Issues Winter 2020-21

Zoe Elerby

The Spring Witch

As the spring flowers sprung, so did she. The snow partially melted, the river still frozen, and not a bird in sight. Yet, she still stepped out and tried. The sun allowed her olive skin to blossom with freckles, tiny burnt patches that she hid under heavy clothing. They were evenly distributed upon her cheeks and face, a sprinkle of sun blanketed over a crooked nose that sloped harshly. A parchment-thin top lip with a pleasantly plump bottom lip, her mouth was scarred with the result of a sudden blow with her father’s rake. It had split the right side of her mouth and served as the only reminder of her family. She considered herself lucky, because her bird-like body would have snapped if her father had decided to use the shovel instead. Part of her thinks it was the paternal instinct that kept him from murdering his first child. Part of her thinks it was blind luck.

Speaking her name was dangerous. Ivanna ironically meant “a gift from God” in Hebrew, despite her being viciously tossed away like scraps the dog didn’t finish. Not that she considered herself one, but she often wondered about the consequences of throwing away a gift from the Lord himself. She was the oldest of four children in the Ehlrich family, leaving behind her sisters and brother who had turned their backs as their father turned on her. 

Ivanna spoke to the birds of the night and the night birds of the day, seeking solace in their tilted heads as if they were interested to hear from her. Some would follow, and some would flee after she had fed them. Either way, her heart would ache with gratitude or loneliness. She was grateful to see the birds alive and well, doing their very best to live this fleeting life, then flying off to whatever awaited them. She always wished them well. 

The new year had come to fruition, the young month of January was upon the lamb white ground, the sun causing it to sparkle like the freckles on her skin. Frost still kissed the glass she looked through, but Mother Nature’s elegant patterns made stepping outside irresistible.

When she did, she did so without shoes or a jacket, exposing herself to January’s cruel winds and loving the warmth of the sun. As she stepped out, her toes cringed at what was definitely not the wooden steps she had built herself in this desolate woodland.

A letter was pressed between her foot and the wood. It was a letter from Mr. Bailey. Her breath froze in her throat as she bent over to pick up the envelope, forcing her eyes to miss the beautiful sunrise before her. The river sparkled kindly. She held her breath as she allowed her thumb to unconsciously slip under the lip of the envelope, and rip off the wax seal as if it were his throat.

Dearest Ivanna,

My son misses you quite a bit these days. He continues to ask me where you have run off to. If you could spare him a visit, that would be so very kind of you. 

Admittedly, I too, feel a pang of distress whenever I think of you. I miss placing my hands on your bare skin and embracing your small breasts. The mere thought of you makes me regret bringing my son to this world at the entertainment of his mother. I need a beautiful, misunderstood girl like you. A spring flower that I must fertilize for her own good.

Return to my manor, even if it is only for a single day. There will be a large sum if you bring joy to my son’s eyes. And mine as well.

We will see you soon.


Archibald Bailey

Ivanna’s jaw clenched, her fingers loosening. She took a delicate inhale, her eyes following the sound of a thrilled crow that landed on the frozen grass below the wood of her porch. She tilted her head, and it did the same. It flapped its wings, shook its head, and began picking at its underside. 

“That’s quite rude.” The palms of her hands engulfed the letter in flames, startling the crow. “But nothing can be as rude as him.” She flipped her hands over, allowing the ash to fall onto her feet before approaching the bird. “Not even you. . . .” 

“Oh well, isn’t that something?” The crow tilted its head. “You seem to have a lot of faith in me, Witch.” 

“And you can’t seem to stay away from me, can you, Trickster?”

The wind picked up, carrying the crow onto Ivanna’s shoulder. It squawked three times at the heavy wind, which steadily hardened into a solid form; an hourglass figure outlined by the air before being filled in with flesh as white as the snow invading the grass. A pointed smile attached to a square jaw and perky nose just below bright glowing purple eyes that locked onto Ivanna. Morgan held her arms out in triumph, covering her exposed body in a wool coat and cloak, the hood covering her glittering pink locks. If Ivanna described Morgan to any sane person, she would surely be taken to a madhouse. Then again, that would be the most ordinary thing to ever happen to her. 

Trickster, why thank you. . . .” Morgan cooed, leaning on her beechwood staff, decorated with crow feathers and the skull of a mockingbird. “I only wish to fill your journey with misfortune and misery.”

“Indeed.” Ivanna approached the fae. “Why are you in my territory?” 

