She measured the exotic spices carefully and placed them into the jar. Next came the goat’s milk. Once they were combined and fused with her practiced words, the mixture would have healing power. That was, IF she got all the steps right. And how was she supposed to get everything exact with that old woman watching her every move, but offering no wisdom?
A lot of help she was, thought Sheri.
She glanced over at the haggard woman and looked away quickly. This is crazy. What am I doing here? Why am I believing this nonsense about having some gift? The only gift I have is curiosity.
The hag shifted in her chair.
Sheri paused and reviewed all her steps up to this point.
“Trust your instincts child,” muttered the woman.
Sheri closed her eyes, thinking of the chant she read in the book she had found in the abandoned house when the old woman confronted her. Slowly she reviewed the words, the spices, the goal-to heal. Then, she began to speak as she stirred in the milk.
“From earth and animal, and the spirits of old.
Give this mixture power to do as is told.
Let it heal the wounds of the good from the bad.
Let it draw out the evil, hiding inside young lads.
For the pure of heart will find this to heal.
But those from the dark, it will be their seal.
For the malevolent cannot fight the spirits of light.
For love and kindness win, over the darkness of night.”
As she said her last word, she immediately stopped stirring and paused. Nothing looked any different, but the birthmark on her shoulder burned slightly. No, not burned. It was more of a throb, decided Sheri.
“Very well my child. You’ve made your first healing poultice. Now, it’s time to test it,” the old woman stated. “You did exceptionally well for your first time.”
“You think? I seemed to go into a zone there for a minute,” Sheri eagerly stated with a smile.
“As you should. Healing poultices are simple, but powerful. They can save lives or kill,” muttered the woman. “Evil may be able to hide from our eyes, but it cannot deny its core. Just as you cannot deny your gift any longer.”
Sheri nodded. Though it all sounded so crazy, her gut believed every word. There was something different about this old hag, besides the obvious witch-like appearance that was. There was a sense of kindness and power, which is why Sheri had let down her guard and trusted her.
“So what do I do now?”
“We test it. You need to see for yourself to believe.”
“But on who?”
“You can start on me.”
“You? No offense, but your old. I don’t want to hurt you accidentally.”
The old woman smiled. “Yes, my age is true, but so is my heart.”
“Um. Ok. So where do you hurt?” Sheri asked reluctantly.
“Just so you trust your gift, let’s start here,” the old woman said as she sliced a blade across her forearm.
“What the hell are you doing old woman!” screamed Sheri, watching blood instantly pour down the witch’s arm.
“Like you stated so plainly, my child. I am old. Let’s not take all day to apply the poultice. And remember, a little goes a long way. Just a teaspoon will do.”
Sheri nodded and mumbled. “This crazy. I am crazy.” With shaking fingers she smeared the concoction across the old woman’s gash. The blood mixed with the herbs. Why did she cut it so deep? thought Sheri.
“What if it doesn’t work?” Sheri questioned the witch.
“It will. You will see.” Then, the old woman sat down.
Sheri stood there staring at her bloody arm. Slowly, the bleeding stopped. She stared harder. The old woman sat back in the rocker. Was she going to pass out? Sheri wondered, looking up at her face. No, she was smiling. Who smiles before they pass out? No one, stupid. Look at her arm! The gash seemed smaller than before. Little by little, it sealed itself.
“Oh…my…gosh. It DOES work,” Sheri muttered in disbelief.
The old woman rose from the rocker and looked her young pupil in the face. “Of course it does my child. I told you that you have a gift. Now you see for yourself, and this is just a tiny bit of the good you can do.”
“Holy shit. I really am a witch?”
The old woman laughed. “Well, we like to call ourselves earth angels. Witch just sounds so…negative.”
“Earth angel,” Sheri repeated. “Huh. THAT does sound better. So now what?”
“Well, you saw how your potion can heal the injuries of those with a pure heart. Now, you need to see how it can magnify the wounds of those who are bad.”
“But isn’t it wrong to hurt them?”
“If what they are doing is evil, you are only bringing that pain back upon them and protecting others in the process. If their intentions were good and their actions just in error, the potion will do nothing. If there is some darkness hiding in them, the potion will draw it out.”
“So harm only comes to those who cause harm intentionally?”
“Yes, as the magic allows.”
“What if you use it on those who hurt you? Isn’t that revenge?”
The witch paused. “If they are truly bad, they are bad. A victim is a victim regardless of who they are.”
“OK. So where do I test this?”
“I think a good place to start would be that man you call your father. Don’t you?”
Sheri paused. She hated her father. Did the old woman know that?
“He hasn’t been feeling well, right?”
Sheri nodded, but said nothing.
“Well then. We can either help him or stop him,” stated the woman coldly.
“But he only has a cough. How would I apply that?”
“Merely mix it in his coffee.”
“And it has the same effect?”
“Yes. Good or bad, the potion will decide.”
“Could it kill someone?” whispered Sheri.
“It is possible my child. If their soul is so dark and lost to the light, and they do nothing but evil, it very well could,” said the woman bluntly.
Sheri stared at the floor. “And if it did kill them. Wouldn’t people wonder what happened and find out eventually?”
“If they DID wonder and care to check, they could only find goat’s milk and herbs.”
Sheri nodded, still looking at the floor.
“It is time for light to win over dark. Don’t you think? Are you ready to bloom my child?”
Sheri nodded and old woman turned toward the door without another word. Sheri grabbed the jar and followed her mentor out of the shack. It was time to go murder her step father with a little goat’s milk and herbs.
He’d never be able to hurt her again.
a continuation from two short stories: