To All the Little Girls Who Want to Practice Witchcraft

Claire Schultz


                Here’s what happens when a girl gets power: They call her a witch, and then they kill her. Sometimes she gets a sham trial, which is really more a work of public theater. Her neighbors say they see her summoning little yellow birds, poisoning cats, dancing naked in the woods at night. Sometimes they check her for birthmarks, the Devil’s fingerprints, never mind that every human body has freckles, and the mayor has a port wine stain the shape of Maine across his cheek. Sometimes they throw her in the water to see if she will float, or tie her to a stake to see if she will burn.

                Though usually she is not, sometimes she really is a witch—generally a harmless one; there are far more garden-variety kitchen witches in the world than there are evil sorceresses. Sometimes the witches get away with it, and learn that there are devastating, untold consequences for their actions. Sometimes they wish that someone had had the foresight to convict them, because that would be kinder than living with what they’ve done. It never ends well.


Here’s what happened when Honey May Adair resurrected her sister in their parents’ living room:


                The Adair girls were pretty, popular. They lived in a blue-shuttered house with creeping wisteria, their lawn well-kept, their clothes neatly pressed. June came first, on a storming day in September (It was my mother’s name, said Frank Adair, when the neighbors asked why she was named for the summertime). She had thick red hair and a freckled patch on her collarbone that her mother said she’d grow out of but never did. Two years later, Honey tumbled in, already fully-formed and foul-mouthed as an infant. Her baby eyes had strange, unsettling flecks of yellow in them; the babysitters and nurses preferred not to meet her stare.

                The two of them used to toddle around the neighborhood, arm-in-arm, June smiling and Honey scowling at everyone they met. Sometimes the older one would support her just-walking sister, sometimes they’d take turns pushing each other on scooters, sometimes they would chase each other down the street, laughing when they fell and skinned their knees. Honey in particular liked to watch the way the blood rolled down their pale legs, striping them in crimson, splashing the sidewalk with the scars of their adventures.

                When Honey was six and June was eight, Charlie Vilner moved into the empty house across the street. On a quiet Saturday in July, sweat puddling on their necks in the thick New England heat, the Adair girls knocked on their new neighbors’ door. June carried a loaf of banana bread, only slightly squished, because apparently that was what you were supposed to do when someone moved in across the street from you.

                “This is from our mom,” she said when Mrs. Vilner opened the door.

                Charlie peeked out from behind her legs, seven years old and lightly sunburnt.

                Honey stared right back, those strange yellow flecks in her eyes still strange even after the unstable infantile blue had long since settled to gray. She waved. The boy waved too.

                “That’s too kind,” said Mrs. Vilner. “Why don’t you girls come on in? We can have a slice in the kitchen.”

                June hesitated, but Honey, ready to get off the porch and into the air conditioning, lisped “Sure, thanks.” Like Charlie, she was missing a couple of teeth, and at least one of them had been knocked out in what she’d titled the Great Trampoline Incident. She was already halfway down the hall before she could finish the sentence, and June followed behind.

                The house looked like their own: an old Victorian, creaky wooden floors, banisters gently warped with age. The paint on the moldings was peeling, but it was bright and sunny and familiar, walls studded with family photos and shelves lined with well-worn books. The kitchen had a fruit bowl filled with peaches and childish drawings hung on the fridge. Honey liked it immediately.

                As Mrs. Vilner unwrapped the banana bread and began pulling dishes from the cabinets, the children piled around the kitchen table. Charlie stared at the girls, still silent.

Honey grinned. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Honey. I’m six and one-third. This is June. She’s eight.” She elbowed June, who looked up and smiled, too.

“Hi, I’m June.”

Charlie blinked.

Mrs. Vilner returned to the table and placed a hand on her son’s shoulder. “What’s your name, sweetie?”


“My turtle’s name is Charlie,” said Honey, which wasn’t true, because she didn’t own a turtle, just a fat hamster named Peanut.

