A Bewitched Man
by Steven J. Blander
I liked the independence of being unattached, but sometimes I got lonely. One night, I went to a dance club to cradle my solitude in a crowd.
A woman approached me and said, “I’m alone and don’t want to be alone.” Her face was narrow and her eyes pinched together like a pair of ill-fitted glasses, yet she was sultry with high cheekbones and long legs. “I’m Di. Dance with me. I want to dance.”
We swayed together while Louie Prima sang “That Old Black Magic.” Then she said, “Let’s go to my place.”
Di lived in an old brownstone. Her living room was overly busy with conflicting patterns: gray herringbone on a camel-back couch; red paisley on a Victorian chair.
“Mind if I burn some incense?” she asked.
I nestled against her back as she struck a match.
“You’re so frisky. I know just the incantation to... oh, I like that.”
She chanted strange words, and I asked what they meant.
“It’s like a prayer.”
Her hands flowed over my chest. We kissed, and then clung to each other, perhaps for different reasons.
“I’ll be right back. I have to pee,” she said.
I looked at some books on the coffee table. The titles were weird: Your Inner Witch, Zen Sex Spells, and Using the Occult to Breed. When I heard her flush, I put the books back.
“Come to the bedroom,” she said.
Her bedroom was dark except for flickering candles on top of a dresser. In front of the candles were desiccated amphibians, mummified claws, reptilian skulls, and other strange curios.
She began chanting, Pregno incantabus spegno fetos. I saw her flickering on the bed.
“What’s this incantation about?”
I thought she was joking.
The tiny flames surrounding us seemed to blush. I saw a herd of black cats emerge from under her bed, swarming toward me, but then I blinked and saw only a pile of stuffed animals.
Her arms reached out to me. “I want your seed.” I felt her pull from across the room.
“Look, maybe we should slow things down.”
“You want me. I can tell.” She smiled. Perhaps she thought I was playing hard to get.
I stepped toward the door. “I gotta go.”
“No. Stay with me.” I heard the plea in her voice, a little too desperate.
“You’re a nice woman, but the incense and incantations—”
“I don’t have to burn it. Or is it just sandalwood you don’t like?”
I went into the living room, and heard her footsteps behind me. She grabbed my arm, but I shoved her away, hurrying out the door.
“Don’t go!” she shouted. “Please.”
The last thing I heard was her crying. I could have been more tactful, but I thanked my lucky stars I was out of there.
* * *
In the morning, I fixed myself a bowl of cereal and turned on a television show about Vegas showgirls. When I checked out their legs, they seemed fuzzy so I rubbed my eyes, but they wouldn’t clear. I figured my eyes were filled with sleep mucus.
I went for a walk. Each time a woman passed by, sparkling censors obscured what I desired to see. I wondered if I was having a stroke or a mental breakdown. I visited my Internist, but he found nothing physically wrong. He said my symptoms were psychosomatic due to stress and prescribed a medicine that only nauseated me.
It sounds crazy, but I wondered whether Di had anything to do with my affliction. I decided to visit her.
When she answered the door, her eyes were red. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I wanted to apologize for leaving so abruptly and all.”
“We’re history. Go away.” She crossed her arms.
“You did it to me, didn’t you? The censored vision. You cursed me.”
She jerked her head back as if surprised. “You’re insane.” She tried to shut the door, but I stopped her.
“You taught me a lesson. Now let me go.”
“You want me to remove the curse? Booga-booga. Feel better?”
“I don’t know. I feel the same.”
She shook her head. “Did you care whether you hurt me? You think I’ve cursed you? You’ve cursed yourself.”
She shoved my hand away and slammed the door shut.
“Pretend all you want to!” I shouted. “I know it was you.”
At home I got drunk, and nodded off on the couch. I awakened to my ringing phone. When I answered it, I heard cackling.
“Witch!” I cried.
The booze medicated me far better than my Internist’s nauseating medicine, but what would my life be without beauty? I thought to visit the East River and drown myself in self-pity. On my way outside, I found a flier taped to my mailbox:
“Tonight. A Course in Witchcraft. Taught by Di.”
I hurried to the location given by the flier, uncertain whether I would beg forgiveness or burn the witch. On the way, scintillation marred the landscape, but I no longer cared because salvation was at hand.
There was a Church at the given address, but no one was there. I decided it was time to go to the river and make a donation. Then I heard the click-click of high heels.
It was Di. “How’ve you been?” she asked.
How I’d been was obvious, but I didn’t want to say anything that might anger her.
“You smell awful.” She caressed my cheek. “You need a shave, too.”
I wanted to tell her that booze was all I needed, but she looped her arm in mine and led me outside.
Once we got to her apartment, she stripped and bathed me. I listened to the scratch of the razor as she ran the blade across my throat. She led me to the couch and lit incense. She chanted, and I listened. Her arms twined around me. I knew she would never let go, and I realized that solitude was my paradise lost.
Copyright © 2008 by Steven J. Blander