by Ash Krafton
first star to give me sleight
I cast my spell this very night
and, though I cast it very well,
‘twould seem it did not turn out right.
The verse was right, as I can tell
the spell surpassed most any curse
I might have learned before; my past
a tutelage gifted from my nurse,
the strength and knowledge I’d amassed
ensured my fortune would unfold
in just the way that I had planned.
I scryed the Fates, who felt my need
and pledged their power to my plight.
All I needed was the light—
a drop of silver from the star
that first would wink its eye this night.
The moon was hidden ‘neath a shell
of blackest clouds. So deep and inky was the night
I had to strain my eyes, my sight made murky
by shadows of the heart. I passed
outside when churchly bells cried “Midnight!”
Upon my back, a heavy purse
that held the charms, the books, the knife
I needed to make magic swell
and rise and glow and take its flight.
A candle lit, I found the page, the needed verse.
This tripartite from days of old
was written by an infidel
whose passion, like a furnace, burned
intention into every word.
It would see my deed done right.
I rang a simple silver bell
to call the spirits to my side.
My circle drawn, I raised my eyes
and scanned the skies with lips upturned.
And there! At last! The night’s first star
peeked out at me. Its soft-spun light
dripped silver threads upon the words
and magic made them glow. The bright
flash fire of spell unfurled and cast
the magic far and wide like butterflies
from hell. I closed my eyes and sighed
relief. For only once that spell could pass
the lips of someone with the Sight
and watching sparks and embers burn
ensured me that I’ve cast it well.
In gratitude, I sought the star
that graced me with its precious light,
its power. I wished to thank it well,
perhaps to pluck it from the sky
and store it in a sacred urn
where, thus revered, I’d quell
all thoughts that I could be expelled
from my earthly dark delight.
But that star was now obscured, outshined
by another. Fright and terror now seized hold
upon my breath. My universe
fragmented into shattered shards
and screaming, I splintered from sight.
Now, a dank abyss shall hold
me fast, with all my broken parts.
The Fates had not been paid their price
when, unknowingly, I fed them light
from not the first but second star.
It turned the spell toward far worse
a task. Instead of granting me my life
eternal on this earth, steadfast,
the spell reversed and toward me turned
and burned to dust my heart, my life.
You destroyed me out of spite.
Pushcart Prize nominee Ash Krafton’s work has appeared in Absent Willow Review, Mad Scientist Journal, Expanded Horizons, Silver Blade, and Bete Noire. She’s also the author of novel-length fiction, including the Demimonde trilogy as well as The Heartbeat Thief (under the pen name AJ Krafton). She’s a member of SFPA and resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region with her family and bossy German Shepherd dog.