Hansel and Grethel (a retelling)

(So I found this going through some old files from my back up hard drive. I wrote this for a children’s literature class I was enrolled in. Susie’s condition worsened and I never even handed this in to be graded. We were to rewrite a child’s fairy tale and I chose this one. It was the first and only time I attempted to directly rewrite someone else’s story.  I hope you enjoy what I tried to do here. It was fun. Thank you. – JM)

Hansel and Grethel

As written by

Jeffery Vogel

2010

Eng 2601

Hansel and Grethel (a reimagining)

            This is a tale of two children who lived on the edge of a large forest with their parents; the boy, Hansel and his sister Grethel. Theirs was a sad story for their parents had no food left to feed them. The children lay awake far too hungry to sleep when they heard their mother speaking to their father. What they heard sent chills down their spines.

“Husband there is no food left to feed the children, we must get rid of them right away. How shall we feed ourselves, shall we all four die of hunger?”

“But dear wife they are our children how could you be so cold?” Hearing their father speak these words, the children wondered the same thing.

It did not take her long to convince him; even the children noticed some subtle change in their mother’s voice. Their father’s objections faded to nothing more than an accepting groan.

“We shall take them deep in the woods and leave them; they will never find their way home.” The mother’s voice was calm and gentle, as reassuring as any mother’s would be accept for the terrible words she spoke.

Hansel spoke softly to his sister, “dear sister, I know what has happened, two nights past I heard a noise and awoke startled. I followed the sound outside; it led me down past the woodshed. I could see a bright almost heavenly light seeming to flow between the trees from deep in the old wood.”

“Were you not terrified brother? I could not have gone alone and seen such things I would have fallen feint.” Grethel was still shaking and her voice quivered as she spoke.

“I was frightened but I could not stop myself from wandering deeper.” He stopped and pondered what he had seen, trying to decide the best way to relate his tale to his sister.

“Well?”  Grethel ordered. “What did you see?”

“Sorry sister, I was lost in my own foolish head. I followed the light or was it the sound? My feet were finding their own way, as if by magic. It was as if I had no control over my own parts. I have never felt in such a way before, I felt like I was dreaming.”

Grethel was terrified and growing impatient to hear what Hansel saw but was too fearful of what she may learn from his answer to ask again.

“I came to a clearing and the light was so bright I could not look directly at it, there was a sound and it was then I knew that the sound had been calling to me. That’s when I saw her come from the center of the light as though she was in that moment born. She was wearing her night clothes outside!” Hansel was again thinking and grew silent.

“Who, who did you see?” Grethel could no longer tolerate another long silence so close to hearing the end.

“Mother, It was mother. She was the same but not the same. Her eyes were red like coals but as I stood watching they changed back to her normal lovely blue. Before the change she seemed not to see, perhaps that is why she did not know she was dressed so.”

“What has happened to our mother? She would never dare set foot out of her dressing room in such a state, what if someone had seen?” Grethel was mortified at the thought of being seen in her nightgown.

“I do not know. I hid behind a tree and right before my eyes…” Hansel trailed off again lost to his memories.

Grethel did not like the look on her brothers face and shook him till he became aware and he continued. “I ran and ran as fast as I could. The sun was creeping over the trees, I had been outside for hours but it only seemed a few moments. When I woke I thought it was all a dream. I prayed it was all a dream. When I was dressing I saw that my shoes were filthy, I still thought it was a dream.” Hansel was trying to convince himself but his attempts at self reassurance failed.

The children were frightened; revealing his tale to his sister had done little to dispel his own fear from the encounter in the woods. This did not make sense to them, they were terrified.

It was Grethel who broke the silence. “Father, we must tell father. She must be possessed by some evil beast or perhaps she is bewitched, yes that must be it a witch has taken mother!”

Hansel sluggishly nodded his approval and the children waited until they heard their mother’s rhythmic breathing. She was sound asleep.

“Father, wake up please.” Urged the shaking Grethel as Hansel stood blank faced. Grethel was not noticing the change in her brother’s demeanor. If she had she would have noticed that each time he thought of the encounter and remembered the night he grew more docile. His face was losing expression. In the dark and in such a hurry to quietly wake her father these things she did not notice.

Their loving father woke without a sound, he just starred blank facedly and spoke only three words, “Your bidding master?”

To this the mother who was no mother at all bolted from the bed and with a grotesquely distorted and serpentine like arm grabbed at Grethel, but the girl was faster.  Hansel was watching eyes wide but no sound issued from his mouth.

“Oh no Hansel not you too!” Screamed Grethel, she saw that what ever her mother witch had done to their father was now starting to take hold of Hansel. She quickly reacted as the mother monster crept closer to her and began throwing anything she could find to block her path.

Grethel threw clothes and finally through pure luck in the dark she found a blanket and she threw it over the mother imposter. This gave her enough time to grab Hansel by the arm and get him moving out the door.

Half pulling, half dragging she got Hansel down the stairs and out into the woods. She had been wary of the woods at night for fear of the wild things that live there but tonight nothing seemed scarier than her own mother witch.

Her mind raced trying to figure out what had happened. Slowly her brother regained his senses and after some time he stopped bewildered and asked, “Grethel what in the world are we doing so deep in the woods at night?”

“Do you not remember?” She was frightened and was certain that her brother may have been in shock but for him to have no memories of the terrible scene they had just fled doubled her fears.

“We were in our room talking and I must have dozed off.” He was completely unaware of anything happening.

Grethel quickly recounted the story and Hansel did seem to remember it but only as if he had dreamt it.  As they stood they realized they had never been this deep in the woods and they decided they needed to leave a trail to find their way home. Grethel had a piece of bread; it was half her dinner from earlier that night. Hansel would drop a bread crumb every so often so they would be able to at least find their way back to the spot and from there they could get home. They needed help so they wandered ever deeper in the hopes they could find a woodsman’s shack. They believed if they could find a big strong man he could save their father and hopefully return their mother to them.

