Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hopkins' Witch (Short Story Series 1 Pt. 3)

I stride silently down a beaten country road, a white picket fence to my right and a looming forest to my left. The stick in my right hand makes clicking noises as it slowly pats itself against each post in the fence. I've walked this road hundreds of time, coming here whenever my mind needs to be soothed. Except it's different this time, I don't desire to walk the normal route back -- I wish to walk and never return. I've been living with my mother for the past few years. She's a moping mess, always mourning the loss of my father. I can't stand being around her every day. She hardly says a word, always whispering about how things would be better if my father were there. He disappeared one haunting winter and soon became the gossip of the village. He was a hunter and the last I saw of him was when he was packing his bow and arrows for his final voyage into the forest that hangs over me like a tyrant to my left.

I glance over every few seconds, expecting to see him there with his confident grin and a fresh kill in his hands. I curse the trees and the roots keeping them alive. The local priest tells me that I shouldn't blame nature, but blame my father's tyrannical attitude toward wildlife. I punched his front teeth out. Haven't heard much of him since then. People think it's strange that I'm so violent. Say I'm just like my father, cocky and easily provoked. My attitude is justified. They all forgot about him, even praising his disappearance. I should take his old bow and teach them some respect.

Evil thoughts, not the thoughts a young girl should have, but they stay there; have been there since I first heard one of the boys in my schoolhouse laughing at my father's demise. I had always been a quiet girl, but I changed that day. I grabbed him by the collar and threw him across the room with frightening strength. The teachers are afraid of me, the children are afraid of me, the town is afraid of me. I'm not normal, and that is why I walk this familiar path to my unknown destination. This town is too old fashioned for its own good. Accusations of me being a witch like this is Salem.

Maybe I am a witch. I can conjure the elements right into my hand. The sparks are weak, but they are there. I enjoy frightening the villagers. Put out the fire on their torches as they held their weekly religious gathering in the courtyard. They blame the breeze, but I think they know. They know that I've been watching. I enjoy the feeling of being powerful; different than the other brainless peasants. Retribution is in order for those hypocrites. Claiming their religious killings are justified, but when a hunter disappears they claim his archery is an attack on nature. I should burn them down. Each corrupted hut, each mockery of a human.

No, Angeline. You are not one of them. You are not a genocidal maniac; however much they deserve it...

The fence ends at a crossroads and my stick drops to the ground. Except there's no road to the right, just a barely visible old path. I've never been this far from the village. I eye my surroundings, observing this new land. Back in the town, nobody ever spoke of a trail into the forest. They said it was up to those who enter to make their own paths, but before me was the ghost of a past path. Barely visible, but definitely there. The trail that snaked from beyond the opening in the fence led right into the darkness of the forest. Dare I follow it and risk the same fate of my father? Maybe he's still out there...

I retrieve my stick from the ground and peer for a few minutes into the forest, pondering my options. My eye catches onto a small wooden post lying on the ground. My neck cocks to the side and I'm nervous to even stick my hand into the forest borders to observe it. I realize my foolishness and walk forward and try to pick up the post. It's wrapped almost completely in vines. A small task. I wrap my fingers firmly around it and concentrate hard. In seconds the vines are aflame and the post is unscathed.

Satisfied with my success, I quickly stand the post up, realizing that it was a path marker. A small wooden plank on the top has two words burned into it. Two very haunting words. It reads ominously, "Hopkins' Witch". I stare for a few seconds, silently contemplating whether this serves a purpose or is just an eerie coincidence. The name of my village rings in my head -- Hopkins' Salvation. The story behind the name is as terrifying as the village itself. My eyes read the sign over and over and the connection makes my stomach turn. Is it destiny for me to travel this road? Is this sign calling for Hopkins' Salvation's witch? It can't be... the sign seems over a decade old. I can't pass up the opportunity. I left the village searching for a new home and maybe this will lead me to such a place.

Maybe this will lead me to my father as well. If he wasn't able to handle the woods, maybe I can't either... No, he didn't have what I possess. I can protect myself. I am Hopkins' Witch after all. What can an old forest have that's so dangerous anyway? I could bring the whole place to ashes if I so chose. That's it then. I will travel the path; find what is there to be found for me. My father? My home? There is nothing that can stand in my way. No villagers, no mother, no nature. I am the god of my own destiny and if this forest is where I've been brought then so be it.

I thrust the post back into the ground. It stands strong and I take my first step into the forest, no idea what comes next. I pick my stick back up and hold it as a weapon. No fear to be found, only hope. I consider giving one last look back toward my village, but no, it will only spark the vengeful spirit inside me. My footsteps are mighty and purposeful. The path below my feet is barely distinguishable among the roots and twigs, but I know I'm going the correct direction. There's a small clearing in the trees showing me my destination and I follow it loyally. Goodbye, Hopkins' Salvation. Hello, Hopkins' Witch.

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