Upon awakening, Arthur moaned softly, his head aching. Opening his eyes and gazing around blearily, he stiffened, remembering what had happened; at the moment, he was in a surprisingly well-decorated room, similar to the interior designed homes his mother watched on the TV; it was almost too nice. Arthur knew with a sinking certainty that he was in Ms. Ariara's house, and the thought chilled him; he stood and took dizzy steps around the room. Once his head cleared sufficiently, he anxiously searched for a door.
When he found it, Arthur pulled on the doorknob; it was locked, which did not come as a surprise. He then ran to the window, hastily pushing upward to attempt to open it. Strangely enough, there was a lock on the window that he had easy access to; however, even Arthur unlatched it the sliding window would not budge. He broke out into a cold sweat, not quite knowing what to expect when the scary woman decided to come pay him a visit.

As if fate would have it, the doorknob to the room began to turn, squeaking despite the clean appearance of the knob. Arthur's heart plummeted into his stomach, and he glanced this way and that, desperately looking for something to hide behind.

Ms. Ariara entered the room, seeming for all the world to ignore the frightened boy and examine the room as if checking for any blemishes in the perfect décor. Finally her eyes rested on Arthur, and he gulped, feeling his hair stand on edge. To his surprise, she smiled sweetly, and said, "I am glad to see you are alright, little boy. Tell me, what in the world were you doing in my backyard?"

Shocked at the sudden change of character displayed by the woman, Arthur shakily responded, "I-I was, uh, with m-my f-friend, and we, uh, w- wanted to get some of the f-fruit from your tree."

"Now, now, why didn't you just come and knock on my door and ask? That would have been so much more polite, don't you think?"

Unsure of what to say, Arthur mumbled, "You don't let anyone have any of your fruit."

Her demeanor became just a little less friendly as Ms. Ariara replied, "Yes, that's right. No one is allowed to eat from my tree; do you know that what you did was stealing?" The emphasis she put on her last word made Arthur jump, and he took a few steps back.

"I-I'm s-sorry, ma'am, I w-won't ever."

"It's too late! Your apologies can't help you now!" Ms. Ariara broke in, suddenly dropping her neighborly façade and becoming quite similar to the witches in storybooks that Arthur had read. "Do you know why that tree is so important to me? Hmm? Of course, you couldn't possibly understand the great deal of ancient magic involved, but let me make it simple for you: that tree is my magic! That magic can only be used when ones will is strong, by anyone! All my powers, my very LIFE FORCE comes from the tree, and you stole some of it!" His eyes widened in fear and he backed up even more; she advanced on the terrified boy, eyes burning. "Because that tree is my only source of power, I share EVERYTHING with that tree! In the winter, no matter how warm I keep the house, I still feel the icy wind, the frost searing my flesh! And any damage that befalls the tree." As if remembering something long ago, Ms. Ariara's eyes glazed over, and she inadvertently fingered the J-shaped scar on her face. Arthur took a heavy breath, trying to calm himself, and the sound snapped the woman out of her reverie. She was even scarier up close.

"By now your friend will have run home, probably telling everyone that you got caught. I could just simply wait until your parents came and asked for you, dripping with sorrow and embarrassment at your misbehavior, but I don't feel like it!" She snarled, and Arthur whimpered, cowering under gaze. Laughing cruelly, Ms. Ariara straightened and held her hands like she was going to clap.

"Consequences for your actions must be quick if I want to avoid that hassle; what should I do? Turn you into.a frog?" She slapped her hands together, making a sharp cracking sound that stung Arthur's ears. He cried out when suddenly his head began shrinking, then his arms, his legs, his torso; it hurt terribly, like his bones were being mashed together in order to become smaller. The cackling Ms. Ariara seemed to growing into a giant, but the boy realized that it was because he was getting smaller quite rapidly. His fingers elongated and webbing appeared in between the appendages, and his skin became slimy and green. Suddenly he stopped, and found himself standing on the floor on all fours, his knees bent awkwardly behind his elbows.

Trying to scream, all that came out was a raspy croak, and he blinked in shock.

