by Arielle Tipa
Grandmother never began her stories of the Fisherwife with Once upon a time - an opening like that always promised a happy ending, she would say.
She began with the chthonic footsteps of the Spanish viceroys, who wore black robes and had forked tongues, their crucifixes dispersing a virus of weak knees and epistaxis.
The viceroys were always asking questions, and the viceroys were always men.
From the nuns came a plea for the return of Giura, an orphaned girl who was stolen by Ladies From the Outside - the Donas de Fuera, who were all beautiful and were dressed in white and red.
Parading about town, the Ladies gently tapped their tambourines and uncorked calabashes of wine, singing queer melodies in an unknown language, as mongrel cats emerged from gaping sewer pipes and into their arms. Their laughter would arouse the stars, and their breath smelled of meadows after rain.
On occasion, dejected mothers and unwed girls were rumored to have followed these witches into the sky.
Donas de fuera, they were called - Ladies From the Outside, fairy-witches whom God swatted from view.
These were the women whom the nuns claimed stole the child named Giura.
Grandmother would then close her eyes as she explained how Giura was lured by the elfin music of these fairy-witches. They welcomed her with folk songs and aprons full of marzipan. Before she knew it, Giura was in the air - flying with the fairy-witches upon the backs of white goats, whose necks and fetlocks were collared with silver bells.
To Benevento, the witches said they were going.
They told Giura stories of foreign lands, with gardens that sighed and rivers that spoke in coveted tongues, which were no more now that the mountains ached and magic was outlawed by Christ.
Once they arrived at Benevento, the fairy-witches gently tethered their goats to trees, and walked deeper into a glen shimmering with fireflies and a light mist. It was then, Grandmother would say, that Giura saw the fairy-witches treading the glen with paws of cats. Giura assumed the mists were playing tricks on her.
As the witches walked, they spoke in riddled tongues - their language was akin to bubbling streams, of twigs being trampled by carriage wheels and wind chimes being tickled by rain. Giura wondered if she heard any words at all.
Grandmother never remembered what happened after that, but she did say once Giura returned to the nuns, she spoke in the language of the fairy-witches, and forgot how to speak Sicilian. Spring water would trickle from her mouth, and cats would gather outside the orphanage.
For this, the nuns welcomed her back with cold water and dull sermons, preaching of the wounds that sin would inflict. They then rewarded her with the hand of a wealthy fish merchant once she started to bleed like a woman.
Giura never wanted to be a fisher's wife, so she ran, only to be greeted by the viceroys in the dark.
These men cut her earlobes off, and sodomized her with branches, before their necks were squeezed and splintered by the oak trees that surrounded them.
Grandmother said Giura remembered having her nose tapped by a swinging crucifix over and over again.
Giura returned to Benevento, where the witches promised her revenge, life - infinite and enduring.
It was here, that Grandmother always stopped her stories and complained how she was never able to wear earrings.
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Arielle Tipa is a writer based in New York who takes a particular liking to poetry and tales of the fantastic, and whose work ranges from fabulist to feminist, macabre to bizarre. Her writing has appeared in Venus Magazine, Dodging The Rain, Corvus Review and FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, among others.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a fantasy story?
Immersion in the dissimilar. I believe another world is worth visiting if we are able to forget our own for just a few moments.