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HAYWIRE Issue 10 Fall 2017


HAYWIRE Issue 10 Fall 2017 22 Salemtown by Zahavah Zinn-Kirchner, 12a Art by Kater Becker, 12d I have taken it under the wings of my authorial duty to recount this tale in a manner so phantasmagoric that even the most valiant of men will shrink at its besom emoluments. The fabric of this chronicle is wound as tightly around my heartstrings as would a snake be, around its charmer’s staff. Its arrival within my plateaued and weathered cerebrum was deemed the most sensational cause of the time. The townspeople flocked from yay and hither to hear a sermon so ethereally spoken that the angels who, with their goldstrung lutes, hated the sin and loved the sinner. Thus I now venture into the unknown seeking redemption from above. It seems a humble price to pay for the for all the ignominy I have yet beared. Though my innermost sight may be reprimanded for the telling of this tale without debarring fallacies, I believe it to be sensible to begin with a few bon-mots on my late mother. A woman of noble French birth, Amélie Durante travelled across vast seas to find a secret that she, kept hidden from me all my life, wished to bury in the churchyard of an insignificant town in the New World. She kept her modest truths under lock and key, and were it not for a particularly loquacious drunken personage, I might never have known of them. She spent her youth in northern France, the daughter of an archbishop with a great love for everything unhallowed - wine, women, and fishing. After his untimely death, my mother was sent to live with her relatives in the British Isles, which presented a dull landscape when compared to the lush pastures with which her young persona had acquainted itself. When she had attained sixteen years of age, she made it her highest priority to refuse conformity. She rid herself of her matrilineal accent and was no longer franco- nor anglophile. Every month, upon the day of the full moon, would she venture out into the thicket behind the weathered cottage of her obsequious grandmama and grandpapa. Yes, one could imagine them now. My own progenitors with storied pasts and worn eyes,—walking but upright enough so as not to indicate a kind of submissive respect to those meek souls that tried to pry inside their modest quarters. In old age, my mother was the reflection of most profound sorrows; emaciated, with unruly tufts of vermilion; long, bony fingers that clawed at aching flesh. She was not beautiful - she never had been, but for her pearly eyes, that now hang out of sunken sockets. Amélie waged wars against her own pneuma, leaving marks not on the skin, but on vast expanse of her buffeting heart. It came as a surprise to all, when a sprightly lad appeared round the maypole one fine spring day, and took that selfsame heart for safekeeping. He was of a strange ilk. Small, with pointed ears and of keen perception. My mother felt protected in his company, and when they cast their vows on their wedding day, there was no discordance among the heavens. Shortly after, they begot a son. He was small, like the husband, yet with lungs powerful as those of mythical dragons. He did, without question harbor traits of an occult warrior. His father taught him the values which had, likewise, been instilled upon him at a young age - a reverence for G-d, a respect for manual labor, and wariness of the supernatural realm, which my mother, in contrast, was so very

fond of. She adored the ancient plants that snaked their way through the mind and made two sworn enemies fall at one another’s feet, begging for forgiveness. She kept their tendrils hanging from the ceiling. To ward off ghosts, she claimed. Her little son could not comprehend the meaning of her fireside chanting, and to this day, I have refused to see its propagation. The Lord himself sets precedents that ought not to be tampered with, and dappling in the world of magic, it may often become difficult for anyone earthly candidate to see it being disseminated. It may be seen as detrimental for the essence of a town to be concerned with a cause albeit sanctioned. One must admit that at a time so exigent, it is imperative to bethink oneself with what remains of the past; one must hold fast to the glimmers of promise and passion that might once have guided a hand now so rheumatic. * In late April of 1797, I arrived on the doorstep of a forlorn pub in the centre of an undignified conurbation that had the audacity to call itself a town. Men of lost strains milled around its oak doors, fumbling towards me with pitchers; most with scruffy faces and wheezy breath that reeked of Dutch courage. The bartender sat on a rickety stool - his head drooping slightly under the weight of thick brown locks and whatever dark thoughts might dwell upon his mind on long winter nights,—a wife who no longer loved him, a daughter who resembled more the town beggar than his own sallow face, and his inability to remain sober for longer than a fortnight. He dreaded confrontation, as did I,—which is perhaps why he payed me no attention, as I wound my way around the high table and seated myself in a dark booth that was musky and smelled of cigars and apples gone sour. There was a man asleep across from me smoke still pouring out of his mouth from a halfburnt gasper. He started when I set my beer down on the stained wood and removed my hooded veil. “Blime. I think I’ve gone mad. Those eyes - those are Amélie’s.” He moved his hand through matted hair and rubbed bloodshot eyes. I shifted uncomfortably. One often feels that time stands still in moments like these, though falter it does not. Nor does it remain stoic like a raven atop a stone hill. It rushes in gasps and tears open chasms yet in those two ticks I felt utterly vulnerable, so far removed from the air of masculinity that I usually conjure up around myself, as my late father had taught me. The man stared,—the long thumbs met at his temples and though his speech was slurred, he continued with as much linguistic precision as one might warrant from a university professor. “I assume you’ve returned to collect the contract. It is no longer in my possession. I suggest you turn to Master Gibbins, though I cannot promise you’ll be satisfied. He’s picky.” I leaned in, intrigued. “What is this contract you speak of?” I asked. Art by Ailie Gieseler, 11a “That is why thou art here, is it not? It’s the only matter anyone ever cares to discuss with me - after Amélie’s passing.” “What meanest thou?” I inquired. “Is she not among the living yet?” The man looked up disbelievingly. He gave a terse laugh. “What nonsense letst thou slip from between thine lips? Why else wouldst thou be here? No one visits this sad outcropping; a freak of nature. Its life died with your mother.” He regarded me as one might expect a bishop to look at a particularly lazy altar boy. “Your mother buried the chest hither. After your father left. She was tired of his incessant criticisms. She deserved someone much better, of course. She was a pure being devoid of all earthly passions and desires,—of a tough brand that one finds not in the modern day.” He sighed and removed a small paring knife from the front of a strange pouch-like contraption that hung around his neck and down onto the table. He scraped a thick layer of dirt from beneath mildewy fingernails and ran his finger over the blade, crushing the muck between calloused digits. “Thou hast known my father?” 23 HAYWIRE Issue 10 Fall 2017

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