Flare’s hand slipped into her coat, and her other hand began to trace a charm. This one I recognized as echo. It wasn’t a charm that got used much, it was mostly just a curiosity.
A whistle was produced. Flare blew it, and I clapped my hands over my ears. The sound soaked into my bones, and it rebounded and continued to rebound until it seemed like the whole pass shook with it. The monster shuddered and began to bounce wildly around between the walls.
Solange yelled, “This way!”
Flare bolted. I bolted after her. The monster careened just overhead, its sharp edges missing Flare by a hair’s breadth.
There was a gash in the side of the pass, a break in the not-ice. Solange waved us in. A little hollow, a perfect place to hide. I collapsed inside, shaking my legs,trying to get the feeling to return to them. Flare sat down across from me, casting a light charm. Solange filled up the doorway. Outside, I could catch glimpses of the monster, flashing by the doorway in brief heart-pounding bursts.
Solange said, “Sorry again. Hopefully it’ll go away soon, and we can get moving again.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Ampworm.” Solange looked at me, then looked at Flare, “Did you not tell her about the ampworm?”
Flare stared at her.
“Okay, fine, stupid question.” Solange took a seat as well, folding her coat-encased legs under her stiffly. “I don’t know too much, but I know they like noise, they hate too much noise, and the repel charm keeps it off me for whatever reason.”
“It repels attention,” Flare said.
“Does it?” Solange asked.
“A little. Enough,” Flare said. “Enough to make it feel like the Pass does to the worm.”
“Oh,” Solange and I said in unison.
Solange started to laugh quietly. “I know exactly what Flare’s thinking. ‘Great, now there’s two of them.’”
I laughed a little too. Flare groaned and looked away from us, but an almost-smile was on her lips as she did it.
The monster flashed past the entrance, and I startled again. Solange noticed, and shifted to block a little more of the door in my line of sight. I stomped my feet more. They tingled harder, the feeling slowly making its way back down into them, but that didn’t stop it from being an unpleasant feeling.
“This reminds me of that poem you wrote,” Solange said.
Flare’s head jerked up. Then her eyes flicked over to me, then back over to Solange. “I didn’t know you wrote poetry,” I said.
I didn’t know witches could write poetry at all. Flare said nothing.
Solange said, “It was really good.”
Flare said nothing, louder this time.
Solange said, “I don’t remember exactly how it went, but it had a nice ring to it.”
Flare said nothing, loud enough that Solange stopped talking.
My thoughts filled the silence. Poetry had always been something small and pointless to me. It was just me spinning my wheels on paper. Something I did when I had nothing I really wanted to do outside. The thought of Flare spinning her wheels didn’t fit. Like the loop puzzle of Flare in my mind had clinked together and snagged. Poetry was so idle. Witches were anything but.
“I’d like to hear it,” I said.
Flare locked eyes with me. I looked away. Solange turned to look outside the alcove. “Yep, still there,” she said.
Silence sat with us for a while. Solange looked over her shoulder every so often, and Flare just stared at the wall, and I looked down at my feet as I tried to hammer them back into feeling.
Very softly, Flare began to speak.
“Where do the warm winds blow?
I’ve walked and I’ve walked ‘til my feet ring with ache
Round each hill and each valley and each chilled-over lake
And the question I ask myself more times than I can take is
Where do the warm winds blow?”
She stayed staring at the wall as she spoke, and her voice began to rock back and forth as she recited. I’d never tried reading my own poetry aloud, but I felt like if I had I would want it to be read in a voice like hers.
“Where can I lay down my head?
I’ve walked and I’ve walked ‘til my eyes have to close
And the stars look down on me in an unblinking host
But nowhere is where I can give up my post
Where can I lay down my head?”
Her words began to pick up as she spoke, hurrying forward in order to try and get the poetry out faster. She still stared at the wall, but her hands began to jerk and twist at her sides, like there was something stuck to them that she couldn’t remove. Then she stopped, and opened and closed her mouth, and didn’t let anything else out.
“You added onto it,” Solange said.
“Yeah,” Flare said.
I didn’t say anything. A distinct feeling of unwelcomeness had burrowed itself into my chest, and while it had been nice to hear the poetry it also felt uneasy, somehow. I resolved to not talk about poetry any more. If Flare hadn’t wanted to share it, I shouldn’t have pressed her to.
Then I reconsidered. “I wrote poetry, too,” I said. Maybe if I offered up something of my own it would help fix things.
Solange said, “Oh?”
“It’s not like that. It was just little things. I wrote poetry about little things. And I didn’t speak it.” Suddenly I could see why Flare had started speaking faster. I wanted to speak faster too. To get this out there, and in the air, and then not have to look at it in my own head any longer.
“Do you want to share?” Solange asked.
I didn’t. In so many ways, I didn’t. I began to speak.
“When I’m on the ground I see the stars.
It still hurts. Getting hit always does.
But I wonder sometimes.
Would it be better to be in the sky, where nothing could hit?
I don’t think it would.”
I looked at Flare, who was still staring at the wall. Solange said, “I’m sorry.” I looked at the wall too. Maybe Flare had the right idea. Maybe if I stared at the wall hard enough I wouldn’t have to think about writing that poem.
Solange looked at us, then looked outside of the alcove again. “We can go now,” she said.