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The Witch's House, Continued
In the middle of the woods surrounding a small rural town in Michigan, there stands a house. Few travel the path through the forest to get to it. It is a creepy house, the kind that someone would only go into if he or she was a ghost hunter or acting on a dare. Thus, it was unexpected that a blond girl would open the door and step out into the sunlight.
She wore a white dress, and her tow-colored braids framed a pair of green eyes. Not old enough to have a house of her own, but obviously mature for her seemingly young age if she was allowed to come there alone. Quickly, she walked down the path towards the town, pausing when a large rosebush blocked her way. Thinking for a moment, she reached into a pocket and took out a little bottle filled with a clear liquid that could have been water. However, when it was poured on the bushes, they wilted and died completely, allowing her through. Beyond the rosebushes was a small clearing where the sun shone brightly through, and wildflowers reached towards the sunlight.
A strange sound echoed through the clearing. The blond girl turned, and saw the purple-haired specter. The Legless Girl, dragging her upper body through the grass with surprising speed. Harsh gurgling sounds rose from the Legless Girl’s throat as she attempted to speak. As if frozen, the blond stood in place as she crawled up.
“Ghg . . . gha . . . hh,” the Legless Girl rasped. Strangely enough, the blond put on an air of complete relaxation.
“Boy, you’re stubborn,” the blond girl remarked. “How long are you going to chase me? You know that body won’t last long.”
“Gra . . . uuh . . . uff,” the Legless Girl tried to talk once more, but couldn’t make anything but senseless sounds.
“Hm? ‘Give it back?’ No way. This body hurts much less,” the blond replied. She moved closer. “You gave it to me in the first place. Why should I have to give it back?” She leaned in, her face almost touching the being. “Right . . . Viola?”
She turned around, turning her back to the creature. “You felt so sorry for me. I couldn’t even move from my bed. That’s why I used my magic to trade bodies with you. Just for a day?” She giggled. “I guess I did say that.”
The blond turned around. “I was surprised you could trap me with my own power . . . but to no avail. After all, it’s my house, yes? It wouldn’t be killing me anytime soon. I was guided by that house, so I could escape.”
A moment’s quiet. “Still not dead?” she asked. “I admire your tenacity.” She thought for a moment. “Ah . . . Could that be? Are you that worried about your father?” She turned her back away again. “Oh, I know. You and your father, Viola. A close family of two. Those memories stayed in your body. He was a hunter, wasn’t he? And he even sent you that letter. What a good father.” She moved closer again. “It’ll be just fine,” she assured the Legless Girl. “I’ll give him Viola’s share of love. And I’ll take her share of love, too.” She smiled meanly. “So . . .”
A man’s voice interrupted her monologue. “Viola?” The owner of the voice was farther down the path. He ran to her, and she met him there. “Viola, are you safe?” Viola’s father, Allan, asked her in concern. “Are you hurt anywhere?” She shook her head, and ran beside him, pointing at the Legless Girl, who crawled closer.
“Fh . . . fha . . . aa . . . th,” she croaked, trying to tell Allan who she really was. “Dh . . . dah . . . di.” Viola’s father ran in front of the blond girl.
“STAY AWAY, MONSTER!!!” he shouted, and with the accuracy only a hunter possessed shot the Legless Girl twice. Silence followed the shots. He stepped back, then walked over to the blond girl and faced her.
“Let’s go home,” he said. The two walked down the path. The witch inhabiting Viola’s body did not plan to go back to the woods anytime soon.
But they weren’t the only ones there that day. When Allan and the girl he believed was his daughter were out of sight, a cloaked figure moved out of the shadows. The figure knelt down and opened a silver, heart-shaped locket. A few whispered words in a language that normal people would not understand, and a yellow glow rose from the tortured body and coalesced into a single bright point, which disappeared as the locket was closed. Another string of words, and the yellow light shining through the cracks of the locket disappeared, the lines sealing shut as if it was solid instead of hollow.
“Don’t worry, Viola,” the figure said aloud, standing and looking down the path. “Ellen won’t impersonate you forever. Not if I can help it.” With Viola’s soul safely locked inside the charm, the figure walked away, following their footsteps.
