The Heedless Girl

There once was a pretty, young woman who lived in a little cottage off a country lane. Her name was Sseldaed, and she was vain and arrogant.

One day, a poor beggar wandering through the country lanes stopped at Sseldaed’s door to ask for food.

“Pooh!” exclaimed Sseldaed at the sight of the beggar, and she wrinkled her nose. “Why should I give food to you? I have friends coming over for dinner, and you are not fit to be seen! Go away!” She prepared to slam the door in the beggars face.

“Those who are selfish and cruel to those less fortunate then themselves will be cursed forever,” said the old beggar, and he hobbled away.

“I dare say!” Sseldaed said, sniffing, and she flounced away to get ready for the party. The party went well, and everyone left Sseldaed’s house, laughing and saying how much they had enjoyed the party.

Sseldaed went up to bed, leaving the servants to tidy up her house. She had her breakfast in bed the next day. She ate her lunch in her back garden and sketched for a bit, calling for her gardener to shoo away the stray animals that wandered through her garden.

At dinnertime, Sseldaed went inside and went up to her room to tidy up her hair for dinner. She has started to comb her hair when her head came off in her hands! Sseldaed screamed horribly, and her maid came running. At the sight of her mistress holding her head in her hands, the maid shrieked and fled from the house. She never came back.

Sseldaed wept and cried, holding her head in her hands. She was still able to see where she was by some extraordinary super sense that let her see around herself. Still weeping, she went down to her sitting room to find a needle and thread. If her head had come off without killing her, perhaps she could sew it back on.

But her head refused to be sewn back on.

Sseldaed found all her servants had abandoned her. She sat down to a cold dinner and wondered glumly how she would ever eat anything without a mouth. She looked at her head, sitting on the table beside her plate. After a minute, she picked up her fork.

To Sseldaed’s utter horror, a hole in the stump at the top of her neck opened up, equipped with teeth and a long, slimy, purple tongue. Sseldaed dropped her fork and cried like a banshee. Then she fainted dead away.

When Sseldaed came to, she was still lying on the floor by her chair, and she was very hungry. She forced herself to sit back up in her chair and feed herself through the mouth in the top of her stumpy neck. But her nasty, neck mouth refused to eat anything at all; it spat out the apple pie, and cold beef, and salad. Sseldaed beat her hands on the table and howled again. What had she done to deserve this? What would she do?

Sseldaed’s neck mouth reached out its long tongue and licked her disembodied head sitting on the table. Sseldaed winced at the sight and felt sick. Yuck! Her mouth wanted to eat her head! But she was hungry and, if that was the only thing her neck mouth would let her eat, then that was it. She picked up her head, chopped it into neat pieces with her knife, and fed it to her neck. Her head tasted sour and bitter and tough.

After dinner, Sseldaed went up to bed. When she woke up the next day, she found that she had her head back! Jumping out of bed, she fervently checked her reflection in the mirror before she did her hair and went down to breakfast. Of course, the whole thing had just been a bad dream! How could she have thought otherwise! No one lost a head without dying!

The cottage was empty. Dirty dishes lay piled on the table and plates of food held yesterday’s dinner. Frowning, Sseldaed went all over the house, calling and calling for her maids to tidy the dining room up. When she received no answer, she sat down helplessly in a chair. Perhaps the whole nightmare had not been a dream after all!

Sseldaed did not like dirt. She liked everything tidy and neat. She realized that without servants to keep her cottage clean, she would have to do all the work herself! Sseldaed struggled with the idea. Imagine, a person like herself having to clean dishes and dust and mop and weed the garden . . . good gracious, she would certainly not do the garden! Why, the idea of dirt on her hands was revolting!

Sseldaed soon got used to her new life. But she did not tend to the garden. She could bring herself to washing the dishes and dusting and mopping, but she would not get dirt on her hands. Her hands were no longer perfectly smooth and slender, and her clothes were no longer shining and clean all the time. Her hair did not up in its fancy sets all day. She had to get used to a normal bun.

And every night at dinner, Sseldaed’s head would fall off. And her head was the only thing that she could eat as her last meal of the day. Sseldaed experimented. She did not eat her head one night, and she woke up headless in the morning. She had to eat her head in order for it to grow back.

One day Sseldaed went out into her garden. It was overgrown with weeds and the flowers were dead. It was an ugly sight. The sight frustrated Sseldaed. It was all she could do to keep her house and clothes clean. But to have to make the garden tidy . . . no, she would not do it!

Sseldaed’s friends had abandoned her. They told tales they had heard from Sseldaed’s former servants to everyone they knew. Everyone shunned Sseldaed. She lived alone. No servant would come to help her. The current rumor was Sseldaed was vampire in disguise. Mothers turned Sseldaed into a monster that would eat naughty, little children if they did not listen to their parents.

Sseldaed was just sitting down to eat her head one evening when she heard a knock on her front door. She jumped for the noise startled her. It had been months since she had heard a knock on her front door. No one came to visit her anymore. She got up and went to the door. She opened it nervously.

A young man was standing outside her door. He tipped his hat to her. “Good evening, ma’am. I am a wandering gardener, and I saw that your garden was in a sad state. Shameful, it looked, and such a nice piece if land.”

“I do not have a gardener, sir,” Sseldaed said with dignity. “I am currently indisposed, as you can see.”

“Yes, ma’am. Very sad for you, I am sure. But, begging’ your pardon, ma’am, I have no problems with working for a headless lady. My name is Relaeh” The young man looked at Sseldaed.

“Really? Well, if you would come in, I will interview you. I am afraid I do not have a hot dinner on hand, as I am eating my head, but you can have the leftover lunch.”

Relaeh sat down to the table and tucked into the food Sseldaed placed before him. He did not seem unsettled, nor did he stare, as Sseldaed started to eat her head. “A very pretty head you have got, ma’am,” he said politely. “Now, I am sure you would like to see my references. I am a special class of gardener, ma’am. I only work for people with peculiarities. See here, I have worked for a lady with bird feet, a man with a tail, and I have taught one or two little kids with no eyes and wings. But I have never met anyone with a peculiarity such as yours, ma’am, if I may say so. Got yourself cursed, I suppose? Refused an old beggar a meal, from the looks of it.”

“What do you mean by that, sir?” Sseldaed asked haughtily.

“You do listen to the old tales, don’t you, ma’am? You know the tale about the beggars realm?”

“That is a silly child story,” Sseldaed said, brushing it away with her hand. “Who ever heard of such rubbish?”

