MANDY Ellis was twenty-nine years old when she found herself in complete solitude in Frankfurt, Germany. She was usually a beautiful woman who owned a home in America, but there she was a mopey, soaked mop, with eyes as damp and as swollen as bee stings. It had been a long time since she had parted with her handkerchief and the tip of her nose had turned crusty and crimson. Mandy was due to be married in two weeks to her fiancé. The pair had been together for four years until Mandy’s lover announced that he loved her no more. Mandy became hysterical as she learned that another woman won her title for herself.
Mandy did not believe her fiancé at first, but after days went by with no contact between them, she finally accepted that she had lost whom she believed to be her soulmate. She had spent months alone, shying from showing her face even to her friends and family, until she finally made a brave decision to book the trip. Only four days later she met herself as a lodger at a hotel in Germany. The air felt far more sufficient there and she was met by it when she finally exited the buildings of Römer on the third evening of her trip. It had begun to turn to the evening and the sky had turned to a smoke fog ocean, there was a pleasant aroma of schnitzel and beer, and the river seasoned the pair with sea salt.
Mandy was staying on the other side of the river, around a fifteen-minute walk from Römerberg. She crossed the bridge and looked left at the architecture in the distance. A full moon shone down on the surface of the water as it manifested a mirror. Mandy caught her breath as she half loped, and half hopped down the stairs to the other side. The other side was far more peaceful and hardly any cars drove in the street. Mandy shoved her hands in her jacket pocket as she strolled vigilantly through the chilly dusk.
When she bore to her right her eyes clouded with dizziness, she thought she could see before that and suddenly it had become impossible. She lost all function besides the use of her ears. She heard a bedevilled banshees call, and it caused her feet to scurry. Quickly and in a hurry, Mandy strode through the street though her feet might not have touched it until she found her placement in front of a crow haired woman.
The darkness surrounded her, though her face illuminated the area before her like a night light. The woman was a boned confinement draped with silk skin, her lips were a snow hollow lined with black charcoals and her eyes were the same as ravens. She stood tall and slender, dressed in a raggedy, old black dress and she smiled a peculiar and wise smile towards Mandy.
“Blutgericht! Blutgericht!” The woman cried and Mandy had not a clue what word was spoken, her voice was soft though her throat were croaky, and her irises flashed white at the start of each syllable.
Mandy felt the hairs on the nape of her neck rising, except they were not perked from freight but from being frozen. The woman in front of Mandy had brought a cold Antarctic air with her and the perspiration from Mandy’s walk earlier that evening had stuck to her forehead as beads of ice crystals. Mandy opened her mouth to speak but the woman exposed the palms of her hands to steal Mandy’s moment.
“Give me your hands, for I want to hold them.” The woman continued speaking and her voice were even gentler this time. It made Mandy feel warmer although she was still wary. Mandy shook her head no as her eyes grew as wide and as round as side plates, still fixed on the woman straight ahead of her.
“No.” Mandy spoke, finally finding her voice and she shook her head again. The woman’s smile grew even bigger, Mandy wondered how it managed to stay on her face.
“I need not touch you, nor hear you speak. I already know what brought you here; a great deal of water flooded your home and it turned into a boat and brought you here and that is why you stand before me tonight.” The mysterious woman stated. Mandy had felt her face frown, it sounded right but all laws of human nature and bank security told Mandy not to trust her stories. Mandy parted her lips once more, but the woman placed a finger to her mouth.
“I can help you get your fiancé back Mandy.” The woman continued in a teasing whisper, though each word was deafening, sending a painful tattering hissing through Mandy’s ear drums.
Mandy felt the frost biting her toes as she stood frozen in shock, she looked the woman up and down carefully. The woman showed beauty and her eyes were now like does and displayed a strong sense of faith. Mandy was not sure why, but she trusted her, and she wanted nothing more than her ex-fiancé.
“Yes.” Mandy agreed simply with a stutter. The woman’s smile turned humble and smaller, and she became more human. Her skin was smoother, and her cheeks were radiating petals of an English rose. The woman carefully took Mandy’s hands, and an air surrounded the pair; a relaxing smog made from Epsom salts.
“If you want your lover back, then you must accept my quest. you must bring me these three things as soon as the moon rises tomorrow. And if you accept now, but fail to pass my conquest then, your lover will never think of you again.” The woman told her. Mandy grew nervous and tense, the woman had changed somehow once again, then she looked timid but cold blooded.
“What will you ask of me?” Mandy questioned anxiously. The woman tilted her head down and looked up into Mandy’s eyes. Mandy thought she might as well have been staring into her reflection, for the woman’s eyes mimicked her own.
“I can not tell you what I must ask of you without your acceptance first.” The woman said sadly, and she shrugged her bony, protruding shoulders. She looked away from Mandy towards the river and Mandy followed her gaze. She no longer felt like she was standing in the streets of Frankfurt on the way back to her hotel. She was somewhere else, it looked like a tunnel of pitch blackness. Mandy thought for a moment longer and let out a huff of air as a sigh.
