The enchantress has watched their relationship develop over the years, returning to this spot annually to wipe his resurfacing memories. Her words clear the gale in his mind. 

He has her, she thinks. He doesn’t need me.  

The enchantress continues with the spell. Alone in the cold, she tells herself, maybe things will different next year. 
G.D. Watry is a writer from California. His work has appeared in Pantheon Magazine, Hinnom Magazine, Horror Tales Podcast, OCCULUM, Enchanted Conversation Magazine, Third Flatiron Publishing, and The Molotov Cocktail, among other publications. He can be found on Twitter @GDWatry.

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

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