The Lorelei Signal

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Across the Candlelit Table

Written by Kelly Matsuura / Artwork by Marge Simon

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I cupped the dying bird in my hands, until the warmth had left its body.

 

“I was so sure.” Several tears trickled down my cheek and plopped on my inner wrist.

 

Brielle’s soft hand brushed mine and she took the bird from me. “It’s alright, you do have the gift. You just need to be patient.”

 

“Yes.” I sniffed and wiped my hands with a wet cloth. “Why didn’t you save it?”

 

“The bird?” Brielle gestured to the tiny, feathered corpse now laying on newspaper. “Were you thinking about that while doing the spell? That could be why it didn’t work.”

 

I took a moment with that. Had I believed she would step in and save the bird’s life if I failed, and had that lack of faith in myself, caused my failure? “I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I was just trying to remember the spell correctly.”

 

Brielle frowned. “If that’s all you were thinking about, that’s something we should spend time working on. A powerful witch has many things to focus on at once. And, this was such a simple spell, after using it a few times, the words will come with no thought at all.”

 

With a swish of her long skirt, she sat down beside me on the wooden bench again. “Don’t take it all so seriously though! Until a few weeks ago, you didn’t even know you were of witch-blood. I expect some subconscious part of your brain is fighting the very idea of using magic.”

 

I caught her gaze and forced a smile. “You’re right, as always. I’ll increase my meditation time and will try harder to recite the spell. When can we try again?” I had lost my confidence, no two ways, but I’d be damned if I let Brielle see how dark I felt inside. I really would do anything to please her.

 

She put her arm around my shoulders and squeezed me closer. “That’s my girl! Take this evening to get your head clear again, and we’ll try again tomorrow.”

 

“Thank you.” I wanted to stay in her embrace forever, but she let me go.

 

Brielle stood again and scooped up the paper holding the young pigeon. “Stay for dinner? I make the best pigeon and chestnut pie. Delicious in winter.”

 

My hand snapped over my mouth and I sucked the urge to vomit. I rose to my feet and held a hand up in refusal. “No, thank you. I should get home.”

 

Brielle shrugged and walked me to her door. “Of course. Say hello to your father for me.”

 

“I will.” I waved as I closed the red gate in front of her cottage. Part of me wanted to run back inside and tell her what she meant to me, but the thought of eating the pigeon I had killed and failed to revive overrode all feelings of romance that night.

 

As I walked home, I vowed to have my chance with her. I would eat well and sleep early, then tomorrow I would perfect the revival spell. I imagined Brielle’s ear-to-ear grin when she saw me succeed. That would be the moment—to open my heart and ask her to love me in return.

 

~ * ~

 

 Walking along the narrow trail back to the village, I met Constance. I had to assume she was going to Brielle’s; there were no other cottages accessed from this path.

 

“Hello, Melodie. How are the lessons going?” She asked coolly.

 

“Just fine, thank you,” I bite back, my throat suddenly constricted. Constance. I even hated her name. We’d been close as young children, but as we grew, she always lorded it over me that she had magic and I didn’t. Now that I had been found to have witch-blood too, our relationship had deteriorated even further.

 

She passed me by with the most forced smile one could muster, and I had no choice but to take a breath to calm my nerves and head home.

 

I would not think about Constance spending the evening with my beloved. I would not break my own heart imagining they were lovers—Brielle would certainly never be interested in a wench like Constance, would she?

 

~ * ~

 

I ate dinner with my father in silence. The stew he’d prepared was perfectly suitable, yet I chewed the duck meat as if it were the toughest cut of beef. I couldn’t help thinking about Brielle sharing that pigeon pie with Constance. In my mind I saw them drinking wine, laughing, enjoying the tenderly cooked pie, and locking eyes across the candlelit table.

 

The image of them together…it burned through my physical body somehow. I’d never experienced such anger. It was linked to passion, perhaps; I wanted Brielle as mine more than I wanted my witch-blood. It was useless to me anyway, wasn’t it? I was only half-blood and was likely too old to learn to access my magic.

 

Brielle had been so incredibly patient trying to help me, that was why I’d fallen for her.

 

But my heart told me now, she’d never be mine.

 

Constance. She had to take everything I wanted. If I could perform real magic, oh, the time I’d have messing with her.

