An army of youth, self-programmed for stability, stood in formation hemmed in by four walls that they themselves had built. There was no need for a roof, for none of them ever looked up. Despite the biting chill of the breeze that blew the hair about their faces they remained lukewarm. The rain began to fall and stung their cheeks like acid. Apathy moved among them gliding like a phantom, and every so often she would stop and stare into the face of one of them. Despite her horror, not a soul was stirred.

Like a bat in the night she suddenly turned round, pivoting on her old toes. Somewhere a shoulder had twitched. She raced among them, a snake in the tall grass, and stared into the eyes of many. One of them, a young man in a red, button-down shirt, blinked. The witch lifted her yellow hand with long, curling fingernails and like a viper gripped his ear; with all her might she yanked it towards the floor. Blood ran down the side of his face and was washed away by the rain. Like a slot machine his brown eyes rolled over in his head until they snapped to a stop. His head fell forward. Apathy let out a low cackle through her sly smile.

“It is raining,” she said to him, “and you have no umbrella.”

“Who cares?” the youth asked in reply.

“You are bleeding,” the witch remarked as if concerned.

“So what?” the young man said.

She breathed on him a putrid gas from her raspy lungs and he fell even more still, as if in a trance, and stared into a small screen where his palm used to be. He was lost in it. Suddenly from the other side of the room there was a sneeze. With a hiss the witch raced about, splashing the legs of the young whenever she stepped into a puddle. The trickle of the water spiraling down the drain in the center of the room echoed off of the walls and into the open sky. Apathy came to a stop. There she was, a young lady with light blue eyes made brighter by her dark hair. Beneath her green and gold blouse she was shivering. The witch moved close and like a caring mother put her hand to the smooth forehead. The young lady was cold. Apathy yanked at her ear without hesitation. The eyes rolled and rolled but snapped to a stop backwards. The girl was looking into herself.

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“No!” gasped the witch, and again she checked her temperature, which was rising by the second.

“Why…” the girl said as her voice trailed off.

The witch screamed in her face and yanked at the other ear to fix this malfunction. The eyes spun and stopped to the relief of Apathy in the proper direction. Trails of blood hugged the girl’s cheeks.

Through browning teeth and only inches from her beautiful young face, the witch whispered to her, “You are bleeding.”

“So what?” the girl replied.

“Do you know who you are, and why you have no umbrella?”

“Does it matter?” The blue eyes did not blink even once.

With a coy smile the witch breathed on her, and the lovely head fell forward to stare into her palm. The witch doubled her efforts and glided from youth to unsuspecting youth, checking their foreheads and asking them questions. When Apathy reached the far corner of the room a sharp clap reverberated throughout the room. The witch reeled to see the young girl, who had malfunctioned and seen into herself, look at her palms anew; she had clapped them together, showering specks of shattered glass around her like glitter. The young girl ran to the drain and lifted the grate above her head as she stared into the rain.

“You cursed child!” yelled the witch.

The girl threw down the grate and the noise stirred more than a few of the others. She jumped into the sewers. As the sharp glass and warm blood from her shattered palms were carried to the feet of others by the water, those who had stirred began to lift their heads and mutter words in deep voices, and some who had not yet awoken began to twitch or shiver. Apathy scrambled about the room breathing on whomever she could and lifting palms to faces. When she passed through the spot where the young girl in the green blouse had once stood she gasped, for the air was quite warm.


by Philip Martin    |   feature image by Krystal Fu   |   Artwork by  by Janelle Rainer


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Philip Martin

In 2014, his story "The Laying on of Hands" was awarded Second Prize in the Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction, and in 2015 his story "The Grove" was awarded First Prize in the same competition. Another of his stories, "Teaching," was featured in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine in May of 2016.