Morgan stepped around Ivanna, examining her up and down, pinching her ear. “There is a bit of an issue in the realm. Simon has called for you.” 

Ivanna slapped her hand away. “Could he not come himself?” 

“You see . . .” Morgan snatched the crow off Ivanna’s shoulder, then held it gently in both hands. “He is part of said issue. . . .” 

Ivanna scowled at her pleased tone. She pressed her hand to her chest, causing Morgan to leap back and release the squawking bird. Mischievous brown eyes followed the startled fae. “Still scared of silver, are we?” 

Scared! Scared! You seek pleasure in mocking me relentlessly, don’t you? No, I’m not scared. I’m merely concerned about the life I’ve lived without injury and I don’t want to start now!” 

Ivanna smiled deviously, continuing the spell that was so rudely interrupted. So much rudeness today she thought. She pulled her hand down to the very bottom of her abdomen, changing her nightgown into a much more weather-appropriate petticoat and skirt. She allowed her hair to flow freely before stepping toward the annoying fae, and used the energy she had left to bring them both to the realm of magic. 


The realm was quiet this morning. There were usually sorcerers and other magic-users fighting tooth and nail to use the cauldrons and crystals first, full duels began just to enter the gardens for peaceful revitalization. The realm would glow and spark with magic from many different beings, beings that Ivanna had only dreamed about. This was the mid-point between Ivanna’s home and Limbo, allowing magic-users from astonishing places to gather at the dome covered building to practice what they knew. The glittering quartz between the cobblestone brought joy to Ivanna’s heart, her body loosening as she gazed upon a deep blue sky freckled with shining stars. It was always night there. A warm, forgiving night.

She followed Morgan into the gardens, under the rippling gate of porcelain and jewels, the fresh scent of spring cascading around her. It was overwhelmingly splendid, her lips unable to hide a smile as her eyes greeted the freshly planted mums and tulips. She had the irresistible urge to remove her shoes so her toes could grip the cool, dew-kissed grass. She approached a budding tulip and brushed it delicately with her fingers, the flower opening up to greet her. She gave it a kind smile, one that she would give to a curious little child. Her fingers traced down its stem, straightening up. 

“We all need a bit of help these days. . . .” Ivanna stood at attention at Simon’s voice. She turned to the aged sage and gave him an assuring nod. 

“No need, my dear friend.” His hands signaled for Morgan to leave them alone, the mischievous fae slinking slowly away. 

Ivanna battled the resisting feeling she had in her chest and held her hand out to the sage. It was respectful to show another magic user, especially one of your senior, that you mean no harm. Witches, wizards, sorcerers, and sorceresses all use their hands to generate magic, regardless if it’s in their blood or not. Just as a knight holds and controls his weapon in a dangerous grip, a magic user is much the same. Holding their palm face down and being limp at the wrist was a mutual agreement that Ivanna would not attack Simon and in turn, Simon would not attack Ivanna. 

Simon held his own hand up and shook his head. “My friend, I hope you understand why I’ve called you here. . . .”

“Morgan told me you’re having . . . ‘issues,’ in the realm?”

He rolled his eyes, clearing his throat. “A very crude way to put it. . . .”

“Mm. . . .” Ivanna’s eyebrows lowered as she scanned the sage up and down, trying to locate any significant difference that would indicate a problem. Whether that be with his magic or his physical health, she would be able to see it. But the man was perfectly the same, long brown hair lightened by streaks of grey and tied to stay out of his face, the hair landing just below his neck. Pink and wrinkled skin with eyes that reflected the mossy forest, a thick shawl covering the whole of him down to brown leather boots. But rather than his usual joyous grin, he was constantly licking his lips, causing Ivanna to be a bit more defensive than she usually was around her friend. 

“Child,” Simon spoke, “Someone has infiltrated the realm. We suspect them solely because ever since they’d entered, there have been numerous reports of young men dying suddenly.”

Ivanna audibly rolled her eyes. “On account of the plague, famine, and bar fights, what do you expect, Simon?”

“No, my dear.” He shook his head, “Mysteriously. There is no identifiable cause for their deaths, as if they’ve been poisoned or their hearts had suddenly stopped beating in their chests.”

“The issue?”

Simon’s eyes widened at her terse tone. “Iva—! These . . . these deaths are not normal occurrences. Young men are dying without any particular reason. Average, everyday young men who are just going about their lives as you do!”

