Fiction: Curvature of the Witch House

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By Wendy N. Wagner

The crows! The caw, gaw, gaaaw all day and into the twilight. As if they know they can stop my work. Lousy devils, snapping their beaks every time I step outside to chase them away. Shuffling on their feet of three claws.

So many multiples of three in this space. Three in each triangle. Three angles, one shape. Everything a multiple of one. Try dividing by zero, if you really want to look into the heart of the beast. Monstrous. Sacred. Ordinary trash birds singing hymns to the Lord Himself. Or Beast Himself. Or maybe just the sea. I can no longer tell.

I plug my ears, cut a circle into two pieces and lay my ruler along the bleeding edge. Find the centre and cut again. Whiz-bang! A radius! Magical length and friend of my friend, Pi. Although, who can really call him “friend”? Who can pin him down; who can make him repeat himself? No, not Pi. Nothing good enough for Pi. Another devil, flapping his wings. Lording over the circles.

I can’t spin my mind around all these maniacal demons and constants. Maybe there are spirits. Maybe Gaw, called “God”, is really real. Maybe I am gaga. Insanity another constant at the edge of the world. Madness just mind divided by zero.

Gaw gaw gaw! The crows outside the window scream on. I lay my ruler across the paper and try to inscribe the arcs and angles as I’ve seen them in the dreams. The Beast shuffling behind them with his feet dripping. Wet. Everything’s wet in that other world. I will never satisfy my thirst, until I open the door written in these monster geometries.

The angles turn inside my brain. There was a witch once who managed it. A lonely witch in this lonely house. I miss my husband. He would scare away the birds and make me forget about God.

Do I fear Him? Do I fear His beastly slouching? I feel no terror for that man-beast-Creator, although, perhaps I should; although, I’ve forgotten the reason why, forgotten which part came first. Creator. Beast. Man-maker. Creator. Beast. Mathematician.

“Mad Mrs. Math.” That’s what the students call me behind my back. They found me once, drawing, drawing, drawing. Cutting circles and pulling them out of true. There are arcs that can open doors, she said. The witch said. They locked her up, but she escaped, anyway. Through the doors inside circles.

Bits of circles. Bits of time. I can almost see them line up here, in this place, in this town. There is something in the air. A smell that widens the mind. Here, there have been physicians who learned the secrets of death, students who learned the secrets of geometry. The university is the finest in the land, staffed by professors bolder and braver than academics elsewhere.

I will start there very soon. My doctoral coursework will begin in the fall, the time when my husband joins me with the truck full of our things. He said to call this week a retreat. He said to take the time alone and let my creativity unfurl. He said, Take time for yourself. He said, Eat healthy. He said, Do math.

He said he said he said he said he said.

But the crows call and call and spin my brain out of true, and the numbers pull away, the ruler slips, the circles fall to pieces on the floor, and nothing makes sense. I am so close to seeing it, so close to piercing the layers of dimension and understanding, where they touch in hidden angles. Touch, angle, repose, open.

Shut up, you goddamn crows, shut up shut up SHUT UP!

My hands are trembling. There are feathers everywhere, fluttering over the page. I brush them off and leave stains. Red all over my page. Goddamn those bleeding, bastard, gaga crows. Goddamn them. Covering my geometry.

And yet. There are shapes in the red. Movement that I haven’t seen before. A suggestion of an arc beyond the touch of Pi. That’s how she found it, of course. Witches know blood, know it as well as any Jesus-hungry Catholic. This is my body and my blood. This is the blood of caw, the blood of gaw, the blood of the Beast. Water soaks through the page beneath the red arc.

There is a smell in the house now, not just the smell of the strangled, mangled crow, but the smell of the ocean, the smell of brine and sea, and the slime of fish scales. My mouth hurts; it is so dry. My hands shake. There is not enough blood in this crow to inscribe the arc.

There is not enough blood inside this crow.

I will hold the brush as long as I can and hope my heart pumps long enough to finish the inscription. God is here with me, but I can only see him if I open the door

open my heart

as the world grows dark around me, I see the light of another world and, with the sound of a thousand crows on the shore of a sea beyond perspective, I see the Beast and I see God and they are one Gaw of Shining Tentacle, and the tentacle closes around me and I am for one last, grey second


The End

Bio: Wendy N. Wagner grew up across the street from a cemetery, which might explain her interest in the gloomy and the macabre. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and the anthologies The Way of the Wizard and Rigor Amortis. She is an Assistant Editor of Fantasy Magazine. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her extremely understanding family, and blogs about words and life at