The Witch

Darla bit her lip and stared at the grey sky that glowed a flickering orange in the distance, above the sharp, silhouetted spires of the mansion. She got back on her bike and bumped down the cobblestone streets toward the village, picking up speed, the lightweight black fabric of her dress flowing and jerking in the wind. Cats darted out of her way and wizened farmers slammed worn, wooden doors with her passing.

The closer she came to the blaze, the colder she felt and began to physically tremble. She pulled her bike up to a small store with a freezer box for ice cream and two old, dirty tables out front. A young boy was at one table, drinking a soda, finishing an ice-cream. Hugging herself and trembling she went in to the dark interior of the store where an old woman with shiny beady eyes stared at her intently. Darla stared back, seeing the woman had no nose and her head looked like a shriveled apple with nail-heads for eyes.

In the back of the store was a furnace, a black cat silhouetted in front of the open door of flame. Darla went to the furnace and pushed the cat out of the way, which scratched at her hand and made it bleed. She pulled the furnace door open wider and stepped into the burning flame on the embers inside. Instead of burning, the flames around her felt like a cool wind. Her black clothes were incinerated instantly. She stood in the furnace as though she were talking a shower, the flames licking her body and leaving her skin smoother and whiter, cleaner. She pressed her fingers against her face and rubbed her eyes.

The boy was now looking up through the furnace opening, staring at her unburning naked body. She knelt down and reached for his face but he recoiled, stabbing at her with a fire poker. She ripped the poker from his hand and stepped out of the furnace. The boy retreated and stared. She pulled a red and white checkerboard tablecloth from a table, sending condiments and silverware clattering to the floor. With a large knife from a magnetic strip on the wall she cut the cloth, fashioning a skirt and bikini top out of the material.

The old apple-head woman peered around the corner, cackling.

Back on her bike she raced through the village toward the mansion. The closer she got, the thicker the smoke became, until it felt like she was peddling through grey syrup. She threw down her bike and pushed through the thick, black soup, her eyes glowing.

A man towered in the doorway of the mansion, his body black on an orange and red backdrop of flame. Lava flowed from within the towering edifice, around his tall boots, down into the cracks between the cobblestones where Darla was standing. He turned and went back into the burning building and she followed, poker in hand like a miniature halberd.

She followed down a long hall, pillars of flame on either side, black crablike creatures scattering across the stone floor and up the glowing walls. Soon she was right behind the towering man whose iron shoulders rose before her like a mountain. She swung the poker with all her might and stabbed it into his side, between ribs and twisted it, trying to hit vital organs inside. He turned and grabbed her white face, staring into her fiercely burning pupils with the cavernous tunnels in his face where his own eyes had long since burned away.

Then she was covered by the crab-like creatures which pinched and tore at her skin. His hand, still clamping her face, released her and threw her back against the wall, splashing in a pool of lava.

He turned, pulling the poker out of his side. With it came ropey intestines and what looked like a heart skewered on the end. He threw it to the side. He ripped the intestines forcefully to detach them and stuffed what was left of the stringy tubes back into his side.

Darla got up slowly in the pool of lava, which was now actually beginning to feel warm. The crab creatures crunched under her weight or scuttled off to stare at her from the burning walls. A king in purple, velvet robes watched her get to her feet. His face was that of a Himalayan cat and his crown was made out of small bones. The king smiled. “This place will all be gone by mid-day tomorrow. Take what you can, your memories, your pets. Don’t you feel it? It’s getting warmer.” It was getting warmer and Darla felt weak. Suddenly the poker was stabbed through her chest from behind- a skinny troll with bleeding eyes had snuck up behind her. She turned swiftly, pulled out the poker and stabbed the troll a hundred times with it until he was diced and bloody, chunks of his meat floating and burning in the streams of lava that flowed toward the door. The king laughed and she chased after him up the grand staircase with marble stairs slimy with oil that was staring to burn.

Passing her former bedroom she stopped to collect treasures, small boxes of ceramic figures. She put these in a burlap sack that was singed but not burned through. One of her kittens jumped on the bag and clung to the outside as she went down the hall. Part of the floor had broken through and she could see the giant down below, guts still dripping from his side. She put her hand to her breast but her wound had already healed, leaving a bumpy scar. The scar should be gone by now too but it wasn’t. And it was definitely getting hotter. The lava flowing around her feet now felt like warm bath water. She pulled herself up a broken ladder into the crawlspace where she found Evan.

The place was black except for his seat by the glowing window. The other three kittens were at his feet, their red eyes staring as Darla approached. “I killed as many trolls as I could but that giant stopped me,” he said. He turned to her. “And the ones I did kill are coming back to life. The only thing that’s going anywhere is this old house and everything that happened here.”

“It’s getting hotter, Evan. I’m really feeling hot right now.”

“I know.” They stared into each other’s eyes. “Come back with me, Evan.”

“I’ve decided I’ll stay and go to heaven when I die. It’s better there.”

“You know neither of us are going to heaven,” she told him.

“Hell doesn’t seem that bad. With all the red-skinned girls with bare breasts whipping you.” Darla sat beside him and they both looked down through the window as the crab creatures now scrambled out of the burning building. The giant and the king were having an argument on the steps in front of the house. Blood and pus occasionally dripped and sprayed from the giant’s side. The kittens gathered to watch now as well, peering through holes in the wall. Eventually the giant patted the king on the back and the two of them walked down the steps into the shadows. At the end of the driveway Darla noticed the boy from the store, staring at the burning building, holding her bike beside him.

Loud, explosive crashes came from inside the building and there was a rushing sound that got louder and louder, becoming almost deafening. Darla took Evan’s hand and they watched the lava flowing down the steps below, the scattering crab creatures, and the gathering crowd of onlookers who started at every loud crash. She smiled at Evan and stroked one of the kittens that reciprocated by licking her hand with a rough tongue. Evan watched the scene below. “I’m sweating,” she said and wiped her forehead. He looked back at her and then faded away like smoke. Even the kittens faded away, except for the one she had saved still clinging to her bag. She stared in horror, scratching and banging on the walls where he had been sitting but he was gone completely. She grabbed the burlap sack with the kitten on it and scrambled toward the ladder but most of it had burned away. She lowered herself down into the smoke, coughing, and landed with a bang that twisted her ankle and made the kitten squeal. She limped down the hall, seeing that her skin was reddening and cooking in the heat. The marble stairs had a few lava-free patches which she hopped between and her tablecloth clothes were on fire as she ran through the gaping doorway. The ceiling crashed down just as she stumbled down the front steps outside. The boy threw a blanket on her, putting out the flames and the crowd stared as he took the kitten on his shoulder and guided her back to her bike. She grabbed him and kissed him on the mouth. Wrapped in the blanket she sat on the bike and the boy guided her up the bumpy cobblestone streets as the crowd parted and watched them go.

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