They walked until they could walk no more and there on the ground where they stopped to rest they slept. They did not wake until well past noon. They were hungry and it was then Hansel noticed that even the closest pieces of bread he had dropped were nowhere to be seen.

“Oh no Grethel, the crumb trail is gone! We are lost!” Hansel’s eyes began to tear up as he yelled at the unresponsive trees.

“Quiet now!” Grethel demanded. “How can I think with you howling like a banshee?”

It was true they were hopelessly lost, but their mission had not changed they needed to find someone, anyone, only then would their family be saved. At last Grethel spoke. “We shall mark the trees; scratch the bark so we shall know if we have passed it before.”

Hansel was overcome with grief and trudged along quietly. Occasionally Grethel would see his eyes begin to glaze over but as the hours passed this seemed to lesson. Hansel was not quite himself but he was improving as night began to fall.

“Oh dear brother, we are saved! Look there, a light, it is a cottage!” Grethel ran towards the source of light with Hansel close behind. As they reached the cottage they were both speechless for the cottage was made of candy and cakes and all manner of delicious treats.

Hansel immediately set to eating a gingerbread flower box covered with rich icing. Grethel more cautious than her foolish brother broke off a small piece of a shutter which was made of peanut brittle. She sniffed cautiously and gave it a little taste, once she was convinced it was good she began to eat voraciously.

With a loud bang and a cackle a long bony arm came through the open window and snatched Hansel by the collar of his night shirt pulling him effortless into the house. Grethel saw this with amazement for the arm looked frail and weak but was deceptively strong.

Grethel found that though the urge to run was upon her she could not move, she was more sleepy than she had ever thought possible. She stretched out on the ground just below the gingerbread flower box and slept soundly.

She awoke when she was poked hard in the back with an old broom stick. “Wake up missy!” The old witch demanded.

Grethel’s mind raced. “It is you, you are the one who bewitched our mother!” she was frightened, but could not stop the words from coming. “I demand you give us our mother back!”

The witch was taken aback, usually the children who fell into her trap were scared and sheepish, but this one surprised her. “Missy you just hush up that nonsense, I have no use for mothers or fathers it is children I desire. Now you have work to do, your going to help me fatten up that scrawny brother of yours so I can eat him. If you give me any trouble I’ll eat you to!” The witch was sure this would quell the girl’s impetuous nature.

To the witch’s dismay this only riled the girl further. She saw that Grethel’s face had turned the darkest crimson. “You are lying!” Blurted Grethel she stepped closer to the witch. The witch retreated back a step.

This made the old hag think a moment. “What have you seen girl that would make you fearlessly speak to me so? In all my years I have never been spoken to in such a way, not even by grown folks.” It was then the witch allowed her eyes to turn to their true color, a dark glowing red.

In spite of scaring the girl into submission as the witch hoped, Grethel’s resolve was strengthened. This is indeed the witch who had taken their mothers place. “See you have the eyes you are the one who took my mother!”

The witch’s anger had grown she raised the handle of the broom to strike the girl but before she let the blow fall the girl’s words began to sink in. “You have seen such eyes as mine girl?”

“No, but my brother has”, he saw you in the woods when you turned into our mother!” Grethel was angry, scared, sad, but most of all angry.

“Interesting little one, there are no others in this part of the world like myself. I have lived many generations and never seen a single one of my kind. Perhaps there is a new arrival. This is not at all good for you or me you senseless child.” The witch’s tone was not as menacing as before; it had grown a curious air.

Grethel was trying to think of what to do, could it be there are two witches. The thought of one was bad enough, but the thought of two, well that was far worse. If this witch did not know of the other and it is bad for her maybe this could be good for us.

“So you are not the one who took our mother and entranced our father?” Grethel asked.

“Of course not you daft girl! I thought surely you would be smarter than that dim-whit out in my shed. Perhaps I was wrong.” The witch was lost in thought and the girl’s interruption warranted a thump with the broom handle. “We witches can never be to close you see, we need children to make our brews and stews which make us live. Too many witches in one place attracts too much attention, silly people will start to wonder where their little ones have gone.”

Grethel had a plan, she did not know if it would work but she had to try. She would go along with this witch’s desires, seeing the old hag’s annoyance at the thought of another witch in her area. Grethel decided to use that for her own good. She calmed herself.

She accommodated every whim of the old woman, occasionally when the moment was right she would mention something about the mother imposter. “I have never seen anyone or anything so strong! She can change her appearance with out a thought! You don’t think she is stronger than you, do you?” This went on for days, to the witch’s annoyance.

Hansel, Grethel had found, was locked in a shed heavily chained with no hope of escape. She whispered to him on the first day. “Do whatever she says brother I have a way to right things, I just need some time.” Hansel agreed and things went thusly for five more days.

Hansel ate and slept. Grethel cleaned, cut wood and did anything else the witch demanded of her. On the fifth day the witch said “that brother of yours will be ripe tomorrow and I am going to bake him in this oven so you need to clean it out and fetch some wood.” It was now or never Grethel thought.

“Mistress I have an idea that might solve two problems for you at once.” Grethel had taken to calling the old hag mistress in an attempt to show respect, the witch had not argued but seemed to rather enjoy it.

“Oh have you now missy?” The witch was intrigued for the girl was clever and not only had she jabbed at the witch’s pride she had tried to boost her ego as well by feigning interest in becoming a witch herself.

“Oh yes, I have been thinking since we got here, since there are two witches and you need children to make your brews and stews that the mother witch must have been going to cook us herself. Perhaps she is weak and long without food.”

“Dear child, you are wise. What is it you have in mind?”