“It is not rubbish, ma’am,” said Relaeh. “I will explain it to you. The tale goes that all the old beggars live in a secret part of the world. And they say the old beggars come out into the world, and go about looking for rude, arrogant, selfish people to teach lessons to. When they find someone who is rude to them, they curse that person in such a way that if the person manages to cure their curse, they will no longer be rude, selfish, or arrogant.”

Sseldaed sniffed.

“I would say you are the selfish, mean sort, ma’am. From the looks of it, you must have refused an old beggar dinner so he made you eat your head every night for the rest of your life. I have seen it all, ma’am. Those beggars are a nightmare, ma’am!”

“I suppose it might be true,” Sseldaed said doubtfully. “Now, what do you charge for your services?”

Relaeh named a reasonable figure. He agreed to sleep in the spare bedroom, and get to work early the next morning.

Sseldaed went to bed thinking about what Relaeh had said. The next morning at breakfast she asked him if he knew how to undo curses.

Relaeh finished his coffee. “Well, I would say, ma’am, that you will have to be kind and generous. Excuse me, ma’am, but I have to get to work.”

At ten o’ clock, Relaeh brought in an abandoned cat. “Here you go, ma’am. A little something that needs a bit of help. Remember what I said about your curse, ma’am? Well, you can start undoing it right now. A bit of food is what this ol’ gal needs to pep her up.” He dumped the spitting cat into Sseldaed’s arms and marched out.

An hour later, Relaeh brought in a stray dog. Then he reappeared with a bird that had broken its wing. Shortly thereafter he came back inside carrying a mouse with no tail. Sseldaed squealed when she saw it.

“Oh, oh! Get it out! I will feed the cat and dog, and fix a bird’s wing, but I will not doctor a mouse! Ooh, you wicked man! Take it away!”

“Do you want your head back, ma’am? Well, until you have done two good deeds for every selfish thing you have done, you will have to keep on eating your head. Healing a mouse, ma’am, counts as two good deeds since you hate them so much.”

Gingerly, Sseldaed took the mouse. She carried it into the kitchen and gave it a bit of cheese. The dog and the cat were occupying separate corners of the kitchen. The bird was in the old cage belonging to her dead pet canary. Books on medicine lay littered about the kitchen. Sseldaed had dug them out of her attic. The books had belonged to her godmother, who had been an herbalist. When her godmother had died, Sseldaed had inherited the books. She had packed them away at the time, but now they were coming in handy.

Over the next few months, Relaeh kept bringing in stray animals. He brought a cat with a broken leg, a dog with a bleeding side, a lame duck, an injured baby deer, and a rat with a broken paw.

Every day, Sseldaed wondered what Relaeh would bring in next. Her house was full of healing animals. Every day she let the healed ones go back to the wild, and Relaeh would bring her more. She had no idea where he found them. But her garden was looking lovely.

One day Relaeh brought her an abandoned, dirty child. “Afternoon, ma’am. Lovely day to be out weeding. I found this poor little lad a ways down the road. What he needs is a good bath and a hot meal. Afternoon, ma’am. Must be getting on with my work.”

Sseldaed looked at the little lad. Then she went to fill the bath. The lad splashed in the bathwater, laughing. He ate messily, and danced wildly around the house. He grinned crookedly at Sseldaed when she scolded him for not behaving, and replied to her in a language she did not know.

But that night, Sseldaed’s head did not fall of! She was so happy she cried, and cooked herself a proper dinner to celebrate. She went to bed and slept comfortably, with her head on the pillows.

Relaeh said to his employer the next morning, “Now, ma’am, you listen to me; as long as you keep on being kind and generous, your head will stay where it should be. The minute you are mean, off it will go. Crack! You understand?”

“Yes. But who are you? You are not an ordinary man, are you? I mean, how do you know so much about curses?”

Relaeh smiled suddenly. “No, ma’am, I am not. You know the old beggars tale? Well, the old buggers make so much trouble in the world cursing people, we angels, ma’am, have to come out of heaven, and help some of the less fortunate cursed people out a bit. You will excuse me, ma’am, but my son and I have got to be getting back to heaven now. Good morning, ma’am.”

Relaeh took the hand of the little lad in his and stepped outside the house. There was flash of light, and both of them disappeared.

When Sseldaed went up to tidy up Relaeh’s bedroom, she found he had left her a present of a book on gardening. Sseldaed knew she would treasure the book forever. She sat down to read it with avid attention.

~a short story by Layla

Mindlovemiserysmenagerie Photo Challenge #58 Artwork:Tess Photography

Seductive Lure

Along a lonely road in a forest, there was a pool. In the pool lived five nymphs. The nymphs swam in the pool during the day and slept at night. They were naked and slender and pale. Dark hair spilled over their shoulders and deep, beautiful eyes stole the souls of men.

The nymph’s were evil beings that fed off men. They lured the men into the pool with them, drowned them, and devoured their flesh. In their cannibalistic state, their skin became streaked with black, their eyes became smoldering pools of nothingness, and their teeth became sharp and pointy. As they ate the flesh of men, their lovely, pale beauty returned to them.

One day a boy named Leyte and his grown-up brother, Daurk, set off down the path that led down to the village. Leyte was the lazy sort and he constantly annoyed his energetic, obedient elder brother. Leyte and Daurk were going to the village from their farm to enjoy a week of festivals. Daurk had not wanted to take lazy Leyte along with him, but their mother had said they both had to go or neither of them could go. Leyte had complained about the road being too long after they had been walking on the road for an hour. He had convinced his elder brother to take the shortcut through the woods instead of the road so they could save time in getting to the festival.

Leyte and Daurk were walking along the path through the woods now. Daurk was annoyed because he knew Leyte would spoil his time at the festival. Daurk had been planning on spending the week with his girlfriend. Now that he had Leyte in his charge, he could not do that. Damn his mother and father making him take his miserable, little brother along! Leyte did not deserve to go to the festival, to begin with. Leyte never pulled his own weight on the farm. Everyone constantly had to yell at him and eventually do the work for him. Wretched, irresponsible kid!

“I am tired,” Leyte complained suddenly. “Can we take a break? I want to take a break! My legs are hurting!”

“Shut up and stop yelling! All right, we can take a break! You have fifteen minutes to rest your lazy legs!” Daurk snapped impatiently. He sat down next to his brother as Leyte lay down on the cool grass under a tall tree and promptly fell asleep.

Daurk frowned as he heard Leyte beginning to snore. He shook his brother roughly to wake him up. Leyte either purposefully ignored him or really went on sleeping. Daurk was so upset he could have torn out all his hair. Getting up, he went down the road a ways to help calm him down. He decided he would walk for five minutes to wear off his anger and then go back and wake up his brother.

