LONG NIGHT OF THE WITCH • by R.F. Marazas

Charles refused to go. Calliope insisted. Since waking this morning, he understood it had something to do with the witch thing. He sensed Calliope bolting upright in their bed, heard her astonished whisper. “Of course, the Winter Solstice! Return of the light!”

This time he knew better than to encourage her. Having a self-proclaimed witch for a lover was sometimes amusing, sometimes embarrassing. This time, her craziness filled him with foreboding.

He told himself he was incredibly lucky to have found her. The fact was she had found him, pursued him, won him. His friends assured him Calliope was beautiful. And she loved him, that was obvious. The witch thing was the only flaw in their relationship.

So that morning he avoided her as much as he dared, keeping his silence. After lunch, equally silent, he left the table and bumped into her raised hands against his chest. She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“We have to go out tonight,” she said. “We have to stay out until dawn.”

He laughed, but felt no humor. “No way. It’s cold out there, it’s December twenty-first.”

“Yes. The Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year. That’s why we have to go. We have to be there when the light returns.”

He grasped her arms and brought them down. He moved her out of his way and went into his office. All afternoon he tried to read but couldn’t concentrate. He had to know. Before he turned toward the doorway he sensed her presence.

“All right, Calliope, tell me, what’s this all about.”

“I had a dream.”

His shoulders slumped, but she was undeterred. “Listen, you must listen, just hear me out.”

She told him about the old woman. From her past, her ancient past, somewhere far back in memory of her past lives. Come down through the ages to tell her how to heal her love. Go, the old woman intoned, go out into the longest night. Stay, and endure the endless dark. For it will end when the light returns. And you will sacrifice. But your love will be healed with the light.

Because Charles loved her he agreed to go. They dressed warm. When he asked where they were going Calliope kissed him. “You’ll see, believe me, darling, you will see.”

The sun was gone. The longest night began. Behind the dark glasses he always wore, Charles felt the car move out of the driveway straight for three blocks, then turn left onto Route 59, which meant they were leaving Axton. Not long after, the car slowed, and turned sharp right. As it swayed over the rutted, steady incline, Charles knew they were going to the top of the hills that flanked the town.

At last Calliope stopped, helped him out, and led him a few paces away from the car. She sat him down, his back against a tree. She sat next to him, but slightly apart. The ground beneath him was cold, and the air around him was cold, but it was still, with no wind.

Calliope’s voice came from a distance, low. “Take off your glasses. You won’t need them. We’re facing east. Don’t speak to me, I mustn’t be distracted. Be patient.”

Charles tried. He stared into the darkness. He closed his eyes. He dozed on and off. He tried not to think how long he’d have to do this. Calliope chanted, a language he didn’t understand, in a voice that was not quite hers.

Just when he thought he couldn’t stand the waiting any longer, Calliope cried out. “Stand up. It’s coming. The return of the light. Look, look straight ahead. Don’t turn your eyes away.”

Charles lifted himself, stiff and cold, back up the tree to a standing position. The sun rose up over the eastern hills, light blazing as it marched westward. It rose, higher, higher. Charles felt a flicker, a pulse, a veil being lifted. He gasped, shouted.

“Cally, I can see! Oh god, I can see!” He jumped up and down, spun around, looking at everything, everywhere. Trees, ravines, the lake and the college campus below, the bright blue sky, the sun, that glorious sun. Calliope stood where she was, back to him, silent. He went to her, grasped her shoulders, turned her to him, froze. Twin tears leaked from her dead eyes.

“I can’t,” she said.


R.F. Marazas won first place in the Dahlonega Literary Festival 2007 Novel Contest, for his novel Dimensions In Ego, and has published short fiction in five Anthologies and in on-line venues.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Beautiful story! Just the right levels of subtle and powerful. 5 Stars!

  • Well-crafted and subtle.

  • JB

    I have mixed feelings about this one. The story was great in that it was well written with a great feel, characters, and overall tone. What I’m not digging is the point of it. It doesn’t really show that her love is fractured, broken, or otherwise damaged. So why did she need to heal it? It seems like an unnatural and manufactured reason for the characters to arrive at the point the conclusion, like me doing some suicide gambit for cash to keep the bank from foreclosing on the house when I already have enough to cover the mortgage.
    Seems like taking care of a recently blind girlfriend would add more of a strain to a relationship rather than heal it.

  • Am I the only one who didn’t realise Charles was blind till half way through the story?

    Even though the plot’s a bit manufactured, a great little story about sacrifice.

  • JB

    Paul Freeman, I didn’t realize his blindness at all till you commented! All the sensory words like “sensed she bolted upright” and “sensed her presence” translated into “saw” for me.

