Palo Alto Weekly 34th Annual Short Story Contest
Young Adult Honorable Mention

Daughter of the Last Witch

by Lucas Huang

Author Bio

Born in the United States, Lucas spent half his life in Taipei, Taiwan and the other half in Palo Alto. He was attending Palo Alto High School when he wrote his first book, as well as a handful of other stories. Being a daytime dreamer, Lucas had a passion for telling stories ever since he was young. Most of his stories have nature-related themes, as he feels obliged to show just how splendid God's creations can be, and how ungrateful human beings truly are.

Inspiration

This story was inspired by a dream I had years ago. I dreamed of being at Yellowstone National Park, where a beetle told me to speak to a concerned mother. The lady was a colossal moth who urged me to marry her daughter, an excessively polite caterpillar. After reading some Lewis Carroll, I decided that it was time to put this story into words. Being a self-proclaimed nature lover, I found it only fitting to address topics such as animal abuse and the endangerment of magnificent creatures in my story. Personally, I would die to see a White Witch moth in person.

With the meter-long, half-meter-wide larvae in my arms, I headed towards The Cave. The child wiggled and squirmed.

"Let go of me!"

She was a cream colored creature, quite chubby at the center of her body, and a scarlet streak ran across her back from one end of her length to the other.

"Your mother wants you back, Agrippy," I panted as she wriggled. "And stop that! Stop!"

I dropped the caterpillar onto the sandy terrain. I stood there, winded. Agrippy looked up at me with her beady eyes.

"W ... We can go back for more pictures. Or ... we could chat more ... about leaves and tree saps!"

I attempted to catch my breath. "We ... documented you ... already. People will now know ... what the White Witch's larvae ... looks like."

I sucked in a long breath. "I promised your mother I would bring you back. And as a park ranger ... it is my duty to ..."

"You are an INTERN, Aster," the larvae exclaimed. "You're like ... my age!"

"Doesn't matter. I gotta bring you back to her. She's worried sick."

"She is not! Aster, she is not."

I reached under her, but she struggled. "I can walk on my own! Just because you're human doesn't mean you get to drag me around!"

"The sandy surface isn't good for you." I sighed. She stared back with her dark, round eyes. I reached under her again, this time she stayed still. "We're almost there."

I continued to walk up the hill.

"Other moths only live for days," the larvae started.

"I know."

"My mother lived for a year. And I lived for months!"

"Maybe you White Witches have longer lifespans," I grunted.

"All of my known relatives and siblings are long dead," she continued. "But ... my mother and I just... can't die."

I thought it was impossible, but something about the way she said it made me believe her.

"I've lived in that cave all my life. We White Witches aren't supposed to live in caves!" A pause, a warm breeze blew against my face. "We are supposed to climb trees, fly in broad daylight, rest on damp leaves. But ... Mother keeps me in the cave ... and I couldn't ..."

"So that's why you left ..." I sighed. "I'll talk to your mother."

"Please." She trembled in my arms.

I stared at her large, round eyes. In those eyes I saw a forest burnt to ashes. I saw animals not obeying the natural order. Birds crawling on the ground, unable to fly. Beetles drowning in lakes. Coyotes devouring their children. I saw tears in Agrippy's eyes. No, she couldn't cry, it is impossible for her to, but I felt that if she were any other animal, if she were a dog, an elephant, or a girl, she would shed tears.

Agrippy was crying silently.

"Well ... uh ..." I sighed. "We're here." I placed the larvae on the ground at the entrance of The Cave, the opening was so wide a seaplane could be parked in it. I reached for my walkie-talkie which was clipped to my khaki shorts. I pressed down the grey button.

"Ziz, it's Aster. I'm going in."

"Who's Ziz?" Agrippy asked.

"Him," I pointed to the circling dot in the radiant, blue sky. "That hawk over there. He's the actual park ranger. But you know, bugs and birds ..." The larvae made a squeaking sound. "Yeah ... so that's why he sent me."

The hawk's cry sounded. I stared into the sun and gave the ranger a thumbs-up.

"Agrippy, how about you wait out here?" I rotated the sling across my shoulders, then held the shotgun in my hands.

"A ... gun?"

"Nah ... don't worry about this. I only carry blanks." I laughed as I checked if my weapon was loaded with the blanks, then pointed my flashlight forward "You know, to get me out of trouble. You wait for me out here, alright?"

The caterpillar squeaked.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Then at last, I headed into The Cave.

I turned to look, I saw Agrippy gazing at me, laying flat on the ground near the right side of the entrance.

