“There was an old witch, believe it if you can. She tapped on the windows, and she ran, ran, ran.”
That melody, that ghastly melody which petrified the souls of all who heard it. Such a sweet, upbeat tune had never sounded so terrifying. It echoed with such a force that made it impossible not to hear. Try as he might and as hard as he could cover his ears, Alan could not stop the rhymes from violating his senses.
Dark, dank wooden cupboards and shelves. Countless vials filled with colorful liquids. Glowing candles that offered only just enough light. Jars labelled with the names of fantastical beasts. Gazelles, Gryphons, Minotaurs, even Dragons. No creature was an exception it seemed. With the same dread he’d had the last hundred times he’d done so, Alan read his own jar’s label yet again.
Never before had such a common word carried with it such an intense despair. No matter how often he read it the impact remained the same. That was all they were now, specimens in a jar. Such a stark realization sucked any notion of resistance right out of him.
Alan gazed at those who shared his fate, both coping in their own unique ways. To his right a young man with lengthy brown hair sat against the surface of the glass hunched over, that would’ve been Matthew. At his left stood the blonde Jaime, panting for breath after the latest of his many escape attempts. Alan noted his palms were raw from how much he’d smacked their glass prison.
“We never should’ve entered the woods.” Like a broken record Matthew repeated their mistake yet again. At this point Alan and Jaime just ignored him. In hindsight Matthew was right of course, he was from the beginning.
“How did this happen?” The broken man sobbed as Jaime began pounding his fists against glass once again.
They knew how. They all did. They knew the stories, the tales about how a witch lived deep in the woods and liked to venture out and kidnap people from their homes. How she would take them to her hut where they would never return. Their parents told them for years: Do not enter the woods. They just didn’t listen. His lover protested his going, but he didn’t listen. They knew the dangers; Matthew even protested it from the beginning. But once they were goaded that was their undoing.
“Relax Matt, we’ll just wander around the woods for a bit and come back. That’ll show those fools. Call us cowards will they?”
Oh what a fool he was. What fools they all were.
Never in all his deepest dreams could he ever have envisioned the stories were true, and now here they were. Alan’s gaze wandered to the one who so casually doomed them.
Contrary to the stories the Witch was not a ghastly creature. If there was something unearthly to her it would have been her unnatural beauty. A pale, slender figure with curves any lady would be envious of. A serene expression set against shoulder-length black hair and deceptively warm eyes. She wore a form fitting dark dress that seemed every bit as alive as she was. Every single thing about her was unnaturally perfect. Were the circumstances any different she’d have been the apple of everyone’s eye. Now the mere sight of her made Alan want to retch.
Ever since they had awoken from her spell she stood there in the distance, towering at several stories high. She seemed hard at work, crafting some nefarious potion in that cauldron of hers no doubt. All their clothing and possessions were stripped from them along with their size, leaving them unable to do much more than wait. Not once did her dark gaze wander over in their direction. Since their imprisonment the only thing she did was torment them with her melodic voice.
“She ran Helter-Skelter, with her toes in the air. Corn stalks were flying from the old witch’s hair.”
She moved with an ethereal grace, more akin to floating than shifting her feet. Each step thundered loudly against the strikingly loud creaks of the floorboards. Then her eyes wandered in their direction, and Alan felt his heart stop. With the same unnatural movements her hand reached out, lithe and perfectly trimmed fingers grasping one of the jars. Alan noted that the label read Dragon. Were there really dragons in such a small container? He couldn’t tell. Just his luck that only humans seemed to be worth keeping in transparent glass. All the other jars were opaque.
His heart skipped a beat as the Witch removed the lid and fire burst from within. Even Jaime’s insistent banging and Matthew’s whines were silenced. The Witch however was wholly unconcerned. Pale fingers slid into the container without hesitation, and out came the beast tucked securely in her grasp. From her scale it was little more than a miniscule lizard, yet the humans were awestruck. The Witch’s magic had reduced it to little more than horse size; but still, an actual honest to goodness, golden-scaled, dragon.
The magnificent creature fought desperately against the massive pads holding it in place. The Witch paid it little mind as she closed the jar and set it back, taking booming steps towards her cauldron once again. One of its wings was pinched between her forefinger and thumb while the other hand held his scaly body in much the same way.
“Swish goes the broomstick, meow goes the cat!”
