Contest #176 winner 🏆

88 comments

Fantasy

As a child, I would hide in the coat closet, taking advantage of the door that wouldn’t close, as I watched my mother command the items around the house to do her bidding with the smallest gesture. The moment she heard a sound, the items would set themselves down as if they hadn’t been acting of their own accord just moments earlier. My father would come home and rant and rave about more and more witches being discovered in town. My mother would nod her head politely in agreement, but I knew her secret. 

Whenever the ladies in town would enviously gossip about how my mother managed to get so much done in a day, I would smile knowingly to myself. I knew better than to boast that my mother was a witch, for some reason, being a witch was a bad thing. 

When I was twelve, I could make my room clean itself. I was always careful to hide this, of course. The moment I heard the creak of the floor, or the door swing open, everything went to looking perfectly normal, perfectly un-magical. This went on for a few months, and I remained aware of every sound in the house. I even heard the cat padding by outside one day and quickly dropped the broom I had been controlling with my mind. I didn’t hear my mother’s footsteps one day though, and I can still hear the gasp of horror when she swung my bedroom door open. I can remember the look of terror on her face as it dawned on her that even being married to the pastor of the local church didn’t protect her from a cursed daughter. 

The memories blur together after that point. I remember my father didn’t come home after a hunting trip. My mother told me it was a bear, I knew better. We moved shortly afterward, the tone of gossip shifting from envy to suspicion. The new town was smaller, it would mind its own business as long as you mind yours. We settled in a small two-bedroom house for six months before we moved again. The worry lines on my mother’s face seemed to grow deeper with each late-night knock at the door. One rule was made clear to me, I was not to use my magic under any circumstances. 

One house after the other, one town after the other, we never stayed in one place for too long. On my eighteenth birthday, my mother sat me down. She looked older than she was. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her face at peace. She explained to me what we were. She viewed it as a curse, I was never sure why. She explained why we couldn’t practice and what the world thought of us. She explained how she’d gotten too comfortable, and how it wouldn’t happen again; how I couldn’t let it happen to me. 

I stayed with my mother for a few years after that. We finally found a small cottage on the edge of a town that didn’t ask too many questions. It welcomed us as a widow and her grown daughter, which, I suppose we were. I got a little too comfortable once we’d been there for a year. I would go down to the creek and make little whirlpools in the deeper areas of water. Sometimes I would pull pretty rocks up from deep below the almost dry creek bed, even though I knew better. Something about that creek made it impossible to stay away.

I was always careful not to be seen, I would go before the roosters would crow in town, far before anyone would be down by the creek. On my regular walk home after a few months of doing this, I heard little footsteps crunching through the leaves. I could tell the little footsteps were running, and I knew then that we were damned. By the time I got back to the edge of the town where our little cottage sat, there was a group of people with torches and pitchforks surrounding the house. I never imagined I would see a mob quite like this one. It felt almost fake, like a scene from a storybook. As the thatch roof of our house went up in flames, I could hear my mother’s voice, telling me that I should’ve known better.

Part of me wanted to turn and run, but I was still unseen behind an old oak tree. I wanted answers, something I knew I was never going to get. I cursed myself as my mother’s words played over and over in my head. We weren’t supposed to be found. Still, it was done. I knew nothing could be done for my mother. Even I, the one who killed us both, would at the very least be damned to a half-life of running. So, thinking quickly, I chose to do the only thing I knew would solve my problem.

The thing about angry mobs is that they’re incredibly unobservant. They have very little forethought. If they had, they wouldn’t have decided to burn a witch in late fall, during the worst drought the town had seen in twenty years. All it took was the snap of a finger to make an ember fall just right on the overgrown, dry grass that we called our yard. The entire perimeter of our property was engulfed, enclosing the angry group of people along with our house. Another snap and embers landed on roofs in town, causing the fire to spread hungrily from rooftop to rooftop. I stayed and watched, ensuring the only living things spared were the innocent animals. Even children were dangerous and I knew better than to leave my work unfinished. 

I don’t know at what point after the fire I decided this, but something in the ashes told me I could never leave.

I walk the worn path back from the creek to where I rebuilt the cottage my mother died in. The stone remains of the rest of the town are overgrown now with moss and vines. The descendants of the animals I saved in the fire eat happily at their troughs. People don’t bother me here. They hear stories about the witch that razed a town, and they know better.

