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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Dark · #2270836
Screams! Prompt: A witch's curse is no laughing matter.
“That color will cost you extra, dearie,” said the shopkeeper. The pale skin around her eyes crinkled like ancient tissue paper. Her lips drew upward into a wicked grin.

I frowned, forking over my credit card a second time. The crone’s gnarled fingers snatched the card from my hand with unnatural quickness, shoving it into the reader a second time. As she turned and hobbled into the room behind the counter, I leaned toward Anna, cupping a hand to my mouth to ensure that the old woman couldn’t hear me.

“Greedy old bag, isn’t she?” I breathed to my girlfriend.

Pursing her lips, Anna nodded silent agreement. As she did, I heard a grunt from the back room.

Furrowing my brows, I called out. “Everything alright back there?”

As if in answer, a tiny little shriek issued from behind the dark velvet curtains before being silenced.

“Fine, dearie!” came the crone’s voice a moment later. “Just an ornery newt.”

With a bemused smile, Anna raised an eyebrow. “Newt, eh?”

I snorted. “Certainly fits. She’s acting like someone who would have a stockpile of newts in the back,” I joked quietly. “Starts with ‘w’. Ends with ‘bitch’.”

Suddenly, the curtains flew apart. The old woman staggered back to the counter, the amusement in her eyes gone. Her jaw was clenched, fingers curled tightly at her sides.

I cringed, realizing that she must have heard my comments.

Forcefully, she shoved a cage into my chest, the bird inside squawking her displeasure. At least it was the color we’d requested. But that wasn’t the only thing she gave me. Before I could protest, she slipped a cup of what looked like tea into my hand.

“Um,” I hesitated, casting Anna a sidelong glance. She glared at the cup suspiciously. “What’s this?”

“A gift,” she said, the chuckle that accompanied her words sounding more like the shudder of a rusted gate than human vocal chords.

I held the cup to my lips. It smelled absolutely awful. Wrinkling my nose, I attempted to hand it back. “Thanks, but I’ll pa⁠—”

“Among my people, it’s offensive to refuse a gift.” She began to chuckle once more.

Well, shit. I retracted my hand and steeled myself for its nasty taste, when Anna knocked it from my fingers.

With a flourish, Anna drew a wand from the inner pocket of her jacket, screaming something in a language I didn’t understand. Green light erupted from its tip, flashing over the old shopkeeper’s widening eyes.

Oddly, the old woman’s chuckle not only continued, but intensified. To the point where she began to gasp for air.

Anna took my arm, guiding me from the shop. I turned to see the old woman collapse to the floor, fingers desperately clawing the floorboards. Was the laughter causing her pain?

As the door clicked shut, I gaped at Anna. She merely shrugged, flashing me a sly smile as she put away her wand. “Like you said. Starts with a ‘w’. Ends with a ‘bitch’.”

500 words
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