“Then I must accept.” Mandy spoke quietly and nervously as she nodded her head. The woman smiled and moved backwards a step, she held her head in a hand and looked at Mandy affectionately. Abruptly, she started laughing, which turned to a ghastly choked cackling.
“Hexenwerk! Hexenwerk!” The witch cheered out loudly. She raised her hands with balled up fists in the air and she grinned proudly. The tip of her nose turned ugly, like hills on a mountain with zits and warts but her smile was still enchanting like a canvas guarded throughout the night.
“Mandy!” The witch spoke and she cackled again. “The three possessions I need you to bring me are easy but hearing of them all might make you feel queasy!” She told her mischievously. “I want the heart of a lamb and a spout of holy water, but I need a strand of hair from your lovers head to seal the deal.” The witch finished explaining. She raised a stiff finger in the air which looked bent and accusing.
“A strand of his hair?” Mandy cried out ignoring the others. “How will I find a strand of my ex-fiancé’s hair in Germany by nightfall tomorrow?” she continued her probing. The witch made no motion and instead her joints spiralled into a vortex and with the wind she blew away leaving her chortle as an audible echo.
The scene before Mandy changed once again and she was back in the streets of Frankfurt, irradiated by the moonlight. Her breath felt heavy to hold as she felt her ribs contain her panic. She slowly slid her hands in her jacket pocket, and she continued towards her bed that waited for her at the hotel.
The next morning when Mandy rose, she was determined. She took a route to the centre of Frankfurt, and she made her first stop at a local butcher. It took some time for Mandy to see the human faces that passed her as normal. She could not really remember the witches face, only the direction that Mandy’s feet took her to find her. When she approached the butcher behind the counter of his shop, she made her first request for the witches quest. It sparked the round and balding pink man to furrow his brows and he looked at Mandy’s face carefully.
“A lambs heart?” He repeated questioningly in a thick accent. “Hold your step while I check in the back.” He said and he turned to vanish into a back room, so he could search through the carcasses where they hung.
Moments later he returned with a bloodied heart dripping in a cup of his hands. He placed it on the metal chopping counter and found a sheet of parchment paper. The butcher carefully wrapped it and held it together with a stalk of hay. He passed the folded parcel to Mandy who gratefully accepted it, and in exchange she placed a few gold coins into the butchers bloodied hand. The butcher smiled and thanked Mandy as she turned on her feet and called nonchalantly out:
“Keep the change!” Mandy had began walking, she held open the heavy glass doors and exited back onto the street.
Mandy was so determined to beat the witches quest that she had forgotten to request a bag for the heart from the butcher. The spring air was mild, and the streets were cluttered. There was a protest that day outside of Römer, to see the end of the war in Ukraine. Mandy felt some interest towards the magnitude of people on the grey bricked plaza, but she placed the squidgy, bloodied parchment into her cardigan pocket, and she swerved her way through the crowds instead. Mandy needed a spout of holy water, or the remains of her destructed relationship would surely end in death.
She took out her phone and began her research. She scrolled in desperation, growing tense and vexed as the protesters exclaimed “excuse me” to her. She had neither the time nor the patience. The quicker she passed her test, then the quicker she could reclaim the smell of her lovers fragrance. However, the people grew frustrated, tutting and moaning at her like hordes of zombies. Mandy glanced around her, the plaza was clearing, and the groups of people were dispersing into the afternoon skyline. Mandy felt hunger, though the aching of her heart were far more demanding. That is when she found it, only a four-minute walk away was an open church, named Frankfurter Cathedral.
She held her phone out in her right hand, and she turned on her feet. She walked in the opposite direction she came from. The streets were still as busy as they were by the plaza, but after turning down a few corner roads she reached an amble in solace. There were fewer than many people waiting outside of the church, but when she reached the inside there were queues of people waiting by the gates to sit on the dark, wooden pews. The church was a magnificent beauty, with bricks of bright, orange red. Stains of blue painted the windows where figures danced in colours array. Mandy saw what she so needed, in a bronze alloy stoup.
The service had begun, and the pastor had started speaking. Mandy waited close by to the entrance and fumbled through her pocket, only to find that, she had no spout.
What is a spout? She asked herself in her head. She glanced nervously around her and then pulled out her phone. On there she found her answer, but not with much certainty. It was not a measurement, only a place where liquid is poured from.
A mumchance Mandy searched her pockets. She felt disgust as she poked the moist heart that was beginning to seep through her cardigan pocket. Mandy wretched loudly in distaste, sparking some stares from the German church goers around her. She turned to the right and hunched her shoulders as she leaned onto the bowl containing the water. Mandy had no ideas to support herself and she was wary that the sky would soon be approaching darkness.