“My brother you see is so plump and ready for cooking; perhaps we could use him as bait to bring the mother monster out in the open. You being more powerful than she is could kill her and take her power. There are very few children in our village; two witches will be too many to go unnoticed.”

The witch was wary as witches tend to be, she felt like the girl was up to something. “What is in this for you lass, why are you so willing to help me?”

“I want to be a witch. I always have to do what I am told and my brother being a boy can come and go as he pleases! My chores never cease!” Grethel was as convincing as she could be.

Grethel never expecting this, but the witch’s crooked mouth widened into an unnatural smile that sent chills down her spine, but this she hid well.

Grethel told the witch of her village, the witch knew it well. For over the centuries when no children wandered close she had to go and capture them herself. Grethel’s plan was to have her brother, who was now fully under the witch’s control after eating a weeks worth of bewitched goodies, would walk up and simply knock on the door. The mother monster would simply think he had wandered lost and hungry for a week and had haplessly wandered home. Grethel and the old hag would be waiting out of sight ready to attack.

The old witch had promised if Grethel helped in this task she would be given the secrets that only witches know. Grethel pretended to be pleased.

Though they had walked countless hours to come to the old hag’s candy cottage it took merely minutes to reach their village. Indeed the old hag had power, but Grethel was growing nervous that the mother imposter may actually be stronger.

The witch instructed Hansel and set him to his task. Grethel and the witch hid behind a large tree just off the corner of the house. Hansel knocked and no sound issued for such a long moment that they began to fear the mother monster had moved on.

A light flashed on in the parent’s room, unnaturally bright. Not candle light, something else. It was something sinister Grethel surely thought. Even the old hag seemed unnerved by it. The sounds of heavy footfalls echoed through the house and out the dusty windows into the night air. The anticipation was almost more than Grethel could stand. She nearly shrieked when the door slowly creaked open. Unaware, Hansel stood there stupidly slouching with his hands hanging listlessly by his sides.

In the doorway stood Grethel’s mother; she as beautiful as ever. Her blue eyes beamed in the darkness, as if illuminated by some inner light. “Ah you’ve returned. Where is your sister?” The mother witch softly asked.

Hansel turned towards the tree, at that moment the mother imposter burst through the door just as the old hag rounded the tree. They stared at each other; both seemed very surprised to see each other. Twenty feet of earth separated these two menacing creatures.

“You are not like the others.” Softly spoke the mother imposter.

“Child this is no witch.” The old hag spoke gravely.

“What are you old woman, why have you come to seek me out?” The mother monster asked pleasantly.

“A witch I be, older than even I remember. No more of us I imagine. I came here because I were told there was another witch here.” She answered, curiously she added. “Now what might ye be?”

The mother witch’s eyes blazed red, her limbs began to change, she began to grow larger. “I ask the questions and you dear witch shall make a fine addition to our collection!”

“Collect me! We will see who gets collected!” The old hag grew fierce all the while Grethel watched in horror. What ever it was that had taken their mother was far worse than the old hag who intended to eat her brother. She gained her composure as the two monsters began to circle each other. She crept around the yard to her dazed brother and pulled him into a hedge. They needed to run but she had to see what was to happen.

The two seemed to grow larger. Clumps of earth were raised and circled in the air about the old hags form. No longer frail and weak in appearance. Grethel had only heard stories of such things, monsters able to change their shape to any they desired.

When the old hag took a step towards the now completely misshapen mother imposter lightning struck the ground around her and the earth shook. Fire shot from the old woman’s eyes and the thing that had been their mother made an unearthly noise and jumped back. It was hurt but this only slowed its reaction a mere second. It retaliated with light, blazing red and blue so bright it stung Grethel’s eyes to watch. The light struck the witch in the shoulder and with an ear splitting screech she stumbled to her knees.

The mother witch no longer resembled their mother. It was now twice her height the arms were larger and much longer. The fingers were much too long; the same was true for the legs and toes. Grethel gasped when the thing that had been her mother scanned the bushes seeking their hiding place. Its head was tall and askew, the closest thing Grethel could liken it to would have been a green giant gourd. The eyes were lifeless, colorless slits, these too were abnormally proportioned. Even Grethel crouched petrified as if bewitched like her brother. Her paralysis was fear induced unlike her brother’s magic induced stupor.

While distracted by the search for the children the [not] witch mother took her eyes off the witch. Commanding the air and earth the old witch hurled dozens of rocks and chunks of earth at the no longer mother thing. These hit home and when the mother thing screeched into the night Grethel nearly collapsed. The sound had seemed to pierce her ear drums and left her with a intense feeling of vertigo.

The old witch did not let up for a moment. Before the mother thing could retaliate the old hag was launching trees, farm equipment, lumber, and even parts of the out buildings and parts of the house were torn free and battering the screeching wailing mother thing.

The witch had created a vortex firmly around the mother monster. Stone and wood and steel battered it ceaselessly. It was hurt and in a final attempt to end this fight the old hag sent the weather vane straight through what passed for its chest. Grethel knew their plight was yet to be over but at least with this mother thing gone they might have a chance of escape and reuniting their family.

“Hansel, the witch killed the monster, we need to run away now.” Grethel whispered to her brother not wanting to attract any unwanted attention. Her plan was going to work. The witch was wounded and exhausted. The battle had taken its toll. They needed to flee. Grethel could hear Hansel was speaking in a very soft voice. She leaned in to hear.

Slowly as he began to drool on his nightshirt, Hansel spoke one last time. “It was some kind of coach with no horses, it moved freely and it flew into the sky like a bright round bird.”

There was a flash and Grethel could see the witch consumed in the brightest most brilliant light she had ever seen. She watched the witch scream as she was seemingly melted in the bright light. The light was upon her now and as she saw her fingers begin to melt away, there was no pain, only warmth, she lost consciousness.

