The Switch Sisters: Chapter 21 - Witches

作者:Wuwuyu  于 2012-12-3 00:41 发表于 最热闹的华人社交网络--贝壳村


关键词:童话小说, 学英语, 中国女孩, 移民生活, 哈利波特


Chapter 21– Witches


In the house on Tamany Lane, a light was on in the attic. Fa Switch gripped the handle of the kitchen knife behind her back and stood tall, her shadow stretching towards the ceiling. The hooded figure rolled up the scroll slowly and set it on the table. Long pale fingers lifted the top of the hood so that it dropped at the figure’s shoulders, revealing a tress of blond hair. The figure lifted its head.


“Good evening, Mrs. Hunter,” Fa Switch said. “How…unexpected…for you to visit.”


Mrs. Hunter stood up, letting her long black robe fall behind her, draping over the wooden chair. The flame on the candle flickered, and for a moment looked as if it was going to go out.


“Why thank you,” Mrs. Hunter said, strolling around the attic, picking up objects here and there and examining them. Fa Switch stood unmoving by the door, her eyes following Mrs. Hunter around the room. “I’ve been meaning to visit for a while. You see, your family so interests me…”


Mrs. Hunter picked up the wooden engraved box that held the four jade bracelets and snapped it open. Inside, a pale green bracelet lay on one end, while on the other there was a dark, almost forest green bracelet. The middle two rings were empty. Mrs. Hunter grinned just slightly and snapped the box closed, placing it back on the armoire she had snatched it from. “What interesting things you own, too,” she said, “Such unique items. And all hiding up here in the attic! Now, that scroll, too. Such exquisite calligraphy…”


“Just some family items we’ve collected over the years,” said Fa. “I didn’t know you read Chinese, Madam,” she added, nodding towards the scroll. Her voice, like the mayor’s wife’s voice, was soft and oddly pleasant, yet it was so delicate that listening to it, one wondered if it would shatter into a thousand pieces with the slightest provocation.


“Ah, yes…” said Mrs. Hunter. “Well appearances can be deceiving. Now I’m sure you are all too familiar with that.” She turned to face Fa, the corner of her eye glittering in a wink.


“And what makes you say that?” said Fa.


“I say that because I think I understand you in a way. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize how similar we are—another one of those things! For instance, at this moment, we have both, in a way, lost those dearest to us. Our children…”


Fa gripped the handle of her knife. A thin wind whistled around the house. “What do you know about my children, Mrs. Hunter?”


“Oh, well, you know…that whole fiasco with Mara and Graham. What a tragedy for all of us!” Unlike during the funeral or her other appearances, the air of grief seemed to have lifted from her voice. She sounded almost as if she were just making polite conversation.


“But as I was saying…we are really much more similar than anyone could imagine. Yes, it’s becoming clearer to me as I look through your things. So many things that remind me of a life that I once had…


“You know, just like you and your daughters, I was not born in Ambrose. In fact, Ambrose is just as foreign to me…well, you may not think so, but I grew up in New England, in a cold small town called Salem, which is similar to Ambrose in some ways, but for me, a young girl, who’d spent all her life in one place…well you can imagine…it was quite a shock. Oh and we were not accepted right away either, to a small town that had never seen any new residents, though I do give you that we blended in better than you…no, no one trusted us.


“You see, my mother arrived a single mom—just like yourself—and it was clear she was running from something. Something had gone wrong in Salem…well I don’t want to go too far back into ugly memories…but let’s just say it was very messy, very bad for our reputation indeed…and the city that had been our home…” Mrs. Hunter’s face darkened, and for a moment she turned away, “…turned on us. You see, we too were forced to leave. And, just like your family, we found our unlikely new home right here, in Ambrose…


“My mother learned some things from our Salem debacle. We started again…this time we did everything right…blended in, just like you tried to do, but we were a little more successful I must say…you see, we do look like the people here…well let’s just say we were much more subtle this time…and then I met John, who we knew were capable of great things, and look where he did end up…though not my without help, of course…”


By this time Fa was getting impatient. She wanted to keep Mrs. Hunter talking and distracted while she thought about the best way to get around her, but she also wanted to get to finding her daughters. Which was more likely to help her? Getting Mrs. Hunter out of the way, or persuading her to tell her where she had put her daughters? Because it was clear to Fa by now that everything that had happened since the wedding had something to do with Mrs. Hunter. Mrs. Hunter was still talking in that droll, slow way, as if she were slightly intoxicated, as if they had all the time in the world, as if their children were sitting safely in the room below, chatting on a Saturday afternoon…as if she and Fa Switch were best friends, or sisters, sharing an intimate conversation between women.


“Where is your mother, now?” asked Fa, cutting abruptly from her thoughts.


Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flashed as she looked up at Fa, breaking the illusion of friendly intimacy. “She went back to Salem, many many years ago. She was a proud woman, with bitter regrets and certain…debts…she had to repay. I warned her against it…it could have been avoided…no…the ending was not pretty for her…and I swore to learn from her mistakes…you see…it was another family likeours—different, you know—that betrayed her in the end…


“Which gets me to where I left off…things were going well, John was already a senior councilman, gaining respect and influence in the town, and our son was born, Graham, so beautiful, so sweet, like any mother I just wanted to protect him from all I had seen in the world, and truly I did believe that I had the power to do it, being a good mother, the wife of a powerful man, and powerful in a different way myself…Then, you arrived.


“I knew from the beginning that the oddities of your family extended beyond your looks. I feared for the townspeople, because I had seen…witches…”—Mrs. Hunter whispered the word, like the softest secret—“who were evil as well as witches who were good, and how was I to know…as a precaution I took my son out of school and sent him away, to a boarding school with no women, where he would be safe. Yes, and I convinced my husband, my John to run for mayor…and of course…with my help, he won over the people of the town…yes, I know what you are thinking now—the answer is no, John doesn’t know, how could he? …But his confidence in me was always so…touching…


“With John’s growing influence and my own special type of influence…we were able to turn the town against you…forgive me, you must understand however…it was in the end, survival…I knew that either you or I…I couldn’t risk it…and naturally, I chose to save myself…the life I had built here…”


“I must say,” said Fa, inching ever so slowly toward the table at the center of the attic. “You did quite a good job. I’d have never suspected that something was fishy with you. Your husband, on the other hand—”


“Well, yes…” said Mrs. Hunter, “You see…I had learned that to…deflect…attention was most important…John has been ever so accommodating…it was crucial to me, after I had seen what my mother went through…with her…overenthusiasm…that I present myself as a person that was almost…vacuous…in a way…not capable of cunning, certainly…perhaps even of deep thoughts at all…I sacrificed myself, in a way, too…I created an image of myself as a stupid, happy woman…


“And John, my John…how lucky I have been to have him…truly…he trusts in me so…”—here a pink glow rose in Mrs. Hunter’s cheeks—“Yes…it would have been impossible without him…over the years he became my hands and my feet and mouth…and I…forced to recede into the position of the master puppeteer…the invisible ventriloquist…”


“Excuse me for being blunt for a moment, Mrs. Hunter,” said Fa. “When you speak of your ‘influence’ over the townspeople, do you mean that you put a spell over them?”




“Yes…you see one could call it a spell…I suppose…I prefer to think that I am…making an informed decision for them…poor folk, who cannot know everything…who are essentially blind…


“Yes…and now we get to how I knew, before the rumors even started about your family…though I won’t deny I had no part in the rumors…you see, what you would call a spell, it would only work over ordinary folk…and so when I was unable to gain influence over your family…that was when I was sure…though of course I had to maintain the utmost subtlety in my investigations…yes…it was…a most…trying time indeed…”


“What I don’t understand,” said Fa, now deciding that it would be most beneficial to hear as much of Mrs. Hunter’s plan as she would allow, “Is why you suddenly changed your strategy. As far as I can tell, everything you have done has been so subtle and low-profile. Why stage a murder in front of the whole town that would draw every spotlight to your family?”


Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flashed again. “A smart woman you are…” she said, “Or at the very least…you do understand the mother inside of me…that I would never actually kill my child…Yes…it was a difficult decision indeed…


“You see…everything changed when Graham decided he wanted to marry Mara.” Mrs. Hunter’s voice became harder, like the air had been squeezed out of it. She had drifted out of the zone of reminiscing into the present, more pressing issues. She spoke quicker, and her eyes glowed in the dark.


“For all these years, the situation had been controlled. Your family, though a threat, would never rise to be a real one because of the negative reputation and fear that I had spread in the townsfolk. But if Mara married into our family…well even a fool can see the problem there.


“But trust me, even then, I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was thinking, primarily of Graham. I had had my time, and if it were only my fate that hung in the balance I might have let it go. But being married to John and seeing the life of a man who is married to a…a witch—I knew that I did not want that for Graham. Do not mistake me—I love John, and I have never wanted this life for him, I did not expect that it would become this way, be sure of that. I knew I had to use him as a vessel, a puppet of sorts to protect our entire family, and certainly the life has served him well too—look, he is the mayor, for one! But knowing the intimate details of that situation, and being a mother—I just could not stand to see my son enter a relationship—a marriage—in which he would always be subordinate, even unknowingly—because, trust me, John believes in his heart of hearts that he is the one with the influence, the one with the ideas.


“In short, I could not stand to see my son marry a witch, being incapable of magic himself. I knew that no matter how good-hearted Mara appeared—I, who am naturally so untrusting of appearances—she would still ultimately have power over him. I could not risk it. And even in the best of circumstances I did not want that life for him. He could not know—and how could I tell him, without risking losing his trust as a son?


