The air was muggy, a heatwave burning through the spring, on the night that we met to conjure two people out of almost nothing at all. None of us could’ve done it without the others, and none of us would’ve dared, except Mason said please and I said maybe and Jun said we could, and so we did. You need a few materials first, then follow a sort of recipe. Call it Raise-the-Dead Cobbler.
- Three tired so-called witches, of flesh, of time, of dreams.
- Bone fragments, stolen reverently.
- A lock of hair, kept for years and years.
- An old book, passed down from mother to son to daughter to niece, and so on.
- A dark night, with a new moon, and as many clouds as feels right.
- A secluded room, in a lakeside cabin far from the city’s bustle and traffic’s roar, where owls hoot plaintively and a cool wind rustles the leaves. (A cramped attic in an apartment on the edge of the city, with shouty neighbors, will work in a pinch.)
- Flint, not matches.
- A stone bowl, low and wide.
- Dry kindling.
- Floor space, as much as you expect you’ll need. You know who you’re looking for. You can measure, move furniture, sweep, mark out the space. Lay out a pillow, in anticipation. The floor is hard, after all.
- “Is your roommate home?” Mason asks, braiding his hair back, lightning fast. It gets warm in the attic. Mason wears none of his usual jewelry, only a locket on a thin chain, which dangles outside of his shirt. You say no, of course not. Your roommate is out of town for the next six days. That’s why this is the perfect new moon, even though Jun has a deadline at work tomorrow and shouldn’t be pulling an all-nighter.
- In a flurry of motion, Jun arrives, drops her bag on the floor and her iced coffee on the table, then says, “I can’t do anything in this skirt” as she kicks her heels off. She shimmies out of the skirt and changes into red leggings, pulled from her bag. “Do you really have it?” she asks, pulling pins out of her hair and letting it fall loose. You steal a long drink of her coffee.
- On the way up to the attic, you worry. Mason worries. What will they think of you? Will they be happy to wake up? Will they be scared? What if they hate you? How long will it last? Jun said it would last, but what if they decide to leave you? After all you did? Would that be okay? When they wake up in the dark room surrounded by three witches, if they scream, will you be able to comfort them, or make it worse? Will it work? Will they come back wrong? Different? Can you really do this? Should you? God, what if everything does work, and they want to stay, and be with you? What then? Can they get a job? Should they? How will you support them if they can’t? Shit, is this a terrible idea? Is it selfish? What if coming back gives them health problems? What if they had health problems before that you didn’t know about, and coming back is nothing but suffering? Will they hate you? Will they love you? Will you love them?
- Jun strikes the flint and lights the fire.
- Chant words after Jun, with Jun, words that can’t be spelled or written down, and yet she reads them from a book in her lap. Her book is filled with drawings and paintings, and you can never find the same one twice. Once you saw a page and read the drawing; there was a burst of light, and a small creature appeared, like an oviraptor, feathered and colorful but the size of a hummingbird. That was the day Jun said it looked like you were a witch of time. You’re still learning what that means. The oviraptor is named Magda and lives on your porch for most of the year. You take her for walks. You should take her for more walks. No one would notice.
- The shards of bone rattle. The lock of hair dances in no wind. You close your eyes.
- Nothing changes, except the room feels smaller. You haven’t opened your eyes. Your eyes are closed, and the attic room has shrunk, and if you reach out you don’t know what you might touch.
- Open your eyes.
- To your left is Jun, then Mason. They open their eyes too, breathing timidly. You’ve been holding hands for a while, grip tight, tight on Jun’s stiff prosthetic. Next to Mason, in the space laid out on his side of the attic, is—
- There is someone to your right.
Once I explain what happened, he decides to go by Joseph. Why? Well, it is his name. No, but why? Because this isn’t his life, now is it? It’s something different. He’s something different.
Because of his movies, I’ve always thought of him in a particular way, kinetic and silent. He rubs the back of his head, an overwhelmed look of concern furrowing his brow. But I can’t read his face. The problem is he puts on that face so easily, so often on film, that I don’t know if it’s just a face or how he really feels. Sweat drips down my back, makes my shirt cling. He sits very still.
