Wicked Way to Go, A

Keywords:
Inflation Types:
Popping:
Date Written: 
12/17/2015

After much deliberation, the townspeople came to the conclusion that the old shack in the middle of woods must be a place of witchcraft, and they schemed of a way to purge such terrifying acts from their vicinity. Truthfully, none of the superstitious farmers or their gossiping housewives that populated the little hamlet had actually witnessed the use of magic inside or around the lonely little hut surrounded by decaying, blackened land, but travelers along the path leading to the next town over could peer through the tangle of barren trees and see the dilapidated house, with its crooked chimney and moss-fringed windows sitting in a large, yet shallow depression in the ground, and shudder at the ugliness of it all. This was reason enough that something had to be done about it, before the murky waters spilled into the village roads and the rotten vegetation creeped into their homes in the middle of the night.

But the townspeople were not vicious enough to take up pitchforks and torches and force out whatever type of individual had been holed up inside the shack for several unsettling years. Instead, their ambitious plots passed between them through idle chatter, longing for when someday that demon would burn itself up accidently in a gout of green fire or when the swamp would swallow everything on top of it. This talk only seemed to overexcite the children of the village. They would scurry away in groups and coax each other into throwing stones at the shack from the marsh’s edge - a significant distance that let not even a man’s strength be enough to bounce a pebble off the woodwork - and when they’d run out of ammunition, they’d hurl insults along the lines of whoever was living in such a huge privy was probably so hideous that they could make a toad go belly-up and croak from their very visage. The hut was habitually unresponsive.

One of the village boys would go alone to the outskirts of the mire, not so much to use his adult language but rather look for ways of traversing the swamp. He wanted to be the one that would thwart the magician and become the hero of his hometown, canonized for his victory over the forces of evil. He had mapped out a series of jumps across some stumps and stones to stay out of the thick, entrapping mud, but hadn’t managed to find a safe way to make the final step to where the ground seemed firmer. As if by fate, he arrived at the swamp’s edge one afternoon to realize that a sturdy tree trunk had collapsed near a cluster of rocks, and after some hesitation he seized the chance to make a complete crossing and become the first of his town to arrive at the doorstep of the shack, and possibly be bold enough to enter.

The boy scouted around the sides of the establishment, squinting through the boarded-up windows, scuffling away the moss, but could hardly see inside the blackness of the hut. He heard a terrifying squelch behind him.

“A visitor!”

The boy whirled around to see a smiling woman dressed entirely in black, with a wide-brimmed conical hat adorned with various ferns and berries. She had a stout stature and appeared young and spry, still in the prime of her adulthood. She hefted a basket full of oddly-colored plants to her shoulder and tossed her head of chestnut hair that spilled down her upper back, revealing a tiny mole that sat on her right cheek. She was not quite as disgusting as the boy and his fellows had imagined, nor did she seem as threatening either.

“You are from the village, aren’t you, little one? I don’t believe anyone has paid me a visit before. Come in, come in!”

The woman circled around to the shabby front door and beckoned for the boy to follow. He warily did so, letting her shuffle first into the darkness and put her basket and her hat down on some inscrutable table. She put a hand into her sleeve and tossed something high into the air above her. Suddenly a chandelier burst into luminescence in all of its eight sconces, at first a vivid, otherworldly emerald, but then transitioned to a bright orange glow that spread to all corners of the shack. A few specks of a white powder snowed down from its pointed frame as the woman took her basket and went to a large wooden chest towards the western wall of the interior, her boots clumping softly.

“Tinderflakes,” she announced proudly, looking back at the boy who seemed entranced by the display and had stepped in. Her voice wasn’t reedy or scratchy by any regard. “They react with a special resin that alights without any heat or burning. Only I know where to harvest them, along with the rest of my special ingredients. I run most of my experiments here, you see, unlocking the many secrets of nature.” The boy swept his gaze clockwise around the single, surprisingly spacious, and organized room. There were no sacrifices pegged to the walls, rodents scurrying about, or anything sharp for the boy to wield. A dozen potted plants here and there, a large cauldron, shelves littered with glass bottles and a rainbow of liquids, the owner’s bed and fireplace, an impressive bookcase, a desk and dining table - all of which seemed very ordinary indeed for a witch.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” the witch beamed with a full set of teeth. “There are so many interesting mixtures I have bottled up on these shelves.” She disregarded her basket and pointed to a certain flask in a swarm of others. “See this one, boy? It washes away any stain from one’s clothes. And over here,” she sidled to another. “This one contains what has to be the most delightful smell in all the land! Just one drop on the wrists and… But, oh! Over here!” In an instant the witch had youthfully bounded over to the other side of the hut and pulled out a flask large enough to be confused for holding wine out from a cupboard. She held it out with a flourish. “This, I believe, is my own infallible cure to Barkfever - enough to save a whole village! Alchemy is so wonderful, isn’t it, little one?”