Neat. Can I meet him?”

She started to say yeah, come on over now! but June, knowing the Adair house contained exactly no turtles said, “He’s at the vet right now. He’s a very old turtle, and we might be giving him to our cousins for company.”

This also was not true. They didn’t have any cousins.

“Oh, okay.” Charlie sank back in his seat and stared into the banana bread his mother had put in front of him.

Honey’s eyes welled with tears. She watched June flush and say, “You can still come over, though. We have a hamster, he’s kind of fat, but he’s still pretty cute.”

Honey bounced in her seat, mouth full of banana bread. “Ooh, yes, yes, please. We also have a trampoline and a swing set and we need people to play with on them.”

This was true. The Adairs had a big back yard, butting up against a dense tangle of woods. If you walked far enough away from the house, through a long winding tunnel of knobby trees and thick roots, you could find a pond, deep and dark and rimmed with mossy stones. The girls didn’t know this; they weren’t allowed in the woods. Not even by day, not even with a parent. Neither of them knew why this rule mattered so much, but it mattered more than any other rule in their house, more than no elbows on the dining table or finishing your homework before watching TV. Whenever they’d ask why, their mom would go glassy-eyed and silent and their dad would get angry and say because we told you so, or because you might get hurt or there are ticks and poisonous plants and dead deer in there. Honey had once heard a neighbor down the block say something about weird Pagan rituals in the woods, but she didn’t know what Pagan meant. She thought it might have had something to do with the pretty painted cards she’d stolen from her mom’s drawer, the ones with the stars and swords and monsters on them.

Charlie looked up at Mrs. Vilner. “Can I, mama?”

She took a slow breath and smiled the worried smile of a mother who knows her child needs friends but is afraid to turn him loose with two wildlings and a jungle gym. “After you finish your banana bread.”

The banana bread was sweet; the promise of new friends sweeter. It was gone in record time, and, palms sticky, faces dusted with crumbs, the Adair girls and their new recruit blasted out the front door. 


They were friends immediately, because that’s how these things are supposed to work: the levelheaded older sister and her wildfire sidekick adopt the shy, lonely new boy, and all is well.

At ten, eleven, twelve, Honey read their tarot cards and June painted their nails, even as Charlie squirmed in protest. Pizza dinners and public pool summers and still eating at the same lunch table even though they were in different grades. At twelve, thirteen, fourteen, they went to the amusement park and rode roller coasters until June puked and Honey laughed and Charlie won a stuffed rabbit from the balloon popping game and gave it to her. Scary movies and board games and toasting marshmallows around the fire pit in Charlie’s backyard. They got older and Charlie and June made other friends, outside friends, classroom friends, friends their own age. They stopped sharing lunch tables but kept sharing secrets, and, Honey said, over and over again, they would never, ever let themselves change.

Sometimes Honey would drag them towards the woods. Sometimes they would stand their ground and shake their heads, feeling something sour in the pit of their stomachs, that intoxicating sense that it just wasn’t right. Sometimes Mr. Adair would come out and yell at them, and Charlie would get sent home and Honey and June would sit in their rooms so they could think about what they were doing and why they have rules for a reason. Once, when she was eleven, Honey made it past the tree line, Charlie at her heels, June begrudgingly standing watch with a walkie talkie in the backyard. It was dizzying and cold and their walkies crackled and Charlie said he felt ill and every step seemed to lead them back to the yard. When they finally gave up, they both had fevers and laid in bed for three days. Honey called it their best adventure yet; they didn’t try again.

But they couldn’t stay like that forever, fearless adventurers frozen in a snow globe of childhood, because real life doesn’t work that way. Charlie grew tall and gangly and pimply, and the girls got soft curves and hardened smiles, and, even if Honey tried to stop it, they edged further away from trampolines and trick-or-treating and imaginary turtles with each passing day.

