Below I've pasted the final product as a single story. I've improvised an ending. It wasn't easy to follow in the footsteps of giants, so if you aren't happy with my denouement, feel free to propose your own!
The Old Witch
There was once a girl who was very obstinate and willful, and who never obeyed when her elders spoke to her. One day she said to her parents, "I have heard so much of the Old Witch that I will go and see her. People say she has many marvelous things in her house. I am very curious to see them."
Her parents, however, forbade her going, saying, "The Witch is a wicked old woman who performs many godless deeds. You are not to go near her lair."
The girl, however, would not turn back at her parents' command. She set off to find the Witch's house.
Just outside the village, as old and superstitious a place as had ever been, the disobedient child found a penny on the path.
"A sure sign I'm in the right, going to the Witch's house!" She picked it up, put it into her pocket, and barely took three more steps before a wind gusted up and turned her about. When she could see again, the path, the superstitious old village, and any wood she had ever known was gone. The girl cocked her defiant head, and in doing so spotted a small, tidy cottage just there, through a thin screen of evergreens.
Nearing the cottage, the girl noticed that it was nothing more than an abandoned façade of what appeared to be a once-prosperous trading post. Upon laying one foot upon its foundation stone, a tingling sensation charged through her extremities so forcefully that she thought it best to leave it behind and continue on her journey to the witch’s house.
With the house still out of sight, and despite the weakness in her legs, she determined to stay on course in order to arrive before nightfall. As she remembered what the townspeople had told her, she assured herself, “The pain of her reign is upon me, but I will not have to walk much longer.” Each step more painful and heavier than the last, she finally fell to her knees as if unable to proceed any further when she glanced up, awestruck, at what stood before her in the distance.
A carriage, regal and black, filled the path. Magnificent as it was, it was the four creatures that drew it that stole her breath away. They were horses, yes, but of a shade of misty grey that seemed to shimmer and shift as they pawed the ground, and each had a giant pair of wings folded on their backs. As she stared, a handsome young man leapt down from the driver's bench and opened the carriage door, revealing a lush, red silk-lined interior.
"Care for a ride, young miss? It will only cost you a penny."
What a marvelous carriage, what glorious steeds, what wondrous luck indeed to happen upon a stray penny.
She pressed it into the young man's hand, then accepted his help into the pure rose-scented bliss that waited within.
Without a word he closed door and a moment later the carriage rattled down the path, lulling her to a midnight rest.
In the back of her mind, so cozy and content, she was sure the witch was hardly a threat. All this was yet another sign she was in the right, going to the witch's house.
She slept on a bed of roses, rocked as in her cradle, her lullaby the horses' hooves, and as she slept, a song rippled through her dreams. A song sweet as spun candy, twisted as a sugar-cane, subtle as spice and cinnamon baked in a pie.
Her grandmother’s voice, sharp as a green apple, spoke through her dreams. ‘And where might you be going, young lady, with one no better than he should be?’
She snapped awake to find herself upon a cold bank of birken leaves. A wolf’s eyes stared down at her out of the young man’s face.
She froze before that amber regard. "And why, pray tell, do you seek the witch's house?" He crouched before her, sharp eared shadow falling on the ring of mushrooms that circled them both. He smiled as she scrambled back from him only to stop, trapped, at the ring, crouching slightly forward. "It's an answer I'll be having, if it's any farther you'll be going."
She trembled at the flash of sharp white teeth in his mouth, but lifted her chin defiantly. "All my life I have heard of the marvels to be found in the Witch's house, and now I wish to see them for myself."
"'Tis marvels you seek, is it?" the wolf-man said, with a grin that held the hint of a snarl. "Well indeed, young miss, the Witch's house holds marvels aplenty for those bold or foolish enough to seek it out. You've crossed her foundation-stone; you've ridden in her carriage; now kiss her faithful servant, and you shall be granted your heart's desire."
The girl was young and defiant, but she was no fool, whatever her mother thought. "A kiss is quite dear a fee, especially as this would be my first. But if a kiss is required it is a kiss you shall have, only after I've seen the witch and come back again to this carriage,gone through this wood and back home again."
"If home is truly your wish, my dear," said the wolf-in-boy's-clothing, "we are agreed."
The wolf scraped the dirt with his claws, and the earth yawned and groaned. The mushrooms disappeared. A chasm opened up below them with a circle of stairs leading into darkness. The wolf bounded down a few steps and then looked back at the girl expectantly.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"Wherever you may lead."
The girl glanced behind her and saw a familiar road leading through the wood to her home. Wind rattled the cold and brittle branches. She understood the choice offered, that from the chasm at her feet there would be no turning back.
"Is she a fine witch," the girl asked, "bold and true?"
"The finest there ever was, and a good teacher too."
What happened then? We cannot know.
Some say she descended to explore that dark cave; others claim she was lost in a woodland maze. One thing is certain: Walk through the forest on a windy October afternoon, and you will hear the high cackle of the witch, the creak of her carriage, the low growl of her hungry servant.
And if you listen very carefully, you'll hear something else. The laughter of a girl, perhaps. Or a mournful plea for help.
This wraps up HoF's 2014 FRIGHT FEST. Many thanks to everyone who participated during the month of October. Look for us again this time next year. We'll be back for more spookin' fun.
Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich