The Witch's Red Dress
A long time ago, outside of a tiny village forgotten by time, there lived a reclusive man and his young daughter, Joy. The people of the village disliked the man and his daughter. They both had hair white as fleece, pale skin, and silver eyes, quite unlike everyone else in the village. They also feared the man, for he was skilled in creating potions and, rumor had it, he'd cast spells upon the people of the village if you paid him well enough.
So they all avoided him. And he avoided them.
But Joy was sad. She did not want to be so apart from the rest of the villagers. She would watch from afar as the children of the village played games and chased each other through the fields. She longed to go and join them, but her father warned her against it.
"Those children are much like their parents," he said. "They will be afraid of you. They will not understand you and, for this, they will hate you."
But Joy couldn't believe that such happy children could hate. Still, she watched them longingly, wishing she had the courage to join in their game, ask them if she could be apart of their group. Wishing she had a friend.
One day, Joy was out picking belladonna berries and ginger roots for her father in the woods when she heard a strange noise. She went to investigate and found a girl from the village sitting in a clearing in the woods, crying. Joy saw her flaming red hair and crimson gown and recognized her as the miller's daughter. She was the prettiest girl in the village and always wore brilliant red dresses to compliment her vibrant hair. Her father, the miller, being the wealthiest man in the village was able to buy expensive red dyes and outfits from the city.
Joy approached the miller's daughter cautiously. The girl was startled at seeing stark-white Joy emerging from the shadows of the trees, but Joy spoke to her kindly and asked her what the matter was. The girl dissolved in to tears again.
"My rabbit has run off into the woods," she explained. "My papa got him for me as an early birthday present and now he's gone. I can't find him anywhere. If I don't find him soon, a fox will get him and he'll die."
"Don't worry," said Joy, setting down her basket of herbs. "I know these woods very well. I'm sure I can help you find him."
"Are you sure?" the girl asked. "But these woods are so dark and scary. What if we get lost?"
"I never get lost in these woods," Joy replied, confidently. "I know them very well indeed. You're the miller's daughter, right? My name is Joy."
The girl wiped her eyes and stood up. She dusted off her red gown and gave joy a watery smile. "I'm Scarlett."
Together, Joy and Scarlett marched through the woods. Joy knew where some alfalfa grew and, sure enough, they found the rabbit munching on the plant contently. Scarlett let out a cry of delight as Joy cornered the little creature and returned it to her.
"You're wonderful!" Scarlett cried, taking the rabbit into her arms. "Everyone says that the medicine man and his daughter who live in the woods are scary, but you're so wonderfully nice!"
A light blush crept up Joy's pale cheeks. Nobody had ever complimented her like that before except her father. It was just the feeling she'd been hoping for. She asked Scarlett if it would be alright if she'd come back to the woods and play sometime. Scarlett readily agreed and said she'd meet Joy back in the same clearing tomorrow. Scarlett then turned, rabbit still in her arms, and bid Joy farewell.
Joy waited eagerly in the woods the next day, terrified that Scarlett wouldn't show up. But she did. Her ruby red dress a stark contrast to the vibrant greens and browns of the forest. Together, the girls played and talked of little things. They made daisy chains and dipped their toes into a nearby stream. They laughed and shared secrets together. Scarlett would gossip away happily about the people of the village and Joy would listen eagerly, hanging onto her every word.
Having a friend was just as wonderful as she had hoped
Day after day, the girls would meet up and play together. But Joy's father soon became concerned.
"I feel it is unwise for you to continue to be with that girl," he said, gruffly one day. He kept his back to Joy as he spoke, bent over a bowl of herbs he was carefully shredding.
Joy stared at him, aghast. "But why, Papa? Scarlett is a lovely girl who is nothing but nice to me! She's my friend."
"I know the home from which that girl comes from," said her father, his eyes still fixed on his bowl. "The miller is a cheat and a swindle. He's a dark man with dark thoughts, who bullies those lesser than him and threatens those better than him. You wouldn't do well mixing with a child from such a home."
Joy huffed. "Scarlett is nothing like that. So what if her father is like that? You cannot judge a person based on who their father is!"
"True," her father admitted. "But blood runs deep, my daughter. We cannot escape our inherent nature."
Joy gaped at him. She couldn't believe her father would be so judgmental. After how the villagers judged him so harshly for no reason at all, she thought her father would be more understanding. She turned on her heel and marched out of the room, indignantly, while her father continued to work quietly.
He's lying, thought Joy. Just because he can't get along with anyone in the village, he thinks I can't either.
Later that day, Joy met with Scarlett again and told her the things her father had said. Scarlett frowned as she talked.
"It's because Papa is rich that everyone in the village is jealous of him," Scarlett explained. "But he's actually a lovely person. He's a wonderful papa and I wish people wouldn't treat him so badly."
"My papa is nice too, normally," Joy insisted. "I couldn't believe it when he said those things to me. But I'm sure that if he just met with your father, they would find that they could be friends like us."
Scarlett shook her head. "Grown ups are harder to convince of things, Joy."
The two girls sat in contemplative silence for a moment before Scarlett clapped her hands in delight.
