This story is by Janna Zuercher and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The breeze of the late spring evening in Colonial Massachusetts was gentle. The sun was setting, leaving a vibrant crimson shade in the sky, and everyone in the village was quiet, awaiting the long night to come. Elinor Smith, the daughter of the village leader, was the only exception.
“Now where could it be,” She said to herself as she wandered the forest in search of the mystical well that was rumored to grant any desire.
The stone well suddenly appeared within the spiraling mase of trees as if to answer her.
She never quite understood what her father thought was so malicious about the well, but chills were crawling up her spine and a terrible feeling was overwhelming her. Even so, as if someone was dragging her, she was drawn to the well and its mystical beauty.
“Don’t wander, don’t get weary, don’t lose your way.”
A long time ago, when she was just a little girl, she walked through the forest and found a path of wisp in her presence, they surrounded her chanting that very phrase over again, sadly, her father found and dragged her away. If she had it her way, she would have stayed in that forest forever, it was so peaceful there.
Her father forbade her from ever going near the forest, and spent an entire day convincing her that what she saw was only a dream and never really happened, although she was never quite convinced.
Her hair was caught in a tree, making her lose her footing and fall on a pile of wet leaves.
Having that it had not rained recently, Elinor was puzzled as she took a glance around her, only to find that her dress had been torn. Knowing that her father would be furious, she started to create a believable excuse.
She started to wonder if her father would believe her.
He was always so strict, and never let her watch the witch trials, as they took place. When she was little, all the kids made fun of her for not being able to watch the trials, when the whole village could. They called her the witch lover, and it was difficult making friends.
She finally made her way up to the well in hopes that it would hear her wish.
“I Just wish that things were different,” she stuttered as tears streamed down her face like a waterfall, this was the one thing she truly wanted.
“Don’t wander,” A voice called out, she examined the surrounding area but came up empty-handed.
“Go,” She heard the voice again.
The voice’s volume started to progress as Elinor got more and more anxious.
“Help, someone, anyone!!!” She yelled for a miracle, a rescuer perhaps.
Tiny orbs of light appeared and surrounded her. This time, she knew exactly what they were.
“Don’t wander, don’t get weary, don’t lose your way,” the wisp chanted in unison. Elinor’s head started to hurt from the constant repeating of that phrase, it was as if the wisp were trying to drill it into her.
“Be gone you pestering vermin,” a lady said as she walked over to Elinor.
“Thank you so much for saving me from the wisp,” Elinor was grateful that someone heard her plead for help.
The woman started to giggle.
“Now if you excuse me, I’m going home” Elinor attempted to leave.
Suddenly, as if she were paralyzed, Elinor couldn’t move anything in her body.
“Who are you,” Elinor was fearful, for she realized that the person standing before her was not a generous bystander here to be of assistance.
“I am the witch of the wishing well, and I have heard your wish loud and clear,” The witch started to laugh.
“Witch,” Elinor grew more and more terrified.
She was thinking back to everything. Leaving home without asking, falling, everything she did worked out to the benefit of the evil witch.
“Now, now, there is nothing to fear my child.”
“I won’t hurt you, you’re one of us,” The evil witch whispered in her ear, sending chills down her spine.
“What do you mean by that,” Elinor asked trying to be brave while thinking of a way out of the troubling situation.
“Oh, did your family not tell you anything,” The witch giggled.
“Of course they did! I am the daughter of the village leader and my mother was a highly respected member of the village and passed away when I was a child,” Elinor snapped at the wicked witch.
“Oh sweetheart, there is so much more than that,”, The witch started to explain, ” Your mother was a witch and when your father found out he killed your mother. Soon after, he went after you but was weak hearted and kept the fact that you had witching powers secret, and hoped it would all blow over.”
“That’s impossible, I can’t believe it!” Elinor was appalled by the accusations the witch was making.
“Oh, don’t worry dear, I can make it better, I can take away your witching powers,” The witch started.
“Deal, take them, take my witch self, witches are evil and heartless, I don’t want to be one,” Elinor was anxious and was scared for what was to become of her.
“Wait, there’s a price,” The witch stopped her, “Nothing is free, turning human will cost you.”
“Okay, how much, my family is pretty wealthy so,” Elinor started frantically.
“No, I don’t want money, the price of becoming human will be souls. To be more accurate, the souls of your village. You can become a human, but your village will die, and I will have all of their souls for eternity.
Elinor fell to the floor in shock. She had to make an impossible choice. She could become a human, but her entire village would die, along with anyone she ever cared about, or she could stay a half-witch and be hated and hunted by everyone near and far.
She loved her village so much. Even though she acted like she hated them, they were the only people to at least pretend to care about her. Once again, tears flooded Elinor’s eyes. She didn’t want to live her life as a witch, and she definitely didn’t want her family to die.
“This is a limited offer, take it or leave it,” the witch spat out getting impatient with the teenage girl.
Her father kept her alive, he did everything for her, no matter how much she said she hated him, she really didn’t, she loved her father more than she loved anyone else in the world. Why did he kill her mom? Are witches really all that bad? A million unanswered questions flooded her mind. Does her father really love her? she started to wonder.
Then she thought about everything that he had ever done for her, the answer to if he loves her was obvious.
Even if he hates me, I will have assurance knowing that I made the right choice. I need to think about what is best for both of us, me and the village because that is what it means to love something.”
“Witch, I have made my choice,” The witch looked at her curiously.
“Please, make me human,” Elinor’s stated determined, puzzling the witch, for she was sure she would want to remain a witch.
“Why choose that,” The witch asked.
“My father and the village would live out the rest of their days in grief if I were to remain a witch for their sake, and if they ever saw me again they would be obligated to kill me. I don’t want them to go through that, and besides, I don’t want to live the rest of my life as a witch, it’s my choice, right!
“Oh, and one more thing. I will become the best witch hunter there is, and I will come back and kill you, once and for all, and finally take revenge on you for making me go through this,” Elinor said with a brave face, although tears were pouring out of her.
“Very well then, I will be waiting anxiously by the well for your arrival.”
The witch was shocked that the weak little girl she just saw, was all the sudden a strong, noblewoman.
“Very Well then, in exchange for your humanity, the souls belong to me!”
The witch cast a spell as the magic poured out of Elinor.
cries for help came from the village and Elinor ran as fast as she could.
The village was on fire, and everyone was trapped.
“Elinor, Please, help me,” her father stuttered, crawling on the floor.
She couldn’t speak, frozen in terror, she was horrified.
“What have I done,” Elinor started to cry, realizing what had happened.
“This is what you wished for, is it not?” The witch laughed sinisterly.