“We have just reached our proper cruising altitude. We are due to arrive in Paris in about 12 hours. I suggest sleeping, folks. From France, those of you going further will board a different flight. Thank you for choosing Continental Airlines!”
Kurt sighed and slumped down in his seat, getting himself comfortable. 12 hours… He shifted the seat and slumped lower. He loved the idea of going back to see his family for the summer, but the ride there was bothersome. He again wondered why the professor hadn’t flown him there with the X-Jet. It would have been so much faster!
Just then a stewardess came to his aisle. Due to his fur, he’d been given both seats by the window, just to make sure no accidental touching occurred. The lady smiled broadly, asking, “Drink for you, sir?”
Kurt smiled back and distantly wondered if the lady would be so polite if he were in his real form. He thought, saying, “Yes, a Code Red, please?” He got a little bottle and a package of peanuts before the lady moved on to the next row. Kurt cracked open the soda, waiting for the hissing to stop. He took a drink, then wedged the bottle between his legs as he opened the peanuts. As he ate a few, he grinned. Commercial airlines didn’t have the speed of the X-Jet, but they had one thing that helped make up the difference; free food and drink!
15 hours later, after one transatlantic flight, a cross country flight and a train ride, Kurt stood, exhausted, at a train station in the middle of the German countryside. He shifted his bag on his back, and sat down, automatically moving his tail aside. His inducer may have hidden the tail, but that didn’t mean it didn’t exist anymore!
He leaned back over the bench, letting his eyes close. Within an hour or two, one of his relatives would pop over to pick him up. Hopefully. Maybe he could get a nap in?
He had just closed his eyes when he heard a motor. He sat up, blinking wearily. The sky was darker. Had he slept? Anyway, a small car was rambling up the dirt road to him. He sat up, wiping one eye of sleep while the other tried to determine who was in the vehicle. He then smiled, stood and waved. The man in the car smiled, parked and came out, smiling broadly and greeting Kurt loudly, (in German of course), “Kurt! My son, how have you been?”
Kurt hugged the man, responding happily, “Very well, dad. How’s mom?”
The man ruffled Kurt’s hair, answering, “She’s doing well. She wanted to get the place tidied up for you.” Kurt started to get his bags when he felt the man grab his wrist, and lift it up, looking at the watch on it. He then said with a smile, “What? Wearing that watch again? Take that thing off!” He did so, and Kurt didn’t flinch as his hologram fizzed out, revealing him in all his glory. The man smiled, saying softly, “I want to see the little ball of fluff I grew to love!”
Kurt’s yellow eyes got soft as he said sincerely, “You don’t know how happy that makes me.”
They loaded up Kurt’s things and then got in the car, talking about this and that until reaching a small cottage by the side of a river. Kurt smiled at the memories as they flooded his mind. As they got out of the car, he asked playfully, “You didn’t fish anyone else out while I was gone, I hope?”
He and his ‘parents’ had had a long talk after Kurt had learned the truth from Rogue, the professor and Mystique, but nothing between them had changed. His ‘father’ smiled, answering easily, “Well, I did get a few fish, but I’m sure you won’t mind them sharing the place with us. They’ll be gone by tonight anyway.” Kurt licked his lips, remembering anew the excellent fried fish his ‘mother’ made.
His father brought the suitcase up the stairs, calling through the open door, “Gretel, I’m back! And I’ve brought a friend.”
From deep inside the house somewhere came the voice of an annoyed woman, “Fredrick! You lazy man! I told you our Kurt’s coming back today! You can’t be drunk as a lord when he comes here!” A small woman came swiftly down the stairs, broom in one hand, rolling pin in the other, saying threateningly, “Tell James to go home right now! Before I show him the door with the help of this rolling pin again!”
Kurt smiled and walked in, saying playfully, “Okay, I’ll leave.”
The woman stopped short, saying in surprise, “Kurt!” She glared at Fredrick, who was laughing, saying while shaking the rolling pin at him, “Oh, you wicked man!” She turned back to Kurt, the picture of loving tenderness as she hugged and smoothed his hair and took his bag all at the same time, “Come here and give your momma a kiss!”
The evening was centered on getting Kurt settled and having some of the best fried fish in the world (in Kurt’s opinion). As he tucked in for the night, after getting kissed by both parents, Kurt lay still a while, looking around his old room.
