At the Witch’s House

By Nicole Desjardins Gowdy

The children appeared, ravenous, from the deep woods.

They scattered breadcrumbs through the arbor, across the still glass of the fishpond, and over the tulips they trampled. When they finished the small loaf they had brought with them, they helped themselves to my harvest. They started with the cherries that hung low along the path. Bloodied flesh left on the pits they dropped without care in their wake.

Next, they went for the peas, plucking them from their stems and crunching through their spines with their small, sharp teeth.

After that, it was the broccoli, nibbled right from the stalk, leaving ragged stems behind with just a stubble of florets.

Then, they found the raspberry bushes and cleared them with their bony fingers. I watched them from behind the curtain as they ate through my summer pantry.

And then they turned, cocked their heads as they looked up at the house. The little girl came right up to the house and licked the wall. Reached up and pried a shingle from the roof. Popped it in her mouth and chewed, her teeth grinding through the sandy paper and tar. The boy looked at her and she shrugged. Then they both began to tear the shingles one by one from the roof as I sat inside, watching them. I gathered my skirts and limped out onto the porch.

What are you doing? I cried. Get away from my house.

They just looked at me and smiled, the spaces in their teeth filled with fibers, seeds, and bits of paper.

Stop, I pleaded.

The children looked at each other, brows furrowed, and for a moment, I thought they might leave. But then, the little girl opened her mouth, and the hole grew bigger and darker so that it obscured the trees and sky behind her. She took three quick steps, picked me up, and slid me right down, past the small sharp teeth and her slippery tongue, the smell of cherries and tar wafting out, straight down her throat and into the dark furnace of her belly. Her mouth closed like a grate, blocking out all the remaining light, and the last thing I remember was my skin burning and my lungs gasping for air as she consumed me whole.

Nicole Desjardins Gowdy lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. She has an MA in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute and a BA in English (Creative Writing emphasis) and Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she received a University Book Store Award for Academic Excellence for her senior thesis, a collection of short stories. Her writing has appeared in Canvas, The Bangalore Review, and NiftyLit.

Artwork by Lesley C. Weston (Charcoal, pastel, and digital flim-flam.)

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