We last left the town of Storybrooke in a post-celebration haze. With little to no adult supervision, the children of Storybrooke had the run of the town for most of the day…and nothing much happened, except for one very secret meeting that convened in Storybrooke’s surrounding woods!
The evil witch meeting was held in a place where proper evil witch meeting are traditionally held, in the middle of the creepy woods outside of town by the light of the moon, enhanced only by the flickering torches scattered around the periphery.
“Come to order, come to order!” Came the call from a masked woman on a makeshift stage. The “stage” was really just a sheet of plywood on top of some cinder blocks, but it served its purpose and elevated the first speaker of the evening above the sea of mask-wearing attendees. The witches all wore the classical theatre masks of comedy or tragedy, the ones with the smiling face, or the crying face that you commonly see. They wore these masks, in part, to protect their identities as they traveled from Storybrooke into the surrounding woods to attend secret evil witch meetings. It was the League of Anonymous Witches after all.
The Speaker stood dressed in a simple white robe. She was wearing a mask like all the other women. Hers was smiling, the face of comedy, but she steeled herself beneath her mask, knowing the subject of the meeting was deadly serious. She straightened her back to look as imposing as possible, commanding whatever authority she had, and she began to speak.
“We are here to honor the passing of a great witch.”
Unenthusiastic applause followed.
“Possibly the greatest witch that Storybrooke has ever known.” She continued, “Zemelda Rottentooth held the position of Town Witch for 75 years, the longest stretch of time that any witch has held the position, I might add.” There was a murmur of agreement, and one of the witches who was not quite done celebrating let out a short “whoo!” The witches had been partying just like the rest of the town. They called it commiserating instead of celebrating but it all amounted to the same thing.
A screen dropped down behind her from out of nowhere and a bar graph appeared. It should be noted that all grownups, even witches, love graphs. You just develop a taste for it over time, like eating brussels sprouts or reading the news.
The witch on stage used a laser pointer to draw attention to the first bar graph.
“During Mistress Zemelda’s tenure as Town Witch. We have seen a 62% increase in child to animal transformations. Our ranks swell with some of the finest, and most evil witches this country has ever seen. In fact,” she paused for effect, “in a recent poll, 88% of all witches in this country wished they lived in Storybrooke. And why? Because we here in Storybrooke are playing the long game. Our Evil Stepmother Implementation plan has taken off by leaps and bounds, and our fortifying the local beer with stupidity potion has brought poor decision making…” She paused again before her dramatic conclusion, “to an All, Time, High.”
There was less applause than she had been hoping for, but she carried on.
“This brings me to a most pressing point. We, the witches of Storybrooke, must not lose our gains! Mistress Zemelda’s passing has left a terrible hole in our town. A hole that must be filled. It is time to select a new Town Witch!”
This last statement got more crickets than clapping. After a moment of silence, a rather large witch in a tragedy mask, asked, “Well how do we do that?”
“Well, I think it’s fairly obvious that it should be me,” said the witch on the stage.
This caused a bit of a buzz which quickly turned into a kerfuffle as the crowd started discussing this possibility with one another. Finally, one voice broke through. It belonged to a bony woman with a tragedy mask and a shrill voice. She stood up.
“I don’t even know who you are! And besides that, I think it should be me that gets to be the Town Witch!”
The kerfuffle turned into a ruckus, and was broken again a few moments later by a curvy witch in a comedy mask. She put her hand on her hip and said in a deep, smoky voice, “This is simple. We should have a vote. That’s the only way to make this fair. I vote for me.”
The bony tragedy-masked woman stood up again. “No one knows who you are either you twit!”
“This is stupid,” yelled a very short witch who had to stand on her chair to be seen, “Everyone is going to vote for themselves…unless you’re smart, then you would vote for me.”
And on and on it went, until finally, right as the ruckus was threatening to turn into a hullabaloo, a witch with gray hair and a regal demeanor stood up and commanded the clearing to silence.
“Witchcraft should be a meritocracy,” she said. The silence changed from attentive to dumbfounded.
She let out a little sigh and shook her head.
“A meritocracy is a system in which someone is rewarded based on the quality of his or her work.”
“We live in America! We do DE-mocracy here. Go back to…wherever you’re from,” said a large woman.
“My dear sister,” the witch started, and she had one of those voices that let you know exactly how serious she was even with a mask on, even when she was calling you sister, “I am from America. I just happen not to be a stupid snail-biter like you.”