Hansel, Grethel, their father, their mother, and the witch were never heard from or seen again. All that remained of their home was a scorched hole large enough to fit their house in three times over. Many years later the place seemed untouched even by the dense forest which surrounded it. Nothing would grow inside this scorched ring and it became known as an evil place to be avoided.

fin…

The Picture

(I was inspired to write this story by a picture in the office of the CEO where I worked while in college. The picture was of the CEO’s daughter and as beautiful as she was her eyes always seemed to follow me around the room as I worked. This unnerved me a bit and I decided to write a story about it. I hope you enjoy. -jm)

 

The Picture

 

It was bitterly cold when he arrived at work. In his haste he sliced his hand on the old ragged door handle as he was frantically trying to force his key in the lock. Inside dripping blood he tripped over the rug in the foyer of the decrepit office building where he worked. He righted himself and disarmed the alarm with only a few seconds to spare. He was running late and he knew his five minute tardiness would cost him fifteen minutes of pay. Didn’t seem fair to him but who was he to argue.

Johnny was often stuck on what was fair and what wasn’t. It was a mantra he repeated over and over. He repeated it at school where he struggled to stay above a 3.5 grade point average because he worked a shit job for shit money and was barely getting by while all these kids wandered around without a care in the world. He resented them all. “Not fair, not fair, not fair.” He mumbled as he passed them in the hall.

“So why should today be any different?” His work day hadn’t even begun and he had already made things considerably harder on himself. He clocked in on the dreaded Kronos keypad which never seemed to want to read his thumb print. This he felt was unfair. “If you treat your employees like criminals they will act like criminals.” He blurted this nearly every time he would try and fail to clock in.  Several times this prevented him from clocking in entirely. On both occasions his check had been shorted a full eight hours. “Unfair, unfair, unfair!” He ranted to the empty hallway when he opened his checks. It took payroll four weeks to correct the error because everyone was gone before he even arrived and he could never get anyone on the phone between classes.  “Did they care I went three days without eating during exams? No because it’s fucking unfair!”

He often talked to himself in here just to hear something other than the sounds he made as he cleaned. Anything was better than the sounds the old building made. As the weather grew worse the building seemed to become livelier. This he could easily explain to himself. It of course had to be the wind or the old plumbing. He was a smart guy and not prone to flights of fancy. He didn’t believe in the paranormal. He only believed in the here and now but somehow and in some way this building was getting to him.

He noticed after wrapping the jagged wound on his hand that he had gotten blood on the companies teal and white logo printed into the rug in the foyer when he fell. “Unfucking Fair!” he blurted. “Why does this shit keep happening to me?” He was a klutz in every sense of the word. He was only graceful behind a computer screen with his hands on a keyboard knee deep in zeros and ones. He could type in binary as easy as he could in English. It was what he had always been great at but no one would give his resume a second glance without college credentials. “Unfucking fair!”

His hand ached as he hopelessly scrubbed the bright crimson stain. His efforts seemed only to smear it more than anything else. The first aid kit had only small butterfly band aids and they weren’t enough to quell the bleeding so he made a bandage from paper towels and taped it to his hand. “Is anything going to go my way today?” He sneered at the bloody mess on the rug.  He got some but not all of the blood out and this took him over an hour. He knew he’d be hearing about this if his boss decided to pop in unannounced as was his method. “Trying to catch the criminals red handed are we?” He was convinced this was his boss’s only pleasure in life.

He was now over an hour behind schedule and he wasn’t feeling well. The cut on his hand needed stitches but he couldn’t afford to go to the hospital and miss work. He had tuition to pay and books to buy. “Unfair.” He mumbled as he began his rounds.

He begrudgingly emptied the trash and vacuumed the offices but as the night drug on he felt weaker and weaker. He packed a lunch but was to nauseas to eat it and besides he was so far behind he would never get finished on time if he took a break.

It was almost midnight before he started the last hall. “This is where all the big wigs work,” he mused aloud. He followed a pattern which didn’t make much sense even to him. He would avoid the CEO’s office and clean all the rest first. He always saved it for last. This last hallway is what really bothered him about the building. He felt so out of sorts and even on hot days in the summer this whole area of the building was chilly. In winter when the rest of the building was uncomfortably warm from the massive unit on the roof the hallway remained cool and in some spots downright cold, but none worse than the CEO’s office.

It was well after one when he entered the last office. The room was quite homey and warm for an office he thought except for the chill in the room. It had a large mahogany desk with six matching bookshelves and a matching conference table. There were books of all sorts. Many psychology books and accounting volumes mixed with various religious texts. Some in languages he didn’t recognize. One day out of curiosity he did some research and discovered what languages these books were in. There were books printed in Hebrew, Russian, Romanian, Latin, and several extremely old volumes printed in German. He had never met the man who sat in this big chair behind this big desk but he thought he might like him. He was clean and very well organized. From the looks of all the books he owned he couldn’t possibly be dumb like most everyone else he meets.

He spoke aloud, “one day I’ll have a desk like this and my own big office. One day this will all be mine.” He actually smiled and despite his growing dizziness and the ever present throbbing in his hand he went about his duties more cheerfully than he had felt all night. He always cleaned the back half of the office first saving the desk and sitting area for last. There in an ancient silver frame behind leaded glass was a beautiful young woman peering out at him. The frame had to of cost a fortune he thought because of all the ornamentation. There were dozens of crosses hand hammered into the silverwork. The glass itself had tiny etchings all around the border. He tried and tried to make out what they were. He wasn’t sure if the etchings were just a fine pattern or if it were actual script of some kind.

