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Julie

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Over a hill nearby the village lived a witch. People weren't necessarily as afraid of her as they were perplexed. She lived entrapped by herself in a house made of smooth black glass. Whenever anyone would be curious enough to pay her a visit she would answer any question they had truthfully, or seemingly so… you see, she would only answer by talking on in a way that led people to believe she spoke only in riddles.

 

Wanting to prove themselves the smartest in the village, often young ones ran off from their usual play-grounds to ‘test themselves against the mighty witch’. The children who sought puzzles and riddles to solve usually received exactly as they had wanted, coming back feeling clever with the occasional joke to share.

 

Adults, though, got differently. The witch would speak in metaphors and nonsense ramblings that would bore the curiosity out of anyone who came by after a hunt or dropped by to spice up the repetitiveness of daily life. People who stuck around longer to begin understanding left for multiple reasons, sometimes they legitimately did not understand and other times felt ‘too bummed out to stick around any longer near that disgusting thing’.

 

Sometimes children say when they lost their way in the nearby woods they could hear the witches song leading them back in the direction of home, but any positive note about her was dismissed and soon forgotten. If she was not already trapped by herself the village would have surely gotten rid of her by now.

 

Lucas was a bored man, often occupying himself with books or basking in compliments he got far too often he would brag (though maybe received once a week at most for not necessarily significant things.) He was not ashamed to admit he found himself terrific and was the self proclaimed smartest person in the village. Oftentimes people could hardly put up with his presence but he had once again thought up a brilliant idea to show everyone he was indeed the smartest man of them all.

 

He was going to talk with, and understand, that thing nearby. That witch. He was going to understand it and bring back knowledge to his village that no one had even dreamed of. He knew it answered everyone honestly and knew it had powers that could help him in ways even he hasn't thought of yet.

He could decipher the answers to the worlds greatest questions like…

Where is the best place to hunt?
Or…
How do I cure this illness?
Or…
How can I tell people how smart I am without sounding full of myself?

Yes, it was a fool-proof plan. Which meant it had no way of failing because he was in no way a fool!

 

Lucas set out on his way, following the winding path over the hill. And there it was, sitting on a flat patch of ground overlooking the nearby forest. The witch's house.

 

It was always strange, he thought, that flowers were overgrown around it but never onto the walls. Then again what was even more strange than that was the walls themselves… Smooth, black glass, opaque and giving the illusion of once being an ordinary house but lacking enough detail to be unsettling.

 

As the ‘house’ came into view so did the witch. It had its arms cross on the bottom of an open window, head on its arms and looking outward towards the path with an empty expression. But before he heard or saw it he heard it and its song. An odd melody that seemed to carry and dance along any winds that past by, and seemed to change from day to day. People had theories as to why it sang but it all boiled down to curses for the most part.

 

As Lucas approached, the witch sat up more, ceased her song, and smiled warmly towards him, making him feel… something. It was a little uneasy but not just that… pity, maybe? He wasn't sure but continued towards it anyway.

 

When he got close enough it tilted its head as if in a silent question of why he made his appearance. Even with that smile still on its face he still felt… bad. He opened his mouth intending to get straight to the point, to ask one of the many questions he had planned and test his intelligence by getting his answers but…

 

It looked so lonely.

 

He couldn't help but ask,

“Were you always alone?”

 

“Not always… before this reality stood firmly like the statue of a war general I was indeed in company…” The witch let out a wistful sigh, staring off into the distant white puffy clouds lazily floating onward. It seemed like the witch was finished answering but Lucas stood still, hoping to hear more than that. Just as he was about to make his way to leave it then continued, making Lucas realize he had made the right choice to wait as long as he did.

 

“Women are great potters, you know.” It nodded to itself.

 

“What about men?” Lucas joked back, half smiling. Sometimes he couldn't help but make jokes even in situations he himself deemed serious.

 

“Yes, men too, in different ways of course…

“I once made a beautiful vase… so lovely… it took over half a year to create, each day spent carefully planning its potential uses and making sure it wouldn't fall apart. Things like that are not to be rushed after all. It was a wonderful time, almost as if the sunlight through my windows was brighter just to give me a little more clarity on my work.”

 

Lucas wasn't sure where the witch was going with all of this but eager to hear more. He sat down on a nearby stone as he listened.

 

“When the vase was finished it felt as if the entire world was rejoicing, even if only a handful at best knew of its existence. It was empty and new, and to me, perfect… I couldn't wait to fill it with water and flowers, dreaming of the sweet aroma that would fill the house where ever it was placed. I spent the first few days painting it with fantastic colors and patterns… gold and green and blue and… red.”

 

The witch looked troubled, its calm look replaced with a look of far away horror. Its fingers that had gently set on the open window were now trembling and tightly gripping onto whatever it could. Its eyes were wider, filling with tears like a dam about to break, but as quickly as this came on, it passed. It closed its eyes tightly, took a deep breath, and sighed, forcing its body to relax once more.

 

“Red… what a nasty color. They never should have done it, you know. It wasn't me, I had no part in it. But when faced with two equally horrible decisions sometimes the third option is best… but no one ever said the third option was silence. My silence is cursed, I hate the quiet. It's too loud. It used to be so relaxing when it didn't mean I was lonely or awaiting death…”

“They broke that lovely vase… shattered it. I tried to put it back together but that ugly nasty red was smeared all over every other color I tried my best to paint on. The same things that shattered that vase came back and made sure it could never be repaired. Red dominated the living room for months…”

 

It- no, she, looked at him with sorrowful eyes, and he unlike others who so easily dismissed her stories as rambling nonsense halfway through, understood what she had been saying. Or perhaps she was so desperate to be understood she spoke it as simply as she could without saying it bluntly out loud.

 

He struggled to maintain eye contact with her and cleared his throat.
“I have another question for you…”

 

She appeared pained at that, maybe thinking he had only been getting more confused as she went on. Even so, she waited patiently for him to speak once more.

 

“What was their name?...”

 

“Her name… was Julie…”