My childhood was characterized by a certain intrepidity, eccentricity, stubbornness and frequent illness. Yes, I was fearless, quirky and willful. But, for all my quirkiness, I never felt unwanted or unloved. I was showered with affection. And, although things were sometimes difficult, my parents toiled endlessly to make sure I never lacked a thing. Sadly, not every child in our community could boast of such parental love.
‘The little witch’ was a name very popular in our community. Parents warned their children about her. Adults told tales of evil and the supernatural actions of the little witch. Much of which I now doubt.
“Stay away from that girl. Bad things happen to anyone who goes near her…”
“Do you know she hears voices in her head – that witch!”
“Even her father hates her, she killed her mother the same day she was born…”
“Do you know that even the most powerful priest could not cure her?”
“She’s possessed! One day, a pregnant woman beat her. The next day, she had a miscarriage…”
Despite the warnings, I saw something different whenever I crossed paths with the little witch. I felt a nagging sense of obligation towards her. I felt a need to understand her. Even in those moments, when all I got was a fleeting glimpse of her peering through her room’s window, a ghostly face bordered by the curtains, I felt a connection. A spark. Something about the way she stared tugged at my heart.
I longed to know her.
One afternoon, after a game of football with friends, as I walked past the familiar building belonging to the little witch’s father, I looked at the window, as I always did each time I trekked past. And there she was – the little witch. She was staring out the window with her haunted, dark eyes that seemed to pierce deep into my heart, calling out to my conscience. I stopped, turned and walked to front door. I hesitated, and then placed my hand on the knob. The door opened. There was no one in the living room. I heard movement behind the door adjoining the room. I went to that door and opened it.
She was in alone, like I expected. After all, nobody cared about the little witch.
The room that harbored the little witch was a small one that seemed to close in on me with each passing second. Although, the windows were open, the room was poorly ventilated and stuffy. There was a single, old bed with a mattress riddled with holes positioned against the wall opposite the single window.
I observed a few drawings on the floor, markings that could only have being scratched onto the ground. I wondered if she’d done the drawings with her fingernails or a blade of some sort. I hoped it wouldn’t be the former.
Being here, in close proximity with the little witch caused a frisson to race up my spine. An odd sense of fulfillment filled my insides. I watched her – the little witch, just a little girl, not that much younger than me. There was nothing evil or dangerous about the way she looked. In fact, she looked like she was the one in danger. Her eyes, large, haunted and dark-brown, stared at me like twin pools of pain. Her arms and legs, scrawny appendages that peeked out of a threadbare dress, were covered in marks, fresh cuts laid upon healing and healed cuts. I suspected the injuries were self inflicted; there were some on her wrists too. Her unkempt appearance continued on with her disheveled hair, which looked like it could be an inhabitation for lice. And there was a lump the size of a baby’s fist on her forehead. I wondered if she’d fallen to sustain the bruise, or if her father had hit her. Suddenly, a wave of anger tided through me as the thought of her father striking her went through my mind.
The little witch looked too fragile and unloved to be the evil everyone thought her to be.
“Hi…” I said. “My name is Uche.”
The little witch stared at me a few seconds, brief surprise fleeting through her face, as though she hadn’t expected me to be in her room, much less speak to her. She took a small step backward, away from me.
“Do you have a name?” I asked. “A real name?” I don’t know why I added the second question. Perhaps, I wondered if she knew everyone called her the little witch.
“What is your name?” I asked again, moving a step forward.
At my advance, she recoiled backward yet again. Silence teeming with undercurrents of emotions I could not comprehend pulsed between us as we stared at each other.
Then she opened her cracked lips, through which I could see a pearly white, well-arranged dentition – about the only thing on her that was perfect and untouched by her decrepitude.
“Ada…” she eventually answered. Her voice was gruff and tender.
“Did you draw that?” I asked, pointing at one of the sheets of paper that littered the room’s floor. I could see more markings on them.
She dropped slowly to her knees, and then crawled toward one of the pictures, picked it up and smiled her response, while handling it to me. I was startled by the smile. It was yet another perfect thing on her – the smile. It was brief and wobbled on her lips, as though uncertain of its presence, but it was beautiful and shed the misery and pain from her young face momentarily.
“Why does everybody call you the little witch?” I asked, getting bolder when I approached her to take the paper and saw that she didn’t recoil from me.
She didn’t reply, merely looked blankly at me.
Did she even know people called her the little witch? I wondered.
“Does your daddy truly hate you?” I queried again, and without thinking, I grabbed at her hand, the one that had just handed me the picture. I stared at the scarred limb and the bruised wrist. “Did he do this to you?”
At my touch, she made a strangled sound, one which was wrenched from deep inside her throat, and she jerked her hand out of my grasp. Then, she began to nod slowly.
“Why does he hate you?” I questioned. “Did you really kill your mummy? Why don’t you run away? Don’t you have other relatives you could run away to?” The questions came in rapid succession.
She didn’t answer any of them. Another silence ensued.
Then finally – “Go.” She said the word in a near whisper.
“I’m sorry if my questions upset you,” I said, instantly contrite. “I just want to talk to you, to get you to talk to me.” I waited a beat before adding, “I want to be your friend.”
There was silence. She stared at me, that hauntedness in her eyes eddying like the tides of the ocean I watched in a movie last week.
Not knowing what else to say, I glanced at the picture in my hand. “These are really good drawings,” I said. “We could show it everyone. They deserve to know you have a gift.”
“Go…” she said again.
“But –” I began.
“Go… Go… Go…” she said again and again, beginning to nod her head in tandem with the words. She was becoming increasingly perturbed by my presence. “Go, Go, Go, Go…”
“Why?” I asked. “Don’t you agree with me about showing your pictures? It will show everyone that you’re just like the rest of us.”
The little witch stood up, and began pacing back and forth, and then about in circles.
“Go, Go, Go, Go…” she continued saying.
“Everyone thinks you’re evil…everyone except from me,” I said anxiously. For some reason, I suspected that I was losing her, losing the momentaneous rapport I imagined we’d created mere seconds ago. “I just want to be friends.” There was an almost pleading tone in my voice.
“Go, Go, Go…”
“You can come to my house if you want. I could take you there now. You’ll meet my brother and sister–”
“Go, Go, Go, Go…”
“You look like you haven’t eaten in days… My mum could make something for you to eat –”
“Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!” The volume of her voice was climbing with each word that followed the previous one.
“You don’t want to come?” I got more anxious as I observed her troubling behavior.
“Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!”
“Calm down, please.”
“Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!”
She suddenly fell to the ground, rolling about while clutching her head and repeating the word ‘Go’. Terror lanced through me and I turned and fled through the door, and out of the house. I didn’t stop until I was back on the street. Then I paused to catch my breath. Even with the distance, I could still hear her anguished wailing of the word ‘Go’. I stared at her window, but the curtains hung still without her face peering through them.
I turned and continued on home. When I got home, I shut the door to my room behind me and stared at the drawing I had in my hand the whole time. I got into my bed and thought about the little witch.
I never told anyone of my encounter with the little witch.
I didn’t go back to see her again. Years have passed, and till today, I still think about her. I stare at the drawing, now framed and hanging on the wall of my living room, and I wonder what became of the little witch. I wonder if anyone ever noticed the creative side to her. I remember those haunted eyes of hers that spoke to me. I remember that smile that gave her a beauty possessed by none other. I see her in my dreams too. Sometimes her voice rings audibly in my head.
“Go, Go, Go, Go, Go…”
Written by Toby