When she was fifteen, June got her first boyfriend. His name was Spencer, he was in her chemistry class (“Haha, you have chemistry,” Honey joked, and June rolled her eyes). He played lacrosse and liked going to the beach, and they spent so many hours at the dining room table, pretending to do homework but really just staring at each other. Honey was happy for June, really, she told everyone, she really was, but it was the first sign that their childhood was officially over. No more sleepovers in the sunroom, no more water balloon fights, no more getting in trouble for staying up too late watching National Treasure on loop. Boys were no longer allowed to spend the night, Charlie included.

So Honey and Charlie would hide in the treehouse his mom had built in his backyard, lighting candles, playing cards, and eating pretzels, pretending there hadn’t used to be a third up there with them.

There’d be school dances, and Charlie would ask her if she ever thought about going, if there was anyone she’d want to ask.

“No thanks,” she’d say. “Boys aren’t for me.”

“What about me?”

“You don’t count.”

Then he’d throw a pretzel at her head and she’d yell spit and slap the pile of cards between them before he could even start, because he was too busy staring at her.


As anyone and everyone would have expected, Charlie Vilner fell in love with Honey Adair. That was how it always happened. First they were kids, then they were teenagers, then he noticed the way the corners of her mouth wrinkled when she laughed and how she always pulled her hair up when she was worried and how the weird yellow speckles in her eyes danced like she knewsomething, and he wanted to know what she knew too. He wanted to know what her crooked mouth felt like on his, and what shapes those long fingers would trace on the small of his back. He didn’t tell her, of course. That would be stupid, even he knew that. He would rather smile and laugh and suffer than ruin everything, because Honey did not love him back.

She didn’t love anyone, she insisted. She never would. She’d have six cats and a bird, she said, and live on a houseboat off the coast, and catch fish and lobster every day. Besides, she wanted to be a witch, and witches didn’t have boyfriends.

This started as a joke, as most things do. What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher, an astronaut, an engineer. And Honey? Oh, a witch. I’ll burn all my enemies and turn lots of people into frogs. The one in Rapunzel who really cares about her garden and steals a kid out of spite is exactly my aesthetic. Her parents tried to send her to therapy, but it was expensive and her therapist saw little reason to be concerned. It’s a phase, she’ll grow out of it. Then they took her to church, but she squirmed in the pews and slept through the prayers and regularly mortified her parents in front of the congregation until they finally let her stay home.

Her bedroom was plastered in notes and runes and helpful spells she’d found in library books and the strange corners of the internet, some of them things she’d practiced, some of them stored for the future: how to hex your enemies; get extra hours in the day; cure boils (which she’d figured were close enough to acne); give hives to the girls at school who called her a freak; protect your house from the plague; keep monsters from eating your cows; resurrect the dead. She grew herbs in the backyard for June to use in cooking, read piles of history books about the Witch Trials, played with that same strange painted tarot deck she’d found in her mother’s drawer when she was a child, which she kept wrapped in a silk scarf in her underwear drawer. Her father said tarot was the Devil’s work, and he wouldn’t have their daughter communing with Satan under their roof. Her mother said it was just a game, don’t worry, but from the way she pursed her lips and got all quiet, Honey could tell there was something deeper there, something she didn’t want to ask about.

She never did any spells when anyone else was around. In private, she was a proper, practicing witch, to varying degrees of minor success. In public, she just really liked astrology and telling everyone she knew that the Witch Trials were a hoax, because everyone in Salem was accidentally drugged by moldy bread. But mass hysteria was real, Salem was three whole towns over, and she’d prefer if we stopped accusing women of Satanism, please and thank you.

June supported her sister’s occult dabblings even after she started spending most days off with Spencer, then Jamie, then Nick; the Adair girls had to stick together. It could be cold and lonely in that drafty old house, and the woods were loudest when they got them alone. Something about the shared memories, the face of someone who’d always been there, who’d always be there, kept the worst of the whispering at bay. On school nights, the girls would lie on the floor of one of their bedrooms, lights off, candles lit, reading palms and wishing for the future. Across the street, Charlie still pined.

