Kate wakes up, the moon full and high above the clouds, and she gasps. Her heart feels like it’s being ripped out of her chest and her blood feels as if it’s turned to lava in her veins.
“Mother!” Is the first thing she cries out, throwing her covers to the side and rushing out of her room down the hall.
Her bare feet skid against the cold floor and she grips the wall for support, tears already streaming down her face.
She stops at the door to her parent’s room, breathing heavy and feeling faint, and finds her father weeping over the form of her mother in bed. Just a form, just a body, she already knows and doesn’t have to ask. She can feel that she’s gone, felt it the moment she left the world.
“God has failed us, Katie, your mama is gone.”
Kate’s legs finally give way, her body collapsing to the ground as she cries out for her mother.
Her tears feel like fire on her cheeks, and her hands have begun to shake. Her father looks up from her mother and stares at her, horrified. “Kate, you’re – you’re glowing.”
Kate looks down at herself, at how her skin has turned the color of sunlight, as if she’d swallowed the sun and it was emanating from within her. “Daddy, please –“
But her father is backing away, off the bed and cowering in the corner.
The last thing she sees is her mother’s body glowing faintly and then fading into a dull blue before a shards of light burst from inside of Kate.
Her mother had taken too much medicine accidentally and passed away. That’s what the doctor said, anyway.
Kate knew her mother had left this world willingly, had wanted to leave it for a while.
Kate’s father makes a speech to the congregation listing the wonderful things Jennifer Fuller had done for her community, the beautiful person she was.
He doesn’t mention how she used to weep herself to bed at night, how she barely spoke to her family and retreated so far inside herself no one could pull her out. He doesn’t talk about how she’d asked for help and her husband had only pointed upwards to the Lord.
Jacob Fuller doesn’t talk about how the Lord has failed them all.
Kate sits in her black dress in the front pew, face solemn but not crying. She feels drained, empty, sad beyond belief but still not able to cry.
Kate stands next to her father at the front of the church after the service, next to her mother’s coffin. She thanks everyone for being there, accepting their apologies. She thinks to herself that they have nothing to apologize for, and at once wants to put the blame on everyone for not seeing that her poor mother needed someone’s help.
Her brother Scott doesn’t say anything, just stands silently next to her avoiding everyone’s gaze. She knows he’s like their mother the way he retreats into himself.
“You okay?” She whispers towards him, but he ignores her. Of course he’s not okay, she knows that, but she wants to know what’s happening inside his head.
Her father motions for her to follow him, and her and Scott walk slowly outside to get ready to watch her mother’s body be lowered into the ground.
This part Jacob asked that only family be present for, it being a personal moment for only those who knew her best. Kate tries not to scoff, thinks that no one really knew Jennifer Fuller at all.
There’s just her, her father and her brother, and the few people there to lower the casket. Kate feels a cold breeze blow past, making her bare legs beneath her dress break out into gooseflesh. She looks around her, feeling almost like she’s being watched. Whips her hair out of her face and turns to look at her father, who’s gazing at her like he’s trying to find something.
“There’s nothing left to say about your mama, kids. Nothing that I or anyone who knew her hasn’t already said. I –“Jacob’s voice breaks, he looks down at the ground and shakes his head. “I miss her like a part of myself. She was an angel on earth, a soul lost too soon.” Jacob wipes a hand over his face and sighs. He nods towards the man holding the crane and Kate watches as her mother is lowered into the cold soil of the earth.
She reaches over and grabs Scott’s hand, surprised that he grips hers back. They both stare at the cherry wood casket, Scott squeezing her hand harder and harder.
The moment the crane stops, a pain so sharp stings Kate’s heart that she falls forward, down to her knees on the ground. She cries out in pain and grips at the ground.
“Katie!” Her father yells, but Kate throws up a hand to stop him coming towards her.
“Don’t!” Is all she can say before she feels her eyes roll back in her head, sees nothing but black before a burst of impossible color.
She can hear her father and her brother yelling her name, but all Kate can feel is a thudding inside her. Like the heartbeat of the earth itself. It’s loud and echoes in her ears, drums through her body relentlessly. Kate’s fingers claw into the grass, her body seizing up as she hears her mama call to her.