They hadn’t changed it, but the lack of dust showed that it had been cleaned for him. Kurt smiled and then went to his bookshelf and took down an old fairytale book. He flipped through it at random and landed on a story telling about a witch who lived deep in the woods. The witch was evil and would trap people at her house, feed them until they were stuffed and then cook them.
Kurt laughed at the story as he reshelved the book. A witch that cooked people? Those crazy Grimm brothers! Still chuckling, he rolled over, burying himself in the thick, warm covers and went to sleep, purring.
The next week was sheer bliss. The days were spent fishing for trout in the river, hunting for rabbits in the fields, talking abut past times and revisiting old childhood sites. The nights were spent in warm company, his parents having rounded up some of Kurt’s old friends those who had ignored his blue skin and fur and tail and had befriended him anyway. Kurt had never felt so happy before.
At breakfast, Kurt announced he’d like to hike a trail with his parents, as they used to do every Sunday. But unfortunately, Fredrick had to help a neighbor with her roof. Kurt immediately offered to help, but his father said no. “You’re here to enjoy yourself, Kurt!” Kurt turned to his mother, but she too shook her head, saying, “Sorry, sweetie, but it’s market day.”
Kurt pouted, asking with what he hoped were his best puppy-eyes, “Can’t I come?”
His mother, used to the eyes, patted him on the head, answering, “They’re not used to you, darling.”
Kurt slouched, but then brightened, saying, “I’ll wear my watch.”
But his father frowned as his mother said gently, “I’d rather you didn’t, sweetie.”
Kurt was confused, asking, “Why not?” Wouldn’t it help everything? He could walk around normally now. Why not use it to his advantage?
But it was his father who answered, “I don’t like the idea of you hiding who you are. Understand?” Kurt was about to protest, but saw the look in his father’s eyes. It was the one that said ‘I-know-what’s-best-don’t-argue’.
Kurt remembered when he had seen that look last. He had been younger, about 12 or so, and hadn’t had his teleportation yet. He had been trying to find a bee’s hive for days, wanting to get the honey, being addicted to the stuff at the time. He found the hive, and had run home elated, proclaiming the news. His parents were thrilled at the idea of honey, but rightfully cautious, warning Kurt to stay away from the hive until they could take care of it themselves, which would be in a week. Kurt’s sweet tooth had protested loudly and he had insisted he could do it himself and had gotten ‘The Look’. He had dropped the subject immediately and had gone to bed like a good boy.
The next day however, he went back to the hive, a can and rags and a box of matches wrapped up in his tail. Then, copying what he had once seen his father do, he began to burn the damp rags in the tin can, holding it so the smoke went up to the hive. It had actually worked; the drowsy bees buzzing to land on the ground, harmless.
But as Kurt climbed up and removed a side of the hive, he had forgotten a major detail: you had to wait until the ENTIRE hive was asleep. Kurt had run home, crying and itching like crazy at the few dozen stings he had received before saving himself by diving into a stream. He had learned the hard way that when he got ‘The Look’ it was best to obey.
Kurt humbled himself, saying, “Yes, sir.”
His father smiled and slapped Kurt’s back, while his mother said gently, “That’s a good boy.”
His father then stood up, clearing his place as he said, “Go on the hike yourself, Kurt! You’re a big boy now, and with that disappearing act of yours, the bears and wolves won’t bother you at all!”
Kurt nodded, planning to do just that. After breakfast and kissing everyone goodbye, Kurt went his way and his parents went theirs. Kurt found an older trail and began to walk it, enjoying the simple pleasure. He hadn’t worn his watch, as promised, and was now glad he hadn’t. The wind blew over him, tickling him as it ruffled his fur as played with his hair. His tail tip swayed back and forth as he walked, keeping him balanced. He paused to pluck a flower, his tail breaking the stem easily. Kurt, hands behind his back, walked on, his tail holding the flower under his nose, sniffing deeply. He tucked the flower by his ear, the pointed tip helping to keep it in place and walked on, starting to whistle.
It was so peaceful. The air was filled with the soft colors of a German summer in the mountains, greens and browns and golds. In the trees, Kurt could see little birds flitting about. For a while, he stopped and watched with a grin as one bird hopped around another, fluffing its feathers and singing. The other bird, a girl obviously, ignored her little admirer and flew off. The little boy-bird chased her, chirping in (what sounded like) protest. Kurt couldn’t help but grin, and mutter, “That’s life, isn’t it?”