Daurk passed a pool to the side of the grassy path. It was out in full sun as the trees grew away from the water. Daurk stood at the edge of the pool. The cool air around the pool and the green water helped calm him down. As he stood there, a lovely woman appeared out of the water. She swam towards him with a wide, white-toothed smile. She reached out to take Daurk’s hand in her own slender one.

“Hello,” said the lady in a smooth, honeyed voice, “Who are you, handsome one? I am Nige.”

“My name is Daurk,” said Daurk automatically. He was staring at the lady in fascination. He had never seen anyone so beautiful. It was the useless sort of beauty that comes with a woman that cannot do any decent work. Daurk usually ignored such women. He was only interested in girls who had a clear sense of duty and reliable household, farm, and motherly skills. But this woman was different. Daurk could not ignore her loveliness.

“Daurk,” crooned Nige, “You look so upset! Whatever is the matter?”

“Nothing; nothing at all!” Daurk said hastily. Nige did not need to know about his personal problems. “Um, what are you doing here?”

“I swim here every day,” Nige said sweetly. “Would you like to get in?”

The way Nige asked the question made Daurk feel like he could not refuse. “Why not?” he said. “I have nothing else to do. To swim with a pretty lady such as yourself would be delightful.”

“Oh, really, I am not that pretty,” said Nige modestly, fluttering her eyelashes at Daurk. She took his hand and guided him out into the water. The instant Daurk was out in the deep of the pool, four other women appeared out of the water. Daurk experienced a momentary flash of fear as he saw the woman’s eyes gleaming with some dark, evil hunger. Suddenly, he was being shoved and pushed under the water and many pale, slender hands were dragging him down into the deep. The pretty woman had become deadly woman!

Daurk struggled and yelled for help, thrashing in the water. His yelling awoke Leyte, who came running down toward the pool. Leyte stood paralyzed by the edge of the pool, staring with horror at Daurk as the nymphs dragged his brother under. Leyte was too afraid to enter the water. Daurk shrieked at him to do something right before he vanished from sight.

Leyte did not know what to do. What would his parents say when they found out Daurk was dead? They might expect him to all sorts of extra work. But he could not go to the festival alone. For one thing, plenty of his parent’s friends would see he was alone and question him about it. And another thing; Daurk’s girlfriend would pester him to no end. Slowly, Leyte turned away from the pool and dragged his unhappy feet home.

Upon reaching the farmhouse, Leyte’s mother demanded to know where Daurk was. Leyte was uncomfortably escorted into the living room by his father, and forced to explain why he had come home without his brother. In the end, he told his parents what had happened.

Leyte’s mother, Marcie, burst into tears and rushed from the room, holding her apron to her face. His father, Paros, looked angry and disappointed. He glared at his son. “And you did nothing to help your brother? If you had, he might not have drowned! Did I not tell you to follow the road? Your whining has cost your brother his life! Lazy, irresponsible child! Come with me!”

Knowing instinctively that his father was going to punish him, Leyte jumped up and fled from the room. Paros pursued him with surprising vigor and caught him at the corner of the woodshed. He dragged his struggling son by the wrist into the darkness of the woodshed and took up the cow whip. Paros beat his son like he had never beaten him before. When he was done teaching Leyte his lesson, blood was streaming from his son’s back and Leyte was sobbing bitterly. Paros left the woodshed angrily, locking the door behind him.

Leyte lay miserably on the floor of the woodshed, lacking the strength to move. Tears kept streaming down his face until, at last, they subsided and Leyte grew calm. He struggled to his feet and went to the door. When he found it locked, he sank down in despair.

It was his fault Daurk had been drowned. He should have driven off the evil ladies with sticks and rocks. Leyte felt terribly, terribly sad that his brother was dead. But being sorry would not bring Daurk back to life or stop his parents from hating him forever. Unless . . .

Leyte got up and went to the back of the woodshed. There was small room in the back of it where Paros kept his alchemical supplies. Paros had been a wandering magician that had passed through the village and, after falling in love with Marcie, had settled down to live an ordinary life. But he still practiced alchemy occasionally and Leyte had watched him sometimes. Perhaps Leyte could make some sort of spell that would kill all the evil ladies and bring his brother back to life.

Leyte began to get out old, musty books from the shelves and looked up nymphs in them. He found plenty of odd, interesting facts. In one book he found a recipe for a cake that would supposedly kill cannibalistic woman. There was a sketch of a woman next to the recipe that looked sort of like the lovely women in the pool. Upon reading the recipe, Leyte found he had no idea how to begin to assemble it. It called for dried mouse flesh, bat wings, the breath of a toad, and a splash of sunlight amongst other ingredients. Leyte realized he would have to go and beg for his father’s help; except he was locked in the woodshed.

Leyte was just going to go and scream and yell and pound on the door for all he was worth when he saw an axe in the corner of the room. An idea occurred to him; he would cut the door down! He picked up the axe, went to the locked door, and got to work. It was hard and sweaty work, especially since Leyte had never swung an axe in his life. His hands were covered in blisters when he was done, his shoulders and bleeding back were aching, and tears were streaming from his eyes. But the door had been demolished.

Leyte was leaning on the axe, gasping for breath, when Paros appeared out of the darkness outside. It was nighttime, and he had a lantern and a key in his hand. He stopped and stared at Leyte in utter astonishment. “What have you done?” he demanded.

Leyte gulped. “I-I cut down the door so I could get out. I mean—I was wondering if you could help me make a sort of cake—”

Paros brushed past his son. “Well, I am glad to see you have been doing a bit of work, even if it is for the wrong reasons! You are still in serious trouble, boy, and don’t go about forgetting it!”

“No, sir. But I need your help. I thought I could make a cake to kill the nymphs and bring Daurk back to life, only I do not know how to do it. I wanted you to help me, but I was locked in and—”

Paros frowned. “Have you been meddling in my things? Have I not told you never, never to meddle with my things?? There are all sorts of dangerous things in there! Where have I put my whip? Just wait, boy, I am going to beat the life out of you! Do you never learn what we teach you?”

Leyte fled back into the little room at the back of the woodshed. “I am learning! Please do not beat me again, father. I-I only wanted your help! Please?”

Paros could not find his whip, for one thing, but he was also hopeful that perhaps he could teach Leyte to do something other then laze around. “All right,” he said grudgingly. “But I will not stand for it if you disobey me again! Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir, father, sir. Look, I found the recipe but I do not know how to make it. The ladies in the pool looked like that.”

Paros looked at the book Leyte had shoved into his hands. He looked at the mess of books Leyte had left littered around the room. He frowned again. “I see you got a good look at the ladies while you stood around and did nothing and they drowned your brother!” he snapped. “Get to work! I will tell you what to do. If you do anything wrong, I will make you drink what you brew up!” Paros started snapping out instructions while he picked up the mess Leyte had made.

