"I can't believe your mom kept you. You should've been thrown into a dumpster!"

"Does your grandma dress you?"

"Get back here, you ugly animal!"

I ran from their taunts. I don't remember stopping. I must have at some time or
else I would have missed that small cabin tucked away from the world. Something lured
me towards it. As I came closer, panting for breath, a small woman stepped out. She
smiled at me and invited me in. Looking behind me, I could almost see people running
around, shouting at me. I quickly accepted the invitation as I was rarely asked to visit
anyone.

While she poured me tea, she talked, "Now, dearie, why are you running from
them? They didn't seem very scary to me."
I looked down, into my lap. "They don't like me. So, sometimes they follow me
and shout things at my back. Things I really don't want to think about."

"Like what?"

I gulped. "My...looks, and clothes, and the way I talk and laugh and...everything
about me. They don't like that I'm different." The woman laughed and I blushed. I knew I
wasn't beautiful by anyone's standards, my clothes were helplessly out of style, and that I
talked and laughed strangely. But I didn't expect a total stranger to agree with them.

As if she read my mind she said, "I think that's nonsense. They don't know what
they're talking about. I don't think that those kind of things are important. Who are they to
say so?" I didn't answer and she went on, "I bet you'd like to be a totally different person,
eh? Just like one of them?" I didn't disagree, since it seemed she could read my mind
anyway. "How would you like it if I could make you a different person?"

I found my voice somehow. "What do you mean? No one can do that. I've always
been me, always will be me." She laughed again. This made me angry. "Well, it's true!"

"Ah, ah, ah," she scolded me, "Learn your facts, dearie. I can do anything I want.
I'm a witch."

I think I lost my mind. Or at least control of it. Because next thing you know, I had
sold my soul. It's not like I planned it. It's that just as soon as she promised me that I'd
become what she'd said, I said she could take whatever she wanted from me. She got a
strange, hungry look in her eyes and named the one thing I hadn't thought she could take,

"I want your soul."

When those words left her lips, I felt something I can barely describe. I had this
sense of my very inner being separated from my body and sucked into a large vacuum, all
my feelings with it. My body felt like it was stretching and pulling in twenty different
directions. Everything swirled like a whirlpool, dragging me downward, and at the same
time it seemed like time was suspended. Just as I thought I would die from too many
sensations at once, the sucking feeling stopped and I felt empty.

Out of breath, I asked, "What happened?"

The witch smiled, like she was fed after starving forever. "You just lost your soul,
dearie." I wanted to cry, but I didn't feel anything, no emotions at all. All that was left was
me, an empty shell. She saw my blank look and read my mind, "It's not like you did it for
nothing. Look at yourself. Talk. Laugh. I gave you my end of the bargain." She motioned
towards a huge mirror I hadn't seen before.

Dreading what I'd see, I walked to the mirror and gasped at what I saw. I was
gorgeous with long, curly hair and a small nose and full lips. My deep eyes danced as I
stared. I wore a leopard print miniskirt and tight, black halter-top, complete with a leather
purse and boots. I opened my mouth, "I don't believe this." I gasped again. I sounded like
a sophisticated senior, not the geeky freshman I had been. I had what I wanted. I laughed
and realized it was a twinkly giggle that could make any guy melt and any girl jealous.

"Don't think you'll have this without a price." I returned to reality and turned from
the mirror to face the voice. The witch smiled at me oddly.

"Wasn't my soul enough?" I questioned, mostly to just hear my voice.

Again, she laughed. "I can't live off your soul forever. I need you to bring me
more. And more. As many as you can. As soon as you have those people under your
grasp, you bring them to me." I should have been shocked. But I didn't feel anything. I
was ready to do anything to keep what I'd gained. This is how I became the personal slave
of that witch.

~months later~

"Hey, Mariah!" came the voice over the phone of an over-enthusiastic freshman.

"Hi, Anna," I answered in my now usual, casual tone that I couldn't have dreamed
of before, when I was like Anna. I couldn't remember not having it, or my beautiful body
and endless supply of money or clothes.

"Um...I was thinking...Are you doing anything this Halloween? 'Cause I was
wondering if..."

I interrupted her, the opening too easy, "Well, I was thinking we could hang out
too. Maybe even go to that forest."

Anna paused. "You mean...'that' forest?"