• • • •
Life proceeded normally for Allan after the event in the woods. In a testament to his daughter’s perseverance, she had no nightmares, despite how scared she had seemed. She never went back to that house, however, and seemed unwilling to reveal what had happened. He decided not to press her. His wife had been something of a psychologist, despite the fact that she worked as a librarian and had no training in the area whatsoever. Her number one rule when children had experienced something that scared them: let the child tell the story if they want.
Then, strange things began to happen. It started with Viola’s fifth grade school pictures. Three had been taken by the photographer, but the man had given him two, one framed and the other to see. It seemed normal at first, just a regular yellow-haired girl smiling brightly into the camera. But look closer and one could see what looked like a pillar of mist just over Viola’s left shoulder.
“I can’t explain it,” the mystified photographer had confessed. “All the other pictures I took are just fine. This . . . outline only shows up in this photo. I had my camera checked, but it was working perfectly.”
The anomaly appeared in other pictures of Viola as well. It was floating over Lake Superior in a picture from a fishing trip taken over the summer, and hovering in the background at his sister’s house. And every time, the mist became more solid, taking on the shape of a person, almost like a developing Polaroid picture. The specter only appeared in a single picture taken at an event, which let him display some pictures on the mantle.
The first glimpse of what the figure looked like came after it appeared in a Christmas picture.
Standing over Viola as she opened a present, a young woman stared directly into the camera. A long braid fell over her shoulder, a raven-black rope standing out against her pale skin. She wore a purple sleeveless dress, and a pretty locket in the shape of a heart. No matter which way he looked at the picture, her light gray eyes seemed to follow him everywhere, looking at him intently, as if trying to pass on a message. What the message was, he had no idea, other than it was somehow connected to Viola.
Just days after the ghost became fully visible, things really heated up. Things would fall from high shelves that even he had trouble reaching. A dresser which had never moved at all suddenly jumped out at Viola, and the TV decided that it was part of Poltergeist, bursting into static spontaneously.
The ghost seemed to believe that she wasn’t scaring them enough, because she began to appear in real life as well. One day, he was waiting for a deer to walk into his sights when he saw her walk into them instead, then turn and look right at him. I see you, she seemed to say as she acknowledged him with a silent nod before walking back into the trees.
Finally, enough was enough. He pulled aside a childhood friend, Wayne.
“Wayne, can I show you something?” Allan asked casually.
“Sure,” Wayne replied, looking interested. Allan carefully lined up all of the photos, revealing the full scope of the developing ghost.
“Are you trying to pull my leg, Allan?” Wayne asked.
“No,” Allan assured him. “It’s more real than you can imagine, trust me.” He moved to the video he had caught. “Watch this.”
Wayne watched the video silently as the ghost girl walked into view and looked directly at the camera. She tilted her head to one side and held her chin, as if she were debating on what to do. She walked up to it, picked up the camera, and moved it to the couch, after which she turned and walked into the hall.
“How many ghosts move cameras?” Allan asked Wayne, watching his friend’s reaction.
“I believe you, Allan,” Wayne said slowly. “I wonder why she chose you and Viola to haunt?”
“I don’t know either. But somehow, it’s connected to Viola,” Allan hypothesized.
“I say try to get it to talk to you, like in the ghost hunting shows,” Wayne suggested. “Sit up at night and ask it to tell you what it wants. At least you’ll get some answers. This ghost doesn’t seem too dangerous.”
Good thing Viola has a sleepover tonight, Allan thought later. He sat down on the couch, waiting for the ghost to show up.
“I’m no ghost,” a female voice said. Allan, who had been dozing off, immediately sat up. Sure enough, the Girl in the Purple Dress was standing across the room.
“Who are you?” Allan asked, mustering his courage.
“My name is Rebecca,” the girl introduced himself. “I know who you are.”
“Why are you doing this to us?” Allan demanded. “You’re scaring me and my daughter. Why choose us to haunt?”
Rebecca let out a short laugh, and actually smiled. “I guess I’ve succeeded part of the way. She should be scared,” the girl remarked.
So this being was simply trying to scare his daughter. He wanted to know what his daughter had done to make Rebecca so intent on instilling fear into his house.
“Oh, your daughter didn’t do anything to me,” Rebecca answered, as if he had spoken aloud. “In fact, she didn’t do anything bad at all. She was only acting out of the goodness of her heart.”