“I do acknowledge that I have drawn so much attention to our family that is truly unnecessary. But I do believe that after so many years I have gained the ability to manage it well. And my plan, well it is elaborate, to be sure, but foolproof. Yes, it draws attention, but the time for subtlety was over. Everything I had spent a lifetime to build was at stake—and more important than all of that, please believe me here Ms. Switch, I would have seen my life crumble to the ground like my mother’s, if only to see Graham safe and happy and independent—but here, with just a little spectacle, I can save both my life and Graham’s.”


“And what is this brilliant plan of yours?” asked Fa, trying to keep her voice as steady as she could, to match Mrs. Hunter’s coolness and even to trick her into believing that Fa was just as unconcerned about the fate of her daughters as Mrs. Hunter was about Graham.


“Well, you have seen most of it put in action already. Your family, clearly must be demolished. But please—I truly mean no harm to you, and would wish none on you or your family. If things could have been resolved with everyone happy…but I cannot risk it, I am afraid. Your daughters—well, your younger daughters, I must say—I will spare them. But Mara, I’m afraid Mara must be a casualty…


“Graham, as you have correctly guessed, is safe and sound, under my protection. His death was, of course, theatrical in nature, set up to make Mara the undeniable culprit. The townspeople will try Mara and unfortunately find her guilty, punishable by death. Your younger daughters will be found guilty of trying to help a suspect escape, and for this will be sent to disciplinary centers far far away from Ambrose. In fact I have found a nice foster home in Russia for young witches that I would arrange for them to be sent to. And as for yourself, the shame of the entire episode will cause severe health problems, and you will…unfortunately, pass on to a better place.”


“I see,” said Fa, gripping the handle of her knife. She took slow deep breaths to steady herself. “Of course, this is all necessary, as you put it.”


“Yes…” said Mrs. Hunter, sinking back into the haze of memory and thought. “I do apologize,” she said, twirling a strand of her hair. “I would spare your life if I could…I do promise…I am a person with a heart…and I do not like unnecessary bloodshed…but I have seen unnecessary bloodshed in my lifetime…you must know, you must know…you will be sacrificing yourself for your daughters just as my mother sacrificed herself for me. But I will give you the benefit of dying in dignity…you see my mother was burned at the stake…for the witch she was…it was many years ago now…”


The room went black. The flame on the candle went out, along with all the other lights in the house. The only thing that shone in the dark was a silver blade.


The blade lit up the piece of white flesh it was held against, and then, the hand that was holding it. Fa Switch held the knife up to Mrs. Hunter’s neck. She had heard enough. In a second, she had extinguished the lights and moved swiftly to where her adversary stood.


“Tell me where my daughters are,” Fa Switch said, the knife pressing into Mrs. Hunter’s neck.


Mrs. Hunter started to laugh, a maniacal laugh that filled the room. Any trace of the soft, sweet, and docile woman who had been recounting her tale vanished into the dark. Fa Switch pressed the blade harder into her neck. “I’m not joking, Mrs. Hunter!” she said. She pressed the blade in just enough to drag a little blood, and then gasped, stepping backwards and holding her own neck.


The knife clattered to the ground. Blood dripped through the cracks of her fingers, from the spot in her neck where she had tried to cut Mrs. Hunter.


The room lit up with black flames that burned hot and gave visibility even though they still shrouded the room with darkness. Mrs. Hunter’s blonde hair flew up around her face like a lion’s mane, and her eyes glowed red.


“A useful trick I learned from my mother,” she said, whipping a circle of black flames around Fa. Fa waved her arm, and a vase with flowers emptied its water around the flame. They died down for a moment and then roared up higher than it had been.


“Oh, Fa Switch,” said Mrs. Hunter. “Poor, misguided woman. Did you really think your household magic could match mine? I’ve spent my lifetime controlling a whole township of people, all without anyone seeing my hand. And you, what have you been doing? Opening up a restaurant and disciplining your daughters!”


Mrs. Hunter lowered her arms, and the flames died down. The candle flickered back on, and the attic felt homely for a moment. She waved her arm and the cut on Fa Switch’s neck closed up. “Now, remember,” Mrs. Hunter said. “I want you to die a…natural…death.”


Fa Switch tried to move her body but found it stiff. Then, her legs started to moving, without her control, and she walked towards the chair next to the table and sat down. She glared silently at Mrs. Hunter.


“As you are a witch it is impossible for me to control your mind,” said Mrs. Hunter, “but it doesn’t mean I can’t control your body. Power, Ms. Switch. Power is everything. Power to make people do things for themselves that you would like them to do. And now…you will die of your own accord…”


She walked towards Fa Switch in slow steps, her red lips curled in a benign smile.









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