I proceeded cautiously, leaving the humid air behind. After a couple of turns, I shone the light onto the wall of the damp, spacious cave and saw white powder all over the place. I pulled my sweat-soaked scarf up, covering my face.

"Mrs. White Witch?" I projected my voice but it was muffled by my scarf. "Pardon the intrusion. It's Aster. The park ranger you spoke to a few days ago?" I proceeded forward, noticing that I was stepping on a coat of white powder, much like the ones on the walls of the cave.

I heard a small purr, or perhaps a low screech.

I pointed my light forward.

The creature had a pair of black beady eyes, and thin black antennae about a meter long. Humongous white, powdery wings on her back, and a wingspan of about seven meters. A thick coat of white fur covered her chest and in between her large eyes. The giant moth creeped towards me.

"Please do point the light away from me," the White Witch said in a soft voice, soft like snow, clear like brisk wind. I tilted the light downwards.

"I, uh ..." With the gun hanging loosely by my side, I reached into my vest pocket and pulled out a document. "I want to notify you that we have successfully recorded your child's information into our database," I turned the paper around, revealing the moth's signature "With your consent, of course."

The mother stared at me with her gentle, yet cold, eyes. She stood on all six legs.

"Thanks to you, mankind now has a detailed description of the White Witch moth larvae."

"Would you like some sap juice?".

"No, thank you." I folded the document and stowed it away.

"Coffee? Since you're human, you must enjoy coffee."

"I don't. I'm just fine, thank you ... why do you have coffee?"

"I do not. And the powder isn't toxic to you humans." She reached for a mug with one of her front legs, and with one of her hind legs she swiped down in midair, telling me to pull down my mask. "There's no need for that."

Hesitantly, I removed my scarf from my face. I continued to take short, quick breaths. The lady turned to face me again, and took a sip out of the cup. The light was too dim for me to make out how she drank out of the mug.

"Ranger," the gigantic moth purred once more. "Where is my daughter?"

"Not with me now," I snapped, crossing my arms. "Mrs. White Witch, I would like to ask a few questions of my own ..."

"Proceed."

"Why ..." I trailed off, my mind blank. "Um ... why are you alive? I mean ... why ... other moths ..."

"Agrippina and I are different than the others." She placed her mug on the powdery floor, "different even than other White Witches."

I stared at her with a crossed expression.

"I was gifted, human," the moth purred. "I am a living proof of the miracle of life." She took another sip. "My relatives lived simple lives. Grow into a moth, give birth, and perish. Their children will live the same lives."

"Like how it should be."

"Yes. And they were hunted by ferocious creatures. Like how it should be. Then came along mankind, who called us devil's harbingers, and so we became your prey as well."

"That practice was banned two decades ago," I blurted out.

"A little too late to save us, don't you think?" The moth crept closer and purred quietly. "Do you see us rule the forest like other insects? Do you see us at all?"

A pause. "No."

"We, the White Witches, are merely snow in sunlight. Too beautiful, and gone too soon."

After taking a few steps back, she continued. "After my husband passed, I decided to keep one of my children to myself. I chose to live my life as a true mother. One that raises her youth."

"That is ... against the natural order of things."

"Nature gave me the power of, what seems like ..." Another sip of the dark green ooze. "Immortality. With that gift, I can raise Agrippina like no other moth."

"I see."

"Now tell me, child. Why did you tell my daughter to wait outside?"

"You ... uh ..." I turned to look, and the entrance could not be seen. "Ma'am, you must understand ..."

"You cannot lie to Nature, Aster. I know you disapprove of me for raising Agrippina."

"Ma'am, based on your daughter's physique," I tried not to stutter. "She must begin metamorphosis as soon as possible."

"I know," she said. "Which is why she escaped."

"You knew?"

"Aster, you have to realize something," the moth continued. "Once Agrippina reaches adulthood she will die in days, and ..." A short pause. "I have a feeling that if ... if she leaves me, I too will perish ... we White Witches ..."

"Extinction."

The moth remained silent.

"Mrs. White Witch ..."

"Silks ... is my name."

"Mrs. Silks, we will return Agrippy once she becomes a moth, there's no need to worry."

"So she can easily fly out of my grasp?"

"With the utmost respect, extinction is ... inevitable. There is nothing we can do."

"You can bring her back to me."

"I could, but ... that would be against the natural order."