It was the middle of the night when Leyte finished the cakes. There were seven of them exactly. They were small and round, topped with icing and a candied cherry. Leyte so wanted to eat the extra ones, but his father said, “You go right ahead and eat one, boy, and you will kill yourself! Those cakes are full of poison! They are magically made to be irresistible, but you are going to resist them, aren’t you?”

“Yes, father,” Leyte said meekly. He was tired and starving, since he had not had any lunch or dinner that day, but Paros made him clean up all the baking things. When the small room was tidy, Paros took his son back to the house and made him a sandwich. Leyte ate it hungrily. When he was done, Paros made him two more and watched him eat them both.

“Are you still mad at me?” Leyte asked.

“Yes. But at least you are not useless after all. You have the makings of a decent magician. And you are trying to fix what you did, aren’t you?”

“Yes, father. But—I do not know if it will work. Will it?”

“Speak full sentences, boy!” Paros snapped. “Yes, it will!”

“I have a name!” Leyte cried. “Don’t call me boy! I hate it!”

“Do not talk to me like that! Yes, I know you have a name, but you are not living up to it! When you have earned your name, I will start calling you by it! Go to bed, and do not wake up the whole house by tramping inconsiderately around!”

“Yes, father, sir.” Leyte went meekly up to bed. He shared a room with his younger brother, Eros, and he had to creep quietly into bed. After a minute he started to cry. He cried himself to sleep.

The next morning, Leyte and Paros set off down the road. They took the shortcut through the woods. When they came to the pool, Paros and Leyte sat down on the bank. Paros took out two of the cakes Leyte had made. They were topped with green grapes. “Here,” he said, handing the cake to Leyte, “Eat your lunch, boy.”

“But you said they would kill me if I ate one!” Leyte protested.

Paros slapped him. “Shut up! Do you want the nymphs to hear you say that? You could spoil this entirely with your stupidity! Eat it!”

Leyte felt tears brimming in his eyes. He looked away from his father, and took a tiny nibble of his cake. It tasted pretty good, and he did not suddenly feel sick or dying. He heard a splash, and he looked up to see a group of pretty woman swimming towards them. They smiled at Paros and Leyte.

“Such delicious looking cakes,” one of the women said longingly.

“We do have some extra cakes,” Paros said politely. “But I am not sure if there will be enough for your pretty selves to be satisfied. We only have five.”

“I am sure one a piece will do,” the lady said, fluttering her eyelashes at Paros. She took the cakes he handed her, and shared them out with her companions. “They looked simply divine! We do thank you.”

Paros nodded. He watched the nymphs all take a bite of their cakes. The nymphs all made faces, “Ooh, they taste simply dreadful! I suppose it must be to human tastes. How awful. I do feel so sick!”

Leyte’s eyes opened wide as the nymphs were transformed into croaking toads. The left over cakes turned into little lily pads. The toads began to croak, and a young man spilled out of their mouths with each croak. The young men swam out of the pool and up onto the bank, yelling to each other in confusion.

The young men slowly regained their dazed senses and stumbled away down the path, nodding their thanks to Leyte and Paros. Leyte saw Daurk swim out of the pool. He waved to his brother and yelled.

Daurk came out of the water and sat down next to his father. “Whew. That was a ghastly experience! How did I come back to life?”

“When your brother killed the nymphs, they spat up all the young men they has eaten over time,” Paros explained.

Daurk looked at Leyte in disbelief. “Wait a minute. Leyte saved me? Leyte killed the nymphs? Lazy Leyte?”

Paros nodded. “Yes. And since you boys have only lost a day, you still have time to go to the festival and enjoy it. Leyte, you deserve to go. I am proud of you. But when you come back, Leyte, I expect you to do your fair share of work on the farm.”

“I will, father,” Leyte said happily.

Paros nodded. “Good. I see you have properly learnt your lesson. Tell your brother all about what happened to you on the way to the festival. One more thing; Eros told me how much you cried last night. I am sorry I whipped you so badly.”

Leyte waved to his father as he and Daurk set off down the path. He skipped happily along next to his elder brother. He was going to enjoy the festival!

~A short story by Layla

Mindlovesmiserysmenagerie Photo Challenge #155 Artwork:Jwwaterhouse.com

Sense or Sensibility?

There is a magical realm in a world that humans cannot see. In the realm live children that never age, each possessing a unique talent. The children were happy and content, able to do whatever they wished without harming anything. They were tended to and cared for by two Matrons, Sense and Order. Because the children did not know the harm their magical abilities would cause to the human world, they had to stay in their realm. Mostly, they were happy to do so. They did not have to behave in any manner, nor did they have to learn to control themselves. They were utterly wild and free.

But there were once were eight children who left the realm and ran away to try out the human world. They lived in the woods. They had a camp, which consisted of eight wooden boxes hanging from the trees. Each child had a box to herself or himself. The children were agile and slender. They enjoyed playing in the woods, among the trees and creeks. They had no parents, and were wild and free.

One day a woman passed through the forest on a path that ran through it. Her name was Mildred. Mildred was rich and stern, and she ran an orphanage with the strictest of rules governing it. As she walked on the path, she heard children laughing and playing. Mildred was curious about the children so she went to see what they were doing.

Mildred was horrified to discover a mess of half-naked, dirty children playing in a creek. They were laughing and screaming, and splashing each other. What was most horrifying was that there was no adult supervisor! Any of the children could drown!

Mildred rushed out to the creek. “Where are your parents?” she demanded.

The children all stopped playing to look at her blankly. “Parents? We have not got any. Who are you?”

“No parents!” Mildred gasped. “Do you mean you have been abandoned here to starve and be eaten by wild beasts?”

“Uh, no,” said one of the oldest boys. “Are you loony or something?” He splashed water on Mildred’s expensive black dress. “What are you doing in the woods anyway? You could get eaten by wild beasts, old lady.”

Mildred drew herself up with dignity. “I have come out to the countryside for the sake of my health. It has been in a bad state lately. But I can see that I have been sent here by the spirits for a reason! You are a rude young boy. What is more, living in the woods like this is no place for a child! You will all come with me at once to my orphanage, and I will give you a proper life. Don’t you dare argue with me!” She looked sternly around at all the children, waving her umbrella madly.

“I guess we could try it,” a little girl said sweetly. “My name is Wild Rose, but you can call me Briar.”

“That is a terrible name for a child. I shall call you Bella. What are the rest of you called? I am Mildred Farouche. You will address me as Mrs. Farouche.”

