Once upon a time, I fell in love with a witch.
My life was unremarkable. I owned nothing of any special value. I had a mediocre job as an apprentice for a local craftsman, and not even my preferred type of craft. I will not bother you with the details of the job, since they are inconsequential.
We all were taught young, that the town was, for all practical purposes, owned by a coven of witches. They were secretive, so we didn’t get to see them often, but they gladly took every single one of our offerings, and it was said that we should never give too little, for they may decide to visit the town, and then they would take everything they pleased.
One of those offerings was that of young men. No one knew what happened to those boys, if they were used for sacrifices, eaten, or kept as slaves. But we all knew that once they stepped into those caves, they were never seen again.
The boys sent to the witches were always of a very specific age, and when my time was due, I was deemed to be unfit. I didn’t grow enough yet, so I was too short, too weak and skinny. By the time I grew into a man, I was past the age, so I had missed my chance. To me it was both a blessing and a curse.
I thought of it a blessing because unlike some boys, I never believed the witches to be beautiful women with the gift of eternal youth, but of man-eating monsters that demanded so many resources from our town, and a curse because it seemed to have sealed my fate, in continuing my apprenticeship and eventually take over the business, for the rest of my days.
I was mindlessly doing the tasks required of me, when the news spread to my ears. This year’s offerings had not been accepted, and the one boy that had been had returned to the town with a face pale from fear, and a message: a witch was coming.
We all gathered around the aptly named Witches’ Landing square, which given its elevated platform, was presumably built for the purpose. In normal times, it was used by the mayor to give the appropriate speeches. That day, it had hastily been cleaned and adorned as if we were expecting a royal emissary, and not a witch. I wondered if she’d care for the pompous ornaments that had been placed around it, and fantasized about the witch destroying it all with a thought and an evil laugh.
The sudden wave of hushing and turning of heads made me realize something was coming. All the chatter was gone as we gazed toward a dark figure approaching from the evening sky. As she got closer, her appearance became more defined. And my gaze was trapped. She was wearing a pure black dress, tightly fit around her smooth curves. She was indescribably beautiful, with the smoothest of the skins, flawless features, and long dark hair that appeared to flow into the night. I couldn’t repeat what she said, or what the town answered, because I was entranced. I couldn’t see how she took what we would have needed, how she stared into a man’s eyes, and ate his soul.
While all of this happened, she took no notice of me. Then she pointed her open hand toward the broom, and it flew into the palm, ready to be used. And as she moved to sit the on floating broom, her dress revealed part of her thigh, and my gaze moved toward it. In that instant, for a moment, I wished to be the broom.
I don’t know if I wished it so much that she heard my thoughts, or if I actually said them out loud, but in that instant, she turned toward me, looked into my eyes, and in my head I heard “Well, well, well. This is interesting. Maybe my trusty broom is getting a little old. One does not often find willing volunteers. I’ll grant you your wish.”
As my essence was changed and my physical body turned into a broom, my human senses were replaced by an awareness of the things around me, their wishes and intentions. And above all others the “voice” of the witch was, by far, the greatest. To this day, I’m still not sure if I just imagined it, but in those moments when I was changing and the old broom was discarded, I swore I heard another presence, one which was, during those instants before it vanished, made entirely of relief.
She sent the order to rise and fly, and I just knew to obey, so I did. Speeding across the sky, I was full of purpose and for a short while, you could say I was happy.
When we were far enough not to be seen, the witch relaxed and released the glamours, the spells that were giving her the appearance of the perfect youthfulness. And with it, I felt the magical energies disperse, and her true form come into shape. And it doomed onto me, that the being that was sitting on my wooden body was old.
Very, very old.