There were rumors of a witch who lived in the woods near our house. I didn’t think they were true, especially since Elijah was the one who told us. He probably hoped to scare us, that seemed his mission in life. He also claimed the witch ate children, specifically girls. But I needed to find out if a hunger demon actually possessed Nan. I found no answers at church, too many old men with beards and scary stories of hell, damnation, and unworthiness. And every time I asked a question related to hunger demons, their beards shook with laughter and they patted my head, muttering amongst themselves.
After church, still in our Sunday gowns, Lorelei and I snuck into the woods behind our house. It was said the witch’s house changed location every day, to avoid detection. And that it only revealed itself to those with good intentions. Lorelei squeezed my hand. She hated the woods. I squeezed back and said, “We’re doing this for Nan. Just pretend we’re on a knightly quest to win the favor of some fair damsel.”
“But we’re girls,” Lorelei protested.
“Then pretend we live in a world where girls can be knights.”
“Girl knights on a quest to win some fair lad’s heart?”
“Or how about girl knights in a kingdom made up entirely of women! For Queen and Country!” I proclaimed, swinging Lorelei’s hand into the air. “Come, Sir Lorelei! We must slay the hunger demon that holds our dear Nan captive. The Queen’s advisors tell us of a witch that dwells in this forest, only she can lift the curse that binds this demon to Nan. It is a perilous journey, but we are the only ones in the kingdom who can do it.”
“For Queen and Country!” Lorelei chimed in, mustering her fake courage.
We marched through the woods, occasionally brandishing sticks as swords. In our fantasy, we marched for days, battling elves and trolls. I almost died twice, but Lorelei’s knowledge of healing spells saved me from certain death. We made a perfect pair, I with my brute strength and agility and Lorelei with her magical capabilities. We were unstoppable. The only problem . . . We were now lost.
In our fervor to fend off the hordes of trolls and elves, we paid no mind to our surroundings. And the sun slipped ever lower in the sky, barely penetrating the tree canopy over our heads. Our epic fantasy quickly left our minds as we clung tightly to the other’s arm, our senses heightening with each eerie sound emanating from the trees and the ground. Lorelei whimpered softly beside me. I gripped her arm tighter and whispered, “Imagine we have a spell of protection surrounding us.”
“But we don’t,” she frantically retorted.
A twig snapped behind us. I squealed and spun around. Nothing. I tried to blot from my mind all thoughts of ghosts or ghouls or invisible creatures that stalked the night, wishing to prey on two defenseless girls lost in the woods. But in my mind, I could see their evil eyes, their thirsty fangs, and their long merciless claws. My heart pounded as though it were trying to break its way out of my chest. All pretense of courage immediately fell as I quickly snatched Lorelei’s hand and ran.
To be continued . . .