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She sat down heavily on the velvet stool at her dresser. Twisting her fingers behind her head, she released her hair from the tight bun at the nape of her neck. Picking up a shiny brush made from blackwood, she began dragging the bristles through the gray strands of her straw-like hair, a stark contrast to her once beautiful long, black satiny curls. Clamenza, disgusted by the image staring back at her, pushed herself off the stool.
Striding across the room, she pulled opened the double doors of a timber wardrobe and ran her hand across an array of beautiful flowing gowns designed in satins, silks, sequins and velvets. A few were over a hundred years old, from an era long gone, an era she preferred, and some others new from more recent shopping trips. All were beautiful gowns designed for a woman much younger than the old woman whose fingers lingered, caressing the lavish fabrics with tenderness. She closed the doors, sighing. “Not long now,” she croaked to herself, “and I will be as beautiful as ever.”
A large flying cockroach landed on her hand and scurried up her arm. It perched on her shoulder, its antenna transmitting a high-pitched sound only the witch could hear.
“Good morning, my little friend. Are you ready for sleep, too?” she purred, her finger stoking the cockroach on its shiny black wings. The cockroach ruffled its wings in response.
Clamenza climbed into her bed, the cockroach scrambling beneath a black satin pillow. She rested her head on another, covering herself in a thick black and gray fur from a wolf slain over ten years ago. Outside, rain began to fall just as it did every night when Clamenza slept in her little cave.
The earth around the cave turned into bubbling pools of brown, blobby mud. Fat, slimy grubs slithered through muddy gouges in the soil congested with twisted tree roots. Black insects climbed out from beds of sodden leaves and scrambled up tree trunks to higher ground. A brown snake, as thick as a wrestlers arm, coiled silently around moss-covered branches, its fork tongue flicking in and out. With one lightning-quick movement, its mouth sprang open wide, swallowing a dozing possum whole. Not far away, a white owl hooted, sweeping down from a high branch to snatch up a fat, juicy rat gnawing on the rotting remains of a feral cat.
A while later, the sun peeked through the dense tree line, shrouding the rest of the forest in a warm, golden, glow. Butterflies as large as saucers with incandescent wings danced through golden rays. Elk and deer frolicked in the lush green clearings and drank from bubbling streams teaming with fish and ducks of every kind. A fox cub chased his brother, snapping playfully at his tail. A flock of noisy rainbow parrots, with bright green and yellow tail feathers a meter long, took flight to celebrate the start of a new day.
Darkness, however, loomed forever heavy over the witch’s cave as she slept the day away. At twilight she would rise, preferring to hunt in the darkest hours.
Clamenza fell asleep almost immediately, dreaming about the day she would walk the earth as the beauty she had once been. She longed for the days when she had turned the heads of every man as she sauntered by, her long black hair tumbling to her slender waist. Ruby-red lips, as tempting as a succulent ripe plum, made even the most devoted husband weak at the knees. All she needed was the souls of six young witches, Carmen’s fee for restoring Clamenza to her former beauty. Only two more girls were required to complete the wicked transaction.
The cockroach poked its head out from beneath the pillow and peered at the sleeping witch. Satisfied, the stealthy insect slid under the heavy furs, along the knotty blue veins on Clamenza’s leg, then nibbled contently on the dry, flaking skin on Clamenza’s foot. The bug scraped its hairy back legs together, sending a silent message as it nibbled. Within moments, others of its kind scrambled up the legs onto the bed and slid under the covers where they, too, feasted uninterrupted on Clamenza’s flaking skin until nightfall when the witch would wake, shaking them off unperturbed. “Feast as much as you like on this old body,” she’d say, stretching her arms above her head, “because you won’t be allowed to feast on the new one, my little darlings. Go on, off with you now,” she’d say, shooing them gently away with her hand. “But don’t worry; I won’t let you go hungry.”
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