When June went off to college two states over, they still FaceTimed twice a week. Honey wasn’t used to being alone in their big old house, clattering around when her parents were at work. The silence frightened her, and she stayed awake at night, uneasy knowing that June wasn’t snoring on the other side of the wall. At least, the next year, Charlie stayed in state and came home on weekends with stupid new haircuts and stories from the other side.

But just because childhood ended, Honey and June told each other every Thursday night, their faces warped and grainy in their front cameras, sisters didn’t.


Until they did.


Honey turned eighteen on a Sunday in late May, warm and wet and wonderful. June and Charlie were back for summer break, and the houses were full again. Her parents had made her waffles in the morning and let her go about her newfound adulthood however she saw fit, which meant bringing back June and Charlie and the unsupervised backyard birthdays of their youth.

The swing set had gone to rust and rain pooled on the sagging trampoline, but the three of them lay in the backyard, gathering bug bites and grass stains and drinking beer purchased with Charlie’s fake ID. If they squinted, they could almost go back to the way they were supposed to be: scabbed knees and curly hair, eating banana bread around the Vilners’ kitchen table. The way they remembered each other. Except, of course, June now wore her hair short and was flying to New York for a summer computer science internship, and Charlie had brought home a girlfriend the weekend before, and Honey had a nose ring and a college acceptance letter out of state. But they would pretend in the ways they could, and do their best with the things they couldn’t.

Around ten PM, after the fireflies had come and gone and the beers and cake were finished, Honey sat up.

“Let’s go into the woods,” she said. She wasn’t drunk, but she was sparkling, and her words were clear and determined.

Charlie gawped; June scoffed. “You know we can’t.” It was true—even now, after the rules of childhood had long since ceased to apply, the woods were off-limits.

“We’re all adults now, they can’t stop us.”

June shook her head. “Yeah, they can. I want to be able to come home for Thanksgiving without Dad giving me the evil eye.”

“Come on, June. It’s my birthday, and it’ll be fun. They’ll never find out. We can be explorers. Have an adventure. Maybe there are monsters.

“That’s what I’m worried about.”

“You’re no fun. What about Charlie, what does he think?”

Charlie just blinked.

Honey shoved him. “Dude, I need your backup.”

“I have no stake in this,” he said. He knew better than to get between them.

Honey sighed and stood up, shaking the grass off her shorts and pulling her phone out of her back pocket. “Well, I’m going. You can join me or not, I don’t care.”

She began to walk away from the safe circle of the backyard lights, turning on her phone flashlight to guide the way. Her feet were bare; she’d left her shoes by the back door, preferring to feel the dirt and grass squish between her toes, but she had enough sense to regret that choice now. She did not, however, have enough sense to go back and get them.

She’d always wanted to see the woods, because children always want to do the things their parents tell them not to do, and because she used to stare at them from the window in her bedroom, looking up from her homework and wondering what lived in there. Sometimes she liked to imagine fairies, elves, monsters, witches, Baba Yaga’s hut wandering around on its chicken legs and watching her back through its own windows. Maybe she had neighbors on the other side of the trees, maybe they could have been friends, too, but would never meet because dark trees weren’t traversable, and cul-de-sacs were.

The woods called more clearly than ever that night, guiding her by the shoulders, gently humming in her ear. They called her name, they caressed her hair, they told her that there was something inside, if only she’d come find it. They’d take care of her, they’d help her, they’d keep them together forever; nothing could ever change again. And, intoxicated on adulthood and the dark, clean smell of the grass, she listened. 

She was a short ways past the tree line when she heard footsteps behind her. They were far away at first, but they were getting closer. A branch snapped and someone breathed near her ear and she stepped on a rock, which tore into the skin on her feet. Fuck. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

“Honey, it’s just us.”

Honey turned around and found June squinting at the flashlight in her eyes. Her face was distorted and grainy, but she was there, Charlie beside her. Honey exhaled. Thank god, they’d come. “I thought you were monsters,” she said.