Kurt passed a few hours on the trail, walking slowly and in a very relaxed manner, watching everything. He saw a stag in the distance before it saw him and walked off. He played in a little stream by the pathway, teasing the tiny salamanders as they wriggled over his palms. He climbed a tree to get at the biggest pinecone he had ever seen, putting it aside to get it later. He lay in the tall grass, watching ants climb over his tail-tip as they trundled along. Basically, he put aside all his cares and troubles and had fun.
Finally, though, it started to get dark. It was a new moon, so the stars were the only lights in the sky. It didn’t bother Kurt though. He walked comfortably in the fading light, knowing full well that midnight was as bright as noon to him. Thank goodness for night-vision.
But still, it was time to be getting home. He bet mom had whipped up another excellent dish. He hoped it was the fish again! He could smell it now and he sniffed deeply, licking his lips.
He paused and sniffed the air again. He could smell it! But that was impossible. His senses were good, but he was still an hour or two from home! Oh, but that smells so good… Kurt wondered who on earth was cooking fish this far in the woods, but another sniff had him take a step towards the smell.
He should go home, but what would one peek hurt? He could just ‘port home anyway!
He followed the smell, and noticed two things. One, it got stronger, and two, it changed. It didn’t just smell like fish anymore. Now it smelled like sweet stuff, like candy and icing. Kurt’s mouth watered as he followed it. As sappy as it sounded, Kurt loved German Chocolate, deeming it the best stuff in the world, but this smell smelled (if possible) even better than German Chocolate! Kurt kept going, not noticing how the trees were getting wilder and darker. Finally Kurt immerged into a clearing and was pretty sure his eyes were about to pop out of his head.
There, in a perfect meadow was a perfect little house. It was squeaky clean and the path was neatly trimmed and the grass was evenly mowed. The fence was about two feet high, for display rather than function, and was so darn cute! But then Kurt noticed something about the house. Why was the edge of the roof lacking luster like that? And why did it smell so much like sugar? Kurt came forwards and sniffed at one edge of the roof, which was about four feet off the ground. Kurt sniffed again, and smelled more sugar. It couldn’t be… Could it? He took a tentative lick, knowing what a fool he must look like, licking a house! He should just go home and forg--
Holy hell! The roof was made of chocolate!
Kurt’s caution was rudely booted out of his mind as he attacked the edge of the roof, gnawing hungrily at the sweet, sweet chocolate. He broke off a piece and ate it quickly before going back. But then he smelled another scent, this one sweeter in a lighter sort of way. It entranced him and he wandered towards it, sniffing deeply with his eyes closed dreamily. He felt something smash into his nose and he yelped in surprise, opening his eyes as he recoiled, hand over his now-tender nose. Kurt glared at the window for hurting him, but then he lowered his hand and licked his fingers. Oh, that tasted nice! Kurt looked again. The shudder was open, revealing the half-open window.
On an impulse and a ‘crack’, he ripped the little window off its hinges and began to lick at the ‘glass’, which turned out to be sugar! The ‘frame’ of the ‘glass’ was a kinda of cinnamon toast and he crunched into it eagerly, licking the resulting powder off his fingers before leaping onto the edge of the roof and attacking the edge again, biting off another hunk.
“Enjoying yourself, sweetie-pie?”
Kurt spun on the spot; hunk of roof in one hand, a small bit of window sticking out of his mouth. On the ground was a short old woman, looking like she was in her sixties. Her hair was a soft grey color and she looked like the perfect grandma. She didn’t seem scared of Kurt’s appearance, or bothered by the fact he was currently caught in the act of eating her roof and window.
Kurt wasn’t scared. This little old lady radiated a sense of calm around her and as he swallowed the bit of sugar-glass, he replied with a smile, “Yes.”
The lady smiled back, revealing about four teeth, and cooed, “Come down, dumpling. I won’t hurt you.” Kurt did as told, ‘porting down to her side. If the lady was surprised by his power, she didn’t show it, saying as she smoothed his shirt and wiped crumbs off, “There now, sweetie, isn’t that better?”
Kurt nodded, saying with a wide grin, “Yes.” Wow, this lady was nice!
