Burn – by Jennifer Loring

Wyld FLASH – January 8th 2021

You’ll see my modest cottage, a beacon in the cruel, dark woods, or perhaps you will smell it first. Ginger and cinnamon, warm as a cake, with inviting golden light that reminds you of Christmases before your father lost work, before your parents abandoned you because they could barely afford to feed two, let alone four. You’ll be so delirious from hunger and exposure you will believe the house itself is made of pastry, and try to gnaw at the walls. I will welcome you into my home, nurture you with the treats that make me think of the grandchildren I never had.

One day, your parents will have a change of heart. Perhaps their financial situation has improved. Guilt will eat at them the way you eat my pies and tarts. When they follow the trail of stones that lead to my door, they’ll find you both so plump from my hospitality they will barely recognize you. They’ll cry, “Witchcraft!” because any woman who chooses to live away from society’s constraints, who chooses not to submit to the prison of marriage, must practice it.

You’ll help them shove me into the cast iron oven because your parents are always right, even after leaving you to die in the woods. Surely, they had their reasons—ones that you, as children, cannot possibly understand and dare not question. There isn’t much to me, and it takes little effort. I am just an old woman who will burn beside the cake I was baking for your brother’s birthday. My story will not be remembered as the kindly spinster who saved your lives but of the grotesque witch who fattened you up to eat you. And even you will forget the truth, once the lie makes you famous.

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Author Bio: Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Lake vols. 1 and 4, Nightscript IV, Not All Monsters, Arterial Bloom, andonline in The LiteraryHatchet and City. River. Tree., among many others. Longer work includes four novels and several novellas. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction with a concentration in horror fiction and is currently working toward a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies.

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