Charlie laughed. “Maybe we are. Maybe we stole Charlie and June’s bodies and we’re here to eat you next.”

“Ha ha.”

“Hon, we’re kidding. Of course it’s us. Can’t let you get eaten by monsters on our watch,” June said, gently shoving Charlie, who stumbled into a tree. “Mom and Dad would kill me.”

Other than the three of them, their footsteps, their collective shallow breathing, the forest was unnervingly still. There were no birds, no insects chirping, no breezes shaking the trees, no water dripping from leaves, even though it had been raining on and off all day. The ground, Honey realized, was dry, too dry. Her feet, scratched and sore and dirty, had long since stopped squelching through the mud of the lawn. She could barely see anything beyond a few steps in front of her; the three pinpricks of light from their phones working in tandem could hardly illuminate their own faces. The flashlights had never been strong, but they felt weaker than usual, like the forest was absorbing the glow somehow, like it was all dark corners and long shadows, like it had never seen the light. It made no noise, but it whispered somehow; it wasn’t cold, but they shivered.

Honey had been in forests before, but never like this. This wasn’t right. The trees bent at unnatural angles, the leaves withered and the trunks gnarled, and the ground was littered in pine needles and stones and fallen leaves. The air smelled stale, somehow. It burned the inside of her nose and stung her bare shoulders. Behind her, Charlie was hitting his head on low-hanging branches and muttering something about demon forests, dammit, Honey, and June was silent, her breath shallow. Honey wondered how her parents had known about the woods; she’d never seen them go inside. Maybe they’d felt it, too. Maybe they’d also stood looking out their windows and knowing there was something inside that wanted to meet them.

The forest was the most horrible thing Honey Adair had ever seen. It was also the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. This was what power looked like, she realized. This was magic, and it was terrible and it was wonderful. She thought of how awesome meant amazing and astonishing and awe-inspiring, reverence-inducing, for good or for bad. She thought of how terrific could mean magnificent and terrifying. She thought of how all the good and all the bad and all the beauty and all the evil in the world were the same thing.

And then she realized that she was being crazy, that she didn’t spend days reading dictionaries to parse little-used definitions, that the woods themselves were telling her. And that they were right.

“Hey, Honey?” June’s voice was soft, but it was too loud in this preternatural emptiness. “Can we head back now?”

Her breath hitched in her throat. “Not yet.” There was something up ahead, and they were close, she could feel it.

Honey…” Charlie trailed off, but they knew what he meant. He was taking June’s side.

“Five more minutes.” It was her birthday and they were grownups now, with lives and girlfriends and fancy internships, and she was all alone in her parents’ house, and they were going to do what she said. They had to.

After five more minutes, they did find something: the pond, its surface rippling black in the absence of moonlight. They couldn’t see across it in any direction, and they couldn’t tell how deep it went. Honey’s wavering phone lighting his way, Charlie picked up a slimy rock from its edge and tossed it into the water. It made a tiny plop and disappeared the second it broke the surface, falling forever. Honey cheered, and Charlie put an arm around her shoulder.

“Hell yeah,” she said. “Just look at it.”

Honey didn’t notice how much June hated this; she didn’t see the water stirring now, didn’t feel the way something in her sister’s stomach moved with it. She was too happy to care that everything was just a little bit shimmery, just a little bit cloudy.

June wrapped her arms around the two of them, drawing them in close, taking in the human smell of them, so soft and strong in the acrid air. “Happy birthday,” she said, and kissed the top of her sister’s head. Her hair was sweaty and tangled and smelled faintly of lavender.

Neither of them realized how close they had gotten to the edge of the pond, how slippery the stones were under her bare feet, how when June pulled out of the hug she would no longer be entirely on solid ground, how the black water was reaching up to grab her ankles and pull her under.

And so she fell.