The lady took his hand and gently led him into the house, saying as she trudged along, “But look at you, you poor thing! Thin as bones and trying to fill up on my roof? You need better food than take! Let granny take good care of you.” Kurt reassessed his view of this little old lady as he was led into the warm, good-smelling house. This lady was an angel!
A short while later, Kurt found himself seated at the lady’s table with an enormous helping of the best roast beef he’d ever had in his life. He ate quickly, getting waited on hand and foot by this little lady, who kept fussing over him, saying how thin he was and how she’d fix him up perfectly.
Kurt felt like he was in heaven as he was given yet another serving. The meat was cooked to perfection and Lord was it excellent! Kurt kept eating until he could feel his stomach straining at his shirt. With an embarrassed grin, he asked, “Is it okay if I take my shirt off?” The lady said it was fine and even helped. Kurt let out a moan of relief as he shed the jacket and shirt. That was much better!
He went back to eating, barely hearing the woman anymore. She was talking, but he couldn’t distinguish any words. It was just a pleasant background noise. A while later, Kurt pushed the empty dish away from him, feeling satisfied. The lady came back and hovered over him, cooing, “Aww… does the little pumpkin want some dessert?”
Kurt smiled, saying, “No, thank you, ma’am. Actually, I think I need to go home. My parents will be worried about me.”
The lady wouldn’t hear it though; insisting that Kurt couldn’t possibly go outside all by himself. There were wolves and bears that would jump at the opportunity to attack ‘her little plum’. Kurt finally relented and after enjoying a few modest slices of cake, was helped into a plush bed. Kurt found it difficult to walk, but the lady helped him out. He snuggled deeply in the covers, sighing in contentment, purring to himself as he drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, Kurt rolled over and yawned hugely, feeling soft fluffy covers surrounding him. He paused, feeling confused. Where was he? What time was it?
But then he remembered. He’d gone for a hike and had gone too far. He’d found the old lady’s house and she’d given him dinner and put him up for the night. That’s what had happened. Right? Why did everything feel all mixed up and jumbled? He got up and stretched, noticing something different. He looked down and grinned. His lightening metabolism hadn’t failed him. The enormous bulge that indicated his gut had decreased to a much more modest-looking lump overnight. He knew that by noon, it would be gone completely. He stretched again, wondering distantly if digesting and processing food so fast was another aspect of his mutation.
But then the old lady came in, bustling about as she tidied up, saying, “Oh dumpling, just awake in time for breakfast! Come on!”
Kurt wanted to say he couldn’t stay. He had to go home. He had to see his parents. He had… to see if that bacon tasted as good as it smelled!
He literally leaped out of bed, following the lady. He was still without a shirt, but for some reason, didn’t really care. He was seated at the table and as the lady brought him his food and he attacked it, she pinched his stomach, saying, “Well, well! Look who’s got a fat little tummy!”
Kurt grinned, saying as he ate, “Yes, but it won’t last long.”
As she ladled more eggs onto his plate, the old lady asked sweetly, “What are you talking about, dumpling?”
Kurt dug in, muttering, “Well, my body processes food really fast. I’ll be thin again by tonight!”
He was too busy with his plate to register the soft way the lady had whispered, “Really?” But then more bacon and eggs were put on his plate and all thoughts of going home were erased from Kurt’s mind.
The day was a blur to Kurt. He got up from breakfast, had a nap in the living room in a shaft of sunlight and was woken by the lady telling him it was dinnertime. Kurt got up obediently, seeing as how he still had a fat gut. He rubbed it, feeling distantly disturbed. Why was he still fat? A full day of sleeping should have worked it off by now. But then he got a good whiff of sausages and went to his seat.
Dinner passed pleasantly as he was shuffled off to bed while the old lady said she’d clean the mess. For a while, this was the normal way of things for Kurt. He’d wake up, have breakfast, sleep the day away and then have a big dinner before going to bed. He simply went along with it, getting bigger and bigger. He never really realized that anything was wrong.
One day, he had tried to teleport, to see if he could cut down time of having to walk to the table, but found he couldn’t. He walked slowly into the kitchen, saying softly to himself, “I can’t ‘port.” It was something that should have bothered him, but for some reason, didn’t.
The old lady, who was mixing something, asked over her shoulder, “You can’t what, pumpkin?”
Kurt’s suddenly smelled the kitchen anew and he sighed, lost in the scent for a while. Then he realized she had spoken, and asked in confusion, “Huh?”
