Moondance [Blinking Star]
The Witch With Thirteen Children

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Martha Frisoli Gibson
    [Blinking Star]
The Mirror
"The Mirror"
By Patse Hemsley

A witch lived disguised as a mother. Only people with special vision could see she was a witch, for she was very clever. She knew how to hide her true self from her husband. She hid her self from her children. So clever was this witch, she even hid who she really was from her self.

Though witches aren’t supposed to, ever since she was a girl, she longed for love. Love was the magic she needed to smooth the grating of her joints, and swell her shallow bloodstream, and calm the awful spasms in her stringy black soul. So when she turned twenty, she married. But not one drop of good did that do the witch. Her husband’s heart was as chilly as a bone long buried in snow.

Day by day, she got crankier. Like lightning deep in a valley, her nerves shuddered. Her teeth began to crumble. Her face gnarled like an ancient elm. "Ugh," she thought, as she stared in her silver mirror. "I must get love, quickly! Why if I don’t, I’ll wind up just as wretched as my grandwitch mother!"

She pondered. She brewed. For a while, she flew in her garden. Then, like a bat, banging her attic wall, an idea struck her. A child would give her love. So the witch lit a cinnamon candle and cast a spell on her husband, long enough for him to help her make a child. Nine moons later, the baby was born. She was wiggly and pink and cuddly. She was helpless and trusting, and oh so in need of protection. "Aaah," her witch-mother cackled. "Protection you need. And protection you shall get--if me, and only me, you here ever after love."

And her baby, left with no choice, gave to her mother endless love. Instantly, the witch felt good. Deep down through their sockets, her joints relaxed. Her blood flowed in abundance. For one brief fabulous moment, her soul was transformed to the brightest, sprightliest soul in all the land. "Ooooh" exclaimed the witch. "How wonderful this child makes me feel!"

But as soon as her baby peeked at the world around her, the witch felt worthless. "Rats!" said the witch. "This child is not enough to fill my needs. I must have another."

And she lit a candle chock full of cloves and placed another spell on her icy husband. And once again he helped her make a baby.

A second child was born. His eyes were clear and pale. His heart was pure. And his tummy was very empty. He squirmed and fussed, and from the witch's breast, he fumbled for a drink. Into his tiny mouth, she placed its tip. "Foo-oo-ood, my son, is what you’ll have, and food galore--if in your eyes I see my self, forever perfect and wondrous, a mother unmatched by any." And straightaway in his eyes, her hungry son reflected a goddess of a mother.

The witch was thrilled. Never had she ever been so joyful. But after five minutes of shining out a goddess through his brand-new eyes, the teeny boy grew sleepy, and closed them. "Well," she sighed, feeling lifeless, that glorious April morn, when the dew was as sweet as her magic oils, and the sky, as clear as her crystal ball. "Two babies are just not enough to keep me happy." And as soon as her body was able, she lit a balsam candle, and with its vapors, cast a third spell on her husband. And together they made a child.

"Hmm," she wondered, as moons lagged by, before her baby girl’s birth. "Love, I get from child one. Glory, from child two. What shall I glean from this one?" The crafty witch thought and thought. She rubbed her swelling belly. And when her baby went to catch her very first breath, the witch hovered over her, blocking her air.

"Breathe you shall," she cawed, "and breathe deeply, my dearest. But every breath you take, you must take for me." And the smothering, terrified baby puffed her very first breath into her empty mother.

The witch grew more and more greedy. With claws like a cat on the trunk of a tree, she clung to her children. Day and night. She took from each child whatever she pleased. As infants, they lay there, in perfect service to her. But as they grew into tots, their selves became angry. For every time she took from them what wasn’t hers to take, the Wings of a thousand wasps whipped the inside of their tummies. "No!" her toddlers would cry, when the witch came round for another dose of love, or breath, or worship. "No no no!" They’d wriggle and scramble and yank. They’d stomp and flop and pout. And the witch would be enraged. "I am your mother!" she’d shriek, swooping down upon them, her eyes cutting glass, and her nose streaming fire. "Give me what I want, at once!" Each cell in her body sent out such scary signals, her horrified children would hop, skip, and jump to do her bidding.