“No one goes about their life as I do,” Ivanna growled. “What makes you assume this is related to our realm at all? The coincidence that another user has arrived around the same time?”


“There could easily be another regular mortal with a twisted mind, running about poisoning young men with potential. Murderers are not our responsibility, especially in the mortal realm—”

“They killed one of our own.” 

Ivanna raised an eyebrow. “Was it in a duel?”

“Yes but—”

“Then it was fair—”

Simon pulled out a crooked stick, the end glowing as it blasted vines towards Ivanna, wrapping her up completely and pulling her closer to him. He held his wand with such a tight grip, Ivanna could see his knuckles turning white. 

“His corpse was the same as the other young men we had seen: veins glowing blue all about his body, his hands completely paralyzed in the last position they had taken, eyes widened until bloodshot and a look of absolute horror on his face,” Simon spoke slowly through his teeth, making sure Ivanna held onto every word. “I would like you to name a mortal poison that can do that. . . .”

Ivanna hid her fear in an angry scowl, her arms warming the vines around her until they disintegrated, along with the sleeves of her shawl. Her hands turned to fists as she gazed at the sage, unsure if she should duel him for humiliating her like that or let the rage subside. He was the only man she had trusted, ever since her father had beaten her and sent her running into the woods to die, ever since Mr. Bailey had his way with her when she was trying to make money, Simon was the only one who had taken her in and treated her lovingly. 

She took a calming inhale, releasing the tension on her arms and fists. She was being stubborn, refusing to listen because she had a quiet vendetta against mortal men. She folded her hands in front of her and held her chin up. 

“What do you need me to do?”

Simon breathed a sigh of relief, anger wasn’t an emotion that he liked to portray, especially in front of his students. “Keep a close eye on them. I can’t trust anyone else to do this, they’d all be too quick to act. But you never attack without reason, Ivanna. I know you. . . .”

She nodded curtly. “Who are they?”

“They are . . . not of your realm. I am assuming some sort of half-fae or . . . demon . . .”

Ivanna raised an eyebrow. “Quite a hasty assumption. . . .”

“You’ll understand when you see them. They appear as a chimera, I can guarantee you have never seen this kind of being before.” 

“Take me to them then.” 

Simon sighed again, holding a limp hand out, then straightening his fingers to create a small, clear bubble. Ivanna stepped forward and looked into it, surprised to see a being with ash-gray skin, glowing red eyes, and hair as black as her familiar’s feathers. Their shoulders were as broad as a young sailor’s, face practically chiseled out of stone but hands delicate and smooth like a beautiful noblewoman’s. The hands seemed a bit out of proportion to the rest, being the only delicate part of this unfamiliar person. 

“I . . . hmm. . . .” She stepped back from Simon’s viewing orb. “This is who we’re assuming is killing mortal men?”


“What sorcerer did they kill?” Ivanna didn’t hesitate with the question, sure that if she didn’t ask she wouldn’t have a proper plan in mind. 

Simon closed his hand, the orb disappearing into delicate smoke. He put said hand to his chest and swallowed hard, his face turning red as he gently closed his eyes to hide obvious tears. 

“The sage of mischief, Christopher.”

“A sage?” Ivanna covered her mouth, doing her best to disguise the volume but her exclamation had scraped her throat. “You—” You didn’t tell me he was a sage! Simon?”

“This is why Morgan says I am part of the problem . . . I may be targeted as well.”

Ivanna bared her teeth, shaking her head in disbelief. “They . . . they killed a sage. . . .”

Simon stepped toward her, hands held out like he was handling a wild animal. “My dear, please remain calm . . . I tried to keep it quiet but I should’ve known better, you’re one of my best students. . . .”

Ivanna snatched his hands. “I don’t care about that—! We can’t let you near them . . . you cannot accept a duel with them—”

“You know the rules, Iva.” He brought her hand to his lips, delicately kissing her fingers. “A sage can never leave the magic realm as well as we can never deny our apprentices a duel. For knowledge comes with experience and mistakes. . . .”

“The realm already knows their power, they don’t need to fight you! If they choose to, it’s clearly a sick play for more power.”

“As true as that is, what magic user is ever satisfied with their power?”

Ivanna clenched her teeth, tensing as many of her muscles as she could to keep from visibly shaking. She allowed hot tears to fall down her cheeks and allowed Simon to wipe them away with his thumb. There was a fury in her heart that was only sparked by unnecessary violence, unjustified chaos and killings. Despite the world she lived in, chaos was a part of life, and was seemingly random but with such randomness came an order that could only be dictated by the universe itself. The laws of nature, the laws of the stars, the laws of morality came from such randomness and order. 

Simon released her hands, giving her a kind nod before disappearing with the wind. She breathed in the cool air before falling to her knees and embracing the kind grasses. The green gently brushed her face, taking the tears from her eyes and absorbing them to sustain life. She fell to her side, lying completely on the grass and smiling when it tickled her ear, her fingers curling around the longer strands. Her heart was hammering in her chest as her thoughts moved at the same pace, the heat of her face retreating as she pressed her cheek closer to the ground. 

It was one thing being a disgrace to a family that didn’t love her, it was another to be a married man’s whore. But she was going to dedicate her life to the very thing that had allowed her to live: magic. The man who had shown her this beautiful world was in danger and had prompted her to help keep this realm and the mortal one safe. 

Ivanna slowly rose to her knees, her fingers still grazing against the grass, and began to hum a tune that had appeared in her head. She was skilled in all kinds of magic, so much so that she wasn’t ashamed to show young children the wonder of creating life from cold cobblestone. She could summon a butterfly, she could grow flowers from nothing just as she could scorch an entire village and open a portal to a foreign hellscape. She closed her eyes slowly as she rose to her feet, feeling the grass grip onto her fingers like a needy newborn. She muttered nothing and brought forth a loving patch of daisies where her hand once was. 

“Shadow.” She closed her eyes tighter, the darkness receding into a blue light behind her eyes. “Familiar with the crow and raven, the winged and unlucky, rest upon me.”

She heard her familiar squawk in the ether before it appeared on her shoulder, pressing its head against her ear. Its feathers were soft and kind, despite the usual symbol it would represent. She offered her finger and Shadow pecked gently, making an effort to show her such minimal affection. 

“The winged and unlucky. . . .” She nodded at her friend and snapped her fingers to send them as close to her target as possible.

Her new location was the center of the realm’s entrance, the glowing stone courtyard where the young apprentices would gather and exchange potions and spells without the sages’ knowledge. She smiled and nodded at a few goblin wizards, orc sorceresses who blushed at the sight of her, and mortal boy wizards who tripped over their brooms to smile at her. She rolled her eyes at them and sat in the center of the courtyard, simply observing her comrades passing by so she could easily locate the traitor. 

Shadow hopped down from her shoulder and onto her crossed ankles, allowing Ivanna to see through its eyes. She ran her finger down the crow’s back, humming the tune her mind had welcomed and smiling kindly at her fellow magic users. The crow flapped his wings and squawked once, asking for Ivanna to let it loose and fly. She placed a single finger on his head and closed her eyes, quietly telling the familiar to be patient. Once again, Shadow squawked. Ivanna began humming louder, symbols appearing behind her eyelids, scripture from ancient sages. She wanted to understand the characters but was still weak in the language. She knew the sounds but couldn’t put them together, at least not as easily as Hebrew and English. One symbol remained in her vision: a wavy line with an angled ‘C’ in the center. It hopped around in her vision, causing her to hum a new, more upbeat rhythm.

She heard some of her comrades exclaim when her mouth had opened, lyrics spilling from her throat. “Courage follows friendship to the bottom of the sea, ask me anything and I’ll help you find your way.” 

When she opened her eyes, some of her comrades lingered and bounced along to the lyrics that seemed to be born at a rapid pace from mind to mouth. She saw the joy on the magic users’ faces, playfully swaying and bouncing along to her song. One of them, a bard, she assumed, handed her his instrument and she began to play this tune that grew in lyrical elegance and now, instrumental magnificence. Her comrades began to clap in rhythm, eight beats that allowed Ivanna to move her feet in tandem. When her lyrics started again, the clapping ceased, and everyone simply bounced. 

I know I come on pretty strong, but I will be your better shadow if you let me tag along…

It’s a strange place to be when you don’t know where you’re bound, but I’ll walk right beside you and I’ll never let you down. . . .” 

The circle of magic users only increased, sages and apprentices alike all joining the spectacle. More of the bards stepped forward to join Ivanna, only making the song more memorable and uniting the different factions of magic through the sorcery that was song. 

Ask me anything! And I’ll help you find your way for adventuring! This could be your lucky day—” The bards caught onto Ivanna’s lyrics rather quickly, pleasantly joining her in the chorus that proclaimed her strength. 

