Put it right there. Mage Martha’s voice is like a telepathic bath scrub, little crystals rubbing together in a slippery coating.
Light from the street lamp dances across the sharp edges of a broken beer bottle until I place it in the shadow of a torn paper bag, where someone picking up litter might unwittingly cut their finger on it.
I doubt it will work, but perhaps I shouldn’t. After all, there is a reason she can control me.
“Don’t step on the glass. Wizards leave it everywhere, so they can steal your blood.” Mother bent down and plucked a shard of gleaming blue glass off of the sidewalk. Starbursts of sunlight twinkled as she held it in front of my face. “Once they have your blood, they can use it to kill you and to control you. They can boil you from the inside or make blood congeal in your arteries. They can murder you from across the world. So if they get your blood, you have to do what they say or die.”
“I’ll try to be careful.” My hands strangled each other behind my back. If I didn’t move soon, my muscles would lock in place.
“Trying isn’t enough, Aspen.” She pocketed the glass. Her ankle-length tie-dye skirt swished as she crossed the lawn.
I stepped onto the grass that would feel cool and soft on my feet, if I were still allowed to go outside barefoot. “But what if I do get cut?”
Mother spun around. “You burn whatever blood spills. Don’t leave a trace of it behind.”
My tight muscles didn’t relax until I heard the school bus rumbling down the street. The squeal of its brakes was music. The smell of vinyl seats and sweat and disinfectant drew the remaining tension from my shoulders.
“That your other mother?” Joey’s blond curls tumbled down his face as he peered over the seat, cute as a chipmunk.
“She doesn’t look like a felon.”
I shrugged. “I don’t think she meant to burn the building down.”
“I heard an officer found her with matches and gasoline,” said Juliet from across the aisle, eyebrows raised in a challenge. She was the police chief’s daughter.
“Really?” Joey’s forehead wrinkled. “Why would she have that?”
“To burn a building down, obviously.” Juliet rolled her eyes.
I thought about what Mother had told me. “She didn’t want the wizards to get her blood.”
Juliet’s laugh was sharp as shattered glass.
Joey disappeared behind his seat, reappearing as he slid into the aisle and plopped next to me. He whispered, “Do you think the wizards are real?”
I stared at the galaxy screen printed on his shirt. “I don’t know.”
I believed, even though I was afraid to admit it.
But as I grew, my faith in Mother waned.
By the time she died of a heart attack, I’d thought her stories of wizards were fairy tales meant to scare me into wearing shoes.
The tacks on that telephone pole have potential. Mage Martha’s voice whispers in mind, directing my sight to rusty barbs that still have fragments of flyers stuck to them.
I slide my fingers into my pocket, feeling an array of sharp metal objects until my fingers close around my file. I don’t want to shave the crumbling heads off of corroded tacks and nails, but if I refuse, Mage Martha will stop my heart.
Rust falls on the pavement like light snow as I move the file back and forth.
Now, go to Senator Park’s home. Litter his lawn with the sharpest shards of green glass.
I should’ve listened to my mother.
About the author:
Sara Codair writes speculative short stories and novels. They partially owe their success to their faithful feline writing partner, Goose the Meowditor-In-Chief, who likes to “edit” their work by deleting entire pages. Their short fiction was recently published in Distant Gardens and Father Reefs.