Terrisa Blanca became a witch thirty-three hours after she was bitten by one. No one can really blame Terrisa (or anyone else) for what happened. The witch who bit her had been disguised as a rat, and the change was too gradual for her, or anyone else, to notice. Perhaps, though, we can blame her (and everyone else) a little bit. The town was called Casabruja, for God’s sake. Terrisa had been raised on stories of witches and how to spot them. Her grandfa-ther, the Doctor, would place her on his knee and tell her from his wrinkled lips stories of his hunts for the wicked creatures. The number one thing to look out for, he said, was unassuming animals. Everyone knew the animals in Casabruja were always assuming; except for, of course, the animals disguised as witches.
IIIIIIIIIIIITo be fair, Terrisa did not know how unassuming animals looked because she had grown up surrounded by assuming ones. As the first unassuming animal she ran into was a witch looking for food, and hunger can often be mistaken for assumption, Terrisa did not have much of a chance. Plus, she thought witches were ex-tinct, if they had even existed at all. So, despite the many warnings, Terrisa thought nothing of the rat perched on the bed beside her with a desperate look on its face. The rat stared at her with beady, black eyes and matted fur. It looked so pitiful that Terrisa offered it a piece of tortilla. Unfortunately, her finger got caught in the exchange. Its eyes filled with guilt. The rat fled, diving out the window. Terrisa wrapped the bite with gauze from her side table and promptly forgot about the encounter.
IIIIIIIIIIIIEarly the next morning she woke up sweating. Her night-shirt stuck to her like a membrane. She ripped off her clothes and went back to sleep, unaware that she had pulled off some of her own skin. A few hours later, she got up. Terrisa felt as if a wood-worker had brushed over her skin with the finest sandpaper in the world. Despite the strange sensation, she decided to run. Running always helped her get rid of unexplained sensations. She pulled
on her running clothes, tied her laces, and scurried out the door. As she sprinted down her parents’ street, her hands swung like an Olympic runner’s. An irresistible pull swept over her body, calling her towards the forest. This was not common practice for Terrisa, for she usually preferred slowly running in alleys and peering into the backyards of sleeping neighbors. However, the urge to be in the woods did happen occasionally, so she did not resist it.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe treetops loomed above her as she ran down the hiking trail. She dodged roots and rocks, gaining speed until it felt like she was flying. She attributed this feeling to a “runner’s high.” In fact, her feet were literally not touching the ground; she was levitating by about three millimeters. She floated in loops around the trail, screaming past men walking their dogs and women walking their men. No one thought much of the woman running by, though they waved back when she waved. They were too absorbed in their own dramas to notice anything different about the normally predictable Terrisa Blanca. Only one child saw that she was floating, but as he was often accused of making up tales, he kept silent about the whole affair.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWhen Terrisa got home, she followed her daily routine. First, a hot shower during which she braided her long black hair to fall down her back. Then, she put on her apron and hat and shoes, their white coloring contrasting quite nicely with her honey-hued skin. When she descended into the kitchen, Terrisa’s mother remarked that her skin was looking especially honey-colored today. Her mother handed her a dish of platanos maduros. Her father commented that she looked pregnant, more of a joke than a statement of reality (she was having a bit of a dry spell). But in actuality, her skin was more golden today than it was the day before. Her hair was also becoming greener, and eyes gathering thunderous shades of black. But do not blame her parents for failing to notice, as it was stormy outside.
IIIIIIIIIIIIEvery day before work, Terrisa would visit the Doctor. This morning was no different. She went into his office and placed a gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free muffin on his desk. He was a pediatric surgeon/naturopath, fixing feet and curing the strangest of ailments with the herbs stocked in his wooden cabinets. The Doctor looked at his grandchild with cataract-filled eyes that failed to notice the symptoms of her transformation. He did sense the stress in her genetics, though. “¿Te sientes bien, mi amor?” he said as he took a bite of muffin. His face contorted in disgust. “¿No tienes platanos?” His granddaughter cackled and placed the rest of the muffins on the desk. The Doctor sighed heavily, but still took a bite of another muffin.