The lady picked a carton of something out of the panty, asking sweetly, “What were you saying, pudding?”
“Um…” Kurt said. What had he been saying? But then he saw the little red berries she was pouring into the mixing bowl and asked eagerly, “Are those raspberries?”
But then one day, the normal routine was broken. Kurt had his breakfast, but as he settled down for his nap, the old lady came to him, carrying a small basket. She patted his head, scratching behind his ears as she said, “I’m so sorry, little pudding, but I have to go to market. Stay and be good, and I’ll make you a cake tonight! How’s that sound?” Kurt’s reply was a throaty purr as she itched the exact spot behind his right ear. She laughed, patted him gently again and walked out, leaving Kurt alone.
Kurt settled down, ready to sleep, when he got a whiff of the air coming in through the window. It smelled good, clean and fresh. And like raspberries. Kurt perked up instantly, sniffing harder. Since the lady was usually cooking all day, the house overflowed with smells of sweets and excellent cooking. Now that the oven was cold, the outside smells finally broke through. Kurt got up, sniffing deeply.
He was really fat now, his belly shaped like a bloated balloon. His motions weren’t that impeded though, his tail helping to balance him out. He got up and went out back, following the smell.
Then he saw it. At the edge of the meadow, by an old shack, was a berry bush. And the glistening red berries made Kurt’s mouth water and he lost no time in attacking the bush, finding that his tail was very useful for getting the ones deep in the bush, guarded by prickers. He picked a whole bunch, then sat down, and laid the pile before him. Then, he ate every single one, licking his lips after each one and then cleaning his tail-tip. He was about to get another round, but saw his section of the bush was empty.
Disappointed, he looked around. The next batch was over by the shack, literally up against the side and growing over it. He got up slowly and walked over, running his tongue over his fangs, cleaning the last bit of berry juice off of them. He sat down with his back to the shed and began to pick the red berries, enjoying himself thoroughly. When he was done, he lay back, sighing deeply. But then he saw something red on the shack.
For an instant, he thought it was a berry and reached for it, but then realized his foolishness as he touched a picture. Of a full moon with a knife through it, dripping blood. He frowned and sat up, looking at the picture more closely.
Something was wrong… What? He scratched at his stomach, feeling this disquieting voice trying to tell him something very, very important.
“Pudding? What are you doing out here?”
He turned to see the old lady walking towards him, looking worried. Kurt pointed to the shed, saying, “I was eating the raspberries, and saw this. What is it?”
The lady looked at the shed, and said while helping Kurt up, “Oh that! Pumpkin, that’s my old little club house, from when my friends lived close by. They’ve all moved away unfortunately. Yes. I’ll have to take the thing down soon, though. It’s all rotten and falling apart. I don’t want my little sweet pea getting hurt! You’ll stay away from it now, won’t you? That’s a good little pudding. Come on, dinner is ready!”
Kurt followed willingly, but just as the lady ushered him into the house, he glanced back at the shed out the corner of his yellow eye.
That night, Kurt lay in bed, feeling a bit uneasy. He had pretended during dinner to feel happy and carefree. And it wasn’t entirely faked. That cake had been delicious! But now, alone, listening to the soft clattering in the kitchen, Kurt thought.
Something was off. Why had that simple moon picture bothered him so much? He wanted another look at it, but knew somehow that the little old lady mustn’t know about it. But how to get alone again? As it turned out, he didn’t need to think or plan anything, because the next day, as he settled down for his nap, he was given another wonderful scratching and told to behave while she went to market. But this time, the lady stayed until Kurt fell asleep, purrs down to a soft, barely heard rumble. She walked out.
About ten minutes after the door had shut, Kurt opened his eyes. Thank God he had learned early in life how to imitate his sleeping state! He got up and walked out to the backyard again, feeling his heavy belly as if for the first time. Wow… he was FAT!
He shook the thought aside and walked to the shed and looked at the pictures more closely. He had to clear away some branches of raspberry bush to do so and a few berries fell to the ground. But they were left alone as Kurt studied the pictures, feeling sick and scared. There were 3 pictures in total.
The first had a black circle, the new moon, Kurt knew somehow. The second showed a moon waxing. Below it was a knife and a whetstone. The last showed the one Kurt had seen yesterday. The full moon with a knife thrust through it, dripping red blood.
