THE TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The old hag had insisted her locked diary be buried with her in the casket. Her white hair created a halo around her head in the simple pine box. The townsfolk were afraid to miss her funeral, on All Hallow’s Eve of all days! After all she’d done in her living years, who knew what she had in store for them after her passing?
Nobody noticed when one tiny girl reached into the casket, grabbed the tattered, leatherbound tome, and hid it inside her coat.
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
Ophelia’s heart was broken. Tears streamed down her face as she peered into the coffin. They had such a special bond and Ophelia still had so much to learn from her Grimgran.
The townsfolk had called her a witch, a hag, a crone, but only in whispers. For Grimgran was clever enough to never make it so obvious that anyone could ever pin a hex on her without sounding doolally themselves. So they left her and Ophelia alone in their hut in the woods, and gave her a wide circle and kept their eyes down whenever she hobbled into the village store to buy some candles or a new broomstick.
But little Ophelia knew her Grimgran had magic, and she wanted to learn it. Grimgran had started to teach her, but magic was hard. Ophelia watched as Grimgran deftly set rude Mrs. Potter’s bonnet alight with a swish of her finger, and with a subtle twitch of her nose sent a frog hopping right up mean old Mr. Percival’s trouser leg. But so far, all Ophelia had managed was to clang the teapot lid up and down.
“It has rhythm!” Grimgran tried.
“It’s useless,” Ophelia sighed. She wanted grand magic. Turning-her-schoolteacher-into-a-badger-type magic. “Oh please just let me use your spellbook?” She moaned to Grimgran, but Grimgran guarded her secrets like treasure.
“It’s too dangerous, Ophelia. You must learn your own power first.”
Now she stared at Grimgran’s lifeless body in the casket. Her wiry white hair, sunken cheeks, bony hands clutching her leather bound book. That book. Her all-powerful book of spells. Ophelia couldn’t let that book, her only hope of ever learning magic, be buried. She snatched the book and tucked it under her coat and walked through the crowd, without looking up. She sat behind the trunk of a giant oak tree, opened the book and flipped through its pages, looking for a spell that could bring Grimgran back. Abra Cadaver. That could be it, she thought, and read the spell aloud.
Flatworms in your head
Make dead to undead
Ophelia peered around the tree trunk to check for any sign of magic. It was fast, but she saw it. Her mouth fell agape. Flatworms, a good handful of them, bored through the coffin and slithered into Grimgran’s nostrils and mouth.
Grimgran’s hands struck out and gripped the sides of the coffin, and her possessed body jerked upright. Mrs. Potter screamed and fainted. Ophelia giggled. Grimgran moved in a stiff, zombified kind of way. She stood up in her coffin, her skin twisting and writhing in lumps and bumps, her parasitic eyes bulging and pulsating.
Now, the townsfolk had all come for a spectacle, but this is not the spectacle they had anticipated. Ophelia looked at them, the hateful bunch. They’d come out just to dance on her beloved Grimgran’s grave, and now they were distraught that she was back. Ophelia saw red. She was so mad that she made up a spell on the spot and murmured it under her breath.
Ophio cordy ceps
On her grave they dance
To their grave, make them all jitterbug
With fire ants in their pants
She didn’t really expect it to work, and maybe that explains why it was quite so hate-filled, or perhaps Grimgran was clever about guarding her magic from Ophelia. Anyway, the spell had been cast and in an instant, lines of fire ants marched out of the forest and crawled up the legs of the townsfolk, whose toes had already started tapping.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore did the Charleston. The four Smith brothers, all metalsmiths, hand-jived in perfect time. Mean old Mr. Percival did the Macarena and Mr. and Mrs. Clopp, from the village shop, did the Bop. Mrs. Potter and her daughters formed a Conga line and snaked through them all. Everyone had happy smiles pasted onto their faces. Even as they grew tired and thirsty, and their feet blistered. Even as the fire ants bit them, over and over again, and blood dripped down their itchy, inflamed skin. They smiled, and they danced.
Ophelia beheld the sight in delight as the enchanted townsfolk boogied in the graveyard to their deaths, while Grimgran stood in her coffin, stomping and flashing green.
Ophelia flicked an ant off her foot. But more came. They crawled over her feet, and up her legs. Oh no, the spell! She raced through the pages of the book, searching for a spell to save herself but it was difficult with her knees knocking. Her hands swished the book away as her arms swung high and she started to Boogaloo.
And so it was that little Ophelia had, in the space of two spells, used her power irresponsibly and by including the small word all, had wiped out her entire village, including herself. They danced themselves to death that night. The old ones dropped first, their hearts giving out. By dawn only a few remained, but Grimgran’s pulsing flashes, along with the dripping blood and jerking movements, lured in the bears and wolves. Even then, they didn’t snap out of their trance and run. They kept dancing until the very end.
And if you go to that abandoned graveyard in the woods you might hear Grimgran, still stomping her feet, but don’t get too close, or you’ll start dancing, too.