The monster, the witch, and the truth
“I was waiting for you…” The witch spoke, her rose-red lips forming a wide smile. “Have you finally come give me your wings?”
A bitter winter breeze skulked through the half-open door, entering the shack, and bringing with it the old and tired evening cold.
Linla felt it brush against her pale, lifeless face. She did not care for the cold. Her hands tightened in raging fists, nails piercing the skin of her palms- drawing blood. It fell to the ground one droplet at a time, once, twice, thrice. Its rhythm simple and precise, never failing.
“You can take them! You can take everything!” Red and smoldering liquid fell from her eyes like the tears of an angel. “Just let me be human again…”
The witch’s smile stretched unnaturally across her face. “You’ve given me your fangs, and I’ve given you a heart. So tell me, what should I give you in exchange for your wings?”
“I don’t care!” Linla’s wings opened, the white feathers shining in the darkened shack. “As long as you make me human I will give you anything!” Pain and suffering were etched deep into her words, the memories of him still crystal clear inside her mind.
“Then take this.” The witch took a thin glass from one of her many, many shelves- its liquid blue and white, like the wings of a butterfly. Linla grabbed the frail flask with both hands. “Drink it once I’ve taken your wings- it will give you a new and beautiful human soul. Isn’t that what you seek?”
Linla nodded, taking back her bright wings.
Human, that’s all she needed to be.
“Lay in bed then, I’ll prepare the tools.” The witch pointed towards a broken bed near the shack’s only window, and Linla obeyed.
She moved in slow steps, her bare feet dragging snow with every move. Linla laid in bed as the witch commanded- the rough wood more painful than the dirt floors she was accustomed to.
The witch took a thin and sharp blade from one of her many shelves, its edge sharper than the mightiest of swords.
From the corner of her eye, Linla saw the red-lipped woman approach her, blade in hand. She thought herself prepared for the pain, but she was not.
The witch’s knife pierced her skin once, twice, thrice. On the fourth time she screamed, and on the sixth, she cried. The pain jolted up her spine, freezing her mind. Steel met flesh, and flesh was torn, lacerated. With every wound, more blood was drawn, and more and more – it slithered down her back, gently flowing through her bare skin.
Only when her blood had soaked the broken bed was she allowed to rise.
“Is it done?” Linla asked with a half-dead voice.
“No, no my dear. The wings of a fallen angel are hard to take away. You will come here every morning like you’ve done today, and every morning I will pierce your skin until your wings give out.”
And it was done as the witch said. Every morning Linla awoke from her home, the pain still fresh and biting, and went to the shack, where the witch pierced her skin- drawing snow-white blood from her veins.
Linla suffered, for her goal lied beyond the forest of beasts, monsters, and witches. It was greater than herself, than any pain she could ever suffer. It was the promise of love, of peace, of a life beyond the realm of demons.
Every morning she remembered his face; the depth of his eyes, the beauty of his smile. Even when her voice became hoarse, when her vocal cords cried out in pain, the memory of him burned bright- giving her strength, giving her reason.
“Ah, here they are!” The witch held Linla’s wings in her hands, the pleasure in her tone thick like tar. “You may take your new soul, it is rightfully yours.”
Linla’s eyes flickered, barely opening. The world was a blur of badly painted impressions. All she saw were long, rough strokes of red and gray- A canvas of twisted images. But still, a thin joy climbed up her lips, opening them into a genuine smile.
In her hands was the flask, its liquid still white-and-blue, like the constellations of the night sky. She held it despite the pain, despite the exhaustion. And she could finally taste the sweet nectar of a human soul.
She drank and drank, and the liquid flowed down her throat. It tasted bitter.
Linla felt cold, colder than she’d ever been. Her skin had grown soft, weak; her claws had withered; even her eyes had lost their burning sight. Is this what it meant to be human? She did not know.
Her legs moved forward, weak bones deteriorating with every unthoughtful step. The edge of the forest was near, the land of man was close- and so was him, the one who made her heart sing.
The sun rose and set, the days ever gray. But in turn, the night did come, bringing with it its stars to dance in the great dark sky- where they weaved the stories of mortal men and beasts alike. Linla’s eyes never looked upwards, she did not care for the stars above, much less their twisted fates.
Will alone drove her forward, forcing her muscles to move- her heart to pulse. And it was with this mortal will that she defied the stars.
Once dawn arrived, Linla was no longer in the forest of demons and witches; she had arrived at the city of men- where the trees were docile and the animals tame.
Men and women looked with glaring eyes towards the figure that emerged from the forbidden forest- not believing one of their own had crawled out of the dark.
One by one the people gathered around Linla, some curious, others afraid. But she was not here for these folk, she was here for the one she loved.
With her own bleeding feet, she strode onwards, making it past the city of men to the forbidden garden, where the trees all bore fruit and the grass was verdant green. There, and only there, she found him again, sitting by the apple tree where they had met.
A prince of truth, of love, of reason. His smile was brighter than a thousand burning suns, more radiant than a million stars, and yet she cried. Red tears flowed from her eyes, for his smile was not her own. It was meant for another.
Another woman laid beside her prince beneath the ripe apple tree, the two sharing golden smiles.
Linla cried out, her voice unrecognizable even to herself. And the prince heard. He rose from where he laid, and, upon noticing who called him beloved, spoke with clear words. But Linla didn’t, couldn’t understand.
He spoke of the ever-changing nature of love, of broken promises, and of truths sought and never found. Those words never reached her. They were thin, frail veils with which he hid his monstrous wings.
She felt it in her young heart- the pain of rejection, of betrayal. A pain which made her limbs go numb and will grow feeble. A pain so great it unmade all lingering signs of hope and joy within her heart.
With tears in her eyes and pain etched into her soul, she fled. She ran from this place of hidden demons and broken promises back to the forest where she was born.
The people eyed her intently as she strode away from the buildings of stone, their eyes vultures seeking easy prey. But she did not care, her blood was white, and theirs was red.
The night returned, careful and beautiful- the sky above as lustrous as ever. The stars meandered across hued streams, playing out their alluring symphony.
But deep down, in the midst of tall and unfeeling trees, Linla cried alone. Her red tears turning the white snow rose red.
She cried for the fangs she once used to hunt, for the wings she once used to fly, and the self she used to love. For the change she had sought was a mere mask meant for others to see. A mask which cost Linla her wings and fangs, a part of what she really was.