The Woman in the Window

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“It’s good to see you,” Dr. Tariq stated, his legs crossed comfortably in casual consideration of me. “So tell me. What has happened these past few months since I saw you last?”

“Well, I started school.”
“Oh, and what school are you attending?”

“Well, Emma and I are enrolled at the local tech school to take Gen Ed courses before transitioning to a bigger university. We’ll probably do that in a year or so.”

“That’s a great idea. You can save a lot of money that way.”

“That’s what we were thinking.”

“And it gives you time to determine what you want to declare as your major.”


Dr. Tariq tossed his head back with a sigh of exasperation. “Please! Enough of such blibber-blabber. Don’t tell me you came here to talk about your plans for college.”

“No, that’s not why I’m here. I wanted to tell you what happened.”

His eyes lit up. “Yes. What happened to the witch?”

“Well, I killed her.”

“Wonderful.” He adjusted his tie. I could feel the excitement in him. “And how?”

“Well, first, I burned down her house. Then she chased me through the woods and her hair got tangled in a tree branch.”

“On accident?” He grinned.

“Not quite. I kind of tied her hair there.”

Dr. Tariq raised his hands towards the ceiling. “And then she spontaneously ignited into flame?”

“No. I lit her on fire.”

“Very good.” He grinned again.

“You don’t think that’s wrong?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Why would that be wrong?”

“I just, I guess, it just sounds wrong.”



“What would have happened if you had not killed the witch?”

“She would have killed me. Eaten me.”

“Yes. Obviously. So why ruin yourself with a counterfeit sense of guilt?”

“But I did it on purpose.”

“Well then. You did it on purpose. That’s an entirely different matter,” he said sarcastically. “Sarah, please, would the witch have accidentally lit herself on fire? Would she have accidentally died some other way? Maybe tripped into a lion’s mouth or died while hang gliding?”

“Well, no. Well, she could. But it wouldn’t be likely.”

“And would she have accidentally stopped abducting children? Woken up one morning to the startling realization of how filthy and grotesque her tastes had made her?” He rolled his eyes. “Sarah, you did what you had to do. You did what had to be done.”

“But I killed the other children.”

“Yes, yes, those sweet chaste respectable loving wonderful gifted giving innocent children. And if you had released them, they would have circled you with hugs and kisses and eternal thanks, then the lot of you would have gone out for ice cream and roller skating. Enough of this, Sarah. The witch and her children died because it was what they deserved. And if they had not, another child would be suffering as we speak, suffering at the hands of a witch and children whose bellies would be full with you. Now, tell me, what permitted you to finally make your choice?”

“Well, the witch and her children killed Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl.” I was still calling them by those names, even though I had learned their true ones.

“Yes. Your friends were killed. And only then were you able to make your choice. Tell me how you felt after your friends were killed. And do not tell me you felt sad.” He frowned at me like a sad clown.

“I was angry. I wanted the witch to die. And I didn’t care if she ended up killing me or not because of what she had done to Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long. I wish I had done something sooner.”

“Sarah, your choice came at the perfect time.”

“What do you mean?”

“You could not have chosen to be ready any earlier than you were. Nor could you have killed the witch any earlier, even if you convinced yourself otherwise.”

“I think I understand.”

“Do you?”

“In order to not be afraid, I had to lose my friends.” I hated the idea, even though it was true.

“Yes. But was it worth it?”

“Was it worth losing them so I could overcome my fear and kill the witch?”

“That is my question.”


“And you say it with such conviction.” He raised an eyebrow. “So, you would have gladly kept your fear, and the witch, if you could have kept your friends from dying.”

“Yes. Definitely.”

Fixing his eyes on mine to test the truth of my answer, he smiled, then said, “Good.”


“Yes. It means you are better than most, Sarah.”

“It doesn’t feel that way.”

“Which is further proof.” Then he said, “I am glad it turned out as it did, Sarah, though I am sorry it cost you your friends. But they loved you. They gave themselves for you, and you gave yourself for them.”

“I didn’t die like they did.”

“That is not true. A part of you died in order to do what you had to do for them. You overcame the part of you that feared. Not everyone can do that. Some people will even change into monsters just to live among worse monsters.”

“Like the children of the witch.”


“Dr. Tariq?”

“Yes, Sarah?”

“There’s something else.”

“Isn’t there always.”

“Sure. I guess.”

“Never mind. What were you going to say?”

“They came back. Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl.”

“They’re alive?”


“That is even more wonderful.”

“You don’t seem surprised.”

He adjusted his tie. “Well, I like to think I know you well enough by now to know that if your friends had died and not come back, you would have been weeping away to nothing this entire time.”

“Oh, I guess that’s true. Anyway, we hang out quite a bit. And we’ve met other friends in the third circle.”


“And other monsters.”

“Less wonderful.”

I laughed. “But Dr. Tariq?”


“I have a question. How do you know things? You knew that the witch was a witch. Plus, I think you knew the witch was dead and how I killed her. And I think you knew that Stitch Mouth and Balloon Girl had come back. And I think you know their real names.”

He smirked. “Sarah, there is much I know.”

“But can you tell me how you know? Please.”

“Well then. You used your manners. I am forced to oblige.” His eyes remained fixed on me, as though considering whether or not he was going to answer. Then, despite his eyes remaining open, a translucent eyelid winked at me, behind which was a purely golden eye. It disappeared again. Then he laughed and laughed.

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