Creative writing · indie authors · indie writers · Short stories · weekly fiction · Writing prompts

Exercising the craft—September 20, 2021

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: We thought magic was gone from the village. Turns out we were wrong. Very, very wrong.

(This week’s story is a continuation of last week’s piece. I didn’t plan to do this when I first started looking for prompts, but it gave me a chance to continue what ended being a lot of fun to write last week. Enjoy!)

*****

Beatrice’s throat burned with all the tears that still wanted to fall. She reached into the back of her wardrobe for the black dress she took out only on days like this. Two mothballs dropped onto the floor, and at the sight of them she crushed the dress to her chest and sank to the floor.

“More mothballs?” Andrew had asked when she put the sachet in the floor of the wardrobe.

She sighed. “I must, darling, otherwise the little creatures feast their way into oblivion.”

“Well,” he said, his lips twitching, “I can understand the attraction of feasting on something that’s touched you.”

She batted a hand at him as her cheeks got warm, pleased at the compliment and embarrassed all at the same time.

“Beatrice?”

She didn’t have a chance to turn before Cornelia knelt on the floor and gathered her into her arms.

“Come, sweet sister,” she said in Beatrice’s ear. “You must keep moving forward today. The children will be looking to you for strength, and so will the rest of the village.”

Beatrice nodded, trying to gulp her tears. The burning still didn’t subside, but she found she could stand without her legs buckling under her. Cornelia took the dress and laid it on the bed as Beatrice scrubbed her face with her palms.

“The priest is at the chapel waiting to speak to you one last time,” Cornelia said, turning to face Beatrice with her hands on her hips in her take-charge way. “Get dressed as soon as you can.”

“He’ll be able to hear my confession on my thoughts of murder then,” Beatrice said.

“Beatrice!”

“They’re only thoughts, Cornelia.” Beatrice fought for a steady tone as she undid the buttons on the front of the dress. “You would only have to worry if that little witch were still in her miserable little village on the edge of town.”

“She’s not a witch.”

“Then how do you explain the… Andrew and the others were clearly not…not by normal… Only a witch could conjure what that girl did. The Rejected have burned with shame and jealousy for generations, and—”

“This matter isn’t that simple, and you know it as well as I do.” Cornelia crossed her arms.

Beatrice scoffed. “Hearsay. The Rejected always lie. Andrew was fulfilling his duty in keeping our village safe. Who wants that vile scum buried close to us? Not me, and I know you wouldn’t either, Cornelia, no matter how saintly you try to be.”

“Wanting to maintain a separate existence and treating others ill just because they’re different are two entirely different things, Beatrice.”

Beatrice unbuttoned the last of the buttons and stepped into the funereal gown. Her face crumpled as Cornelia helped her step into it, but she bit her lip hard enough so that the pain distracted her. She let Cornelia start at the bottom with the buttons and dropped her hands to her sides.

“And what if she truly did have magic?” Cornelia asked in a quiet voice. “What if the Rejected are no longer so?”

A faint tremor moved its way up her legs, and for a second Beatrice wondered if she should sit down after all.

“That’s ridiculous. It must be some sort of outside sorcery. Or maybe they hurt Andrew and the others by mortal means and hid the evidence.”

Cornelia stopped for a moment to look her deep in the eye. “You know as well as I do that their bodies didn’t bear a single mark. Not one. The only evidence of anything, in fact, was that their hearts had stopped—”

Beatrice jerked away. “I can finish dressing myself. Please, leave me alone.”

Her sister straightened in slow motion until the sisters faced one another, both with shoulders squared, both ready to defend their positions.

“Fine,” Cornelia said. Beatrice couldn’t read her expression. “I’ll go. But you can’t shut down all of the voices, Beatrice. For every person who asks the question aloud, you can be sure ten more are thinking it.”

Cornelia left without a backward glance. Beatrice waited until the door had shut fully before giving into the shaking of her knees and sinking onto the bed. She pressed her hands to her mouth, trying to keep a scream inside.

Magic in the village of the Rejected. All the magic left them generations ago. That’s what we’ve been taught. But what if…what if it never did? Or what if it…what if it’s come back?

This time her throat burned with the possibility of losing her morning meal. She swallowed hard, as much to keep it down as to convince herself she was being foolish. The Rejected had no magic. Nature had rejected them, and so had their society. Everyone knew these basic facts like they knew their own names.

But what if… That witch has taken Andrew away from me. She’s taken everything.

Beatrice gave in to the tears then, a loud wail circling upward from her body to fill the whole room.

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