Hagatha the Dog Witch
Hagatha was new in town. This was her third time moving in as many years. Most recently, she had been run out of Salem, Massachusetts for displaying characteristics held by women with an interest in the dark arts of magic. The people were right in accusing Hagatha of witchery because she was, in fact, a witch. She thought that Salem would have been a good place for a modern-day witch to reside in the way Germany was now perfectly safe for Jews to live. That Salem would be accepting to a fault in order to correct its terrible history of mistreating witches. Hagatha was very wrong.
Being in a new place is always hard. Hagatha was used to this difficult adjustment period but this time had proven to be far more trying than ever before. Hagatha, upon arriving in Chicago, had developed an allergy to cats. She tried Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra, and all the potions and spells in her Witch Craft: Curses & Remedies book. Nothing helped. Her eyes watered, which made her face melt a little. Her nose ran constantly, and witch snot is essentially acid so she kept burning through her handkerchiefs and shirt sleeves. The only solution was to put her beloved cat, Gomez, whom she had had since she conjured him to life two centuries ago, up for adoption.
She took him to Paws. As she was walking out, tears melting her cheeks as they streamed down her face, she passed a volunteer finishing a walk with a terrier-hound mutt. He was only slightly bigger than Gomez. He was mostly black with brown markings on his feet and a tuft of white on his chest and neck. He looked playful and happy.
“Excuse me,” Hagatha said to the volunteer. “Is this dog available for adoption?”
“Yes, he is. Are you interested? And what’s happening to your face?”
“Oh, that.” She had forgotten about the whole water melts witches thing and that she’d been crying. She waved her hand over face and said quietly and quickly, “Restore, restore. Tears melt no more.” She responded to the volunteer, “Sorry about that. Yes, I’m interested.”
The adoption process went quickly thanks to a time lapse spell Hagatha cast. At home, she sat on her couch with her new pet sitting at her feet. Their eyes were locked.
“The mortals at Paws say your name is Sammy. That you’re about eight years old.” Sammy cocked his head a tad to the left and perked up his ears. “I don’t like that name. You’re more of a… Let’s see… What are you? Ah! Got it! Your name is now Gabriel.”
Hagatha waved her hands over the dog’s head and said, “Your name as you knew it is now gone. You will answer to Gabriel from now on.”
Hagatha often had trouble making friends. Mortals were put off by her strange appearance—she was a dead ringer for Stevie Nicks. And it was rare that she would find any other witches in town. If she did find someone like her, there was often resentment because those witches looked more like the evil queen in Snow White disguised as the old woman when she gives Snow the apple than a less obvious stereotype like that of Stevie Nicks. For all witches’ powers, there is a strict rule on transforming their Satan-given appearance permanently or for reasons of vanity. Hagatha was one of the lucky ones, if you’re into coked up rock stars. The only exception to this rule was healing yourself in the case you should have a run in with your own body’s watery fluids.
However, Chicago was different. Call it Midwestern politeness if you want, Hagatha found a group of friendly witches rather quickly. The Bucktown Athletic Club had a witches spin class. There were nine of them. They were all Bewitched witches so they looked like either Elizabeth Montgomery or Nicole Kidman. Hagatha signed up for the class right away. The Montgomerys and Kidmans took a quick liking to Hagatha and soon she was being included in more than just spin class.
“The meat is a variety of smoked and cured woodland creatures, and the cheese comes from the dairy bats and nefarious bovines of the eighth realm.”
Morgana, a Montgomery witch the others looked to as the leader of the coven, invited everyone to her apartment for dinner and drinks after class one night.
“Martini Tuesday!” Morgana announced as the witches gathered their things after they all rebuilt their melted skin from all the sweating they had done in class. “Next Tuesday, my place. I’ll conjure up a scrumptious meal and we’ll have martinis to welcome our new friend, Hagatha! Please bring your pets! Our little furry friends should get to know her, too!”
A few days later, it was time for the dinner. Hagatha brought a bottle of Lamb’s Blood wine from New Zealand as a hostess gift. “Ooo! A 1736 vintage. That’s a great year,” Morgana said graciously. “Um, what’s that?”
“This is Gabriel. My dog.”
“I’m allergic to cats.”
Morgana’s attitude changed immediately from welcoming to suspicious. “A witch who is allergic to cats? Whoever heard of such a thing?” She invited Hagatha in. The others were already there, drinks in hands, kitty cats—all black—resting on shoulders, rubbing against legs, and broom sticks leaning next to the well-stocked umbrella stand by the door. “Girls, this is Hagatha’s dog, Gabriel. She’s allergic to cats.”
The friendly party vibe instantly left the room. Hagatha tried to explain. “I wasn’t always allergic to cats. It happened shortly after I moved here. I love cats! I miss my cat every day. I mean, this may not even be a permanent thing.”
“Did you try taking Allegra?” asked Isobel, a Kidman witch.
“I tried everything,” Hagatha said. “Wow, Morgana, it smells amazing. What’s for dinner?”
“Change the subject. Good idea,” Isobel said.
“An old family recipe,” Morgana said as she snapped her fingers making a martini appear in Hagatha’s hand. “The first course is charcuterie and cheese. The meat is a variety of smoked and cured woodland creatures, and the cheese comes from the dairy bats and nefarious bovines of the eighth realm. Our main course is roast woodsman with a German-inspired Hansel and Gretel glaze. For dessert, ice cream sundaes.”
