Kurt hides under his backyard deck. He peers through wooden beams to keep watch on the house across the pond. Knee-deep snow and frigid temperatures cause him to shiver, but he refuses to go inside his home. Images of his wife’s lifeless body and her agonizing funeral flash through his mind. Recollections of the witch’s glare through Harlie’s ocean-blue eyes haunt him.
He lowers the binoculars and bows his head. Kurt’s eyes fill with tears, and he fights the urge to allow rage to dictate his moves. Instead, he opts to lie in wait with his loyal German Shepherd at his side. Under cover of a moonless night, he intends to get revenge on the sallow-faced woman.
Tank whines and nudges up to his owner and licks the exposed skin between his glove and jacket sleeve.
“I know,” Kurt mumbles and scratches Tank on the head. “I should have listened to her. I didn’t believe our neighbor was a dangerous witch–I thought it was a rumor.”
Midnight nears, and Kurt sets out with his dog. They move in stealth from under the deck, toward the neighbor’s driveway. He gives the pocket of his jeans a quick pat, checking for his entry tools and weapon.
Kurt shifts his head back and forth, scanning as he tiptoes closer to the hag’s house. He slows to soften the crunch of snow underfoot, then eases his way onto the porch.
After motioning a sit command at Tank, he reaches into a bag to retrieve a crowbar and knife. Kurt uses the tools to manipulate the lock until the latch gives. His heart races and he draws in a deep breath, then eases the door open. He sets the crowbar down, then slips inside and motions for Tank to follow.
The single source of lighting in the dimmed living room comes from a glowing orb upon the coffee table on his left. Kurt gazes at the green smoke swirling around inside the glass ball. Unsure of the sphere’s purpose or level of threat, he avoids it and steps far right to steer clear of the unknown.
A shadow moves from the hallway, toward him. He squints through the darkness and spots the sallow-faced witch.
“You stupid fool,” her monotone voice makes Kurt’s skin crawl.
Tank’s eyes widen and remain fixed on the hag. A growl emits from deep within his chest and fills the room.
“Stay,” Kurt orders his German Shepherd.
“How amusing that you believed it possible to enter my home and take me out with a kitchen knife,” she taunts.
Kurt stares in silence, but the volume of Tank’s growl rises.
“You’re pathetic!” She waves her bony finger at the knife within Kurt’s hand. It flies backward and lands on the floor.
Tank leaps toward the witch. She swishes her bony finger in his direction, and sends him backward, into the wall. He lets out a whimper before falling silent.
The witch releases a mirthless cackle. “Nice try. You dim-witted dog!”
Kurt reaches into a pocket, whips out a gun, and points it at the evil hag. She catches a glimpse of the weapon and raises a gaunt, rigid finger to cast a spell. A bullet rips through her flesh as it enters her chest, and she collapses into the hallway. Blood gushes from her body and pools on the floor.
Kurt rushes to check on Tank. He places a hand on the dog’s chest, and it rises and falls with each breath. Kurt drops his shoulders and breathes a sigh of relief.
“It’s ok, boy,” Kurt whispers to his dog. “I shot the bitch. She’s dead. Let’s get you out of here.” He reaches under Tank to lift him into his arms.
Bang. Scratch. Bang.
Kurt jerks his head toward the witch. The evil woman lies upon the floor, silent and still. His racing heart settles, but his brows furrow. What the hell was that?
Kurt removes his arms from under Tank and gives him a quick pat. He whispers in his dog’s ear. “I’ll be right back, boy.”
He stands then inches his way toward the witch.
Bang. Scratch. Bang.
Kurt clenches his hands and walks toward the hag. He steps over her body and heads down the hallway toward the bedrooms.
“Help me.” A muffled voice of a female sends shivers down his spine. His heart skips a beat. Oh my God. There’s a captive in the house!
Kurt walks toward a door, turns the knob and edges it open. He squints into the darkness. When his vision clears, his mouth drops wide open, and his stomach plummets.
Confined to a corner of the room lies his wife, Harlie. A black cloth around her head conceals her emptied eye sockets. Kurt wipes at his eyes and tries to clear his vision. It can’t be!
“Kurt,” the woman calls out. “Is that you? Help me!”
“It-It can’t be you.” He mutters.
“It’s me, Kurt. That evil woman is a witch. She conjured up a clone and left it in our bed to make you think it was me.”
“A clone?” Kurt repeats.
“Yes, what you buried was a clone. Kurt, listen to me–she steals souls. It must occur before the start of spring, which is tomorrow. It’s almost midnight, so you need to get me out of this house–or I’ll die. Hurry!”