The boy was both stupefied and amazed at such claims. His cousin had just succumbed to the untreatable disease a winter ago, and this strange lady was flaunting a supposed elixir to it. He was starting to betray his suspicions, but where were the poisons? What awful magic was hiding the sight of animal bones and the scent of rotting flesh? What had felt like fear to the boy was slowly becoming intrigue.

The witch was eyeing the lack of terror in his expression. “You must be curious, yes? Shall I show you how I craft them? It’s quite basic. You may even try yourself!” Her face continued to brighten. “Then you can show the people of your village and there will be happiness for all! Come, come! There is a recipe for a miniature cloud in one of these books. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

The boy was taken aback by the offer, unsure of whether his pursuit of betraying the witch was worthwhile or even possible. The boy drew closer to the friendly magician as she searched within the cupboards. “There is a certain enchanted sample that I keep for experiments involving some need for wind, since there is no breeze indoors, you see,” she commented. “Ah, take a look at this, little one…” She held up an ordinary bottle with nothing particularly inside it. The cork that stoppered it was splotched with a red dot, possibly to note its potential volatility. “It may look empty, but there are countless wicked winds shut up inside this container, ones from the most tumultuous storms. Hold it in your hands.”

Carefully accepting the bottle, the boy clasped the sides and immediately noticed the vibrations that coursed up and down it. It felt like there was something heavy rattling around inside, but there was no definite weight to accompany it. The movement ricocheted around every inch of glass like how a long, flat hum tickles the teeth and the lips. The witch was already focusing on the next steps, getting ready to start a fire in the cauldron. “Now we need to make some steam…” she mused to herself.

The boy was left holding the bottle of intense winds, unsure of what to use it for. He was getting interested in how it would escape, and fumbled with his stubby fingernails to ease the cork out. He twisted it into his torso with the opening pointed away and pulled; the stopper came free and shot out towards the far wall, knocking once on the planks before being lost behind the bed. At the same moment, there let out a sharp fwoosh, but the boy felt nothing from the bottle to indicate where the sound could have disappeared to so suddenly. There was a brief silence.

The witch reacted and spun about, an urgent question on her mind, but before speaking, her ribcage seemed to lurch up with some sort of spasm and interrupted her. Her mouth hung open and her green eyes widened and blinked, waiting precariously for another odd sensation. And when it didn’t come, she tried to form the words again, yet pursed her lips and locked her arms around her middle. Staring at each other, the boy studied the witch as she slowly swallowed nothing and stayed still.

“You opened it,” came the soft statement, half in irritation and half in disbelief. Her often warm expression fell into a serious one, and before the boy could admit what happened, she hurried to the bookshelves and put her hands between four volumes in a row. Struggling to lift them all at once, she gathered herself to raise them up, then sighed deftly and dropped them, creating a plume of dust as the books fell about. Her arms pressed into her sides again, and she still seemed intent to not breathe. The boy noticed that the witch’s dress looked rounder than before.

Frustrated, she looked to him. “Little one, you must help me find a cure,” she explained quickly. “Pick these up and-- Ah, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh!” The fresh dust in the atmosphere sent her into a coughing fit. Several times her lungs automatically sucked in air and roughly released it, and with each inhalation, it became more apparent to the boy that the shape of the witch’s dress was bulging around her stomach. As one hand covered her mouth and nose and the other lay on her belly, the sight of her lowered arm creeping outward with every draw of her breath made it easy to conclude something dramatic was happening to her indeed.