“I saw that letter you wrote to Viola that day at the forest. It was sweet of you. Most fathers don’t show that much of their love to their daughters. It reminded me of my own father,” Rebecca continued, then stopped. “Well, kind of,” she admitted.
“So this does have to do with Viola,” Allan pressed.
“Of course,” Rebecca replied, looking at him as if he had just touched on something she had been saying all along. “It’s always been about Viola.”
“What did Viola do that was so kind?” Allan asked.
“The rumors about that house in the woods are correct,” Rebecca said, as if she hadn’t heard his question. “There was a witch living there. Not anymore. Not since she made friends with Viola.” Rebecca held up a hand to forestall his questions.
“I see you don’t quite believe me,” she stated. “Will you let me show you something?” Allan nodded warily. Rebecca stood up and walked up to him. She held out a hand. Allan took it. Suddenly, he was transported to another place, another time.
He was back in the clearing, the scene from seven months ago appearing in mind’s eye. But this was from a different perspective. It was lower, and he was looking at himself. He had a fierce but scared look on his face. Looking a little to the left, he saw Viola standing there, a little behind himself. A loud sound, almost like thunder, and his vision became black. Was that what the legless creature had seen in it’s last moments?
“That’s what you didn’t see, Allan,” she said sadly. Allan barely heard her. He was busy replaying the image of Viola in his head. She had not looked scared, like she had when she was pointing at the creature. A smug, malicious smile ruled her face.
“You see, there is a spell that allows people to switch bodies,” Rebecca explained, sitting back in her chair. “But it can only be performed if the other person – the one whose body the witch is going to inhabit – is willing to switch bodies. The witch had known Viola for a while before she got sick. She asked if Viola would be willing to switch bodies with her for a little bit, just a day. Poor, poor thing. Viola just couldn’t say no,” Rebecca said softly, shaking her head sadly. “They performed the spell as soon as Viola had gotten the necessary tools. And the first thing Ellen did was go back on her promise. She had no intention of staying in Viola’s body ‘just for one day.’ It’s just as well you shot the Legless Girl.”
Allan leaned back, horrified at the revelation. The girl he had brought home was a real-life witch in the shape of his daughter.
“Why are you telling me all this?” Allan asked weakly.
“Because I promised to stop Ellen and give Viola back her body,” Rebecca replied.
“How?” Allan suddenly grew suspicious. This girl, Rebecca, was offering something he wanted dearly, but if she knew what Viola/Ellen was, what was she?
“I am a witch myself,” Rebecca admitted, once again somehow managing to read his mind. “But I’m not like her. I’m . . .” She trailed off, as if deciding how to tell him. “Ellen and I were the same once. Bright little girls who wanted to become the most powerful witches ever. But that is where we diverged. Ellen sold her magical services to a demon. She turned to sorcery. When I went to try to reason with her, we fought each other. She defeated me. She used her magic to separate my soul from my body, and burned my body so I wouldn’t be able to return and stop her. Or so she thought.” Rebecca’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “When I was able to get back, I made Ellen suffer unending pain, inflicted by she herself. I hoped that it would drive her to suicide. I didn’t know that she had learned how to body-switch,” Rebecca said, staring at her hands. “I managed to capture Viola’s soul before the demon Ellen was serving took it in recompense for her discontinued services. It’s tucked safely away in a place where it can’t be reached.” She smiled mysteriously.
“If you let me, I can give you your daughter back, and destroy Ellen in the process. Will you let me do this?” Rebecca asked Allan, leaning forward a little bit and looking into his eyes earnestly.
“As long as I can be with Viola again,” Allan said, though both knew that he was in not much of a position to make demands.
“Which you will be,” Rebecca promised. “Now, here’s what I need you to do . . .”
The next morning, when Allan brought Viola/Ellen home, he just sat and listened as the witch with Viola’s face talked about it. If Rebecca hadn’t taken his invitation and talked to him, Allan would never have known that there was anyone other than his daughter next to him. She continued talking all the way home. Allan was impressed by his own acting skills.
When they got home and unpacked, Allan turned to the blond girl. “I’m going out for a while. Can you take care of yourself until I get back?” he asked.
“Yes, Daddy,” Viola/Ellen replied brightly.
