- Vol. 03
- Chapter 05
They say you should never disturb a witch when she is in the middle of casting a spell; if you do, your life will change in unexpected ways, and often for the worse.
On the day my life changed, it had been a cool and sombre affair; the sky was a perpetual aluminium grey, the pond frozen over and the trees stiff with arthritis.
My mother had fallen ill and the apothecary had instructed hazelberries as the cure. Now hazelberries are wondrous things – they can pretty much cure anything and only reveal themselves to those who need help.
The woods were denser than I remembered; kite-shaped brambles and stick-limbed trees everywhere; a sliver of moonlight filtering through the canopy like a milk-white spotlight. Hideous roots, twisted in agony, littered the earth upsetting my way through the woods.
And then, in a particularly stygian corner, a figure crouched. I don’t know why but I crept up on them and heard a series of foreign words all spoken with a serpentine tongue. The words went straight through me, burrowing themselves under my skin, boiling my blood and sharpening my sense of smell. The world quickly drained of colour, my eyes focused on the milky moonlight and the thick darkness all around. Suddenly, my hand found the person’s back, and then a sharp bolt of pain sliced its way up my forearm.
I screamed and tried pulling my arm free but it wouldn’t budge.
The figure spun around and the face which glared back was an ugly old crone’s with a warped carrot for a nose and rice pudding for skin. She snarled at me, her teeth needle-fine and eyes like pearlescent orbs. Something behind her caught my attention – a wounded snow leopard lay on its side, its plum coloured tongue lolling out of its mouth oozing crimson blood onto the earth.
But before I could get away, the old crone stuck her hands onto my face, a ferocious hiss crackling the still air, and began muttering under her breath. I opened my mouth to scream and noticed the furry muzzle which had replaced it. My throat felt razorblade raw, the taste of gone-off meat doused my tongue; the scream now a roar.
I looked at my hands, now paws, with claws as long and sharp as rapiers whilst the old witch cackled.
‘Tiberius, you look so…alive.’
A knitting needle grin gleamed back at me.
I was about to strike the withered figure but those teeth told me there was more to her than met the eye. Instead I let out my best growl and loped off further into the woods looking for somewhere to hide.
It’s been five days now and I’ve consumed at least a dozen hazelberries; but I’m still the same human/snow leopard hybrid. I can still speak which is something, but I might keep that to myself for the time being – the last thing I want to do is finish off my sick mother.