The woods were no place for a youngster to be wandering around in. Everyone knew that, even children. The Wild Beauty of the Woods would snatch you away, said the rumours. They would eat you up and you would never see your family again, wandering the woods as a spirit.
Jamie didn’t believe the lies everyone told about the place, since she had just moved there. Those were always the most dangerous people, the newcomers. They threatened to turn everything on it’s head when they showed up. They would hear the stories of the woods and go searching for the legends. And, as everyone knows, you don’t find legends by looking for them. They find you.
It was a foggy night, mists rolling in off the lake. The woods were full of bears, some people said, others said it was full of moose. Either way, the Rocky Mountains were nearby and there was enough wildlife around to make cityfolk nervous. If nothing else, most of them left the woods alone because of the animals.
Now Jamie was different. Jamie came from the city, along with both parents and a baby sibling, but wasn’t afraid of the local wildlife. Nothing scared her – or at least, that’s what she told everyone. The woods were nothing but misty plants, she said. And so, tonight Jamie was roaming around with a flashlight, alone. It wasn’t her first time. ‘There was plenty to see in the day, but there was always more to see at night,’ always said Jamie. She wasn’t wrong.
It was just midnight when Jamie saw the Witch. A bell tolled in the distance eerily. Fog surrounded them both, shrouding them in thick, white ropes. The Witch wore a pointy black hat with bluebells and grass pinned to it, looking rather dapper. Robes, as black as night and embroidered with silver and green, draped over a voluptuous body. Long raven-coloured hair cascaded across nearly-bare shoulders, milky skin glowing against the dark backdrop. With a sharp jaw and soft cheeks, the witch was plump and beautiful and ethereal and androgynous.
Jamie noticed the witch second. The beam of light swept through the darkness to shine on the Wild Beauty of the Woods.
“Jamie,” crooned the witch once the light was on them, startling the city kid.
Nearly dropping the light, Jamie stared. “Who are you?” Her hand shook slightly, making the beam of light tremble. It was just nerves, she told herself. It wasn’t because the witch was exactly like people described. It was coincidence – or someone in a costume.
“I’m the Witch.”
“I can see that,” replied Jamie. A short silence followed her words. “Are you an actor?”
“No,” chuckled the witch. Stepping forward, they inspected the young city kid. Jamie stood at 5 feet and zero inches, with a bulky frame and lean limbs. She had short brown hair and dark brown eyes. Her skin was tanned from the summer, freckles appearing on her shoulders and nose for a few months out of the year. At first glance, she appeared to be 14 even though she was closer to 17, and her glasses were crooked slightly. The frames had been broken for the last week. Her jaunty yellow jacket was perfect for being out in the woods in the middle of fall, paired with a black beanie and a black scarf that made it appear she was a floating head and coat in the middle of the night.
“Then what’s with the hat?” She pointed at the witch’s head.
“What’s with your hat?” retorted the witch before cackling. It was a hair-raising sound. Holding out a hand, they commanded fire at their fingertips, lighting up the trees around them with hazy light from their palm. Jamie stepped backwards, entranced by the magic. “It’s barely a hat at all!”
Swallowing, Jamie lowered her flashlight. It was hardly needed with the bright ball of fire. “I’m going home now,” she said, hoping her fright wasn’t showing too much. It was.
“Oh, but Jamie,” cooed the witch, floating over with steps that barely touched the ground, “You’ve just got here!”
“What do you mean?” She stepped back, but the witch was in front of her before she could blink.
They smiled, gesturing around with their free hand. “You’ve barely been in these woods at all. Do you think you’ve seen everything there is to see?”
She shook her head as the witch circled around her. Their feet weren’t moving along the ground any more, floating just a few inches above the earth. Jamie’s shoulders shook slightly.
“You’re scared,” whispered the witch mockingly. “Did you think the warnings were just stories? Did you think you would be safe out here in the woods? Out here, at the witching hour?”
Jamie shook her head, flashlight flickering.
“Then what did you expect?”
“N-nothing,” she whispered, her light flickering out as the witch circled her. Black robes flitted about her. “I didn’t expect anything.”
Another spine-chilling cackle that made Jamie flinch.
“That,” said the witch, “Was your mistake.”
The witch overtook her. Her screams echoed in the fog, never to reach anyone’s ears, never to be seen again.