“I’m sorry, Katie-cakes. I’m so sorry. It’s all yours now, I hope the power doesn’t kill you like it did me.”
Kate is shaking, can feel her skin break with sweat. “Mama!” She screams, and she can see her.
Sees her standing in a long white dress, her arms stretched in front of her, streams of colored light jetting from her hands. She’s outside, rain pouring down over her but she doesn’t look wet. Lightening sparks and thunder claps behind her, tree limbs breaking and falling to the ground as frightened animals run past her. She looks beautiful and frightening, alive and yet otherworldly. Kate knows this is her mother after life, somewhere that Kate herself can’t go.
Her mother looks straight forward and Kate feels like she’s looking into her eyes. “Use it for good, my Kate. Don’t let it use you.”
Kate screams out, her body thrumming with pain, before it’s all over and she’s left breathing hard staring up at her father.
“It’s the devil.” Is the first thing she hears him say as her blurred vision sharpens and her hearing clears. “The devil has touched this family and left his dark mark on my girl.”
Kate gasps as he grabs her, gripping her shoulders and holding her close. Scott looks down at the both of them like he doesn’t know what to say as Jacob cries out up to the heavens. “She doesn’t deserve this, Lord, none of us do!” He pulls her head into his chest and sobs. “You have to hide this, Katie. You must hide it from everyone.”
All around them, flowers have bloomed from the earth. Lilies and roses, tulips and marigolds, a fragrant pattern of rainbow carpets the ground.
Kate feels full, feels like the cold breeze of the day is coming from deep inside her soul. She feels the tears she couldn’t cry before stream from her eyes like waterfalls, just as the sky cracks and rain pours down onto the Fullers.
Kate looks over at her mother’s casket dotted with water, and squeezes her eyes shut as her father screams towards an unresponsive God.
After her mother is buried, it’s almost as if Jennifer Fuller never existed. Her father doesn’t talk about her, Scott shuts Kate out along with all of his friends, and no one in town wants much to do with her family since Jacob left the church. They’re all nice to her face, but she hears what they say about how weak her father is and how he can’t be fit enough to take care of his family on his own.
The fact is they’re not wrong. Jacob spends his day in his shed, working on his furniture. Too often he comes into the house smelling of scotch, and Kate tries to tell him it’s dangerous to drink and work with his machinery but he just tells her he’s been doing it longer than she’s been alive.
When Scott’s not in school he stays in his room drawing all day, and ignores Kate.
Neither of them will talk to her, nor even acknowledge, what happened to her the night her mama died or the day she was buried. Her daddy tells her to pray every night, and to go to church every day. He hasn’t seen the inside of a church since the funeral, so if Kate’s supposed to believe he still has any faith left, she doesn’t.
As it is, since Kate has no one else to talk to about what happened, she tries to forget about it altogether. But she can’t, not really, especially at night when she shuts her eyes and sees her mama’s face yelling at her from the beyond.
Kate spends more and more time alone.
She tries to keep in touch with her friends, and she talks to them during classes, but afterwards she’s more content to go walking in the woods and think her thoughts.
Kate has always enjoyed nature but ever since her mom passed she’s only felt calm when she’s outside. Getting lost among the trees, feeling the wind on her skin and hearing the birds singing. There’s no way she can describe how it makes her feel other than like she’s much more alive.
One day Kate gets lost in the maze of her thoughts during a walk on a brisk afternoon. Before she knows it she’s come about a house. She looks around, confused as to where she has wound up. It feels as if she’s been walking forever and at the same time for not very long.
The house is very small, almost hidden behind an arch made by two incredibly large elm trees. It looks like a picture out of a children’s book, and Kate can’t help be curious.
Kate walks beneath the arch, her feet crunching the leaves on the ground. Once past, she feels almost like a door shuts behind her, but when she turns the opening is still there. Kate looks back at the house, which she sees is more of a cabin now that she’s closer to it.
It at once looks lived in and also somehow totally abandoned. Kate knows she should turn back and go home but there’s something about the place that’s pulling at her, making her walk up to the door. She turns the knob and is surprised to find it unlocked, steps inside without a second thought.
