Your daddy came to kill me, their mama said.
Alicia had bled, last moon-dark, and it was time to spill.
You and your brother, always, her mama said, and blessed them, cast the circle.
The house, spine in the forest, breast on the road, smelled like oregano, stew and smoke, candles guttered in autumn gusts.
They made peace there, and trouble. Grew tall as hocks in the garden.
Mama could bang back whiskey, she wanted. Her daughter learned it too, but mostly how to steady: hands, bones, wastrel spirits. Things that wandered in out of the wild. Titmice and cryptids. She twisted wreaths, holly and cohosh, mouthed the old phonemes, gentled when she wanted, clear-cut the rest.
Max was the wit; his hand in hers while they walked widdershins, round the house under the eye of the wolf star (Polaris is the leash of the sky camp, their mama said, wolf and coyote and fox chasing on their long leads, milky way the summer-path of the geese, fisher and otter and wolverine; stories, their mama said, tangled Canada-kind.)
Grandpa was Sipi Cree out of Gods River, far to the north, where priests chased tongues out with firewater.
Nēhiyawak, the first people, their mama said, and dressed them young in feathers.
The people feared witchcraft, their mama said, but they didn’t know what it could do, other than send sickness through lodges. Hunted the buffalo but--
other things too. Hunters the first people, her mama said, your grandmother knew.
Killed something with her knife she didn’t know how to name.
Came south when she could.
Alicia scried at three; Max made eyes. Nadine Banes knew them, taught them to run their fingers through nature's hair, how to see her, let her course through. Cleanse with sage, hyssop; don't give in to the dark side. Listen, but don't give in. Like southerlies in tallgrass and old blood running under plain.
Don't be the hunted.
She made bread. Her quartzes clacked between her breasts.
And sometimes: their daddy blew through, banged the door open armed and smiling, swept them up, brought toys carved with signs, games that taught them to shoot, left again in a swirl of snow.
Alicia put her palms to his cold cheeks. Max looked into his third eye. Their mama argued with him, low, dusk and white candles.
At night there were stories:
Your daddy was a fox.
Your daddy outran a wolf, almost.
You can dream-walk too.
‘licia tied hex bags faster, red thread and cold ash. Max could call birds out of trees, just a blink; sometimes they sat with chickadees chestnut on their hands; later smoked up with friends in the garden, giggling. Teens cackling stoned among the night-blooms.
Your mom’s a witch, John said, let it land ugly. His last name was Farmer.
Shut it, bitch, Max said, and his hands swept something up, put a glamour to the branches above.
John kissed him, hung off his neck for a week, wept when Max moved on.
They scoffed at TV witches who needed more than two. Sang, two-part ironic, with tweenpop radio, I wanna, I wanna be your—
something coursed up between notes, made them stop.
Your father’s a hunter, mama said, proud, gave them their first beautiful blades, stuffed their pockets with hexes, their hair with blossoms.
Her first kill was a were, yip-grunting over a girl, oaks, under the Travel Moon.
‘sup Wolfsbane, her friends would say. Made her laugh.
She scribbled in college, gothy moon-doggerel, laughed with Max about it; took out a classmate junior year. Never took to him in that way, knew he was possessed. Her mama thought techno-witchery was bullshit; the coven-studygroup witched to differ.
Dude, Max said, when she told him, I could make him love you, if that’s what you want.
After we set him free.
She got herself inked. Max too. They sat shivering, blood up with banishment. Their mama taught them. Not just the songbird-beckon, the applesweet lovespell, the green-eyed whitewash crystalwork--
but the spirit-knife, the excision, the black paths through the pinewood.
At fifty, wracked and peaceful, their hands in hers in the circle, she taught them death:
Don’t be the hunted.
Never let go of nature.
Or each other.
Emerson: bordertown named for a romantic, no longer a crossing. Portal, Alicia thinks, goes wary, prickles up. Athame strapped to a thigh; Max strapped tighter.
They make twinhands at the door, look their white grandmother in the eye, first time, sit and knock back a few, make small with an infantry of mourners.
Your father was fox, mama said.
Outran a wolf, almost.
There are mothers in this house.
There are hunters in this house: hulking, mostly human. Brothers. Twinned so bright it nearly blinds her, inward eye.
Sam smells like hex, or its aftermath. Like it’s his cologne, and Dean: well. They've been to hell, both, no need to say it. So this is what myth smells like.
(You don't know what it smells like, girl. For a witch to know brimstone is legit cliché.)
Shut up, Max says, psychic tingle, so sweet, just be my wingwoman? Smiles at her.
They’ve come to say goodbye.
Winchesters stand together like twin pines. Sway solid.
Alicia takes her brother’s hand.
The man on the pyre is their blood, who came to kill, made them instead.
And she’s the girl who might have been hunted, who--
cast out demons; smelled snow, when her daddy came to the door.