    Makes the sacrifice comment I made earlier a lot less significant haha. The sacrifice means something now, but now I’m a bit peeved that either the author “sensed” that it was better to kind of leave the reader in the dark or that I’m too dense to “sense” what the author was doing.

  • Charles was blind? All of the “hints” went right over my head. I thought he was nearsighted or something, and I thought Calliope’s sacrifice was way out of proportion to Charles’ “cure”, i.e. she went blind so that he didn’t have to wear corrective lenses.

    Now that I’ve gone back and reread the story properly, the sacrifice makes sense.

    Very nice! I have a penchant for witch stories and this was certainly my cup of tea. 🙂

  • A very different kind of love story I guess? Sorry I am not into fairy tales. No Stars

  • Cindy Lu

    Ah, the classic rule of black magic: Balance. For everything given, something is taken away. I half expected him to find an ugly, old woman standing next to him, since the writer went to great lengths to tell me about her beauty and her past lives.

    The story was well crafted; I felt like I was led down a very tight tunnel.

    Let’s see how much he loves her, when the next winter solstice occurs. I’m betting he runs for the hills. Hey?

  • R.A.S.

    This line gave me my first suspicion that he was blind: “His friends assured him Calliope was beautiful.” and this line clinched it: “Behind the dark glasses he always wore. . .” Going back, I see that there were several other subtle hints. Well told.

  • J.C. Towler

    I thought Charles’ blindness was an interesting mid-story twist. I didn’t catch it until the “dark glasses” line. Some of the hints were there, but as J.B. (5) noted, there was some visual stuff that was out of whack with his POV. The narrative needs to sync with the character’s blindness.

    I also agree with the fatal flaw of this story, again pointed out by J.B. (3), which is that there is no apparent problem with the love between Charles and Calliope, so why the need for this Solstice ritual?

    Lots of potential here for a better story. Back in the cauldron with this one.

    –John

  • tigerlily

    A beautifully written story, but I agree with above posters – it wasn’t obvious enough early enough that Charles was blind, and while Caliope’s sacrifice was moving their relationship didn’t need fixing – not only did Charles accept her, he seemed to accept his blindness as well.

  • Margie

    Okay. . .he was blind,but it seemed that they had a very good relationship to me. What was there to fix? 2 stars.

  • What a well spun tale!!
    I enjoyed every word!
    Nice “hook” at the end!
    Loved it!
    5 ** * **

  • Patty Cotter

    I enjoyed the ending. I’m wondering if Calliope now has any regrets carrying out the Solstice ritual!

  • Anne Marie

    As a reader I thought at first their relationship needed healing, perhaps that he would totally accept her being a witch. When I realized he was blind then the “healing” makes sense. Though I am left with a question that I must ponder…. did she know she would be blind when he could see? And a good story often leaves the reader with a question. Good job.

  • Jen

    This was a wonderful story. When Caliope mentioned that their love would be healed but she would have to “pay” I knew something was up, but you hid so well that Charles was blind, I wasn’t expecting that at all!
    By the way, the healing that was mentioned was the physical healing that Charles went through, not emotional healing.

  • Let’s be honest here — this was not well done. This seemed more like a free-write, the beginnings of thinking of a potentially good story. This, to me, is a first draft.

    I, too, wasn’t aware of his blindness until the end. Although there are very subtle clues, there’s also contradicting information. For example, “All afternoon he tried to read but couldn’t concentrate.” If you wanted to continue with the clues that he is blind, you could have said “His fingers ran over the pages of a book, but his mind was too preoccupied to feel the words.”

    Also, I was a bit offended by how you indicated that her being a witch was a “flaw”. I felt that your personal opinion on the matter was coming in through your writing, rather than it be the character’s feeling.

    Another thing that confused a lot of other readers, as well as myself, was “Come down through the ages to tell her how to heal her love.” — Having completed the story and rereading it, I understand that it is her LOVER that is being healed, not her love toward him or between the couple. Another vague reference that may have been intentional, but could have been worded better.

    “The ground beneath him was cold, and the air around him was cold, but it was still, with no wind.”

    Why the but? Also, if the air is still, that naturally would mean there is no wind. A careful proofread would have caught this redundancy.

    Aside from the blindness that was way too subtle, there was too much tell and not enough show. I felt you could have used a lot more sensory detail to show how Charles was blind, rather than weak verbs like “sensed”.

    I would say take this story and revise it. Then revise it again. It can be written better.

  • Chris Daugert

    I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It held my interest right to the end. Early on I realized Charles was blind. Would someone rather it detail how she cared about him and loved him so much that she gave up her own sight for him to be able to see the beauty of the world? To repay his affection and kindness to her even though she was a witch? Very well crafted RF Marazas. You should MAX out the stars.