Inside it’s quite beautiful, rough wood furniture all over the place almost as if the whole house was carved from the hollow of a tree.
“Hello?” Kate calls out, although she can already tell there’s no one there. It seems to only have two main rooms, a front room with a living area, breakfast table, and some cookery. Beyond that she can see into the bedroom and there’s no one there. She could check the bath but Kate can feel no other presence in the house.
There’s something about it that makes her feel safe and almost serene. Kate looks around, admiring all the knick knacks and odd things nailed all over the walls. Ephemera torn from books and tacked up, records and a player on an old chest in the corner. She peers over the titles of books on a large shelf, most of them looking old and dusty. They all seem to have something to do with nature, some of the words make no sense to Kate.
She hooks her finger over one spine and pulls, gasping when it falls to the floor and hovers an inch above it. Kate quickly bends down to grab it, knowing no one’s around to see but still ready to hide it anyway.
She takes a breath and opens the cover to find it’s handwritten, with strange pictures and diagrams in the margins. Kate thumbs through a few pages, coming to a stop on what looks like a recipe but not for any food she’d like to eat.
She studies the handwriting closer, the curls and lines looking oddly familiar to her, but as she tries to place it she’s startled by a sound outside.
Suddenly she feels like she’s being watched, and Kate panics. She runs for the door, slamming it behind her and making her way back out of the arched trees without looking back.
It’s not until she’s back home, breathless and sides sore, that she realizes she’s still gripping the book in her hands.
Kate wakes up that night to her brother standing over her looking horrified.
“Scott? What’s wrong?” She rubs a hand over her eyes, yawning. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“What the hell are you doing?” He sounds confused and angry.
Kate sits up, looking over at her clock and gasps at the sight of it floating above her nightstand. She looks around her room to see everything is levitating. Her perfume bottles and her magazines, her books and her entire dresser. Kate looks down and sees that she herself is floating, blanket hanging down at her sides.
In less than a second, everything drops.
Some of the bottles break, and the furniture hitting the floor makes a loud noise. It doesn’t take long for her dad to come storming in.
“What is going on in here? You two alright?” His eyes are wide and he looks right at Kate.
Scott looks at her, and Kate shakes her head, pleading for him to stay quiet with her eyes. He just shrugs at their father. “I was, I was taking some perfume to give to Beth at school. Kate caught me.”
Jacob just sighs, running a hand over his face. “Son, you know the Bible teaches us not to steal. Now apologize to your sister.”
Scott looks down at her like he’s looking at a completely different person. “Sorry.”
“You two need to go back to sleep.” Jacob says, Kate noticing his words are slightly slurred. He shuts the door and Kate waits until she hears his own bedroom door close.
“Save it. I should have told dad what really happened.”
“Why are you so angry with me? Daddy is shutting us out, but you don’t have to! We need to stick together.” Kate can’t yell at him like she wants so she whispers sharply.
“I don’t know who you are anymore. Maybe dad’s right, maybe the devil has touched you.”
Kate shuts her eyes, feeling hot tears push behind them. “Scott, please. I don’t know what’s happening to me but I’m still your sister.”
Scott turns to look at her with a pained expression. “You were never really my sister. This has never really been my family.”
“Don’t say that!” She calls, but he’s already left her room.
Kate lays back in bed, clutching her pillow and trying not to cry. She’s never felt more confused or more alone.
She opens her eyes and looks at the glowing full moon outside her window, counting backwards until the burning urge to cry stops. Kate hears the call of a wolf from far away as she finally drifts into a restless sleep.
Kyle is not a very good kisser.
Not that Kate has anyone else to compare him to, but she still thinks that after watching people do it in movies and television, even reading about it in books, that he’s just not doing it right.
He kisses her now and Kate doesn’t feel the thrill she expected when she used to dream about kissing a boy. It’s not horrible, it’s nice enough but that’s it. Just nice.
He pulls back and smiles at her, brushing a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Missed that.”
Kate smiles back, nodding. “Me too.”
Kyle had been off with his family for a month, only talking to Kate through letters. Kate hadn’t been good with keeping up writing him back, but he said he understood because of what had happened with her mom.
