The Whimsy Witch Who Wasn't - Donna Augustine
Dead leaves blew across the ground, looking like small creatures scuttling by, spying on the neighborhood, its occupants, its tourists. The wind whistled and howled, and I would’ve sworn it was saying, “Tippi.”
“Shut up,” I told it.
Of course, the wind ignored me and continued to call my name. A tingle spread over my flesh like a low current was charging my body. It felt so real, as if I could reach out my hand and touch the magic. I ignored it the way I always did. Most of me was sane, even if I had a toe or two over the line. I could attest to this because whenever I did do something crazy, I knew enough to hide it. True crazy was when you had no idea. One day, I might completely succumb to my mother’s sickness, but for now, I still knew none of it was real.
It hadn’t always been that way, though. When I’d been a child, I’d look around and think that there was something more lurking beyond the visible. My mother would tell me it was all real. Believing her, I’d hide in the closet, waiting for gremlins to come and fetch me in the dark of the night. I’d wake looking for monsters under the bed she swore were real. But that was all in the past. I wasn’t a child anymore and had ceased to be one way before most people. I shoved the bad memories from my mind as best I could and got on with what I was here for.
I took the cupcake out of the small pink-dotted box from my mother’s favorite bakery and put the candle on it. Shielding it from the wind, I lit it and placed it down.
“Happy birthday, Mom.”
Silence greeted me. I’d pretty much expected it. Although she had told me if she ever died, she’d find a way to talk to me from the other side, I didn’t fault her for failing. It was hard to talk when you were six feet under. If there was anyone who might’ve been able to achieve it, though, it would’ve been her.
As far as mothers, she hadn’t been the best. I didn’t blame her entirely. Mental illness didn’t make it easy. Refusing to get help made it worse.
“So, we haven’t seen each other in a long while,” I said, filling the silence. Our one-sided conversations were actually an improvement on the ones we’d had when she was alive.
There was one conversation we needed to have that I would’ve dreaded if she were still around. As it were, I still wasn’t looking forward to it. I reached my hand behind me, to the top of my spine, right below my neck, the skin sore.
“I guess I should tell you I got rid of it. Or almost. The doctor said after this last treatment, it should fade completely in the next few weeks.”
Silence. That in itself proved she couldn’t communicate from beyond.
“I know what you want to say, but it’s not true. None of it,” I told her.
I’d never wanted it. Had cried every time she’d refreshed it. Now it was gone, this thing most people would’ve called child abuse, and I somehow felt guilty.
“Hey!” someone yelled.
I jumped, thinking she’d figured out a way after all, before realizing the voice was nothing like hers. I looked about the cemetery, and a twenty-something girl with long locks of purple and blond hair walked toward me. I’d noticed her roaming around before and assumed she was looking for a grave.
“Do you have some salt on you? Mine leaked, and I don’t have enough to make the jump. I’ve only got a couple of grains, and I don’t want to end up in Greenland or something.”
“Salt?” I looked up at her from where I was sitting cross-legged in front of my mother’s grave. Who went around asking people in a cemetery for salt?
“Yeah, for the jump?” she said, mirroring my look of confusion.
“Why do you need salt to jump?” Now this was crazy. I’d thought spending ten dollars on a cupcake, which would never be eaten for a birthday party of one, had been the strangest thing I’d do today. This conversation was quickly topping it. People like this were the reason I could claim sanity.
“How else would I do it? Do you know a way to jump without it?” She leaned over a little, as if I had the secret to the universe. “Wait, you’re not a…” She leaned closer, staring awkwardly at