She tiptoed to the left and she searched for anything in sight. Surely more would be better than less and if she could find something, anything to collect the holy water then she could be on her way to the next begrudging part of her quest. There on the floor of a corner, she found a necklace with a locket pendant. She carefully picked it up and inspected it, using her nails to open the medallion. Inside was a photo, a young girl with what appeared to be her mother. She peeled out the picture and straightened herself up as she huffed guiltily at her actions. She paced back to the bowl and contained some of the water inside of the pendant.
Mandy stood still in her tracks for a moment. She was in a mind to sit on one of the wooden benches to listen and catch her breath. She could not understand how her holiday had taken her there to those lengths. She looked at the time on her watch and decided she could not. There were only three hours to go until she had agreed to meet the witch. So, she left the church and with it, she left behind more of her mind.
Mandy knew not how to find a strand of her lovers hair. Even if she called him there, she would not have the time. She did not believe he would answer her calls if she tried anyway, and that made Mandy feel a whirlwind of emotions.
She strolled to the bridge, which stood above the Frankfurt Main River, and she placed her elbows on the cold, green iron railings. She glanced at the watch on her wrist, 4:05PM, it read. She had less than two hours to go until sundown. She spent a few moments there, before weaving her way through the crowds of tourists on the bridge to make it down to the other side.
She had no idea what to do. She was certain she had already failed when she had only just begun. She followed the directions to her hotel and once she reached it, she locked herself in her room. She laid on her bed and the sense of dread became her.
Maybe she could ask the hotel bell boy for a strand of his own hair. How would the witch be aware of who owned it? She thought.
Though, she had not a clue about witchcraft or how spells worked. Or maybe she could plead. Surely if the witch would hear her stories of how so she loved her ex-fiancé, she would take pity on Mandy. She thought.
Maybe the witch was not bad at all, for she gave Mandy the hope to begin with. So, she thought.
Mandy fought with herself, she rolled to her left, that is when she saw it beside her. A strand of her own hair. That is when it hit her. Maybe a strand of his hair would be threaded in her suitcase under there. She clambered out of bed, and she pulled her suitcase out from under her pit, and she searched every corner and crevice. A few of her own and her cat’s from her home but nothing that matched her lovers.
She flew to her cupboard and her mess became rubble.
That’s when she found it there. His hair on the lace for her derrière.
She sprung out the room, in the sky a white moon and she raced back to the bridge but there was no witch waiting there. There were no people to stare, only poor Mandy alone and as the sky became stark, she huffed a puff of air. Within moments it froze, and she felt chill in her bones. That is when she arose, the witch with hair like a crow’s.
“Dear Mandy, you came. I have been waiting to find out the result of our game.” She had spoke.
Her skin was white linen, and her eyes were dark caves. She smiled like a clown and her build was as slim as splinters. The grim witch looked brittle. The wind had begun whistling a deafening torment and Mandy felt she was not where she came.
“I have all that you asked for.” Mandy announced. The witch inched closer and held out her hands. Her palms were all calloused and her nails were curling under.
“Give them to me.” The witch demanded and her glowing white eyes sucked Mandy in.
Mandy fumbled through her pockets, she pulled out the locket, the lamb’s heart, and the hair. The witches smile grew even bigger, she made a sound as she began to snigger. She consumed the components in her hands, then she licked her lips clean.
The witch somehow looked more youthful, her eyes a little more truthful as she took a mortal appearance.
“Now you are the shepherd. Your lover is truly bettered, and he has surely learnt.” The witch told her. The witch came closer and cradled Mandy’s face in her hands. Mandy had become a stone statue.
“Now go along and herd your sheep, never again will you hear from me. Go to your bed and absorb a deep sleep and when you wake up know that the price was not cheap.” The witch laughed madly. Mandy was playing a new game as she stood there in a mouse trap.
In an instance the witch vanished, Frankfurt had become a black hole and as Mandy fell deeper and deeper, she awoke in her bed in the hotel to the sound of her phone’s alarm ringing. Her head was pounding, the noise was drowning as Mandy tried to recollect the astounding cross purpose.
She searched for her phone; the alarm left a note that her flight back home would be leaving soon. She felt all her axons and flew to her possessions then she packed them away into her suitcase. She called up a taxi and it took her to the airport where the plane awaited on schedule.
When the plane landed in her native home, Mandy once again pulled out her phone for the car back to her quarters. When it pulled into the path made of cobble stone at her home, she saw him standing there. It was her ex-lover.
She sprung out the taxi, took her suitcase from the back seat and they met in the middle to meet.
“My god, Mark, you’re home!” Mandy embraced, she looked all over his face, he had a smile stuck firm in its place. He was so quiet, though he looked inspired he took her in his arms, and they were the only two on the island.
When he pulled away Mandy searched his face again. That same smile was all she could notice.
“Mark?” She questioned again, feeling all frightened.
He smiled even harder; the silence became shorter as the words dribbled out from his tongue.
“Baa,” he said.