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The Witch and Her Friend

The witch was lonely, so she decided to make a friend. It was a special talent of hers, though her parents and neighbors didn’t quite know what to make of it.

When she was five, she made a friend for her elderly neighbor. The old woman loved sitting out in her garden, watching the butterflies and hummingbirds flit about among the colorful blooms. The witch fashioned a butter-hummer for the woman — a thumb-sized, peacock-colored hummingbird with the wings of a majestic Monarch butterfly. The woman was delighted (or so the witch thought), and great kaleidoscopes of butter-hummers still migrated through the old woman’s garden every year.

When the witch was nine, she made a friend for a schoolmate. The girl was new in town, and the witch wanted to make her feel welcome. When she overheard that the girl’s favorite animal was a frog, the witch knew exactly what the perfect companion would be — she created a little frog that laughed when it hopped and turned pumpkin orange when it was happy (or very, very wet).

Her schoolmate, however, ran away screaming when presented with the orange amphibian, and the witch received a stern lecture from the principle on tampering with nature. Of course, the principle hadn’t been able to keep a straight face through the lecture, since the frog had been hopping and laughing the whole time, and the entire exercise was rendered utterly ineffective when the principle adopted the little creature and took it home to live in his koi pond with a fish of similar hue.

When the witch was fourteen, she made a friend for a boy she liked. The boy was a young baseball prodigy, so the girl created a bat that fetched baseballs and turned glow-in-the-dark green whenever it heard the sound of wood smacking against cowhide-coated rubber. The boy thought it was cool — until he switched sports to soccer and the bat proved to be a poor goalkeeper.

When the boy returned the (slightly worse for wear) bat to the witch, she passed it to a retired farmer, a longtime friend of her family. She was one of the few in town who knew the old man had been a minor league ballplayer in his prime, and she suspected he would enjoy his new companion. He did. His little bat shagged balls long into the night, and when the creature unexpectedly began to breed and pass its unusual genes along, the old man razed his wheat field, put up batting cages and charged the townsfolk three bucks a head to play ball with the colony of bats. His business boomed, and the bats were happy.

Meanwhile, the boy proved to be a terrible soccer player, and he was forced to pay for the privilege of playing with his discarded bat.

The witch had made dozens of friends throughout her life, but always for others, as gifts. What kind of friend would she want for herself?

Something cuddly and warm for cool autumn nights. Something with a sense of humor. Something that could accompany her on her adventures into the woods — something with teeth and a keen sense of smell and a great deal of courage. A little bit of brawn, a little bit of brain, a great deal of balance.

Humming to herself, she got to work.

The trickiest part of making a friend was gathering the ingredients at just the right time. She started in summer, crafting her future friend’s fur out of teal fleece on the day of the solstice to gather as much warmth as possible. She could have used real fur, but she wasn’t a monster — and she had allergies.

She harvested eyes from a cat in the pitch black of a new moon so her friend would have especially keen sight; the eyes were purple, and the cat was stuffed, but they would do well enough.

She took ears from a bat — a willing donation from a member of the glow-in-the-dark colony, made in exchange for two perfectly formed, silver satellite dishes.

She used artificial monkey paws scrounged from an antique shop for hands, and borrowed a raccoon tail from an old Davy Crockett cap. Her friend didn’t really need a tail, but it was cute.

She used her old K’Nex construction toys for bones (they would be easy to replace if her friend ever broke them) and carefully assembled a skeleton on the fall equinox to give her friend a special sense of balance.

The muscles were tricky. Rubber bands only worked so well, after all. So she added steel springs for strength and silly putty for flexibility.

She struck gold when she found a pile of discarded toys at the town’s Goodwill. She found an electronic voice box among the rubbish, and it was in perfectly good condition — or at least it was, after she added a little magic and a hint of fairy dust gathered under a full moon.

Finally, her friend was ready.

Now she just needed a soul. This was the part that required the most patience, and the most luck. Coaxing a lost soul into her new friend’s body wouldn’t be easy. There weren’t many wandering spirits, after all, who would accept such a special frame.

She waited for All Hallows’ Eve, when the spirits were out and about, roaming the human world in force.

She cast a circle — salt, with just a hint of sugar, a trick she’d learned from her grandmother — and laid out crystals at the compass points, one each for guidance, luck, strength and wisdom.

She murmured a few quiet words, asking the world to send her a ready, willing soul to fill the body of her little friend.

And she waited.

For a long time, nothing happened. But she sat and hung on to her stubborn hope. Magic, especially of this sort, wasn’t easy or quick.

It was just past the witching hour when something finally happened. She heard laughter. A little orange frog hopped into her meadow to keep her company during her vigil. The sound of soft wings told her the butter-hummers were flying nearby, and she could see the glowing bodies of the bat colony as they hung in the trees.

Finally, the fairies crept into the meadow, quiet and almost invisible as they sat among the leaves and grass.

“A soul comes,” an old fairy announced.

The clearing went silent and watchful. The witch held her breath, waiting to see if the soul would accept her little friend’s body.

A few fingers twitched. The big, glowing bat ears turned this way and that, picking up the soft sounds of the frog’s laughter as it hopped closer. The ringed tail wagged, and, finally, the body drew a breath.

It was alive!

The witch smiled as her friend sat up. It looked down at itself, and its big eyes widened in surprise. It looked up at her and wagged its tail again.

“This is … unexpected,” it said, testing its voice. The fairy dust had done its work — the voice was soft and smooth and rich, with just the barest hint of buzzing electronics.

“Oh, dear,” the witch said. “You’re not displeased? You don’t have to stay if you don’t wish it.”

The creature blinked and looked down at its body again — teal fur and mismatched paws and unusual proportions, all carefully calibrated for climbing trees and running through fields, chasing bugs and sniffing down herbs.

“No, this suits me, I think. It’s certainly a … colorful body. It should be an adventure, at least, to see what I can do.”

“Oh, good!” the witch said, grinning. “What do I call you, friend?”

“No one has ever asked me that before,” the creature said. Its brow furrowed above its purple eyes as it thought. “You know, I’ve always liked the name Seymour.”

“Seymour. Yes, I like that,” the witch said. “Welcome, Seymour. I do hope you’ll be my friend.”

“It seems I was made for it,” Seymour said. “What do we do now?”

They spent the rest of All Hallows’ Eve wandering the woods. Seymour chatted with the fairies and laughed with the frog and learned the ways of baseball from the bats.

And for the rest of their very long lives, the witch and Seymour were friends and went everywhere together. They scrambled up trees and scampered through meadows and snuggled up together at night next to a glowing fire. Eventually, the little village got over the shock of a teal, cat-like creature with purple eyes and bat’s ears and perfect enunciation.

The witch, of course, never found her little friend strange at all. And though she made many more friends for others, there was never another quite as special as Seymour.

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