Contest #16 shortlist ⭐️

This Forest Belongs to the Witches

Submitted into Contest #16 in response to: Write a story in which characters are warned not to go into the woods.... view prompt

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Mystery

"Stay away from the forest," my mother cautioned me as a child. "There are witches inside of it, and they eat children." I had laughed, and she chased me around the house, snarling playfully. That was before the lawsuit. 

Her boss caught her with her husband, and sued. My mother was left poor, unwanted, untouched by any company that could hire her. 

The first time she got drunk, fully, truly, started-drinking-at-10-a.m drunk, she screamed at me, yelling how worthless and stupid I was. In her hangover, she said she was sorry and that it would never happen again. I stopped talking. 

The second time, she took one of my father's old belts and whipped me. I ran and hid under my bed.

I stopped believing in fairy tales that day.

More and more, she came home with the stench of cheap booze on her short, tight dresses, and more and more, she hurt me.

On the eleventh time, I ran.

I remembered her telling me the woods were dangerous, but I couldn't trust her any longer. Not when she made me cry. Dusk fell. Dawn rose. I plodded through the woods, my bare feet cut and purple with the cold. I didn't know where I was, I didn't know when I would stop.

After a little while, I found a shack. I spent the night there. In the morning, I was woken up by crackly, old humming. For a minute, I thought my mother found me. But when I stepped out, it was an old woman.

"Come." She said. I followed. We walked for what seemed like hours, only the sounds of the forest keeping us company. We reached a hut right as the sun set. 

It was made from all sorts of sweets. Huge, striped candy canes were the walls, and it was held together with sticky molasses. The windows were sugar glass, and the roof was made of jagged rock candy. 

That's when I knew- the woman was a witch. I turned to run, but she smiled, and said, "Why don't you have a slice of cake?" 

My stomach growled. 

It wouldn't hurt to have a place to sleep and a bite to eat. The next day, I would run.

She brought me into her home, and gave me roasted chicken with freshly baked cookies and a glass of milk. She led me to a room, and tucked me into a soft bed with fresh sheets. 

When I woke up, I reached for the window and started to run, only for the witch to stand outside. She smiled again.

"You can run, but take these shoes. Your feet are hurting." I nodded silently, and accepted the gift. I put them on, and began to walk away. 

She let me go.

I didn't understand. If I was her next meal, how come she let me leave? I walked farther, and in my silence, I began to listen. The trees whispered, "The witch will help."

The birds chirped, "She will not harm you."

The deer brayed, "She is kind." 

Thinking the witch had put a spell on me, I covered my ears and walked on. The forest hadn't ended yet, and I sat down on the mossy bark of a fallen tree and wiped away my tears. Where would I go, once I left the forest? I could give them my mother's name, and they would send me back to her, only to get hurt again. If I didn't, I went into foster care. 

Both were equally bad. I made up my mind. 

I would stay, right here. I would build shelter, and I would survive. 

I gathered branches, and wove them together with vines. I leaned them against trees, and padded the ground with moss. I worked until twilight, and then curled up inside the fort and slept.

The next morning, I woke up with a thick quilt around my shoulders and a cup of spiced cider. 

The witch may know where I was, but I would not be moved. 

Day after day, I woke up with plates of food next to me. 

Day after day, I trusted the witch a bit more.

After a week, I ran back to her house. 

She sat outside the door and smiled. 

"You are ready." 

She led me inside, and sat me next to various objects. She pointed to them in turn. "Flute, flower, loom, book. Close your eyes. Choose one." I shut them tightly, and listened in the same way that I listened to the animals in the woods. 

I picked up the flute. 

"Wise choice." The Witch led me outside. "Listen, repeat." I nodded. She disappeared inside. 

The birds, the wind, the sun, the animals, the plants all had something to say. 

The birds said, "Everything has power."

The wind whispered, "You have power."

The mice squeaked, "Embrace the feeling."

The ferns rustled, "Turn it into something beautiful." 

I focused on the wind, the way it whipped around me. I placed the flute on my lips and blew. A low, haunting note emerged, and the wind spun faster, egging me on, I went a note lower, and it blew harder. Playing a high note, the wind nearly disappeared.

A few days went by of me conjuring tornadoes and the Witch feeding me and entertained me.

Day turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, months turned into years, and soon, I didn't even need the flute to conjure up the wind. 

At dinner one day, the Witch merely commented, "You are ready." 

She walked me to the edge of the forest, and I saw the town I had grown up in. "Stop by any time for a cookie or advice!" she said, and vanished. 

I walked into the town, and into the police station. I waved at the secretary, and motioned to my throat, making a cutting motion to show I couldn't talk. 

She passed me a piece of paper, and I scribbled my name, and that I used to live there. 

"Are you Rhiannon's kid?" she asked. "That's her last name." I nodded enthusiastically. 

"You ran away, right?" I shook my head. "Kidnapped?" I shook my head again.

'I want to see her' I wrote. 

"Well she lives in the same place as she did when you left... what, eleven years?" I nodded.

"Bye."

I walked out and onto the sidewalks, not feeling the chill everyone else did. Last winter, I had enchanted the air around me to always feel a nice eighty degrees. After a bit, the layout of the town came back and I knocked on the door of my old house, anticipation freezing my limbs.

Nobody answered.

I waited for three hours, playing with the wind a bit to pass the time, and then tried to open the door. It was unlocked, and it creaked open. I tried to scream when I saw what had happened, but I couldn't. 

My mother- or a bit of her- was laying in a puddle of blood. 

The rest was eaten.

And that's when it all flooded back to me- the witch never ate, and the one time I caught her coming home late, she had blood smeared around her mouth. 

My mother had told me that the witches ate children.

She was wrong.

They ate the parents. 


November 22, 2019 01:09

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