Tag Archives: Protest Magic

“Protest Magic” – Fiction by Justine Talbot

Nude witch with red hair riding a broom surrounded by bats in a moonlit sky
The witch – Luis Ricardo Faléro, 1882

“Protest Magic” is Justine Talbot‘s surreal & spellbinding flash fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

{ X }

THE SPELL WON’T WORK. Hardly any protesters showed up to the combination sit-in/die-in/group hexing session, and those who did left immediately after their deaths. Lucille knows one witch’s rage isn’t enough to save the lake. Still, when the air around her pops and fizzles like dying sparklers, she can’t help but blame herself.

She conducts her spellwork in front of a large brown cube with gray glass windows. All of her magical implements have been respectfully borrowed from the lake. The elements are represented by a ramekin full of lake water, a pile of ashy weeds, a goose feather, a fishbone. Her wand is a moldy stick.

Inside the cube, twelve men and one woman sit at a long table and pretend not to agree. Lucille can hear them when she puts her ear to the glass. “If we drain the lake, what will the tourists do in the summer?” asks the woman.

“There won’t be any tourists next summer,” says one of the men.

“Oh, thank God,” the woman says quickly. “I just meant, if there were still tourists … well, they’d need somewhere to go, wouldn’t they?”

“Without the lake, there won’t be any tourists,” says a different man. “You can be sure of that.”

“Thank God,” the woman says again.

Lucille paces around the cube a few times, murmuring to herself. Then she crouches down out front and peers through the glass, squinting at each board member in turn.

“I bind you,” she whispers, concentrating on a very fat man with mean eyes. The fat man sneezes.

“I bind you.” A pugnosed young man starts scratching at his collar like a stray dog.

“I bind you.” A skinny old man starts coughing and doesn’t stop.

“You okay, Mickey?” asks one of several balding men with his back facing the window. “You need some water or something?”

“I need something,” the old man says hoarsely. But no one gets him water.

Lucille turns her attention to the woman, who sits at the head of the table—or maybe it’s the foot. “I bind you,” she whispers.

But the woman doesn’t act bound. Her slender hands twitch against the table. “I think I’ll go out for a smoke,” she says.

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