It happened so quickly she couldn’t so much as gasp, but Honey screamed. The forest did not like her making noise; it tried to contain it, to bottle it up and shove it back to its source, and so the yell became a choking retch. Charlie grabbed her, held her back, held her close, and together they collapsed to the ground, a single body. The water didn’t splash, didn’t even ripple where it had swallowed June whole. It let out a single bubble and lay still. Smooth black glass, the same as it had been before.

No. No. No. No no no. Nonononono.

“I have to get her back,” Honey said, pulling herself upwards, crawling towards the edge of the pond. The stones were too smooth to cut, but somehow they had broken the skin on her knees.

Of course they had to get her back, Charlie knew that, but the way the pond looked at him made him uneasy. If it really was what it threatened to be, he was afraid to risk it taking her, too. He said, “Honey—”

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Be careful—”

“She’s in there. She’s fine. She’s fine. We can get her. She’s fine.”

“But what if—”

“I said, don’t you fucking dare.

He looked at her with pity and understanding and resolved that today was the day to play the hero, because, all these years later, he was still stupid with love for her and could never let her go this alone.

Honey reached an arm into the pond, rooting around for any sign of June. Of anything human at all. It was a pond, not a lake, not the ocean, not Mariana’s Trench, it couldn’t go that deep. June was a good swimmer, she’d been a lifeguard, she could tread water for ten minutes and hold her breath for nearly three. She was probably stuck on a fallen branch, fighting her way up right now.

The water clung to her skin like oil, slick and viscous. It was cold unlike any cold she’d ever felt before, and she could feel every muscle tensing up where it touched. There was nothing down there—not even water, just nothingness. Pure and total emptiness, and a few loose floating twigs and stones. Honey thrust both arms in near to the shoulder, but she couldn’t touch the bottom. It was bad, she could feel it. It was old and hungry and strange, and nothing that went in that pond should ever come back out.


June was there, she would get her. She had to.

Her hand closed on something real, something thin and round, and she forced her numb fingers to clutch it tight. She knew what it was before she broke the surface, and there it was, in her bluish, grayish, stinging hands. The little gold sapphire ring that their parents had gotten June for Christmas years ago. She’d worn it every day since.

Beside her, fully clothed, Charlie plunged himself headfirst into the pond; her hoarse Charlie, no came too late. Unlike June, he made a splash, and the water was clear and cold and horribly normal where it hit her skin. For an entire thirty seconds, Honey’s heart stopped beating.

And then he broke the surface, dripping and heaving but otherwise fine.

The pond had turned shallow for him, small and pebble-lined, empty save for a few lost minnows and some fallen branches. No June.

She didn’t ask, and he just shook his head and started up the side of the pond, his fingers slipping on the rocks. Honey grabbed his hands and helped him up and wrapped herself tight around him on the shore.

Charlie trembled against her, soaking wet and frozen cold. “She’s gone, isn’t she?”

She nodded. Her throat was still sore with the force of her unscreamed scream, and as she held him, their two hearts beat overtime to fill the space where there should have been a third. This was her fault. She had done this.

And she could fix this.


Honey Adair had never actually practiced major witchcraft, but she had studied it for years, and she was a very good student. Minor charms were okay, but she was saving up for the big stuff, in part because she wanted more experience and in part because her parents had expressly forbidden her from performing any Serious Occult Rituals under their roof, and she still needed them to do her laundry.

Her bedroom was plastered in notes and runes and spells, some of them things she’d practiced, some of them stored for the future: how to hex your enemies; get extra hours in the day; cure boils, which she’d figured were close enough to acne; give hives to the girls at school called her a freak; protect your house from the plague; keep monsters from eating your cows; how to resurrect the dead.

She’d researched at least four different distinct tracks of necromancy, using varying amounts of Black Magick and Satanic Summoning—most required a corpse, but there were a few rituals that could work with personal effects and a little bit of the physical body. Nail clippings, hair, blood. The books had warned her that these were the harder spells, as the connection was tenuous at best, like calling over a poor cell signal in the middle of the desert. Odds of success were low, results varied, and she’d never done anything bigger than turning Miranda Ridley’s hair gray after she’d called Honey a freak. She’d try anyway.

