A/N I know that this is very similar to my first ficlet, but whatever. I'm
still not completely satisfied with the ending, but I can't think of a
better way to end it. I don't really have anything else to say, so go ahead
and read it. *looks around and realizes that no one was listening anyway*
Disclaimer: Yup, I'm Philip Pullman. *rolls eyes* Okay, if you believed
that then I doubt you have the ability to comprehend this story. Or even
the ability to read, come to think of it.
Witches Never Forgive
Juta Kamainen opened the ancient wooden door and stepped through. She was
on a plain, a plain with no colors, a flat, endless plain shrouded in a
gloomy mist. If she had taken the time to lift her sad and weary head, she
would have noticed that the plain was crowded with beings like herself.
Beings made of no solid matter, just a dim grayish light that formed their
bodies. They were ghosts, as she was.
But she didn't take the time to look, and so she didn't notice them. She
only noticed the figure standing directly in front of her, a figure with
the head of an old and haggard woman, but the body of a great bird like a
vulture. Juta Kamainen had no name for this creature; there had been none
of them in her world. Before she could express any surprise or fear, the
woman - Was she a woman? - spoke.
"You took your time getting here." This simple statement could have meant a
dozen different things, but for the witch there was only one thing it could
"Yes." And it was true. She had lingered in that strange ghost camp for as
long as she could, not wanting to move away from the life that she herself
had so willingly ended. But eventually she could linger no more, and had
uneasily mounted the wooden rowboat that had brought her here. How much
time exactly had she taken to get here? There was no way of telling.
Now the odd bird-woman, the harpy, was leading her away, to a spot as
secluded as a spot could get in this place, along a stone wall. It was the
same stone wall that the witch had seen from the shore of the misty lake,
with the same wooden door which she and countless others had entered
through. Only now, of course, they were on the other side, the side of the
land of the dead. And the harpy was speaking again.
"You have taken your time getting here, but you are here now, and that is
all that matters. And perhaps it is for the better that you lingered. Had
you come here as soon as you had lost your grasp on life, you would have
found it a sad and despairing place. True, it is still sad even now, but
before the sadness and despair would have stifled you, so great was its
numbers. And why was this, you wonder. Yes, I know that you wonder this,
even if it is not said aloud. The reason is that although you must spend
some time here, soon you will be back among your world, among the trees and
the animals, among the wind and the sky. You will be alive again, in a
sense, instead of spending all of eternity down here. Ah, but I am getting
ahead of myself. That is my story, and there will be plenty of time for
it's telling later. But for now it is your story that needs telling, your
story that I must hear. Tell me your story."
"I was a witch." Her voice was proud and passionate, even now that she is
no longer one. And as she progresses in her tale, it acquires just the
slightest hint of bitterness. "I was a witch and witches don't forgive. I
loved him, and he scorned me. Witches don't forgive, and so I never forgave
him. But I do now." And although she is dead, tears are streaming down the
woman's cheeks, little ghost-tears that are the same shade of gray as
everything else. "When I first met him he was young, and handsome, and I
loved him. But he never returned my love, never. Even though I was a witch.
This made me hate him with a burning passion, but I loved him still, so my
love and hate were mixed together into an emotion so powerful and strange
that it has no name.
"And then I found him again, and I understood. I understood what had made
him turn aside the love of a witch, what had made him scorn me. But when I
finally understood, after all those years, it was too late, for I had
already sent him to this place that I am at now. And what made me
understand so suddenly? A boy, a boy of not more than twelve, a boy with
two missing fingers and a dangerous and forceful stare." If the harpy knows
of the boy the ghost talks about, she makes no sign of it.
"And this boy was his son! His son!" Her voice has turned to a wail that
contains all the remorse she had ever felt. Then the wail stops, and
becomes only a whisper.
"And then suddenly I understood. At first I thought it could not be
possible, but again the boy made me understand. He said, he said 'Do you
think things have to be possible? Things have to be true!' And he was
right. Before, I would have never thought that my being here, in this
place, was possible. I should just be lying on the cold, hard ground where
I last was, with my knife still where I had stuck it, in my ribs. And maybe
it isn't possible, but even if it isn't, then it's still true.
"And it was true also, before. It was true that this boy really was the
man's son, and that I had killed him."
There is more to her story, much more. But this is the part that matters
the most; the rest can be told later. Later when the witch and the harpy
are journeying to that far-off hole to the living world. The hole that the
witch will go through, so that her particles can join the particles of the
millions who have gone before her, including those of the man she loved.
The hole that had been created by the boy who had made her understand.
A/N I realized about halfway through this that when Juta Kamainen died, the
harpies weren't asking for stories yet. Duh. I tried to fix this the best I
could, but don't kill me if my best was pathetic. It probably was. Even so,