The rude boy rolled his eyes. He had jagged blonde hair and naughty blue eyes. He was about thirteen. “Whatever, Mrs. Frouchy! My name is Luke. This is my little bro’ Daniel, and my sister Briar, and my other sister Koi. Ivy and Patch are related. Pearl and Weed are not.”

“My name is Farouche. Fa-rouche. It is French.”

“I do not know what that is, and I do not care,” Luke said sassily.

Weed had black hair that half covered his face. Ivy was tall and slender, with green hair. Pearl was a beauty, and Patch was small, with blotchy skin. He grinned crookedly at Mildred. Two of his front teeth were missing.

“What has happened to your teeth?” Mildred demanded.

“Luke pushed me out of tree accidentally, and they fell out,” Patch replied proudly.

Mildred looked aghast. She herded the children out onto the road with her umbrella and out of the forest onto the road. The children followed her willingly, curious for a new adventure. Mildred followed the road back to where her driver was waiting in a shining lorry. “Climb in,” she ordered the children. “I am sure you can all fit.”

Squashed together, the children stuffed themselves into the lorry. The lorry started off. It arrived at a big stone house, and drove through iron gates up the drive. A sign read Mrs. Farouche’s Home for Respectable Children. Maids in white and blue frilly aprons and caps came out into the drive and herded the children into the house.

Luke, Daniel, Briar, Koi, Weed, Ivy, Pearl, and Patch were all taken up a long, winding staircase. They passed neatly dressed children who looked at them with interest. At the end of the staircase was a long hall with doors off it on either side. Each child was taken into a washroom accompanied by a stern maid and made to look presentable.

When Luke, Daniel, Briar, Koi, Weed, Ivy, Pearl, and Patch came out of the washrooms, they looked at each other and giggled. Their hair had been cut straight and oiled back, in the boys’ cases. The girls’ hair had been braided back tightly. The boys were dressed in neat, uncomfortable suits. The girls were wearing flowery dresses, stocking, and polished shoes.

“You look like idiots in ribbons and frills,” Luke teased.

“And you look stupid in button-ups and ties,” Pearl retorted.

The children were taken down into the big dining room. Mrs. Farouche gave a stern lecture to them. She said, “You are lucky to be in my orphanage. There are some rules that must be respected and obeyed at all times. The rules are: You must never be late for lessons or meals. You must never fight. You must always do as you are told. You must eat properly without spoiling your clothes. You must always speak politely. You must only speak when spoken to. Anyone who breaks the rules will be severely punished.”

“She means it,” whispered a boy standing next to Luke. “Nasty old creature!”

“There will be no talking in the dining hall while I am talking!” Mrs. Farouche snapped. “Brendon, you may go to your room! No dinner for you tonight!”

“Yes, Mrs. Farouche,” Brendon said meekly, and walked stiffly out of the dining room.

The children sat down to dinner after Mrs. Farouche was done speaking. Dinner consisted of beef stew and bread. Luke, who was not afraid of anything, immediately spilled his stew on the table. “Oops,” he said loudly. He wondered how far he could go without getting punished.

All the children except Luke’s friends, stopped eating and stared at Luke in horror. Daniel, Briar, Koi, Weed, Ivy, Pearl, and Patch went on eating calmly.

Mrs. Farouche said coldly, “You will clean that up at once, Luke. Maid Rigby will escort you to the woodshed.”

“What do I have to do? Chop wood or something? Anyway, I am not cleaning up the stew. Why should I?”

“Because I told you to!” Mrs. Farouche roared. The children at the dining table all cringed in their seats.

“The maids can do that!” Luke said firmly, unruffled by the fearsome roaring. “Maid Ribpie, are we going to the woodshed anytime soon?”

“Behave yourself, Luke,” Pearl said sharply. She reached over and cleaned up Luke’s spilt stew. “This is no time to get carried away!”

“All right,” Luke grumbled. He got up and followed Maid Rigby out of the room.

“I did not give you permission to speak, Pearl,” Mrs. Farouche said sternly. “You may go up to bed at once.”

With rapid succession, Daniel, Briar, Koi, Weed, Ivy, and Patch all misbehaved and were sent up to bed. Luke was already in his room, looking chipper. He grinned when he saw all his friends pour into his room when they should have been in their separate beds. “Hello, everyone! I hate this orphanage place. But they have got an absolutely smashing garden! Shall we climb out and have some fun?”

Ivy went to the bedroom window and leaned out. She whispered something and a tree grew up outside the window. The children all climbed down the tree and ran out into the garden. They had a fine time, playing in the garden fountain and picking flowers by the light of the moon. Until Mrs. Farouche came out into the garden in her nightgown, awakened by all the yelling and screaming, accompanied by an ugly gardener and several maids.

The maids and gardener chased the children all around the garden. The orphans all leaned out of their bedroom windows to watch the chase with interest.

One of the maids caught Briar and prepared to smack her hard. Koi ran up and snapped, “Get your hands off my sister!” A gust of cold water flew out of her hands and drenched the maid. The maid shrieked and ran out of the garden, yelling, “Witches! God save us!”

Mrs. Farouche was chased by Luke and Daniel. They chased her out into the road and locked the iron gates behind them. The maids and gardener were pursued by wild beasts that erupted out of Weed and Patch’s mouth. The eight children then proceeded to barge into the house and chase every adult out of it. The adults were locked outside in the road, and they could not climb over the high walls that surrounded the orphanage.

Mrs. Farouche called the police, having walked all the way to the local police station. She said evil monsters had attacked her and her staff, and she must have help getting rid of them. But when the police arrived at the orphanage, the entire orphanage was gone. A maid in hysterics reported that “the whole of Madame’s house had torn itself out of the ground and flown away!”

As for the orphanage, Daniel and Luke had flown it back to the magical realm they came from. They and all the orphans have been living there ever since. They share good jokes about general adult stupidity, and stay well within their special realm. For now they know that the world beyond theirs cannot cope with their special abilities.

The two Matrons, Sense and Order, train the few select children that want to leave the realm to control their special powers. But sometimes they lose their control out in the human world and unexplainable things happen.

As for poor Mrs. Farouche and her staff, they were reported as insane after they kept raving about demon children and flying houses. Sad to say, they were shut up in an asylum for the rest of their unfortunate lives.

~~A short story by Layla

Mindlovesmiserysmenagerie Photo Challenge #130, Art:Rob Woodcox

Caught!

There once was a boy. His name was Mark. His mother had abandoned Mark when he was a baby and put him in a lake to drown. But he had not drowned. Mermaids lived in the lake. Mermaids that liked a toy to tease and abuse. They had entrapped Mark in a magical net that kept him tied to the lake forever or until the net was removed from him by a human.