In one simple movement the wing she’d be holding was forcibly pulled off. Even her omnipresent voice couldn’t drown out the sickening crack and the dragon’s wails of pain. Before anyone could react the Witch already had her fingers set on the other wing.
“Plop goes the hoptoad sitting on her hat!”
She wore the happiest of smiles as the second wing came off. The Witch hummed to herself while she dropped both appendages into the cauldron below, quickly shifting her gaze to the mutilated beast before her.
“I just love human rhymes. Don’t you?” She queried in a disturbingly happy tone.
Whatever fight the dragon had left with its wings. The once defiant beast whimpered in pain between the Witch’s fingers. Its glorious golden scales now ruined with the fresh outpouring of blood from where the wings once protruded, slowly turning its shine into a sickening red.
“Shame the recipe only calls for dragon wings. I hate wasting ingredients.” She tilted her head as she seemed to think on what to do with the remaining bits of the dragon.
Alan’s stomach dropped, if such a thing was even possible at this point. This dragon, this magnificent beast, the literal inspiration for hundreds of ballads and fables. It was nothing but an ingredient to her. No different from pepper on a spice rack. Not even something as grand as a dragon was safe from her whims, let alone something as petty as a human. Unfortunately, he found the food comparison wasn’t far from the mark.
“Well…Raw dragon isn’t the best, but it’s better than just throwing you away I guess.” Then the Witch did the unthinkable, and opened her mouth.
“By the Gods, she isn’t…” Jaime said what they were all thinking.
Seeming to realize what awaited him, the dragon began to fight once again. Yet it mattered not. The Witch’s maw overtook him. A moment later Alan and his friends watched the struggling bulge go down her throat.
“Mmm~” Despite her words she seemed to relish the taste, enough to lick the beast’s blood from her fingertips at least.
Then for the first time since Alan had seen her, the flawless visage scrunched up. A moment later a small, but still loud, belch escaped her mouth along with a tuft of fire. “Excuse me.” She chuckled.
“Matthew, shut up already.” Alan rolled his eyes, only realizing a moment later that this time it came from Jaime. The latest display finally forced him to face reality it seemed. The one was doing all the whining moments ago now nodded in solemn silence as Jaime took over whining duties.
Great, now there were two of them. Alan turned his eyes back from the duo in disgust. Even watching the Witch was more agreeable than constantly reminding himself of their imminent doom. A pity his friends didn’t realize that.
The Witch was already back at work on her cauldron. Near her person sat a massive tome she frequently checked. After a few moments she turned the page, her lips very swiftly turning into a wide smile as her eyes batted back towards the human jar specifically. Though Alan felt as though that soul wrenching gaze was locked on him in particular.
“Brace yourselves, it’s time.” He found himself speaking even before the Witch took her powerful steps towards them. His depressed friends whimpered, very soon becoming little more than blubbering messes. In contrast, Alan stood stoically. The fear threatened to paralyze him. Sweat drenched his palms, and his heart was in danger of leaping from his chest. But, for whatever reason, he couldn’t bring himself to cry and whimper like the others. It wasn’t an act of defiance, merely one of acceptance.
The Witch approached the shelves all the jars stood on, and placed her hands around the human jar. Without pause it was lifted, and the humans flew like ragdolls against the opposite end of the glass, each letting out a pained grunt. In another moment the lid was casually removed. Their captor leaned in close to the opening and gazed within with a playful smirk. “Pardon me for being such a poor host. It’s not often I get visitors wandering into my woods. You should’ve sent a herald. I would’ve had time to prepare.” She giggled.
“What are you going to do with us Witch?!” Jaime yelled skyward. The fear in his voice remained palpable.
Her mirthful eyes narrowed, similar to a cat who found a new plaything. One of her fingers toyed with some of her dark hair. “I wonder? I’m still trying to decide. Humans are a very handy ingredient, useful for oh so many potions. But which to choose? Hmm…” Her voice thundered down from above, carrying a playful hint of teasing in each syllable.
“J-J-Just let us go! Why are you doing this to us?!”
The Witch shrugged. “Why does a man wake up in the morning? Why does the crow caw at night? Why do the stars come and go?” Her lips came in closer. “They just do.” The whispers mocked them.
Alan found his back pressed against the glass. The Witch’s presence was overwhelming. A voice that enticed while belittling them. Eyes he couldn’t veer away from, yet filled with utter disregard for their existence, and that mouth…That chasm that just ended a dragon before their very eyes. Everything about this was just wrong. All his instincts demanded he run, fight, do something. But it was pointless. They were literal bugs in a jar.
