Written by Thiago Ambrósio Lage
Edited by Lucas Rafael Ferraz
Translated by Iana Ara√ļjo
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 con¬≠quer the dis¬≠tance of a few more houses. In between strides I can hear whis¬≠pers be¬≠hind closed doors, their small cries. I feel their be¬≠wil¬≠der¬≠ment. ‚ÄúWhere is the Priest? How can he let her do this?‚ÄĚ I am but a witch, but to them, I am the Witch who crossed a line today. I have al¬≠ways had my du¬≠ties, and the Priest had his. He had the an¬≠swers for the mal¬≠ad¬≠ies of the soul; I had the cures for the mal¬≠ad¬≠ies of the body. Every¬≠one sought my hut just out¬≠side the vil¬≠lage. They paid up¬≠front. It was best to already leave a chicken, some eggs, a few yards of fab¬≠ric or even some coins than hav¬≠ing to re¬≠turn to the Witch‚Äôs house. In ex¬≠change, they were cleansed, and took home herbs, teas, con¬≠coc¬≠tions, 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 car¬≠ried two things: a vial and an imp. It was the little dev¬≠ils‚Äô duty to stab the vil¬≠la¬≠gers with a needle. To singe the needle, dip on the vial and stab. Singe, dip, stab. The vil¬≠la¬≠gers would only feel a sting, and upon not be¬≠ing able to see the imp‚ÄĒmade in¬≠vis¬≠ible by the craft of the fae‚ÄĒthey would as¬≠sume it was just a mos¬≠quito. It had been hard to con¬≠vince the Priest of the need for imps, but even if the fae could touch the iron needle, they lacked the fire to per¬≠form the del¬≠ic¬≠ate pro¬≠ced¬≠ure. Hence, the tiny creatures were left with the mis¬≠sion of dis¬≠guising the imps and car¬≠ry¬≠ing the vial with the golden li¬≠quid. Those were their steps in our cho¬≠reo¬≠graphy.

Burst with a scream.

Slap the left thigh.

One more step, a back­wards pi­rou­ette.

Turn. Sigh.

The Sci¬≠ent¬≠ist was the new¬≠est res¬≠id¬≠ent of the vil¬≠lage: he had come from the city, from the uni¬≠ver¬≠sity, claim¬≠ing 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 mas¬≠ters Glass¬≠maker, Smith and Car¬≠penter. He was wise but un¬≠like the Priest, he did not have all the an¬≠swers. To tell the truth, he had more ques¬≠tions than an¬≠swers. Many of those ques¬≠tions were dir¬≠ec¬≠ted at me, and he was the only vil¬≠la¬≠ger who wasn‚Äôt afraid. He came by my hut fre¬≠quently, only to drink tea and talk. In one of those vis¬≠its, when the dis¬≠ease had already taken men, wo¬≠men, chil¬≠dren, and eld¬≠ers without dis¬≠tinc¬≠tion, he brought to me the golden vial. My herbs and oint¬≠ments ap¬≠peased the fever and the pain, but I had already lost all hope of sav¬≠ing the sick from the fate await¬≠ing them be¬≠hind the church. The golden medi¬≠cine filled me with hope, but we had two prob¬≠lems: it had to be ap¬≠plied be¬≠fore the per¬≠son fell ill, and it had to be done through the pinch of a needle. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôll be im¬≠possible to con¬≠vince people of this mad¬≠ness‚ÄĚ, I had said. He laughed and poin¬≠ted at my hut and my glasses of dried herbs, say¬≠ing that ‚Äúim¬≠possible‚ÄĚ 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.

Web­site: http://thamblage.com.br

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