∞ One

Infinite Beginnings, an Ending of Sorts

Through the eyes of a small frightened child, the cloaked figure is a witch from a faraway realm. She has found her way through a slice in twilight’s shimmery veil, seeking the light that she knows to be hers. Her arrival causes little disturbance, is nearly indiscernible, like a ripple on a pond following the tossing of a stone, a momentary parting of night, which, subject to imaginative perception, presents a glimpse at the passageway, a bridging of lands, through which suddenly – pop! – this agitated figure stands hunched and suspicious, nearly colliding with the child who is occupying the very same spot in that very same moment on the very same thread in its infinite timing. The solitary child recoils, tramping the folds of her cardboard house, standing tilted beneath its dishtowel roof, somewhere lost in the vast forgotten back alley, somewhat close to the corner bakery, just touching the outskirts of this exclusive small town.

The witch notices not. She scurries along with a lopsided step, leaving in her wake a whiff, like putrid cologne, yet tempting still, like hot cinnamon and sweet, gooey dough. She brushes very close to the child in her box, as if she is merely a shadow. Searching for what it is she seeks, the witch’s shifty eyes probe the grey of darkness from beneath the hood of her plum velvet drape, holding prisoner her wild wheat hair, coiling and seething like sextended serpents of an arisen Medusa.

From her hidden shelter, the child peeks through corrugated cracks with one mocha eye, the other squeezed tightly shut, just like her fists of determined hands. But she is tempted by lurking aromas, warm morning pastries drizzled in sweet cinnamon icing, instilling grumblings in her tummy. She emerges and moves toward the witch in a lost, quiet step.

Pointy black boots trot the witch beyond frontage buildings to the corner on which is built one curious dwelling, not far off, yet nearly concealed in vines of climbing green ivy. It is located at the precise intersection of three, not two, directions which come together to form the outline of a cursive letter Y. Best referred to as a modest mansion, this particular house is smaller than the others near which it happens, but is unique with bright stone chimneys, four in total, although weathering poorly, the largest of them standing in a pronounced lean as if willing to crumble.

To the left of the Y a curvy cobblestone lane ushers quaint villas, standing in charged lookout over unsuspecting visitors, peering from depths of lush yards of roses and jasmine – a mockery welcome for the very unwelcome. To the right, if travelling in an upward and right-ish direction, is an obscure, narrow foot-path, typically disregarded, yet exceptional in its presentation of unfathomable obstacles. This way is seductive, like whispers of secrets and treasure, alluring like gold in subdued splendor. Its marker, hand-carved yet elegant, is tricky, coming and going as it pleases, sometimes found nailed to the pine at its entry. On a dark wooden backdrop in electric red script, it states very simply: Empress Ave

The spying child creeps forward, staying low and concealed. She finds cover in the high, thick branches of an ancient black oak and scoots along the sprawling one which nearly spans the width of the road. The witch hovers at one chosen mahogany door, its lamppost of dim flame lighting making her appear like a ghost. It’s orange, eerie glow casts grotesque shapes of scaling vines and wicked silhouettes, perpetually disappearing and reappearing in the grey swirl of night.

She reaches on tippy-toes for the bell suspended by a knot at the end of a thick braided rope, and it is then when the child sees something hidden within the folds of her robes – a bundle. It is wrapped in a fuzzy cover, grey with tiny pink elephants and it coos with the hoots of a distant night owl. All senses of the child are immediately alert, tingling and prickly along her café skin, electrifying her mass of obsidian hair. At precisely that same moment the witch belches out a sharp, wicked cackle, her hood rises to a point and stands bent and accusing of three gothic numerals standing charge in the arch of the heavy doorway. Her figure explodes in a fiery whirl, piercing the poised tranquility of the fastidious town. The numbers -1 1 1- blaze in wrath like an autumn blood moon.

The child scoots closer and closer some more, dangerously coaxed by a vision that is sparked by the scene at the doorway. The witch is forewarned at the sound of her fall, on guard now to the banshee she knows to be tracking. The child, however, notices not her own scrapes, not even her own bruises. She is summoned by a scene inside her own mind, a distant reflection which she cannot stop and she cannot understand. Like a tranced reminiscence it haunts her, a testimony of her own feared madness, chanting in whispers from the depths of her soul. Over and over it taunts her. The child embraces herself, her arms forming a cross protecting her heart. She rocks herself back and forth from the spot which supports her on the cold concrete pavers; the watery voice persists. Desperately, the child claps her hands over her ears, yet still she cannot shut out the torment as it whispers, “One soul, eleven years…One soul, eleven years…,” on and on in rhythmic cadence, fading momentarily as it speaks of years, but then surging again in a steep crescendo, always emphasizing the beginning and nearly demanding to be heard each time it barks in a sharp, hoarse whisper, “One!”

