I’m sitting outside the house, the damp grass soaking through my jeans. It must’ve rained the other night. Water dots my skin, despite the sun shining overhead.
Grandma is across from me. Her eyes are glazed over completely, her dark brown pupils swallowing her face whole, like a deer in headlights.
In between us is a fat hairy rabbit, thrice the size of any I’ve ever seen. It’s legs have been crushed beneath something heavy, likely the wheels of a careless driver. Grandma cleaned up all the blood before we sat down, but she couldn’t rid the air of the rancid smell.
“Grandma,” I say, “What’re-?”
I purse my lips and roll back until blades of grass pierce my shirt, itching my spine. I throw my air and stretch my fingers as far as they’ll go. There was a titan from Greek Mythology who was charged with holding up the sky. His name was Atlas. As I stair up into the too-bright blue, I imagine I’m him.
“Kimberly, sit up please.”
I grunt, “It’s Kim.”
There’s a beat, and Grandma responds, “Kim, sit up please.” I do as I’m told. Grandmas eyes aren’t glazed over anymore- now they’re pinned on me. The rabbit hasn’t moved, but the bleeding has stopped altogether, and it’s legs no longer look like chunks of meat dragged along behind it. If it weren’t for it’s utter stillness, I might’ve thought it alive.
“What did you do with it?” I ask as I lean forward. The smell of death has faded. It’s still there, but I’m no longer choking on it.
“When you resurrected the frogs in your classroom, do you think anyone could’ve mistaken them for the living?”
I shake my head, “No. Some of them dragged their guts behind them. Some of them didn’t even look like frogs anymore.” I pause. Such a memory should disturb me.
“Such a thing is common with new necromancers, when they don’t understand the intricacies of the craft.” Grandma says, “It’s like filling a bucket with a hole in the bottom. You brought that book I asked you?”
From my bag, I remove The Biology of a Marsh Hare and set it down beside the rabbit. “Right here.”
Grandma nods, “Go ahead and flip to page thirty-six.”
I oblige and find two illustrated diagrams of a Marsh Hares leg muscles and skeletal structure.
Grandma nudges the hares top leg out of the way, revealing that the other is still in total wreck.
“Do you remember how it felt? When you first used your magic?”
I wrinkle my nose and think. “It happened really fast. I don’t really know.” After a moment, I say, “There was kind of- a weight. I could feel all the frogs hopping in every direction. Even once I left the room, I still knew where every one of them were. At least for a while.” I fold my hands into my lap and stare off into the swamp. “I can’t sense any of them anymore, except for my familiar. She’s in my room, on my windowsill. I can feel the way the sun hits her skin.”
“With the exception of familiars, it takes an active effort on the necromancers part to keep the undead moving.”
“Why is that? If resurrecting that’s easier, why do anything else?”
“It’s not so simple.” Grandma says, “Either subconsciously or otherwise, a necromancer imbues part of their magic into their familiar, which, for all intents and purposes, gives them a life of its own. We can’t do that too often, otherwise our own lives fade.”
“Okay, but-“ I glance around the yard, “Where’s yours?”
Grandma frowns, her whole face turning to stone. “Dead.” She says simply. The blood drains from my cheeks.
“How? But wasn’t it already?”
I startle upright, then hunch back down.
“I’m sorry.” I whisper. “It’s a sore subject. I should’ve known.”
Grandma eases back. “The hare,” she says.
I nod and do as I’m told.
Hours pass before I manage to make any headway in fixing the rabbits leg. When it was done, Grandma merely glanced at it and said, “adequate.”
I’m supposed to be inside now, while Grandma goes back out to town. But I grow restless alone in the dingy hut. I’m afraid of the woods and what lurks there, but I’m even more afraid of my own thoughts.
I don’t go far- barely past where me and Grandma sat earlier this morning, but I already feel like someone is watching me. The hairs on my neck stand straight up, and there’s a faint tingling in the back of my skull.
I suppress the urge to dark straight back inside and plant my feet. If it’s the monster, I want a good look at it.
“I know you’re out there.” I say, “I’m not afraid of you.”
“I should hope not.” From the shadows steps Jasmine, holding a basket that smells of baked goods and flowers, “That would make befriending you quite awkward.”
I stare at her. She’s straightened her hair and tied it into a ponytail, which reaches all the way down to her waste. She’s smiling at me, but there’s an edge to her voice, and her toes are point back the way she came, like she’s ready to bolt at any moment. I quickly recover, “Why’re you here?”
She holds the basket out to me, though, since there’s a six feet gap between us, I have to stumble over uneven ground to reach her. “I told Mom about you. Said there’s a girl my age living with The Witch. She said to avoid you at any cost, but Dad overheard and made you this.”
I take the basket from her and examine its contents. It’s filled to the brim with cookies and a multitude of teas.
Jasmine watches me with her head cocked to the side, “My dad says I shouldn’t call Mrs. Beatrice a witch. But everyone else does it, so I kinda figured it was her job. But Dad says she’s more of a doctor anyhow.”
“You’re dad says a lot of stuff.”
Jasmine nods, “Yes, and it’s very annoying. He thinks he’s smarter than everyone because he talks a lot. Though I suppose, if you talk enough, you might eventually stumble on something clever.”
“You talk a lot too.” I say before I think.
Jasmines face goes red, and she takes a step back from me. “That’s not nice!”
I clutch the basket to my chest and don’t meet her withering gaze, “Sorry. Thank you for the cookies.”
“It’s no problem.” She says curtly. Then she turns and walks off into the trees.
Too late, I wonder whether I should’ve let her go so close to sunset- I could’ve at least invited her inside to wait for Grandma to get back, so she could drive her home.
Though, to be fair, I think, she’s lived her all her life. She knows her way around. I bet she does this all the time.
Still a little embarrassed, I turn on my heel and head inside. I set the cookies on the table, not especially hungry.