The net was what kept the mermaids alive. The net had to have a living being in it to feed off. Without energy to feed off, it could not supply the mermaids with life, and they would all die. Always, the mermaids kept a living child in the net to supply the net with energy and them with life. When the child died eventually, they tricked a human mother into leaving her baby in their lake as the next victim of the cruel, pitiless net. It was not hard for the mermaids to enter the human mother’s dreams and convince her that her child would be born cursed and must be got rid of.

Mark grew gills so he would not drown. He lived endlessly in the lake, miserable and unhappy for many years. The mermaids teased him and taunted him. They enjoyed watching him cry from fear and misery.

At first Mark had been hopeful that a human would come by the lake and take the net off him. But no humans came near the lake. The humans were afraid of the mermaids.

Not far away from the lake was a human village. In the village was a man name Sef. Sef had been born with a gift that allowed him to see into the future. The gift was a temperamental sort and did not function, as a proper gift should, in Sef’s opinion. Because of this, Sef could not see into his own future, nor could he see into the future whenever he wished.

The people in Sef’s village did not believe magic was a good thing. They believed anything to do with magic was evil and tainted. As Sef was growing up, they ignored his abilities, merely marking it off as an uncanny knack for prediction. However, when Sef was a grown man and he had more control over his gift, the villagers began to notice and understand that whatever Sef said usually came true. Floods and draughts hit just when he said they would. Wheat thrived and gardens grew if they were planted when Sef said they should be. And even though that knowledge was helpful to the villagers, they still believed Sef was tainted and that he would bring bad luck to the village. In order to decide what to do with Sef, the villagers consulted their leader.

The leader of the village decided not to burn Sef at the stake. Instead he said to the assembled people, “Has Sef’s knowledge of earthquakes and floods not allowed us to move out of harm’s way? Has his mysterious way of telling us when and how to grow our food not helped us thrive? I will set Sef a task. If he can complete it, we will allow him to return to this village and live here with us. If he fails, he shall be banished forever. If Sef refuses to take the task on, we will burn him.”

The villagers all yelled with agreement. It was an excellent proposal. Sef certainly could not refuse to take on the task; otherwise he would be burned alive.

Seeing that he had no choice in the matter, Sef asked, “What is the task you have set for me, ‘o wise leader?”

The leader of the village said slowly, “In this village we have plenty of grain and meat and vegetables. But what would we all give for a bite of fish! I have not tasted fish in my whole life. Your task, Sef, will be to go to the lake and get rid of all the mermaids so that it will be safe to fish in that lake.”

A great yell of excitement went up from the assembled villagers. That was a fabulous idea! Fish. Wonderful fish! The taste of fish would be a blessing! It was the perfect task to set for Sef. If he succeeded, they would all benefit from his accomplishment. Sef would have all their hope behind him. If he failed . . . well, he was tainted so no one would really care.

The naming of his task dismayed Sef. Get rid of the mermaids? How would he ever do that? It was not as if his gift would allow him to see just how he could succeed. His gift was in another temperamental stage at the moment.

The villagers were eager for Sef to begin at his task. But their leader had one more thing to say. He said, “Sef, if you succeed at your task and come back here to live with us, you may not marry nor have any children. Your magic must not continue to survive here.”

A wave of sadness washed over Sef. That was so unfair! No children or a wife? Why was he even living in this horrible place?

Sef set off for the mermaid’s lake the next morning. A glimmer of hope remained in his heart. The night before, his gift had sought to cheer him up and had sent him the feeling that, if he went to the lake, he would be happy.

When Sef came to the lake, it was midafternoon. The lake looked blue and flat and normal. Now and then, a huge fish would jump out of the water. In one corner of the lake, a large patch of cattails grew. They cast a dark shadow on a small surface of the lake. Sef stood on the shore and wondered how he would go about succeeding at his task. If he jumped in and tried to kill the mermaids, they would drown him at once. And it was not as if he had anything he could try to kill the mermaids with! Sef was a mellow, kind type of person. He did not go around carrying knives and javelins with him.

Dispirited, Sef wandered around the lake, following the shoreline and keeping an eye out for the mermaids. As he neared the patch of cattails, Sef heard the sound of a child’s heartbreaking sobs. Curious, he stepped into the shallow water of the lake and parted the cattails. He thought perhaps he would see a mermaid child weeping prettily, but instead he saw a skinny, naked, little human boy covered in a weighted net. He was sobbing pitifully into his hands. Tears were dripping down into the water.

“Hello!” said Sef in surprise. “Who did this to you? Better get out quick or the mermaids will get you.”

The boy started and turned around to stare at him in surprise and fear. He started to get up but a screeching mermaid suddenly dove out of the water and grabbed the boy’s ankle. “Get back here, you beastly little wretch! You are not going anywhere!” She started dragging the screaming boy out into deeper water.

Sef splashed out into the water as far as he dared go, and grabbed the boy’s hand that was desperately reaching for him. A short tug-of-war followed. The mermaid shrieked and clawed at the boy, drawing blood from his leg. She screamed for her sisters to help her, and Sef saw ripples in the lake. Many mermaids were coming! He had to get out of the lake or they would get him too. But he could not leave the boy behind!

Desperately, with an extra strong pull, Sef pulled the boy free of the mermaid’s grasp and dragged him far up onto the beach. He collapsed, panting. The mermaids were all yelling and splashing in the shallow water, unable to come out any further. They screamed fearful threats at the boy, and he huddled next to Sef, looking frightened.

Sef started taking the net off the boy. “Here, let me get you out of this nasty old thing. The mermaids cannot do a thing to you from here. What is your name?”

“They just call be Mark,” the boy said in a small voice. His eyes lit up as the net came off him and Sef discarded it next to him on the beach. He was shivering so Sef wrapped his cloak around him. “What do they call you?”

“Sef. How did you get into the lake?”

“I always lived there. I could not leave on my own while the net was on me. And I could not take the net off myself either. The mermaids put the net on me. It takes away all my energy and gives it to them.”

Sef looked appalled. “That is a cruel thing to do to a boy your age! Will they die if I destroy the net?”

“I guess so.” Mark was looking at the gills on his chest with fascination. They were slowly fading away into his skin.

Sef noticed. “Did the net grow those on you?”

“Yes. But it did not give me a tail or webbed hands. I wish it had. If it had, I could have gotten away from the mermaids in the water, and they would not have been able to catch me and hurt me.”

“Did they feed you enough?”

“No. I had to catch my own food. What are you going to do with me? Do you have a net too? Are you going to put me in it?”

