Swamp Witch

And just like that, the sun rose.

I woke, slowly at first, then all at once. I woke as I fell asleep, with the ineffable feeling of falling.

Only this time, I fell. My knees hit the hard wooden floor of my one-room house, and for a moment, I regretted putting them in. The soft dirt would have been softer to fall onto.

I stretched and dressed in the dark. I did most things in the dark these days. The generator ran out months ago, and it saved me from looking in the mirror. It led to better days.

I always wanted to be a swamp witch when I was a kid. Somehow, I didn’t consider the mosquitoes in all my childish dreaming. The first summer I was burned and twisted and swollen from the elements.

I loved it.

I combed the swamp and slept beneath the willows until I found this little hut. It was abandoned, just like me, and no one came to claim it. Just like me.

The cot was already there and I bought the floors. Tourists with too much money like the things I find in my swamp; everybody likes a terrifying bog witch.

It’s quiet. Not peaceful-quiet.

Something’s wrong. Someone is in my swamp.

I resist the urge to giggle at the reference. This is serious. My skin crawls with worry and my stomach leaps to my throat when I hear them.

Poachers.

I slip out of my shack like a ghost- cunning and stealthy.

I creep behind the protected trees and over the protected land, carefully picking my way across the swamp. I resist the urge to retch when I find the first trap. It’s a snare, and I nearly get caught in it myself.

I crouch low and keep my breathing steady and my ears open as I untie it and loop the rope around my shoulder. I hope it’s the last, even as I find another and another.

When I find their camp, I am sick. Dead animals hang from trees and meat roasts on a dwindling, unattended fire. I put out the fire and take down the animals and bury them in the soft soil. I ask Mother Moon to watch over them into the next life.

I creep back into the depths of the swamp when I hear them again. I can’t hear their words, but I can tell their confusion bends quickly to rage.

I smile at their fury.

I spend the rest of the day stalking them and taking down their traps. When night falls, and the poachers return to their camp, I stay on the fringes and watch them.

I wait for sleep to take them. Then, it’s my turn.

I snare and trap them, one by one. My hands are deft, and they don’t wake. I make sure they don’t wake again.

When they aren’t a threat again, I finally hear the animals return, and the not in my chest eases.

I spend the night taking what I can use back to my home. They won’t be needing them again. I like the blankets best. They’re soft and as I snuggle down to sleep, I hear the birdsong.

And just like that, the sun rose.

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