by Katy Atkins
Merithalda the witch sighed. It was a long and resigned sigh. Tonight was Halloween, and as was tradition, she was to fly across the towns and wreak havoc and mayhem, spread fear and panic, all in the name of mischief.
Except poor Merithalda didn’t want to; instead she much preferred the idea of sitting down with a nice cauldron of soup (not potions) and a good romance book (not spells).
“I don’t know what you’re looking so smug about, Thomas. You’re coming with me,’ she said, staring at her black cat sitting on the countertop. “And it’ll be cold up there on the broom so wear your scarf.”
Thomas stared back for a long while, before turning around and coughing up a furball by way of a reply and meowing to himself.
That night, far above the treetops and chimney stacks, Merithalda sprinkled down the trickery: graffiti on walls, eggs on houses, mobs of children swamping houses of middle-aged singletons who just wanted to eat their microwaved meal in peace…Merithalda was relentless and grumpy, until, that is, Thomas meowed loudly and pointed down at a small child alone on the pavement. Swooping closer, Merithalda brought her broom to a stop and applied the brakes. The child was slumped on the ground, her witches hat crooked, and crying into her tiny green painted hands.
“What’s wrong with you then?” she snapped, before clearing her throat and adding, “deary.”
The child looked up and her eyes widened at Merithalda. Of course, the witch should have realised just how wonderful she looked in her black crushed velvet cape and hat, her high-necked dress and shiny black boots, but she didn’t, and as the child stared at her open-mouthed she repeated her question with an impatient sigh.
“Peter stole my sweets. I had a whole pumpkin full of them and he took them.” She had a lisp, and Merithalda found her heart warming a little. Taking out her wand she muttered a spell and the child’s plastic pumpkin burst into a cacophony of light as sweets formed in the space, filling it to the brim. Eyes wide, the child asked, “Is this real?”
“Oh yes,” said Merithalda straightening her hat. “I’m a witch.”
“Can you do other spells? Can you make Peter disappear?” asked the little girl. “He’s a big bully and everyone hates him. He even threw rocks at my cat. He hates cats.”
Merithalda’s blood boiled and, taking a description from the child she hunted from the skies. Icicles formed on her nose, and Thomas meowed in disgust as his whiskers froze, but eventually Merithalda found the red-headed boy called Peter.
“My, my, what a fine costume you have,” she remarked. Proudly, Peter puffed out his chest and grinned. “I’m a Sheriff,” he proclaimed, tapping his badge and tilting his hat.
“Aren’t you a bit old to be trick or treating?” Merithalda asked, running through a list of curses in her mind.
“I’m thirteen, and besides, it’s none of your business, old woman.”
Old? OLD? Just who did he think he was! Why, she was barely one hundred and three! And Willy the Warlock agreed she didn’t look a day over seventy! As she stood there fuming, Peter delved into his pockets, pulled out a handful of stones and threw them at Thomas who screeched, hissed, and ran up the nearest tree.
Removing her wand, Merithalda cast her spell. An angry flare of red flashed across the street and the boy was gone, only his costume remained. Triumphant, she coaxed Thomas down and flew home, where she then changed, ran a bath and finally relaxed with her book. It was only when she slipped into bed and Thomas brought her a Sheriff’s badge did she remember. “Silly me! Of course,” she said,before muttering a new spell and tapping Thomas with her wand. This time, a flare of blue and the cat was gone, replaced with a wizened old man who sat licking his hand, wide-eyed and purring.
“Seeing as I have a new kitty, I guess I should return you home, hey, Thomas?”
The old man nodded with excitement, before staring at his wrinkled hands in horror.
“You’re a little…older… than I remember. Still, I hope you’ve learnt your lesson. No more kicking cats?” she asked with a smile as the old man Thomas nodded. “Good.” Another spell. Another flash and Thomas was gone, replaced again with a ginger kitten who meowed loudly.
“Hello, Peter. Who’s a gorgeous kitty then?”