If only his two companions realized that, things would be so much easier. Matthew clung desperately to Jaime, who was trying to foolishly talk the Witch out of whatever machinations she had in store. Within his blissful acceptance Alan found their struggles almost pitiful.
“Let us go Witch! You cannot do this, they will come for us! They will bring torches and pitchforks and-“
“And what?” The chastising laughter silenced the loud mouthed blonde. “They will cower at the gateway to my domain. Oh they’ll try most certainly. But for all their shallow boasts they will flee the first chance they get. Like many before them.” There was no malice or cruelty in her upbeat tone, only the cold, hard truth. “And stop calling me Witch. I have a name, Lucida. Not that it’ll matter for much longer I think.”
Lucida, even her name held an unnatural charm to it.
“Come to think of it…” Her playful gaze focused on Jaime and Matthew. “I think I have just the thing for you two.” Before the full weight of her words could sink in her hand reached within their glass prison. Alan felt all his hairs stand on edge as the digits closed in. He desperately scurried away, though the same couldn’t be said for his friends. For all their struggles the fingers ignored them entirely and grabbed the two by their chests, leaving only Alan in his heart pounding terror as the witch set the jar down and stepped into the adjacent room. The door magically shut behind her without any movement on her part.
Five. Ten. Twenty.
How many minutes passed since she took them away? The thick walls of Lucida’s hut prevented him from hearing any of what was transpiring. All he knew was that every so often the edges of the door would glow a sickening green. How could she so effortlessly do this to them? Just because she was magical? Because they decided to be brash and enter her woods? For that they deserved all this? Alan’s arms wrapped around himself. It was the only comfort he could provide now.
His friends. His family. His fiancé. He’d never see any of them ever again. Any time he thought about that the edges of his eyes watered. His fate was inevitable at this point, he understood that. But the memories of everything he’d be leaving behind haunted him still.
Eventually the door opened once again, and Lucida stepped through with a particularly content smile. Her flawless form sucked the life from the human as she came near the jar once again.
“What did you do to them?” He had to know. No matter how much he didn’t want to. Matthew and Jaime deserved that much.
The Witch ignored him, reaching for a stool in the distance. She grabbed the hems of her dress, and took a seat before propping up her booted feet on the table. Each massive foot was as large as the jar that held the human. “I wonder?” Lucida smiled.
Even now the games continued. Alan wasn’t even surprised, just tired. “Please, they were my friends. Even someone like you has to realize that.”
Lucida reflected on that sentiment for a moment. Her eyes grew thoughtful. One of her ankles crossed over the other, allowing one foot to bop in place. The dark sole of her boot tapped idly on the glass a couple times. “What if I were to tell you that you were looking at them right now?”
What nonsense was she saying now? All Alan could see was her…boots.
“Quite simple really.” Lucida was already explaining. “I was in need of a new pair of shoes, my old ones were getting quite run down you see. A hundred years with a handful of shoes kind of do that. So it was an obvious choice once I realized it.”
She was serious. It really was that nonchalant of a thing for her. “You…”
“Transfiguration is a simple, but tedious process.” The witch talked over him, rambling on while she played with her hair and admired her new boots. “You see, simply turning someone into an object isn’t enough. Their natural origins won’t accept it. They need to become the object, become boots in both body and soul.”
“Their wills were easy enough to break. A few charm spells and suddenly they threw themselves at my feet. Begging to lick and kiss and comfort them, pleading for me to stomp on them, praying to my feet like I were a God. My feet became their everything in mere minutes. They didn’t just want them. They needed them. If I pulled my feet back even an inch they would cry and beg for their return. It was quite empowering really.”
“I could make them do anything if it meant even a fraction of a second smelling the air around my toes. You’d be amazed child. How quickly they renounced their Gods for me to step on them. How much more important the dirt on my foot was than all their friends families. Once I was certain their adoration was enough I cast the spell and then-“
She finally stopped. Her boots moved over so she could look directly at the human. Alan panted. Enough was enough. He could die, but this? This was too much.
“Just…stop…” The human slumped back down.