"Or, since that is too predictable, even for me." Ms. Ariara went on, a spiteful look masking her features, "I could be creative.!" She again clapped her hands, and the sound was like a gunshot. Arthur leaped in fear, trying with all his might just to get away, but to no avail. In midair Arthur felt his arms stretch to an unimaginable length for a frog, and sprout thick feathers. His head swelled and he felt more feathers breaking out all along his body. After his transformation was complete, Arthur squawked as he flew through the air and crashed into a mirror. There, he could see his reflection, though his vision was slightly skewed and sharper than normal: he was an owl. Could he maybe fly away? Why not try?

Scuttling around on his cumbersome talons to face the witch, Arthur launched himself into the air, hoping to get past her and escape the house. Anything to get away from her.

Ms. Ariara slammed the door shut and the unfortunate owl collided with the hard wood and fell stunned to the floor.

"Hmm, I don't think that will do either. So." With an odd twist of her hand, the woman caused Arthur to transform back into a human. It was painful for him, especially the separation of nose and mouth from his hooked beak, and he lay on the ground gasping and crying.

"I believe I finally know what to do with you," remarked Ms. Ariara, pleased with herself and smiling evilly. "You shall remain human, Arthur, but unknown by those you," she spat out. "Oh, yes, it's perfect!" With an authoritative air, she held her hands up and began muttering an incantation of a strange language alien to Arthur's ears. A white substance began to spill out of her fingertips and envelop the shivering boy, and he gasped and squeezed his eyes shut, covering his head.

Once Ms. Ariara concluded her spell, she clapped her hands together again forcefully and the white fog dispersed. Arthur stayed on the floor, waiting for something to happen. It didn't.

" out of my house!" Shouted the frightening woman. Needing no second reason, Arthur scrambled to his feet and bolted out the door. All he wanted was to be out, out! To his surprise he found himself dashing off of the front porch of Ms. Ariara's house; he could have sworn that she came in the door from a hallway.

Probably another magic trick of hers! He thought in terror, his mind consumed with only the thought of running. As soon as he'd entered the town he made a beeline for his home, yelling for his parents. They had to hear him; he was screaming at the top of his lungs! But, there was no answer, so he flung open his front door and ran inside, still calling for them. His dad came out of the kitchen to the front room, looking at him strangely.

"DAD! Oh, Dad, it's you! Youwon'tbelieveit, I was soscaredIthoughtIwasgoingtodie!" Arthur crashed into his dad and hugged him tightly around the waist.

"Whoa there, sonny, who are you?" The man said in surprise. "I think you have the wrong house or somethin'. I'm not your dad!"

"Stop saying that, of course you are!" Cried Arthur, burying his face in the man's jacket.

"Hey, now stop that! Honestly, I think you might be jus' a little mixed up! Here, um, let's just take a little ride to the sheriff's and he'll sort things out, okay?" Arthur's dad pulled the boy off from around his waist and steered him towards the front door.

"NO!" Arthur screamed, digging his heels into the floor. "Why don't you know who I am?! Stoppit stoppit, no!" His attempts to stop the older man failed and he was half-dragged towards an old pickup truck by the side of the house.

Suddenly, Arthur ceased writhing in his dad's grip and sat frozen in the passenger seat of the vehicle.

"There now, just calm yourself down, kid," the man said kindly. "It's just a nice, short little drive and then we'll be able to figure ever'thing out, okay?"

Arthur did not reply, remembering what the witch Ariara had said to him. You shall remain human, Arthur, but unknown by those you. He trembled, not knowing what to do besides stare out the window and watch objects pass in a blur of color.

"I'm sorry to ask you again son, but I really must know the names of your parents-your real parents," repeated Sheriff Hawson. Arthur sat silently on a wooden chair in front of the sheriff's desk; the man he knew to be his father was in the other room, using a public phone to call his wife.

"He's my dad," Arthur replied quietly, turning his head to gaze through the office window at his dad. The sheriff sighed and shook his head.

"Old Henry and Violet don't have a son, or any kids for that matter," contradicted the officer. "I'm not sure where to put you, sonny, since you're so dead-set on callin' him your dad and he ain't."

Before the boy could reply to that, his dad, who did not remember him, came into the office. Tipping his hat to the sheriff, Henry said, "If it's alright with you, sir, I just talked to my wife, and she told me that she'd be willin' to take care of this boy until his real parents can be found. She feels bad just sendin' him to the orphanage to stay the night."

