It was nine at night. Darkness stole over the vast sky like a thick, ominous-looking blanket, and the Great forest was shrouded in an atmosphere of evil and cruelty. Creeping gingerly through the trees and huddled closely together in a shivering pair, Pansy and Marco could barely resist turning in the opposite direction and sprinting back to the cottage where hot supper prepared by Granny would be waiting for them. ‘Marco … Marco … Let’s forget about this and go back home … I’m going to miss my night drama … Pansy whimpered, almost on the verge of tears. Beside her, Marco’s knees were buckling furiously. ‘Don’t be stupid, Pansy, we didn’t come all the way here for nothing. I’m definitely not going back until I see the house.’ He growled, thinking about the camera he had carefully placed in his bag that was going to be used later. Marco and Pansy were both writers for the local magazine, and they had recently gotten word from a villager that a witch was rumoured to be living in a house deep within the woods. Enticed by the initial possibility of a big scoop, Marco had immediately decided to take a little trip into the Great forest, near the edge of the village, to find out more about this mysterious witch that everybody was talking about. According to the rumours that had been drifting around in the village, the witch was ugly, horrible and had a revulsive taste for human flesh. She would be waiting for innocent children to be lured deep into the forest, where she would cook them up for supper and make meat pie out of their bones. Remembering the horrible rumours that surrounded the witch, Marco deeply regretted his rash decision to risk his own life for such a petty little thing. Yet, the strong desire to write an interesting article that would capture the attention of many was what kept him from turning back into the arms of safety, and he prayed fervently that they would be able to get what they came here for without turning up in someone’s supper stew.
‘Look, Marco, what’s that in the distance? It looks like a … like a … like a stream, and a … a cottage!’ Pansy shrieked, clutching Marco’s arm so tightly that it hurt. ‘What the … Let’s hurry and see!’ Marco shouted, immediately breaking into a desperate run for the cottage far ahead. As the pair rushed towards the little cottage, the oak trees on both sides of the rocky path started to lessen in number, and the ceiling of the Great Forest eventually opened up to reveal the night starts, glimmering brightly in the midst of a vast blanket of inky darkness. Marco ran up to the edge of the stream and there before him stood a small, narrow bridge, looking back at him invitingly as though it were encouraging him to take a step forward. He could hear the faint, soothing sound of frothy white water gushing merrily down the stream, as well as … someone shouting out his name on the other end of the bridge!
‘Mr Marco! Hey! Oi!’
‘Who’s that? I can’t see-’ An exasperated Pansy asked, trying to get a good glance of the little cottage.
Marco could see who the person was. His heart, which had been palpitating wildly in its rib cage just a few moments ago, had calmed down, and he felt a great burst of laughter rising up his throat. The horrible and frightening rumours of the cannibalistic witch in the Great Forest which had been playing around in his mind immediately fled at the sight of the gentle-looking, kindly old woman who was cradling a cat in her arms and looking inquisitively at them. ‘Could the both of you be Mr Marco Pretzel and Ms Pansy Potflower, writers for the local magazine ‘Town News’ ? I have heard that the both of you would be visting my lovely cottage to have an interview with me, and I have been waiting here for you. Please do come in and have a cup of tea! You must be really tired … I’ll cook up something for you … ‘The old woman said, before returning back into the cottage with the plump, puffy cat mewing softly at her heels. Marco and Pansy, both hungry, tired and desperate, hurried across the bridge and into the cottage together with the old woman. The cottage felt warm and comfortable, and as Marco looked around the living room in awe, he saw paintings of little children playing in meadows hung up on the walls, a large and soft-looking sofa seated in the corner of the room as well as a bookcase stacked to full with books on topics ranging from interior design to weight loss techniques. As Marco and Pansy sat down at the dinner table to savour some onion soup and hamburg steak, both of them chatted happily to the kind old woman who had, just an hour ago, appeared to them as a frightening, cruel witch who feasted on unsuspecting children.
‘So, why are you living all alone in the Great Forest? It must be really frightening to live in this dark and horrible place.’ Pansy asked, between mouthfuls of juicy steak. Next to her, Marco listened intently.
‘I came from a family of gypsies, and we had been moving from place to place as long as I can ever remember. When my parents died I came alone to the town, and while walking in the Great Forest I saw this lovely little cottage that been left abandoned. That’s why I decided to settle here, in the peace of nature’s comfort.’ The old woman replied, a warm smile on her face.
‘As you are aware, Ms Pretzel and I have come here with the intention of interviewing you, the only person living in the Great Forest,’ Marco took a sip of the piping hot onion soup and continued, ‘and it would simply be wonderful if you could agree to have an interview with us. If you could, we can have the interview right after dinner, then we could-’
‘Oh, but surely you aren’t leaving afterwards, are you?’ The old woman whispered. Marco, however, could not hear the words that escaped from her taut lips, for at that moment a loud crash sound was heard which was followed by a heavy thud. Pansy had sunk onto the floor in a crumpled heap, and blood flowed incessantly from a wound on her hand. Broken, glass shards littered the floor and surrounded Pansy’s still, stiff body. ‘Pansy, pansy! Can you hear me? Pansy!’ Marco shouted, kneeling beside her. He was just about to lift her up when suddenly, a strong sense of numbness overwhelmed his senses. A loud, buzzing sound filled his ears and his vision became increasingly blurred. I’m losing my consciousness, and I haven’t even started on that interview yet, Marco thought, as he sank slowly onto the floor. The light of the lamp in the living room became fainter and fainter, and eventually died out completely, but not before Marco saw the smile hovering on the edges of the old woman’s lips. Darkness then covered everything.
And the old woman went back into the kitchen to prepare her supper.
Calista Lo (4L)