“Why are you so upset? Your friends got everything they desired.” Lucida smiled innocently. “They wanted to be with my feet for all eternity, and now they are. Their souls have been rewritten to be near what they hold so dear. You cannot hear their voices, but they are absolutely elated. Even now they’re praising my feet, praising me. They’re happier than they ever were as hu-”
“Don’t.” Alan’s voice was ice. Even the giant witch was stunned silent. “You can do whatever you want with me…Lucida. But please just…Stop talking about them.”
“Very well.” Surprisingly, the Witch agreed and shook her head. “If you didn’t want to know the answer you shouldn’t have asked the question. Silly huma-” Yet again her sentence cut off, this time with no input from Alan. Her eyes turned to the door. There wasn’t a sound, but he was certain she sensed something.
The boots that were once Matthew and Jaime pulled back as Lucida stood back up. “I’ll be back.” She was out the door in seconds.
The silence was bliss with her gone. Anything other than hearing her describe…that…any longer. “Gods…” Alan retched. The idea that just one room over his friends were so…so…violated. He never could have imagined it, and now that Witch was out there doing heaven knows what. She couldn’t return and take his life soon enough. Anything to put a stop to this torment.
He was forced to wait two, agonizing, dismal hours in silence before Lucida returned.
The pale figure stepped, or rather slid gracefully through the doorway. Each step was a tremor that forced Alan’s attention. Lucida seemed particularly happy. That didn’t bode well.
“Welcome back.” His voice cracked with a dry remark.
“Sorry it took me so long.” Lucida replied jovially. “You must be my lucky charm human. My luck has turned around since you and your friends arrived!”
He braced himself.
“New boots, and another human who entered my domain! A woman at that!”
But nothing could have readied him for that. It was only then did he realize that one of Lucida’s hands was clenched.
A sickening feeling welled up within. There was no way. No possible way. There were countless women out there. The odds of it being her were astronomical. Fate wouldn’t be so cruel nor would she be so foolish.
“Behold!” Lucida was all smiles as she deposited her hand along the table outside of the jar. The human girl collapsed on the table in the nude, porcelain skin with long brown hair. She looked up and locked eyes with the man in the glass jar.
“Alan!” Marie ran over to the glass, as did Alan. Both met on opposite ends, mere inches apart. Were it not for the prison that held him their hands would’ve rested over one another.
“Marie, what are you doing here?!”
Marie’s eyes began to water with joy. “You never came home from the woods so we began to fear the worst. Everyone was starting to give up, so I wandered inside and…”
“And then I happened.” Lucida finished for her. “I see you two humans are acquainted with one another.” The Witch offered them a warm smile. “How sweet that love finds a way to reach even here. It warms my heart.”
Liar. There was no way such a beast had a heart. At least for humans like them.
“I’m happy to have allowed you two this final reunion.” Her voice was surprisingly sincere. Alan paled as he saw her fingers closing in on Marie.
The human girl’s eyes widened. “…Final…? No!” Once the realization hit her she desperately grabbed at the glass, but Lucida’s fingers easily plucked her regardless.
“Marie!” Alan’s fists bashed against the glass over and over again, both hands screamed in agony. He silenced the pain with more bashing. If his hands could feel pain it meant he wasn’t hitting hard enough. “You leave her alone! Take me instead!”
“I’m afraid I cannot human.” Lucida stated flatly. She began to take her booming steps back to the cauldron. “It seems that the potion is done brewing. There’s just one final ingredient left before we can proceed...” Marie was dangled before her immense face, forced to face the warm but merciless gaze of the witch. “One human woman.”
“NO!” Alan smashed once again, this time he heard his hands crack.
Marie made similar protests, but Lucida’s giant voice dwarfed any sounds she made. All her struggles meant nothing in the giant Witch’s grasp. “You know I must thank you human…Alan was it?” She smiled, bringing her hand over the cauldron. Her other hand was poised with the same two fingers that plucked pieces from the dragon. “Were it not for you this human girl would likely have never arrived, then I would’ve had to make a different potion. Let’s see here…” Her gaze wandered carelessly to her book nearby.
“Don’t do it! Marie!” It was pointless. He knew it. But what else could he do? Lucida was right. This was entirely his fault, and now he was about to pay the price for it.
“Oh boy. Multiple steps. Bear with me girl.” Lucida remarked in an annoyed tone.
It was his fault that he got goaded into wandering the woods. His fault Jaime and Matthew went with him. His fault Marie ventured out looking for him.
