Flash Fiction by Emily Deibler
The Witch’s Daughter
The stories speak of gnarled cypresses, branches like a dark god's crown. Spanish moss, the bangs of the swamp, hanging like shrouds. The croaking of crows and unknown beasts, devil-haired. Eyes, red (like the smooth skin of winterberries) in the dark, swelling on the swamp bank like baubled effigies. What they don't speak about are these:
How Darlin's mother crafted the girl eyes she'd been born without. Picked her off the churning bank when she'd been left there for the gators as a baby. (a wail by the growing ripples, blood for the hungry water) How her mother gives the women from town stories, love tips, healing potions—how she taught Darlin to know plants by smell and touch. Pungent, fetid, brittle, home. Years of tracing fingers over jars of dried milkweed, cattail, rosemary tucked in the pie rack like rounded teeth. Her gator, Scamp, who likes warming his belly on the hearthstones.
(just an ol' swamp cat)
The air drips with the shedding of stars and gods’ eyes. The Witch, Gator Queen, Woman-King, the Devil's Bride, the Horror of the Deep and Dark Southern Woods—her mama.
Mother, pulling Darlin to her as the hearth burns and Scamp deeply snores by the door. The little shanty with the groaning roof reeks of meadowsweet, lavender, wet. On Darlin's tongue is milkweed, tasting faintly of vanilla and butterfly mouths. Mother, whose shoulder becomes a home (warm, firm, eternal), hums a lost song from the Okefenokee island she came from—the one where the Daughters of the Sun, immortal, dance and laugh—voices thick with salt apples and whiskey—under the horned moon.
There in Mother's arms Darlin feels and hears the thunderous heartbeat of the swamp, the bellows and purrs of courting gators, the orchestra of frogs and fireflies.
A native of North Georgia, Emily Deibler is a published poet and author. Her short story “Deer in December” was published in TL;DR Press’ Halloween 2018 Horror collection, NOPE. She has also published her poems “Turkey Hunting,” “Patty,” “Samantha,” and “Daughters of the Sun.” Her debut novel, Dove Keeper, came out in October 2018. She can be found on Twitter at @emilydeibler.