“Why is this happening?” he asks, voice so much deeper than I always imagine.
“I—” don’t have a good answer.
“What are you?” Joseph asks, and again I stutter and don’t answer. In my head I hear all the times Jun told me you’re a witch, you jag, but I can’t say it.
We all go downstairs because the attic room is boiling; Joseph trails after me, and I trail after Jun. Behind Joseph is Mason and his mom. Angela, I think.
“Well, that’s that.” Jun picks up her discarded skirt.
“You’re leaving?” I ask.
“Do you need me to stay?”
“Yes!” Mason sounds desperate. He’s not quite looking at his mom ever. Eyes skidding around the edges.
Jun takes a long swig of her watered-down iced coffee. “‘Kay.”
“So this is the year 2016?” Joseph asks. That was part of what I told him upstairs. It was real, it was his far, far future, and it was okay. He took it in stride. Now he looks around the kitchen, which is a mess. I should’ve cleaned up. Why didn’t I clean up? It’s fine. Why would he care? But I care. I care that the first thing he sees are my dirty dishes and moldy fruit, the mail covering the counter, and the oh my god, the bra hanging over the back of the chair.
I slide in front of it.
Angela pulls out a chair and sits down, pressing her hands flat on the table.
Mason hovers. “It’s okay. It’s me. I’m your—I’m your kid. You have a kid and that’s me.”
“You said that,” Angela says slowly. “I don’t get what’s happening.”
Mason looks helplessly at Jun, who exhales through her nose before speaking. “You know photocopies? We found a moment and made a photocopy of you, then brought that you to our present. Call it magic, call it time travel, call it a great big lie and a weird dream you’re having. I don’t care. It’s happening. Mason is your kid. Congratulations.”
Angela is quiet a long time, staring at Mason. It’s got to be a lot to take in, skipping twenty-odd years of society and tech and life and then bam, your grown-up kid, Mason, not much younger than Angela is probably, Mason with his long black braid, big worried eyes lined with black, tattoos crawling over his bony shoulders and under his shirt. Mid-nineties life versus grown-up Mason now must be battling it out in Angela’s brain, but during the silence I realize we pulled Angela from before she got pregnant. Maybe before she met Mason’s dad. And Angela’s working out what all that means.
“Okay,” she says, shaky. “Well, don’t tell me how I died, and I think we’ll be okay.”
Pretty soon, Jun drives Mason and Angela away, leaving Mason’s car on my street where I promise to make sure it isn’t towed.
I make coffee. Start tidying, washing dishes. Joseph wanders my rooms, looking at the shared mess my roommate and I live in, coming back to check my progress. Hands clasped behind his back, leaning forward to inspect a poster or a bookshelf. Always with that stone face.
A plate slips from my hands, hits the counter, crashes onto the floor. “Shit!”
Joseph pops his head into the room, eyebrows raised in question.
“It’s fine. Plastic.” I pick up the plate and spin it in my hands. “I don’t have to do this right now. I should’ve done it earlier. I could leave it. It’s not important. Are you hungry? I don’t think, it’s not—” When words start crashing and failing before they reach my mouth, I turn back to the dishes.
“Isabel. Are we related?”
Joseph paws through some of my mail. Pages through an Anthropologie catalog. He looks at me, barely moving his eyebrows. “The other one brought his mother.”
When I squirt soap onto the sponge a little too forcefully without a word, he goes back to the catalog. Even with the astringent lemon suds, Joseph’s close enough that I can practically smell the years on him, this weird ozone scent of a hundred years. It’s soaked into his clothes, permeating his skin, this invisible sense of time.
Fuck the dishes. That ozone smell is making me dizzy. There are clean mugs. That’s enough. I sort out my coffee, then gesture weakly at the milk and sugar for Joseph to figure out.
The living room is more like a nest and less a rat’s nest, and comes pre-loaded with snacks I forgot to put away, so by the time Joseph joins me I’m gnawing on a hard gingersnap. He sits on the other end of the couch.
“We’re not related,” I say.
