Rushing through the darkness faster than I thought I could, at last I found an unlocked door. Bright red shapes in a language I couldn’t read glowed above the door handle, casting a red light over my small hands. The bright symbols almost seemed to smile at me. Nothing made sense in this tree-less world of shadows. But this building’s large enough for me to hide from her.
I pushed against the handle, and the door swung in silently. I slipped inside a large room, careful not to let the door make any noise as it swung closed behind me.
A woman sat behind a desk.
I darted behind a tall plant by the door, unsure of who I could trust here. Who knows what they do around here when they find little girls wandering alone?
She stared at something shaped like a brick in her hand, except the thing was thinner and black, and it glowed. Has everyone learned magic in the future? I halted, expecting her to notice me, but she stayed entranced by her magical object. In the dim light, I looked down at my translucent hands and realized I’m still hard to see. I missed my real body. Would that witch ever give it back? No one had been able to see me so far unless I stood still.
Suddenly the strange woman stirred. I ran before she could look up, but it felt more like flying. I need a place where no one will ever find me. Where no one one can lie to me again.
I sped up stairs silently, strange walls in fantastical colors that blurred past me, searching for an open door. Many hallways and corridors later, I finally saw a door cracked open. I ran inside.
I heard something fall down in the adjacent room. I’m not alone.
I gaped at the biggest thing in the room: a large square bench covered in a mountain of pillows that looked as if meant for sleeping. It’s too big to be a bed, isn’t it? I crawled underneath it, huddled myself up into the smallest shape possible. I waited, daring not to breathe. My eyes remained open, hardly blinking.
After an eternity of listening to the shuffling feet on the endless rug on the floor, finally a pair of feet went through the door and shut it.
All sounds of movement disappeared. The dark room grew still, as if daring me to come out.
I crawled out and wondered where I was. An unearthly blue-white light made the whole room look grey. I looked for the light’s source, a large open window on the far wall, but no air blew through it. I went over and touched the opening. It felt hard, a solid and clear wall like frozen water. Stranger still, I couldn’t smell … anything. The room seemed unnaturally clean, with an odd hint of something like fruit in the air?
I began searching for anything that looked like it could be used as a weapon against her. Though part of me wanted to believe that she couldn’t find me after I’d traveled so far to the future, I remembered the warning of the priestess who’d opened the door of time for me, “When she bound you to her, She bound herself to you as well. She can never leave you for long.”
If I really have come as far forward in time as I wanted, so that no one believes in witches anymore, then what’s the greatest magic in this world? Even if she comes, maybe her magic won’t work here. Maybe somebody killed her before she could come after me.
As I searched through cabinets and drawers and saw nothing but odd papers, something moved right in front of me. I jumped back.
A young girl.
I covered my mouth to suppress my shriek.
Glowing red eyes stared at me out of a small, ashen face, too old for the little girl’s thin body. She had long and wild white hair, just like my sister had looked before … Is it her? Has she trapped my sister here?
I reached my hand forward, but my fingertips touched a smooth wall instead of fingertips. I touched my face. She did the same. Goosebumps ran up my arms as I came closer. Though the face terrified me, I recognized it.
My face. My 6-year old spirit had the evil eyes of an old hag.
She’d forced my sister to change me too. I gasped, grabbing my hair. No wonder everyone screams when they see me. I’m hideous, barely human. I hated the magical wall for what it showed me. I threw a cup at the wall, fighting back the memories I couldn’t bear.
How when I finally found my missing sister, she looked just like this. How I screamed before she tore my spirit from my body and brought me to the witch.
I struck my reflection in the wall again and again until it splintered into pieces that flew across the floor, wishing I could feel the glass, wishing any of it could hurt me, wishing I still had a body that could pull me back into my old life.
The memories replayed in my head as I continued beating my reflection in the magical wall. I remembered how I’d shouted at the witch, “How could you turn her into a monster? She’s 4 years old.”
“She chose this.”
“She would never!”
“She was already dying, and I offered her eternal life. I thought she could use a little company, so now you can be together forever. While you serve me.”
But my sister’s eyes were not her own then. The witch had only taken the darkest part of her soul. Everything I loved most about my Lenora, how she laughed and joked, how much she loved making up games with me, it was all gone as a dark fragment of her remained, brainwashed into keeping me near the witch. My real sister looked dead while living.
I didn’t know while I ran that I was becoming just like her. I’m a monster too. Another one of the witch’s slaves.
In my rage, I tore around the room like an ocean typhoon, throwing everything I could lift. Another reflective wall mocked me in the empty adjacent room, showing me orange flickers of anger inside my maniacal red eyes. My skin crawled, hating myself. I shattered my reflection.
The witch’s voice taunted me in my head, “Don’t look at me, peasant. You’re not fit to see my face. Look down before I decide to torture Lenora.”
How can I hide if I look like this? If everyone who sees my face will die? What did she turn us into?
A crash rang out from the other side of the wall. Oh gods above, has the witch found me already?
I flew under the large sleeping bench in an instant. I laid still as stone and wiped away my tears.
I saw one pair of feet in odd-looking, leathery shoes. What magic do they use to make shoes the same blue-green color as a bird’s wings? Those aren’t the witch’s feet. A girl’s voice spoke in a language I didn’t know. She came close to the bed. She smelled … human. I sensed the heat of her body and shivered knowing how easy it would be to kill her.
I have to save her from me. If she sees me … not again.
