The Last Ride
by Paul Melniczek
She lifted up her head and peered outside through the frosted
window. Wrinkled eyes gazed into the bright sky, and a smile came over the old
womans face when she saw the full moon, shining away in all its harvest glory,
a perfect background setting for All Hallows Eve.
A loud purring reached her ears as a black cat leaped up on
the table next to the rocking chair she was sitting in.
"Yes, my sweets. Isnt that a pretty night we have
in store for us? Old man moon looks down on us with a wink in his eye tonight."
The cat stared at her with deep green eyes, attention fixed
on every word.
"You know what this night means, dont you,
Trickster?" The cat let out a soft meow, listening to his master.
"It is the passing of an age, that is what. Many long
years, happy memories, but there is an ending to every story, good and bad. Ol Madge
here has seen it all, yes I have."
The old woman pushed herself up from the chair, one gnarled
hand stroking the silken fur of Trickster. There was a creaking noise as old bones cracked
within the ancient body, stiff joints groaning in protest at the effort made by her to
"Ah, this craggy old girl aint what she used to
be. Need a dose of the ointment before I go, thatll fix me for a little while."
Madge walked over towards a large oaken trunk that was filled
with an assortment of herbs, spices, animal parts, jarred collections of insects, packaged
powders, and numerous other odds and ends. They were the tools of her trade.
Rummaging through the contents, she found a sachet containing
some brown colored leaves, and when she opened it a sweet odor wafted outwards.
"Hmm, this will do fine." The crone went over to a
wooden cabinet which had vials of liquid scattered about the shelves. She grabbed a tube
with a bubbly fluid inside with a purple tinge to it, and then poured the leaves in.
Wispy curls of vapor rose up, and the old woman drank deeply.
A look of revulsion crossed her face at the bitter taste, but
she shook it off.
"Not the fountain of youth, but it bestows on me a
glimmer of strength, and that is all I need." She smacked her dry lips together, and
smiled with glee.
Madge hobbled over to the great stone fireplace that warmed
the cottage, and a black cauldron was resting above the burning flames. A green liquid
boiled away in a frenzy, fat bubbles oozing from the surface. She stirred the mixture with
a metal ladle.
"Double, bubble, toil and trouble!"
"Double, bubble, toil and trouble!
Cackling with delight, the old woman churned the foul broth
with renewed vigor. The cauldron hissed in answer, and the brew began to fizzle over.
"Ha ha, thats it. A ghastly potion for a ghostly
Madge nodded to herself, and the flames danced before her,
casting lurid shadows on the walls of the cottage.
The image behind the cat grew in size, reaching the
proportions of a great beast which was many times the felines actual body shape.
Trickster growled, his dark mane bristling. The master made a
gesture in the air, and the front door burst open as the black cat sprang into the night,
the transformation beginning to take place. A howl echoed from the woods outside, and
Madge shouted in response, the language old and archaic.
"Rejoice in the wild, my pet. The night calls. Until the
sun comes up, when you must return."
A gust of wind blasted against the cottage, slamming the door
shut with a loud crash. The old womans wizened face had a trace of sadness on it,
and she let out a deep sigh.
"It is almost time, must make haste."
Madge opened the closet and reached inside, tenderly bringing
out a worn garb, black as the night. A tear trickled from the corner of an eye, moistening
the callused cheek beneath.
"So many years, where have they all gone? How will I be
able to face the next one, knowing that my time is done?"
She pulled the raiment tightly about herself, cherishing the
feel of the familiar outfit. The cloak gave her comfort and security.
"Such little time, and too many things to fill it with,
tis a pity."
There was an upper shelf inside the closet, and from this she
brought out a rumpled black hat, pointed at the top in the shape of a narrow cone.
"Hee hee hee," she chuckled. "A pointed cone
for a crooked crone." She set the hat on her head, and brushed back the strands of
silver hair that lay tangled down to her shoulders. She began to feel much younger and
stronger, but it was only wishful thinking. Potions could give her a teasing of both, but
that was it.
Madge crossed to the other side of the room, wooden floor
boards creaking underneath her musty black boots. The heels clicked softly with her
A reading desk sat in the corner, and a dusty tome sprawled
along the top. Strange words and symbols were etched onto the crinkled pages, the
lettering written in blood. She leafed through until she found the proper incantation,
then closed the book with a snap.
"Long ago, I could recite nearly every line of verse in
half that script. But now....." The old woman shook her head, again being overcome
"Mores the pity, old hag, Ive had my turn.
The wheels of time roll on without stopping, and my moment has arrived to step aside. Only
fond memories, no regrets."
The old womans gaze wandered the trappings of the
cottage, her domain for countless years. Yes, fate had treated her well, there was no
"And now, my friend, who has served me so well these
many years. Will you answer the summons yet again, on this night of all nights?
Madge spread her arms wide in appeal, pale yellow eyes closed
in concentration. The wind picked up outside, and tree branches scratched against the
window panes, bent stick arms moving in wooden animation, responding to the surge of dark
power that was building within the cottage.
There was a flash of brilliance radiating from a section of
stone next to the fireplace, and a secret panel was revealed. From the compartment emerged
a long broom, stark in opaque blackness, levitating towards the old woman.
"Ha ha ha, come to me! It is our time again. The sisters
The broom continued floating, and it came within the
crones eager grasp as it throbbed with power, pulsating with diabolical energy.
Madge held the broom up triumphantly, and opened the front
door. A strong breeze was blowing, and fallen leaves covered the mossy earth. Sinister
figures crouched within the surrounding shadows, lurking among the trees.
It was Halloween night, and spirits of the nights had
awakened in unholy celebration.
Madge sat astride the enchanted broom, and up she flew to
meet with her fellow sisters of the coven. This was her last time as the coven leader, and
a new one would be sworn in this Hallows Eve.
She gazed up at the awaiting sky, spotting others of her
wicked brethren. It was Halloween night, and for the last time, into that magical night,
rode the form of the witch, on her last moonlight ride.