Honey and Charlie didn’t remember how they’d gotten out of the woods and back to the Adair house, just the moment they had started to walk away from the pond and the moment they opened the kitchen door and stumbled inside, muddy and bleeding and soaking wet. At some point, it seemed, it had started raining, and the forest had wanted them gone. It pushed them out as if purging toxins, and so they were gone far more easily than they had come.

Charlie tried to say something, but Honey’s eyes stopped him. They were hard, steely, yellower than he remembered. He hadn’t expected her to be crying, necessarily, but he wasn’t even sure she knew how. Instead, he hugged her, and she froze and shrunk at his touch.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. He didn’t know if that was okay, or right, but it felt like what you were supposed to do.

“Please go,” she said, staring straight ahead. Her voice was muffled against his arms, which were stronger than she remembered.

 “Shouldn’t we call the cops or something?”
“And tell them what? A demon forest ate my sister?”
“Or you could try your parents?”

She looked at him. If she told her parents, they would know, and then this would be real. She didn’t know what they could do, because June was gone, and all the police dogs in the world couldn’t do anything about it. Some part of her knew that, even if they did believe her, the forest would show them something awful, exhume the hollowed shell of what had once been June, put her on a pedestal for the world to see. If Honey let the cops have her sister, it was all over.

“Honey—” Charlie tried again

“Please. Just leave.”

So he did, and she took a shower, even though she knew she could never get all of the grime and rot and darkness off of her body. She needed a minute to collect herself, to wash the mud off the soles of her feet and sit with the weight of what she had to do. For longer than she’d intended but not nearly long enough, she curled up in the basin of the tub and let the bathroom fill with steam until it choked her and soaked her face and she could pretend it was the tears she couldn’t bring herself to shed.

                After twenty-five minutes, her mother knocked on the door. “Honey?” she called. “Are you okay in there?”

                “I’m fine, Mom.”

                “Do you need anything?”

                “I said I’m fine.”

                “Have you seen your sister? I haven’t heard from her.”

                “She’s at Charlie’s.”

                Mrs. Adair would think what she would about Charlie and June. She’d seen the way he’d stared helplessly at Honey, of course, everyone had, and she liked the boy. She’d always thought he would be good for either of her girls, and if Honey wouldn’t have him—well. Good for them. It must have been near two in the morning, but Honey had the sleep habits of a vampire bat, so her mother was used to this kind of thing. She padded back to bed, murmuring to her husband that the girls were fine, and they could go back to sleep.


                Honey would not tell you what she did to bring her sister back to life. Necromancy is a secretive practice for a reason, and it’s frowned on in most polite society. She shouldn’t be sharing the details, for your safety and for hers. You can know this: it involved the ring that she had fished out of the pond, a clump of hair pulled from June’s hairbrush, and something she really hoped she’d read incorrectly, and their living room floor never smelled right afterwards. 

                You can also know this: The next morning, June knocked on the front door, hair dripping and face hollow.

                Her parents, who had thought she’d been at Charlie’s, were confused, but glad to see her. Her father wrapped her in a towel and her mother made coffee and June smiled politely at the attention. The blanched at the empty look in her eyes and at the bruises on her ankles, arms, and neck, like something—someone—had grabbed her, and when they asked, she said nothing. Mrs. Vilner would receive a series of angry phone calls that afternoon, but Mr. and Mrs. Adair wouldn’t tell their daughters they’d made them.

                After half an hour of uncomfortable silence, during which June gave one-word answers to half-asked questions, Honey wandered in, her hair matted to her head, eyes ringed in shadows. She smelled of sweat and brimstone, and stood unblinkingly still for too long, until her parents got the message and excused themselves. She hugged June, allowing the strange damp of her sister’s hair to soak through her shirt, and her skin to burn everywhere they touched.

