Fiction: ‘The Witching Hour’

The Witching Hour
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She stirs a cauldron full of colours so bright with energy that they project a shining aurora across the ceiling. The coloured lights shift through the air, bursting with charged particles. She adds another pinch of vermillion. Red hot sparks erupt from the pot. Light sprays across the room, washing the walls in a blazing sunrise.

‘That’s better, isn’t it, Nelson?’ she asks him.

A black cat with white paws comes prowling out of the shadows and sits down beside the little girl, looking around at the swirling colours in the room. ‘It’s not bad,’ he replies. ‘But you’re still missing several notes in the scale.’

‘Yes, I know,’ she pauses, looking down at him. ‘But I’m not finished yet, am I? Just you wait, and I’ll show you how it’s done.’

She lifts her index finger and dips it into the mixture. The cauldron starts to bubble so brightly she needs to shield her eyes from its lustre. After the final sparks fade away, and her brew has cooled to a rainbow sheen, she digs through her basket, opens the lid on a small container and adds a pinch of saffron to her pot.

The brew simmers.

It begins to boil angrily.

‘Perhaps you’ve put it together in the wrong order…?’ the cat suggests.

‘I don’t know, maybe, but…’ she stops speaking as bubbles begin rising into the air, transforming the mixture into a golden liquid as blinding as molten metal. A small crescent of light rises through the air, expanding outwards until it touches the ceiling with a gentle thump. The particles of light withdraw. They shrink back into the cauldron like a wave retreating back into the sea. She sighs with relief. ‘Don’t scare me like that, Nelson. It’s not nice.’

Nelson springs away onto a worn chair covered in chequered fabric. He lies down and looks at her with his large green eyes. ‘Well, you know, after last time I thought I’d keep an eye on things. Unless you want to sprout an extra pair of arms again?’

‘Well, I did get a lot more work done with four arms,’ she says with a smile. ‘But then again, none of my clothes would fit me anymore.’

‘I think that was the least of your worries.’

‘I think you worry too much, Nelson.’

He snorts, and then begins cleaning one of his pretty white paws, ignoring her steady gaze.

She stirs and stirs.

The brew becomes thinner and thinner until her spoon passes through nothing but waves of light. One more pinch of cobalt and it’s done. All the colours in her cauldron scatter back to wherever they had come from, leaving her in the darkness with her pot and Nelson’s eyes glowing from the seat in the corner.

But the cauldron isn’t empty at all.

Inside is a rainbow-coloured seed, about the size of a fingernail. It starts to tremble, making a small rattling noise deep within the pot. Nelson quickly jumps from his chair and hides behind it, looking out at the cauldron with severe distrust.

Suddenly the seed cracks open and a green shoot springs from the shell, growing larger and larger as leaves begin to unfurl and vines climb over the edges of the pot in emerald strands. Tiny buds sprout from the lush greenery. They grow rounder and fatter, bending the stems with their weight as they inflate like balloons. When they’ve become so plump that they resemble fruit instead of buds, the flowers begin to open, slowly, as though too shy to flaunt their dazzling colours. Even in the darkness, they shine with a magical radiance. Each new flower is a different colour of the rainbow; their smooth, velvety petals drenched with the most pure and vibrant colours she has ever seen.

They are her colours.

And with them, she knows that she can do anything.

‘Come on, Nelson. Let’s go and plant them before they’re ruined.’

He looks at her doubtfully. She kneels down on the floor, reaches into the pocket of her dress and takes out a small treat. He leaps to the ground eagerly as she places it on the floor for him. She strokes his soft black fur while he eats. When he has finished she walks out of the room and into the dark street, the cauldron of flowers grasped firmly in both hands as the cat follows on her heels.

~ Ekaterina

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