Kurt shuddered, tail twitching in nervousness. Why was this scaring him so badly? Suddenly he looked at the door of the shack. There was no lock on it. Kurt hesitated, one part of him wondering what would happen when the little old lady found out about his disobeying, the other urging him to look. Kurt hesitated, straddling the fence, then crossed it. He went and opened the door and walked in.
It was a cooking house, with a huge barbecue pit and a spit over it, charred and blackened form years of use. Kurt found that there was a residual smell in the air and he sniffed at it. He frowned, however. He had expected the rich smell of beef or pork, but the one in the air smelled more like… suffering, if that was possible. Kurt saw that the pit was very large, the ashes spreading over 8 feet wide. Kurt suddenly got down on all fours and padding over, began to dig in the ashes, following some instinctive order. He dug down quiet a bit before his nails brushed something smooth and hard. Kurt dug around it in order to unearth it.
The ashes were strangely heavy, making the work tiresome. But then he got his fingers hooked into something. Kurt steadied himself and pulled. The object popped out of the ashes and flew in the air. Kurt, having been put of balance so fast, fell back on his rear, squashing his tail. As he rubbed the sore spot, the object fell down, right in front of him. Kurt froze, and a squeak escaped him.
It was a charred human skull.
Kurt swallowed hard and suddenly understood why he had felt something was wrong! He got up, backing away from the skull. No… No, he had to be wrong! It wasn’t a skull. It was some kind of carving! Yeah, that’s it! A freaky carving! That was disturbingly real… Kurt then hesitantly touched it again, and the smooth, brittle feel of the bone against his shaking fingertips banished all thoughts of artificial origin from his mind. It was real. It was a human skull that was charred and burned.
Whoever this had been had been burned alive! But then…where were the rest of the bones? He looked up, and he felt his heart stop. Nearby was a table with a plate and silverware. On the table were bits of bones, cracked and sucked clean of marrow. The stool was set at just the right height for a little old lady… Kurt suddenly remembered his little storybook, about the witch in the woods…
He felt ill.
Kurt lay on the floor, sleeping when the lady gently nudged him, saying, “Pumpkin! Wakey! Dinner!”
Kurt moaned softly, cradling his stomach, whimpering, “Oh… not hungry…”
The old lady gently smoothed his hair, asking, “What? Are you okay, sweet pea?” Then she saw the empty baskets in the kitchen. “Oh! Did you eat all my raspberries, you silly little pudding?” Kurt nodded, though he knew perfectly well that all three baskets had been chucked over the bushes into the woods.
He moaned softly while rubbing his bloated gut, “Tummy hurts…”
The old lady helped him up, breathing hard with the effort, saying soothingly, “Well, I should think so, you poor thing! Come on. To bed with you.” Kurt followed, holding himself and whimpering. He was put into the bed and with a gentle pat, was left alone. Kurt waited for about half an hour before getting up and looking out the window.
He paled. Tomorrow night was the full moon! Kurt thought desperately. He had to escape before the witch attacked him! But what could he do? He couldn’t run, he was too fat. He couldn’t ‘port. He could barely move! But then Kurt grinned and slid out of the bed, suddenly missing his old silent grace. This fat belly was making it very hard to move around!
He then practiced, quietly, silently. It hurt, but then the muscles worked out their kinks and he felt better than he had in a month. Kurt went to bed, hoping to God that his plan would work.
Kurt was woken the next morning by the old lady/witch telling him cheerfully that it was a very special day and that she’d made him an extra special breakfast. Kurt smiled and got up, knowing he couldn’t afford to lose himself. If he did, he was as good as dead.
Oh, but that bacon smelled so good and were those chocolate pancakes? And sausages as well and buttered toa--FOCUS!
He ate his normal amount, but through sheer force of will, kept a hold of himself. Purring happily, he was led out back, the old lady/witch talking on animatedly about the surprise. He was going to love it! Kurt felt a little scared as they walked towards the shack. He tried to slow his steps, pretending to look at the flowers, but the little old lady’s grip was surprisingly strong, forcing him to keep pace with her. Suddenly he was forced into the shack and froze.
The pit was ablaze, flames reaching six feet into the air, filling the shack with an almost unbearable heat. The flames were golden white, unseen logs crackling loudly. The spit was gone from over the fire and was now on the table, the recently cleaned tip reflecting in the flames. The smell in the shack was repulsive. It was years of bad cooking all mixed up in one place and then super-heated. The air was deathly dry, hurting Kurt’s skin. It was like a preview of Hell.
