This is the final waiting story. It’s really just a rough draft. I’d like to develop it into something more. Something longer that teases out the exchange described within.
In this tale, the waiting itself is the horror.
Fear is such a deeply personal thing, you may not find the idea behind this piece as terrifying as I do. For me, this is a mind-fuck of epic proportions. It would threaten my sanity. Maybe you’ll feel the same, and maybe you won’t.
Either way, I hope you enjoy it.
And, as always, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.
the waiting 10
She was older than she looked, and that was saying something. She looked ancient.
“You have wronged me,” she said. Her words were marinaded in something from eastern Europe, her voice slow, deliberate, and hard.
The girls shifted their weight back and forth, like marionettes in a drafty room. They wanted to run. To flee from her wrinkled face and her acrid breath and her cataract eyes.
But they didn’t move, except to sway in uncomfortable anticipation.
It had seemed smart, their plan. The woman was powerful, yes, maybe one of the most powerful witches in the world, but she was old, too. Old and sometimes forgetful, and probably not even aware of all the valuable artifacts in her possession.
Her house was huge. Her coffers deep. What they wanted was surely little more than a trinket to someone with so much.
But the crone was crafty. She had wards all over the place, a more intricate web of security than anything designed and programed by modern man. They barely made it past the foyer before she was on them.
“You meant to take this, yes?”
She held up a small bronze statue. It would have seemed gaudy in any other context, but all three in the room understood the magical value of the piece. What it promised for its possessor.
“You could have asked,” she continued. “Bargained. Borrowed. Begged. But you try to steal. From me. This I cannot allow.”
She sat the statue aside and stepped closer to the girls. Both were young. Pretty. Not even yet fully in the prime of their lives.
“Is vanity so important to you?” the witch asked the one with chestnut hair.
The girl tried to speak, but her voice caught in her throat. Her friend spoke instead. The one with raven’s hair and pale blue eyes.
“We only want a small sliver of what you have,” she said. Her voice was defiant, even in fear.
The woman turned to the raven, a sly smile catching the corners of her lips and pulling them toward the ceiling.
“No,” she said. “You wanted to bottle beauty. To capture youth. You know nothing of what I have.”
“You have power,” the raven said.
The old witch moved with impossible speed, covering the distance between herself and the raven so fast that she seemed to blink from one location to another. Her crooked nose was no more than an inch away. Her smile was gone.
“You understand nothing of power, girl. I am endowed with responsibilities greater than you can imagine. You seek immortality. The ability to bend others to your will. An easy life leeching off the spirit of the universe. I am a servant to that which endows me.”
The girl dare not speak.
“But,” the woman continued, “a lesson in power – that I can give.”
She turned and took several measured steps away from the girls before turning again to face them. She looked to the silent one, the one with chestnut hair, and whispered a complex but quick enchantment. The girl cringed, a pang crashing over her. She coughed and blood sputtered from her lips.
With pity in her voice, the witch spoke. “It is begun. In the coming days, you will rot from the inside out. You sought to secure the beauty of your youth, but your vanity will betray and abandon you. In a matter of days, your skin will wither. Your organs, liquefy. You will drown in your own fluids, your final days racked with pain and ugliness.”
The girl began to weep silently. Then the witch turned to the raven.
“And you, my precious, will watch. You will witness every moment of your cohort’s downward descent. You are bound to her. Compelled to stay by her side, no matter how horrible the sights before you. You will hold her hand when she slips from this world to the next, a cry of indescribably suffering stealing what might have been her last words.
“And then you will wait.”
The raven looked confused.
“You will wait for perhaps a week. Perhaps a year. Perhaps longer. At some point, someday, the same fate will find you. It might be the day of your wedding. Or while you carry your first child. Or even in the twilight of your years.
“Adiuro vos. You will not take your own life. Oh no, sweet girl. You will wait. And in the waiting, you will learn the true nature of power. For I will own every moment of every day from now until you breath your last. I will own you. That is power.”
Then she snapped her fingers and the girls were no longer frozen in place. Chestnut fell to the floor, her legs weak. She hacked and coughed, crimson stains on her hands and shirt. Her friend rushed to her side, helping her to her feet.
“I’ll fight this,” the raven said.
“Of course,” said the woman. “And you will still lose. Now, be gone.”
She snapped her fingers and the girls were pushed backward, sliding along the hardwoods into the adjacent hallway. The doors to the study slammed shut, leaving them in the witch’s house with nothing to do but retreat.
They made their way slowly to the front door, each step difficult as chestnut could hardly support her own weight.
Weight, the raven thought. Wait.
For that was all she had left in the world. All she would ever have.