Zachariah hovered in the corner, his body fidgeting uncontrollably. The fire brushed his reddened cheeks, the frustration of his restless legs and flailing arms driving him mad.
His blood pumped and flowed through him at a speed that he knew wasn’t ordinary. He could feel each drop course through his veins. But, it was his mind that struggled most. He couldn’t focus, no matter how hard he tried. Something wanted out. It was knocking at the deepest crevices of his soul. Inch by inch, day by day it got closer. Taunting him, becoming him. The way his hair stood on edge, his heart beat faster and faster, the rage that threatened to consume him, he knew he couldn’t let it take over. He had to fight.
Grandma B, the woman who took him in when his mother died, handed him the same drink she did every year. Her pleasant round face that never seemed to age past the first day he met her, stared down at him as he took small sips of the drink. Slowly, his body calmed, the urge to jump out of his own skin subsiding. When the room came into focus, his tired limbs fell limp.
Grandma B guided him to the bed and laid him down, tucking him in with care that brought the only light that Zachariah ever knew. She was comfort, goodness, hope. Although he knew she wasn’t his real grandmother, she loved him just the same, like he was hers.
“There, child. Now rest.” She brushed a kiss to his forehead.
“There’s something inside me. Why does it want to hurt me?” His mouth was dry, the words rubbing against the aching flesh of his throat that cried in pain just minutes before. His words barely took form, but when they escaped, he felt whatever was inside him stir one last time.
Grandma B took a breath. “Some things in this world can’t be explained in the here and now.
Zachariah scrunched up his face and tried to make sense of her words. He knew she was different. She knew things before they happened. She could make fire form in her hands. She was magic.
“Like you being a witch.”
Grandma B didn’t bat an eye at his words.
“Yes. Like me being a witch.” She said with a nod.
“Are there good and bad witches?” Zachariah snuggled deeper into the bed anticipating her reply.
“Good and bad is in everything in this world. But yes, good and bad witches do exist.” She knelt beside the bed, tears pressing against her eyes. “Remember this though Zachariah, we all are both good and bad. It’s us who choose which one we become.”
This is what he feared. A choice. A destiny that was held in his hand. How could he choose to be good when he knew a part of him was anything but? It wasn’t just dark, but familiar, a kindred spirit, a likeness that unnerved him.
“I think I’m bad. I can feel it inside me. It won’t stop.” He pulled the blanket over his head. Grandma B pulled it down gently.
“Don’t hide. Be brave.” She whispered.
“It keeps getting stronger. I’m scared.” Zachariah glanced around the room as if whatever he feared was lurking in the shadows. The tear broke free from Grandma B’s eyes and fell against the bed sheets.
“You know what I do when I’m scared?” He shook his head. “I sing a song.”
Grandma B sang: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. His love be with me through the night, and wake me with the morning light. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
“Now go to sleep. It’s getting late.” She stood from the bedside and looked down at him one last time. “It’s your soul to keep, don’t let anyone else try to steal it from you.”
“Just like the song.” Zachariah said with a yawn.
“Just like the song. Whenever you hear it, know that you’re safe. Okay?” She smiled.
“I love you Zachariah.” Grandma B said as she walked away.
“I love you, too.” Zachariah closed his eyes, humming the words to the song he learned not long before. His eyes became heavy, the battle for good and evil disappearing as he drifted into sleep. As his breath evened out and his dreams took shape, a woman stood before him. Her hair flowed around her, a blood-stained dress clinging to her body. The hem of her dress ignited as the flames danced around her. With a hand outstretched, she called to him.
“Who are you?” He called out
A slow smile curled the ends of her lips. He knew then that his soul wasn’t his to keep, that someone wanted to take it.