The thing he found most curious about the picture and the exquisite frame was the fact that each time he sees the woman gazing out at him it’s like seeing her for the first time. He realized as he stood there vacantly staring that he had no recollection of it ever being there before but it must have. He remembers cleaning it. He always hand dusted the frame carefully and he was extremely careful when he cleaned the glass for fear of breaking such an heirloom. “Why can’t I remember you when I leave?” He asked the woman.

He felt a sudden chill as in answer to his query and the room grew dim. He felt as if he would feint and he realized as he began to fall that he was holding the frame to his chest. When had he picked it up? Why was he holding it clutched to his chest like a mad man? He fell into darkness. When he woke he wasn’t sure how long he had been lying there. His first thought was panic. He frantically searched the floor but the picture and frame were not shattered on the floor as he feared. He gained his feet and saw it was sitting safely where it had been when he entered. The woman gazed upon him with seeming adoration for his concern for her safety. That thought chilled him deeply.

He noticed his makeshift bandage had torn loose and he had begun to bleed again luckily most of the blood was on his shirt and not the floor. He knew it was late and knew if he clocked out after two he’d get a reprimand so he hurried around the office making sure everything was in place. He adjusted the picture one last time and in doing so he smeared blood on the frame. “Unfair!” He yelled as he ran to the storage room to fix his bandage and to grab the silver polish.

By the time he entered the office he couldn’t remember why he was going back until he saw her and he remembered. “The blood, damn I’m losing it.” He was not at all feeling well but wasn’t sure why a cut would make him feel so bad. He searched the frame front and back and carefully scanned the glass but there was no sign of blood. He couldn’t even find a single finger print on the glass anywhere. It wasn’t just clean it was pristine. It appeared to have never been touched by a human hand.

He gave the woman one last puzzled glance and walked out of the office. He was done for the night and he relished the idea of going home and properly bandaging his hand eating a sandwich and passing out. He grabbed his things knowing it had to be two or a little after and to his horror it was nearly six in the morning.

He had no rational explanation for why he was still at work at six in the morning. He didn’t remember falling and at this point he couldn’t even remember cutting his hand. His entire mind went blank. He remembered checking the time a little after one then entering the CEO’s office cleaning it and that shouldn’t have been more than thirty minutes tops. “Why am I here?” He questioned the empty hallway.

He felt a sharp surge of pain in his wounded hand. He looked at it astonished not remembering how or when he cut it. “I must have a fever. It’s got to be an infection.  Fuck it I’m going to the hospital.”

As was his habit he always checked the foyer before leaving because that’s the first place everyone sees when they walk in. Everything was clean and in order right down to the bright white and teal rug. He wondered how a rug with such bright colors stayed so perfectly clean.

Hospitals were a place of dread for him but he felt so bad he didn’t think he had a choice but to go. Even so early in the morning he had to wait. “Unfair!” He muttered halfheartedly. That’s the last thing he remembered. He woke late that evening alone in a communal room with three other empty beds. He was very confused and completely oblivious as to how he got there.

He found the call button and paged the nurse. “Oh good you’re awake.” came the voice of a very cheery nurse. She was all teeth and smiles. He liked her instantly. “You’ve had a busy day haven’t you dear?”

“What happened to me?” He asked in a hushed tone. His mouth was so dry he could barely swallow.

“Well we were hoping you could tell us. You signed in at about half past six and told the nurse you cut yourself and you might be infected. When the orderly came out to bring you back you were unconscious. That cut on your hand is serious. You nearly bled to death. What we can’t figure out is why you weren’t covered in blood when you came in. Even your bandage was clean.” She paused seeing the quizzical expression on his face then she gave her biggest tooth filled smile yet. “We do appreciate people cleaning up before coming to see us but honey you should have just called an ambulance.” Then her expression still very sweet became grave, “You could have died from losing that much blood.”

“I don’t understand. I don’t remember bleeding.” He had no recollection of anything other than going to work.

“Honey I’m going to get the doctor and he can explain this to you a little better than me. He’ll be glad to see you’re awake.” She smiled and walked away.

He was completely bewildered and confused. Then he remembered school and work and was starting to rise just as the doctor entered. “Take it easy there buddy. You’ve had a very rough day even if you don’t remember most of it.” The doctor was a portly man in his fifties. He had a grace unusual in someone with his stature. Johnny watched as he glided around the bed like he was in some sort of ballet.

“The nurse tells me you are having trouble remembering what happened. Maybe that will come back to you when you regain your strength. Your body has been through quite an ordeal. When you cut your hand you grazed an artery. Perhaps you did it at work thinking it was no big deal but it’s my guess that at some point during the night you banged it and fully punctured the artery causing severe blood loss. I’m not trying to alarm you but had you lost any more blood we wouldn’t have been able to save you. “

“Doctor I truly don’t know how I did this or what happened to me after. I don’t remember a bunch of blood I don’t.” He stammered more confused than ever.

“It’s alright so don’t worry about that now. You’re safe and we are gonna get ya back on your feet in a day or two and you’ll be right as rain.” The doctor turned to walk away.

“My job, school?” He stammered.

“Well I’ll have notes for both for the week. All that can wait, what’s most important is that you’re healthy.” With that the doctor smiled and left.

He found his cell phone on the table next to his bed. He tried calling his boss but he didn’t answer. He didn’t have anyone else to call. His parents were both gone and he had no family nearby. He had no close friends to ask for help. He was alone in this world and it wasn’t until this did he realize it. He had liked plenty of girls at school but it was like he didn’t exist. He wasn’t clever enough to be the class clown and he wasn’t athletic enough to be an athlete. Now in college he is even less noticeable. He keeps his head in his work. He occasionally sees a cute girl but the thought of actually walking up to one and speaking is more than he can bear. “Jesus man you almost died a virgin today at 21 years old and no one would have noticed.” He mumbled to himself and quickly fell deeply asleep.