Kurt rushes to untie Harlie. “Ok, ok! Calm down. We’re safe–I shot her.”
“No, we’re not safe. The witch is healing herself right now–her powers regenerate.”
“Shit!” Kurt rushes to free Harlie.
“I can’t see, and I’m weak,” she begins. “You’ll need to carry me.”
Kurt hurries with Harlie in his arms. He runs down the hallway and steps over the bloodied witch. In the living room, he heads for the front door and realizes he’ll have to come back for Tank.
“Wait,” Harlie begins. “We need to make sure she can’t return in a decade.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll need to remove my eyes from her sockets. We have to deprive her of my death and what she stole from me.”
Kurt eases his wife onto the floor near the unconscious dog. He grabs the knife and positions himself over the hag’s head. Kurt moves the knife toward her eyes and places the blade below the brow.
The witch bolts upright and knocks Kurt to the floor. She levitates above him and glares through the stolen ocean-blue eyes. Her bony finger turns rigid and points in his direction. She sends his body into paralysis, and the knife drops from his hands.
“Kurt!” Harlie screams. Warmth grazes her arm and startles her.
“Tank. Oh my God, Tank!” She leans over and cradles him, and he licks her face.
An eerie smirk grows on the witches face. She cackles then chants.
I am the Winter Witch,
though some cry Evil Bitch.
You’re in my way,
now you will pay.
I steal your breath,
which means your death.
Kurt watches as the crone tilts her head upward and spreads her arms wide. Her jaw pops open, and she exhales. A cloudy substance makes its way out from her throat and swirls above her face.
Harlie recognizes the sound of the growing vortex. The temperature in the room plummets. I need the gun! I can buy us some time if I injure her. Harlie gets to her knees and crawls toward her husband in search of the weapon.
The hag hovers above Kurt and positions her frigid vortex over his face.
Kurt struggles to fight the wintry whirlwind as it invades his face. He holds his breath, hoping to deprive the witch of her attempts. His efforts only cause her to boost her siphon power. Dizziness sets in; he weakens and fades.
Tank brushes Harlie’s skin as he leaps into the air.
“No, Tank,” Harlie begins. “She’ll kill you!”
With his sights set on the evil hag, Tank bolts over the coffee table and knocks off the glowing orb. It shatters in pieces onto the floor. The frigid whirlwind ceases and frees Kurt from the vortex and the paralysis.
He gasps and inhales a deep breath. Tank sinks his teeth into the wicked woman, giving his owner a chance to grab the gun from his pocket. Kurt shoots the vile crone in the gut which knocks her to the ground.
Green smoke crawls from the center of the broken orb and moves toward the witch. It seeps into her mouth and down her throat. She gags and her body convulses.
“Kurt!” Harlie yells. “It’s almost midnight–I can hear the orb absorbing her. You have to remove the eyes before it’s too late!”
Kurt grabs the knife from the floor, cuts into both sockets, and pulls out each eye. He reaches for the handkerchief in his pocket and wraps them inside.
He walks toward Harlie and hands her the eyes. “Hold them–and let’s get outta here!”
“Hurry! Get me off this property before midnight!”
Kurt looks at the clock and realizes half a minute remains. He slides his arms under Harlie and lifts her.
“Come on, boy!” He calls to Tank.
Kurt heads out the front door and sprints down the driveway. As they reach the edge of the property, an invisible force strikes them from behind. They’re blown a few feet into the air. Kurt collapses onto the ground with Harlie in his arms and Tank at his side.
“Are you ok?” Kurt inspects Harley and Tank for injuries.
“I’m fine,” Harlie answers. Her hands search the cloth, and she gasps. “Oh no!”
“The cloth…it’s empty!” She holds the cloth out for Kurt to inspect.
Kurt searches the material but finds no eyeballs. “Where did they go?”
“What a minute…what if–” Harlie reaches up and slips off the black cloth from her head. Her eyes see snow and the black-colored pond. She looks at the house lights and the winter-bared trees…and–her husband.
“Oh my God–I can see! I got my eyes back! Kurt, we broke the curse!” Harlie hollers. She laughs then hugs herself.
Kurt’s face goes white, and his jaw drops open. He stares at Harlie in silence.
“What?” Harlie throws her hands up to her face to search for scarring or something obvious but finds nothing. “What’s wrong Kurt?”
“Your-your eyes. They’re not ocean-blue. They’re onyx black.”