It was truly terrifying, the way the old woman gazed at me. Her clear blue eyes seemed to shine right into my very soul and right through me, analyzing, calculating. Her nose was pointed at the tip, with a thick bridge. Her smile was missing a few teeth, and her tongue poked through the gaps. Her voice pierced my ears, rasping as if she hadn’t had a drink in millennia. “Hello, my dear,” she said, her rocking chair moving back and forth slowly, creaking on the balcony of her little wooden cottage. On her lap was a red and blue cloth, being stitched by her long, gnarled fingers. Her nails were thick and yellow, and age spots coated her hands. She waved to me with her left hand, and I was able to see that her middle finger was missing.
I smiled politely and waved back, barely able to utter my simple reply of, “Hello, ma’am.”
“Would you like some cookies and milk, my child?” she asked sweetly, her breath whistling through her teeth as she spoke, then she slowly stood up. Her blue bonnet hid whatever hair she had, little grey ringlets peeking down in short wisps by her ears. She was wearing a white apron over a blue sundress, two bright blood-red handprints on the apron. She had a slight hump on her back, forcing her posture forwards and hunched. She winced as she placed the cloth on her chair and brushed off her apron.
“N-no, thank you,” I whispered, watching her eyes intently as her glare remained fixed upon my own green eyes. I nibbled on my lower lip nervously as she slowly made her way towards me, clucking her tongue and smirking. She walked, or rather, trudged, toward me, her right foot trailing slightly behind her. I should have run, but fear froze me in place.
“What beautiful hair you have,” she crooned, stroking my brown locks back. I shivered as her nails traced the nape of my neck. She smelled like cinnamon, mixed with another scent that I couldn’t quite place. Whatever it was, however, it smelled bad. “And a stunning complexion,” she whispered, stroking my cheek. She breathed in deeply, and exhaled right in front of my nose. My eyes watered with the unknown putrid aroma, and my nose twitched. I held my breath as she examined me further, circling me slowly like a vulture and its prey. Her hands rubbed my back as she made sounds of approval, coming back around to face me. Creases hung by her eyes, like smile lines, only a frown was fixed firmly across her thin lips. Her cheeks were sunken in, little flaps of skin folding over themselves as wrinkles. “I used to be like you,” she rasped, clasping her claw-like hands tightly on my shoulders. “Young, gorgeous, oh, yes.”
Her soft eyes got a far-away look in them, and then hardened.
“What happened?” I asked tentatively, her nails digging into my shoulders. I thought that I already knew, that it was just old age, but then came the answer that shocked me to the core.
“Death took me,” she snarled, piercing my skin with her talons. “He told me I was too beautiful to be alive.” She laughed shallowly, her gaze burning unblinkingly into my own terrified one. “He wanted to preserve me, and I was too naïve to understand what that meant.” I squirmed under her grasp, squeaking in terror, but her grip only hardened with my movements. “Now that I have returned, I changed into this. The years are gone, taking my beauty with them. Look at me now! But now, Death wants a new beauty, seeing as mine has gone. He has let me out of his cell, only to retrieve a young prize for his collection. Now, my precious, it’s your turn.”
Her hands lifted from my shoulders, and then clasped around my throat. My oxygen supply quickly choked off, her grasp surprisingly tight as she squeezed. My eyes bugged out of my head as I spluttered, coughing up for air. I heard her cackle madly, and then it all went black.