The Boy, the Mother, and the Witch's Wind

Submitted into Contest #222 in response to: Write a story about a character who finds guidance in an unlikely place.... view prompt

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Mystery Speculative Suspense

The boy was only 3 years old at the time, but already showing signs of oddities. The first one occurred on a December morn, in the early hours of dawn before the birds woke. The mother rose from a nightmare to the faint sounds of her son, the boy, speaking to someone in his room. The voice was masculine, old, and gruff. The mother panicked, fearing that some intruder had forced his way inside the house and was attempting to kidnap her boy. She cautiously sprang to her feet, grabbing the hunter’s knife from under her pillow and quietly crept down the hall to her son’s bedroom. She turned the corner, ready to attack the intruder with everything she had in her. She readied her knife, lifting it up slowly in front of her, her hands shaky and damp. Sweat beads trickled down the sides of her face. She knew she would probably die protecting her son. 

One good slice through the intruder’s neck and he’ll be dead too, she thought. She peered around the corner, quiet and carefully, and inched slowly into her son’s room, expecting to see the dark figure hovering over the baby’s crib. Much to the woman’s surprise, the room was empty, with the exception of her son who was standing in his crib, cooing and cawing like a nestling ready for its next worm. 

The mother was mortified, perplexed. For a whole 3 days after the incident she thought she was going crazy. She thought she had hallucinated, imagined the whole thing, likely sleepwalked to her son’s room that night. She convinced herself of this—that there was no man, no middle-aged voice, no masked intruder attempting to steal her boy. The events simply did not take place. 

A week went by without incident. The mother—we’ll call her Lora—was still shaken from the memory and chilling feeling from her auditory hallucinations the week prior. As she sat in her yellow kitchen one afternoon, cloud-gazing out the backyard window, she still could not quite wrap her head around why the sound of the man’s voice sounded and felt so real to her ears. So much that she began to question the validity of the hallucinations all together. Is it possible that what I heard was real? Lora deeply contemplated. 

There was a voice of a man in the room. I know there was. The gold-rasp timber of his voice vibrated through my ears and entire body. I could feel every hair on my body stick up. I remember it like he’s here…right now, in this room, sitting next to me. 

Then…a haunting realization washed over Lora. One she was too mortified to repeat in her mind or show any reverence for. It crept in like a spider with three legs. Shooting a spark right up through the centre of her brain, like a pistol slicing through her third-eye. It was an innate realization. More of a deep inner knowing that this realization was completely and absolutely true. 

In that moment, Lora looks at her son, right in his baby eyes. And in his eyes, she sees the spirit of a middle-aged man. And the man began speaking through her son’s baby mouth.

“Hello, Lora,” said the baby in the voice of a middle-aged man.

Lora’s face drops to the floor. She begins to sweat and panic as she frantically and reflexively pushes herself away from the kitchen table, knocking over her chair in the process.

Lora looks at her son in horror. 

“Who are you?!” She asks the baby-boy, shrieking. “Where is my son?!”

“I am your son.” Says the baby’s man-voice. “We are both your son.” 

Lora begins to scream, violently. She runs out of the house, down the street in her bare feet to see the witch. 

She arrived at the witch’s hut out of breath, her face pale and her eyes wild with terror. The old witch, who had a reputation for her mystical abilities, lived on the outskirts of the village in a peculiar cottage-like tomb that seemed to be part of the forest itself.

The witch seemed to already be waiting for Lora when she arrived at the worn and battered grassy path that led up to the witch’s stoop. 

Lora, with her quivering voice, says to the witch: “Please, help me. Something’s happened to my son. He’s… he’s not himself. There’s a man inside him, speaking through him.”

The witch studied Lora’s distressed face and could sense the urgency in her voice. After a few moments, Lora recounted the terrifying events that had unfolded in her kitchen. The witch listened intently, her sharp, crone eyes filled with concern and a curiosity. When Lora finished her story, the witch spoke softly in rhyme, “I’ve heard of such things before, rare though they may be. It seems your son is a vessel for another soul, a spirit sharing his body.”