                “Junie,” she whispered.

                June said nothing.

                “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

                June said nothing.

                “Are you okay?” she whispered.

                June said nothing.

Honey pulled away and knelt down in front of June. Her stare was cold and empty, but she was there. That was what mattered, Honey told herself. She was there.


It was stress or shock, they decided. Whatever had happened to June would wear off. She’d be fine tomorrow, or the next day, or this weekend, or next week. She’d start speaking in full sentences soon, and her voice would lose that strange, thin quality, and then she’d be smiling and laughing again like nothing had ever happened. But she didn’t. She wandered around the house in mechanical silence, a wind-up toy in the shape of a girl. Not-June could brush her teeth and eat cereal and watch The Bachelor, but she didn’t seem much good for anything else. Music made her angry, and the only food she’d eat was steak, which was unsettling, because June had been a vegetarian since middle school. Mr. and Mrs. Adair didn’t ask what had happened again, because they didn’t want to hear it, because they didn’t want to know what they already knew. They had their daughters safe under one roof, and one might have been a Satanist, and one might have been the discarded shell of a human soul, but no one had to talk about that.

                Mrs. Vilner got an earful from the Adairs, and the Adairs got an earful from Mrs. Vilner. Charlie hadn’t come back that night. Maybe he had been with June, the Adairs offered, somewhere downtown, or in the woods. Maybe he had been with his girlfriend, but she had started calling his mother worriedly, because he wasn’t picking up his phone. Texts started bouncing back, calls gave a disconnected number message, like he’d vanished off the face of the earth, like he’d never existed at all.

                They asked June if she knew what had happened, but she said nothing. They asked Honey, and she sucked in her cheeks and shook her head and said no, of course not, she hoped he was okay, should they go to the police? But the police had been called, and every photo Mrs. Vilner had provided had been blurry at the edges, the face indeterminate, the descriptions increasingly vague, until Charlie Vilner was just the shadowy outline of a distant memory.

                Honey Adair knew what she had done.

                She felt sick to her stomach every time she looked at June, when the brittle smiles belied what she’d paid to get here, what hadn’t come back from the woods. In that moment, on the living room floor, it had been one or the other. It had been wrapping herself in a bubble of time where they were young and unafraid, where they knew everything because they knew nothing, where their greatest power came from their total powerlessness. As she had to choose what parts of herself to hold onto, she felt the shimmering edges of childhood straining around what was left, before they disappeared entirely.

                It had been one or the other, because Charlie had had to go and catch feelings, because she knew it, because that little boy with the banana bread was already long gone, but June was constant, June was hers. If time, unrelenting, was determined to take her childhood for its own pleasure, Honey had the power to slow its course, to save what she could. She and June could carry the weight of their sacrifice as a beautiful secret between the two of them, uncomplicated and unstained.

                It had been one or the other, because she had hoped that it wasn’t true, that magic could do anything for her, that it could set everything right and put things back to how they were meant to be, but if she couldn’t have both, she could at least have the right one.

                It was not supposed to have been neither. 


Here’s what happened when Honey May Adair resurrected her sister in their parents’ living room:

They did not come for her, because real witchcraft covers its footsteps, because no one wanted to admit to themselves that it had happened, no one wanted to make it real. Charlie Vilner faded from memory, until Mrs. Vilner vaguely had the sense that she had once had a son and a propensity for hanging empty photo frames around the house. June Adair shut herself away, quiet, strange, a local legend, until everyone forgot she had ever been anything else. And Honey, miles away in a tiny college dorm room, had a stuffed rabbit from a boy who had never existed and a cavity where the rest of herself used to be.





Claire Schultz wrote a twelve-page novel about a princess when she was eight years old. It was terrible. Since then, she has moved to England to study children’s literature and published fiction in Crow & Cross Keys, Electric Spec, and Pigeon Review, among others. You can find her at