Arthur's heart leapt into his throat, and he just stared at his dad.

Sheriff Hawson sat for a moment, thinking, then cleared his throat and nodded in affirmation.

"Come on, then, get back in the truck; we'll keep ya with us for about a week or so. Your real mom and dad are sure to be back for you then." Arthur's dad walked back with him to the truck and drove them home; along the way he asked Arthur's name.

"You have to remember me, I'm Arthur," the boy said desperately.

"No, I have no recollection of a son. Come to think of it, though, I've always wanted one." Henry shook his head in disappointment and went inside the house. He left the boy alone outside. Dismally, Arthur followed, fresh tears coursing down his cheeks and anger at Ms. Ariara rankling inside himself.

During dinner, Arthur's former mom fussed over him, calling him a "poor soul" for losing his parents. Arthur had given up on trying to persuade either of them that they were his real parents, and half-heartedly picked at the burgers his mom had grilled for the meal.

Henry tried to engage the boy in conversation, but his efforts were fruitless.

"Well, since no one around here seems to know who you are, perhaps you wouldn't mind telling us where you're from," suggested Violet kindly. Arthur merely glanced at her with a heart-rending sadness in his eyes, and she looked away. He wished she hadn't, and stared at her face.

"Yeah, come on, kid; what's yer story?" Inquired his dad.

"Er, you probably wouldn't believe me," said Arthur, looking down at his plate.

"Naw, let's hear it," the man pushed.

"Fine. But you won't believe me." Feeling like there was nothing else he could do, Arthur launched into his story. He told about how he and his friend Robert just wanted to take a little of Ms. Ariara's fruit, and that they sneaked into her backyard. Arthur blushed in embarrassment when he mentioned how he'd fallen and hurt his arm when they'd come over the fence. He described the taste of the peach-like fruits, and how big the tree was. Then he talked about how the woman had chased them, shrieking; he shivered, the memory still vivid in his mind. He described how he'd been knocked out and taken into her haunted house, and that she'd turned him into a frog and then an owl. When he came to the part where she cursed him, though, his former mom and dad glanced at each other with worried looks.

"What? Don't you believe me?" He asked, looking desperately from one to the other. "It's the truth! Really!"

"Truth? You expect us to believe that? It's crazy, I'm tellin' ya!" Henry said unceremoniously. Arthur's cheeks burned in shame and anger while he turned away his face.

"Hush, dear! Now Arthur, sweetie." Violet tried to mediate between the two.

"No! I knew you wouldn't believe me!" Cried Arthur. In his frustration he jumped up, knocking over his chair, and ran out of the room and up the stairs to his room. As he went, he heard his dad say, "Maybe I should have taken the kid to the doctor's rather than the Sheriff's."

Flinging himself onto the guest bed in the room that was supposed to be his, Arthur sobbed into the pillow, breath coming in ragged gasps. All he could think about was Ms. Ariara; he gritted his teeth in fury, and pounded his fist into the bed.

After almost an hour of this, he relaxed and let his face press into the wet pillow; he was exhausted. Still, the witch haunted his thoughts, and Arthur felt helpless.

What can I do, anyway? She's too strong, what with all her magic and stuff. The thought stuck in his mind; her came from the tree, she'd told him so. But she'd said something else, something important; it itched in the back of his brain, and he could not figure it out.

"So, what, chop down the tree?" Arthur muttered sarcastically into the pillow. He remained motionless, allowing his mind to wander and listening to his parents' voices carrying up the stairs. Then, it hit him: Ms. Ariara had said, That magic can only be used when ones will is strong, by anyone! He wondered if, since he had eaten some of the fruit, he could cast a spell or something like that.

Suddenly, there was a soft knock on the door to his room, and Violet quietly entered.

Remember! Arthur thought, concentrating. Remember who I am! He hoped that it would work, that he could undo the curse the witch had put on him; what else could he do?

" , I'm sorry about my husband; he hasn't had a haven't had a child, so he doesn't know how to be patient, or listen very well," she said in an apologetic tone.

It isn't didn't work! Arthur's mind shrieked and he grabbed the pillow and pulled it over his head. He heard her sigh sadly and leave, shutting the door behind her.

