20: Let The Flames Consume Me

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                                                         Part 20: Let The Flames Consume Me


                        "She will burn..." (Frollo, Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame)




"Keep going!"

Zenobia's voice is calm and collected, even when the world is threatening to come crashing down on us all. The men are flocking around the dilapidated cottage like ravenous sharks, drawn by the scent of blood. I thought that we'd both be able to make it to the awaiting forest, but Zenobia is insistent on staying behind. She rushes back into the house, followed closely by the men.

I duck behind the nearest tree in the dense forest, praying that Zenobia is able to find a hiding place while I work up the courage to go and save her.

Using my magic on other humans is a task I've yet to be faced with. It seems so wrong, so utterly, terribly wrong to have to hurt someone with a soul and features like my own, but I can't let them hurt Zenobia. She's been nothing but kind to me. Besides, this is my fault.

A dark memory seizes me, like a cold, wet hand. My back goes rigid; my hands fly into a clasped position in front of me. I'm back in the Witch's cottage.

* * *

"Where are the children that were trapped here?"

The Witch's drawling voice sends shivers up and down my spine. My eyes stay glued to my small, bare feet.

"I-I don't know," I lie. I've always been such a terrible liar. I can never look someone in the eye when I tell one. My face turns pink and I feel like I'm going to stop breathing all together.

The Witch can see right through my lie, like always. Her long, jagged nail reaches out and scrapes gently across my throat. I wince as it nicks my neck.

"You're lying," she hisses. Her voice is patient, calm, and amused but I can tell she's angry. It's only a matter of time before she--

A large hand swoops out and smacks the right side of my head. I stumble over and crash into the cabinet, causing all of the cooking utensils to come falling out. My ear is ringing; I can barely hear the throaty chuckles coming from the Witch. I don't bother trying to get back up. I know she'll only hit me down again.

"You set them free." The Witch figures me out with little effort. Her eyes scan my balled fists, in which I clutch the little key she uses to lock the children in her cages. I don't know what came over me. It was the first time I'd been in charge of leading children back to the Witch. She'd given me detailed instructions: scour the forest, find lost children, tell them of her sugary shack, and lead them to her.

I found children, two boys, running like madmen through the forest. It was easy to get them to follow me. They were so thin. They looked as if they hadn't ate in days.

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