Kurt jumped, staring at the little old lady, who was beside him again. He looked to the door, but it had been locked. Kurt gulped, asking nervously, even though he knew the answer, “What is this?” The old lady suddenly seemed less friendly. Her eyes no longer twinkled; her hair wasn’t a soft grey color anymore. She grinned at him crookedly, and did she have more teeth than usual?
She then cackled, saying, “A cooking fire, dumpling.”
Kurt stepped away from her, asking in a genuine scared tone, “What for?”
In an instant the little old lady changed. She shot to be standing at 6 feet tall. Her hair came undone, becoming an ugly dirty gray, flying wildly in the heat of the flames. Her clothing turned to rags before his eyes, wisps of decayed fabric falling to the floor and the rest clinging to the ragged skeleton-thin body. Her hands grew gnarled and rough, nails growing out long and sharp. Her skin cracked and peeled, revealing ugly scars and warts. Her eyes changed to be like a sharks; black and dead of all emotion as she screamed, “For you!” and leaped at him.
Kurt let out a cry as he ducked and tried to jump away, but his leg was caught. He fell to the floor, letting out a pained ‘oof!’ as he fell onto his bloated stomach. He turned and tried to kick with his other leg, but the witch was surprisingly fast and grabbed both of his two-toed feet and began to drag him to the table. Kurt scrabbled at the floor, trying to stop himself, but even his claws couldn’t find anything to hang on to.
But then he grinned. Right at the critical moment, when the witch was heaving him onto the table, Kurt’s tail whipped out, wrapped around both of the witch’s ankles and yanked hard. This was what he had been doing the night before. His tail, like any muscle, would grow ‘lazy’ if not used and for the last month, Kurt hadn’t used his extra limb at all. Thankfully, though, he’d brought it up to standard enough the night before to help him out now.
The act surprised the witch and she fell over, Kurt landing heavily on top of her. Kurt quickly rolled off, realizing that he had to run now while she was winded, but as he started to step towards the door, he felt nails digging deep into the base of his tail, aggravating the sensitive flesh there. He let out a yelp of pain and turned.
The witch was glaring at him, shrieking angrily, “Oh no! You’re not going anywhere except on that spit!” Kurt couldn’t help but glance back at the aforementioned piece of metal and gulped.
He then replied shakily, “No thanks. I’ve got enough iron in my diet…” and fear giving him strength, kicked the witch hard in the face. Kurt felt like he had kicked at a wrapped vase. Horrible cracks were heard and felt under his footpads and he grimaced at feeling a burning hot liquid coat his fur. He looked down and regretted the action, now feeling very sick. His foot was literally in the witch’s face, the middle of the foot even with the remaining surface of the witch’s cracked skin. He could see inside her skull and swore he actually saw something crawling around inside it. In addition, thick black ooze trickled out, flowing over Kurt’s toes.
The whole thing made Kurt determined to scrub his foot in acid to clean it later.
Kurt scrabbled out of the now limp grasp, pulling his foot out of the dead witch’s face. His toes made a slurping squelching sound as he withdrew, like he had put them in mud. From his foot to what remained of the witch’s skull, a thick string of black ooze stretched, dripping green slime. The smell was absolutely terrible, worse than the pit. It was a swamp over hundreds of years old, stuffed to the gills with trash, carcasses and decaying plant life and then left for another hundred years.
The small made Kurt gag and his eyes water. His body was fully in favor of leaning over and puking his guts out, but knew he had to get away. He turned to go, but heard something behind him. He turned and stared in shock.
With sickening cracking sounds and then a pop, the witch’s face returned to normal. The witch stood up, towering over Kurt, hissing loudly, “Bad, dumpling. Now I have to punish you.”
Kurt felt frozen. She couldn’t do that! Could she? This was like a nightmare, except it was terrifyingly real.
The witch bent over him and while he tried to struggle, she quickly grabbed him and spun him around. Then she grabbed a handful of fur at the back of his neck, and dragged him by his scruff to the table, Kurt protesting and kicking the whole way. Now what?! He had to escape!