I remembered the face of the girl who’d last seen me. Her scream had hurt me so much that I’d shouted at her, begging her to stop. But when I’d opened my mouth, a sound like a thousand knives dragged backward sharply across a grindstone swallowed us both in a tornado of terror. I cried out for it to stop, but it had only grew louder as her soul had ripped away from her body, which crumpled down like an old barley sack. And something sucked her soul away from me as that condescending laughter of the witch echoed in my ears.
I don’t want to kill another one. I can’t let her see me.
Her toes pointed nearly right under the bed. She’s too close. A cat came out from behind her, ears pointed at me. Her legs started bending to look down — No!
I communicated the only way I could think of. I covered my eyes and screamed as loudly as I could. And I didn’t stop screaming.
A light came on. More voices. More sets of feet. Why won’t they leave? I dodged the inquisitive limbs poking under the bed, kicking them away, hiding my face.
A pink and white striped hat fell on the floor by the bed. They kept saying, “Waldorf,” again and again. What’s a Waldorf? Someone lifted the hat up.
Then when I saw that pair of tightly laced, black leather shoes with wicked points, chills shot through me.
She’s found me.
I stopped screaming. It’s no use now.
After more garbling of the voices, hers mumbling with them in an odd accent, the door closed, leaving only her and me.
She said, “How dare you make me travel so far to fetch you.”
“How’d you — What did you tell those people?”
“I told them I was your mother.” She stepped toward the bed.
“What did you do to me?”
“You’re a banshee, naturally. You save me the trouble of finding new ways to kill my victims.” She stood still by the corner of the bed.
“But what happens to those people? Those people who died when they saw my face?”
“I need them to stay alive, darling. How do you think I’ve managed to survive for thousands of years? The vitality of their souls stays with me. I simply take the remaining years of their life and put them to … better use. You don’t have to be so upset about it, dear. So many people waste their lives trying to achieve petty things, not caring much about what happens so long as they’re comfortable. But don’t you see, together we’re serving a higher purpose. I can take their lives and use it to create something meaningful. Something that will endure.”
“No, no dear. No need to judge. Your fate’s already been decided, so you may as well accept it. I’m not leaving here without you.” She tapped her foot.
Tears ran down my cheeks. I covered my mouth to muffle my sniffling.
“Oh, save your tears to attract the next victim. That’s why I chose you and your sister, you know. A crying little child is so irresistible.” She chuckled as I ground my teeth together. “Look, darling, it’s been fun running around a new world and all, but I prefer my emerald isle full of Gaels to feast on. If you come out now and say you surrender, then you won’t have to suffer anymore.”
No. Not those words.
I heard my father’s voice in my head from the last time I saw him before his last battle, “Remember, my lovely, you’re a warrior’s daughter. Now promise me, what’s the one thing warriors never say?”
“I surrender,” I’d said with a smile.
I caught my reflection in a shard of a broken piece of the magic wall on the floor. Though my eyes were red, I could still see my father’s spirit in them. I closed my eyes as the pain of his memory washed over me again:
“Papa, the neighborhood girls say you’re evil because you kill people. Why do you do it?”
“We must fight them to protect our village, before they take away everything we have. If we don’t fight, they’ll destroy us. But do you know what I pray before I go out to battle?
“A warrior does not kill in anger,
The way of liars & thieves.
“A warrior does not kill with fear,
The way of zealous kings.
“A true warrior doesn’t wish to kill at all,
But when they raise their sword,
It’s not for themselves, for vengeance or power,
It’s for the good of the world.
“Our way has always been to make peace with those who have a noble cause. But you cannot make peace with those who serve no one but themselves at all costs.”
“I want to be a warrior like you when I grow up. Will you teach me?”
“Of course, my little treasure.”
He’d kissed me on the head, went out to fight, and lost his life on the battlefield that day. Maybe Freya’s Valkyries had taken him to Valhalla, for he’d said his prayers faithfully. I wanted to believe that he’d called out for her, that her servants would recognize his sacrifice and reward him. But I didn’t know.
The witch started pacing. As she circled back and forth around the bed, I noticed the tiniest of cuts in the back of her shoe. A sharp, shattered piece of wall had pierced her skin.
My eyes grew wide. She’s still mortal. If she could bleed, then she could still die, no matter how powerful she may be.
And suddenly, I knew why she forbid me from looking at her.
I picked up the largest shard of the reflective wall. Carefully, I tilted it to catch a glimpse of her face from the edge of the bed.
I whispered, “A true warrior doesn’t wish to kill at all,
But when they raise their sword,
It’s not for themselves, for vengeance or power,”
She asked, “What’s that?”
I shouted, “It’s for the good of the world!”
She looked down, right into my reflection aimed at her.
And at last, she saw my face.
I trembled at every tremor in the pitch of her scream, shaking me as her soul started tearing away from her vile form. The walls shook. Everything around us came crashing down.
But instead of screaming along with her, a tremendous laughter erupted from the core of my being.
I shed tears of joy as the swirling storm of wind blasted us outside of the room. We soared up into the night sky, the howling of the witch’s cries drowning out under the excited whispers and cheers of a million disembodied voices that flooded my ears. I went on laughing as we soared higher, blurring through space and time.
And slowly my sister’s face emerged from the chaos, floating in front of me, her eyes no longer red.
It was her smile. Her real smile. And it set me free.
***See the full directory of WGFC Hotel Short Stories at:
**To see this story from another POV, check out the story by Ja-Mel Vinson