STORY by Steve Toase FB/twitter/website/tumblr ART by calliope
Why the Sea Tastes of Salt and Why the Moon Always Looks Toward Us
The Witch of the Red House fell in love with the moon. With no wings to lift her through the sky, she went to the marsh and asked the stagnant waters for advice.
The drowning pools spoke in the voices of the hurdle crushed and the slit throats.
“You must slip off your skin. Lay it by the north wall of your house at the new moon. Until the full moon scrape the fat from the inside of your hide, the hair from the outside, and shape both into a candle. When the full moon rises, light the candle, and your skin will become a carpet of honeysuckle and magnolia to carry you to your beloved.”
When the new moon came, the Witch of the Red House peeled off her skin, stemming her blood with salt, the agony making her choke out the names of all Five Dead Gods.
For one month she scraped fat from the inside of her own hide, and hair from the outside, shaping both into a single candle.
When the full moon rose, and the light fell on the Red House, the Witch lit the candle. She stepped onto her cracked skin, hooking her feet into the eyeholes and grasping the now limp scalp to steady her balance. The skin rose into the air, fissures becoming petals of honeysuckle and magnolia.
Skitter-footed beetles and gnaw-toothed mites fell in mists to the garden below. The platform of flowers climbed through the clouds to orbit her beloved, the moon.
And the moon saw The Witch of the Red House without her skin. He saw her as a thing of tendons and tissue, of muscles and marrow. He saw her as a thing of gristle and gore, and slowly he turned his vast face from her.
In fury the Witch of the Red House tore out her ribs, turning the moon with the broken shards, and pinning him to look forever at the Earth.
With nothing else for her on land, and nothing else for her in the sky, the Witch of the Red House threw herself into the sea. The currents dragged her to the ocean floor. To the hidden land of scavenged whales and the pressure of one hundred fathoms. As she fell, the salt crusting her wounds spread through the sea, so all who sipped it would remember her pain.
Every month the moon tries dragging the Witch to him, begging her to snatch out the slivers of bone, but she is too deep, feasting in the dark on sailors whose lungs hold cold oceans of their own.