Papa Says to Burn the Witch

Short Story – 1602 words

It started with a single snowflake, glittering in the fresh morning light and spinning delicately in the wind. The snowflake landed upon a girl of about eight years old who skipped about, mimicking the snow’s dance as her hair, impossibly whiter than the snow itself, flowed around her in a ghostly embrace. The evergreens surrounding her small form almost seemed to hum to themselves, if such a thing was possible. To the girl it most definitely was, but to others, well, that’s questionable. Other children, a mix of ages relatively close to hers and a dozen in number, stood around her, their eyes glimmering warily as harsh whispers were exchanged from one to another.

“Papa told me that once the first snowflake touched the witch’s hair, we’d all be doomed,” came one young boy’s voice.

“That’s what Mama told me,” a girl next to him muttered, her mouth twisting into a scowl. “That, and that we should have burned the witch months ago. Before this happened…”

The same boy that had spoken up before crossed his arms and snapped, “Now the town is cursed. All because of you, witch…”

Yet another child, this one with a rather high voice but hidden by most of the crowd so one probably wouldn’t be able to tell gender unless actually spotting the kid, spoke up with a rather skeptical tone. “Don’t be silly. Witches don’t exist.”

The white haired girl of whom all of the children were gathered around as she danced and even hummed a little to no tune in particular glanced up, providing them with a rather confused frown. Her dancing halted, and she stood there as the snowstorm began to intensify, though paid no mind to it herself. “Witches don’t exist?” She asked, confused. “Why, of course they do. Along with dragons and fairies, of course. They all exist. Sometimes they visit me in my dreams.”

The boy that had spoken first busted into laughter, falling onto the ground as his dark locks fell into his face, to which he paid no attention. “Dragons?! Fairies?! See, she’s a witch! A ‘goddamn’ witch, just like my papa said! Only witches would say that nonsense! She even has a stupid witch name! Jadya!”

Jadya stared the boy with confusion, saying, “But William, didn’t you say just yesterday that you found a dragon egg in a cave near the mountain?”

“Papa said that was an oversized chicken egg when I described it. He told me to grow up, and that the only magic that exists is the stupid curse because of you being born!” the little boy snapped, his voice sounding both skeptical of both Jadya and himself. Despite this, he kept on talking, power and passion in his words, and for a little boy he sounded quite angry for no good reason. At least, that’s what many onlookers would observe—the other children simply agreed because their parents did. This curse, they were told, would be the end of them all. Unless Jadya was either exported or destroyed, of course. But that’s not how things worked these days. Way up North where the snows blinded the world to most of the going-ons here, however, sometimes mistakes were made, and long held traditions stayed solid through the sands of time. Even if, unfortunately, such traditions and ideas spawned from only one thing—hate.

Jadya’s eyes never failed to leave William; the small boy almost shivered as her pine-colored gaze almost pierced into his very soul. Within her eyes did not flicker any form of malice, however, they only provided sheer and utter questioning as to what he truly believed. The other children, after arguing amongst one another, began to disperse, but not before shooting out some venom-filled words toward the white-haired witch.

Softly, her voice rang out, causing William to tense just as he finally began to turn away. “You knew he’d break the dragon egg, didn’t you,” she practically whispered, though William certainly could hear her words. “That’s why you told me to watch over it yesterday. Without calling me a witch. If I show you the dragon William, then will you believe me?”

No other child had bothered to hear Jadya out, mostly because she hadn’t given one word to defend herself. Did she really have to, when it came down to it? Would any of them believe her, what with the ideas of hate drilled so deeply into their heads? William let out a long, drawn out sigh that seemed to last minutes but only really did so for about half a second. He paused in his attempt to just leave the girl there alone to dance among the snow in peace again. “No. Because dragons don’t exist. Papa told me so. He told me that you’re a witch, and nothing else matters.”

Jadya frowned lightly, saying softly, “Your papa has a lot of words he says, to everyone. He tells them when the baker’s batch will be done. He tells them if school should be canceled the next morning, if it gets too cold out. He tells them if it will snow, and he tends to be right. He tells them about money and how to make more of it. That’s what my momma says. But she told me that he also tells them bad stuff, if they make him angry. Like how momma did, when she said no.”

William winced and finally turned to completely face Jadya, clenching his fists. “Papa told me that you’re a witch. Everyone believes him because he is always right. He leads the worship. He’s the only one who talks to the Great Ones.”

“How do you know? Have you ever asked the Great Ones?” Jadya asked with natural childish curiosity. Perhaps if he had, she could ask William if they knew where to find a real fairy rather than a boring old dragonfly.

“Do you ever listen, witch? He is the only one who talks to them. How could I have spoken to them if Papa is the single person who can do so?” William growled in an irate tone.

“Oh…” Jadya furrowed her brows, tilting her head and wiping a tiny tear that had formed in the side of her eye. Her sniffle rang out through the air, almost causing the boy to wince. “Why don’t you just call me my name, William? You were yesterday. Before my mom said no. And besides, it always snows around here. The first snowflake touched me and you last year. Remember? We both caught them at the same time. How is this different?”

William stared at the ground, his eyes never leaving it as he only clenched his fists harder. “Because Papa said so. And I listen to him. Otherwise he’ll break even more dragon eggs, got it?!” He whirled, his back now facing Jadya as he stomped off whilst uttering annoyed nothings to himself.

Jadya looked after him, standing there until he vanished off into the horizon. The young girl blinked a few times, wiping away a group of tears that had frozen onto her cheeks. Soon enough she began to set off back toward the town, determined to tell her mother exactly what all the children had been yelling about today. Well, she would have, had there not been a small glimmering form in the corner of her eye. Within her mind or perhaps right next to her ear did a voice speak. Jadya could tell that the voice was not her own, because no one talked to themselves these days. Or did they? They certainly talked a lot to each other. Perhaps if they talked more to themselves, they wouldn’t be as crazy.

Anyways, the voice was rather high-pitched and feminine, with an extremely saddened and worried tone. “They burned the witch’s mother. They’ll burn the witch too,” the voice explained, to not only Jadya, but the surrounding forest as well. That was when the entire world went silent. The trees stopped whispering, and the snow stopped dancing. Jadya stood there for a good year, or was it only a matter of minutes? She sobbed both a river and stream, but made no sound while doing so. For a moment in time, she turned into just a statue, more breakable than a dragon’s egg, and no less strong than a feather. After running her fingers through her long white hair, once, twice, then three times, Jadya turned away from the town. A dragonfly that had landed on her shoulder, just before the tiny voice whispered to her, flew off into the dimming horizon just as the sun began to set. No longer time for Jadya to head home; did she even have one anymore?

She ran…or walked briskly, Jadya could not tell herself exactly what she was doing at this moment in time… deeper into the forest, away from all the children whom called her a witch earlier today. Away from William, whose Papa told him that she was a witch. Away from the men who had murdered her mother, until Jadya came upon a dark cave, one by the mountains. Stepping inside, she noted in her mind that everything was silent; not even the evergreens spoke to her now.

After only moments however was the silence shattered like glass, and two glimmering purple orbs met the bright green eyes of Jadya. The sound? The smallest of squeaks, a wimpy sort of noise that wouldn’t scare even the most fearful of children. “You can’t believe in witches without dragons and fairies,” Jadya told herself as she held out her hand to the tiny winged hatchling.

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