Whitley wasn’t a witch. But she had been called one most of her life.
It started in the first grade with that little snot, Nicky Dickens, calling her “Witchey” because of her black hair.
She had a little birthmark on her chin which grew at almost the same rate she did. Most of the kids in middle school called it her “wart,” and squealed anytime it got close to them.
While she was in high school, a lack of pigmentation in her right eye became more pronounced. So much so, that none of the other girls wanted to be friends with her, in case she “put a hex” on them.
In the first year of college, guys she liked made fun of how pale she was. Until then, she thought she just looked like all New Yorkers.
During her four college years, she found that a little foundation could warm her face up and all but remove the birthmark on her chin. She got a contact lens to add color back into her right eye and slowly gained more confidence. She made friends and met guys.
By the time she was out of college and into her first job, she had almost forgotten all the mean things that the kids, teenagers and even adults had called her, earlier in her life.
She met a man who said he loved her and wanted to marry her.
Not long after they tied the knot, she started to let her guard down. She let him see her more and more often without her foundation on and without her contact lens in. He would joke, from time to time, that she was looking a little “witchy.”
After a while it became the norm and he started to despise her for it.
As a “punishment” for “deceiving him,” he confiscated her contact lens and forbade her from using any make up. He made her walk around like that. So that everyone could see what she really was. A “witch,” he would say.
All of her childhood insecurity came rushing back, all at once, and poisoned her spirit. All because of the one man who had promised to love her.
He recently started hitting her.
She recently decided she was going to fix that.
She spent the day shopping for vegetables, garlic, salt, butter, low sodium broth, milk, lead nitrate, potassium iodide, oxalic acid, flooring nails and plastic slippers.
Her subway ride home in the evening usually went one of two ways. Most of the year, when gross dudes would hit on her, she’d keep her right eye turned away until they felt bold enough to approach her. Then she’d slowly rotate her head in their direction, open her right eye wider than her left and stare straight into their souls.
They’d think twice about it, fast.
They’d call her “witch” or “freak’ or even “psycho” but it didn’t bother her. She liked that she could look out for herself. She found it funny.
But in October, when spooky season was in the air, like it was today, the sight of her black hair and pale skin kept everyone away. She could ride the subway in peace. And spend the journey thinking about revenge.
They lived in a small, first floor, one bed apartment in Bay Ridge. Her husband made it very clear that he had bought the place and he paid the mortgage, so he, alone, owned it. She was just living with him.
She hated that apartment. It was nothing but cheap furniture and rotting floors. Some of which were so far gone, they had exquisite views of the basement.
Her husband used the holes in the rotten floor like a bottomless trash can, throwing food down there he said he didn’t want. Food she had cooked for him. He’d gag and say it was so bad it was only good enough for the rats.
She chopped the vegetables and aromatics and combined them in a pot with the butter and broth for soup. She laid the table while it was simmering.
She removed the cushions from her husband’s battered La-Z-Boy and poked the entire pack of three hundred and twenty flooring nails through the underside of the cushions, then placed the cushions back on the chair.
He kept his La-Z-Boy so close to the little, round dining table that he could just roll off his dining chair onto it, after he had guzzled down his meal. Then he’d swing it around to face the TV and stay in that position for the rest of the night.
She poured the oxalic acid in a circle around the huge chair, dousing the most rotten part of the wood floor and the less rotted parts too.
She headed back to the kitchen and filled a bowl and a half with the warm, finished soup and then brought them to the table. She topped up the half bowl with the odorless lead nitrate.
She went to the fridge and poured a glass and a half of milk and brought them to the table as well. She placed the half glass on a mat next to the half bowl of soup and topped it up with the odorless potassium iodide.
She changed into her new plastic slippers and sat on her side of the table, without eating, until her husband came home.
He walked in, slammed the door, kicked off his shoes, farted and, without saying a word, sat down and started slurping on the soup with a spoon.
She sat at the opposite end of his cheap, round, wooden table, bowed her head and started to chant, quietly. She chanted all the names of all the people who had ever wronged her.
He lapped at the soup at the other end of the table like a disgruntled toad.
“Dis soup tastes like piss, ya know,” he grunted.
She kept her head down and carried on chanting.
“You’re lucky I’m hungry or I’d pour it down da hole for da fuggin’ rats.”
She kept chanting. A little bit louder.
“Not dat dey’d fuggin’ eat it. S’not even good enough for da fuggin’ rats.”
She looked up at him with her head down and chanted louder. She knew he would drink the milk soon, while he was still sloshing the soup around in his mouth. He was gross like that.
“Wha’ da fugg are you sayin’ over dere?” he demanded and put his hand on the milk glass.
She raised her head a little.
“Why don’t you shud da fugg up?” he commanded.
He slurped another mouthful of soup and took a big slug of milk.
She lifted her head all the way and stood up fast, kicking her chair back. It landed with a bang. She stared him right in the eye, chanting faster, louder.
“Da fugg…?” he started saying.
She saw it before he did. A bright yellow, foamy, solid substance was forming in his mouth, as the lead nitrate in the soup hit the potassium iodide in the milk.