“No! Even if I did, I would not put you in it. That is an awful thing to do. How do you destroy the net?”

“I guess you burn it. At least, the mermaids hate fire so I bet it would hurt the net. Where do you live?”

“In a village not to far from here. Will you help me gather up brushwood? I am going to burn the net.”

Mark brightened. “I would love to. I hate the net. It was so heavy, I could barely swim in it at all!” He jumped to his feet and ran up the rocky beach.

When the wood was collected, Sef lit a fire and tossed the net onto it. The wood all burned but the net remained unscathed. Mark looked dismayed. “Now the mermaids will get it back and put someone else in it! It is not fair!”

“No, it is not,” Sef agreed. “Well, there is nothing we can do so we might as well get some sleep. We cannot walk back to my village in the dark.”

While Sef was sleeping, his gift sent him a dream. In the dream, Mark was standing in the middle of a fire with the net on him. He was screaming horribly as the net slowly burned away in patches of black smoke and he burned with it. Sef awoke with a jump. If that was the only way to destroy the net, he would not do it. To have to burn Mark as well . . . . .

Mark persisted that they try again to burn the net. They tried all day to burn the net. As the fire burned away for the hundredth time, Mark said mournfully, “I would do anything to destroy the net. It caused me so much pain. Do-do you think if I went into the fire with the net it might burn away?”

Sef looked at Mark, startled. “I-I am sure that would not work at all. Why do you think it would?”

“I had a dream. Only, I died too and it hurt a lot.”

Sef thought about lying and saying Mark’s idea was foolishness. But his lips refused to form the lie. In the end, he admitted that the only way to destroy the net was to place it on its last occupant and burn them both.

Mark tried to look brave and failed. Instead he looked frightened and pale. “Okay. I want to do it. That way, the mermaids will all die and never be able to hurt anyone else. Will you—will you light the fire?”

“You do not have to,” Sef warned. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Mark nodded. When he was standing in the middle of the pile of wood Sef had gathered with the net on him, Sef lit it and turned away. He waited on edge for the dying screams to start. When he did not hear any, he turned uncertainly around.

Sef was just in time to witness the fire all rush in on Mark and explode all around him. Mark let out a yell of terror. But the fire burned down and disappeared, leaving Mark unscathed. He stumbled out of the brushwood and fell against Sef, shaking all over. The net was gone.

Sef blinked in astonishment. He saw the lake begin to boil and steam. He saw the mermaids all wither away into little puffs of black smoke. Letting go of Mark, Sef waded out into the lake water. He went in up to his chest and finally swam out to the middle of the lake and back without any mermaids coming out of the depths to drown him. He came out of the lake, dripping all over, and told Mark the mermaids were all dead and the lake was safe.

“Are we going back to your village now?” Mark asked, looking happy.

Sef considered. He said finally, “No. The people there did not treat me very well. I am going to go find a new home. You can go to my village if you want to. My people will treat you kindly.”

“But I want to come with you. You are the only person who was ever kind to me. And you saved me from the mermaids and their net. Please may I come with you?”

“Well, why not?” Sef took Mark’s hand. “My gift told me I would be happy if I came here. And I am because I found you. Come on; we have time enough to get away from here before any of my people come to see if I am dead or not. The boiling lake and the steam rising off it must have attracted a lot of attention.”

Sef and Mark found the road and walked down it, away to the west and into the setting sun.

~A short story by Layla

Mindlovesmiserysmenagerie Photo Challenge #120, Art: Alessio Albi

The Orange Witch and The Goldfish

Fury overtook the Orange Witch when her sweetheart fell in love and became engaged to the ordinary Mrs. Gniveirg. How could any man be enamored with an ordinary woman over a witch, pretty and young and full of magic? The Orange Witch did not take into account that Love was at work where she could not see it.

The Orange Witch swore to make her love pay for betraying her and going off with Mrs. Gniveirg. And so she had her revenge by turning her handsome once-lover into a goldfish. A plain and ordinary goldfish with a particularly girly face to further add to his humiliation.

Mrs. Gniveirg was heartbroken. The Orange Witch gave the goldfish to her grieving rival and told her with a smug smile on her face, “There is only one way to undo the spell I have cast upon your foolish lover! You must make him weigh seven pounds.” Leaving Mrs. Gniveirg to grieve over her ruined future, the Orange Witch vanished with a cackle.

Mrs. Gniveirg lived in a small but comfortable flat in a seventy-five story high building. It was a flat with a small balcony out the back door overlooking the street. Above it was the balcony of the flat above it and below it the balcony of the flat underneath Mrs. Gniveirg’s. Mrs. Gniveirg put her fiancé in his goldfish bowl out on the balcony so he would have fresh air and resolved to feed him until he weighed exactly seven pounds. She kept a weighing scale in a little draw by her fiancé’s table and a notebook with the entries of how much his water weighed exactly and how much he weighed.

Mrs. Gniveirg warned her two young sons’, Fox and Wolf, not to meddle with her goldfish as he was delicate. She bought the boys their own goldfish to amuse them. Fox and Wolf put their goldfish in their room and named him Goldie. They curiously studied their mother’s unusual behavior every morning when she weighed her goldfish.

“She must be going nuts,” Fox said. He added proudly, “I have heard they do go barmy at certain ages.”

“And she is overfeeding him something awful,” Wolf added. “It says on the goldfish feed bag only to give ‘em so much every day or it kills ‘em. Mum is overfeeding her fish like I never saw!”

When her sons asked her why her goldfish had to be weighed and fed so much, Mrs. Gniveirg told the boys that the goldfish was special because it had once been a human man. Fox and Wolf were impressed.

One day Mrs. Gniveirg was out on the balcony. She was feeling depressed because her poor fiancé had gained all the weight it seemed he ever would! He was only at two pounds and refused to get any bigger.

The lady who lived in the flat above hers leaned over her balcony and called down to her, “Good morning, my child. Why do you look so upset?”

“Good morning, Ms. Spielberg,” Mrs. Gniveirg answered gloomily. “It is my goldfish. He will not gain any weight. I simply must get him to weigh more.”

“Well, my child, I happen to know a little spell that makes things grow at a simply wonderful rate. I will tell it to you. You look so terribly unhappy, I cannot stand it! You must repeat the words ‘hsifdlog, hsifdlog, worg, worg’ to your lovely pet every morning and evening. Keep feeding him as you are.”

“Oh, Ms. Spielberg, you are too kind!” Mrs. Gniveirg cried. “But will it really work?”

“Of course, my child. You just trust dear old granny Spielberg, honey, and everything will turn out just fine.”

Having no better means to accomplish her objective, Mrs. Gniveirg agreed. She scribbled down the magic words on a piece of note paper and promised to say them to her goldfish every morning and night. Then she went into her flat.