“Alright.” Keeping the pretense that he was going to one of his outposts, he grabbed all of his regular gear. As he walked towards the door, he looked at the decorative mirror hanging on the wall. Behind his reflection stood Rebecca, who flashed him a smile and a thumbs-up. Allan leaned his gun against the wall and turned to face Viola/Ellen with a smile as she walked across the living room to give him a sending-off hug. A voice stopped the girl in her tracks.
• • • •
Rebecca stood in the entrance between the hall and the living room. Ellen whirled in surprise, her green eyes widening when she saw a visage that Rebecca knew she had hoped never to see again.
“Who – who are you?” Ellen gasped, putting on a great show of surprise.
“You always were a great actress,” Rebecca remarked. “Now more than ever, I understand.”
Ellen turned back to her father at a clicking sound, a sound she had heard several times in Viola’s memories: the sound of a cartridge being loaded.
“Daddy?” she asked, still playing the innocent, confused daughter.
“I know what you are, witch,” Allan said, a mixture of anger and fear wrinkling his face as he sighted the gun. “You stole my daughter away from me!”
Rebecca read Ellen’s mind out of curiosity. Without her magic, Ellen’s mind was an open book. Underneath her surprised exterior, the witch was fuming. Ellen turned back to face Rebecca. Her face – Viola’s face – had a familiar haughty expression on it.
“What now, sister? Picking on the weaker one? Not like you to start an unfair fight,” Ellen taunted. Allan started, but his aim didn’t waver.
“It’s good to see you too,” Rebecca muttered sarcastically.
“Hmn,” Ellen said, sensing Allan’s mood change. “Didn’t tell him how we were related, sister?” The witch spat out the word as if it were a curse. She may not have her powers anymore, but she still knew how to manipulate a situation.
“No, actually. I figured that that detail would have to wait if I was going to catch you off guard,” Rebecca replied, assuming an air of nonchalance. “Avitakai!” She invoked. A circle of powder, placed previously that night, glowed. Ellen’s fury now burned visibly as the witch realized her true predicament.
Rebecca felt a surge of satisfaction at the look on Ellen’s face. She took a few steps closer. “What was it you said to me when you did the same thing?” she asked, pretending to think. She snapped her fingers in mock rememberance. “Oh yes. ‘Come into my web, said the spider to the fly.’ How appropriate, considering the circumstances.” She stepped all the way up to the blue line barring Ellen from escaping.
“I really have to thank you, Ellen, for locking me in the Astral plane,” Rebecca continued. “It only served to make me more powerful. You have absolutely no idea what lies in there. You made quite a few beings angry with your actions. They taught me things which most Soul witches never learn, things which only they know. And I had all the time in the world to perfect those techniques.” She leaned in a little. “After a year, I learned how to create my own body. I also learned to do this.” Her eyes turned blue, and suddenly both she and Ellen collapsed. A blue globe of fire floated out of her chest, floating right through her purple dress. A light green fireball rose out of Ellen’s chest. Both disappeared out of Allan’s view.
If he had been able to see into the Astral plane, he might have seen something different.
Two forms floated in a void of many colors, interspersed with white lights. If you were floating in the gas clouds of a nebula, it was what their surroundings would look like. Nearby, strange creatures also hung suspended, watching the confrontation.
“Welcome to the second level of the Astral plane. We’re not quite in the spirit realms, but not quite in the Shadowlands either,” Rebecca told Ellen, as if she were giving her sister a tour. Here in the Astral plane, one could clearly see that the spirit Rebecca had pulled out of Viola’s body wasn’t the body’s original owner. Ellen’s short purple hair and gray eyes were now visible for all to see.
“How did you do that?” Ellen gasped. “No one can pull a spirit into the second or third levels of the Astral plane! No one!”
“But you forget, I am not quite mortal anymore,” Rebecca pointed out. “I am, for all intents and purposes, a goddess. And in a way, you were the one who made this possible. Your plan to be free of my curse worked, but your plan to get rid of me has well and truly backfired.”
Ellen’s eyes widened in anger. With a yell, she moved towards Rebecca’s astral form, arms outstretched. Rebecca easily moved out of the way, and sent Ellen spinning to the side with a quick beam of energy.
“Who has the upper hand now, Ellen?” Rebecca goaded. “Still feel powerful now?”
