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A Pinch of Salt, a Straw, and a Button

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Once upon a time, the moon was drowned in a bog. She was was saving a man's life when the bog got her. The man got out, but the moon was dragged down by bogles and dead folk and worm-girls, fight she never so hard. And fight she did: she bit off a worm-girl's finger and swallowed it down.

While she was down there the poor folk of the marshlands had no guard against bog-creatures but what the wisewoman told them: a pinch of salt, a straw and a button on the doorsill at night.

And down there the moon would have stayed if the man had not remembered how she had saved him out in the marshes. The wisewoman looked in her brew-pot, her mirror, and her book, and told them what signs to look for. So the marsh-folk went out, with a stone in their mouths to ward off the bog-creatures, and they pulled the moon up out of the water.

When the moon was back up in the sky, though, she began to feel funny. She was shining bright enough to scare off all the world's bog-creatures, but there was a squirming in her stomach, as if she had drunk sour milk.

It got worse and worse, and the moon saw that her stomach was growing, as if she was with child, or like some of the dead folk in the marshes, tight-swollen with corpse-gas. And she felt slimy inside, under her skin. So she put on her dark cloak and went down to visit the wisewoman, groaning all the way, quiet as she might.

The moon went halting up the path to the wisewoman's house, making a very strange spongy shape under her cloak, and she knocked on the door. The wisewoman called out from her chair by the fire and told her to come in. But try she never so hard, the moon could not cross the threshold. And try she did: she struggled and fumbled and slopped at the doorway.

The wisewoman got up, and she stared at the moon. And the moon looked down at the doorsill, and there right enough was a pinch of salt, a straw, and a button. And the wisewoman walked over, and bowed her head, and shut the door in the moon's face.

The moon banged on the door, but her fist made a sound like soft eel-flesh, and she could see where under the skin there was something growing, swelling her hand out like a great white fungus. Over her head, the sky was dark, and behind her back she could hear the worm-girls giggling. Inside her bloated stomach, she felt the worms moving like guts in water.

And then the worms came up out of her eyes, and the moon could see nothing at all.