Joseph gives me a look, one eyebrow barely raised, eyes glancing down and back up, and I laugh, this nervous snuffle into my cookie—and he laughs too. It’s kind of stunning. This side of him almost no one gets to see. Except me, I’m seeing it.
“Then why?” Joseph asks.
“It’s hard to explain. We can undo it.”
He digs into the box for a cookie, dips it in his coffee. “Why?”
“If you don’t want to be here. It was maybe stupid of me. Selfish. Or hubris. I don’t know. I’m a little, you know, it was a rough spell.” My chest is tight, and I’m starving but can’t imagine doing any more than reach for another cookie, and there are little sparks of a spell migraine flecking in my vision, so I can’t really, I can’t think of what to say to explain myself.
“We’ll see how it goes, I guess. So far you have good coffee and bad cookies, and other than that I don’t know.”
“You hungry?” I ask again, though I’m not completely sure I get the words out.
At some point I take a long blink and when I open my eyes, Joseph’s setting my coffee down on the table next to the cookies. He says my name once, I think, quietly, “Isabel,” hand on my shoulder.
“What is this?”
I wake up on the couch and not on my bed, as happens way more often than it should. I’m an adult. Why can’t I make it to my bed?
“What is this?”
My eyes won’t open until I rub them hard with my fingers, and my mouth tastes like trash and my phone is being thrust in my face while my shoulder is shaken. I had a plan for this. I should’ve planned for the spell migraine to take me out, but I didn’t, and now my plan to introduce Joseph to the modern world is ruined because he’s already poking around while I was dead to the world.
“It’s my phone,” I say, and as the words come out I can’t bear the taste in my mouth. After I brush my teeth and wash my face, I join him back on the couch. Joseph presses the button on my phone, screen going bright and dark. Like this is all perfectly normal. Magda, my oviraptor, is sitting on his head.
“This is a phone?”
“Gimme,” I say, and unlock it. Magda chirps. Without looking, Joseph puts a hand up for her to jump on, and I wait for the inevitable question—
“How’s it work?”
Not the inevitable question. I shrug. My coffee is stone cold but it’s right there and caffeinated, so I gulp it and make a face of pure regret.
I was going to show him how the phone works, but there are messages from Mason and Jun, not to mention family and one of my few non-witch friends and some guy I’ve been meaning to ghost.
- Mason: I can’t believe this is happening
- Jun: Congrats. Mother’s day is in two weeks
While reheating my coffee I ignore the rest of my messages. Joseph sets Magda on the table, where she nests in a pile of mail.
“About a hundred years to catch up on.” I yawn.
With Joseph around, time tumbles past so quickly I almost forget the sensation of it, until a moment catches against my skin, lingers like an echo.
In the park, Joseph listens to me explain things poorly, strides over a bench because it’s in his path, steals my phone out of my hands. He unlocks it, swipes the screen. Walks backwards in front of me.
“This,” Joseph says, pointing my phone at me, his eyes on the screen, “takes pictures?”
“And videos. Movies.”
He turns it around and around in his hand. “This?”
“People shoot whole feature films on it.”
He laughs like a kid at Christmas, pure delight spread across his features.
Another day my ancient laptop is spread out in pieces on the coffee table, and Joseph prods at the soldered base. I tell him a probably inaccurate version of how it works, then tell him to look it up on the internet if he’s interested. “But don’t take apart anything else, please.”
He pieces the laptop back together and turns it on. “How do I look up the internet?”
When I tell him how easy it is to watch movies, Joseph gets a wild look in his eyes. “On the computer?” he says, and “Well, it’s a disappointing screen to watch on, but—” and he finds a list from the AFI, then says with determined joy in his eyes that he’s going to work his way through the whole thing. While he studies the list, I catch up on more texts.
- Mason: I don’t know what to do! She’s like our age.
- Jun: What did you expect?
- Mason: IDK!!! I just wanted to meet her
- Mason: She’s nice though
- Mason: Funny too she’s funny like my aunt
- Jun: aunt like your mom’s sister
- Mason: …yes
- Jun: what a SURPRISE Mason
- Jun: Well just be a person and stop expecting a mom and let me know if anything weird happens
- Mason: Weird??
- Mason: Is sleeping alot weird
- Me: Jun if there are side effects you didn’t tell us about I’m going to send you back to the twelfth century.
“Isabel,” Joseph says, his voice low. My phone lights up.
- Jun: You don’t know enough to do that
- Me: Not yet.
“Isabel,” more insistent. I put my phone aside. “You said I’m a second me. I didn’t think about it before, that I’m still… I’m a part of history.”
He scratches his jaw. Stares at the screen. Pushes the laptop to me, points.
One of his movies is on the list.
“Would you watch it if you were me?” he asks.
“I wouldn’t want to know too much about that other life, you know?”
“You do know about it.”
His eyes fix on mine, which seals it in my heart: I can’t tell him, either the good parts or bad, because this him will never have them. All those things aren’t Joseph, they’re him. And that’s the point. But, God, I want to assure him and I can’t. I can’t tell him you’re a genius and deserved better or I brought you here because a hundred years later you’re still impossible or I’m awful and chose you because I’ve always had a crush on you.
So I just nod.
After that, Joseph always refers to the life we split him away from in the third person. Someone else.
My roommate comes back. I tell her Joseph is a friend from out of town. She doesn’t recognize him. Out of context, I guess, or more likely not everyone would recognize him like me. Not without the suit and the soundtrack, the house falling down around him.
I tell Jun I’m too busy helping Joseph adjust to meet. She texts back, Don’t you think J&A mean it’s esp important to meet and get yr ass over here tomorrow.
I don’t reply.
I don’t go.
“The future is disappointing,” Joseph says after I tell him about space. We’re both in pajamas on the couch, the night’s movie long since over. We’ve settled in, he and I, uncertainly into whatever this new life of his is. When I got home last week he had scrapes on his palms and a bottle of wine on the table. Something about street performing, which made me want to quit my job to go watch, but I have to make money somehow and tech writing pays better than anything else I’m capable of.
“We went to the moon!” I protest.
“Not recently.” He looks tired. He says the couch is fine, but I don’t think he’s been sleeping much. “You can bring me out of the past, but no one’s living on the moon?”
“Our spells aren’t exactly public knowledge.”
“Then what do you do? I haven’t seen you do any magic. What good is it?”
I gear up for a furious defense because we have rules, the three of us, but my phone trills, lighting up with Jun’s photo. “Shit,” I say, because Jun hates calling. It can’t be good.
Jun says, “We have to meet, right now. Leave him at home.”
“What is it?”
“Mason and Angela. My place. And be ready for…” Jun exhales loudly. “Mason says we’re just talking, but stuff a protein bar and some coffee in your face on the way over. Might be work to do tonight. Another new moon.”
“Shit,” I say, hanging up. “I have to go.”
“That other person,” Joseph says. “It’s not going well, is it?”
The look in his eyes is so tired that my heart plummets, and I don’t think twice about my rules or anything else before I kiss his forehead and tell him to try and sleep. “Mason is… they’ve been having issues. It’s probably nothing. Try and sleep. It’s gonna be okay. I’ll be back by morning.”
Lying and not knowing are indistinguishable sometimes, even to the person talking.
Mason is a mess.
“I keep having these dreams,” he says, like he doesn’t always have these dreams that hound him. His hair is in a high bun, no make-up, ashy tired skin, hunched over in an old sweatshirt I don’t think I’ve seen him leave the house in before, though it’s summer and we’re out on Jun’s porch. “When I wake up, my mom, she’s always gone. But then I wake up again. I’ve never had that happen before. I’ve never woken up and still been dreaming. What does that mean?”
“Did you really get me out of my house for dreams?”
“Have you been listening for the last month? Let him talk,” Jun says. Leaning against the railing, she doesn’t look at me, only Mason. It’s a scolding without the scolding; we all know that I haven’t seen either of them for a month.
And Mason talks. Tells me how they’ve been fighting, Mason and his mom. How Angela left for days. How she came back and apologized but never—she never quite looks at Mason fully. Won’t see him. Oh, she’s talked to him and been kind enough and civil and in some ways it seemed like Angela was trying to live, trying to be in the world, but ultimately she won’t talk, she just won’t talk to Mason. Mason yells and cries, Mason makes dinner and tries to connect, Mason asks questions, Mason tries not to expect her to be a mother, but still, he wants a person there.