They’d snuck off after school, driving deep into a dirt road in his truck before pulling off to the side. Kate lay back against a sack of flour in the truck bed, Kyle hovering over her. “Thought about you every day.” He presses his lips to hers again, sweetly, and Kate kisses back just as sweet.
There’s nothing wrong with Kyle. He’s a perfectly nice boy, the kind she should be going to dances with and introducing to her daddy. He’s not the kind to push or pressure a girl, like some boys at school she’s heard about. He’s religious and smart, cute and kind. But when Kate thinks about him she doesn’t see a future with him. She sees nothing, just sweet kisses and the same Psalms passed to her in notes between classes in the hallways.
Which is what Kate thought she always wanted, honestly, but recently it all just sounds sort of boring.
Kate bites her lip and presses at his shoulder, pushing him to sit back. “What about at night? Did you think about me then?”
He grins and nods slowly. “Of course. Said a prayer for you before bed, every night.”
Kate frowns a little but she just pushes further, sliding her leg over his and straddling his thighs. “Is that it? You didn’t think about me?”
Kyle chuckles nervously, hands gripping the air next to her hips. “Kate, what are you doing?”
She just shrugs, slipping her hand around the back of his neck and leaning down. “Just trying something new.” She kisses him, slipping her tongue past his lips. Kyle gasps, and she strokes her tongue over the tip of his own.
He starts to kiss back, though still sort of tense beneath her. Kate settles down, sitting over his crotch, and Kyle jumps, gripping her at her waist and pushing her off. “What’s gotten into you?”
A while ago Kate might have wanted to cry at the look Kyle was giving her, but now she was just angry. “Kissing my damn boyfriend, I thought!” She spits at him, grabbing her bag and standing to get out of the truck.
“Kate wait, it’s just. Good church going girls don’t act like that.” She can tell he’s trying to turn it into a joke, but it doesn’t feel that way.
She turns and glares at him. “Act like what? Whores?”
Kyle rolls his eyes. “I didn’t say that. I just, I like you the way you are. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Kate just sighs, jumping down from the cab and adjusting the strap at her shoulder. “I really appreciate that Kyle, but I wasn’t.”
“Kate, wait! Let me drive you!”
“Just forget it! I want to be alone!” She calls back, running along the dirt road, dust kicking up at her heels.
He catches up with her at the turn in, and she stops, looking up at him. “I’m walking home, I’ll be fine. I walked myself home every day you were gone.”
“Kate, please. I love you. I’m sorry I freaked out, I just. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
She nods, really understanding but still not wanting to talk. “I get it. I just want to be alone.” She repeats, and Kyle finally relents.
“Fine. Just call me when you get home, okay?”
Kate nods, and waits for him to drive away before she turns in the opposite direction of her house.
She walks between the trees, trying to calm herself by breathing in the sweet scent of pine in the air. It’s getting colder outside, autumn fast approaching and it’s Kate’s favorite time of year. It seems to be a time when everything just calms down, nature included.
She stops at the edge of a small brook, kneeling down on the ground and pulling out the book she took from the house beyond the arched trees.
Technically she stole it, but when Kate holds it in her hands it doesn’t feel that way.
She lays it on her lap and turns the pages, trying not to think about Kyle. Tries to push away the thought that she’s unwanted, that he doesn’t want to touch her. She knows he’s only concerned with the Lord and doing his work, but he’s also a teenage boy and she thought he’d want to mess around anyway.
Kate feels like she can feel the blood flowing through her veins as she tries to make sense of the words in the book. They’re clearly all spells, titled at the top with directions underneath. Someone could mistake the book for a notebook of ideas for a novel but as Kate looks through it she can feel that whoever wrote it took the whole thing seriously.
“Magic.” Kate whispers out loud. “Witches.” Something about actually vocalizing the words makes Kate feel less crazy. Thinks there has to be an explanation for what she can do. The levitating, the flowers blooming from nothing. Her mother communicating with her after her death, looking like a powerful being instead of a housewife.
Kate was always taught that stuff like this, magic, was evil. But the spells don’t look that way, they all seem to be about pulling energy from nature and using it for good. Using it to heal.
Kate eyes a paper cut on the back of her hand, still fresh from last period science, and rips a few pieces of grass from the ground. She sets them over the cut and sighs.