Lucida’s fingers grabbed Marie’s left arm, and without pause pulled it clean off. The torn limb was dropped into the cauldron below. Lucida completely ignored the pain filled shrieks Marie let out.
His eyes widened. “By the Gods, MARIE!” Alan took several steps back and tackled the glass. “Marie!” All he could do was call her name, call her name and watch while his fiancé was mutilated.
“Left leg…” Like the arm she pulled Lucida did the same with the leg. The pain was too much for the little human to handle; her body slumped over on the spot. Blood and bits of gore trickled down after the discarded leg into the cauldron. She was still breathing…for now.
“Marie goddammit!” Alan collapsed on his knees, helpless to stop this nightmare. “STOP THIS LUCIDA! I LOVE HER!”
“Right arm…” Lucida didn’t so much as bat an eye, doing the same once again.
This wasn’t right. This was not right. But it was happening. Alan had no choice, no choice but to accept that this was reality.
“Right leg…” And just like that Marie was a quadriplegic. The massive digits clenched tightly on what remained of her and crushed her into paste, paste that Lucida carefully sprinkled around the cauldron. “And then sprinkle the remains evenly…” After a few moments the liquid turned a light blue, Lucida stepping back happily. “Success!”
Alan was forced to raise his gaze as the witch returned for him. He could already feel her massive fingers wrapping around his small body, bringing him up before her visage.
“And now you’re all that remains.” Lucida’s ever present smile seemed to mock him as she set the man on her open palm. Her ethereal beauty made her all the more monstrous.
“Just get it over with. Whatever you want. I don’t care.” He was done with this. “Just end it already.”
The Witch tilted her head. “Well, I was considering keeping you as a plaything actually. You seem to bring good fortune, and I have some new boots that could use upkeep. You could spend your life with your friends as my shoe cleaner.” It was a harmless suggestion on her part. Alan knew she was speaking in that strange sincerity of hers; but it felt almost cruel given what she’d just done.
He could sense her eyes on him, practically seeing through his soul. “…But it looks like that won’t work anymore. I can see it. You’re dead inside.”
How observant of her. If Alan had any will left inside of him he’d probably have made some wry remark along those lines.
Lucida sighed, tucking a bit of her black hair behind a pale ear. “Fine, I hate letting ingredients go to waste.”
He knew what came next.
The perfect and plush lips of the Witch parted open. A gale of warm winds assaulted the human’s tiny body. The humid, pink interior awaited him, already salivating in anticipation of his taste. Her tongue broke through the threshold, severing saliva strands and reaching out to Alan while her hand tilted to slide him downwards. He landed face first against the slimy surface. The smothering sensation of her taste buds and saliva overwhelmed all his senses.
Lucida’s tongue retracted and her lips began to shut as darkness soon overtook the innards of her mouth. Alan offered no resistance. His body was half submerged in the woman’s saliva and the other half was smothered by her tongue. She was savoring him, he vaguely realized. She was sucking him like a candy. Her voice thundered louder than ever in his ears as she hummed in delight.
At least he tasted good he supposed.
Alan’s body was slowly withering within Lucida’s mouth. Even without the benefit of light he could feel his skin pruning as what little moisture he had was sucked from him. Lucida left no part of him untouched. Her tongue pressed him against the rock hard surface of her teeth and violated him in every conceivable way, then would flip him over and press him against the roof of her mouth to probe even more.
Eventually, perhaps even minutes later, he began to feel his body being carried further in. The pools of saliva flowed back with him like a river, splashing downwards. Everything grew tighter. Muscles constricted against his body and forced him further and further down. The saliva that coated Alan made it all too easy. Before long there weren’t even the muscles. He was just falling, down below he heard the bubbling of the acidic fate that awaited him.
“Mmmmmmmmmmm~” Lucida let out a deep moan after she swallowed. “I’ve never had raw human before. That was delightful.” He didn’t even struggle, how thoughtful of him.
The Witch returned the empty human jar back to its rightful place on the shelf and turned back to her cauldron. That human girl was a stroke of luck, so she couldn’t get careless now. Her eyes shifted to the recipe book. Such a rare ingredient meant she could try something special. Now where was that page?
“Growth potion…Ah here it is….Hmm…Three Cyclops eyes and two Minotaur horns…” Lucida smiled as she stepped back for the proper jars.
“Whee chuckled I, what fun what fun.”
“Halloween night, when the old witch runs.”