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Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Witch of Dreiden, a magic realist short story

Author’s note: some of you may already know this story – I posted it quite some time ago on HubPages, so I’ll probably get sanctioned for double-publishing – but despite having posted a link in the list page, there wasn’t too much inter-traffic between this blog and my hubs account, so I’ll post the story here as well for all of you to read. Especially since it’s been so long since I’ve posted something non-poetic (though I did write a lot… Don’t ask, it’s complicated). This is a clear example of what I (and other people?) call ‘21st century romanticism’, which I really love and feel at home in. Anyways, I digress yet again; enjoy ;).



The Witch of Dreiden


She was never in a hurry, but always on the move. They’d see her darting across the streets of Dreiden. She does not linger and she never speaks. It made them wonder.
Dressed in an ankle-long moss green gown. Never was she seen in anything else, come rain or shine. As if she stepped out of a long forgotten fairytale and is not aware.
Her face hidden in the hood of a dim greyish cloak, held together with a pin in which those brave enough to go near her, mean to recognise the emblem of the Pagan Trinity.
From time to time, mostly at dusk, she was spotted bobbing through the village holding a bunch of white flowers, which later turned up somewhere in the graveyard, yet it was certain she had no ancestors among our dead.
No one had ever seen her eat, or drink, or sleep and not a soul knew where her house was. If she lived in one. A few believe she lives in a cave, like a dragon. All that could be said, was that she dwelled the woods. That was as far as they had managed to track her, before she disappeared.
Her name was unknown. Some said it was Mary, others called her Beth, at least one believed it to be Lilith. She would respond to either one with a complacent nod.
She was very beautiful, in a mystifying way, and of a disposition so dreamy, it was almost childlike. Chestnut brown hair she had, waist-long and thick as a carpet, and the deep, gleaming eyes of a wolf. She was rumoured able to see in the dark and reported running with packs. Several drifters went as far as to assert having seen her fly through the air.
Her smile was, to say the least, mysterious, her gaze hypnotic. It led young men of the village astray, luring them into the woods at night and into the swamps. Some say the witch had killed them. Their bodies were found occasionally, mutilated to such a degree that it was certain the witch had fed on them, our sons.
She is known to the oldest and wisest of the women, respectable and virtuous from the first to the last, as a bringer of catastrophes. Floods were her specialty.
Wanderers claim that at nights of the full moon, they can hear her voice resound through the forest, that she’d be singing. On such nights, she would bathe in the river, causing the water to rise. And surely, heavy rains would fall.
Whenever showers threatened to make the streams of the valley overflow, the old wives would bring baskets of bread, cake and honey to the edge of the forest, peace-making gifts for some offence on the part of the village.
No one was ever seen collecting them, but the next day, all would be emptied. Naturally, afterwards, the rain would stop.
It was a generally held notion among the elders that whomever spoke ill of her, would die in the course of a month – it was proven many times among their fellows – and so would those sacrilegers who dared hunt inside her woods. When scorned by an individual, a basket would no longer suffice to save the poor soul. She’d smite him with sickness and calamity.
Despite having never uttered a word, she was known to be fickle. She held the pass to the nearest city, the great Danbourg, and those who did not pay her toll, would return no more. Nor would some who did.
As to what she was exactly, opinions were divided. She was called a demon, a vampire, a succubus but the majority held her for a witch. It was often discussed at council meeting if they shouldn’t dispose of her – like had been done before in other towns –but in the end, they dared not. It was especially the question of her possible immortality that made the leaders afraid to push a decision that would incite her wrath against the village. All were anxious. Surely, she was one who lived untouched by time. If they failed to kill her, her vengeance would be eternal.
Never did her appearance alter. It was said, over pints in the cafe or muffled in church, that the fathers of grandfathers had claimed to have seen a strange young woman from the forest, even in their own time. The stories were passed on through the generations and were remembered clear as daylight. More culturally developed among us, swore to discern her silhouette in ancient paintings. She must not  have aged a day. It could not possibly be otherwise.
Whatever she was, the girl was devilish.
Something had to be done. It was decided. For their children. The annual bonfire of San Marc was coming up. This year, they would personally invite her – for the first time in village history – and keep all foreigners at bay. Poke the flames up higher.
It was decided. They would never talk of it again.

3 comments:

  1. A rather disturbing story, but one well-crafted. It seems that many old world villages have them - these stories of a close outsider, who seems to have powers beyond reckoning, but one who attracts the fascination of all. I would be curious to know how you were influenced to write this, or was it truly a work unto itself. Either way, this was a great read.

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  2. I have actually read this on your hub-page but I don't believe I ever commented on it there.

    I do like the ending, disturbing as Drachma noted, but also I like the way it was done, sort of leaving it an open interpretation as to how the final act was committed.

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