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The Witch Dances

Written by Thiago Ambrósio Lage

Edited by Lucas Rafael Ferraz

Translated by Iana Araújo

Copyedited by Marina Ferreira

Five, six, seven, eight.

One leg right.

One leg left.

Raise arms, half a pi­rou­ette.

Kick the air with the left leg.

In the dis­tance, I see the end of the deser­ted street. I feel their eyes on me. Through the cracks and slits of the houses, they watch me. Fear, curi­os­ity, fas­cin­a­tion. A witch dances. The Witch dances. In a vil­lage such as this one, we need no names. The Witch, the Priest. I don’t see him, but I know he’s there, high up on the bell tower, watch­ing me. We thought about us­ing the bell to set my pace but de­cided against it. It could dis­turb the rhythm of the fae. The pace of the Priest was the re­pose. Exit the scene and let the oth­ers dance.

Slap the right thigh.

One more step, one more pi­rou­ette.

Turn. Sigh.

Bang the staff thrice on the ground.

I con­quer the dis­tance of a few more houses. In between strides I can hear whis­pers be­hind closed doors, their small cries. I feel their be­wil­der­ment. “Where is the Priest? How can he let her do this?” I am but a witch, but to them, I am the Witch who crossed a line today. I have al­ways had my du­ties, and the Priest had his. He had the an­swers for the mal­ad­ies of the soul; I had the cures for the mal­ad­ies of the body. Every­one sought my hut just out­side the vil­lage. They paid up­front. It was best to already leave a chicken, some eggs, a few yards of fab­ric or even some coins than hav­ing to re­turn to the Witch’s house. In ex­change, they were cleansed, and took home herbs, teas, con­coc­tions, charms.

Re­peat from the top, thrice.

Change the pace. Arm, arm.

Aim with the staff, re­cite the rite.

A wide step for­ward, a short step back.

I could have chosen a sim­pler dance, but it wouldn’t have been as ef­fect­ive. We had to de­feat the Vi­olet Ves­icle. My medi­cines weren’t enough, and I could tell by the fresh graves on the tiny cemetery be­hind the church that many vil­la­gers had already been taken. It was im­possible to dis­pel the dis­ease with the in­cant­a­tions and dances of a Witch, so I was left with the duty of fright­en­ing the vil­la­gers into their homes, where they’d watch me from a dis­tance. This was the only way to make sure that the fae, at their own pace, would visit them all.

Wiggle, turn, re­peat, re­peat.

More houses conquered. Now only halfway to go.

Left leg.

Right leg.

Cross and un­cross the arms. Squat.

Each faery car­ried two things: a vial and an imp. It was the little dev­ils’ duty to stab the vil­la­gers with a needle. To singe the needle, dip on the vial and stab. Singe, dip, stab. The vil­la­gers would only feel a sting, and upon not be­ing able to see the imp—made in­vis­ible by the craft of the fae—they would as­sume it was just a mos­quito. It had been hard to con­vince the Priest of the need for imps, but even if the fae could touch the iron needle, they lacked the fire to per­form the del­ic­ate pro­ced­ure. Hence, the tiny creatures were left with the mis­sion of dis­guising the imps and car­ry­ing the vial with the golden li­quid. Those were their steps in our cho­reo­graphy.

Burst with a scream.

Slap the left thigh.

One more step, a back­wards pi­rou­ette.

Turn. Sigh.

The Sci­ent­ist was the new­est res­id­ent of the vil­lage: he had come from the city, from the uni­ver­sity, claim­ing the air here would do him good. He had a small garden but he did not work the land like the Gardener. He was skilled with glass, metals, and wood but not like mas­ters Glass­maker, Smith and Car­penter. He was wise but un­like the Priest, he did not have all the an­swers. To tell the truth, he had more ques­tions than an­swers. Many of those ques­tions were dir­ec­ted at me, and he was the only vil­la­ger who wasn’t afraid. He came by my hut fre­quently, only to drink tea and talk. In one of those vis­its, when the dis­ease had already taken men, wo­men, chil­dren, and eld­ers without dis­tinc­tion, he brought to me the golden vial. My herbs and oint­ments ap­peased the fever and the pain, but I had already lost all hope of sav­ing the sick from the fate await­ing them be­hind the church. The golden medi­cine filled me with hope, but we had two prob­lems: it had to be ap­plied be­fore the per­son fell ill, and it had to be done through the pinch of a needle. “It’ll be im­possible to con­vince people of this mad­ness”, I had said. He laughed and poin­ted at my hut and my glasses of dried herbs, say­ing that “im­possible” was the very thing I did every day.

That night, we made our plan.

Turn the staff thrice. Re­peat.

Re­peat everything three more times.

I spoke with a Fae prin­cess who thought the idea was de­light­ful. Be­sides, with so many deaths, the little of­fer­ings her people re­ceived were now bathed in tears, and every­body knows that fair­ies prefer sweet­ness over sa­vory. The Sci­ent­ist spoke with the Priest, whose pray­ers and mir­acles, he was re­luct­ant to ad­mit, were power­less against the dis­ease. A day and a night with no church bells and no mass: it was all we needed to open up the vil­lage to the forest people, the people of the depths, and I. The Sci­ent­ist and I had to work to­gether to get the help from the people of the depths. It took at least four hands in a ritual to sum­mon a prince of Hell to make such a re­quest. The Sci­ent­ist, that fool, hap­pily paid the price, giv­ing away some­thing he thought he didn’t have. Done deals, I now only needed to fin­ish my dance and trust my part­ners. Those of us who cared were in their place, per­form­ing their du­ties. Even the vil­la­gers, just by stay­ing at home. Soon the vil­lage would be rid of the dis­ease.

What about the Al­caide? Well… he is a moron who in­sists on smear­ing ur­ine and ma­nure on the wounds, and other things that only get in the way.

Every­one had their part and helped. Not him.

Thi­ago Am­brósio Lage

Thi­ago Am­brósio Lage is a pro­fessor and sci­ent­ist from Mi­nas Gerais based in Tocantins, with a long stint in Per­n­am­buco. His star sign is Hard Sci­ences, with Hu­man­it­ies rising and Moon in Bio­logy, he has a di­verse range of in­terests: from bi­o­tech­no­logy to fairy tales, through lin­guist­ics, and as­tro­nomy. In fantasy and sci­ence fic­tion, he found the free­dom to ex­plore this di­versity of themes. He has already pub­lished a flash story in Faísca Maf­agafo, a hor­ror story in the Casa Fantástica Col­lec­tion, and a short story in the sci­ence fic­tion col­lec­tion of LGB­TQIA+ au­thors titled Vi­ol­etas, Uni­córnios e Rino­cerontes [Vi­ol­ets, Uni­corns, and Rhino­cer­oses], by Patuá pub­lisher, in ad­di­tion to other pub­lic­a­tions avail­able on­line.


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