"Order?" The White Witch screeched. "A human, speaking of order?" She dropped her mug, which shattered against the floor. Mrs. Silks crawled towards me. I backed up. "You cut off their tusks, wear them as jewelry! You rip off their fins, leaving the rest of the body to rot! You force them to mate, and ... and slaughter their youths for meat! Peel off their skin to clothe yourself, behead them and put them up as trophies! You cage them for profit, you abuse them when they don't obey! And ... and ..."

The Witch's purr became rapid, "And you speak of ... of ... of ORDER?"

The White Witch stopped advancing. My mouth opened, but words failed to come out. I stared at her bulging eyes.

"Devil's harbingers? We White Witches never deserved that title. You want to know who deserves it more than anyone?" She placed one of her slender legs on my chest. "Mankind. Sent from the deepest places of Hell to haunt us. Men are the devil's harbingers."

She lowered her limb.

"Aster," the moth said. "Do not stand in my way. Allow me to reunite with my daughter. Now."

Mankind.

Nature.

What are we?

Nature spoiled us with so much, blessed us every day when we wake up, and always kissed us good night. And we abused her? Tormented her?

Order.

Where was order?

That was when I realized.

"Mrs. Silks," I sighed. My voice shook. "There are those that go against nature, and there are those that strive to protect her." I sucked in a cold breath. "Be it devil's minions or not, we, mankind, are like you, the children of nature. Throughout history we sought after order. We fought and strived for it. We are created by nature to do just that, maintain order. It is our duty to protect nature, and to fight those that are against her. Because of that ... I am willing to put my life on the line."

I clenched my fist as I spoke. "You might perish, your daughter might perish, but that is how it should be. Deep down, Mrs. Silks, you know you want her to be free, you know you want to see her soar in the skies. Please, Mrs. Silks, I will take care of her, I will make sure the metamorphosis is successful. You have to give her this chance to live her life."

Silence.

"Mrs. Silks, you have to have faith."

"A human ..." The White Witch purred. "A human, robbing me of my pride and joy. A human ... a self righteous fiend, says he will care for my precious, precious daughter." I saw her body tremble as she altered her stance.

"You choose to oppose me ... so be it."

The Witch fluttered her wings and kicked up a tremendous wave of powder. I shielded my eyes and coughed vigorously. Before I knew it, the moth knocked me down, and pointed the sharp tip of her leg at my face.

"Perish, human."

I gasped, then squeezed the shotgun's trigger.

The White Witch shrieked and yanked her front legs away from me.

With a roll on the floor, I managed to get back onto my feet, and dashed away from the colossal moth while patting the powders off of my clothes.

I coughed again as I reached for my walkie-talkie.

I could hear the beating of the White Witch's wings, chasing after me not far behind.

I pressed the grey button down.

"Ziz! Ziz! I need help!"

"You need what, boy?" the hawk screamed.

"ZIZ! THE MOTH IS TRYING TO KILL ME!"

With the corner of my eyes I saw the powders brushing against the walls of the cave.

"You ... what?"

"HELP, ZIZ! HELP!"

"Help?" Ziz repeated, "Right. Coming down now."

"Hurry UP!"

With the flashlight's beam dancing around in front of my eyes, I tried my best to navigate my way out of the labyrinth.

Light. I saw light ahead.

I panted.

My chest ached.

My face was burning.

The larvae was lying at the center of the entrance.

"Aster? M ... mother?"

I dashed by Agrippy, lifted her up, and crashed onto my back with the larvae secure in my arms. I saw Ziz diving down from the heavens, placed Agrippy on the ground, then embraced her gently, my back facing The Cave.

A crash.

Warm winds blasted against my skin.

Pebbles and sands collided against my back.

Then a hawk's cry sounded.

As I turned around, I saw the White Witch standing in the cave, and a red-tailed hawk matching her size was blocking the entrance. He wore a green vest, much like my own.

The moth screeched.

"Be wise, and leave them be, six-leg!" Ziz yelled, his voice sounding for miles.

I sighed out of relief.

"You're safe now, Agrippy," I smiled at the larvae. "We will see you grow into a magnificent moth."

The larvae wiggled her body, squeaking, overjoyed.

I glanced over my shoulder once more.

The moth folded her wings and stood upright.

Her eyes.

Dark, cold, yet burning with something more than just rage.

A forest burnt to ashes. Coyotes starving to their demise.

Birds with punctured wings, fish gasping for air in the scorching sun.

Ripped fins, broken tusks.

Rotten bodies, lifeless trophies.

The White Witch's mother wept.

"Goodbye, Agrippy," she wept. "Goodbye."