It is a perfect day. Grasses of emerald and gold brush the ankles of my children as they run through our backyard, their laughter crystalline beneath an azure sky. My wife gives me a suffering look, but her mouth twitches up at the corners in a smile I can only return.
“Momma,” one of my children calls, racing up to me. “Play with us!” Ze reaches out a hand, a warm brown blend of my black and my wife’s white. But I shake my head, and it feels almost like a tremor in the air, a hesitation in the melody of what I see.
“Momma’s tired today,” I say, not looking at my newly crippled legs, not thinking of that which I should not think of.
Ze runs back, squeals when my wife tickles zer. My heart swells and my shoulders relax again. I breathe in the fresh scents of fall, of life, of family.
“Shandria,” my friend calls from beside me, appearing through a wall of magic with a ripple like parting a waterfall.
“I came to fetch you back,” she says worriedly. She looks different from the others.
“They are beautiful,” she says, looking at my family, my beloveds. “But don’t join them yet,” she reminds me, taking my hand and helping me up. Hers is cold. Lined with the weight of life.
I follow her reluctantly, hobbling on my legs and my crow-foot cane back over the threshold. On the other side, I look back for their faces, for that scene of perfection.
But the yard and my family are both gone—gone with the house and the money and the crash. I can see only the wasteland of the witch’s home: rubble and dirt, clumps of dead grass speckled with snow. I clench my eyes against the pain, and hear only the magic whispering on the wind with their ghosts.
Frances Koziar has published work in 60+ different literary magazines, and she is seeking an agent for NA fantasy novels and diverse children's fairy tales (PBs). Her prose is upcoming in "Daily Science Fiction" and "Best Canadian Essays 2021". She is a young (disabled) retiree and a social justice advocate, and she lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Visit her website at https://franceskoziar.wixsite.com/author.