Flash Fiction: To Tame a Witch by A.D. Sui

To tame a witch, do not burn her at the stake and do not plunge her into deep water. Gently guide her by the hand from the forest to the city and show her how to build a concrete coffin for herself. Teach her to wear leather shoes and wash her feet. Teach her that anything else is pagan poison. Train her to speak eloquently and with the right inflection, with perfect diction. Teach how to pray, to the right god, in the right way. Discard the flowers from her hair and bind it under a kasinka[1]. Shame her pride, exercise the wilderness from her eyes. When she lowers her stubborn head and submits, tell her she’s done well. Eyes in front, never cast aside. Lips stretched along foreign phonemes, never spiting over her shoulder, never clicking her tongue against her teeth.

Only clean hands from here on. Never nails chipped and dirty, digging in the soil, tangled with roots. Perfect posture in pressed dress shirts. Never on her knees in a mud-crusted vyshyvanka[2]. Never should she wear the blood trimmed garb that clings to her bones, wet with exertion. Salt is for cooking only, let the dark spirits come into the corner of the concrete box she now calls a home.

To tame a witch, never teach her to read, not tea leaves, not tomorrow’s day in the crimson sky. Illiterate, she’ll forget how to heal and how to maim, forget that the forests show mercy to those who never concede they are cold, who stubbornly shiver with bright red cheeks against the winter. To tame a witch convince her that her voice is no longer her magic. With time she’ll forget the choreography of words at her disposal, precise and deadly like the knife edge in her skirts, words that will wounds to shut and children to grow. Words that beckon the skies and the wheat submit to her tongue and for rain to come when she calls for it, for harvest to fill when it is time.

She’ll forget where her roots run and step over them like they’re bumps in the road, paying them no mind.

To tame a witch do not carve out her heart, do not strike her. Be kind to her children and feed them candies, never the berries from forests. Teach them to sing all the songs that their mother doesn’t know. Teach them to trust the alien voices speaking alien things. The forest is an evil and deadly thing, you know, never stray far from the lights, lest the darkness eat you alive. Pay mind to your mother, she’s an odd one at that, ignore her whispers and mutterings, ignore her traitorous superstition.

And when the witch and her children forget the hexes and charms, when they’ll grow deaf to the rustling of the leaves and the streams, when their tongues no longer remember the word-weaves running through generations, when they learn to place their feet along the paved roads like you do in their brand-new leather shoes, she’ll thank you. They’ll thank you.

And that’s how you tame a witch.

[1] A head covering used by Eastern European women when attending church.

[2] A brightly embroidered shirt in Ukrainian national costumes.

A.D. Sui (she/her) is a Ukrainian-born, queer, and disabled writer currently living in Canada. She mostly dabbles in science fiction and fantasy but is expanding her horizons to literary fiction. She holds a Ph.D. in Health Promotion and spends most of her time being a stuffy academic of all things digital. When not writing convoluted papers that nobody will ever read, you can find her on Twitter as @TheSuiWay where she openly critiques academia and gushes over her two dogs.

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