Wallflower

1843 words | 9 minutes

They said she was a witch. She would command many arcane forces for her own wicked purposes, or so the stories always said. Despite this common theme, you could never seem to find any kind of definitive record of her using any kind of magic. No concoctions, no midnight bursts of energy, not even any dolls! How was this woman supposed to be a witch if she didn’t even have a single doll? The stories made no sense but the locals always insisted on its veracity. Naturally, you had to investigate further.

One of the first facts uncovered in your hunt is that before her supposed turn to witchcraft, her local reknown was for reclusiveness to intimacy. She would often be seen loitering in public spaces, taverns, some shops, and of course alleyways. Of course it would be alleyways, you thought to yourself, it would be stranger if that detail never came up. However, another common refrain you’d picked up was of the activities that she would engage in while loitering. Well, not activities, just one activity: watching. She would alternatively look at crowds that gathered, busy bees as they ran their errands, guards on patrol, thieves fleeing with ill–gotten gains... If anything intriguing happened, there was supposedly always a witness to corroborate that she was present to witness interesting events herself.

Upon learning of that last detail, you began to surmise perhaps that her opportunistic presence was what started rumours of her witchery, and further research would lead you further up the path to her nature. The next thing you learned of this woman is that she wasn’t just a brick wall. Many who reported speaking to her while she loitered confirmed that she was surprisingly easy to talk to, but would never initiate a conversation of her own volition. It wasn’t uncommon for passersby to strike up all sorts of conversation with the woman, covering a wide range of subjects no less. Despite the conversational comfort however it was consistently noted that she rarely contributed to conversations, only ever enough to get a response from whoever initiated.

What finally convinced you of this woman’s magical prowess was the persistent insistence from anyone who ever looked at her that she had an eerie and uncanny ability to avert her gaze and avoid any and all forms of eye contact. It was clear to you that this must have been what led to the rumours of her witchery, because whenever you’d reached this point in your line of questioning, your sources would consistently disagree on the colour of her eyes. Brown? Hazel? Green? Blue? Grey? You’re pretty sure you heard some sources claim her eyes were a colour you didn’t think possible for a human, and you learned quickly to avoid the subject when questioning multiple sources at the same time, as they would always begin to argue in favour of whatever colour they remembered seeing, even those who say they had never gotten a good look before her disappearance. Once you’d reached that point in your inquiry, those you’d questioned would prove to have been exhausted of new information. The time to look elsewhere was fast approaching.

Like all the others who knew the stories, you were warned not to visit her old abode. The prospect of entering only to be ended by a spell or a curse was enough of a deterrent for everyone. Naturally, this didn’t stop you. You break the lock, make your way inside, and notice that the interior is unexpectedly pristine. The floors are devoid of dirt. The rooms aren’t cluttered. The kitchen in particular is so clean that there isn’t even any food to be found. On chairs, tables, and even bookshelves, there is very little dust. Books are neatly placed, perfectly organized, as if this was once the home of one of the world’s loneliest librarians.

As you take in the near immaculate condition of the home, your curiosity is once again piqued. Why has this house remained untouched even years after its owner’s disappearance? While the townsfolk seemed generally off put by the way she once comported — going as far as to bestow unto her the name “The Wallflower Witch” — was it really possible that no one else had the curiosity to learn more about her than the tales that have been endlessly regurgitated for so long? Was there something about this abandoned house that put off even the most desperate petty burglar from daring to cross its threshold? Was there something here that they saw, something you didn’t or couldn’t see? Was it here? Whatever the case may have been, you now find yourself where no other has been.

As you make your way through this empty cabin, you learn things both trivial and intriguing. You stumble upon texts on various magical subjects. Astrology, alchemy, divination, telepathy... rifling through what must have been her old tomes, you could feel the rumours and hearsay of her “wicked” practice crystallize into reality in your mind. The larger picture is becoming clearer, but the drive to uncover the truth won’t stop.