The witch let out a cry as she realized the worsening deformity of her abdomen and staggered away to cleaner air, and the boy saw how far she had swollen in such a short time; no feasible amount of unborn could estimate its growth. The ink-black fabric of the witch’s shrinking dress had distended outward like the single beady pupil of a cyclops, the gaze widening and looming nearer. She attempted to encompass her enlarging belly with her arms, fighting to rein it in, as the indent of her navel pushed itself out of her reach. Her stretched skin gave very little to her desperate compresses, and as every effort required just the tiniest whiff of air, she only continued to gradually swell herself up, bleating out a few uncomfortable moans.

“Little one,” the witch hissed out. “The cure: please, you have to find it!”

The boy did not know where to start looking, nor did he have any interest to. This sense of helplessness the witch was revealing may be a sign that she may finally be at a disadvantage. He chose to only stand there wordlessly and observe; this was much more interesting magic.

The witch became angrier at the boy’s inaction until she had to take in more of the necessary, yet dangerous air. The boundaries of her body grew another several inches with the help of her gasp, her belly adopting a slightly ovular shape as it extended from her wide waist.

“Boy,” she snapped. “Are you not listening to me? Why do you stand there like a stupid animal?” The witch’s dress had nearly slipped up past her undergarments, but her stomach had grown enough to shield the sight of them. “I cannot fathom a more untimely moment for you to be so…  Ohhh…” She trailed off as a wide rip in her dress purred out above the sound of her voice, somewhere underneath the horizon of her tremendous bulge. The boy saw the peachy-colored gap linger like a smile beneath her navel, then only grin broader as the witch took a cautious, deep breath, the air being welcomed into the huge cavity. The stretching, crackling and snapping continued around the otherwise seamless curve of her belly, meeting her swollen-out sides and wandering up and down her incredibly gravid form. Her dress split apart like a pair of curtains as her stomach reared forward and swayed lazily to and fro.

The witch clasped her freed stomach with her hands, astonished at its size, firmness, and apparent capacity. Her sight of the boy was quickly disappearing, and each new inhalation seemed to add to her volume at a faster rate. She was a human bellows that could only suck in indefinitely, and to what end, she wasn’t sure. The witch tried to stagger forward but lost her balance, overcorrected and toppled backward with a whimper. She tried to lift herself on her palms, rocking side to side, but her stiff, engorged belly allowed for very little movement, rubbing uncomfortably on the wooden timbers.  She tilted her head up towards her blimping body, her vision hampered with only the remains of black fabric draped across her breasts, and the immense prominence of her stomach beyond them with its true dimensions unclear. Panic began to seep in like a trickle of blood oozing out from a minor, fresh cut. The witch drew in a shuddering breath at the realization of this emotion, and the boy witnessed the quivering mass of her belly stretch outwards and upwards even farther. She was becoming no more than a flesh-colored mound with a head-sized divot growing bigger and bigger with each human pump of oxygen. When it expanded in turn with her breathing, her skin had a loose, almost gentle wobble to it. In between breaths, her belly contracted slightly, looking taut and dangerous until it blew out easily once again.

“L-little one…” the witch stammered. “This is becoming too much! Please, do something!”

The boy was tiptoeing towards the door, a half of him feeling confident and another a bit afraid. The witch could be too far gone to save. Her belly pressed against the floor and continued its rising, bulging, broadening push for more space as she began to lose control of herself. The witch huffed and panted in a frenzy, truly immobilized by her stomach. She briefly swung her legs and slapped her hands against its drum-like surface in a tantrum. She swelled at an exponential rate, each undulation putting several inches more to her size, packing her fuller, making her helpless under the maddening growth.

“Ahhh…! Ahhhh!”

The witch’s skin could be heard slithering as it surged out again and again, trembling and wavering as if it were a dandelion playing in the wind. Still her belly grew ominously, higher from the floor than she could stand, and wider than a pair of barn doors. There was a faint perpetual stretching sound from somewhere inside her, a sense of taxation that a piece of fabric would emit before it would tear, getting deeper in pitch. The witch, squeezing her eyes shut to the sight of her massive body, feared such a limit, but couldn’t yet feel it in discomfort. Rather, the huge quantities of air within almost lazily took up space. There was an unnatural, unpressurized force she contained that felt like it could be pent up forever and ever. It didn’t ease her mind. Creaks began to accompany every pulse of her belly that rumbled forth like a brewing, towering thundercloud, casting waxing shadows on the walls it began to approach.

