Shadows live here. They swallow the light of candles, torches, and ordinary flames.
Vasilisa holds me high over all the shadows in the room. I stare them down. My light burns them. They scuttle like roaches, but I see where they hide.
All night I see them. I see them again and again. By morning, they are burned to ash.
The only one who remains untouched by my fiery stare is the one who holds me.
Vasilisa locks up the house. Then she buries me, deep in the earth.
Burning Skull in Vasilisa the Beautiful, Russian Fairy Tales (Afanas’v). Illustration by Ivan Bilbin.