Georgia ran into her sister’s back. She had tried to stay awake, but flesh betrays mind when a tired body has been marching for hours in the dark.
“Sorry, sis. My eyes closed on me. Are we stopping?”
“No,” Xiomara whimpered the word. “I had to slow down. My feet are too swollen.”
“I took my boots off after the fifth blister burst,” Georgia said. “I’m blood-shod. We should take a break.” Her pack was already dragging her down to the ground. She surrendered to its weight, and let herself collapse.
“Not here, sis.” Hunger and exhaustion had muffled the sounds of fireballs hitting trees and claiming souls, but a witch’s brain is especially good at prioritizing when survival is at stake. “We are too close to the rebels.” Xiomara looked behind her. “We’ll be slaughtered, if we—”
The putrid, greenish mist of a flesh-melting airhex engulfed Xiomara’s body before Georgia could block the killing curse. Her right hand flew to her throat. The other reached for her sister.
Georgia tried a purification spell, but she was energy barren. She had used the last of her strength during a self-healing attempt that failed. She watched as her sister drowned in the thick fluid of her own melted tongue. The sight and smell of Xiomara’s liquefied innards oozing out of her nose, ears, eyes… filled Georgia’s mouth with bile. She swallowed it down and tried screaming, but no sound crossed her lips.
Casilda hovered above Georgia’s sleeping form. She stopped chanting, waited until the Energy Law Enforcement Commander’s body twitched less violently. She was about to stop the nightmare spell, when Georgia’s words came back to mind. “We’ll get rid of three healers,” she had said. “Most ELE witches are capable of self-healing, so why waste funds? We need to attract younger ones, less expensive witches, if we are to mold the future.”
The words boiled inside Casilda’s heart. The changes did not affect her directly—she was a warrior, not a healer. But she refused to be part of ELE after the healers were terminated. She tried reasoning with Georgia when the casualty count surpassed the number of names at roll call. Nothing worked. Seasoned witches continued to die of wounds. The pay of a veteran witch was used to hire ten novices who were ready to give their lives for what they thought they believed in. So many died in Casilda’s arms…
The memory filled her eyes, squeezed her heart. She bit her lips until she tasted blood, and continued chanting her interpretation of Owen’s words into the other witch’s nightmare:
“Your sister drowns in the thick
fluid of her melted tongue.
out of her nose, ears, eyes…
Your mouth fills with bile.
You swallow, but can’t scream
You want to help your sister.
You want forgiveness,
try to say you did it for the greater good,
but choke on your own treachery—
a blood-shod witch can’t tell The Old Lie.”
Casilda knew her actions weren’t commendable. Not even fair. But fairness had been slaughtered a long time ago. And she was going to do all she could to make sure the murderers felt the loss.
the wee notes…
– Inspired by Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est”.
– First published in 2011. I revised it… just a bit.