“Maybe I am crazy.” She mumbles, but whispers the words on the page in front of her anyway.
She closes her eyes, repeating the spell to heal broken skin over and over until she’s only saying it in her mind. The words seem to echo around her, bouncing off the trunks of the trees and skipping over the running water of the brook.
Kate gasps, opening her eyes and looking down at her hand. The skin is smooth, no cut to be found.
“Oh, God.” She runs her finger over her skin and shivers.
“Kate? Are you alright?”
Kate turns, startled and scared, and without meaning to a bolt of light shoots from her outstretched palm. The person cries out, falling back against the forest floor, and Kate gasps.
It’s someone from her church, one of her friend’s fathers, clutching at his fishing equipment and looking up at her in terror. He doesn’t seem hurt, but there’s singe marks in the front of his hair.
“Oh God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you. I – I – “
“Get the hell away from me!” The man yells, struggling to stand up.
“Let me help you, I don’t know what happened –“
“I know what happened, we all know your family ain’t right now. People saw what happened that day after your mama’s funeral, the way you grew that circle of flowers out of nowhere. You’ve been gripped by the devil.”
Kate tries to stop him as he leaves but he pushes her back and she shrieks, falling against a tree. “Don’t touch me, demon!”
Kate watches him go, her hands shaking as hot tears stream down her cheeks. Her stomach feels like it’s full of lead, her heart pounding like the beat of a drum. She’s never felt so frightened.
All she can think about is her father and Scott, and she gathers her things, running as fast as she can to get to them.
By the time she gets home, she’s almost convinced herself everything will be okay. Maybe her dad doesn’t know, maybe no one will believe that man. Think that he’s just a town crazy, making up stories about demons. It’s happened before.
But this time he’s not wrong about what he saw, about what Kate did. Kate herself isn’t even sure of what she did, or what she is.
As she walks inside, she can tell something is wrong. Kate finds her father sitting in the living room, looking at her with tears in his eyes.
“Daddy –“Kate says, her voice shaking.
“You need to leave.”
Kate actually steps back as if she’s been slapped. “What?”
Jacob stands, shaking his head. “Michael’s been around, he was ranting and raving. Says you almost killed him in the woods today.”
“That’s not what happened! Daddy, I don’t – I don’t know what happened but I didn’t hurt him!”
Jacob grabs her shoulders and Kate flinches, almost afraid of him. “Listen to me. They want to take you to the church. They want to…” He shuts his eyes like the words are too much to say.
“Daddy, you’re scaring me.” Kate says, a sob stuck in her throat.
He looks up at her and he looks almost soulless. “They want to perform a ceremony. They think the devil is inside you, Katie.” He lets her go then, almost like he believes it himself. “I’ve seen them try it before. It’s –“
“You can’t let them!”
“It’s almost killed people! And I can’t stop it! You’re in danger here, sweetheart. And you’re a danger to us.”
Kate does sob, but it comes out like a laugh. “You can’t be serious. Where will I go?”
Jacob takes out his wallet, shoving a wad of hundreds at Kate, what has to be the last of their savings. She looks at it like it’s coated in poison, looks at her father like he’s someone she’s never met.
“We could all leave, you me and Scott.” Kate whispers, voice small.
“They’d follow us. Katie I’m going to tell them you died. Killed yourself because you were too scared of what you might do. They might not believe me, but I can keep them at bay here.”
Kate reaches out for him, licking tears from her lips and gasping. “Daddy –“
There’s a harsh loud knocking at the door then, someone banging on it with both fists and calling out for Jacob.
“You have to go, Katie-cakes. You have to run.”
Kate wants scream at him to be sensible but then the door bangs open and she hears the voices of a group of men in their house.
“Go, Kate. Go!”
Kate grabs her bag and heads for the backdoor, pushing the screen open and hearing it slam behind her as she runs into the cold embrace of the night.
She runs through the woods somehow, even though it’s pitch black and she can barely see. It’s almost like the forest makes a way for her. Kate runs until she can’t breathe, until her lungs feel like they’re full of water. Keeps going until her legs are screaming at her to stop, balls of her feet pounding with pain. It’s only when she sees no lights, just the glow of the moon above her and the glimmer of owl’s eyes in the sky does she stop and try to calm herself.
