Updated: Aug 23
She pulled the bloody, silver knife from her chest and grinned.
“Was that supposed to hurt?” The creature stood in front of me examining the useless blade.
Little spots of blood dribbled onto the floor from the knife. The witch creature stood in front of me with red blood oozing onto her white flour-sack dress. The blood spread through the fabric like a dye, giving it a sickly brown-red starburst like a morbid tie-dye. I wasn’t sure where to place this dress. It didn’t feel like it was a part of any particular time period, but it didn’t belong here, either. Why did she choose this outfit? Maybe for the way it allowed her to move? But I also didn’t know enough about witch creatures to judge their wardrobe choices. However, I knew her choice to wear white made this encounter even more terrifying.
Her thick, black, wavy hair was a tangled heap framing her pale face. Without a few more brushes, this witch would have a head of nothing but filthy knots she could never get through. I had a feeling her haircare wasn’t a top priority by the way she was looking at me. Her black eyes stared deep into my soul as if they were judging its contents. Even though she had no visible pupils or irises, it still felt like she was smiling at me with hungry eyes. The fear I squashed down upon entering the warehouse to face her for my first hunt crept up to the surface.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I groaned, realizing I had made a life-threatening mistake. This broad wasn’t the witch creature I thought she was, and now, I was about to end up as some type of weird human soup in an abandoned warehouse for my mother to find.
“I mean, silver was a great choice if I was a Brujadan.” Her grin grew larger, showing yellowed teeth, as she dangled the silver chef knife in front of her.
More blood dripped off the tip of the knife, making splatters on the concrete. As it dried on the floor, the red blood faded into a mucky brown color. It appeared so human, but I knew this creature in front of me was not human. She was a predator, and I was her prey, even though I was meant to be hunting her down.
Only four feet separated me from her, and I was running out of options. My brain rushed through my limited knowledge, trying to remember all the various witch creature derivatives I studied earlier today. There wasn’t much to ponder since I had only skimmed the book entries until I decided what she was. I could have sworn she was a Brujadan. She had the cackle and a taste for babies according to the research I read out of my mother’s hunt notes. This description fit what I saw in Mom’s encyclopedia perfectly. Obviously, in this case, I was wrong.
Otherwise, when I stabbed her with a silver knife, she would have screamed from the metal burning her skin and died after a few more jabs. On my way to the warehouse, I imagined her death being like when Dorothy poured the bucket of water over the wicked witch and the witch dissolved into a puddle. Not like this.
She dropped the knife causing it to land on the floor with a loud clang and glide across the concrete further away from me. I backed up a few steps, patting myself down to see if I remembered any other types of weapons. She sauntered toward me, licking her lips, knowing this would be fun. Her confidence oozed out of her skin so much that it began to turn the ends of her black hair white.
Oh no. There was only one type of witch creature whose hair turned when they were preparing to slaughter their prey. I clearly remembered this from my quick skim. This broad was a Venefica, way older than a Brujadan and way harder to kill. The worst part was I barely read the entry before I moved on. I had no idea how to actually stop her.
“Enough playing with my food. I’ll suck your soul out quickly, so it won’t hurt,” said the Venefica.
The Venefica ran at me, chanting Latin words I didn’t understand. It seemed like the Latin words hung in the air, casting a spell. I looked around, trying to see if her words affected anything, but noticed nothing. Then, I saw my veins pulse beneath my skin and bubble. The heat in my entire body was overwhelming, and I felt like my blood was going to boil out of my skin. Red blotches appeared all over my arms, and I knew I had to be right. The pain was excruciating, and it was getting harder for me to focus. My blood leaked out of the pores on my body and began making its own bright crimson red droplets on the floor. I didn’t have much time.
I reached into my pocket and found my copper 1943 dated penny my grandfather gave to me before he died. I kept it around for good luck, but it did me no favors tonight. I knew certain metals harmed witches in different ways, so I could only hope the Venefica was sensitive to copper since she didn’t react to silver.
The Venefica continued advancing as more red blood leaked out of my facial pores, staining my medium-length blonde hair. My entire face felt sticky and tugged with an uncomfortable crust made from blood. It felt like I was doing a clay mask, but not as relaxing and a thousand times more painful. The Venefica finally reached me, her yellow teeth fully exposed with her grin. She opened her mouth and attempted to remove my soul.
I had no idea if this would work, but I had nothing else with me to try. I said a quick goodbye in my head to my penny and shoved it in her mouth, forcing her to swallow it. The Venefica chomped down on my wrist, causing more searing pain and rehydrating the small bit of dried blood. I pulled my hand out of her mouth and glanced down at the half-moon teeth marks that now lined my bloody right wrist. I got woozy as more blood forced its way out of my skin. The Venefica blurred in front of me.
“Really? A penny? That won’t actually kill—” The Venefica fell to her knees, vomiting red bile with black swirls onto the concrete.
“It won’t kill you, but it’s a start,” I said, feeling hot blood running down my arms. If I didn’t stop her soon, I would pass out.
