Shehani tilts her left forearm over the bowl. The incision leaks like a fat red worm emerging from her skin. The sting of the cut abates and the fluid almost tickles as it crawls over her skin, pooling in a thick blob that changes from fire engine to merlot as she watches. She waits for the flow to cease and bandages the wound, dousing it first in witch hazel, her eyes pricking at the burn. One slice down, five to go before this portion of her blood spell will be complete.
Slice number two: blood from over the heart. This one will be tricky to catch. She didn’t consider how much her arm would hurt already, and that was her hand to hold the bowl.
Every good witch knows how to improvise. She moves the straight razor to her left hand, the bowl to her right.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be real.
Or so her worn copies of Wicca for Dummies and The Future of Magic taught her.
She’s surprised that for such a large cut how little blood fills the receptacle. It’s already scabbing over. She makes several more slices, each an inch apart, and each from one side of her forearm to the other, like she’s seen on the goth girls who don’t hide their scars.
Blood gushes from the new wounds, much of it missing the bowl entirely.
This has to be enough, she thinks, but her head goes cloudy from blood loss.
Hurry hurry hurry, she chants to herself, wrapping up her bloody arm with her least favorite Bowie shirt she wore to that concert where they dropped acid and she missed the whole show because she was huddled in the corner crying. They found out later the acid had been laced and people died. She never touched the stuff again. She also never had the chance to see Bowie perform live again. He was supposed to be immortal. How could he be dead? She still can’t believe it. She refuses to believe it. She is convinced he’s still around. His spirit or his soul, something remains. And she is going to bring him back.
Feeling lightheaded, she grabs the blood bowl and gets to her feet, remembering to blow out her circle of candles as her dizziness deepens.
Her vision is through the wrong end of a telescope as she clings to the bannister, making her way downstairs. She trips over a knot of wood and finds herself free falling down the stairs, hitting her left eye on the ornament adorning the railing end.
She passes out.
She awakens in a pool of blood, the left side of her head throbbing worse than that time she had a burst eardrum. The bowl of her blood went flying during her tumble down the stairs and has painted the walls and floor with viscous smears that are halfway to dry. You can still do this. Just get outside.
It’s impossible to stand, so she crawls to the sliding doors leading out into their yard,
leaving a trail of blood like a dying human slug. She pulls herself across the grass to where she can see the full moon shining down on her. Hannibal was right. Blood looks black in the serious moonlight. But she can’t remember the spell. She’s having a hard time keeping her eyes open. Her head hurts. She resorts to what little magic she’s always known:
“Goblin King, Goblin King, wherever you may be. Take this blood of mine and return to me!” She passes out on the lawn, forgetting that the simplest of spells must begin with an I wish.
She wakes in the hospital, groggy. She missed her mother’s hysterics when they came home and found their staircase abattoir. She missed her father’s frantic calls to the police. She missed the police officer who found her in a pool of her own blood on the lawn, her left eye swollen shut. Another couple hours and she would have died from blood loss, or so they tell her.
“Were you trying to kill yourself?” her mother wails, wiping her face on her sari, making everything about her as per usual.
She turns her head and refuses to speak to anyone. They wouldn’t understand anyway.
She returns home a few days later, several dozen stitches on her arms where she cut herself, and five over her left eye where she hit the bannister. Her parents have torn up the ruined carpet and hired people to sand down the hardwood underneath. All the pictures on the staircase wall have been taken down so they can paint over the bloodstains that refuse to budge. Her mother is angry because one of her favorite glamour portraits is ruined beyond saving; she can’t find the negatives anywhere and now refuses to talk to her daughter. Whatever. As if that’s some kind of punishment.
Her room has been stripped of its screens and speakers, the only things remaining are books. I guess I’m grounded, she thinks and snorts. She goes into the bathroom and takes stock of her face. They said there might be a scar over her left eyebrow. Good, she thinks, tempted to run her fingers over the stitches. As she stares into the mirror she notices something weird going on with her eyes: Her left pupil is fully dilated while her right isn’t in the harsh fluorescent bathroom light. She looks closer and notices no change in her left eye even when she puts the mirror lights on and her right pupil retracts even further.
She thinks about her beautiful Bowie and his own anisocoria from a schoolyard fight that forever gave the impression he had two different colored eyes. Her eyes widen and the first smile in months breaks across her face.
My spell worked. He’s here. He’s in me!
Her grin deepens as she wonders: Who should I bring back next?
Sezin Koehler is a multiracial Sri Lankan American film and television critic who writes for Black Girl Nerds and Looper. My other bylines include Teen Vogue, Broadly, Bitch Magazine, Huffington Post, and more, where I have written about pop culture, politics, feminism, horror movies, and South Asian issues. I’m also a Third Culture Kid who has lived in 13 countries and 18 cities around the world. I currently call a small Florida beach town home where I raise endangered butterflies and orchids in the wild.