Year after year, the witch made a brand new child. Upon each one she conferred a different duty. Child four she made to cheer her. Child five, to keep her warm. The sixth, she made to fan her. The seventh’s soul she shaped into a treasure chest, and stuffed it with her long-lost childhood dreams. The soul of the eighth she dug into like clay, and formed a deep well, filling it high with her newborn’s hope.

Her tenth child she made to stroke her, while her ninth was entertaining. Eternally, child eleven made good wishes for the witch. The twelfth, each bedtime, spewed her mother’s body with the warm wild geyser of youth. Each and every moment, her children were there to tend to her needs. But the witch felt as withered as ever.

"I know!" she cried out, one bleak midnight. "A child like me is what will cure me! I must make my twin!"

So this time the witch lit a very special candle of coca leaves and cannabis. And right when her glacier-skinned husband got home, she lit it, and sank him into the deepest spell. And together, slowly and carefully, in the witch’s exact image, they made their thirteenth child.

After nearly ten moons, a baby girl was born. She looked just like her mother. Her body was long and narrow. Thick raven hair fell over her fiery skin. Like coal, her slanted eyes shone.

"O-o-h," gasped her delighted mother. "Why have I waited so long, to make a child in my likeness?"

And just as she started to lean on her baby and ask something of her, the clever witch stopped her self.

"No!" she said so loud, the infant shook. "This child is my twin. I must give her what I never got. Then, through her strength, I can get strong." And the witch took the infant into her arms, and for the first time ever, gave a child love.

Eyeing her self in her daughter, the witch was able to be a wonderful mother. Any attention she gave her child, she pretended to give herself. The baby’s slightest whim became the witch’s urgency. But as the baby grew happy and healthy, the witch was swamped with envy.

"Never you mind," she warned her self, whenever her fingers felt graspy or tongue felt sharp. "As soon as this girl grows up, your efforts will pay off. For finally, you’ll have someone just like you, someone to feel good with."

For a while, her plan worked well. To stave off her envy, the witch would imagine that she were the baby, oh so loved and cared for. But watching her daughter blossom, rather than making the witch feel good, made her miserable. For over and under and all around the happy girl, hovered her mother’s ghost--the grandwitch’s pain-filled daughter.

The more she felt her ghost, the more the witch went mad. Pain from her past shot up and pricked her all over. Inside her ears, the grandwitch’s cruel words churned. Years of uncried tears bloated her eyes. Terror-filled childhood scenes, each fast on the heels of the last, flashed in her head, then zapped throughout her body.

"Aaaaaaaah," screamed the witch one stormy morn, when right in the midst of her torment, she spotted her twin, peacefully playing. "Stop it, I tell you! Stop it, at once!"

"Stop what?" said her puzzled daughter, cuddling her favorite white toy bear. "Why Mama, whatever is wrong?" And she placed her chin on the bear’s fuzzy forehead, and smiled the pure sweet smile of a well-loved girl. All at once, the witch went daffy. Her yellowed teeth snapped at her toes. Her kneecaps popped. Her throat caved into her stomach. With all her children watching, in a flash, the witch swooped down on her one happy child.

And though it nearly killed her to do it, the witch took the bear, and turned it into iron, and with it she bashed the heart of her twin, 'til it splattered in weepy wedges. Instantly, the witch’s ghost vanished. "There," she said, weakly, to her dozen dazed other offspring. "That’s what happens to happy children."

And after she took a dose of whatever she needed from each of her first twelve children, she picked up her twin, and with a magic needle, stitched together the dried-up remnants of her daughter’s heart. Then she stitched tight her chest. And once she put down her needle, leaving the wasted heart inside the girl, forever thereafter the witch froze her out of the family.

Time went on. The girl grew very needy. Her mother, the witch, ignored her. Day by day, she got crankier. Her spirit turned to lead. Her body ached. So when she turned twenty, for love, the witch’s twin married. And straightaway she had her first child.

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Martha Frisoli Gibson's current writing projects include: Woman To Woman: Never-Told Tales [from which these tales are excerpted]; In Harvard's Shadow, interconnected short stories set in her home town of Cambridge MA; Overlapping Edges: Primitive Agonies And The Creative Artist [in collaboration with Dr. Nancy Brehm] and The Chillin' Charlie & Heidi HotDog Series of children's books. My email address: gibsongs@erols.com



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