The witch whips around as if detecting the presence of the child, or something more feared. Sparks fly from her long, bony fingertips which she reaches into the folds of her velvety robes in search of her thick magic staff. With a satisfying sneer, she places the wand in her serpentine palm and begins to wiggle the fingers of her free right hand, moving it slowly in circular rhythm, clockwise over the twisted wooden piece. It shifts, taking shape of a craggy foul raven the size of a condor in violet iridescence. The witch is most pleased. She extends her arm, ceasing its hexing movement, and her new companion hops easily onto this familiar perch. His caws are like croaks in measures of three. The witch stirs her hands and chants out a rhythm, quietly at first, then building great force. Her voice gains momentum and the energy surges, exploding in flight and a puff of black feathers – “Caw!” her accomplice exclaims. The hex begins.

“From the places I hid you so long ago, emerge and come hither, dare never be slow,” she speaks in hushed purpose to which the child is drawn, and she spies once more. Green vapor seeps from the length of the sorcerer’s robes as she continues to cast her spell, “Come to me, come to me, come to me now. You toadstool! You sloth! Arise! March hither! In Sarcophagus lie when doom is your poison, refuse me tonight, your desire is certain.” Fury churns like a tempest around her, yet she seems not concerned. Igniting vapors-turned-flames now search for her soul in flickery tongues, spitting and grabbing at the burning red crystal on the clasp of her robes. Her voice is piercing, summoning winds of great force. The latch to the door rattles in protesting surges like something formidable demanding escape. She pays it no heed but continues, “Fires of tridents and amulets glow, keepers of coffins with lining in charcoal, snuff out the burn and the infinite glow. Ignite with your flame, or sear with your soul!

Her tall, velvet hat aims where she summons. The four winds collide in the north and the east, crashing open the door from the south and the west. Her crooked hands churn, her voice is a drum. The light of her slithering hair turns to hellfire; it hisses. Lightening cracks. The witch whirls with the wind from its fiery eye. Its vortex consumes her and soon she is more like the wind than like witch. She thrashes around in angry swirls of violet green, resisting the very force which she summons. She rises in great might and enlarged, lurching in the face of the spying child, then gone in a violent retreat, she is tugged at and stretched upon like taffy in summer, distorted, unnatural and terrified too. The child’s eyes bulge at the monster before her until the door sharply shuts with a resounding clap and a bang! The witch is suddenly slurped out of sight!

All is still. The child sneaks forward to the steps at street number one-eleven. She hears voices calling faintly through the door, even when she cannot be certain who they are or what they are saying. The burning light flickers and it buzzes. The child reaches in search of what cannot be seen, her fingers tingling with the anticipation of what would come to be. Moving her tiny face closer in, she peeks through the lighted keyhole. Instantly she gasps, jumping back like a sharp sting to her eye. Yet she stays. She stares. She takes a tentative step forward. All breathing has stopped, and her hands shake. From afar, the alleyway looks on in vacant silence. Briefly, yet brilliantly, the porch light burns crimson. A golden key clinks to the ground. From beyond, square-heeled boots chant out an invitational cadence, a wicked army march, “Tap, tap, tap-tap-2-3-4-tap, tap, tap-tap….” The child stoops to retrieve the key. It’s not a key at all but a tiny jeweled dagger! It twinkles in brilliance like a blue-silver star, then subdued like a geode before it is cracked. Her fingers surge with a tantalizing shiver, all the way to her toes standing bare on the doorstep, there in the flickering glow of that mesmerizing light. The door creaks open, just a hint.

The child hesitates. Woeful eyes consider the hollowing distance, the sagging roof of her makeshift house. Too late. She misses the silent approach of a waxy crook’d hand, surfacing through the haze of the door’s split opening. She does not anticipate its spiny hook encircling her collar from behind and yanking her urgently to a world unknown. In the instant she is gone there is nothing left where she just was, nothing but a howling trail of screams. That and one tiny silver ring, tarnished and forgotten.

Off in the distance, a red-checked dishtowel lies charred and lifeless.

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