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Witchtober IV: Chthonic Witch

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Thomasin spoke to her plants in a kindly voice, whispered them encouragement, sang them songs. The seeds that her father planted grew sickly, withered, died. The corn was hard and brown, and the wheat naught but chaff. The less said of the squash, the better. He told the family that the Lord had brought a great trial on them, to humble them, to test the faith of their lonely home on the edge of the dark forest. Thus was his consternation great when Thomasin’s small garden, around the side of the half-finished barn, began to produce such vegetables as they would not have dared pray for: peppery and flavorful radishes, vibrant carrots, potatoes of enormous size. Another man would have rejoiced at the miracle.

Her father was a pious man, zealous in his devotion to the Scripture, but in his secret heart he was not above the sin of Pride. Why had his prayers for the harvest gone unanswered, and hers not? Why was the sweat of his brow transfigured into dust and rot, and the trifling effort of a girl-child rewarded with such bounty? The answer was obvious: she must be a witch. She had spake with the Black Goat of the Woods, the Mother of Ten Thousand Crawling Things, and made her contract with it.

Being herself a righteous soul, Thomasin would admit to no such thing, and she told her father the truth: she sang unto the plants growing under the earth, and they unto her, and she did but listen to their strange and pleasing melody, and naught of the Adversary was in’t. But in this she was not even listened to by her father nor her mother, much less believed. And Thomasin lay awake that night, listening first to the arguments of her parents, and then their fervent prayers, and her belly was empty but for a cold and gnawing dread.

She woke with her cheek nestled against the soft earth of the garden, the white moon round in the sky, the stars overbright and menacing in their closeness. Sweet to her ear was the music that came from under that ground, and as she listened, its disharmonies became more pleasing, and slept she in peace, dreaming of geometries beautiful and strange.  

Thomasin woke to a stab of sunlight and a curse, for her night-clothes were all that protected her against the out-of-doors, and she spent the morning scrubbing them clean with a river-stone. She returned to the homestead, and saw her beautiful harvest piled in the field, and burning. Her father knelt before the conflagration, calling out to Him On High to purify their tainted land, and cleanse the wickedness done by his own flesh. And Thomasin knelt also, and prayed, and if she shook with fear and worry for their survival of the winter, it was yet a harsh and windy morn, and none remarked upon it, and no tear passed from her eye.

No crop nor seed was planted after this in the garden by the unfinished barn.

And yet they grew: Purple-red carrots melded to each other like unto the fingers of a twisted hand, onions each containing two of their smaller selves hidden within, again and again, until they became too small to see, pumpkins out of all proportion whose skin blemished in strange colors that none of them had before seen, excepting only Thomasin in her dreams. And though they burned, and though they prayed, still that garden bloomed.

That night the moon hung pale and bloated in the sky like a drowned corpse, and the stars were hard and bright as knives, and the trees swayed, though there was no wind. And Thomasin planted her feet in the ground like roots, and she swayed also. And in the morning the horse was saddled and the old wagon loaded up, and the father and the mother and the young brother, and the twins, and even the babe-in-arms took their leave of that place, ne'er to return. But no girl-child left with them.