By Alexia Tzortzis, TIWP Student
She had been a traveler all her life, never once staying in the same spot for more than a month. As a child, she moved with the coven of witches she and her mother belonged to. Together they roamed the Scottish countryside, scavenging and setting up camp deep in the hills and forests. But when the green hillsides were charred with the flames of the pyres that killed her mother, she ran. She ran right into the arms of a gypsy woman.
The woman held her tight and let her cry, and hid her from the Englishmen who wished to burn her alongside the remains of her coven. She lived with the gypsies from that day forward, traveling with them and helping with the chores and carnivals and children.
She worked as a dancer for their traveling group, her hips and body moving to the beat of the earth beneath her bare feet, the silver coins on her skirts and tops adding to the melody plucked on an old guitar. But when she was 18, a sickness wiped through the gypsies, killing nearly all of them. And those who survived the illness died of starvation or worse.
She survived, and never once caught the wasting plague that swept through her new family. Maybe it was the earth in her blood, maybe it was just dumb luck. But she survived, if only to watch the woman who became her mother lay on her death bed, her breath rattling in her chest.
Go the woman had said, a streak of gray now in her hair. Go my child, don’t waste away here. She nodded, silver edging her eyes like the beads on her skirt, as her mother’s chest rose and fell, and did not rise again.
She left immediately after that, taking nothing with her but what was already on her. She wandered the trees and forests for weeks, using all she had learned from both the witches and gypsies to keep herself alive. She became the forest around her, moving as a wraith through the trees, her bare feet never even making the slightest sound as her skirts flowed around her ankles.
She survived for weeks like that. Months.
She’s never stopped moving since.
And once every last witch was burned or went into hiding, once every last gypsy was killed off by that unnatural plague, once every restless soul was exterminated for their unrooted ways, she was all that remained.
And so she wandered, and traveled, and lived as the wraith in the woods they wrote stories about.