Hagatha could sense the others questioning her loyalty, her value to the spin coven. She did her best to remain calm. She forced an aloofness that she knew came across as awkward. Gabriel was a perfect canine. He sat at her feet and never once begged for any table scraps. The cats, however, would occasionally hiss at him from across the room.
“I dated a guy with a dog once,” Isobel said as Morgana used her magic to clean the dinner dishes and refill everyone’s martini glasses. “He was incredibly handsome. A doctor, so we often fought over the value of science versus magic. We were in love for a while there.”
“What happened to him?” Hagatha asked.
“I put a hex on him. Over the course of a week, he slowly turned into a dog. A werewolf, really. He came to me desperate. First he accused me of doing that to him, which I denied, of course. Then he begged me to cure him, to which I said, ‘No, James. Here’s your opportunity to prove to me that your fancy science is actually worth something. Go on and cure yourself.’ That’s when he went into a feral rage and tried to eat me. So I shot him through the heart with a silver bullet and fed his remains to Sacha here.” Isobel stroked her cat as it purred loudly on her lap.
“Why’d you put the hex on him in the first place?” Hagatha asked.
“Hags, weren’t you paying attention? He was a dog person. I mean, really.”
The others cackled.
“Dogs aren’t so bad,” Hagatha said.
“Tell that to Isobel,” said Morgana. One tried to eat her!”
They cackled again.
“Really, what’s so bad about dogs?”
“They’re so subservient,” Morgana said. “They’re so needy. Even in the wild. Wolves travel in packs. But a cat can thrive on its own—coming and going as it pleases, doing as it pleases. Cats are quiet and deadly hunters. And can you imagine riding a broom with a dog hanging its head off the bristles? And what in Lucifer’s name is with those pugs? Gross.”
Hagatha took a sip of her martini and scanned the room. It was clear that she had lost them. Being allergic to cats was one thing but being a dog person was apparently an unforgivable sin in the witch world. She thought she saw all of the cats begin to stalk toward her and Gabriel. Backs arched, teeth showing, hisses hissing. But she wasn’t sure since her allergies had made her so groggy and light headed. It didn’t help that she was six martinis in. Still, she recognized the threat. It was all too familiar. The witches' dinner party was beginning to feel like Salem all over again. She had to act. And fast.
"Fuck you. Dog witch."
Hagatha sprung from her seat on the chaise lounge. Her arms spread, wind began swirling around in Morgana’s Lincoln Park apartment. Hagatha’s flowy black dress moved in concert with the wind the same way Stevie Nick’s dresses moved with her while spinning in circles on stage with Fleetwood Mac. She levitated two feet above the floor, her raven-black hair turned to flames. Gabriel transformed into a hulking beast with eyes of solid onyx, three-inch long fangs and a tail of razors that sliced the chaise lounge in two.
The ten cats lunged at Gabriel. He fought them off with the demon’s talons in his large paws, piercing their backs and pulling their spines from their bodies. He whipped them with his razor tail shaving away at their pelts. Sacha, Isobel’s cat, attacked. Gabriel caught her in his giant jaws and chomped down liquefying the feline—her guts and fur spraying all over the room.
Before the other witches could make sense of what was happening, Hagatha cast her spell. “Here kitty kitty, so clever, so pretty. From friends who met on common grounds to pets of mine—eternal hounds!”
Lightning bolts erupted from the floor. Morgana and Isobel, and the others tried to scatter but the curse had been laid. One by one, the witches of Hagatha’s Bucktown spin class transformed into small, clumsy, adorable puppies. A golden retriever, a black lab, a huskie with one blue eye and one black, a miniature schnauzer, Spuds MacKenzie and so on.
Isobel defended herself with a force field of flames. Hagatha conjured a bathtub filled with water. She flicked her wrist and doused Isobel extinguishing her defense before turning her into a fluffy white Lhasa Apso with an adorable under bite.
“You bitch!” screamed Morgana who had transformed herself into sixty-foot long serpent with fangs of swords drenched in blood. She struck out at Hagatha. Still a beast, Gabriel deflected the blow and sunk his teeth into the serpentine scales. Morgana the serpent screamed in agony and fell limp to the floor. Hagatha hovered over her while Gabriel held her down. Black, bubbling sludge bled from her wound.
“We could have been such good friends,” Hagatha said.
“Fuck you. Dog witch.”
Hagatha tilted her head back and shrieked. The apartment exploded in dark red blood, the sound of children being tortured filled the streets before everything fell into silence and blackness.
Hagatha was standing again, her hair returned to normal—long, luxurious. The wind and lightning gone. The apartment exactly as it was when she arrived earlier that night except that instead of there being nine witches and their nine black cats, there were only eight puppies wrestling with each other and chasing each other around the main room. Gabriel had returned to his normal form and was playing with the puppies. Hagatha smiled at them. Then she turned to Morgana who was human again, a bloody hole in her stomach.
With an insulting wiggle of her nose, a la Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched, the strong, fierce, deadly Morgana was transformed by the great power of Hagatha into the most hideous and vile creation any witch could ever conjure: an old pug.
“Now then,” Hagatha said. “Who wants to go for a ride?”
And off they went into the night, each puppy on the broomstick it once owned in its human form. Hagatha rode with Gabriel hanging his head off the bristles. Morgana, the old pug, tried to howl at the moon but was unable to breathe properly and ended up popping her left eyeball from its socket.
Being a dog witch really wasn’t so bad. It certainly beat being a crazy cat lady. Hagatha needed to make friends, and no one likes the crazy cat lady.