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Showcase: Tall Tales + Octavio And The Witch + Two Nights Ago I Had A Visit

Edited by Lucy Kaufman

Welcome to my fourth May showcase, where we’ll be continuing our exploration of Transcendence, this week through the possibility of the supernatural. For millennia, humans have been describing out-of-the-ordinary experiences that seem to defy rational explanation. Through myth, legend, folklore and supernatural beliefs, we have been making sense of the world by inventing ones that appear to co-exist with our own.

The supernatural, whether we believe in it or not, provides us with the opportunity to work through some powerful negative emotions such as grief, despair and fear and helps supply answers to the truly inexplicable. It can also make our hearts sing with joy and hope that some truly magical, benign beings may be possible. Fairies, mermaids, unicorns and helpful elves are just as much part of the supernatural community as demons, witches, black magic and poltergeists.

As children, when our imagination is at its strongest, we find it easy to invent and believe. As adults, we can still find pleasure in the spine-tingling chill of a good ghost story, or the fey whimsy of a fairy tale.

In today’s first piece, Mary L. Walsh certainly delivers on this front, with her enchanting poem Tall Tales.

Tall Tales

She was born from a womb knitted by mermaids.
This led to her love of the ocean.
Each night she stood
Hypnotised on the beach
Stunned by the water’s motion.
She lived on seaweed in a miso foam
And called the sand dunes
Her salt filled home
Dancing all night
By the azure moon
And winning gold medals
At Olympian pools.

© Mary L. Walsh, 2024

Connect: Instagram @marelwa60

I love Mary’s first line: She was born from a womb knitted by mermaids. My imagination is immediately fired up and I’m longing to be part of this magical, beautiful world where anything is possible. Having just moved to live by the sea, I understand only too well its lure. Here, Mary’s multi-sensory language suspends us in a bewitching place between reality and fantasy, and the gentle rhythm and rhymes create a hypnotic dance.


In our next piece, which I have abridged from the much longer original, Barry Max Wills uses his real-life experiences of living in Colombia to bring us this intriguing anecdote about a mango tree that may or may not have had supernatural intervention:

Octavio And The Witch

 Abridged extract from Chapter 25 of “Better than Cocaine: Learning to Grow Coffee, and Live, in Colombia”

Back in 2003, Adriano announced, “We have a problem. The mango tree is haunted.”


“Yes, Octavio says that there are leaves rustling and branches shaking. He is convinced the tree is inhabited by a witch.”

The mango tree in question was the one in the courtyard at Rancho Grande. It was decades old and as tall as the house but had never borne fruit. Maybe it had just been planted in the wrong place. After all, there was a reason that it was the only mango tree in the neighbourhood; the temperature that suits coffee is just a bit too cool for mangoes. The lack of fruit didn’t worry us at all, though, as we liked the tree as it was: a magnificent focal point in the courtyard. In fact, for our first Christmas, we decorated it with tinsel, stars and coloured balls and lights until it became a glamorously impressive Christmas tree.

But it was the day of Twelfth Night, during the removal of the festive bunting, that we noticed something unexpected. Our ‘barren’ tree was flowering, and each of those flowers would, in the fullness of time, turn into mangoes. Miraculously, after so many barren years, our mango tree was producing fruit. If that wasn’t some sort of sign, I don’t know what it was. Magic maybe?

Suddenly, here was Octavio swearing blindly that the tree was bewitched, and the witch was in residence. Was the witch responsible for our tree’s unexpected fecundity? More to the point, was there really a witch, as Octavio claimed, or was it just a delusion?

As I soon discovered, witches do exist in Colombia and not just in folklore and legend. I found that every town has at least one and they are usually pretty busy providing spells, potions and remedies for a myriad of conditions, both natural and supernatural. Local people often consult a witch if they want someone to fall in love with them and, also, if they want to get even with someone who has fallen out of love with them. In the case of a separating couple, it is not unusual for each party to have their own witch, casting spells against their former partner and protecting them from being cursed in return.

I was sure there was some natural explanation for the witch that Octavio believed resided in our mango tree. For us, the tree was merely the centrepiece for the courtyard. It was showing signs of age, such as lichen encrusting many of its branches, and it had Spanish Moss, sometimes called Old Man’s Beard, festooning it in places. It was always pretty lively as it was the home for numerous birds that nested and reproduced amidst its foliage. In fact, we found that there was a cuckoo laying eggs in the nests of some of our favourites, the blue azulejos and the black and red torchés, whose colourful little offspring were being tipped out of their nests by the bigger cuckoo chicks in infanticidal acts of self-preservation. On discovering this, Adriano was appalled and started looking at the mango tree as a place more dangerous than the backstreets of the worst parts of Bogotá on a dark night.

For some time, however, particularly over the Christmas season, Octavio had noticed the intermittent rustling and disturbance in the leaves of the tree that did not match the usual profile.

“Birds,” I said.

“No, a witch,” exclaimed Octavio.

“A possum,” I suggested.

“A witch!” insisted Octavio. What’s more, he complained that the witch was laughing at him. On hearing this, the conviction that the bedevilment was more likely to be in Octavio’s head than in the mango tree was becoming stronger.