He dreamt of the woman in the frame. She came to him right there in his hospital bed naked and inviting. It was the most vivid of dreams. He could smell her perfume. He could feel the warmth of her skin. He could feel her lips on his. Greedily tasting him like a predator about to devour her pray. He could feel her nails digging into his skin. He could feel her silky smooth hair on his bare chest.  The dream seemed endless. Time and again she had him all the while whispering to him in a language he could not comprehend yet when it was ending he begged her not to stop. “You are mine now.” She kissed him and simply faded away. He woke with a start nearly jumping out of bed.

“Don’t go!” He shouted as the nurse calmed him.

“It was just a dream honey.” She smiled but her smile did little to ease his panic. “It’s a side effect of the medications we had to put you on.”

He stared blankly at the ceiling for a long moment feeling his heart slow and the sweat evaporate from his brow it was then he felt the scratches on his back and chest. He put his hand to them they stung and burned hot and he saw there were tiny traces of blood. “She scratched you up good.” Aloud he said attracting the nurse’s attention. “Sorry nothing just mumbling out loud to myself.”  He told her. As he dozed off he tried so very hard to remember what he had been dreaming about. The nurse added something to his IV and he slowly drifted off to a peaceful night’s sleep.

He woke to his cell phone at ten the next morning it took him a minute to get his bearings enough to answer. It was his boss and he almost refused the call. What can they do I had an actual medical emergency. “Hello.” He answered in his least cheerful voice dreading what his boss would have to say.

“So you no called no showed for work last night, got anything you want to tell me?” His boss was an ass under the best circumstances but today it was ok because he was safe and his boss couldn’t do a damn thing about it. This cheered him up immensely.

“Yeah I guess. But one question first, did anyone find an unusually large pool of blood in the building yesterday morning?” He knew this would have his boss guessing.

“Well no, should they have? What’s happened?” He grinned, hearing actual concern coming from his boss the hater of all things good.

“Well at some point the night before last I cut myself somehow and I nicked an artery. Apparently I busted it open at work.  I’m having some memory problems from all the blood loss. The doc says I nearly died.” He stopped to see how his boss would answer.

“Did you get hurt here? Cuz if you did I’ll have to write a report.” The concern had faded.

“I just told ya I don’t know how I did it. I can’t remember anything but going to work and leaving work.  But I was extremely out of it. I could barely drive myself to the ER.” He left it at that.

“I’m heading over to your building to see if I see any blood anywhere. I’ll call you back and let you know what I find. I’ll have someone fill your shift.” He abruptly hung up sounding more annoyed with each word he spoke.

“Asshole.” He spouted then went back to sleep.

He slept until late that night. When he woke there were four figures in the room. It was dark and he couldn’t make out who they were. “Hello, what’s going on?”

The overhead lights flickered on and Johnny shielded his eyes. After a moment he could see two people he recognized. One was his asshole boss and the other was a man he had seen only in company newsletters. It was the man with the big office, the CEO of the company he cleaned for. He gave a wary smile and said “Johnny we haven’t met but I think you know who I am.”

“Yeah I’ve seen you’re pictures, I know who you are.” It’s then he realized the two men he didn’t know were detectives. They each had badges clipped to their belts. “Am I in some kind of trouble?”

“Well son that’s what we’re here to find out. When your boss came in my office and apprised me of your phone exchange I was concerned first of all because you said you nearly died. The second concern and forgive me for sounding insensitive, but you said you nearly died at work. So I wanted to find some answers for you and for us. You do understand I have to protect the company and if some crime were perpetrated against you at work we need to find and prosecute the offender.”

Just then the doctor walked in and politely greeted the men and before he could speak Johnny asked, “Doc could you tell them what kind of shape I was in when I got here?”

The doctor explained how life threatening this was and how much blood was lost. He explained that the amnesia of the incident could be a symptom of shock from whatever happened.

One of the detectives spoke up and said we have a video we’d like you to take a look at. He produced a small laptop and started the footage. It was the front door of his building. He watched as he got out of his car and ran to the door and he watched as he cut his hand attempting to open the door. Even from the grainy video you could see blood pouring from the open wound. He could even see the blood spilling on the white rug as he fell. His face felt hot like he truly was in trouble. At this point the officer sped the video up for a moment then stopped. He watched as he spent over an hour trying to clean the blood from the stark white rug sped up to take only moments. Then he fast forwarded the video all through the night. The camera caught a glimpse each time he passed the door. He noticed there were digital markers on the video that automatically paused, each time you could see him by the door.

The detective stopped the video and said this is what we can’t explain.” Please try and remember and tell me if you recognize this person. It’s important. “

He was utterly confused all the video was showing was that he was doing his job. Hurt but still working. There was no one there with him was there? He was always alone in there. “Ok. I’m a little more than confused who are you talking about?”

“Just watch,” said the second detective whom up until this point hadn’t moved a muscle. He startled Johnny a bit.

So this time at the next marker it stopped. He saw as he walked past the door on his way to the last hallway. The marker said 1:23 a.m. Ok here it comes please watch carefully. At marker 1:35 a.m. a figure walked past the door. It wasn’t Johnny. Johnny you could easily see wearing a bright red hoodie and blue jeans. This was a woman but is it a woman? Her hair looked old and mangled and the skin was white and dead like something from a zombie movie. Her clothes were rotted and tattered barely hanging on just as her skin barely clung to her bones.

“I don’t understand? Who was in there with me? Did they do something to me? Did you see their car when they left?” Johnny was actually scared. It truly dawned on him that someone or something took his blood.

The quiet detective spoke up, “son we don’t have any more answers than you do. You sure you don’t recognize her? “

“It looks like a fucking zombie but that shit isn’t real. Is it some sick joke people dressing up like they’re dead siphoning people’s blood?” Johnny was livid.

