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THIS SKIN YOU CALL YOUR OWN by Chloe N. Clark

He told me he didn’t believe in witches. We were on the floor of my apartment, half undressed while he used one hand to unbutton my jeans, when he said it. Out of nowhere. 

“I don’t believe in witches, you know,” he said. He began kissing down my neck, hand slipping beneath my jeans.

“What do you mean?” I asked. My own hand slid down his stomach. He let out a short exhale of air.

“Like everyone told me you were a witch before we hooked up,” he said. I could hear the excitement behind his words, the thought of being with a witch edging against his desire to make him seem different from all the others who wanted me, talked about me. 

I didn’t speak for a moment, tracing my fingers against the skin of his stomach before moving my hand lower on his body. He was warm, and I could smell the faint ache of sweat on him. 

“They said watch out for her,” he continued. “They said you’d want something from me. That you’d only like it if you could get something from me.”

I applied a little more pressure with my fingers. He pulled in his breath. His own hand slowing. I wondered how much I could make him want me. There’s a pleasure in being wanted. Though nothing near to the pleasure of what I want from them—that slow unspool of darkness. I shifted away from him and began to kiss every inch of his skin. My tongue on his skin. I could taste his sweat. It was salty at first and then it was the coffee he’d drunk at work—sharp, slightly over-extracted espresso, that hint of latex. I went lower down his body, past his stomach, his back arching slightly. There was a memory in him, that he didn’t even know he’d kept, of earlier in the day, he’d been watching a woman across the street talking to her child. The woman was crouched so that she and the child were at the same height. Her coat was bright red, a dark blue scarf, and he’d remembered his mother once scolding him at a park. She’d stood above him, never deigning to be at his level. He didn’t remember her words. I ran my hands up his thighs, pushing the memory out of his body. I knew he’d never know it was gone. I wanted him thinking of only one thing. He needed to only be here in this moment, this pleasure. The dark should be the furthest from his mind. That’s how I’ve always liked it. I needed to be able to take what he wasn’t watching, a magician who keeps your eye on the wrong card.

He said my name. I used my tongue, my lips. He lost his words. I, on the other hand, had a thousand languages at my disposal. I’d learned how to shape my tongue so many ways, knew how to use it to make others speak to me. I moved my tongue, shaped my lips, made his body yell to me.

He had this recurring nightmare that he woke up on an island in the middle of nowhere. There was no one else there. He wandered around and around, calling out the names of everyone he’d ever known. No one answered. And then someone did. Some voice called out from beneath the sand. It begged him to run. Run away. So he tried. He’d run to the water’s edge and try to get in it, to swim away, but he couldn’t. The water would be glass or boiling hot or freezing, freezing cold. But he’d try, he’d keep trying, as the voice kept screaming for him to run and he’d know something was coming for him. Something that he’d never want to know. 

This I liked. I held it closer to myself, letting it slip into my skin, run its darkness into my blood. It felt so good flooding my body, down to the tips of my toes.

He was so close to release. His whole body thrummed with it. And then he said, “Wait.”

I stopped.

He said, “I didn’t believe them.”

And I knew what he meant, how much he thought everyone was telling lies about me but that he’d hoped they weren’t but didn’t want to give in to believing. Men like him loved witches, loved that hint of danger. I knew how much he’d wanted me. I could feel it on him—it came off of him like a bit of extra warmth, standing too close to the fire on too cold of days. 

I moved again, long enough to say, “Shhh.”

He nodded. There was sweat pooled in the hollow of his throat, it glistened. In that light, he was more than beautiful. 

Of course, everyone was, when I’m there with them, when I’m pulling the darkness from their bodies. They look so filled with light if only for a moment.

I used my tongue, shaped my lips around him. I spoke a thousand words he wouldn’t hear, just my tongue tracing the letters, rolling the syllables. 

The words let everything he’d ever been scared of into my body. It filled me up so quick. Everyone carried so many tiny fears. They cascaded into me, every part of me was so filled with him. There was so much power in knowing every darkest corner, every monster under the bed.

And then his body went still, only his fast breathing, heart pounding to show he was still there.

I lay beside him. Everything ached in that pleasurable way, like after running a marathon. Time spent well. Sometimes, often if I was honest, I wondered what it was like for them. If afterwards, they went out knowing what I’d taken. If they felt lighter or if it didn’t feel like anything at all. To go into the world, unafraid, must feel like something.

“What are you?” he asked, smiling.

“I’m a witch,” I said. But he didn’t believe me. They never believed in witches really.

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