Witch Sister by Kira Compton

We decide to kill Aunt Miriam. We have already done everything else. We have played Monopoly. We have read hospital magazines. We have made tribal masks from old crosswords and glue. We have plucked the fuzzy man-hairs from our arms. We have played with our baby brother, even though he is not yet a real person. We have cut his hair, we have poked his cheeks. We have built a cage from hospital chairs and tucked him deep inside. We have searched forlornly for our brother under every chair but the right one. Oh, Jackson? Little Jackson? Where did our Jackson go? We have pretended not to hear his screams. We have turned away in disgust when he gurgled and sobbed and vomited on his sweater. We have remembered why we don’t play with him. He is too young to understand anything, games or Aunt Miriam or anything. We have ignored our baby brother until his crying quieted into tiny, bite-sized noises: hiccup! hiccup!

We have played Pretty, Pretty Princess. We have broken the crown in two and worn it on our heads. We have made the hospital lobby our kingdom, and now there is nothing else to do. The nurses are busy working and Mom is busy crying and the only other real person there is an old lady whose husband is dead. She tried to stop us at first, but then we scared her very badly. Now all she does is glare from a corner chair. We hate her, but we let her have her corner. She is just jealous of our young teeth, our smooth forearms, our hospital-lobby-kingdom.

Mom screams when she sees us. She pulls us apart, a bushel of hair in each hand. She makes us apologize to the old lady, who grins like a witch. She takes away our magazines, our board games, our glue. She seethes at us, snot coming from her nose, Behave, girls! Isn’t enough going on?

Yes, Mommy, of course, Mommy, we demure, and she whisks our baby brother from the room. The old lady grins, so, so self-satisfied. We hate her. We cannot be here a second longer. We must kill Aunt Miriam.

Aunt Miriam is not in the hospital lobby, so we cannot unplug her machines or stab her belly with butter knives. We must find a way to do it, all by ourselves. We clasp our hands together. We squeeze our eyes shut. We cast our chins towards to the ceiling. Please ease our suffering! Take Aunt Miriam into your arms in the great beyond! Aunt Miriam, Aunt Miriam, die! we screech. Aunt Miriam, Aunt Miriam, die!

The old lady is no longer grinning. She curdles in the corner and sneers: Witch children. Imps.

We do not care. We hope she never grins again.

That night, Aunt Miriam chokes on the water in her lungs. We have always known we were special girls, but now we have proof. We wear our church clothes to the funeral, and then we never take them off. We shine our nice black shoes. We gel our hair so tightly to our heads that, from a certain angle, it looks like we do not have hair at all. Our younger cousins, sensing what we have done, howl in despair. They swear blood vows and hiss at us when we pass them at school. We do not care. We only need each other. We hold hands in the halls. When others laugh, we call them late at night on the telephone. We threaten their cats, their mothers, their friends, until they hang up in despair. We hold the dead phone between our faces and stare into each other’s eyes. We are not just magic—we are invincible. No one will ever hurt us again.

We had not understood, then, that nothing in the world is free. Not one thing. When Jackson falls ill that winter, we argue for days, blaming our mother, our cousins, then, finally, ourselves. We promise to only use magic for good. We promise to never use magic again. We promise to only use magic for this: Jackson, Jackson, live! Jackson, Jackson, live!

The night Jackson dies, we do not sleep. Our baby brother will be scared when he comes back, and we do not want him to be alone. We sliver the bedroom door open. We wait to hear the front door, we wait to hear baby steps. We pinch our wrists when we start to sleep, so hard we draw blood. We are wide awake through the first night, and we are wide awake through the second.

On the third night, we dream Jackson returns to us as a goldfish. We are at a carnival, wires strung high above our heads. Tightrope walkers fall from the sky, but we run through them, straight for the racetrack. We shoot through the finish line before anyone else even starts—we are the fastest girls in town. We can choose to take our prize from anyone, so we choose the lady in red. She hands us our baby brother in a plastic bag. He blinks at us in shock and wonder. Maybe he is surprised to be alive. We don’t know for sure. His voice is gone, and he just makes tiny little noises: hiccup! hiccup! We dash around the carnival, searching for his voice. We throw aside the elephants, we rip apart the circus tops, we tear into the funnel cakes, we burn down the Ferris wheels. His voice simply isn’t here. We smear our weepy eyes against his plastic bag. We promise him we will look forever. Hiccup! he says. Hiccup!

We wake up, the dream like dried glue down our throats, but then my sister turns from the bedroom door and I know the dream was mine alone.


Kira Compton is bad at writing bios, as well as several more important things. She is currently getting an MFA at Boise State, where she serves as the associate editor for The Idaho Review. Find her at kiracompton.com, or @kirajcompton.