BEWITCHING YOUTH-Submission for Humor Meets Horror Month

This is our first submission for Humor Meets Horror Month. This gem from Diane Arrelle. 
BIO: Diane Arrelle, the pen name of South Jersey writer Dina Leacock, has sold more than 350 short stories and has three published books including Just A Drop In The Cup, a collection of short-short stories and, Seasons On The Dark Side her collection of horror stories. She is the editor of the anthologies Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read, and WhoDunit.
Retired from being director of a municipal senior citizen center, she is now co-owner of Jersey Pines Ink LLC. She resides with her sane husband and her insane cat on the edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens (home of the Jersey Devil).                                                                       


The old blackened caldron sat over open flames in the hearth, the glue-like concoction inside bubbling slowly like the mudpots in Yellowstone. Esmeralda pushed a long strand of her white, tangled hair away from her face, stirred the pot, then stared out the warped window and watched the yellow and brown leaves blow in the wind. She shivered and squinted at her spell book.

“Damn that fourth ingredient was always the hardest to find,” she grumbled. Used to be easy, find a maiden gathering flowers and it would be a sure bet she’d be a virgin. But now-a-days, if they were in the forest, they surely weren’t virgins. If they were in the woods, it was to get laid.

            She looked out at the bitter night, sighed, grabbed her broom and flew out in the late October winds. She soared to the local hospital and snuck inside. Skulking through the almost deserted corridors, Esmeralda hid in the lab. Finally, she heard someone enter and smiled to see her niece, Gloria. 

Esmeralda smiled, showing her yellowed, crooked teeth “Got some?” she stage- whispered 

Gloria shrieked and jumped back, a hand to her mouth.  “Cripes, Aunt Esme, you gotta stop sneaking around. I could lose my job!”

Esmeralda frowned and studied the young woman in front of her. There was a strong resemblance, the auburn curls, the greenish eyes. Even the dimples.  Hard to believe, she’d been that young and pretty once too. She shook off the momentary regret of lost youth and asked, “Did you get the virgin’s blood?”

            Gloria frowned back. She reached into the pocket of her jack-o-lantern print scrubs and pulled out a vial. “You know virgins are tough to find. I think I’m going to have to raise the rate.”

            Esmeralda cackled, “Gloria, greed is unbecoming, as unbecoming as, say…, a frog.”

            Gloria laughed as well, “A frog! Aunt Esme, my mom would burn you at the stake!”

            Esmeralda took the vial, handed Gloria some money and said, “Comments like that make me wonder why I stayed in New England. Give my best to my sister.”

“OK, see you Thanksgiving.”

            Esmeralda stepped in toward Gloria and gave her a big hug. “Not this year, Honey.” Then she hopped onto her broom, noticing the pain in her hip was getting worse and flew out the window, heading back home to complete the potion.

            She was done by seven, just as the first egg hit her window. God, how she hated mischief night!

            The young voices bellowed above the sound of the wind. “WITCH, WITCH, WITCH!”

            She looked at the bag of candy she’d bought for tomorrow night and threw it into the blazing fire. “Screw ‘em,” she mumbled and started ladling the sweet-smelling brew into midnight blue bottles.

When the last bottle was full and stoppered, she looked at her caldron, then the room that had been her home for decades.  She sighed, a sigh so deep it reached the spark of spirit that had kept her here long after the coven had vanished.

            A tear trickled down her wrinkled face. “It’s time,” she said and wiped her face with her sleeve. Snapping her fingers, a piece of parchment appeared on the wooden table.

She dictated.  “I, Esmeralda, last of the Salem Coven, am weary. I do not wish to continue on like this anymore. Tonight, I will complete all outstanding tasks, cast last spells and then take my leave of this life.” 

She watched the words she’d spoken appear in blood-red letters on the blank sheet. When it had finished, she rolled it up, put it in the caldron, then spoke an incantation.

The caldron vanished. 

She looked around one last time, started to put a protection spell on the old cottage, then thought better of it. “I’m just being silly, if I don’t do this right this time, I’ll lose my convictions. Again.”

She gathered blue bottles into her large black bag and left.  As she walked away, broom in hand, a flame shot up from the roof. Within seconds, the place she’d called home was an inferno.

            More tears followed. “I love Massachusetts in the autumn,” she mourned. “I will miss the seasons so much.”

            Esmerelda glanced back at the flames, then got on her broom for the last time. She grimaced at the pains in her legs, her back, and her arms. “Yes, too hard to go on.”

She flew to the coffee shop at the edge of town and waited as woman after woman, came in for a blue bottle.  Once, the bottles had held such wondrous magical potions. She remembered the love potions, the elixirs of revenge, the fertility spells. But now, the women with dyed hair, plastic faces, and bodies either tight as drums or soft as dough, they all came to her for Bewitching Youth. 

And she obliged as always. A sizable deposit to her bank account and the illusion of youth was theirs for a few months.


Then Esmeralda went into the bathroom. She reached into the bag, took out a silver belt and a black cardigan sweater. She balled up her cape and tossed it into the trash.

When she left the restroom, her black dress had been transformed into a stylish shift and sweater set. She touched her hair and it went from a white, rat’s nest to a stylish silver- gray, curly cut and her teeth had magically turned white and straight.

Esmeralda walked outside the shop to wait for her cab. Leaving her broom behind, she was catching the red-eye to Miami to finally join the other retired members of the coven at their condos.





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