My dream of performing the ultimate craft is abruptly interrupted by my mother shaking me violently. Our house is on fire again, the roof giving out in several places, the discernible carbon monoxide already invading the lungs. The irritation of having to rush out of a burning structure while rubbing my eyes is antithetical to my mother’s unconcerned disposition. Apart from coughing excessively, she meanders about the smoky room, as if strolling, gently placing her necessities in a sack, while the sky is literally falling. To her this is nothing new, but for an apprentice of my age, it isn’t exactly general knowledge. So I do the only thing I can: I scream, I yell, I shout at her, with all the air left in my lungs. It’s the only way to get her attention these days. As we take off on her besom into the starry skies through the burned hole in the roof, I can see the pitchforks and torches below, the mob shouting and gesticulating threats with their frantic arms. The planet appears massive beneath us. Mother waves nonchalantly, and dryly says, At least it’s not Salem.
That was her sixteenth escape, and my second. It does get easier, she says. You grow less afraid of fire and more resistant to the harmful smoke. Ugh. Fire and smoke. No, thanks. Can’t we just go somewhere where there aren’t any people?
Sweetie, you know we can’t do that. We depend on them, and they on us. That’s how it works. She continues to cough violently, often spitting a dark substance that I try to forget from ever having seen, wiping it from memory entirely.
Having no choice, I resign myself to whatever new place she decides. I’ll still practice the craft wholeheartedly, though. At night, I try to reclaim the disrupted dream of before, but unsuccessfully; my every thought hanging on a potential threat from a flame or lethal farming tool of a ravingly mad clan. I begin to see their faces in this lush new town of ours, stacked with Neo colonial homes, disguised as neighbors who try too hard when smiling. Nevertheless, I work tirelessly on new spells and potions: weekly, bi-weekly, daily. The besom gradually adjusts to me as I to it.
My mother doesn’t survive the ensuing mobbing. The horde’s violent shouting wakes me up, and I watch the burning ceiling crumble on her ailing, pneumonia ravaged body before I can get there. The fire and smoke are hardly sensible to me as I shockingly watch her burst into a flame. Her remains then turn into white ashes and blow into my face as flurries in a winter storm. I smile, my eyes filled with tears, then grab the besom from under her bed. It feels different in my hand this time around, the birch twig tingling behind me as I ascend.
By the time I reach the dense clouds, the world below looks smaller than ever before.
Armand Diab is an English teacher who’s worked in film & video production for many years before dedicating himself to teaching full-time. In addition to poetry, he also writes short fiction stories, which he hopes to publish some day.
Art by Steve, Colors by Deki.
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