Arthur could feel himself shaking with anger, and more tears stung in his eyes. He hated Ms. Ariara, more than she hated him, he knew it! All he could think about was the tree; she cared only about herself and the tree. Well, maybe he'd go and steal some more of her precious fruit, or take a saw and try to cut the tree down. He sighed; there was no way he could hurt a tree that gigantic. But still, he thought of the tree, burning, turning black and crumbling into ashes. Oh, if only that could happen! It was all he wanted. He would do anything to make that happen, he'd will it to happen!

Violet made her way back downstairs and saw Henry looking out the kitchen window.

"What are you looking at, dear?" She questioned.

Looking over his shoulder, he replied, "I think I see a storm comin' in; a good thing too. We haven't had a decent thunderstorm for about a month and a half, I believe! This will sure help our garden; the only problem I foresee is that there's an awful lot of lightnin' in this one."

Outside, a storm raged that was identical to the one in Arthur's dream. He was watching from a somewhat overhead view as the tempest swept over the town. It rained sheets of water, cold like his bitter feelings. Lightning forked through the sky, splashing light onto the pools of water on the ground.

With his hand he waved the black clouds towards the house at the end of the street; the house that belonged to Ms. Ariara. Setting his sights on the tree, he clapped his hands like he'd seen her do, and resulting force threw him backwards. An explosion that nearly deafened the young boy rocked the very air with a shockwave of substantial magnitude. A jagged edge of lightning so big he couldn't believe it possible erupted from the cloud and struck the tree, cleaving the ancient monolith in half and igniting it instantly.

Arthur woke up screaming, hands clasped over his heart.

"Look, he's waking up right now," a male voice said. Arthur stirred, forcing his eyes open. His vision was quite cloudy, but he waited, taking deep breaths, and it slowly cleared up. He saw a man he assumed was a doctor standing over him, and next to the doctor were his parents.

"M-mom? Dad?" He said hopefully.

"Yes, Arthur, it's us; I'm so glad you're okay!" His mom reached down and stroked his forehead. Arthur grabbed her hand and held it to his cheek. She gasped, and then smiled in relief. "We thought you'd had a heart attack or you're too young for such things!"

"Gave me quite a scare, son," said Henry. Arthur looked over at his dad and smiled blissfully.

"I'm so glad you remember me!" He exclaimed.

Puzzled, his mom said, "But of course we remember you; whatever do you mean? You're my only son, my little baby boy."

"That's right," his dad chimed in.

Before anything else could be said, a nurse rushed into the room, a frightened look on her face.

"Doctor, doctor! You'll never believe what's happened!" She cried.

"What's all the fuss? Can't you see I'm with a patient here?" The doctor snapped gruffly.

"You have to know! Ms. Ariara's dead! Last night, during the storm, she must have had a heart attack or something! At least, that's what the paramedics are saying!" The nurse talked so quickly that it seemed the words were racing to get out of her mouth. "And her tree, in her backyard, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground! It's a terrible tragedy!"

Mouths open, Arthur's mom and dad mumbled their sentiments on the woman's death and the doctor shook his head.

"It's too bad; if we'd known she had a heart condition, we may have been able to anticipate such a thing happening. But she was always so , it's nothing we can change now."

Arthur remained silent, harboring a secret feeling of triumph. Lucky for him the storm had come! And that it destroyed her awful tree! However, the more he thought about it, the more he felt responsible; he didn't feel bad for the witch by any stretch of the imagination, but he was not a killer at heart. Also, why had he felt such pain in his chest last night? They seemed to have come at the same time as when the tree was struck by lightning. Then he remembered one more thing that Ms. Ariara had said: In the winter, no matter how warm I keep the house, I still feel the icy wind, the frost searing my flesh! And any damage that befalls the tree.

Maybe, because I ate some of the fruit. Arthur shivered, thinking about it. But, at least, the tree is gone for good now.

Embers sparked and burned stubbornly under the massive girth of the fallen tree. Leaves curled grotesquely, black with smoke and from fire. Here and there lay golden mush, some of it bubbling and hissing from the heat. This tree would never again rise, but faintly seen, scattered across the now dry and dead lawn, rested minute white seed pods.