December 16, 2022 02:06

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88 comments

Amanda Lieser
03:20 Dec 28, 2022

Hi Kyla! Welcome to the community! This was a stunning piece full of beautiful word choice. It was a wonderful take on the prompt. It was giving me “Where the Crawdads Sing” vibes. I was sad for this MC who was forced to grow up very quickly. I can’t imagine the burden of beating such a secret for so long. I thought this was my favorite line because of what’s not being said: My mother told me it was a bear, I knew better. Nice job and congrats again!

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Rebecca Miles
06:22 Dec 24, 2022

Congrats on the win. Sometimes paring it right back works. The MC's aloofness, coldness, due to the exclusion she's experienced all her life, rips through this story like an ice fire. A strong entrance to Reedsy, well done.

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Kylah Adams
16:10 Dec 24, 2022

Thank you so much, before submitting, I had a writer friend critique her voice, saying it sounded too emotionless. I'm so glad I chose to stick with it, I feel like it made the story more impactful.

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Tommy Goround
16:34 Dec 23, 2022

Clapping. Congratulations

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Kylah Adams
15:47 Dec 24, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Vania Mason
01:01 Jan 15, 2023

"People don’t bother me here. They hear stories about the witch that razed a town, and they know better." Loved this part.

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Steve Uppendahl
05:14 Jan 13, 2023

Outstanding job! Very creative and well-told story. I love the choice of writing this in first person. The title is excellent. Great job with your final line, as well. For me, I would've liked to have seen some dialogue. Even though the tone of the story works well without dialogue (I've done it myself), I'm just a sucker for dialogue. But, again, excellent job! Congrats on the win. Write on!

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Kylah Adams
01:41 Jan 18, 2023

Keep an eye out! My next submission is pretty dialogue-heavy!

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Connor Adams
17:03 Jan 10, 2023

my mom’s last name actually had a word very similar to “witch” in it and people used to tease her at school. but now her last name is my dad’s, or “Adams” (not disclosing my mom’s original last name for privacy reasons.)

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Lily Finch
03:42 Jan 10, 2023

This story reminds me of so many stories of fear and hatred of someone different. It was unique because you had no dialogue in the story. At the end of the story, I wasn't expecting what occurred. Nicely done. LF6

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17:00 Jan 05, 2023

Congratulations on the win :) An easy flowing story with a solid hook which kept me through the end. Well done :)

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Lisa Young
12:49 Jan 01, 2023

Wow, amazing story! If I get brave enough to enter one I can only hope my story would be half as good as this one. I could really visualize every moment. You had me feeling many different emotions from happiness to tears! Well done and congratulations 🎉

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Kylah Adams
23:37 Jan 01, 2023

You should absolutely go for it! I regret waiting so long

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Alexis Patterson
02:35 Dec 31, 2022

This was so captivating. Its amazing how I learned so much about the mother and daughter both in such a limited capacity. Hope to read more from you, Kylah and congrats on the win!

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11:58 Dec 29, 2022

Great story!!!

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Moises Trejo
17:31 Dec 28, 2022

Loved this story I made it into a short video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egjKuTXYB2o Please let me know what you think!

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Jeanette Harris
15:59 Dec 27, 2022

I like how she told she witch, I don't know if I believe in witches or not, when did this story take place, some woman accused being witches

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Sarah P.
15:30 Dec 27, 2022

That was great! They picked a good one. :) Congrats on the win!!

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Peter Naughton
12:06 Dec 27, 2022

Good story. Thanks

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Eva Ray
10:36 Dec 27, 2022

Congratulations for win . Your story just amazing, well done !!!!!!!!

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Kevin Broccoli
17:32 Dec 26, 2022

I love how witnessing magic covertly became an analogy for childhood and maturation. I agree that restraint was the right way to go. Congratulations.

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Palak Shah
10:52 Dec 25, 2022

Brilliant story. Congrats on the win!

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Dragos Marcean
08:49 Dec 25, 2022

Excellent pace and swinging of emotions. In such a short story I as taken from sadness to anger to happiness. I somehow didn't the genocide, even though the protagonist sounds more of an antagonist. Nice job

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Karin Cavanagh
23:10 Dec 24, 2022

Congratulations and well done! You had me hooked from the first line. I loved this story, it was beautifully portrayed from the daughter's POV and I was entrenched. I even had goosebumps towards the end! Thank you and again congrats on the win!

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