IIIIIIIIIIII“¡Muy bien, abuelo!” Terrisa said cheerfully, ignoring his question. “Te amo, ¡hasta luego!” His ears did not register the absence of footsteps due to her departing words.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWork began and ended as usual. The only odd thing that happened was the lack of tortillas in the kitchen, but Terrisa came up with the idea of serving the meat with fried potatoes, like they do in Israel. Her customers went crazy over the applesauce, demanding to be given the recipe for the delectable fluid. Terrisa would laugh and pointed them in the direction of the closest supermarket. Her customers that day enjoyed the change of pace so much that they would ask for a side of fried potatoes with their meat and cheese quesadillas for decades after. By the time work was done, her fingers were singed and hair frizzed, both from cooking and her changing body chemistry. She failed to notice the latter.
IIIIIIIIIIIIOnce work ended, Terrisa returned to her parents’ house the same way she had left that morning. The same way she did every day. She walked to her grandfather’s office and waved to his secretary, who today was slightly startled at Terrisa’s greening hair and glowing skin. The secretary attributed these to the light and a possible pregnancy. Terrisa placed a salad on her grandfather’s desk. The Doctor was napping, as he always was, so she kissed him on the cheek and left without saying a word. He awoke two minutes later with a start; he had a terrible nightmare that he had grown thick fur. He shuddered and returned to work, shaking off his premonition.
Her parents did not notice her change in complexion be-cause they were too wrapped up in gossip. Terrisa had eaten dinner at work, as she did routinely, so she went up to her room without greeting her parents. Nausea was beginning to flow over her in waves heading towards a tsunami. When her parents came in to say goodnight, the lights were off because her eyes hurt. The darkness hid the transformation occurring in their daughter’s body. Her mother briefly noted the strange glow coming from under the covers, but only chuckled. Silly girl must be reading under the covers like when she was young, she thought. Her parents said, “Buenas noches, mija,” and fled to bed, craving each other’s touch. There they made love for the last time.
IIIIIIIIIIIITerrisa Blanca’s final day as a human was as mundane as she would have wished it to be. She woke up happy that morning and most mornings before that. Never had she desired anything more than that, for she was a simple person. Terrisa Blanca fed stray rats and sometimes ran in the woods. Her aura was pearly white, which is not just reserved for virgins. Her life had tendrils in a thousand different souls, pumping warmth to each of them. After she disappeared, those who depended on her most began to decay. Her parents grew complacent with their heartbreak. Her customers felt a similar loss, if not more, for they saw her every day, and her parents barely saw her. The Doctor felt her absence the worst of all. He would never know that despite his many warnings, she had stumbled into his worst nightmare.