There’s a reason we discuss every act of magic. There’s a reason we meet every week. There’s a reason we have rules.
“Isabel?” Jun lobs my name into the silence.
“I wanted her to be happy,” Mason says.
“Where is she now?” I ask.
“You asked her?”
Mason looks at his fingers. Jun shakes her head.
“You gotta ask her. If she wants to stop—”
Mason jumps up, chair legs scraping across the wood porch. “I know.” He goes inside, door clattering shut after him.
“Can he do it?” I ask.
Instead of answering, Jun adjusts the straps on her prosthetic hand. It’s a good way to shut me up, since I always watch and say nothing and try not to think about how she got it, try not to think about that spell. The way we looked at the image in the book, how the sun seemed to go red. How we talked for weeks, but kept coming back, hungry for it—if we prepped, if we studied, we could do so much more. Why shouldn’t we try to summon familiars?
Somewhere is a lion-headed dog with a small portion of Jun’s flesh, a small portion of her power. They’re still connected. I don’t ask Jun if she can feel it.
I try not to think about it. The things we’ve done. Maybe I should. This is the worst yet, or the best. Too early to tell. Even if I strain, I can’t hear anything from inside, and time ticks by. I can feel it, every second. I can always feel it.
The seconds feel heavier tonight.
“Maybe it would’ve been better if we never met each other,” Jun says. “We’re a potent combination. This won’t be the last wild idea one of us has, the last time we manage to break something.”
“What’s broken?” Like I don’t know. I listen harder for any sounds inside.
“After this, maybe we should go our separate ways.”
“You could never let go of Mason,” I say.
“No,” she agrees, “not now.”
“We can’t do this again. We have to stop each other sometimes.”
Jun stops fiddling, folds her arms. “Mason wanted this so bad,” she says. Her voice strains, directed more toward her bare feet than to me, none of the matter-of-fact confidence she usually wears. All that’s worn away tonight.
Mason deserved this spell to go right. I didn’t need it at all. I desecrated a grave for it, for my own damn childish fixation.
“You’ll make him stay here tonight? He shouldn’t be alone,” I say.
A siren carries through the air, invisible. Cars roll by, and somewhere nearby, a party blares music, muted by walls and distance. There’s no such thing as silence, except inside the house.
“If Joseph stays, if he’s happy…do you think Mason will hate us for it?”
Jun looks up. “Is he happy?”
The door opens.
Inside the house is dark, and Mason has been crying. So has Angela. According to Jun, this part doesn’t have the same requirements. She and I push furniture out of the way in the living room, roll up the area rug, wipe away old chalk streaks, and get to work.
There’s the slightest hint of dawn in the sky when I get back to my apartment. At the sound of the door, Joseph blinks awake, looking at me from the couch, and he sits up. The clouding dots of the spell migraine have already come and gone, and now it’s settled in as a tight nausea in my stomach, all of it less than last time, but I stop with keys in my hand, looking at Joseph and not really looking at him. What has he done with his days? Why can’t he sleep? Is he happy? I’m not sure what matters and what doesn’t. Intention is garbage, hope is garbage, love is garbage. All of us are. It doesn’t matter when it leaves someone you love clutching a lock of hair and sobbing in the dark, until you cast sleep over them like a blanket, and hope that maybe when it wears off they might be okay. Or be able to find their way to okay.
If I keep my hand on the wall, I can keep my balance. Small steps to keep moving, small breaths to contain my nausea.
We uncreated her, and it was terrible. It felt like murder. Angela asked us to, and all we had to do was light the fire, speak, and she was gone, but it was—there was a lock of hair, threatening to disperse in the wind of our breath, where she had been. Mason dove for it, gathering the black hair up into his fist, clenching it until sleep fell on him, and Jun tucked the hair back in his locket.
