Once upon a time there was a witch who was sad because no one really liked her. It wasn’t as if she’d done anything wrong. She didn’t poison wells or curse the crops. She didn’t make women miscarry or give birth to monsters with more than the two usual eyes or with teeth that bite and claws that scratch. She didn’t even make people fall in love with those they did not want to fall in love with. They did the job themselves more than well enough, no need for witchcraft there. She wasn’t even responsible for calves being born with two heads – and that’s more than the local village doctor could claim for himself. No, she did not do any of these things. But still.
It was just because she was a witch, that was enough in itself. Once you heard about someone with a wart on their nose turn someone into a toad, suddenly everyone with a wart on their nose is supposed to be running around turning all sorts of people maliciously into all kinds of animals. And she didn’t even have a single wart on her nose – although sometimes she’d actually like to be able to turn one or two of her neighbours into toads, or frogs, or worms.
So, what does a witch really do? What makes a witch a witch so to say? She couldn’t brew potions, she’d love to have a magic broom – cleaning her house would be a lot more convenient. While her cat admittedly was indeed black, it was too lazy to catch even the slowest of mice. There wasn’t the slightest chance of it bringing bad luck to anyone. Being a witch was just that: being a witch was what being a witch was about. No explanation needed. You either were one or you were not.
Oh, wait. Witches actually did do or rather were a thing. Invariably. They were handy. Did your milk turn sour? Blame it on a witch. Got out of bed with the wrong foot – as if there actually was something like a wrong foot – first? Surely it’s the witch’s fault. It’s rather nice, having someone who always turns into the thing you need them to be. A witch is basically everything and nothing at the same time. You just need to want a witch to be something. You don’t even need to believe in it. You just have to want. Want a witch to be ugly and jealous of the pretty maidens in your village to explain young men falling in love with her? Easily done. Need her to make deals with the devil – lots of them – when she’s just smart and spends most of her time studying? Just say it. It is even rumoured that in one of the neighbouring realms a king once declared a witch to be a duck when need arose for such a course of action. Nothing’s impossible, you name it.
One day, as things usually go, she was invited to a party. Not because anyone really wanted to have her but because it was expected. It was a birthday party of sorts, one of those where you bring tons of presents after the future king or queen pops out of the present queen – or king. There were fairy godmothers, of course, bestowing numerous gifts upon the new-born: the gift of being pretty – or handsome, we don’t want to be biased, do we? Although in this case it actually was ‘pretty’ –, the gift of being clever, courageous, generous, of being pure at heart, several magical items such as seven-league boots, magic swords, crowns, wands and all that other junk that ends up in some forgotten part of the palace because there simply is too much of it. Nice lady that she was, the witch brought a gorgeous birthday cake with layers upon layers of cream and fruit growing in her corner of the forest. Although everyone was loathe to admit, they loved the cake, Fairy Godmother Number Twelve devoured nearly half of the entire thing herself.
And now that every gift and good wish had been heaved upon the princess, everyone was looking at the witch rather expectantly. Surely she had prepared a special surprise, such as a powerful curse that would put them all to sleep? Or how she’d secretly put some potion into the wine to guarantee a slow and painful death to anyone but the princess who’d be spared to be saved by some fancy – but slightly dim-witted – prince when she’d grown up living among dwarves or bears or something like that? No? Really? Was she absolutely sure? She was the witch, right? They peered inquiringly at her name tag, which indeed did say ‘Witche’. When the witch finally was able to assure them that she definitely had not come to the party with an evil plan of any sort, they first grew restless but then turned outright abusive.
They started calling her names, asked her whether she couldn’t at least once do what was expected of her. Whether she couldn’t do her bloody job, for God’s sake. That’s how things are supposed to be, how could she dare to oppose the expectations of the majority? Who did she think she was? Good Fairy Godmother Number Seven, soon followed by all the others, at some point even gave her a good shove, the bitch should know her place after all. And that’s when it happened. She didn’t even want it to happen, stoically bearing the organised bullying. The witch didn’t say one bad word, no curse passed her lips or escaped her trembling fingers. She really tried to hold it back but it just happened because all the others wanted it to happen, they expected it to happen.
First of all, the fairy godmothers one after another started losing their voices so that at least the verbal barrage ceased pretty quickly. Then their arms and legs became immeasurably heavy and unwieldy, their punches and kicks slowly withering away until they stopped altogether. Then, one by one, they started dying. Just like that. One went thanks to a burst artery, another suffered a fatal stroke, a third simply dropped dead without much ado. When the good godmothers had bit the dust, the other guests began leaving the party in a similar manner. Not a single one was spared. No, absolutely no one. After the palace had been depopulated, the calamity spread to the neighbouring villages, the surrounding shires as well as all of the other kingdoms. One after another, until there was not a single human being left in the entire world. Only the witch. Who was all alone now. Who wouldn’t have wanted anything like this to happen to anyone, not even her worst enemies of which she didn’t have exactly few, although she had not earned even one of them. Just because they expected her to. Because they wanted her to. Life wasn’t fair.