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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It is a short tale about a business man, a village, a witch, and a boy.

Submitted: July 22, 2012

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Submitted: July 22, 2012



Once, while the lights glowed over the streets and in the buildings of the everyday city, when wives returned home with the groceries, and cats wandered down the alleys, a lone taxi slowed to a stop before a nondescript apartment building. Out stepped a sharp-dressed man with an expensive looking suitcase and a suspicious gleam in his eye.

But that's not the story we're interested in.

Once, while all that happened in the everyday, average city, there was a small town that had somehow escaped the advances of time and society. A small town deep in an unknown wilderness. Deep enough that the wide, verdant pastures in which they grazed their cows, goats, and sheep had never felt the pressure of an outsider's boot, shoe, or otherwise shaped foot apparel. The townspeople still used horse and cattle power to plow their fields. Ragged dresses and overalls of cotton were the norm. Teeth were a luxury.

Down at the end of the main street, the reverend finished putting the fear of god into his flock and released them into the streets. The term "street" is used rather liberally. More literally, he released his people out onto the grass-turned-dirt-due-to-everyday-traffic. His flock did as bidden, they feared their reverend's god and returned from whence they had come. Some returned to their wood-oven heated homes and other to the fields or pastures or other such activities.

Now, this small timeless--or possibly timefull, for it could easily be said to be possessed of an excess of time--town had all the idiosyncrasies of the old towns. This particular one had its own witch, though the town folk elected to ignore her. Half the town believed she was a crazy woman who read the bible a little too liberally. The other half believed her to indeed be a witch. And half of each of them didn't care either way as long as she kept to herself. Which she did, and happily.

On any given day, the witch could be found either mixing bubbling, smoky brews in her cottage or out back tending to her herb garden. On the day of interest, she can be found patching a hole in the corner of her cottage. It was an artfully crafted cottage built of different kinds of clays and mud. It was the type of cottage mislabeled as a "gingerbread house" in the famous fairy tale. The witch was mixing a handful of mortar to patch a small hole that a mouse had dug into the side of her house. She wasn't just "the witch" however. She had been a person before being secluded to her clay cottage. As that person she had been known by the name of Emma Dumas. Emma hated mice. They got everywhere, ate everything, and defecated the whole time. They were, to her, the very definition of a nuisance. Returning from contemplations of her immense hatred for these tiny creatures, Emma proceeded to empty her dish of wet clay into the hole and smooth it over with her hand. What was left was an uncannily flat spot that matched perfectly with the old wall except for the obvious dampness.

Satisfied, Emma turned to address the next task. Halfway through her rotation, Emma stopped. Something was wrong. She snapped the rest of the way around and surveyed the room. It was a short survey. Right in the middle of her house the witch discovered a small blonde boy staring wide-eyed in her direction. A piece of pie resting in his hand and a crumb on his lower lip. If the evidence was not so clearly displayed in his small hand, the look of absolute guilt on his face would have served as an excellent substitute. Emma stared at the boy. The boy stared at her. She stared back. The boy turned and sprinted towards the door. It was in these moments that Emma defined herself as a witch. Enraged at the unexpected entry, thievery, then the sheer nerve of the boy to run from his guilt, the witch released her magic. Her spine tingled and her hair lifted slightly from her neck. The air sizzled with energy then flashed white, and all the world knew that something unnatural had occurred.

In the aftermath of the sizzle-flash, Emma found before her a dazed young fox. Fitting, she thought and watched mildly amused as the fox stumbled out the door, still dazed from the influx of magic and unfamiliar with its new body.

Satisfied yet again, Emma turned again to her cottage. Amid the mess of old dishes, alchemy supplies, and dirty clothing, she could find nothing to quite motivate her working spirit and decided that the best thing she could do that day was take a powerful long nap. With a delicate yawn, she stretched out on her straw mattress and slept peacefully.

That night a young mother was seen running the dirt paths of the town screaming for her missing child. Half of the town blamed the witch. Half thought this to be absurd. Half of each half decided to ignore the situation because, to put it simply, they were not affected.

Eventually, the mother returned home from her hysterical rampage. Her husband, being an impressively drunk alcoholic, had stayed at the house claiming to await the boy's return. Not at all to her surprise, the boy's mother found her impressive husband sitting on a stump in the front yard with both whiskey and bread in hand, feeding a small fox. Exasperated and exhausted, the woman chose to ignore the entire scene and headed inside to cry herself to sleep. After a short time the husband decided he was drunk enough for a good rest. He tossed the fox the rest of the loaf and went inside.

Over the next few years the fox became a familiar face to the townspeople. He stopped at the same house every night for a bite of bread. On school days he followed the children to and from the schoolhouse. Everyone loved him. He was the closest thing to a domesticated dog that they had.

Nearly a decade passed. Children were born. The elderly died. Yet the fox remained loved by all, though time had clearly taken its toll on him. His fur was grey and he no longer ran with the children, rather waited along the path for them.

It was around this time that Emma found herself once again patching her cottage. This time an entire clan of mice had seemingly decided to raid the premises. She smeared her clay mixture over hole after hole. Each hole filled was a sweet victory over the forces of vermin everywhere and brought a small smile to her face. A sudden crash startled Emma and with a quizzical expression she turned around to find an old grey fox standing in the remains of her fallen pie. After a moment, the witch recognized the entirety of the scene before her. He was dying and he knew it. So he had returned to the first place he remembered. For some reason, this moved Emma deeply. Her anger had long subsided, indeed she had forgotten it entirely. But now she had been fully reminded of it in the most pitiful way imaginable.

The magic flowed through her. This time guided by compassion rather than rage. She pushed and prodded and shaped the world with a sizzling, flashing magic and revoked her angry curse from the fox's old body and returned him to his previous body. After the flash a haze was left over his form and the faint outline of a fox could still be seen. Confused, Emma did not know whether to try again or shoo him. The decision was made for her when the outline began changing. Emma stared. It grew. She still stared. The limbs lengthened. Still stared. The haze cleared and Emma let out a short squeak. Standing before her was the figure of an old teenage boy. He stood hunched over, his skin colored with youth, but wrinkled. Healthy brown hair sparsely covered his scalp. Perfect pink fingernails capped twisted and gnarled fingers. And the eyes. Emma stared into the eyes. They were the panicked, unfocused eyes of a dying animal.

His underdeveloped mind unable to cope with the transformation, it sent signals to his body to act. But his old, improperly developed body could not handle the stress and he keeled over dead.

Once the shock wore off, Emma was stricken by what she had done. In her rage she had stolen the life of a child and in her kindness she had ended that stolen life. Screaming, she ran from the cottage. Wracked by guilt, unconstrained magic sparked through her being, burning away her conscience, leaving her an empty husk.

The sharp-dressed, briefcase bearing man stepped from the taxi and watched it leave. He turned and stepped towards the apartment building only to bump into an old bonnet bearing woman.

"Sorry, ma'am," he said, "I didn't see you there."

The woman's face snapped towards him and fear shot through his heart. Where her eyes had been he saw only the purest emptiness.

He picked up the briefcase he had apparently dropped and turned back to the street, hailing a taxi.

© Copyright 2018 Scabbuns. All rights reserved.

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