The girl obeyed. She leafed through a few pages, her eyes darting about. Then she lingered on one page for a while, silently mouthing the words as if tasting them.
“I found one.”
La bruja set the necklace on a bronze ash tray. “Good.”
“It’s, uh, Lady Lazarus by Slyvia Plath.”
“This isn’t a poetry slam, just read it.”
She turned around, holding the book in her hands. La bruja hummed, drinking in the silence. She lit a long match. The flame crackled and snapped on the match, full of life.
“For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.”
The match was almost eaten up completely by fire. La bruja dropped it in the platter. The gecko, which had been content to lie down and watch until this moment, darted towards the fire, eyes bright with hunger.
“And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood”
A small figure began to form from the flames. It wasn’t bigger than her hand.
“Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.”
At first, he paced around the platter like a wind up-toy set on a certain route. But as the flames licked the locket, the figure stopped.
“I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby”
Its mouth gaped open in a grotesque gesture that could only be an expression of pain. The flames flared.
“That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.”
The figure twisted all over the platter, fell to the ground, clawed at itself and rolled around as if doing anything it could to subdue the flames. La bruja watched, almost unblinking.
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——”
The last tiny flames clung to the bottom of the platter.
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
The gecko made its way to the basin. With an eager chirp, it snatched the hunched-over figure into its mouth, snapping its prey up. Smoke trailed from its mouth.
“Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”
“Can I turn around now?” asked the girl.
In the distance, a thick pillar of smoke climbed over the skyline of the city. The lights of sirens blinked against the buildings as a firetruck zoomed by.
“Yes,” said La bruja, who smiled for the first time since the girl arrived. “Don’t worry. I’ve protected you from the real monster.”
The girl’s eyes widened. The heavy suitcase dropped to the plank floor, causing a flurry of dust particles to fly around. Dark lines of mascara streamed down her cheeks.
La bruja went over to her, held her hands even as the nena, so, so young, kept crying, spit and mucus sputtering everywhere, all the delicate composure gone.
“I saved you from this one,” whispered the old woman, her voice gentler than it’d been all afternoon. “Don’t let another take you.”
By: Angela Orozco