 

Lying in bed that night, the fire continued in my belly. I folded both hands over the exact spot and once again saw the heartbreaking images of Constance and Brielle eating that damned pigeon pie.

 

My pigeon. It should have lived!

 

I hoped they would both get food poisoning and the worst diarrhea of their existence.

 

~ * ~

 

The next morning, I awoke surprisingly settled. If I had dreamed, I couldn’t remember it.

 

I skipped all the way to Brielle’s house, picking wildflowers along the way. She loved the buttercups that grew along the laneway behind the bakery, so I gathered a bunch for her there.

 

When I reached her cottage, the door was wide open. Strange.

 

“Brielle?” I called from the doorway. I heard only an odd whoosh whoosh sound, then jumped back in alarm as a pigeon flew towards me.

 

I held my hand out and it landed softly, its little head bobbing at me as if a greeting.

 

My skin prickled as I examined the bird and noted it had the same little spots on his right wing as the dead pigeon yesterday had had.

 

The delicate scent of chestnuts in the air added to my confusion.

 

“Hey pretty bird, where’s Brielle?”

 

The pigeon cooed, and I stepped into the cottage calling once more to Brielle.

 

“Brielle! Briel—”

 

My beloved lay dead on her kitchen floor, the front of her smocked dress coated in blood.

 

Just a neat circle of blood, in the same ‘hot spot’ I had experienced.

 

I found Constance in much the same condition; she’d knocked over a chair and fallen sideways on the bed, but I could see that same perfect stain of blood on her dress as well.

 

The table was much as I had envisioned: the candles, the homemade wine, and the empty pie plate. So, they had eaten it together.

 

My pigeon-friend landed on the pie plate and pecked at the pastry crumbs. I could only gape in horror.

 

“It is you!” Did my magic do this? How??

 

There was only one way to find out.

 

I reached for the bird, and she came willingly. I squeezed and squeezed until it flopped into my lap.

 

I then looked at Brielle’s body again to fuel my anger. I felt the heat build in my belly and began the revival spell.

 

It took mere seconds for the pigeon to fill with life once more. I open my hands and set it free; this time it flew straight out the open door, perhaps recognizing it should have escaped this crazy place the first time.

 

Now, could I perform the spell on Brielle? Would it work the same? I had to try.

 

But I had a dilemma. I didn’t want her to wake and see Constance dead, so I set about righting the cottage first. I dragged Constance out to the back garden and buried her in a dark corner on the edge of the wood. There was likely a spell to dispose of a corpse forever, but I had no clue, so the task was hard work.

 

I managed to get Brielle on the bed, then realized I had another problem, the blood on her smock. Averting my eyes, I began undoing a few buttons on the raglan seam. To my surprise, I felt a tingle of magic pass along my arms and into the fabric of the dress. The blood disappeared! My eyes wide with interest, I watched the area of torn fabric, now stain free, re-weave itself into lovely yellow checked cloth.

 

How I had done that, didn’t matter. It gave my confidence a much-needed boost to bring my beloved back to this world. I can do it…I must! Concentrating hard, I recited the spell with all of my being.

 

Live Brielle! Live!

 

With great relief, she soon opened her eyes. Her eyelashes fluttered for a second, then focused on me with a big smile.

 

“Melodie! Oh, how much did I drink last night? I don’t remember you staying over?”

 

“Really? Well, I guess we did overdo the wine. You made pigeon pie, remember? So delicious.”

 

It wasn’t hard to create new memories for her—that fire in my belly seemed to guide me this time, making my words the truth.

 

“Magic or no magic, you’re a lovely woman,” she whispered and placed a kiss on my cheek.

 

“I don’t need magic to be happy,” I replied honestly. “But I need you.”

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Kelly Matsuura grew up in Victoria, Australia, but always dreamed she would live abroad. She has lived in China, the USA, and she now lives permanently in Nagoya, Japan.

 

Kelly’s stories have most recently been published by Black Hare Press, The Lorelei Signal, Sirens Call ezine, and Fantasia Divinity Publishing.

As the creator and editor for Insignia Stories, Kelly promotes Asian speculative fiction from writers around the globe, and publishes small ebook anthologies with various Asian fantasy themes.

 

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/KellyMatsuura