Something stiff brushed up against her expanded middle, and the witch yelped thinking it might be hazardous, but found it could be pushed along. The table slowly grated its way across the floor, spurred onwards by the mighty swell. The boy positioned himself in the door frame, ready to shut her in if she kept growing. He was debating to run and find a villager with a sewing needle to burst the colossal bubble in the shack, but that would mean exposing his secretive plan. He continued beholding the sight of the impossibly round witch, aware of all of the low groans and grumbles that sounded with every dangerous intake.

“Boy!” came a distant gasp, and then another portentous creak. “If you’re still there… Help meeeee!”

The witch’s belly was truly enormous, an expansive, tight-looking bulb that shielded most of the hut from view. It continued to work towards taking up every free space while signaling aloud it didn’t have the strength to. There was tension in the air, in her skin - a mystery of just what sort of destructive outcome was ready to reveal itself. Her belly button tilted upwards ever so slightly as the floorboards were smothered by her girth, a cacophony of wooden complaints accompanied by the grinding of the table legs, on course to smash up against the walls.

Yet the witch’s stomach grew bigger and bigger, the rest of her body diminutive in size in the back of the room and fruitlessly struggling to slow it down. She folded up her legs and planted her hands across her mouth, eyes widening and wincing with every incredible spurt that forced her even larger, stuffed her perilously with harmless gas. Every breath came with a terrifying and awestriking stretch, give and swell, the feeling of more and more skin pressing up against the furniture convincing her she was getting beyond immense, especially for the shack.

The boy steeled himself as the menacing protuberance bloated ever rounder, edging nearer, eclipsing the light of the chandelier and growing dark and brooding. It was impossible to see over its mass, practically a bulging wall. The narrow crevices between the structure and her stomach were closing. All that was present was the massive, overgrown belly, unable to be slowed towards its destruction, quaking and creaking and quivering perilously to a final harrowing crescendo…!

The witch’s gut halted just several feet away from the boy. The yawning belly button looked spacious enough to swallow him whole. The faintest evidence of a stretch mark here or there had been sketched on her blimped body. There was a brief silence as the hulking belly wavered in place and settled down. Then it began to tremble with the slightest bit of mirth, and an unnerving cackle rose from somewhere seemingly far away.

“Hee hee hee hee heeee…!” A pause, and the belly crept forward with an agonizing groan. “Eeeeeeh hee hee hee hee heeee…! Oh, little one!” came an oddly gleeful cry, and another puff. “Isn’t it amazing how the body can be pushed to its absolute limit and beyond?! For years, magic strived to imitate the gods, to capture their qualities in man…!” The witch grunted as she swelled again. “To rival them in endlessness…” Groan. “…in endurance…” Groan. “…in SIZE! More! MORE!” Groooooan!

The boy slammed the door shut just as the witch’s belly heaved itself out of the frame. He tried to back into the door and felt double the amount of force pressing the opposite way. He bolted from the shack’s exit, still hearing the worsening din and the maniacal laughter of a woman filling up to the roof. He threw himself down behind a knoll near where the grass turned to swamp and watched the planks of the hut shift, bend, and buckle. The boy started to fear that if not even her home could stop her, nothing would.  The insides splintered and shattered while the massive belly creaked and rumbled, just on the brink of breaching the walls.

“Ohhhhh! Alchemy is so wonderful, isn’t it, little one?!” Just as the wild moan rent the air above the squealing of the timbers, the boy remembered the pointed finial on the bottom of the chandelier…

He heard a pop like a cork and then a savage wind blew out the windows and flung the door off its hinges. Green fire belched from the openings, flaring out of every seam in the walls and roof. The boy kept his head down as the gusts rushed over him and the inferno fueled by dozens of spilled potions raged on a distance away. As the wind calmed to a breeze he peered up and saw the hut still flickering, but finally silent. It was too dark to see what remained inside.

The walls seemed to sway for a moment, and then the building sighed and collapsed inward, flattened into a smoldering pile of lumber that could gasp no longer, and let the magic that had at last been expelled from the region linger as whispers in the dead trees.

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