It filled his mouth completely and then spilled out all over his chin and his chest, and onto his lap. It worked its way back into his throat and choked him. She raised her voice even louder and brought her hands up from her waist. Her horrible husband’s horrified face started going pink. He thrashed at his mouth and grabbed at his throat and clumsily stood up too, kicking his chair backwards.
He tried to say something to her. To shout at her. But his throat was filled with the thick, yellow foam. He choked and coughed and threw the table out of the way, moving towards her with anger.
She chanted louder and rubbed her plastic slippers on the cheap vinyl rug, back and forth, faster and faster. He got closer to her. He almost got his hands on her but she jabbed her fingers into his chest.
The static shock from the carpet cracked on his chest like a whip and the spark was so bright that it lit up the tight space between them, just for a moment. The flash and the sound and the sudden force knocked him back onto his beaten up La-Z-Boy.
As his vast body sank into the plush cushions, the flooring nails she had buried in there earlier pierced his skin. She stepped towards him and raised her chant to an ear splitting level. She brought up her arms as the nails worked their way deeper and deeper into his body. He screamed and writhed and flopped around on the chair like a massive overweight fish, fighting to breathe on land. She lifted her hands above her head and looked up towards the tattered ceiling.
The three hundred and twenty perfectly-placed flooring nails pierced his thighs and buttocks, they drove into his wide love handles and his spotted back. He felt like he was dying.
He jerked and slapped his body against the chair to try and relieve the pain, so much so that the chair broke through the rapidly rotting wood that Whitley had accelerated earlier by dousing with oxalic acid. His chair sailed silently down through the air between their apartment and the basement, and landed with a horrific thud on the concrete floor, ten feet below.
He wailed a dying man’s dying wail as the La-Z-Boy’s frame disintegrated under his massive weight and the flooring nails forced themselves deeper into his various body parts.
She stood over the gaping hole in the rotten floor and stared directly into his eyes, focussing her chant on just his name for a fitting finale.
At the exact moment she was thinking he had finally had enough, the rats he’d fed her food to, so many nights before, scurried up and surrounded him. They scratched at his clothes and gnawed at his skin.
He screamed and screamed, and looked up at her for relief, begging for a quicker death. She opened her arms wide and wiggled her fingers playfully, as though the rats were doing her bidding. She aimed her chant directly at his round face and watched his eyes roll back as he passed out from the pain.
Then she turned on all the lights and dialed nine one one.
It took fifteen people and a car winch to get her husband and his La-Z-Boy out of the basement, back into the apartment.
After she called nine one one, Whitley had put her hair up, so the bruises on her neck and back were more visible. She had taken her confiscated contact lens back from the top draw of his bedside cabinet and put it in so she could talk to the police without feeling self-conscious.
“Did that son of a bitch do all that?” Asked one of the officers, gesturing at her neck and back with the opposite end of his pencil.
“You know, you can press charges. If you want.” He probed.
“I want to.”
“Ok. Come down to the station sometime tomorrow and give a statement. Ask for me.” He tapped at his name on his badge. “We’ll hold him at Victory Memorial, at least until you do. And I doubt he’ll be going anywhere after that.”
Her husband was slowly coming around, whispering incoherently.
“This, er, floor here is, er, not up to code by the way.” The officer continued. “You own this place?”
“He does.” Whitley motioned at her husband.
“So you’re his, what? Tenant?” He quizzed.
Whitley shrugged, “Sure.”
“Well, in that case he’s liable. And considering he’s going to be, er, inside for a while,” he gestured to her neck with his pencil again, “the bank will probably just repossess the place and pay you off with whatever it gets at auction. Or you could, you know, go for the big claim but, er, this chump don’t look like he’s good for it.”
Her husband lifted his head, with everything he could muster, and whispered “Witch.”
“Thank you,” said Whitley to the officer, “I’ll think about that.”
“Witch,” whispered her husband again.
“You do that,” said the officer. “And don’t worry, the state’ll be on your side,” he reassured her.
“She’s a witch,” groaned her husband. The paramedics rolled him out of his crumbled La-Z-Boy and onto a stretcher, the cushions still attached to him. He screamed in pain.
“She’s a witch!” he said again, louder, through the scream, to anyone who would listen.
“Get this guy outta here, huh?” the officer barked at the paramedics. They lifted his stretcher but misjudged his massive weight and dropped him again on the floor.
Whitley smiled and turned away.
“She’s a WITCH!” Screamed her husband as the paramedics rolled him back onto the stretcher.
“Sure, sure. And I’m Sergeant Dumbledore. Get this joker outta here.”
Three more paramedics joined and helped lift the heaving, bleeding mass. They half dragged, half carried him out through the living room. Bumping him on the cheap furniture as they went.
“Accidents happen,” said Sergeant Dumbledore, as he casually saluted Whitley and corralled his squad to leave her in peace.
Whitley dragged all of her husband’s cheap furniture to the gaping hole in the rotten floor and let it fall to the basement, until the apartment was completely empty.
Then she walked to the door, turned off the lights, and left forever.