She felt her heart swell with the joy of comradery whilst she allowed her familiar to fly free into the realm’s sky. She spun with the first bard’s plucking instrument, her skirt kicking up quartz dust and remnants of potion herbs from the ground. Shadow flew into the sky, allowing Ivanna to see through its eyes as she managed to distract everyone else. 

If there was one thing that united any group of living beings, it was music. No matter your kin or moral standing, when a song is sung or there’s a beat from a drum, it’s irresistible to the ear as well as the heart. With all her comrades gathered here, she was sure she had created the perfect situation for her target to slyly escape or find their next victim. 

Unaware of their name, their kin, and what their motives were, she allowed Shadow to circle the main buildings and pass through the gardens. The crow couldn’t go into the cellar, guarded by the trickster, Morgan, who seemed to be one of the few who didn’t want to participate in the sudden festivities. Shadow dove toward the rooftop alchemists where neophytes were required to practice potion making before participating in any leisurely activity. 

And there they were, the lonely traitor practicing slowly as their comrades rushed to finish their brew so they could join the others in Ivanna’s song. Shadow kept quiet, simply flying right over them all and greeting the other summoned familiars to not draw any attention. Shadow flew back to Ivanna at the bridge of the song, where she held a note so high it should’ve broken the alchemy sage’s glass eye. 

Shadow landed right on her shoulder when the note ended, and the chorus began again. She remembered the exact location where Shadow had seen the traitor, spinning past her comrades and beginning to walk into the domed building. 

“What is she doing?”

“She’s going to show the neophytes!”

That’s right, she was going to show the neophytes the community that was created here and show the traitor just how strong they were when joined together. Some of the witches stepped forward and opened the doors for her as she led the magic users to the roof. Some had taken the short route, flying up with brooms and transportation spells to give the young magic users a small taste of what was to come. 

When Ivanna reached the stairs, she tossed up the stringed instrument and sat on it like it was her broom, still managing to pluck without her fingers touching the strings. The clapping began again as they went up the stairs and greeted the neophytes with such a feverish welcome that one of the young witches couldn’t help but squeal with joy. They all bottled what they could and were fine with failure, they simply wanted to join in the festivities. 

The traitor looked up, black hair blowing in the wind and red eyes piercing through the crowd and landing on Ivanna. Despite the cold chill of fear, Ivanna kept her voice warm and lively as she sang: “Never mind the ones who tell you you’re too big and bold and bright!” 

Shadow flew above her, watching the traitor step closer. 

Ask me anything and I’ll help you find your way!” 

The traitor wiped their hands on their black robes, blinking slowly but eyes never leaving the singing witch. 

This could be your lucky day!” 

They simply stepped passed the crowd, no one objecting to welcoming them into the circle of unity and joy. 

Never fear my dear, if the answer isn’t plain to see. . . .” 

They made it all the way to the front, licking their teeth under a closed mouth, hands folded in front of them. Ivanna felt a sudden wave of nausea hit her, resembling the feeling she would get when Mr. Bailey called her into his wife’s bedroom. She kept the song alive, nearing the end and keeping the spectacle just enough to hold onto everyone’s attention. 

She tossed the stringed instrument to its original owner and summoned her broom, hopping onto it and circling the crowd as she delivered the final line: “Take three more steps and you’ll find me.” She held a hand up, abruptly stopping the music and gazing directly into the traitor’s eyes. 

The traitor held up their hands along with everyone else and slowly clapped, eyes locked on Ivanna as the thunderous applause roared all around them. She saw a smirk that resembled revolting creatures she had summoned and defeated, men she had hated so deeply, an evil display of joy that set fire to her heart. 

“How marvelous,” their voice scraped against her eardrums. “What a wonderful way to end a day.” 

Ivanna hopped down from her broom, offering a limp hand. “Ivanna.”

“Adorian . . . sorcerer. . . .”

She pursed her lips. “Witch.”

Adorian smiled. “How marvelous. . . .”

Shadow landed on her shoulder, and she smiled the smile that convinced people to hire her for menial labor. “How marvelous indeed. . . .” 


Zoe Elerby is a junior at Columbia College Chicago. She is a passionate creative writing major who has a piece that has been published by Nervous Ghost Press. She has big dreams as a writer which she is currently turning into a reality thanks to her diligence in Columbia College’s creative writing program.