Along a dark unassuming suburban cul de sac, a dim light flickers from the kitchen window of one of the small unassuming terraced houses. Within, the silhouette of a tall, slender, long haired figure moves about in the dim light seemingly going about her evening chores.
The kitchen itself is nothing extraordinary, work surfaces holding all the usual appliances and kitchen implements, a washing machine, microwave, electric kettle, coffee machine and so on. The room is decorated with pictures and trinkets, nothing unusual at first glance although for the figure moving around in the warm cosy candlelight these items perhaps hold a deeper significance. The corn dolly suspended from above the door way, a strap of horse brasses and a window ledge containing potted herbs and objects from nature; feathers, seashells, interesting stones and of course candles all placed precisely and exactly.
Thick smoke from smouldering incense fills the small space, and it’s clear from the light emanating from the small electric oven that she is baking, the light reflecting in her dark eyes however isn’t from the candles, or the electric oven, is it a light of something else, a twinkle or a glimmer reflecting something ‘other’… this isn’t an ordinary kitchen, and this isn’t an ordinary lady going about ordinary chores.
A petite framed tabby cat occasionally rubs its face against the woman’s ankles, getting under her feet, pestering her for a morsel or tasty treat perhaps. She gently shoos her feline friend away as she rubs fat into flour, muttering quietly to herself “It is not flour I grind, but thy bones”. As the last powdery handful falls back into her large earthenware bowl she picks up more, rubbing, massaging the flour repeating her mutterings over and over, her eyes gazing blankly through the cascading flour as if seeing something which isn’t there, or isn’t visible.
The woman pauses and takes a breath, as if to remind herself of the task in hand. With her long slender limbs she reaches for a small clay jug and pours the contents into the bowl in one continuous gentle stream. The air fills with the scent of fermenting yeast, as the rich foaming liquor falls onto the dry contents of the bowl. “It is not water that binds thee, but thy life blood”. The jug is slowly replaced and her otherworldly, long spindle like fingers plunge into the bowl, mixing, stirring and binding the dough, each action more deliberate than the last before turning the contents onto the work surface and vigorously kneading. She works the dough, pulling, rolling, pushing and squeezing, her face begins to redden slightly and her breathing shallows, her skin glistens by the dim light as she works the dough, kneading and now forming, shaping, manipulating the smooth silken mass into the human form. Over and over she chants “It is not my hands that shape and form thee, but His.”
Her kneading, shaping and forming become autonomous as she repeats her words, barely audible. The air in the small kitchen thickens, kneading, chanting, kneading, forming, chanting…the atmosphere electrifies, tingles. The candle on the small window ledge flickers and the air chills…the woman carries on with her work regardless, the fine hairs on her arms and neck now standing erect as if frozen, overshadowed by something which seems to fill the entire room, a pressure building, pushing against the very walls and ceiling of the kitchen.
She shapes, and kneads the bread whispering her words of intent. With fingers and thumbs she adds detail to the doughy image, grossly exaggerated genitalia and breasts. Her face, apparently absent and glazed eyes soft and barely open never falter from her task, only when she reaches for the occasional fine wisp of hair which she delicately presses into the dough as she repeats over and over “It is not my hands which shape and form thee….”
The frantic autonomy ceases once more as the lady pulls open the oven door, the hinges squeak as the door crashes open, baking hot air rushes forth into the chilled air of the kitchen. Her creation is placed within “It is not fire that bakes Thee but the flames of the furnace which transform thee” She slams the oven door shut, again with almighty crash, her feline companion looks on with startled interest before again settling into the corner where he has been observing this whole time.
She takes a moment to compose herself, sips from a large glass of water smudged with flour and bits of dough. She corrects her hair, brushes flour dust and dough from her woollen sweater and slim, tight fitting jeans. She washes her hands in the sink and lights a cigarette, propping herself against the kitchen surface.
She says nothing, her eyes absent and glazed still…time stops, the air stills as if holding onto an inhale of breath. She prods the coal in the censer, adding a few more grains which send plumes of thick white smoke into the saturated air, mingling with haze form her cigarette. Silently she waits.
The air slowly takes on the scent of baking bread, unmistakable and intoxicating. The skinny sharp featured woman opens the oven door, reaches for a kitchen cloth and pulls out the baking tray slowly and deliberately. She speaks, uttering words of encouragement willing her creation from the searing heat of the oven as if she were a midwife delivering a child into the world. Slowly she brings it forth and the slightest of smirks lights up her face, she is pleased with her work.
She lays the cooling doll onto a rack, and taking a small, dark leather hilted knife from her back pocket she cuts initials and symbols into the figure’s belly. She delicately wraps a scrap of cloth around the body, securing with pins. She pauses, looks upon the image and taking a deep inhale she bends over, close to the image and gazing into the face she blows gently upon it three times. With each breath the doll’s torso seems to rise and fall as if resuscitated by her own breath. All the time smiling a relaxed, almost smug smile, she dips her finger into a crystal glass dish of water and anoints the doll with water “In the name of the Mother, In the Name of the Father, In the Name of the Son I baptise thee….Thou art…!” A mumbled name follows…she whispers a deep and husky whisper, her lips and throat dry from the baking heat of the oven and the thick plumes of incense smoke hanging in the arid kitchen air.
She ever so gently wraps the doll in black cloth, drains the glass of water gulping it as if it were her last and lights another cigarette. She sighs, still with a satisfied, almost smug smile and turns on the main light in the kitchen. She promptly throws open the window, a rush of cool fresh air catches the fringe of her fair hair now wavy from the dampness of sweat, salty from her labour. The air in the kitchen clears quickly and the atmosphere returns to normal. With slow deliberate elegance she leans over to blow out the candles and then from the small unassuming kitchen, and the small unassuming terraced house the woman leaves carrying her creation, and the fate of another, wrapped in black. She locks the door behind her and walks out of the unassuming suburban cul de sac vanishing into the darkness of night.