Ms. Spielberg smiled a malicious smile. She had enjoyed her once rival-in-love’s despair. Now she would make sure Mrs. Gniveirg could never change her love back to man. The Orange Witch got onto her motorcycle and drove to multiple pet stores where she ordered many goldfish of different sizes and paid for delivery to her flat. When the goldfish arrived, she set them up in tanks all over her kitchen, labeling each fish with its exact weight.

In the flat below, Fox and Wolf were struggling to figure out what to take for next week’s show-and-tell at school. Wolf said suddenly, “Hey, why not take mom’s fish? She said it was a man once. I bet she was lying, but no one at school will know. We can tell a fine old yarn. Only trouble is, mom will see we took her fish and throw a fit.”

“Not if I can help it,” said Fox. “We can take her fish and put good old Goldie in his place. Mom will never know. Quick, get Goldie. We can do the substitution now will mom is out talking to the landlady. That way if mom finds out now, we will know our trick will not work and we will still have lots of time to come up with something new for show-and-tell.”

The boys quickly carried Goldie in his bowl out onto the balcony. They put his bowl down on the table where their mom’s goldfish swam in his bowl, snatched it up and hurried back to their room just as their mother came in.

“I hope you boys are behaving yourselves,” Mrs. Gniveirg called, going to the kitchen to make dinner. Afterwards, she went out to say the magic words to her goldfish in his bowl. Fox and Wolf watched her anxiously from door.

“Look, mum has gone nuts now,” Fox said, “She is talking rot to her ol’ fish. She has not noticed its Goldie. Hurray!”

Mrs. Gniveirg went back into her flat to serve dinner. In the flat above, Ms. Spielberg was putting a slightly bigger fish then Goldie into a bowl of water. She went out onto her balcony and looked quickly around to make sure the coast was clear. She lowered her goldfish down onto the table where Mrs. Gniveirg’s fish was swimming around in his bowl. Then she pulled up Goldie with her long set of mechanical claws.

Ms. Spielberg went into her kitchen and killed the fish she had pulled up from Mrs. Gniveirg’s balcony. She thought it was her former lover. She cooked the fish and ate it, happily thinking she had got rid of her once lover. She would keep substituting a slightly heavier goldfish for the one on Mrs. Gniveirg’s balcony every night to keep up the illusion that the magic words were working before she cleared out for good.

The next morning when Mrs. Gniveirg weighed her goldfish, she found he had gained a few ounces! She shrieked in delight, and Ms. Spielberg peered down off her balcony. “Oh, oh, Ms. Spielberg, your magic words are working!” Mrs. Gniveirg cried excitedly. “I can hardly believe it!”

“Wonderful, my child,” said Ms. Spielberg. “I am so glad you are happy.”

That night Ms. Spielberg cranked up the goldfish from Mrs. Gniveirg’s balcony and replaced it with a slightly heavier one. Grinning, she ate went to bed. Silly, stupid, ordinary Mrs. Gniveirg! Mrs. Gniveirg was being played like a harp!

One day, when her fish weighed exactly six and a half pounds, Mrs. Gniveirg found she had to work late unexpectedly. She could not leave her boys at home alone, so she called up to Ms. Spielberg and begged her to come and babysit Fox and Wolf while she was out working. To her relief, Ms. Spielberg agreed to babysit her children.

Fox and Wolf were told to be good boys and not play any tricks by their mother as she rushed off to work. The boys looked with interest at the elderly Ms. Spielberg and went back to discussing their killer show-and-tell display; it was the next day.

Ms. Spielberg was knitting in a chair by the electric heater from where she overheard what the boys said. Curious, because it involved a goldfish, she asked, “What is your exhibit, boys?”

“Oh, its an ol’ fish that was supposed to have been a man once,” Fox said proudly. “It was mom’s, but we pinched it and put our old Goldie in its place. That was smart, huh? She never found out! She goes on talking to poor Goldie, who is getting terribly fat, just like it was her old one.”

Ms. Spielberg’s knitting needles fell to the floor. “What?” she screamed in rage. She, the Orange Witch, had eaten an ordinary goldfish and not her once lover after all? But the real goldfish was still in the house . . . all she had to do was catch it, kill it and eat it. And that would be easy. No two boys could stop her. She would kill them too! How ruined would be poor, ordinary Mrs. Gniveirg’s life then!

Fox and Wolf had scrambled to their feet and run to their room and locked the door. They leaned against it, panting.

“I do not like her,” Fox panted. “Is she going to hurt us? I wish mom were home.”

“Me too. But we will not let her in. Quick, we can rig up a booby trap in case she gets in! Get me three of mom’s old boyfriend’s biggest bowling balls. They’re a few in the back of my closet. He never took them with him when he disappeared.”

Three bowling balls were erected over the door. A trip wire was stretched across the doorway. The boys left the door cracked open and crouched behind their bed to wait and see what happened.

Ms. Spielberg appeared in the hallway. She was now young and beautiful but with an air of wickedness about her. She was holding a knife. When she saw Fox and Wolf and the goldfish behind them on their dresser, she came at once into the room. “There you are, naughty children! Do—” Then Ms. Spielberg screamed a dying death scream.

Fox and Wolf gulped as Ms. Spielberg’s head was crushed in by the downfall of the three bowling balls. They hid their faces in their hands to block out the sight. Behind them, out of the goldfish bowl, a man emerged.

Fox and Wolf turned around at the sound of sound of breathing behind them. “Hey, look, it is mom’s old boyfriend,” Wolf said. “How did he get in here?”

“He busted the goldfish bowl,” Fox said sorrowfully, “And he killed her fish. Mom is going to kill us!”

“No, she will not,” the old boyfriend said, “I will not let her. I was the goldfish. When the witch died, I was released from my curse.”

Fox groaned and clutched his head. “Oh man, oh man! Why could you not have popped out at show-and-tell is what I want to know? Couldn’t you have waited a bit longer? We would have brought down the house if you had come out of a fish in front of the whole class!”

“Sorry about that, buddy,” the old boyfriend said. He picked up the dead Orange Witch, carried her out onto the flat balcony, and threw her off. “As far as the world knows, Ms. Spielberg fell off her balcony and died of an accident. Back into the house, boys, that is no sight for you to be seeing!”

Fox and Wolf heard footsteps in the hall. “Mom is coming home!” they shrieked. They dragged the old boyfriend over to the door. “Quick, let her in!”

So the old boyfriend did.

~A short story by Layla

Mindlovesmiserysmenagerie Photo Challenge #140, Artwork:: Slrlounge.com