You stumble next into what obviously was once her bedroom. Wardrobes, dressers, and closets were all completely stocked with clothing, much of which you find visually appealing. Observing the collection, you feel a slight urge to play dress–up, but the feeling passes quickly as your curiosity takes hold once more. You turn toward the bed and find, as you’ve begun to expect, that it is neatly made. It looks very comfy, a hypothesis which you confirm by climbing in and resting for what you think is just a few minutes. Tempting as a nap may be, there is still much to do so you exit the bed to pursue your search.

Lacking concrete answers from the bedroom, you move on to the next room you can find. The first detail you notice in this room is a writing table at the window. Seeing the town in the distance out the window, you wonder if this, too, might’ve been a vantage point from which she had observed and learned about the world. You turn around and notice a row of cabinets on the adjacent wall. You must have passed these by as you entered the room, but were preoccupied by the desk and the vista. Peering into the cabinets, you see they are filled with stacks of papers, each inscribed with all kinds of shapes. Unfamiliar with the theory of magic, you cannot even begin to comprehend the precise meaning of the circles, squares, and triangles on each sheet. Your best guess is that these were summoning circles, but you don’t know what for, or why.

Frustrated, you move onto... nothing. Wait, is there really nothing else here? No maps to show where she might’ve gone? No letters of correspondence which might reveal what she was researching? No scratches, dents, or blood which would indicate an arrest? You know there aren’t any such records, but the cleanliness you saw confirmed that there wasn’t any kind of cover up; it just didn’t happen.

This can’t be it. You’ve come too far to leave without answers. You’re going to learn the truth one way or another, so you begin poring over everything left here. Her books, her notes, her weird summoning circle things, you need to absorb all of it. Effortlessly, you turn pages. Fervently, you move from book to book. Desperately, you probe deeper and deeper into the mystery of the few clues she left.

You come to your senses after your third or maybe seventh search through her collection. No matter how much effort and time you put into it, you are unable to solve it. You simply cannot find the answers you need. The truth is nearly out of view, and you can only barely make out its shape.

Having decided to give up, you do the only thing that feels sensible: carefully and meticulously tidying up the house. With how clean this place was when you first found it, don’t you think it would be a shame to leave it disrupted? With the same pace you turned it upside down, you set the house in order. The last of it tidied, there is no choice left but to move on.

As you exit the house, it dawns on you. The cleanliness of it, how you cluttered it, and how you rectified it. Did the house make you clean up? Is it cursed? Was this some kind of parting gesture? You don’t want to consider it. You’ve wasted so much time and you just want to put this failure behind you and why is it still so bright outside? You must’ve spent hours or days in there. Why aren’t you hungry? Tired? You refuse to think about what this means. This journey failed you and you failed it. You just need to engage the lock and all will be as you found it but try as you might it won’t close. The witch’s cabin refuses to close itself off to you. It is steadfastly welcoming you and you don’t know what it means and with nothing else you turn away and run as fast as possible to get as far as possible from the house that refuses to yield itself in the way you need most, but still you can’t stop wanting it but you just don’t understand because it just refuses to make sense, the enigma refuses to make itself legible, you don’t know how her story ends, and you just wanted to know, wanted to see, all you wanted feels so out of —

All you wanted was to see how my story ended, isn’t that right? Don’t be alarmed, dear. Curiosity is a powerful force. You can hear me, can’t you? No, no, no, you won’t find me there. You can look around all you want, but you won’t find me in these woods, or in that town, not even that old cottage. Your efforts to see me will remain fruitless, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get your answers.

There. You already look so much more at ease. Oh yes, every detail is clear to me, but you expected as much, didn’t you? Let yourself be calm now. If you’d asked me a few years ago, my answer would’ve been that you weren’t my type. Seeing you in my old house was such a fascinating experience. Even without understanding my project, you revered every corner of it. So devoted, even without having ever met me? There could be no sense in letting you slip away.

Come dear, it’s time to head home. A creature like you will be so useful to have as mine, and you certainly don’t have a problem with that, do you? Good. First thing’s first. Seeing how much it tempted you, and given that it’s no longer useful to me, you’ll definitely put my old wardrobe to good use. You’ll look incredible, and no one else could ever appreciate the view as much as me.