Once upon a time there was a little girl who liked to visit the enchanted forest. Mostly she went because she wanted to visit the Wise Old Witch who lived in a cottage near the edge of the forest. It wasn't that the witch had toys or trinkets or anything of that sort. What she did have were strange smells and curious potions in green stoppered bottles. It also helped that the old woman had cream buns to which the little girl was particularly partial.

On a day that was not one of her usual visiting days, the little girl made her way to the witch's cottage - in hopes of a little lesson and something to fill her stomach - when out of the brush came a monster so hideous the little girl shrieked. It looked almost like a bear, with claws the size of the girl's arms. The snarling, toothy, rage-filled roar that thundered into her face was enough to send her body shaking in stunned paralysis - which everyone knows marks the final step before prey becomes a meal.

But just as the little girl was sure she was to be eaten, suddenly the Wise Old Witch was standing in front of her.

'Hello, little friend,' said the Wise Old Witch.

It took the little girl a few moments to remind all of her shaking limbs that they were most likely to exist in corporeal form a bit longer.

When she had collected herself, the girl said, 'Wise Old Witch, was that you?'

'Was what me?' came the reply.

'That... that... monster.'

'Oh, that.' The Wise Old Witch paused. And then she said, 'Yes, that was me.'

'But how can that be? It was so horrible. And you... you are not. You are... you,' the little girl said. She couldn't understand how the sweet, kind, interesting old witch could also be something so awful.

'Ah, but I am still me.'

'How can you be you, when you are also... that?' the little girl cried.

The Wise Old Witch's brows contorted in thought. Then, all at once, her eyes seemed to twinkle. Her lips pressed themselves down as though fighting a cheeky grin. 'Little friend, have you ever been angry? Have you ever taken your rage and turned it into something ugly? Just for a moment? Or maybe a little longer? Have you ever felt the need to make people pay for hurting you? Or let the idea of vengeance sink deep into your bones? Or, smaller still, have you ever simply been so tired that the merest request brought out a spiteful spit of poison words?'

The girl thought about it. 'I suppose so. On occasion. Maybe sometimes.'

The Wise Old Witch laughed then. 'Ah, yes. Sometimes.' And then suddenly the witch's face grew sweet and kind and interesting. She smiled at the little girl, bent down, and then whispered the truth carefully. 'You see, little friend, we are all monsters sometimes.'

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