The Venefica vomited again, sending my lucky penny into the pile of blood and previously digested soul. I looked around the room for another weapon and saw nothing in my blurred vision except the outline of the useless silver knife. I decided that if I was going to die, I wanted to die fighting. She grabbed my ankle as I ran for the knife and yanked me back. I fell to the ground, hitting my head on the concrete. A throbbing pain invaded the side of my head, already forming a swollen bump. My blurry vision began turning red as my eyes filled with blood. I kicked my leg, attempting to break her grip, but she only clasped my ankle tighter. She dragged me toward her, smearing crimson on the concrete. I thrashed, still trying to break free, but she flipped me over and pinned me down. The Venefica made me look at her and take in her black, hungry eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered to my ancestors and my mother, who weren’t there. I prayed they would forgive me for my ignorance when I reached the other side, wherever that was.
She forced my jaw open and inhaled deeply through her mouth. I tried to not stare at the saliva strings coming off of the roof of her mouth, but I didn’t want to watch her eyes anymore. The Venefica took another deep breath. This time, I felt something come alive inside myself and begin stirring, adding to my discomfort. Turning my bloody eyes away from her face, I watched a piece of my soul float out of my mouth into the air.
My soul took the form of a small rabbit, resembling the rabbit featured on my family crest. This rabbit wasn’t opaque, like the way I had seen it my entire life on the crest. Instead, the rabbit was a transparent white that looked similar to a wisp. The soul rabbit peered around the room, panicked at its arrival. Its eyes bulged, recognizing it didn’t belong out in the open. Then, it jumped through the air, trying to escape the warehouse, not knowing where it needed to run. Every time the rabbit tried to scamper away, a gravity coming from the Venefica’s mouth pulled it to her.
When the translucent rabbit was close enough, the Venefica let go of my shoulders and bit at the air, devouring the rabbit as it struggled to hop away. I felt a deep pain in my heart, as if it had been stabbed and crumbled into a ball to ease it. Another wispy rabbit exited my mouth as I closed my eyes. My soul rabbit’s terrified face as it endured its last moments was too much for me to bear. I couldn’t watch her eat my entire soul.
The Venefica let out a chilling scream, and the rabbit ran back into my mouth. I gasped as the fragment resettled itself back into my soul. I forced open my sticky blood eyes and saw the witch laying on her side with a copper spear run through her, writhing in agony. Through blurred eyes, I noticed a tall woman with cropped blonde hair standing behind the witch. She wore a look of disapproval, as if she knew me. The Venefica stopped twitching, and the copper spear caused her to dissolve as I had originally imagined. She became a sizzling heap of dust next to her pile of vomit and rivers of my blood. As the dust settled, the blood stopped dripping out of my skin and the pain in my chest eased.
“Mom,” I said in disbelief, realizing who the woman was.
Mom walked over to me, content with the Venefica’s demise, and started pulling me up to my feet. I felt faint, and the entire concrete floor was slick, so it wasn’t a simple task. Finally, after a moment of struggle, I stood up and commanded myself to stay upright. I observed the ground, realizing it looked similar to a murder scene. My smeared blood created an abstract painting on the floor I never wanted to see again. The useless knife remained in the corner, a few feet away from the witch’s vomit. My stomach turned, as I considered adding to her pile.
My entire body felt bruised and exhausted. Wounds of defeat covered me, and I seemed to belong in a crypt rather than standing before my overachieving mother. She observed me, noting all the wounds that encompassed me. Most mothers would shower their daughters with kisses, thanking a higher power that their child was safe. Mine was immune to those feelings, as far as I could tell. All she saw when she looked at me was a blood-crusted disappointment.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
Her arrival annoyed me, but my gratitude for being alive overshadowed it, even if I didn’t reveal it. If she hadn’t shown up, I would be soulless and probably dead. I had no idea how she realized I was here unless she followed me to the hunt. Maybe she went off of her Captrix intuition? All I knew was that she was here now and I would never recover from this mistake.
“Atalanta! The better question is why you’re here,” said Mom, not having my tone. I pissed her off, and I dreaded the consequences of living through this.
Mom let go of me and I fought to stay vertical, rather than laying back down. She reached down to grab the copper spear from the pile of witch dust. Mom pressed a button on the side of the spear, and it retracted into a smaller spear the length of her forearm. With the spear in one hand, she wrapped her arm around me to help me stagger out of the warehouse.
“Wait! My penny!” I turned around to see my penny shining bright even though puke covered it.
I let go of Mom and went back for my lucky penny. It took everything in me, but I reached down into the witch’s vomit to pull out my penny. I wiped the black substance off it on my blood-soaked pants and slipped it back into my pocket. The penny wasn’t really clean, but a dirty penny was better than having soul on it.
With Mom’s help, I hobbled my way out of the warehouse. As I got into her truck, I winced as I realized my blood would stain the leather seats. It was another thing to add to the list of transgressions I committed this evening. I looked back at the warehouse one last time, remembering how I failed. I, Atalanta Capp, the daughter of the greatest witch creature huntress ever, had just failed my first witch hunt and almost died. Now, I would be trapped forever in my mother’s house.