IIIIIIIIIIIITwenty-four hours after she had been bitten, Terrisa woke up to her body temperature spiking. It felt as if somebody had turned the thermometer to its highest setting inside her. Her skin broke out in boils and her hair fell out in clumps. She tried to scream for help, but her throat was collapsing. This was the point of no return. If they had caught her symptoms before this time, it could have been reversed with the simple remedy of Advil and wolfsbane. Unfortunately, twenty-four hours had passed. She writhed in bed silently, tears stinging the wounds opening on her face. Her fingers dug into her feather mattress and a cloud of feathers formed around her. Her organs rearranged for immortality. Her nails splintered into the mattress that her hands were wrist deep in, and her teeth fell out in buckets. She did not know she had so many teeth. The pain became so intense that Terrisa accepted death as a fact and lost consciousness.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe moment the witch bit her the night before, it changed Terrisa’s fate. In those last hours of transformation, she lived through her intended future. She grew old and owned a successful bakery in Casabruja. She married a customer at the diner, an Argentinian man who had been trying to woo her for a few years already. They had two children. Her oldest daughter would create a soundwave that could pierce both water and air. Her son was transgender and became critical for the gay rights movement in Chile. He eventually moved back to Casabruja and took care of the aging Terrisa. Her scientist daughter would visit every year at Christmastime and go to church with her mother, despite the fact neither believed in God or magic. Terrisa Blanca aged with grace and died when she was ninety-nine, clutching her children’s hands and accepting death as fact.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThen the alarm clock went off at 6 a.m., as it had every morning for years. Its ring pierced the air like knives, waking everyone in the house except for Terrisa. After five minutes of its continuous noise, which she had set as car horns, her mother stormed into the room and snarled, “¡Levántate, mija!” Her moth-er left the room as a claw emerged from the bundle of blankets and crushed the phone. The nails were black and sharp. The hand was covered in a thin, translucent fur. Black veins were pulsing underneath golden skin. Another claw tore the sheet to shreds. A creature lay in the remains, still once again. A body of golden decrepitude was exposed. The stomach was concave, exposing ribs and organs. The translucent fur glimmered with sweat. The face was like a skeleton’s that had a golden leaf draped over it, with thin, shrunken lips. When the eyes opened, they were black, like a rat’s.
Terrisa took a deep inhale for the first time in nine hours. Her lungs filled, expanding the golden skin on her chest to its breaking point. She stood, swaying. Turning to the mirror, she observed the monster that reflected. Instantly, Terrisa understood what had happened. The eyes gave away her maker. She brought her clawed fingers in front of her face and saw the witch bite on her finger had turned black and rotted. Tears seeped through her thin lips, and she tasted fresh water.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe mother began to walk up the stairs to scold her daughter for the obnoxious alarm. Terrisa’s ears, which were now very large and pointy, twitched towards the creaking. At first, she did not move, continuing to stare at the reflection. Terrisa had always been able to see the beauty in herself, even when she had been overweight or covered in acne. Now was no exception. She saw that her skin glowed, and that her eyes were not the black of nightmares but of galaxies. She admired her long, greenish hair that reminded her of the seaweed she would catch in the waves off the coast. Suddenly, she remembered the coast, the children that she would never have splashing in the waves. Then her mind blocked her intended future, allowing her to move onto this new path without ever knowing it could have been different.
IIIIIIIIIIIIAs her mother rounded the corner to Terrisa’s room, the witch understood something with a certainty she had not experienced before. She knew she could not stay. Her parents would likely panic at her new form and call the police, or animal control. If Terrisa stayed, she would surely be dissected and studied by scientists, or killed by people like her abuelo. She darted for the window, then hesitated. Her rat eyes looked at the room, and her throat clenched. Another feeling of understanding crawled through her bones: this was the last time she would see this room. Before she could think about it further, her mother—her mamí—placed her hand on the doorknob and began to push. In that same millisecond, the golden figure leapt.
IIIIIIIIIIIITerrisa jumped from the third floor silently onto the dust below. She darted into a bush. With her massive ears, she heard the concern in her mother’s voice and the bang of footsteps as she went looking for Terrisa. Then the concern became panic. “¡Terrisa!” Her mother called, “¿Dónde estás?” Terrisa opened her mouth to answer, but instead of words only growls emerged. Her throat swelled with panic as she heard her mother pick up the phone.
IIIIIIIIIIII“Cálmate, mi amor,” her father—her papí—said reasonably. “Probablemente está corriendo.” The air was silent for a moment, and Terrisa heard plastic meet plastic. Her mother’s heartbeat slowed, and clothes rubbed together as her father put his arms around his wife. There were more footsteps as her mother went to cook breakfast and her father returned to their room to get dressed. A hiss of gas. The smell of oily platanos met Terrisa’s twitching nose.
