Jul 24, 2016

The boy and the witch

In a deep forest in a land far, far away, there lived a boy and a witch in a cottage. The forest is thick with tall and big trees where none of the roads that cross the forest intersect with each other. Only a few travelers enters it for fear of being attacked by wild beasts and unnatural creatures of the dark. The cottage that the boy and the witch lived in is old and shabby. The roof keeps leaking and the doors creak. When thunderstorms come the witch will mutter around and knock every walls and tiles in a complicated pattern to keep the house stable. The windows are permanently stained with different shades of dirt. Sometimes, the boy swears that the shape of the stains changes according to the weather outside but when he told the witch about it she simply laughed and ticked his ear off for talking silly.

One might wonder what is the reason the boy and the witch stay in a run-down cottage in a secluded place out of touch with other people. The boy often wonder about it, too, but he never dare to ask the witch why they are living in the middle of the forest. He always imagine that he is under a curse, that the witch is there as his gaoler, or that he is a prince from a faraway land kidnapped by her so that he is to be her slave. He will spend his free time imagining his origin or plotting a runaway scheme. He does that so often that he becomes afraid to ask the witch about who he is and where he comes from because he fears that once he knows the answer, the imagination ceases to exist. He cannot stand the disappointment so he keeps his mouth shut.

He knows how to read and write as long as he could remember. He could not remember who taught him to do that as the witch most certainly did not. She seldom teach the boy anything of any value. The boy does not even know how old is he as the witch also does not know, but he can estimate with utter confidence that he is no more than 14 years old and at least more than 8 years old. 

He knows for certain that the witch can do magic, as he often see brilliant-coloured dust swooshing around her when she thinks he is not looking. He once witnessed the dishes suddenly get cleaned on their own when the witch is in the kitchen. He no longer get curious about how the cottage is always warm in winter despite not having a chimney because he knows that it is all the witch's doing. When he plays outside on his own, he sometimes notice the birds in the trees are looking at him all the time. He admiringly was convinced that the witch can talk to animals and had asked them to check up on him from time to time.

But the witch does not talk much to him. As far as he knows, the witch keeps her distance from her if she can make it. She is not cruel to him as most people would imagine a witch normally is, but in the boy's opinion she is more like a magical housemaid. She rarely command him to do any chores or ask him to do things that he does not like. However, there are rules that the boy must obey and only when he tries to argue about them that the witch would get furious and scary.

The rules that he must obey he memorizes it as early as the day he could read and write. He can chant those rules while falling asleep. He was drilled into remembering them that he could say the rules backwards, from the last point to the first, word by word as easily as one chants them normally. There are seven rules he must obey without question, and they are:
  1. Run straight home and lock all the doors if there is a blind deer walking nearby.
  2. Do not shake hands with a wandering oak tree.
  3. Do not leave the cottage more than a day and two nights.
  4. Do not point fingers at people (she nearly broke his finger off when he accidentally point to her shoes that her laces are undone)
  5. Never leave the cottage without the bronze whistle.
  6. Do not drink from the crystal lake.
  7. Do not trust the limping tinker. 
He never met with a blind deer or a walking oak tree, but he knows where the crystal lake is. He has been there three times and every time he went there he will sit on the grass for hours and just stare at the lake. True to its name, the lake is mesmerizing in the way its water are crystallized and as hard as diamonds. Never mind breaking the rule, the boy could not even imagine how he can drink the water even when he is forced to do so. He has seen animals like foxes and bears walking across the crystallized lake so he is certain that he can stand on the lake if he wanted to.

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