3rd Place

Bones

The witch has a daughter. She’s surprised. Witches usually don’t have babies, they have cats or slugs or occasionally bundles of needles. She knows this, so she doesn’t have anything for a baby, except for a pair of shoes she was using to bind a curse to a certain princess. But this time it is a baby.

The witch doesn’t give birth to all of it. Her body hordes the hot and wet and red parts so she ends up giving birth to a little nest of bones. But she loves her Bone.

Bone never cries. She doesn’t have a mouth or tongue or vocal chords to cry with. She has no skin to feel the cold or muscles to feel tired or stomach to feel hunger. All she has are little white bones.

 

Bone runs and she sounds like a wind chime. Her feet fall on the floor like beads in a rain stick. She leaps on chairs and does handstands on tables. She has no marrow and her bones are as hollow and light as a bird’s.

 

Bone finds the baby shoes and the witch tells her they’re for a cursed princess. Bone’s never met a princess or left the witch’s house. Bone goes to the witch’s closet and finds a lot of shoes. The gold filigreed heels of a duke. The worn leather soles of a shepherd. The slippers of a bed ridden old woman. Her toes shudder in the fabric.

 

The witch summons the shoemaker.

 

Bone tries to contain herself. She wraps herself in the witch’s fur cloak, hair wrapping around her ribs and tickling her tail bone. Her fingers rattle in gloves. She would have suffocated herself under scarves if she breathed. She spins in front of the witch.

The witch thinks Bone should wait in the bedroom while she talks to the shoemaker.

 

Bone can’t hear the shoemaker. She presses a goblet to the bedroom door but she doesn’t have ears.

The witch opens the bedroom door.

The shoemaker kneels beside a chair, blindfolded.

Bone sits slowly; the heavy coat muffles her bones so she sounds like a bag of marbles.

The shoemaker dives into the coat, breathing mouthfuls of fur. The shoemaker remarks that that young lady must be very thin that she’s so hard to find in her own clothes. The shoemaker remarks that that was a compliment. The shoemaker remarks that thin is very fashionable these days—

The shoemaker pulls her leg out from the coat, thumb caught between her tibia and fibula. The shoemaker pulls back the blindfold and sees a skeleton pulled from the grave.

The shoemaker names her: Forgive me, Death.

The shoemaker dies.

 

Bone knows who she really is.

The witch starts taking the shoemaker apart. Eyes can’t see her daughter. A tongue can’t name her daughter. A brain can’t know her daughter.

But Bone knows.

And the witch knows that.

 

The witch takes her daughter apart. She pours every piece of her into a bag and ties it with a rope weaved from the shoemaker’s hair and throws the bag on her bed to use as a pillow.

 

The witch goes to sleep.

A patella slips out of the bag, bouncing on the floor. A clavicle slides out. A scapula pushes and pushes until it pops free.

The witch should know no daughter of hers can be contained. But the witch doesn’t know her daughter.

The witch’s daughter has nothing but bones, but what you have isn’t all you are.

The witch’s daughter is Death, flowing onto the floor like water and evaporating.

 

The witch lives alone after her daughter leaves. She’s not surprised. She asked for too much. Death gave her mother everything but her bones. Witches are greedy. When she leaves the witch eats the coat Death wore and the scarves and the shoes and the table and the chairs and the shoemaker. The witch ate her entire house until she was absolutely alone.

Death is never alone. She doesn’t make a lot of friends but she meets a lot of people. She travels. She sounds like a wind storm through a forest in the fall. She’s so happy that she nearly shakes herself apart. And she loves her bones.

~Hayley Jacobson

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