Andrew, our friend from London and first foreign visitor, was with us at the time. He was particularly intrigued by the suggestion that witches might actually exist, let alone inhabit our mango tree. Many discussions about superstition and the supernatural took place on an evening as we swung in our hammocks and sipped our gin and tonics.

Adriano was less sceptical, having encountered inexplicable phenomena in his youth. He had once dreamt that a friend from school was standing at the foot of his bed, looking directly at him and smiling. The next day, the friend announced that he could travel outside his body and that his spirit had visited Adriano the night before, describing the circumstances exactly as Adriano had dreamt them. An unnoticed physical visit would have been impossible, what with the gates, fences, locked doors and windows, not to mention Bless, the German shepherd guard dog; so, maybe he really could leave his body. Adriano kept an open mind.

However, Octavio was certain that magic happens and the witch in the mango tree, with all the rustling and bustling, was taking the piss. He was so enraged that, at one point, he rushed outside while brandishing our shotgun, ready to blast the bruja back to where she’d come from.

Calm prevailed and the gun was returned to its cupboard but the issue hung in the air. Andrew, very much a rationalist, pondered the matter over a few more G&Ts and, eventually, went and stood under the mango tree and peered into its canopy, which was still, now, except for the gentle movement of the Spanish Moss that hung from its branches and which reacts to the slightest breeze.

“So, witch,” he shouted, “are you there? Show yourself!”

At that, there was a splash in the pool just around the corner. It was a quiet night and the sound reverberated around the courtyard. Andrew rushed to see what had made the noise and found a large guava bobbing in the pool, with ripples emanating out from it and towards the edges of the pool. Not so strange except for the fact that there are no guava trees around the pool, nor anywhere near it. Octavio announced that the witch had quit the tree and the guava signified her departure. The disturbance in the leaves stopped and all was calm thereafter. Andrew was very perplexed, his confidence not quite as unshakeable. Was the peripatetic guava a sign of supernatural manifestation or just an act of nature? He left for London soon after, still pondering the imponderable. Eventually, we decided that the whole episode had a rather mundane explanation. Fruit bats were visiting the mango tree and causing the disturbance that had so disturbed Octavio. It was most likely one of those fruit bats that dropped the guava while flying over the pool, losing a tasty snack and sowing fear and confusion amongst the household in the process.

Of course, Octavio would have none of it. “Look at how the mango tree started to produce fruit for the first time. Bats can’t work miracles and, anyway, witches often turn themselves into bats; everyone knows that.”

© Barry Max Wills, 2023

Connect: Instagram @willsbarrymax  W


Mango Breakfast For The Two Of Us © Dr Afsana Elanko, 2024

I admire how Barry pays homage to the local culture, where witches are not imagined but a real part of the community, and therefore there is always real possibility of the mango tree being cursed or blessed. I like, too, how he documents the respect given to the natural world in Colombia, with the tree being a focal point for their lives, celebrations and how it even preoccupies their thoughts and wonderings. Of course, rational explanations for the weird occurrences never fall too far from the tree.


In this final poem, rational explanations are also the order of the day for ‘mega sensible’ Sally Siner, when she shares with us a real, strange personal experience her family members have no time for:

Two Nights Ago I Had A Visit

Intro – thirty plus years of:
Me, a level-headed child,
Mega Sensible According
To the piano teacher,
Not exactly
Music to my fourteen year old ears.

Yesterday am – morning after the visit:
Dad, phone call Hi,
Guess what I saw
In my bedroom
Last night?
He couldn’t put the phone down fast enough.

Yesterday – the entire day:
Me – wired not tired
Despite the lack of sleep,
Elated, elevated to a
Celestial Plane,
Surprisingly unafraid for a worst-case-scenario type.

The Visit, then – two nights ago:
Me – awake in bed
Definitely not
Dreaming, Hovering –
A tiny spacecraft in front of my eyes.

The Visit – continued:
The Vibe – curious, cheeky
Smile Activating
Touching distance, almost
Translucent, cliché lampshade UFO
Posing, then whizzing off to the corner, disappearing with flourish.

Last night – my brother’s house:
A Hallucination
He said.
Of course.
A relief, I suppose
Bringing me back down to earth.

© Sally Siner, 2024

I love Sally’s openness to her experience in this poem, and the ecstatic energy the encounter with a tiny flying saucer in her bedroom brings her. Having binged every UFO-based documentary on Netflix, I too would be “elated, elevated to a Celestial Plane” if I thought I’d been visited by one. The poem’s underlying rationality lands us, and Sally, with an appropriate bump in the final line.


Whatever our need for believing in the supernatural, and whether there really is more going on in our world than we can explain away with rational reasons, I think we can agree that the supernatural and fantastical form the basis of fascinating stories, and the genres are not leaving us anytime soon.

Lucy Kaufman is a playwright, author and screenwriter, as well as lecturer in Playwriting and Screenwriting for Pen to Print. You can connect with Lucy on X: @lucykaufman_ or on Instagram: @kaufmanlucy 


If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to:

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