The Witch Doctor

The Witch Doctor's entrance into the village was heralded by the tinkling of glass. This sound belonged to the many small vials he wore strapped inside his long black trench coat, vials containing vile liquids and strange potions, and rumor had it that they sometimes held other, stranger things, too, like bat wings and maiden's hearts.

Children ran breathlessly inside to alert their mothers and were subsequently shoved, willy-nilly, into closets and under beds.

"Hurry and hide, child! And for the gods' sakes, don't go breathing a word!"

The Witch Doctor only visited Bal'Wren once a year, and he always visited only one house during his stay, which could last a day or a month, depending on what was needed. But the reason why mothers hid their children wherever they could, and the reason why the villagers locked their doors and windows when he came to town was because he only visited the house which contained a person who was fated to die that very same day.

Claire was sitting under her tree when the Witch Doctor came to town. She was playing make-believe with her dolly, Susan, and didn't notice the fuss. No one came to tell her to get indoors, quick -- her father was at work in the mines, and her mother was dead. No one came to warn her. So when the dark figure of a stooped man wearing a black trench coat loomed over her small self, she peered up in surprise.

"Hello," she said, uncertainly.

"Why, hello, my dear girl. And what are you doing outside? Why hasn't your mommy called you into the house? It's not nice for a little girl like you to be outside all by herself."

Claire shielded her eyes from the glare of the setting sun with a small hand and looked up into the Witch Doctor's face, recoiling when she realized there were black holes where the man's eyes should be, and that his teeth were cruel, jagged points. She pushed her dolly protectively to her side and stood up tall, all four feet, five inches of her. She was determined not to be afraid, despite the fact that her heart was beating frantically within the cage of her ribs, as if it wanted to get out.

"I'll be going inside, then, if it's all the same to you," she said as fiercely as she could, and moved to walk onto her porch, towards the front door.

The second Claire turned her back on the Witch Doctor, she felt a cold, clammy hand grab ahold of her wrist.

"Just where do you think you are going, little girl?"

There was nobody around to help her, everyone had gone into their homes. Claire's throat was dry, and so her scream was very small, barely audible. She fell to the earth in a swoon, her dolly Susan falling down next to her. The Witch Doctor bent down and picked her up very gently and then carried her into the house, leaving the forgotten doll under the tree. Barely an hour later, the Witch Doctor could be seen exiting the house from the backdoor, the tinkling of glass following him as he exited the town.

Later that evening, when Claire's father came home from working in the mines, he found the doll lying under the tree and felt a chill wind blow straight through him. He ran into the house, stil holding the doll, and seconds later his heartwrenching cry split the night in two.

The End

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