Kurt was hoisted back onto the table. He tried to roll off, but his new girth and the witch holding down a leg prevented this and he squirmed helplessly as the witch picked up the ten-foot steel pole easily in her other hand. The witch smiled evilly, and the tip of the pole hovered around Kurt’s hips. Kurt felt the heat of the pole down there and squirmed, feeling terrified. He had seen how his father spitted rabbits. You stuck the metal up through the hips and then through the ribcage, that way you kept the carcass from falling off as the meat cooked.
The witch was gonna jam that steel rod right through him! Kurt whimpered pitifully as he squirmed, trying to kick the witch’s face again, but was unable to twist himself that far. The hot steel barely brushed the fur on the back of Kurt’s thigh and instinctively, Kurt’s tail shifted from flailing about wildly to tucking itself between his legs, protecting his nether regions as best it could.
The witch cackled, saying as she cruelly pinched the barb of Kurt’s tail, “Aww, how cute! Never had one with a tail before. Hopefully, it’ll taste as good as the rest of you!” Kurt felt like crying, but wasn’t ready to give up yet. While the witch amused herself with squeezing Kurt’s tail hard, Kurt reached slowly above his head, grasping the handle of the knife. The witch looked up just in time to get the business end of the blade in her left eye socket.
She screeched and let the pole drop, backing away from Kurt as she felt to find the knife’s handle. But before she had gone too far, Kurt used his tail to draw her back, and aiming carefully, kicked hard, driving the knife in until the hilt disappeared. Kurt then got down off the table and while the witch was struggling to draw out the blade, Kurt got down on all fours. He turned his face from her and tucked up both legs and, like a horse, kicked hard. Both feet caught the witch in the chest, blasting her backwards. With a screech she flew through the air, aimed for the pit.
Kurt collapsed, unable to get his legs back under him in time. He fell hard, winded. At a wail he looked up just in time to see the witch fly right into the center of the flames.
Suddenly the flames became crystal clear and Kurt could see the witch writhing in agony as the flames crept over her burning her up. The smoke was an ugly green color now, and smelled like rotting flesh, the scent only becoming stronger as the witch’s skin melted away. But then like a horrible nightmare that just wouldn’t quit, she looked at Kurt and began walking towards him.
Kurt was paralyzed, gasping for breath. No… No! It wasn’t possible! She should be dead now! She was being burnt alive! Witches were supposed to die when you burned them! But then, a mere three feet from Kurt, the witch, with one clawed hand outstretched, hesitated, faltered and collapsed into a pile of ash at Kurt’s feet. There was a loud roaring sound and Kurt looked to see the fire getting sucked away, like someone had pulled the plug in a bathtub. The flames swirled around and around, faster and faster and with a final explosion that blasted Kurt with heat, the flames died. The shack was silent and empty except for Kurt and his panting.
Then, relief took over and he started to cry and laugh at the same time before promptly passing out.
Kurt woke to the sound of crickets. He sat up, moaning. Oh… what a headache! Where was he?
He looked around him, feeling lost. He was in a shabby clearing, bordered by squat, dying trees. Kurt looked up. It was nighttime, the full moon looking down at him serenely. Kurt shuddered and realized that he was only wearing his pants. Where was his shirt and jacket? Kurt looked down at himself and saw black gunk on his foot. How’d that get there? And why was the base of his tail throbbing so badly?
But then everything rushed back: the candy house, the food, the witch, the fire, the fight. Kurt shivered again, unable to fully believe he’d escaped such a terrible fate. On an impulse, he looked down at himself. He was thin again, and judging from the growls coming from his belly, he was hungry as well. Kurt got up and fell over backwards. He had gotten so used to leaning backwards to compensate for the extra weight up front, that suddenly deprived of it, he was over-compensating. Kurt got up again, careful not to fall over again.
Where was the house? The magical candy house was gone, in it’s place a ruined hut, with a tiny little storage shack nearby. Kurt shuddered and walked out of the clearing. He then tested himself, and successfully ‘ported to the top of a tall tree. He saw a house in the distance and realized it was his. He then looked down again, hoping to go back and search the small shack for his clothes, but couldn’t find it. There were only bramble bushes and dead logs littering the clearing.
Kurt blinked. Wait. There were trees there now. Big trees. Trees over a hundred years old. In the span of a few heartbeats, the clearing was suddenly filled with huge pine trees. There was no sign of a meadow ever having been there. Kurt shivered and quickly ‘ported away, desperate to put as much space between him and that weird place as soon as possible.
No one was going to believe this!