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The Tail of The Sea Witch

I once knew a sea witch. Honest! But she’s gone away to sea, now, as she always said she would. I wish she’d come back. When I look out across the ocean and see a patch of green, green water, I remember her eyes. And when I see the sun turn crimson-gold at sunset, I think of her masses of hair. It was the same pretty colour; roseamberine, she called it. (She pronounced it ro-zeem-ber-een.) I never believed what the kids at school said about her. But when I first saw her hair, I began to suspect. No ordinary person – or witch – could have hair like that.

Only a sea witch.

I felt very plain beside her. Usually I don’t care how I look because of my personality. Mum says I can talk her earings off. (But that’s because she doesn’t screw them on tightly.)

In the lagoon where her houseboat is moored, I can still see her floating about her lovely things and smiling at me for no reason. Everything is exactly the way she left it except for the sand that has crept over the floor and the spider-webs hanging off the beams.

From the cliff-top the lagoon looks a magical place. Surrounding the lagoon are frangipani and other tropical trees through which you glimpse some sparkles of sapphire water. To the left of the lagoon, you can see miles of sand glittering as if sprinkled with diamonds. In the distance, a wide sand bar separates the lagoon from the rush of the ocean. But, no matter how hard you look, you will never see her houseboat.

It’s our secret – Madame Sea Witch’s and mine.

I’ll never forget the first words she spoke to me. I was trespassing on her beach and picking frangipani flowers. (I wanted to prove to the other kids that I’d really been there.)

She seemed to appear out of nowhere. “By the pricking of my thumbs, a little girlie this way comes,” she said.

For the first time all my good words ebbed away. Was this some kind of witchy joke? Did she know what the kids at school were saying? And, if she did, was she just poking fun? As I stared at her, millions of thoughts went whizzing through my mind.

“How did you get down to the beach?” she asked. “You couldn’t climb down the cliff… Surely you didn’t swim -?

By now I had taken a really close look, and I was amazed how witchy and beautiful she was all at the same time. Besides her witchy roseamberine hair , she had sea-green eyes that were as starey as those of dead fish. It occurred to me it must be lonely being a sea witch with no other sea witches around. There were only farming families, fishermen and surfers around here. Yet, there was something powerful about her; something that made her seem important.

She had a shawl of the sheerest green material wrapped around her shoulders; underneath she wore a floaty blue dress (might have been a nightie); on her feet she wore knitted bedsocks with fluffy pom-poms.

I suppose the afternoon is early rising for a witch.

“How did you get down to the beach?” she asked me again. I pointed to the rubber dinghy on the sand bar and told her I had sailed around the cliff from the other beach.

Her wonderful green eyes began to show some life. “In that toy?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure if she was impressed or if she thought I was crazy.

“Well, I’m not going to let you go back the same way,” she said and led me up the hot sand towards the mile-high cliff. Her big, black dog trotted beside us, too. He had the longest tongue. It didn’t seem to fit in his mouth and was always hanging over the side. I wasn’t sure if he was friendly; so, I made some friendly noises and held out my hand. He wagged his tail and licked me. I liked him, then.

She smiled this sweet smile, and her starey eyes sparkled like the diamond sand. At the same moment this pack of seagulls flew up and circled over our heads like an airborne crown. I watched the awesome crown of seagulls for a while, but when I looked down again, the sea witch was no longer there.

I spotted her disappearing into a cave at the bottom of the cliff. As I ran towards the cave, the seagulls flew off in different directions. I tried to see into the dark cave, but the entrance was overhung with vines and things. I didn’t want to go into her home uninvited, so I waited outside. I heard the sound of whirring and cranking and she reappeared. Near the cave entrance was a cage of black iron with fancy lacework. It was attached to tracks that ran up the sheer cliff face.

The lift rose slowly with me inside. The flowers I’d picked were crushed as I pressed against the iron lacework and watched her waving and smiling way down below.

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