"You simply must come to my house tomorrow night!" she said, beaming.
"Come to...your house?" Joy asked, confused.
"Oh, yes!" Scarlett insisted. "I'm having a party with my friends and you must join us. I'm sure when all the children of the village realize just how lovely you are, they'll warm up to your father as well. Then you wouldn't have to hide in the woods anymore."
"Really?" said Joy, almost too happy to believe it. "You really think so?"
"I do," said Scarlett. "The party is at sundown tomorrow. Don't be late, okay?"
"Okay!" said Joy, as Scarlett walked off back toward the village.
The next day, Joy spent all day getting ready for the party. She braided daisies into her snowy white hair, washed and pressed her best dress, and shined her best pair of shoes. She did not tell her father what she was up to all day, for fear he might try and stop her from going. As the sun was starting to go down, Joy excused herself and told him she was going to bed a bit early. Once she was alone, she put on her dress and shoes and sneaked out her window and started toward the village, her heart bubbling over with excitement and happiness.
From his own window, her father watched her go, shaking his head sadly.
The miller's house was the only one with lights still burning from within and Joy made her way over there. Even as the dark of night crept slowly across the village, stark-white Joy stood out like a ghost running along the paved roads.
Joy rushed over to the big house, carefully inspected her appearance with her hands one final time, and knocked on the door.
"Come in!" came Scarlett's voice from within.
Joy put on her biggest smile and opened the door.
"Scarlett! It's me! I'm sorry if I'm...."
The word "late" was caught in her throat as she glanced around. Sure enough, almost all the children her age from the village were there...
...and they were all staring at her.
Joy heard the door close behind her with a loud bang. She jumped to find Marcus, the tailor's son, had shut it behind her, leering at her as he did so.
"You actually did it," came the voice of Tessa, the grocer's daughter. "You got the witch to come here."
Scarlett giggled, her usually sweet face twisted in an unpleasant smile. "I told you I could. It was pretty easy, actually."
"Scarlett?" Joy asked, confusion laced with fear filling her more and more by the second. "What's going...ah!"
Wilhelm, the butcher's son, had come up behind Joy and had taken a fistful of her white hair. "You were right, Scarlett! Her hair really is white like a corpse. She is a witch, just like they said."
Another girl rushed forward and grabbed the hem of Joy's dress. "Would you look at these rags she's wearing?" she scoffed. "How can she endure being seen in such filth?"
"Let go!" Joy cried, pulling at her dress in an attempt to free herself. "Please I don't want..."
But they all came forward at once, pulling, prodding, and pinching at her. Joy was soon surrounded by leering face and grabbing hands, pulling at her hair and clothes.
"Stop!" Joy begged. "Please leave me alone! I don't want...."
"No way!" snapped the farmer's son, aiming a kick at Joy that caught her right in the stomach. She toppled over in pain and he continued to glare at her on the floor. "It's your fault we've had such a poor harvest this year. You and that witch father of yours."
The violence soon escalated. One by one, the village children sought vengeance for their parent's misfortunes by kicking and beating Joy as she lay helplessly on the floor.
"You scared all our customers away."
"You gave Mama nightmares."
"Papa ran off with that woman because of you!"
"My folks won't stop drinking and it's all your fault."
"Scarlett!" Joy cried, finding the power to speak at last. "Please, help me!"
The children stopped their assault momentarily to witness Scarlett's reaction. Scarlett laughed. It was a terribly evil sound. "Why would I do that? Can't you see the party is in full swing?"
"I thought you were my friend!" Joy pleaded, tears falling down her face.
"Friend?" Scarlett laughed harder than ever. "Me? Befriend a witch? Never! The witch in the wood is responsible for all kinds of misfortune in our village and he has to pay. We'll make him pay by taking it out on you. I just said whatever I could to get you here tonight. I must say though," she added, leaning down so she could see right into Joy's tear-filled, terrified eyes. "All those hours I wasted on you are quite worth it to see you like this, I must say."
The village children then began their attacks again. The beating, pulling, hitting and laughing whirling together in a wave of confusion and pain. Joy could only cry and beg for freedom from the relentless onslaught.
"Please!" she begged over and over again. "Please let me go! I want to go home! Let me go home, please!"
"I'm getting bored!" declared Wilhelm. "Let's move on to the main event!"
The children cried out in agreement. They finally backed away from Joy, who was now lying sprawled on the ground, bleeding and weak. She barely managed to lift her head and see what they were doing next. Wilhelm was standing on the table in the middle of the room, tying something to the rafters above.
"No," moaned Joy. "No, please, no...."
Her pleas fell on deaf ears. More ropes appeared from among the crowd as the children marched forward, binding Joy at the wrists and ankles. They proceeded to drag her to the table where the noose dangled ominously above her.
"Stop," Joy sobbed weakly, fresh tears spilling from her eyes. "I'm begging you, please. What have I done wrong?"
"What have you done wrong?" Scarlett said, her eyes filled with malice as she looked at Joy from across the room. "You EXIST!"
The rest of the children roared in agreement.
