The witch's house

by Jenny

The witch's house

In the woods near the beach, past the fairy cave and over the rickety bridge is where the witch lives, is where the witch waits.

Don’t go playing in the trees where the sun can’t reach, because that is where the witch sets her traps to catch little children. She turns them into fat pink sausages and roasts them on the fire for her supper.

Don’t go into the sea in the moonlight, because that is where the witch’s hair spreads out in wait to snare little feet and drag you down under the surface of the sea with the rib-cages of ships. Your unheard screams will lull her to sleep with the shushing of the waves and the threnody of the drowned.

Don’t go near the pretty cottage in the woods with the flowers twining around the door and the water wheel, turning, creaking and the curling sinews of smoke twisting from the chimney, because that is the witch’s house. It is beautiful. She seems beautiful. She might invite you in, offer you something sweet to drink, but once you go inside you’ll see it’s built of bone and hair and then it’s too late for the likes of you.

That twist of light - there! That spreading shadow; the movement you almost caught; that growing tangle of uncertainty and confusion inside your chest. That is where the witch hides.

That tap tapping against the glass at night as you lie awake turning the day over and over in your sleepless mind: that’s the witch’s fingers gently reminding you she is still there. That she can come inside whenever she chooses, because she knows you will let her.

That slow-burning dread that creeps up from nowhere and stops you in your tracks before you’ve begun: that’s the spindle finger bars of the witch’s cage holding you fast.

All the things you’ve said that haunt you in those wakeful dawns, curling and sinuous as smoke, twist through your thoughts to poison them against you. Your creaking hesitation turns relentlessly, inexorably, so you never forget there’s a part of you that crossed the threshold of her house and a part of you that can never come back out again.

The witch’s song has led stronger men than you to their doom. She will drown you if you won’t fight her. She validates your passivity and triumphs in it.

In the woods near the beach, past the ancient caves and across the chattering stream is where moonlight and seaweed weave witches out of the nameless fears of children.