“I wouldn’t normally show you this but considering the circumstances I will. If I were you I would want to know what I was dealing with,” calmly replied the detective with the laptop.

He started the video again and the thing walked back in sight of the camera and stopped. It got down on its hands and knees and from the video it appeared to be sucking the blood out of the carpet. It opened the door and with a grotesquely elongated tongue licked the door handle clean and crawled across the floor sucking up every drop of his spilled blood.

“What was that?” Johnny was half hysterical by this point. Every man in the room looked uneasy.

“Son we don’t have any answers for you. We have people now checking all local surveillance tapes with any hopes of catching a glimpse of this woman. We took a forensics team and scoured every inch of that building. There was no sign of anything afoul. They took the rug from the entrance to test for DNA and we found yours but the saliva we tested did not come back as human. It’s an animal species not in any database.

Johnny was speechless a moment then broke into angry hysterics. “An animal? An animal that looks like a 200 year old woman sucked out my blood? I don’t believe in this shit! Was it a werewolf or a zombie or a fucking old ass vampire? I don’t even know how to react to this. Am I gonna turn into a fucking dog or a bat?”

The doctor had been present this entire time but hadn’t spoken until now. “Son we’ve sent your blood in for analysis but with this new information I think we need to do some further testing. The problem is we gave you a fairly large blood transfusion so any tests we would do would not be conclusive until the blood has been in your system a while. There are other tests we can do and it might be a good idea to treat you for rabies. If you were infected it is possible the new blood could have hid that from us.”

“Fuck me!” Johnny said and he surprised himself because he didn’t say unfair.

None of the men knew where to go from here. The CEO was at a loss, he didn’t want a story like this coming out turning his business into a circus tent. The detectives told Johnny they wanted to have an officer there in case this was a targeted attack against him personally. That didn’t do much to ease the anxiety he was feeling after having half his blood sucked out by the dog faced girl. At this thought something familiar popped into his mind. Didn’t he know her? Didn’t he love her? But that was a monster that wasn’t the beautiful woman from the frame.

“Oh shit, I know who that is!” He gave everyone in the room a start. The doctor nearly dropped a blood sample he was labeling the nurse nearly dropped his dinner tray as she entered.

The detectives, the CEO, Johnny’s boss and all were all ears. But then he slowly began, “I told ya I don’t believe in all this voodoo shit but who is the girl in the silver frame on the desk in your office?” He directed the question to the CEO.

The CEO looked confused and then said I don’t truly know. I was in Romania a few years back and I found it in an antiques store. The old lady told me it was a witch trap. I thought it was just some old wives tell that helps boost sales. There are lots of old tales in small villages in that part of the world of vampires and demons. I bought it for the silverwork. Some of the finest I have ever seen. Why do you ask?”

“Please just humor me a second would ya. I already feel like the world’s gone crazy please continue and when you’re done I’ll explain.” Johnny was quite shaken but very focused on what he was hearing.

“I was going to replace the picture but I had it looked at by a reputable antiques dealer and he laughed at the thought of me opening it. The only way to get the picture out would be to destroy a 500 year old piece of handmade glass that’s etched with very tiny runes dating back to the time of the druids. So I left it as is. Then he said and I quote ‘would be unwise to release the witch trapped inside. She has 500 years of wrath to unleash. For a true witch can nigh be destroyed, only kept for a while.’” The CEO usually a fairly rigid sort seemed weakened by what he was saying.

Johnny surveyed the room and asked, “Is there more? Did he tell you more? Please it’s important.”

No one protested they had all save the nurse seen the video so the CEO went on. “He then laughed and said yes in those days they would take anyone believed to be a witch and have the best painter available come and do a portrait. For paint they used parts of her body ground up into paste.  You’d be surprised how many colors one can garner when using the human body as a medium. It was quite barbaric. They would take these parts from her while she was alive and in agony she would be made to sit still for weeks if necessary until the portrait was perfect. It wasn’t until then I knew it wasn’t a photograph. When I bought it I had no idea it was an actual painting. So if the painter wasn’t good she might have to sit all hacked up through multiple sessions. He also said from the looks of the frame she must have been considered to be an extremely powerful witch. There were over 200 runes and holy marks on that frame. It must have taken four skilled artisans a full six months to construct. Once the portrait was complete the witch would be slowly tortured to death by whatever means they deemed fitting and all that would be before her was her own portrait. They removed the eyelids and cauterized the wound so she would have no choice but to stare at her own face. Upon death the belief was a witch’s essence could transfer to any other living thing until she found a suitable host.” The CEO knew how crazy the story he recounted was but after what he’d seen and heard today he didn’t think it would stand out much. He concluded by saying, “By forcing her to stare into her own image she would become trapped inside the frame. He said he’s only seen two in his entire life and the first was a fake he offered me $20,000 cash there on the spot but I declined the offer. “

Johnny cleared his throat and thought to himself before speaking then after an awkward pause he began, “look go ahead and fit me for a strait jacket because that thing in the video is that girl on your desk.  I know it sounds completely crazy but my God I am being very serious.”

Everyone looked at him as if he had a third eyeball instantly appear on his forehead. “Listen I know how crazy it sounds. This is Occam’s razor gone mad. Think about it. Occam’s razor basically states the simplest answer is usually the right answer. Ok so something resembling a woman with animal DNA sucked out a bunch of my blood then ran around the building sucking up all the evidence. You tell me that there is no sign of her leaving the building from the security cameras and this guy just happens to have a 500 year old witch trap in his office. I have never believed in stuff like this but you just showed me video of a creature with a foot long tongue that sort of looks like a woman but doesn’t who was alone with me in a building for God knows how long doing God knows what to me and y’all are looking at me crazy?”

