WATER WITCH

She rolled them in and out around her fingers, rubbed them between her palms. Small like stones, but not stones.
 
Nearby the octopus pressed between the wire wall and the cage floor, oozed onto the first shelf then the second then the third. She set the shark teeth on the counter and lifted the creature.
 
“Sweet, little thing,” she murmured, cradling it the way most would hold a baby. “Dear, sweet, little thing.”
 
Once the mollusk calmed, she used one hand to remove the hot cauldron lid then tossed the octopus into the boiling broth. Not everyone could hear its death scream, but she knew the sound was there, echoing over the rocks to the water, enchanting the sea. Next in were the shark teeth, then tiny flakes of barnacled hulls, followed by scrapings of mortar and bricks she’d collected the night before. Finally, she selected a tin canister from the array displayed on the counter, tipped it sideways and rattled dozens of bones from the toes of sailors into the mix. She gave the brew a thorough, final stir, raised her hands into the steam and repeated the ancient incantation in a language that was already old in her great-grandmother’s time.
 
She didn’t turn to the window to watch the results of the spell. She was confident that behind her the lighthouse slowly disappeared: First the base, then tamper, the stairs and living quarters, and last of all, the warning lantern, all of them gone.
 
At least, gone for the ship careening toward shoreline. The fishing vessels, dinghies and row boats could all see the beacon just fine. Only the man of war was blind. Only the man of war would rip apart on the rocks.
 
Before the fog lifted and the lighthouse returned, she hurried along the water’s edge with a sharp knife and sturdy basket.
 
The villagers would come, determined to save anyone who could be pulled from the wreckage. As they rounded the base of the cliff and came into view of the beach, she would call to them, “Hurry, this one’s alive.”
 
They’d run faster. They’d cry out, “Thank you. Thank you for helping them.”
 
They’d never think to question the missing toes.

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