It wasn’t just hitting undo. We split her off and made her new, and then we ended her. A month’s worth of a new life, and now oblivion. The old her, Mason’s mom, all that story unfolds like always, but this month, it’s going to shadow Mason forever. We’ll all remember Angela, but Mason most of all.
Once Mason was asleep, Jun told me she cast an extra spell at the end to move the body. She didn’t want Mason to see it. By midnight, Angela was gone and Mason was asleep, but Jun and I stayed up a while, spinning complicated spells, because a body is no easy thing to deal with, even when it’s only a shell, even for a witch. It has to go somewhere. It has to be dispersed.
I sat shaking in Jun’s kitchen for an hour, her and I taking medicinal sips of whiskey until we could speak again, and all I could say was, “I can’t do that again.”
I had to take a cab home.
Pressing my forehead to the wall and squeezing tears from my eyes, that doesn’t help anything, but that’s where I’ve ended up, halfway to my room, shivering.
Joseph slings my arm over his shoulders and grabs my waist.
“Please be happy,” I mumble.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he says, and we shuffle toward my bed. I realize, fuzzy as I feel, that even this close to him, I can’t catch the smell of years anymore. He smells like smoke and dryer sheets and some faint aftershave. Quietly, he helps me into bed, and before I’m fully in, I drag him in after me.
“Go t’sleep,” I say, curling into his chest. His fingers find their way to my temple and brush gently.
Here’s another recipe. It takes longer than the other. I don’t know what to call it. I’m not sure about the last step yet.
- One witch of time.
- One man who shouldn’t exist.
- After you undo what you did, after you uncreate who you created, call in sick to work again. Your roommate asks if Joseph is staying much longer. Say, “Well, he’s helping me now that I’m sick, so I don’t know.” You look bad enough that she accepts this, but not for long, you’re sure. Maybe, you think, Joseph can get a job, and you can find your own place. You feel a little better in the mornings, if you wake up in his arms, and you think he sleeps better too. It’s just sleeping. You don’t talk about it.
- Mason stays at Jun’s house. You help him move his stuff. Joseph helps too, setting up a system of rolling carts that nearly works, except for the laws of physics and the existence of porch steps. Mason swears he’s never doing magic again, but at least he’s sleeping without help, and the bags under all your eyes are fading.
- The three of you, Mason and Jun and you, meet a lot. More often than before. You only talk.
- Joseph disappears some evenings, goes out and comes home with dessert, a bottle of wine, leftover food.
- “Where were you?” you ask, eating baklava. It’s not that you’re mad, or want him to stay home, or begrudge him the fact of his own life. You’re curious. He says, “I’ve made some friends. A theater troupe.” You say, “Oh, good! I’m sorry I—” though you don’t know quite what you’re apologizing for. That you haven’t taken him out on the town? While he’s been learning about a changed world, and while you were knocked down by a spell again? You didn’t know if he was ready. You figure apologies are in order somehow, in case he thinks you’re assuming he owes you an explanation.
- “Look,” Joseph says, sitting next to you on the couch, pressed arm to arm, starting a video on your laptop. A straight shot of him in the park down the street, performing a routine not quite like any of his you’ve seen, with a tall broad man who makes Joseph look smaller than he is. Someone else is holding the camera, and you see it shake a little when they must be laughing, but the only sound is music. While you watch, an audience ebbs and flows and grows; some of them hold cell phones up to grab a snippet of him, or come forward to drop money in a hat on the ground.
- He counts his earnings from street performing, and then counts his earnings from the theater, and then comes home with a cell phone, a camera, a flexible tripod, and a new hat, which he reshapes with water until it’s stiff and familiar. Then he leaves it on the table unworn.
- You start to do magic. Little spells. You still have a line drawn, but it’s not as solid anymore. “If we’re a little more flexible,” you tell Jun, “maybe we won’t be so tempted.” But really you think, who’s stopping us? Mason watches you wrap a time bubble around the oven, because all of you are starving, and Jun’s casserole is taking too long. Mason watches you very carefully.
- You find a new apartment, one that has a dishwasher and no roommate, and you buy some furniture new for the first time instead of finding it on the curb and hoping it isn’t infested. Sure, you don’t have frames for the posters, but you have a coat rack and you vacuum once a week.
