The witch watched from the bushes as the scene in the camp unfolded.
“I lost my camera!” Marianne wailed.
Trevor rolled his eyes. “What a surprise. You keep leaving it on rocks. We’ve had to hike back for it twice. Of course you lost it.”
The witch frowned, and cradled the camera in her hands. It was true. The girl Marianne was so careless. The witch could have finished them all off by now if not for her. Well, her, and the lack of stories around the campfire.
“Now I won’t be able to finish my report for ecology,” Marianne muttered.
“Good,” snapped Trevor. “Then maybe you won’t forget things next time.”
“Guys!” A lock of Katie’s hair fell in her face, and she angrily flipped it out. “What’s done is done. Let’s just forget about it, and enjoy the rest of the night. If we have a chance—”
Trevor groaned. A glance from Katie cut him off. The witch smiled. Tensions were running high, and that was always good.
“Like I was saying. If we have a chance, we’ll go back and look for the camera tomorrow. Right now,” and here Katie grinned, “I think it’s time for a campfire tale.”
Past time, thought the witch. They’ve been camping out for three days, and they just now think of scaring each other silly next to a fire. Children get more unimaginative every year.
“Know any good ones?” Trevor said, then yawned listlessly.
The Evergreen Witch, the witch pleaded silently. If I have to listen to these imbeciles for one more day, I’ll go crazy. The Evergreen Witch.
“Well, we’re in Evergreen Woods,” said Katie. The witch relaxed. “So I thought I’d tell the tale of the Evergreen Witch.”
Marianne shivered, but she smiled and edged closer to the fire. Such a sweet girl, said the witch. So nervous, so passive. She’ll be the last to go.
Trevor shifted on his log. “Well, let’s get it over with.”
The witch frowned. She hated that she always had to let the annoying ones live.
And so Katie began the tale. The witch listened curiously. There were several versions of the legend, after all. Which one would Katie tell?
It turned out to be a pleasing mixture of the best points of all. How Jack Ball and his family had moved into these woods over a hundred years ago, trespassing (without knowing it, of course) on land claimed by the Evergreen Witch. How she had terrorized their family, poisoned their dog, kept their daughter at death’s door for over a year with a curse, crippled one son for life and caused the other to drown, caused the wife to be thought of as a witch herself, and choked the life from two babies while they were still in the womb, finally driving old Jack Ball insane through grief and stress. All of it true, the witch thought to herself. All except for the bit about poisoning the dog. She would never do such a thing. How would stew taste with poison in it?
“She continues to roam these woods to this very day,” Katie whispered. “All who set foot here risk their lives. Only a few have braved these woods and lived to tell the tale. Those she catches, she kills, or tortures for the rest of their days…perhaps she’s watching us right now.” Katie paused.
Marianne listened raptly, mouth slightly open.
Trevor, who had been behaving himself, muttered: “Does she steal cameras?”
The witch smiled. She’d never get a better cue than that.
“Trevor, you are such an ass,” said Katie as the witch stepped into the firelight.
Marianne saw her first. She tried to scream, but it came out as more of a strangled gasp. Trevor tensed up. So did Katie. The witch stood before them for a moment, letting the full effect of her hideousness sink in.
Then she slank past the fire, toward Marianne, who whimpered. Two soft brown eyes looked up at her, full of fear, pleading not to die.
The witch pulled her hands out of her robes, revealing the camera clutched in them. Marianne looked at the camera, then at her – confused.
“You lost this,” the witch rasped.
She dropped the camera at Marianne’s feet, turned, and strode back into the cover of the woods.
As the voices behind her rose in an odd mixture of anger, laughter, and puzzlement, the witch circled around the camp. Marianne and Trevor were already blaming Katie for playing a nasty trick on them, and Katie was denying everything hotly.
She would wait until they were fast asleep, the witch thought. Then, wake up Marianne. Get her good and scared, and probably also outraged at Katie. Wait until Marianne emerged in righteous wrath. Then…kill Katie. Let Marianne get a blurry shot of her with the camera, and kill her too. Terrorize Trevor, but allow him to leave mostly unharmed.
When he led the authorities back to the spot with an outrageous tale, they would find two bodies and a camera with a blurry image. It wouldn’t matter what happened to Trevor after that.
The legend of the Evergreen Witch would grow.
In the meantime, she would go and check her traps. There might be a nice raccoon in one of them, and after Katie’s story and her reminiscences, she had a hankering for stew.
Let me know what you think of the story. If you like it, please feel free to forward the link to your friends! If it wasn’t to your taste, better luck tomorrow — a new piece of short fiction goes up every day.