"I've never been in it. I think on Halloween would be the perfect time, with people
saying it's haunted and everything." I could almost see shy Anna gulping. She had heard
stories of the teenagers, teenagers that had gone to our school, who'd gone in there and
never returned. Naturally, they didn't. Once a witch has your soul, there's not much you
can do with them except feed them to your crows or make them mindless slaves. I know
because I'd seen it happen so many times I couldn't even count them any more.
Besides my other qualities, I'd become very convincing, something that helped me
drag brainless people down to that cabin to feed the witch and help pay my eternal debt.
Patiently, I waited for Anna to agree, knowing she would, trying to fit in. As if on cue,

Anna said, "I guess I can go. I'll tell my mom so she won't feel worried..."

I interrupted again, "Don't tell anyone. Do they control what you do?" She didn't
answer. "Well, I think it's time you did something you wanted to do, without looking
back. People look up to you when you're daring."

I knew I had her. She breathed faster, like she could see all the people lined up to
meet her. She swore she wouldn't tell anyone. We decided to meet at the old electric fence
that didn't work anymore. I always met people here because no one would see us together
and it was closer to the witch's home.

~Halloween~

I paced in front of the fence. I wasn't used to waiting for people to arrive. But
Anna was late and that worried me. What if she told some one about me? I would've
shuddered, but instead looked around just in time to see a figure running towards me.
Anna.

"Hi!" she panted. I sniffed at her being late. She seemed hurt, but I didn't have time
for that. I needed to get this over with so I could go to one of the parties I was now
invited too. Besides, the witch knew I was coming and she hated having people be late.

I started walking, and Anna followed like a tag-a-long puppy who wouldn't shut
up. "I'm sorry I'm late. I had to take the bus and tell mom I was off to some party, which
she'll believe. I know I should have dressed different, but it's the best I could get out of the
house with. I love your outfit. I've had this sweatshirt forever and..." I glanced at her as
she babbled to see what she was wearing compared to my flared black jeans and tight gray
sweater, which was not exactly exciting. She wore a black skirt and a sweat shirt that said
"Boo!" in silver letters. Anna kept talking, but I blocked it out, trying not to think about
what I was leading her to.

Suddenly, she was quiet. I asked her what was wrong and she started crying. "It's
nothing really. It's just..well, you're the only who even cares about me! Everyone else just
blocks me out, but you still hang out with me. You even invited me to this walk. I
just...thought of how you actually like me. No one else does." I wasn't about to say that
she had plenty of friends, which was a lie. But so was the stuff she said about me. I only
hang out with her to have some one to give to the witch that I wasn't attached to. I
thought I felt sadness and guilt but, naturally, I couldn't have.

We were about five feet from the cabin. Anna looked up from crying and saw it.

"Mariah! Isn't it that haunted house? The one everyone talks about? We shouldn't..." But I
firmly kept in that direction. I couldn't let her get away when we were so close. But I
knew for sure I felt terrible to keep walking. Anna kept up her talking and realized that I
had barely said anything. "What's wrong, Mariah? You haven't said anything. Are you
OK? Come on, let's go home. We could watch movies at my house or..." She stopped
talking. The witch had seen us and was on her porch, smiling. Anna closed her mouth and
gulped.

"Thank you. I was beginning to feel extremely hungry. Of course, before you, I
was always hungry," The witch said to me and licked her lips. Anna stared in horror at her
and turned at me to explain, which I didn't. "Come here, dearie. Come inside for some nice
cider. I'm Mariah's friend. Don't be afraid. You look awfully cold. Come on." Anna
stepped forward and went inside. I followed.

The witch was so cheerful as she filled one cup for cider, for me when she was
finished with her own meal. I shivered at that thought. She turned to Anna, "Happy
Halloween, dearie." She laughed as Anna shrunk back in horror. "Nothing to fear. Soon all
your fears will end. Do you wish to offer me something so you'll feel painless?" Her tone
was so convincing, so slick, Anna nodded, and just like me, said, "Anything."

The witch smiled. "I want your soul." I looked away. I didn't want to see Anna
writhe in pain and feel all those things I felt when I lost my soul. But I still saw a glimpse
of Anna's face, full of emotions. It was a cross between betrayal, pain, and fear.
When the witch was finished, I turned around and saw a girl who used to be Anna
staring into space with blank eyes. "Take her out back and let my crows have her. Then
you can have your cider." I tried to drag Anna out but I couldn't even touch her. Unlike
the others, she had touched me the way she'd told me how much I meant to her. The witch
saw me hesitation and took her out. When she returned, she saw me crying and asked,

"Why are you crying? You have it all, money, looks, friends. Isn't it worth your soul?"

"No," I whispered and, of course, she laughed.