Kate kneels, gasping until her vision isn’t blurred and her chest isn’t burning so much anymore. When she looks up, she’s not completely surprised to see the wood cabin, or to look back and see the archway made of two trees.
Kate manages to make her way inside, to shut the door behind her, before she collapses to the floor and falls into a fitful sleep. She dreams of her mother, and of a running wolf’s paws hitting the ground.
Kate wraps her blanket around herself as she makes her way to the nearest brook. The early winter has chilled the air and powdery snow coats the whole forest. She bends, hovering her fingers above the water and tugging out a stream into her pitcher. Kate waits until it’s full and stands, turning to head back to her cabin.
The past three months Kate’s done nothing but study her book and practice her magic. She can finally call it that, only just accept that she herself is a witch. She’s not sure if she was always meant to be one, or if her powers were given to her by her mother. Sometimes she thinks they were just somehow activated by her death but Kate’s still not sure and with no one to tell her right or wrong, she doesn’t think she ever will be.
Kate’s sure her mother was a witch, has come to figure that the church tried to fix her and it didn’t take. She wants to be angry at her mother for not warning her sooner about what might happen to her, about leaving her without answers, but Kate knows it won’t ease her mind. She wants to think about her mother in happier times, so she does.
Kate still can’t forgive her father, however. Even if she can almost understand his actions, she still thinks they were cowardly. Kate wonders if her brother knows what really happened or if he believes she would really kill herself. She tries not to think about them, and when she does, she just prays for them.
It’s getting dark and Kate picks up her pace back home. She’s pretty sure no one knows where to find her, but she doesn’t like to stray too far from where she feels safe. Every day Kate practices her spells but she’s had trouble getting down the defensive ones. She knows she needs to learn them but they don’t come as easily to her as the healing or borrowing spells.
Behind her a twig snaps, and Kate turns, spilling a bit of her water over her feet. She makes a noise at the cold splash hitting her through the hem of her skirt, and bites her bottom lip, stilling. Her eyes rake over the scene behind her as she tries to see if anyone is following her against the gray dusk.
Kate turns and walks faster, gripping the basin and curling her other hand, ready to strike out if she has to. Her heart feels like it’s in her throat, the way back home seeming further and further.
She stumbles, reaching out and balancing against a large tree, catching her breath. She’s ready to drop the water and run, takes one more step and screams as something comes running into her.
Kate falls to the ground, the basin shattering into pieces as the beast snarls above her. It’s a wolf, drool falling from its bared teeth and dripping down over her face. She struggles to throw out a defensive spell but her hand throbs, a piece of porcelain stuck in the middle of her palm. She cries out just as another dark blur comes barreling out of the trees and slams into the wolf, throwing it off of Kate.
She stares wide eyed as a charcoal gray wolf bites into the black wolf’s throat, the sound of bones snapping and flesh ripping sharp in the air.
For some reason Kate doesn’t run, feels frozen to the spot as she watches the scene before her. Once the black wolf folds in to the ground, dead, the charcoal wolf turns and looks at her.
She gasps, flinching and shuffling backwards over the cold ground. The wolf stops, hanging its head, but staring at her like he’s trying to tell her something.
Kate stares back, panting clouds of hot breath into the air, looking at the bloody face of the wolf. Fur matted, red dripping from his mouth into the snow.
It’s then that she can feel the wolf’s energy change, feel it trying to speak to her.
Kate blinks, seeing a dark haired man standing naked before her, and when she blinks against sees only the wolf.
“Oh my God.” Her voice shakes, disbelief trying to edge out the reality in front of her. But she can feel that there’s a real human man trapped inside the wolf’s body. In her heart she can feel how alone and desperate he is.
The wolf inches closer, ducking his nose at her. Kate licks her chapped lips, slowly holding out her unwounded hand to him.
He whines, cries deep from within his throat, and Kate passes two shaking fingers over his head.
Her eyes roll into her head, images flashing furiously through her mind. The forest floor passes in a blur beneath her as she runs, blood spurts from beneath her jaw as she tears into a rabbit, she snarls at another wolf feeling the urge to kill. Through all of it is the feeling of being wrong, of being frightened and lonely. Of being trapped.