It's not fair, Joy thought, as they pulled her up onto the table. How could you do something so cruel? They forced her to stand on her feet. If I'm so evil, then what are you? They placed the noose around her neck. I...I hate you. I HATE you! I hate you all!
"Let this be a lesson to all witches who dare threaten our village!" cried Marcus. "We will not stand for such evils here!" The children cheered as he and Wilhelm grabbed the legs of the table and prepared to pull.
The loud sound made the boys freeze. Everyone looked up. The noose had snapped cleanly in two and now dangled loosely from Joy's neck. Her head was hung low, her snowy hair hiding her face from their view.
"Witch!" shrieked the blacksmith's daughter. "She broke the rope! She's a terrible, evil...."
The girl's head twisted all the way around as her neck broke and she toppled to the floor.
The children stared up at Joy in shock. A shadowy miasma seemed to leak from her very being, coating her in a darkness that only her white hair and dress stood out from. But when Joy opened her eyes at last they were not their usual silver, but a deep burning red.
"I hate you," she hissed, her voice like that of an animal. "I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I HATE YOU!"
The ropes binding her dissolved as though burned and Joy set herself upon the children of the village. They screamed and dispersed but the door wouldn't open. They tried the windows but they were all sealed shut. They threw furniture at the windows but they didn't break. All efforts to escape were fruitless as, one-by-one, the witch tore into them.
Joy was utterly mad. She couldn't make sense of anything beside tearing, ripping, clawing, and biting. Her simple nails became claws which tore into flesh with no effort at all. Her teeth were now fangs which ripped out throat after throat. The smell of blood was exhilarating, the taste of flesh filled her mouth.
The children of the village cried and begged and screamed for freedom, but they were ignored just as they had ignored her. The witch set upon them all, one by one until the screams all turned into bloody gurgles and then silence. The air filled with the snapping of bones, the tearing of flesh, the screams of the dying....
Finally, only one remained. Scarlett stared at the monster before her, lying in a pool of the still warm blood of her friends.
"P-please," she whimpered, breathlessly. "P-please...i-it was just a joke...I didn't mean it...please, Joy...I'm your friend!"
But the creature before her could not be persuaded. It advanced upon her and all Scarlett could do was scream....
Joy didn't know exactly when she came to. All she knew was that, one moment, she was up on the table terrified for her life and hating the people who had done this to her. The next, she was kneeling on the floor, covered in something warm and wet.
She blinked. Joy looked around. She was surrounded by almost thirty torn up corpses of the children of the village. She screamed and tried to move, but something heavy was on her lap. She glanced down and felt her heart stop.
Scarlett was lying in Joy's lap, her eyes wide open and glassy, looking at nothing. Her chest had been opened, flesh and bone ripped viciously apart and, clutched in Joy's own hand, was Scarlett's no longer beating heart.
Joy shrieked in fear and threw the organ away amongst the sea of blood and gore. She was drenched in the blood of her captures, their flesh still trapped under her nails and between her teeth. Her white dress and hair now dyed forever red with blood.
Joy stood from where she was, allowing Scarlett's body to fall with a dull thud! to the floor. Joy ran for the door, which now opened easily when it had not before, and sprinted into the darkness. The night was not a problem for Joy, she could see as easily in it as if it were day, as she bolted for home. She fled into the sanctuary of the forest trees and then, mercifully, back to her home.
Before she could reach the door, her father opened it and looked inside. He frowned at his daughter, not in disappointment or anger, but with true sadness.
"Oh, Joy," he said, softly. "Oh, my precious Joy...."
Joy's fear and panic finally gave way as she collapsed in her father's arms and began to cry.
"Papa!" she whimpered. "It...it was terrible, Papa! They beat me and hurt me and then...there was...there was blood everywhere and...and...."
"Hush, now" he said, soothingly. "Come in, my child, lest anyone see."
In the comfort of her home and her father's arms, Joy was able to calm enough to explain the events of the evening. He did not interrupt her once as she spoke, only moving about to get a bowl of water to wash the blood and gore from her face and hair.
"I was afraid of this," he said as she finished her story. "I was afraid that girl would lead you into a trap. I wanted to stop you, but I felt you needed to learn for yourself...we are not trusted among humans. We never will be."
"How did I do that, Papa?" Joy asked, staring at her fingernails which were still coated in red blood. "What did I do?"
"Your true power was unlocked," he answered. "We, those who belong to the night, awaken our true potential in times of desperation and sorrow."
"I...I didn't know I could do that," Joy said, dazed. "Can...can you do that?"
"Yes, if the occasion calls for it," he answered. He stood up. "Come, Joy, we must pack."
"The adults of the village are enjoying a ball tonight, which is why the young people were gathered together at the miller's house unsupervised. They will soon discover what has happened to their children. When they do, they will naturally blame us for it."
"But I am to blame."
"And if they catch you, more death is to come," he told her. "For I will destroy them as surely as you destroyed those children, should they come after my Joy."
Joy looked at her father numbly as he smiled down at her. For the first time that night, Joy managed to smile too. Her father plucked at Joy's ruined dress.
"You should change. We must leave as soon as possible."
Joy glanced down at the dress. "No," she told him. "I look good in red."
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Shelley MillerWrite a Review