- While Joseph makes small movies to post online, and Jun and Mason start being a proper them, you work and read and practice with time, and wonder what you could do with the right fourth witch. Wonder if that look that Joseph gives you sometimes means he wants to kiss you, or if that’s you being hopeful. Watch one of his movies—not Joseph’s, the other him. One where he’s still young and beautiful and vibrant but a little older than Joseph, then you watch another, and another, until you feel glutted on that face, absolutely full to the brim and not sated. When you see Joseph the next morning, it does nothing for the sensation, hits a completely different spot, so you kiss him, unbrushed coffee teeth and all.
- After that, while you’re avoiding each other, spend a lot of time with Jun trying to read her book. She says you’re doing really well, considering you’re not a blood relation.
- Fight with Joseph. Little fights. Everyday fights. Then a big one, when Joseph’s asking what you think of his next idea and it spins out into something about debt and freedom and desire; you say, he doesn’t owe you this; he asks, do you think that’s why he’s still here? He leaves and doesn’t come back that night, and you figure, that’s it. At least you had this much. At least you didn’t have to undo him.
- Alone with Magda, make a token. Use grains of salt, the last drops of the wine you had shared during the argument, a scrap of paper that you very carefully draw on. Seal it all up in a locket, then fuse the clasp together.
- If he comes back, give it to him. Tell him that it’ll keep him safe when he’s away. Tell him you’re sorry. Tell him you hated every second he was gone. Tell him you made some of them last twice as long, and then sped up others, because you couldn’t decide whether you deserved more pain or not. Tell him Magda missed him and built a nest in a hat he left behind. Tell him you think he’s a jerk for staying away so long. Tell him he better come back again and again. Tell him that you love him.
Mason says he had a dream that I could tell the future. Coming from him, that makes me choke on my wine, but then he says it wasn’t that kind of dream. “Maybe start with that,” I say.
“You could tell the future because you found a spell that let you turn time backward. You could do it, you know. It wasn’t that kind of dream, but if anyone could do it, you could.”
“Would you want to know?” I ask.
Mason shakes his head. “No way.”
“Me either.” Lies. Everyone does. I desperately want to, and don’t, because it’s been a month that Joseph’s been gone and I’m carrying around this token. I’ve resisted looking at his feeds—if there were new clips, I’d watch, but how could I bear his face?—and I haven’t called him. But I’ve still got this token in my bag.
“I’m glad you had us over,” Jun says at the end of the night. We’d planned tonight before the fight. One year since the big spell, as some sort of commemoration. Not exactly a celebration, but Mason wanted it. We barely talked about Joseph or Angela, but it was good to be together, all of us thinking about them and thinking about what we did. We talked about other spells we might want to try some day, about Magda’s penchant for stealing food from unattended plates, and about a boy that Jun met who she was certain was a witch and did we want to meet him.
Before they leave, Mason asks if I want to try a charm he’s been working on. There’s one for dreamless sleep, and one for positive creativity, and one that he’s not sure what to call, but it helped him after… After. It was the first charm he made after.
I take dreamless sleep, because I keep dreaming in black and white, and wake up unsure of what I’ve done and haven’t done; did we bring them? Did we end her? Did he leave? I’d like to sleep and wake up sure of myself.
“Isabel,” Mason says, “How are you doing? Really?”
His face is so concerned it’s almost funny, after all we put each other through, and how uncertain I was that he’d ever sleep or eat or do magic again last year. This last year, none of us would have gotten through it without the others, and none of us would’ve had to without the others; most of the time I don’t regret any of it, not my part. Not even his leaving. And if Mason’s okay, I don’t regret that either.
Besides, we’re terribly powerful witches. If I really want to, I can make anything happen.
Andrea Corbin lives in Boston. Her work has appeared in Crossed Genres Magazine, Sub-Q, The Sockdolager, and Recompose. Her interactive fiction, design work, and the occasional blog post can be found on her website. She talks a lot of nonsense on Twitter as @rosencrantz. She’s working on her magic powers, mostly so she doesn’t have to wait for a delayed train ever again.