My Witch and Her Dragon
by H.M. Pridemore
You think we first met when I was five, and you appeared above me in my bed like a white cloud. When I went to scream you placed a delicate, transparent finger on my lips, and put me at ease. In actuality, we first me when I was just a babe sitting on the cottage floor. You think I don’t remember that, but I do. It is my first memory.
While the witch rocked in her chair ogling the fire, a red ball rolled down the stairs and across the floor, stopping only when it touched the soles of my bare feet. I giggled. The witch spat to be quiet. She hated giggles. She didn’t notice the ball. Not at first. This gave you and I time to roll the ball back and forth. I couldn’t see you then, but every time the ball rolled back to me, I could feel you. We played while the witch rocked in her chair.
Then the raven in her little clock came out. “Caw…caw…” it sang, and the witch flew from her chair.
“Where did you find this?” She held the ball up as though it were a poisoned apple. I was unable to answer. This frustrated the witch and she threw the ball into the fire.
The witch destroying my playthings was the least of her cruelties. I was most frightened when she threatened to turn me into a rabbit and roast me over the fire, but you whispered that the witch was powerless. She had lost her powers when she was young. As I grew, I observed: She couldn’t cast spells, or make poisonous brew. She couldn’t fly (broomstick or not) and she couldn’t disappear into a gray cloud of smoke. She couldn’t even cackle. The only thing she could do was sneer. You didn’t say why, or how she lost her powers, just that the loss made her bitter and envious to anyone with power.
I’ve never known how I came to live with the witch. Surely, I cannot be her child. If I were part of her, she would’ve of loved me. Are witches capable of love? I don’t know. All I know is I love you. If you had not come to me, appearing before me like a fading memory of a real being, I would never have survived the witch. Would’ve never survived those starless nights when the witch would walk in my room with a goblet full of chicken’s blood.
“You!” She’d point one long, red-nail finger at me. “You!” She’d say five, six, seven, times before she’d pick me up by the arm so she could throw me in the fire.
I lived only because with one beautiful breath, you’d extinguish the fire. The witch would scream in frustration, then toss me on embers warm enough to blister my skin, but not kill me. She’d look around. She’d look at me. She’d mumble and sneer. She never saw you, but knew you existed. You scared her. She had no power against you.
If I had, by some chance of fate, managed to survive the witch, I would’ve never have survived the dragon. The dragon was smaller than other dragons (about the size of a large wolf) but just as powerful. He could blow fire from miles away, and a flick of his tail would send me flying across the room. You made your presence known to him, and although he would trip me with his spiked tail, or leer at me with his yellow eyes, he refrained from killing me, although he could have.
I don’t know how they met, or why the dragon was content to sit by her side, perhaps it was their fondness for chicken’s blood. The chicken coop was bigger than our cottage, and they would catch the biggest chicken they could, and hang him by his feet from the metal hook in the kitchen. I would watch as they slit the chicken’s throat and let the blood drain into their goblets. Then the witch would dissect the chicken and hold the legs out for the dragon to roast. Then they would throw me the legs. You made sure they fed me. When they attempted to starve me, fruit trees would die, and livestock would disappear.
I used to wonder why you didn’t eliminate them and release me from their abuse. Now I understand. We needed them. I only needed to be patient.
One day I woke up and was able to look the witch in the eye, and the mirror reflected a woman I hadn’t met. The day after that, the dragon woke with scaly skin that flaked off around him. Two days later, he couldn’t lift his tail even to defecate, and the waste drew biting flies. Three days after that he couldn’t breath fire. All that escaped his nostrils were little tufts of gray smoke. A week later, he took a step, started to wheeze, and collapsed.
The witch told me to drag his carcass to the garden and bury him before the buzzards came to feast. I told her it was her dragon, and you should always bury your own. She took one liver spotted hand and tried to grab me, but you hurled her across the room and out the door. I thought that was the end of the witch, but you had other, much wiser plans.
The witch dusted herself off, picked up the shovel you had left spiked in the earth, and began to dig. I watched, sipping a cup of dandelion tea from inside the cottage.
When the hole was deep enough, she wrapped a chain around the dragon’s neck and dragged him to the hole. The sun was glaring and it didn’t take the buzzards long to smell the dragon’s corpse. You allowed her to shoo them away, and it wasn’t until she dumped the last mound of dirt on his grave, that you enabled their descent. They went for the witches scalp with hungry impatience. I sipped my tea as they tore out hunks of gray hair with bloody bits of scalp attached. She ran for the cottage but they pecked at her throat, causing her to fall backwards, exposing her chest. Accepting the invitation, a rather large buzzard dined on her heart.
I thought that buzzards only feast on the dead, but they had no reservations eating the witch alive. I suppose a witch without powers is half dead anyways.
When the buzzards had completed their meal and flown away, it was my time to dig. Their wasn’t much left of her, and she was my witch after all.
You helped in the only way you could. As I stuck the shovel into the earth, you muted the sun, and sent a soft breeze to dry perspiration from my forehead. Most of all you came behind me, and whispered a song of freedom. Thank you.
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H.M. Pridemore reads and writes dark fiction from a Southern California studio that she shares with her husband, a dog and a cat. Currently unpublished, she continues to write and submit, dreaming that one day maybe….