The witch met the girl draped in phantoms of the forest, shadow cats of fine, clinging mists curling about their ankles, the child a bright yellow-dressed thing, eyes wide, pooling liquid depths full of inky fear. The witch, her perfect, pale face and ruby lacquered lips watched her for awhile, her midnight cloak pulled up over her hair and her spider-leg hands clutching the rowan branch walking stick to her. When she stopped the girl she was smiling, a kind smile, a lying smile, and invited the child to a warm embrace. The girl was too lost and too frightened of the nightmare forest to worry about this stranger, she dove into the safety offered without thought.

The witch had caught a prize most valuable to the forest creatures. Here was Youth and Freedom, offering itself in timid surrender. She took from the murky bracken a rose, a dark velvet beauty, twined with thorns and leeching cord. Behind the girl’s back, she took it and sliced her wrist, sharp jagged cuts, to let her blood ooze. The blood fell on the rose stem, and in the way of magic the two combined, a cord so crimson it shone now held up the jewel-rose pendant. Pushing the girl-child away slightly, the witch rested the rose about her throat, tying it off quickly- a gift, she said, for the lost soul.

It was a poisonous rose, choking the girl, her throat slit by the red cord, tight and tighter. A shriveled rose, like velvet, like cancerous skin, brittle, delicate, decaying…


By Danielle K. Day