The witch moved across the room, slow and pensive. She sat down in a rickety, antique rocking chair facing the inglenook. She sat for a long while in silence, staring deep into the flames, lost in a thought, massaging the rosette carvings on the side of the chair-arms, rocking back-and-forth like a bobbing canoe. And then, as if the spirit got into her, she spoke in a gross huff.

“He was cursed the minute he was born,” cried the witch to the mother of the young boy. “He will grow up to be handsome, adored by all, but he will suffer greatly for it.” 

The mother of the boy could not restrain her tears. She collapsed at the witch’s feet as she heard this dreadful revelation.

Lora, still overwhelmed with fear, looked up at the witch with desperation in her eyes. “But what do I do? How can I help my son?”

The witch spoke in riddles: “Your son will come to walk on both feet in the coming days. And then he will crawl on all fours for another year. And then he will walk again like a man. And he will grow very tall very fast. You must be prepared for this.”

This was of no help to Lora who was simply looking for answers, reasons, explanations as to why her son was speaking with the voice of a man. Why did the voice say that the man and the baby were both her son? 

Questions. 

The witch touched Lora on the forehead, wiping mysterious dust across it with her pruned thumb. She then blew hot air onto Lora’s forehead and kissed the moistened spot. 

“You must go now,” the witch urged Lora. “The winds will pick up soon. You must be amongst their great gust. They will carry you home and you will see, things will resume in order.” 

The witch hurried Lora to the crackling front door. 

As the witch shut the door behind her, a cold rain began to come down. And with it, a quickened wind swept the streets, just as the witch promised.  

Lora walked languidly through the muddy streets, moving with the pallid pace of the wind. 

As she moved, she found, the wind spoke to her. 

No words. 

Not words of any language she knew, but Lora sensed the wind was that of a gentle guide. It was an odd sensation, for she had no idea what the wind was telling her.

Lora felt a new kind of energy and focus fill her as she continued to walk with the wind.

But before long, the journey and guidance ended abruptly.

And Lora found herself standing in front of her own house with no recollection of how she got there or what happened in between.

The only thing that remained was a deep sense of curiosity and uncertainty about what had just occurred. Yet, she knew what she needed to do.

She pushed open the front door of her home, walked straight ahead down the hall, through the kitchen where she found her son sitting in his highchair where she left him. He was goo-goo’ing and gah-gah’ing like a baby does. When she approached him she looked into his baby-blue eyes, clouded with ash. She swore she could still see the spirit of a middle-aged man roaming about in there. Without a lick of hesitation, she got right up to her baby, eye-to-eye, and blew a quick, hot flash of air across his face. And something melted off of him, like a clean, dry air passing over his features. In an instant, the infant’s face went straight and his eyes became black like coal. Lora, unwavering in her stance and stare, rested before him. The air between them was silent and chilling. Neither of them moved for five whole minutes. 

And then, something happened. Something weird. Something delightful. 

A wind blew threw the kitchen window. It was strange at first. It caught Lora off guard — not enough to lift her gaze from her son, but enough to get her heart racing again. The windows were all closed. So where did the wind come from? Lora thought. How did it get in? By now she knew better than to question the strange things that arise and fall away in the wake of night and day. 

It was as if the wind pushed past her and her son bringing with it a cleansing bath of bliss and bubbles, and taking with it the blackness that possessed the baby’s eyes and spirit. The next time the baby blinked, his eyes were blue again. Crystal-clear and innocent. The eyes that Lora remembered. When she stared deeply into them once more, a look of familiarity gazed back at her. A look of comfort and knowing. Mother. She felt her son say. 

To this day, it is not widely known what exactly possessed the woman’s son, and why. Perhaps a curse of an old wive’s tale, that came and went as quickly as the wind. 

November 04, 2023 00:17

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