No one knew how to reply and as insane as it sounded Johnny actually made sense. They left after a few more mundane questions. They asked to search his car to see if he had lost any blood in there but he hadn’t. It was a dead end. Save for the little on his hoodie none of his blood was accounted for and that disturbed all of them. With a little help from the nurse Johnny fell fast asleep after everyone had left.

She came to him again that night and before she was on him he stopped her and asked “did they really hurt you like that?”

Her beautiful face changed into the grotesque deformed figure they had hacked her into before she died. He could see her swollen red eyes lidless and in great pain. He felt anguish for her. He could feel the fear she was feeling but there was no hate in her. All the malice and rage came from those screaming around her for her to die. She looked ashamed for him to see her this way and her face went back to normal. She wept and curled up with him in his bed careful not to pull out his IV.

“Are you really here?” Johnny asked and she just stared lovingly into his eyes He could feel her as surely as he could feel the stitches in his aching hand. “You are real aren’t you?”

She smiled and nodded “yes I am very real.”

“What do I do?” He was uneasy and unsure of how to feel. He felt what she felt as they slowly tortured her and murdered her. Whatever she was she wasn’t evil or bad and she didn’t deserve that shit.

“I am sorry I took so much of your blood. You were bleeding badly and you didn’t even notice. I was afraid you would die. You always spoke so sweetly to me when you saw me. I needed the strength to heal you enough to get you to help. You’re innocence is what released me at least partially. I look grotesque and frightening. I can’t be fully whole until my portrait is released.”

Johnny looked at her and smiled, “let’s go get you out.”

She stopped him with a kiss, “wait, I’m frightened.”

“That makes two of us, “he smiled and unhooked his IV and hurriedly dressed.

She whispered, “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Johnny slipped out past the guard who was dozing at his post and made a hasty and uneventful escape from the hospital. He hailed a cab and was on his way in minutes. He had the cabby drop him off a few blocks away and snuck in through a storage room he and the other janitors had keys for. There were still cops outside but he discovered he was alone in the familiar hallway he had dreaded for so long. There was an alarm but it wasn’t set due to the police presence so he was lucky on that point.

He made his way to the CEO’s office and was shocked to see the picture was not in its usual position but after a few long seconds he found it. It was on the conference table with empty coffee cups surrounding it. He imagined they probably had a good laugh at his expense.

He held the picture in his trembling hands and spoke aloud to the empty room, “God please be real. I hope I haven’t gone insane. Well here goes nothing.” He took a stainless steel stapler and very carefully cracked the glass below her face for fear he would somehow damage her.

At first nothing happened he just stood there trembling half crazed with anticipation and just when he was coming to the realization that he had gone mad he heard her voice say put me down.  He did as she told him and the frame started to shake and lift off the table. It was really happening. The brightest light he had ever seen filled the room and in the light he could see her distorted form from the video but it slowly changed and she was once again the lovely girl in the picture.

She ran to him arms wide and showered him with kisses. “You saved me,” she had the thickest most beautiful accent he had ever heard. She bumped his hand and he yelped from the pain. “Oh here my darlin, let me.”

She took his hand in hers and a glow began to emanate around his injured hand and he could feel it healing. It itched uncontrollably for only a moment and then stopped. He pulled off the bandages and he was fully healed.

“What’s your name?” He stammered.

Before she could answer they heard them coming through the doors. The flash of light had alerted the officers outside and by now they knew he wasn’t in the hospital anymore. “They will take you away. We have to get out of here.”

His warning came too late. They were nearly to the office and he stepped in front of her. I won’t let them. I’ll think of some excuse I work here.

To his dismay it was the quiet detective and he knew all about the frame and what he had said. They were trapped. He wouldn’t let them take her he couldn’t. “Step away from her Johnny. I thought this whole story was bullshit but you had to see for yourself?”

“You don’t understand she’s not bad, she saved me that night. She didn’t cut my hand that was an accident and if she hadn’t of helped me I would have died right here in this office two nights ago.”

“Johnny if you don’t move I’m going to taze you and I’ll shoot that evil bitch if she so much as blinks!” The detective wasn’t going to budge he was convinced she was evil and nothing Johnny could say would change that. Johnny could see how unfamiliar fear looked on this man’s face.

Before Johnny could speak again the detective tried to shoot him with his Taser but in mid trigger pull a book flew off a bookshelf and knocked it from his hand. It along with the book thudded uselessly to the ground.

“What the fuck just happened?” Shouted another officer Johnny didn’t recognize standing to the right of the detective.

“Please just calm down and stop this. She’s not dangerous. The detective was edging towards his Taser. He slowly picked it up and said, “bitch try that again and you’re dead. “

“I won’t let you hurt him. He set me free. He is my hero and he is mine forever. “Her expression was very calm but her voice was commanding. This frightened the officers even more and again he tried to use his Taser and this time she sent a book from either side of the room crushing his Taser hand between them.

The officer to the right of the detective fired at the girl but Johnny dove in front and took the bullet for her. He crumpled at her feet and she screamed she knelt over her dying love and wept. “I will not let you die my love.”

She stood to her full height and she spoke in a voice which seemed to come from the walls themselves. The officer who fired looked on bewildered and the detective nursing his crushed hand tried to back out of the room. “In nature there is a balance that must be paid. For there to be life there must be death. This man has not wronged you yet your actions have slain him and thus the debt must be paid. From each of you I take half your life to repay the one you have stolen.” With a single flick of her wrist the detective and the officer were encased in the same light which she had used to heal Johnny’s hand but it was much larger and brighter.  She conducted the light with slight gestures of her nimble fingers and directed it into Johnny’s lifeless body.

When he woke he opened his eyes and he saw she had been crying. He smiled up at her and her down at him. “Lilith, my name is Lilith.”