IIIIIIIIIIIITerrisa’s will broke down for the second (and last) time since her transformation. Her body shook as she let out unearthly squeals of suffering and hunger. The noise pierced the air, reaching the farthest points of Casabruja and even Santiago thirty miles away. Those in the big city merely thought it was squeaky pipes, and those in town thought it was the cicadas’ scream for fall to come. The thought of witches was unreasonable, even to the most insane citizens of Casabruja. Only the Doctor knew that it was a sorrowful witch making that noise, but he could not have known it was his granddaughter. He was being driven to work when the sound literally shattered his phone screen. The Doctor shouted in surprise and remembered the noise from a distant memory, when he had helped his grandfather hunt witches to extinction (or so he thought). Fear and excitement swelled in him at the idea of beginning a new witch-hunt. He fantasized about teaching his nieta how to hunt so that they could bond in the same way he had with his abuelo. The Doctor would forget all about witches after receiving a phone call from his son later that day.
IIIIIIIIIIIITerrisa remained in the bush for several more minutes listening to her parents shuffle around the house. She allowed the thorns to stab her smooth skin until the sun was solidly in the sky. Her father’s heart rate finally began to quicken. “Perhaps we should go look for her,” he said, his voice quivering. Terrisa knew
she could not remain where she was, but she was not sure how to escape from what had suddenly become her thorn-ridden prison. She then remembered the rat that had bitten her and figured that it most likely had not always been a rat. Terrisa closed her eyes and concentrated, imagining herself as a small rodent. After several moments of this, she felt insane trying. Then she looked down at her hands and watched them shrink into smaller claws. The clear fur on her skin was darkening and her organs were rearranging again. She watched her nose elongate and her frame of reference shrink as her entire mass fit into one thirty-three times as small. Her brain refocused until her brain was a rat’s. And the rat began to run.
IIIIIIIIIIIITerrisa the rat escaped the bush and made her way across the road. The woods she had run in the day before called to her again, as a friend would. The trees looked to be infinitely tall from her new angle. She dodged roots and rocks, but this time moving under the roots and around the rocks rather than floating over them. She ran until she collapsed. A few hours passed, and she remembered food. She knew that only tortilla could fill her aching stomach. The rat slowly made her way back to civilization, the only place to find such a delicacy.
IIIIIIIIIIIIWeeks turned into months, and into years. She woke up one day without a single concern for human affairs. She did not notice when her mind changed from human to witch, and in turn, to rat. Her memories of her human days faded into the same fabric as her intended future. Her mind was kind to her and erased all the things that would make her immortality unbearable. She did not think as a witch would, and after some time, forgot she was a witch at all. All the little rat knew was that she had not always been a rat. However, she was not sure what she had been before. Mostly, she knew that she was hungry.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe Doctor spent every Sunday looking for her, wandering the woods screaming her name. It became a ritual for him, his belief in her return almost religious. Sometimes they would cross paths but never acknowledge each other. There would be no reason for them to.
IIIIIIIIIIIIMany years after Terrisa had become a witch, she went to see him. Her little rat legs led her to the red brick house, which sparked a memory that felt so distant it was likely not real. The rat stood in front of the house for a moment, pawing at her nose. She was about to move on when the hunger that was never quenched reared. She squeaked and patted into the red brick house. The door was propped open because it was summertime. The secretary failed to notice the rat because she was pregnant from the man Terrisa was supposed to marry and too busy thinking about her late period.
IIIIIIIIIIIIThe rat walked into the Doctor’s office and scrambled onto his wooden desk. The grains felt smooth against her claws. She went straight to the old man and sat next to his wrinkled hand, as if she were his loyal dog. The Doctor did not notice the rodent at first, but then felt a familiar energy near him. His sight-less eyes, light blue from the cataracts, peered down at the rat in front of him. “Hola, amiguita,” he whispered. The rat stared at the man with wide, black eyes. He did not see the unassuming expression on the little rat’s face due to his blindness, and his heart was made of the same stuff as Terrisa’s. He offered the rat a piece of his tortilla.

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