Kate pulls away, breathing harder and her heart feeling like it’s beating hard enough to echo through the forest. The wolf is looking back at her almost like it can’t believe she exists.
She’s so unnerved, whole body shaking, that when an owl cries out in the distance she jumps, a bolt of light stabbing out from her hand. Luckily she pulls away from the wolf in time, but when she turns back, he’s gone.
Kate returns home that night and reads through every change spell in her book. When she doesn’t find anything helpful in there, she turns to her library.
It’s small, but Kate has found that every book in the cabin relates to witchcraft in some way, something she failed to notice the first time she found it. It’s obvious to her now that a witch lived here before, explains the way the entrance is protected and why she feels safe inside. She’s sure it’s not a coincidence that she found the haven when she did, but was led to it somehow.
She spends the night pouring over spells until she falls asleep at her table. Makes tea with the small amount of water she has left and only notices her hand hurting when she picks up her cup. Kate quickly heals her wound and goes back to studying.
It might be crazy but Kate feels compelled to try and help him. When she closes her eyes she can feel the dark loneliness that clouds his heart, the way he’s screaming to be seen for who he really is. It’s something she can relate to, it’s something she wish someone would have ever tried to see in her.
It’s not for another two nights of reading and practicing, using a few kind crickets as test subjects, that she feels confident enough to go out and find the werewolf.
Kate almost wants to laugh at the idea. She’s only read about them in fiction or seen them in movies or tv, but then she’s also a witch so she doesn’t have any room left for skepticism.
She returns to the clearing where he saved her, bends down and sees the broken porcelain embedded in the snow.
Kate looks around, squinting into the darkness. She’s not sure why he’d come back after she scared him off, but she hopes to find him here.
It seems like it takes forever, but soon she hears footsteps cracking in the snow. Kate looks up and sees him, slowing padding toward her.
Kate smiles, holding out her hand. “Hi.” Her voice just above a whisper. “I’m sorry I scared you the other night. I’m not good at controlling myself when I’m scared.”
He stills, dark eyes looking up at her in wonder.
“I want to help you.” Kate kneels, turning her hand, palm facing the night sky. “I think I can make you human.”
She can feel his energy shift, feel him open his mind to her. Kate can sense his confusion, and she bites her lip. “I can’t promise it will work. I’ve practiced, but I’m so new to all of this.”
The wolf dips his head down and licks at her palm, and Kate’s smile widens. “Okay. Give me your paw. Hand. Please.”
The wolf raises his paw, and Kate grips it gently. She shuts her eyes, beginning by mouthing the words she’d memorized. Soon she’s whispering them in a chant, raising her voice louder and louder until she’s calling out to the moon to please change the wolf’s form.
Kate can feel herself drawing energy from the earth. Pulling from the ground and the roots of the trees, from the animals running through the woods. She pulls from the wind and from the water in the snow, borrows from all around her and keeps chanting for the moon.
Kate sees a light start to form behind her eyelids and she opens them to see the wolf begin to glow. She doesn’t stop to take a breath, just keeps calling out. Over and over, faster and faster as he disappears fully inside a pale yellow orb. Soon she feels his paw shift in her grip, feels it change. Before long it feels like a hand is gripping hers right back, hanging on for dear life.
Kate feels her energy weaken, feels nature breaking its tether, and the orb shatters into a fine dust. It falls and shimmers all over the ground, and Kate looks past it to see a man standing naked before her. The same man she saw inside the wolf the other night, now human, now looking back at her with disbelieving eyes.
Kate gasps, covering her mouth as her chest fills up with a small giggle of excitement. “Oh my God.”
The man opens his mouth, voice starting as a growl before he coughs and swallows.
Kate bends and pulls a blanket from her bag, handing it out to him. “Hi.” She says, not knowing what else to say in this situation. “My name is Kate.”
He looks down at the blanket and curls his hand around it, learning how to use his fingers. He takes it, holding it against his chest and tries his voice again. “Seth.” It cracks, and he clears it once more. “My name is Seth.”
He smiles at her, and Kate giggles again.