The Witches of Harpersfleece is about two competing witches. One wants to save the children and one wants to steal a child. They both want to gather as much magic as possible. Who will win? Read on to find out. This short story is around 1100 words. A perfect length to read while trying to find a place to hide the kid’s candy that they don’t already know about. Happy Halloween!
The Witches of Harpersfleece
From the edge of my front porch, I watched the three boys, dressed as a cowboy, a robot, and a ninja, stop to trick-or-treat at my next-door-neighbor’s house. The increase of magic gave me a shiver. Mrs. Morton was known for having the best treats in town, and all the kids loved her. I listened in while she whispered to the boys, encouraging them to head home instead of coming to my house for the annual children’s Halloween party. I flicked a thought toward the boys, and they shook their heads. The only way to absorb the most magic possible was to have access to all the children in town, so I kept a close eye on Mrs. Morton. She’d been successful in the past, but no one, especially a fellow witch, was going to derail my Halloween plans this year.
The boys left her porch and walked over to my gate, and I cackled in anticipation. Why had I bothered with a spell? No boy would listen to an adult dressed up like a fat fairy, even if she did have more jack o’ lanterns on her porch than I did, and passed out better candy. My house was every child’s image of spooky, from my web-covered gate, complete with a giant spider, to the gravestones in my yard.
Hi, Mrs. Merryweather,” the three boys said together.
“Happy Halloween, boys.” I tipped my pointy hat toward them. “Wonderful costumes. Gene, where’s your sister?” All the other children in town had arrived. I could not begin my plans until everyone was accounted for.
Gene took off his ten gallon hat and rubbed his forehead. “Harriet’s sick. She missed school all week.”
I looked toward town where Gene and Harriet lived with their grandmother. “I hope she feels better. You’re sure she won’t be coming tonight?”
Gene shook his head. “Gram says she’s running a fever and can’t get out of bed. We brought her some treats before coming here. That’s why we’re late.”
“Besides,” Martin piped up from inside his black mask. “Becky went missing last year on Halloween. My parents almost didn’t let me come to your party.”
I nodded solemnly. On my walks through town in the past week I had made sure reluctant parents had a change of mind. I wanted all the children at my party.
“Well, I’m glad you could make it. Go on in. There’s lots to eat and do. Those apples won’t bob themselves.”
The boys ran into the house to join the others. I glanced at Mrs. Morton who had come over to the picket fence we shared. “It won’t matter,” I said. “Harriet won’t be leaving the house.” I muttered an incantation and Mrs. Morton’s plastic wings began to beat, lifting her off the ground.
“They’ll find out who you are if you keep this up.” Mrs. Morton shook her sparkly wand back at her wings, and fell back to the ground with a thump. “I’ll stop you eventually.” With a last swish of her wand, she pushed me into a gravestone, knocking it over. Waving over her shoulder, she went inside her cottage, and slammed the door.
I hated letting her get the last spell, but I had other work to do. Closing my eyes, I pictured young Harriet lying in her bed. With a sing-song chant I gave her deepened sleep. I didn’t want her wandering over to the party once I had shut the door. Remembering nosy neighbors I looked back at Mrs. Morton’s cottage, with its multitude of grinning pumpkins, and recited a privacy spell. Take that, you meddling toad.
Now that all my young guests had arrived, I joined the party. No children lingered in the entryway, so once I closed and locked the door I put the brace across it and increased the protection charms. There would be no interruptions tonight.
In the Great Room, nurses, police officers, and princesses stood in line to bob for apples, and pin the pumpkin on the headless horseman. Other costumed children carved jack o’ lanterns, or colored paper masks. Along one wall a table was covered with delicious treats, mac and cheese molded into mini-brains, deviled eggs decorated with olive spiders, and finger carrot sticks, along with other festive delights.
The air filled with the sound of laughter and the spicy smells of pumpkin and cider. The frisson of magic I had felt outside swelled to a cacophony in this contained space. I spoke a charm that no one heard and the children played with even more enthusiasm. I thought the magic might raise the roof. And yet I knew what I had to do to get even more.
A Monster Mash dance-off followed the costume contest, with shrieks of delight and moans of disappointment echoing through the house. For me, though, the highlight of the evening had yet to start.
Soon the clock ticked closer to midnight and the mood of the party changed. I dimmed the lights and turned down the music. With a subtle suggestion, the children gathered around me where I sat on a tall stool with my arms raised. Pillar candles cast spooky shadows on the walls. In unison, the group sat on the floor when I lowered my hands.
“As midnight nears the time has come
to tell a tale of long ago,
When witches greeted each as friend,
unless they were a ghastly foe.
For on Halloween night, the magic,
coveted by all, was known to ebb and flow.
It took children, children who believed,
to make the magic grow.
One hundred and fifty years past
two witches came to stay in Harpersfleece,
Where many children lived and believed
so the magic would never, ever cease.
For years the witches and the children of the town
lived in harmonious peace,
Until one witch decided keeping a child
would help the magic increase.
Year after year the Harpersfleece children
continued to disappear,
The other witch knew that to save the children
she must persevere.”
The children sat unnaturally still as I told this well-known story. One by one they closed their eyes until they all slept before me.
“But even in this modern day
the children often hear,
‘Be abed before the moon rises
or you might be the missing one this year.’”
With that I blew out the last candle while the clock chimed twelve resonant tones.
* * *
Bright and early the next morning, I stood on my porch dismantling my plethora of Halloween decorations, so I could switch to my autumn and Thanksgiving displays. Mrs. Morton watched me while leaning on the fence. Tapping her no longer sparkly wand, she upended the neat pile of foam gravestones I had stacked on the porch. I restacked them, but was in too good a mood to retaliate.
“I see you had successful Halloween night,” she said, a pout on her pudgy face.
I looked up at a big yellow school bus driving by, filled with happy, well-rested children. Gene and his sister, Harriet, waved at us. We both waved back.
“Yes, Mrs. Morton,” I agreed. “The children are safe from you this year. It was a successful night.”