Kieron Walquist

Your sister charges you of witchcraft. Not because you spit in her eyes, but because your saliva is the shade of moss and the texture of powder, not at all the look and feel of seafoam. Your mother accuses you of black magic. For when she slaps you across the face, hard, your baby cheeks flush tangerine from the sting and a ribbon of orange, prickly as a rosebush, trickles down your button nose—not blood. Your father drags you by the mane to the church, strikes his fists upon the gates and pronounces you demon-possessed. The priest and the acolytes can’t bear to watch, yet don’t dare look away: your hair becomes violet—a vivid and visceral hue—as your father, with a fistful, wrenches using great force, craning your alabaster neck painstakingly back.

You’re put on trial. The village elders fill your pockets with stones and throw you into the cloudy lake—if a witch, you’d spurn the sacrament of baptism and the polluted water would reject your body and you’d float across the surface, denied to drown; if a normal girl, you’d sink like the stones pulling you under. And you do sink, that is, until they rush in to rescue you and bring you back to shore. WITCH! They keen together, like a pack of wolves, as you cough up ivory vapor and look upon the lake with wet eyes, discover you’ve left the space dandelion-yellow; a harvest moon biting into the night sky.

Removing your dress to reveal your vulnerable flesh, the men of the village hold you still while the elders lacerate your hide with the sharp end of a steel crucifix; if a witch, your soapy skin would smoke, scald and split at the touch of a holy relic, you’d writhe and rage at the sight of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; if a normal girl, you’d bleed until you exsanguinated—the fire snuffed out of your eyes. You bleed. Oh, how you bleed! The church elders who accidently nick their meaty fingers or slice their palms paint crimson, but you imprint ocean-blue, the saddest blue, and cry thick, pomegranate-red tears. Your sister screams out in horror like a wounded animal. Your father’s speechless. Your mother curses herself for bringing you into this world.

You’re to be burned at the stake. The villagers—everyone you’ve ever known, everyone you’ve ever loved—stack kindling and bales of hay around your feet and anoint you with oil. The chief priest declares the crimes you’ve committed and decrees you guilty of witchcraft, seals your fate with a toss of a torch.

The flames eat away brush and branch, slither for your ankle to lick. Weightless, they rise to claim you. To embrace you. To devour you. You don’t burn black, like paper burns black—you radiate driftwood-white. While you wither, you become brighter and brighter until you’re pure crystal. You were never a witch. Just a prism. You beam psychedelic rainbows—reds, blues, pinks, greens, violets, yellows. Colors that remain nameless, shapeless; whispers in nightmares, breath of dreams.

The villagers can’t bear to watch, yet don’t dare look away. You glow and spark like the sun, melting their eyes until all they’ll ever see again is the color of night.


Kieron Walquist lives in Missouri as a coffee-drinker, doughnut-addict, book-lover and terrible-dancer. His fiction has appeared in 365 Tomorrows, Electric Cereal, Flash Fiction Magazine, Purple Pig Lit and Unreality House, among others.
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