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.
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.
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.
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 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.