The Witch Performs a Curse (Part IV of Miles and the Glowpus)
The witch’s house was very unwitchlike—at least, that was what Miles always thought whenever he had occasion to visit. Stories made him think that a witch’s home should be rather more in shambles, than quaint and put together. Too, it should be, he thought, covered in chicken’s feet as opposed to warm wood, and smelling of things most unpleasant, rather than the uplifting scent of cinnamon, dried herbs, and the occasional whiff of sweet smelling flowers. The witch’s unwitchly display was made complete by the fact that she happened to serve the most delicious tea in the whole of the Enchanted Forest.
Rarely, however, did she serve tea in the middle of the night, for also unlike the witches of tales who stirred foul brews into the wee dark hours, she spent her nights asleep. It was a rather groggy woman who answered the door to three fearful faces, who all proceeded to speak at once.
‘Slow down,’ she said gently, her soft melodic voice casting a purely natural spell of calm over the three friends, ‘One at a time.’
Miles, Jack and Jill looked at one another, and silently communicated that Miles should do the honors. He reached into his inner coat pocket. ‘Ma’am,’ he began, ‘it has to do with Herbert here.’ Miles placed the still sleeping glowpus on the witch’s scrubbed pine-wood table.
The witch glanced briefly at the little ball of glowing fur, and let Miles continue.
‘There’s a bad man in the Traveler’s Hut who wants to skin Herbert for his fur.’
‘We think he’s already skinned some others,’ added Jack.
‘They might even be Herbert’s brothers and sisters,’ chimed in Jill, her bottom lip trembling.
Miles looked at Jill for a moment, then nodded. ‘You see, he visited us tonight, after we had found Herbert,’ he said, and went into the whole story of Jack and Jill finding the glowpus up until they had witnessed the dark stranger’s cruel, glistening knife and the glowing skins that lay beside it.
‘You can help us, ma’am, can’t you?’ Jack asked.
Well, Jack had been right: this cruel stranger was just the kind of person the witch was happy to practice her magic on, and she happened to have a new curse she wanted to try. Following the three friends, she made her way to the Traveler’s hut, which still showed light and smoke.
She walked up to the door and, much to the disappointment of the three companions who rather expected her to blow up the hut upon arrival, knocked on the door.
No one responded, although they could hear the sounds of footsteps inside.
‘We know you’re in there!’ called Jill, who couldn’t restrain herself.
‘Yeah!’ added Jack, who couldn’t seem to hold himself back either. ‘Show yourself, villain!’
Miles rolled his eyes and gave his two friends a look; yelling at the dark stranger in a threatening manner seemed to rather defeat the purpose of getting him to answer the door.
All the same, suddenly the door swung open, and the dark stranger, with his lips curling over his teeth said, ‘I see you have come to pay me a visit. Perhaps you have brought me what is mine?’
That was enough to make Miles lose his cool, but the witch spoke before he could put up fighting fists.
‘I’m sure that you have with you all that is yours, and more besides, stranger.’ Her voice was cold, as though upon seeing this man she knew for certain what Miles had felt: he had a heart bent on cruelty.
‘I do not know what you mean, witch,’ the stranger said with a sudden snarl. ‘But please,’ he allowed his voice to take on a sickly-sweet tone, ‘come inside and we shall all chat about things like reasonable people.’
‘I think not,’ countered the witch, who pushed her way through the door and took a look around her. In the space she created, Miles, Jack and Jill could see distinctly two glowing pelts on a table in the middle of the room, and they looked exactly like that of their favorite glowpus. It was all the witch needed to see.
‘Come out,’ she demanded in a strong voice that caused the stranger to cower. He did as she bid him, holding himself stiffly as though compelled against his nature.
He stood in a bath of moonlight with a glare of penetrating hatred directed at the woman he now took for a nemesis, but it had no effect on the witch.
‘I see you have killed innocent creatures. Do you deny it?’ the weight of the authority in her voice rang out, and no one questioned that she had a right to give judgement.
‘I deny nothing, save that what I find I take for my own,’ snarled the stranger.
The three friends found themselves stepping back out of the line of sight of the witch and the stranger, for both seemed, at the moment, rather scary.
The witch suddenly looked as though she had grown in stature. She bent over the man who had just as suddenly begun to look smaller. ‘Then it is enough,’ she said.
‘Enough for what?’ asked the stranger, sneering with the little fight he had left in him.
‘For me to curse you,’ she said simply, but with power. ‘And so I do.’
Suddenly, the man was gone.
Miles, Jack and Jill looked at each other with open mouths, then at the spot where the man had stood. In that spot sat a toad, croaking in a toad-like way with billowing cheeks. The toad stood still for a moment, blinking up at them, and then turned and hopped off into the forest.
The witch, looking quite her normal size and self again, dusted off her hands, and said, ‘Anything else I can do?’
The three friends shook their heads in unison, and then Jack spoke bravely, ‘No, ma’am, that was all. Thank you.’
‘Good. I’m off to have a sleep then,’ she said with a quick smile.
All at once she was gone, and there was nothing in her place.
Staring at each other for a moment, as though to take in the end of what had seemed a rather intense affair, the three companions suddenly spread giant grins across their faces.
‘Well, that went well, I thought,’ said Jill.
‘Never better,’ said Jack.
‘All’s well that ends well,’ finished Miles, pulling Herbert out of his coat to light their way. He snuggled the little glowpus to his cheek, and felt that all was once again right with his small world.