“Ooooh!” went the crowd. “Snail-biter” was the second worst insult one witch could hurl at another.
The large woman held up a black velvet bag and shook it menacingly at the older woman. “You want a piece of this, sister?” There was nothing sisterly about the way she laid down that question.
The regal witch was perfectly willing to have a piece of whatever was being offered, but didn’t get a chance to have any, because at that moment, there was a low booming sound. An inescapable hum permeated the night.
A fire spontaneously ignited on the stage and burned so brightly, all the witches winced and shielded their eyes. Then, just as suddenly as the fire had happened, the wicked face of none other than Zemelda Rottentooth, appeared through the smoke.
“Hello ladies,” she cackled. Her face was larger than life and a little too bright to look at directly without squinting. Her voice was like sandpaper on the eardrums and was just this side of uncomfortably loud.
Zemelda continued, “If you are watching this, I am dead. No tricks this time, I’m worm food. And you’ve probably figured out this means you need a new Town Witch. But you probably don’t know how to do that. I know how simple you are. Let me guess, you were all just yelling, ‘vote for me,’ even though you’re all wearing masks and no one knows who the other one is right?”
Surprise gave way to quiet embarrassment as Zemelda had a good laugh from beyond the grave at the expense of her fellow witches. Their departed leader continued, “These are big shoes to fill people, not just anyone will be up to task, though I invite all of you to try…” Zemelda sneered wickedly.
“You will have a contest! The contest will determine who is most fit for the esteemed position of Town Witch, my old job.”
The silence was broken by a few witches clapping with approval, which grew into a large rowdy round of applause, peppered with more than a few “whoos” of agreement.
“Stop cheering dimwits! I’m dead. I can’t hear you!” The clapping slowed and the crowd settled down. Zemelda’s floating face continued to speak.
“This contest is simple, even you lot can’t mess it up. Whoever can capture the most horrible, rotten children by the next full moon wins.”
There was a low murmuring in the crowd. Someone spoke up and asked the one word question, “Capture?”
“This ain’t rocket science!” Zemelda yelled, growing frustrated with her former cohorts.
“Capture them, catch them, trap them!” The fire on the stage leapt at her words, throwing long flickering shadows over the forest.
“As many of the disgusting little beasts as you can – Myself, I’d use animal transformations. Not enough beasts of burden around these days. But you don’t have to impress me. I’m a corpse. Get creative.”
“Obviously, no one will ever be as good a town witch as me, but you’re the only witches this town has left,” Zemelda let out a woeful sigh. “My house and all my magical items are sealed with a curse. And no, I’m not going to tell you what kind of curse because I know one of you will try to break the curse and steal my things. Maybe I should let you all try… heh, heh, the very idea of that happening makes me laugh,” and she let out a hoarse cackle. “Whoever gets the most children by the next full moon will be the only one who can access my house and all the things I have inside. And trust me, if you’re going to be the next Town Witch, you’re going to need all the things that took me a lifetime to learn and collect. Also, feed the snake would you? He’ll probably be pretty hungry by the time this is over. Ok, happy hunting ladies. See you on the other side.”
And with that, the fire disappeared, taking Zemelda with it. The woods seemed rather dark for a moment while eyes adjusted to torch light, and minds adjusted to what they had just learned.
“As I was saying, meritocracy, ” said the regal witch with gray hair, breaking the silence.
It didn’t take long for the shock of the whole “Zemelda addressing her former peers from beyond the grave” to wear off, however, and the witches began to bicker among themselves before too long. The bickering soon grew in volume and intensity, and the riotous ruckus resumed and gained steam, turning itself into a furor, which, at long last, became the full blown hullabaloo it had always threatened to be under the light of the waxing half moon.
Chapter 7 (preview)
Zemelda Rottentooth died on Monday, which meant the celebration was on Tuesday, and the extra day off after the celebration was Wednesday. This meant that Thursday was not a day off from school. I don’t need to tell you that having two days off in the middle of the week makes going back to school especially dreadful, and Ada and her friends were having a rough time of things…
What will happen to Ada and her friends on their first day back at school? Check back in a couple of weeks for Chapter 7 in our new March | April Issue!
Kelly Raine is an artist, writer, and educator. He teaches children and likes the idea that he is pitching in to make the world slightly better. He wears a lot of black and wakes up very, very early.
© Kelly Raine, 2018 All Rights Reserved.