This time, Rebecca let Ellen get even closer before switching tactics and freezing her in place. Ellen’s misty form trembled as she tried to move. “Let me go, Rebecca!” she cried.
“What, regretting your choice of body to switch into?” Rebecca asked, raising her eyebrows in mock surprise. “That’s a first.”
She moved forwards, one hand outstretched to keep Ellen in place, the other clenched around a brightly glowing energy construct in the shape of a knife. Calmly, Rebecca stabbed the sword straight through Ellen’s form. Her form cracked like glass, shattering in a surge of blue light. Her scream lasted a little longer than her spirit, fading away quickly.
“Goodbye, Ellen,” Rebecca said softly to the empty space in front of her. The energy knife dissolved. Despite herself, Rebecca still felt glum. Memories of happier times bubbled up. Where had it all gone so wrong?
You did right, Rebecca, a deep voice said. The shadowy, leonine figures called Edraia watching their battle had moved up to her. They had no mouths; they spoke purely with their minds.
“I just wish that this didn’t have to happen,” Rebecca confessed.
Fate is more powerful even than death. Death can be avoided. Fate cannot, the Edraia said. It was your fate to become what you are today, and your sister’s fate to be the agent of her own destruction. Do not feel sad, for her or yourself. It tapped the locket around her neck. Now, finish what you have begun.
Thank you, Floriadril, Rebecca whispered telepathically, before Shifting away from the colorful Astral universe to the Shadowlands, the world of ghosts and specters just adjacent to the physical plane. Back in Allan and Viola’s living room, yet out of sight of most eyes, she could see Allan kneeling over his daughter’s body. Her own form tugged on her. She followed that tug, sliding back into her own form.
• • • •
Allan knelt next to Viola’s body, praying that wherever the battle Rebecca had planned was taking place, she would finish it soon. Barely a minute had passed, and yet neither had moved an inch. Suddenly, Rebecca’s body shifted. The witch coughed several times as her lungs expelled stale air and sucked in new air. Allan moved over to Rebecca’s side now, leaning over the pale girl’s face.
Her strange gray eyes flickered open. They focused on his face. Slowly, she sat up.
“Is Ellen . . . Did you . . .?” Allan was hesitant to ask her if she had succeeded.
“Ellen is destroyed,” Rebecca assured him. “I made sure of it.” The set look on her face left no doubt in his mind.
“Viola?” Allan asked. Immediately she stood up and knelt next to Viola’s body.
“Stand back a little,” Rebecca instructed. Allan obediently stepped back, out of her way. She took her silver locket off of her neck and whispered a couple of words in his direction. A yellow glow appeared, sneaking through edges which were invisible before. She opened the locket, and a single bright point of light came out of it, floating onto her hand. Rebecca gently guided the light to Viola’s chest. It instantly slid straight through her shirt, rippling across her body before fading.
Viola’s chest, which had before been still, now heaved. Rebecca politely stood back as Allan rushed foreward.
“Daddy?” Viola whispered. Allan knew, in that moment, that it was no one but his daughter, the true Viola, laying in front of him. Both embraced, unwilling to let go of one another after being separated for so long. Allan looked up to thank Rebecca, but she wasn’t there. It was as if Rebecca had disappeared from existence.
• • • •
The truth was a little less simple. She had not really disappeared. She had just moved to a place which few people could sense, and even fewer knew even existed. Standing in the same spot she had been just moments before, looking through the misty grayness that was the Shadowlands, Rebecca watched the happy reunion.
“Where did she go?” Viola asked.
“I don’t know,” Allan confessed to his daughter. “But somehow I doubt she’s truly gone.”
“Thank you, Rebecca,” Viola whispered. “For everything.”
Your welcome, Rebecca thought to them, a whisper on the breeze that was human thought, and left their house. Allan and Viola were never bothered again by any haunting, save for a single picture: just days after the event, in a picture of their house, Allan and Viola noticed a familiar purple-garbed figure standing in the yard. But unlike the pictures taken before, she was smiling, and her hand was raised up, as if waving goodbye.
Ellen, the unknown power-hungry witch who had resided in the woods, was gone. A father and daughter had been reunited. Viola’s silent torture from knowing her place had been seamlessly taken was washed away like sand drawings in the surf. Rebecca had finally avenged herself. And everyone was a little happier.