In her human form, Theresa, Queen of the Southern Forest, stood out in a crowd. Everyone knew her as the sexy babe who waited tables at Bucky’s Barbecue (“the Best Sauce this side o’ the Mississippi!”). She had wavy black curls, a perfect bust, a scattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks, and penetrating green eyes that some men said resembled those of a cat. She never met a stranger, never got an order wrong, and sometimes gave out her phone number to men passing through town. Her life was flawless, charmed, and totally false.
In reality, she was a mischievous wood sprite who had learned ages ago how to satisfy her cravings for human male flesh. She mated only rarely – perhaps once every six months – depending on the alignment of the stars and her own hunger. None of the men who enjoyed her pleasures ever returned to her boudoir. No, they were transformed into disgusting wood creatures who slithered, scampered or scurried into the forest from which Theresa herself came, existing in a twilight world governed by the amulet she wore. Theresa absorbed the energy of these sad souls, fueling her youthful vibrancy, which she then used to seduce and destroy other men. In other words, she had a good thing going.
Theresa paid attention to the signs in nature alerting her to ancient rites. These could not go unheeded. Indeed, though she had adopted a permanent human form, she still had to honor the Old Gods of Fire, Swamp and Rain. They gave her power and helped connect her to the spirits of the Earth. When she walked the ground in her bare feet, she could feel the Old Gods charging her like a battery. (Sometimes these feelings grew so strong that she actively went out and hunted for male flesh to fuck and feed upon.) On a certain night some years ago, Theresa alerted to one of the most Important Events of the Millennium: April Fool’s.
It was known by other names, of course, and celebrated by a variety of trickster spirits who cast occasional spells on foolish men, making them think they’d “misplaced” their television remotes or car keys. April Fool’s was an opportunity for the Old Gods to put men in their place, to ridicule, deceive and mislead them. Better yet, men blamed each other for the tricks! No one had a clue that spirits as old as terra firma were behind the shenanigans. Theresa, who was as sensitive as she was powerful, recognized the significance of this April Fool’s, and set out to devise “a good one.”
She had recognized hundreds of years ago that the men of her community were morons. Not only that, they were weak and spineless. She had seduced the ones who seemed capable of satisfying her and subsequently tortured them with painful transformations into night creatures (worms, snails, the occasional slug or mosquito). Now there were hardly any left worth the trouble, hence, her concentration on out-of-towners whose jobs and families were “back home.”
Yet there were plenty of local men she knew via gossip. Bucky’s was a hive of hearsay, the locus for flapping gums and those who “kept their ear to the ground.” She overheard plenty of conversations on a daily basis: men who “couldn’t keep it zipped up,” who screwed and lied and got away with it, leaving broken hearts in their wake. Theresa grew to hate these men with a blind passion.
After consulting the wise mystics in wolf form who showed up at her door for raw meat and the mandatory sniff of her sex, Theresa cooked up a witch’s brew of Isopropyl alcohol, fish viscera, dog guts, and yeast, which she kept bubbling over an open flame for three days and nights. She spoke ancient incantations in the presence of this brew, which emitted a scent so vile the birds dropped from the surrounding trees. (Some plunged directly into the vat, adding to its potency.) Then, on the third night, she uttered a malignant curse, dipped her amulet in cat’s blood and pitched the stone into the brew. After a snap of green light, a weird yellow mist flowed into the forest, leaving the pot completely empty. Satisfied her April Fool’s gag was afoot, Theresa withdrew to her rooms.
April 1starrived. Theresa listened with dewy-eyed interest to the news that flowed into Bucky’s. All over town, men were transforming into giant, fat bullfrogs with bulging eyes and necks, their fingers and toes elongating fantastically, their skeletons snapping and deforming as their metamorphosing bodies exploded their clothing. Women watched in shrieking horror as these monstrous shapes replaced their balding, overweight, beer-guzzling husbands. The restaurant filled with uproar. Some of these frogs suffered fatal gunshot blasts. Theresa served up fried chicken and burgers, chuckling as the reports streamed in. Someone really ought to call Dateline, she thought.
As chaos shook the town to its foundations, Theresa reflected on the curse she’d placed on her amulet. It had focused on the fat, ugly men of her community, the weak ones who had no soul or spirit, who got away with malfeasance on a regular basis. The monsters inside them were simply emerging into the light. What no one knew was that, after 24 hours, the spell would dissipate, restoring the men to normal. Theresa couldn’t wait to hear about that part of the joke! Clearly, some women were defending themselves as their men expanded into 6-foot amphibians, but a lot of guys needed weeding out, anyway. Theresa clucked her tongue as she hustled around the dining room, noticing fewer pinches on her ass today.
Still, for every well-cast curse, there is an equal-but-opposite effect. Theresa knew this dictum well but hadn’t let it interfere with her fun. Now, as she poured coffee and served ice, she felt a twinge of fear as she wondered about the Unforeseen Consequences of her actions. How would the Old Gods attempt to restore balance to the natural world after her grotesque prank?
Around 2:00 (toward the end of her shift), new reports began reaching her ears. It seemed that many of these women, terrorized by the giant hopping bullfrogs, were also undergoing transformations. One wild-eyed witness ran in claiming to have seen a woman (the local librarian) lengthen into an enormous snake, which then proceeded to devour a nearby frog. She gulped it down whole, its great webbed feet kicking! Theresa froze, her breath locked in her chest. Of course! Her curse had unleashed a plague of frogs; to counter this, it had also opened up a rash of snakes.
The restaurant quickly emptied out as panic took hold. Emergency vehicles raced past, sirens screaming. Theresa stood stone-still, clutching a carafe to her bosom. Her hand trembled so badly that she dropped it. The glass shattered; coffee splashed everywhere. Theresa jumped back, knocking over a chair. How could she reverse the curse? Undo her prank?
Mouth open in silent scream, she ran out the back door. As she paused in the alley to get her bearings, she heard a menacing hiss issue from the sky. Throwing her arms over her head, Theresa ran home.
She sealed herself inside, boarding up the windows and dousing them with elixir. Upstairs, she stripped naked, huddled over a pile of blackened bones, and whispered a litany of white-magic spells. Images of her victims flooded her brain. Would they come for her? Were they lurking outside her door even now?
She was still crouched over the bones when the ceiling tiles noisily crashed in, admitting the head of an enormous, red-eyed serpent. Theresa never had time to scream. She looked up to see the jaws unhinge, the forked tongue yanking her into its stinking pink gullet. The jaws slammed shut, cutting her off from light and air. She went coursing down the length of the beast as it withdrew from the room.
The next day, customers at Bucky’s wondered openly where Theresa had got off to. She was by far the prettiest and most popular waitress; men liked pinching her firm ass, and women liked sharing their petty secrets with her. She always flashed a racy grin, calling everyone “sugar.”
A few days later, investigators determined that Ms. Theresa Kyle had either committed suicide or quietly left town. Neighbors spoke of an apparent “disturbance” at her home, along with signs that the single young woman had suffered some “mental distress.” Indeed, rumors circulated that she was “crazy” and a “sex-addict.” Bucky’s replaced her with a young girl fresh out of high school. One day, a man pinched her on the rear. The girl, a strict Baptist, dumped hot gravy in his lap and sued Bucky’s. Six months later, the restaurant closed.