Rhiannon says she’ll find us a good deli open for breakfast, but she’s not saying when. Abracadabra, I call her privately, plunking a bagel emoticon between us. Long blue hair, ruby lips, crackery smile.
“Hiya,” she says, and my phone rings like a bell through the night. “What did you say your given name is, anyway? I’m not interested in your avatar name.”
“David, I like it,” she says. “A trustworthy. Old-fashioned. Name.”
“What’s yours?” I say.
“Rhiannon, of course. I don’t do avatars, David.”
There are things I don’t do, too. For example, I don’t say that I’m wearing a weighted shirt, excited to know what dating a real witch is like. What been taken by the wind feels like. But I’m sure that finding the right witch can only bring me luck.
Tonight, my night terrors transform a wall of dark bedroom into a computer screen displaying code for wandluv.com
Lilith, the old hag, the crone, and Rhiannon flicker as wandluv.com opens onto screens with multiple matches in parallel universes. So many Davids and Daves are looking for Rhiannon.
Are she and I lovers from a past life destined to keep returning to each other?
Braided in bats, streaked with moonlit, the night sky of her long blue hair tickles my face until I hear a song-shadow avatar whisper my name. I wake again at night in the dark room to the old hag staring down at me with loving eyes. Who is she? Is she really her? I see the crone Lilith, sitting on my chest, holding me down, whispering, Rhiannon.
“Sorry I disappeared, just very busy. Sometimes I’m here, other times I’m not, David my friend.”
“Is that like phantom limb?” I ask. “Like having feelings in your feet when your feet are missing?”
“A bit like that,” she inserts a wide-eyed emoticon. “I’m a bit like a missing foot myself, I guess. And hey, here’s a question for you. Do you know how my Wigtown ancestors were murdered, David?”
“Nope,” I say. I’m standing at the window, watching the starless sky.
“I’ll weave it for you someday,” she texts, inserting a winky eyed face.
I lay there and listen for sounds in the universe, for texts from more cute witches. So far, no dates. Abracadabra wants me to hang around? I google “Wigtown witches”.
But it’s too late. She’s gone. Will you ever win? I think.
In emailed photographs, her spinal tattoo is the Tree of Life.
The trunk branches between ribs.
Birds rest in branches.
Inky birds hide in the night sky of her hair.
Tattoo birds break free of her skin.
Skin flies from bones.
Blood rains as bones become tree.
I’ve attempted to console myself with HeavenlyWitch.com, a randy new witchsexchat app. The world is frothing with sexy, desperate witches. Needy, disgusting, untraceable. And not a one like Rhiannon.
But then suddenly she’s back!
“Long time, no see, Davey-o,” she says, poking a sad-faced smiley into my saddened bachelor’s life.
This time, she admits she doesn’t quite understand my profile photo.
“Why is your smile triangular, David?” she asks.
“Anyway. If we meet for breakfast, David,” she says, “I’d like some basic protections.”
“Open-air delis are good,” I say.
I describe for her how I prefer my breakfasts, make myself relatable. “I’m a bit too keen on the bad stuff. For example, salt, and pork fat,” I say. I insert a smiley moon emoticon, a fat-faced friendly one. “I probably need myself a healthy witch to reform me,” I write. “Can you please just promise me a bit of your heaven?”
“I like to see a man enjoy himself,” she says, which I believe means yes.
Her web of illusions spiders inside me.
She shuffles tarot cards, the sun and moon kissing her palms. The chariot and star brush fingers.
I want to kiss her ruby lips and slip my tongue into her smile. Instead, I ask what it’s like to burn at the stake as villagers stare in longing while the executioner shows the flame, holding the torch high so everyone can see your face. The fire touches straw stacked beneath you. Your hair smokes. You feel heat rising to your toes and smell the scent of your flesh searing as the crowd cheers, Rhiannon.
“I’m burning,” I whisper as Rhiannon rises from ashes like a star exploding light.
“Burning?” she whispers.
After that much pain, terror is bliss.
“Sorry, Dave,” she whispers. “I have to ghost you, again.”
“Anything you want, anything at all.”
Back to wandluv.com. Avatars flicker in blue light. She kisses the devil and romances the hanged man before climbing the tower to make death her lover. With spells whispered like names of strangers from another land, witches enter cloud castles before spinning the wheel of time.
One night, right out of my turned-off phone, she sends me a few naked selfies. The older the woman, the stronger the magic. The naked crone ages in reverse, becoming a young woman twirling on a stage. Swirling her body inside a black-lace shawl of dark diamonds, she becomes the night.
In my dream, I’m seeing the murders from the sky. I can’t help looking down at the Solway Firth, can’t help crying like rain. Watching the scalps of the staked witches, some old, some young. Hearing every one of their screams as the tide creeps in, each of them dangling at the lip of the Irish sea. One of them is Rhiannon. I rescue her right before the water laps over those beautiful blue lips. I unwind her easily, fly her home to my cat. Brew her up some valerian root tea to calm her down before telling her all about my unusual, very human magic. I can’t save you witches, I say. You live in the world of my imagination, like missing dreams. She kisses me then. I can taste a tidal basin, salty and deep, like a spell.
Aimee Parkison is widely published and the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, the Kurt Vonnegut Prize from North American Review, the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a Writers at Work Fellowship, a Puffin Foundation Fellowship, and a William Randolph Hearst Creative Artists Fellowship. She currently teaches creative writing and literature in the MFA/Ph.D. program at Oklahoma State University.
Meg Pokrass is the author of seven collections of flash fiction and prose poetry, and her work has appeared in hundreds of literary publications and best-of anthologies, including the Best Small Fictions and the Wigleaf Top 50, and is forthcoming in the 2023 Norton anthology Flash Fiction America, edited by Sherrie Flick, James Thomas, and John Dufresne. Meg is the Founding Editor of the Best Microfiction anthology series. She lives in Northern England and wears many hats.