Dark lives here. Hungry. Thirsty. Shadows suck flames, candles, torches. Nothing burns here.
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 ashes.
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 warm earth.
Burning Skull in Vasilisa the Beautiful, Russian Fairy Tales (Afanas’v). Illustration by Ivan Bilbin.