Mitch and the Fox Witch

A young man turns into a witch vixen and must defend Halloween against all manner of magical mayhem! Mature.

This story is a standalone sequel to a previous Halloween story, The Party!

For months now, the fox had lingered in Mitch’s mind. He couldn’t say where she’d come from, or why she stuck around so stubbornly, only that in a burst of inspiration last November, he’d scribbled her in his sketchbook: a fox witch, with long curly hair and a pair of glasses perched on her snout. Every couple of weeks since, in between the work he was doing for class, he’d find himself drawing her again, and again, and again.

So as the days crept closer to Halloween, he wasn’t surprised that she was on his mind more often. It was the persistence that worried him just a little—she was always there in the back of his head. Even when he blanked out his thoughts, he could still trace her silhouette in his mind: narrow snout, tall ears, big, floppy hat. For the past few days she’d been impossible to get rid of.

Now it was late in the afternoon, on the thirty-first of October. Mitch sat at his desk in his room, doodling the designs he’d thought up for the fox witch’s spell book earlier that day in class. (He still hadn’t named her; nothing he found felt ‘right’.) The chime of a text message went off, but it took him several seconds to pull his mind out of tomes and grimoires.

A text from Chris was waiting for him:

‘Still coming to the party? maybe well remember this one lmao’

‘yeah, I am’, he sent back.

‘Sick! dont be late or well leave without you lol’

Mitch sat up and stretched both his back and his fingers. He could probably use a break from fox stuff anyway. Flipping his sketchbook closed, he got up and started getting his things together to head out—after taking a peek out the window.

Outside, the sun came in gold and heavy against the autumn leaves and stretched the shadows out like long strokes across the pavement. He lingered at the window for a moment, appreciating the bustle and color of everyone heading out to whatever Halloween get-together they had planned, whether in full costume or just tucked into a light jacket. Maybe he’d even see some of them at the party Chris was driving him to.

Speaking of which, he needed to get going or he’d miss his ride. Unlike last year, where he’d just thrown together a fox costume last-minute, he’d had time to prepare. And since the fox ears and tail now gave him a weird, queasy feeling when he saw them in his closet, he’d bought a cheap pirate outfit. Nothing fancy, just a hat made of folded felt, an eye patch, and a plastic sword to stick through one of the belt loops on his pants.

Just as he’d finished adjusting the eye patch and was reaching for his glasses, everything went dark with a loud whoosh, like a howling wind. This was not ‘a storm rolling in’ dark, nor ‘who turned out the lights?’ dark, nor even ‘accidentally put on two eye patches instead of one’ dark. He had been enveloped in the complete darkness of night. Not even the stars that filled the sky above him offered any illumination.

Where was he? What had just happened? And how were there stars in his room? He lifted his eye patch, for all the good that did, and shouted, “Hey!”

Acid green light flickered underneath him: trails of light, tracing a seven-pointed star around his feet, inscribed within a larger circle. As the last lines met, the light erupted around him and a great gust from underneath him blew his hair back and ruffled his clothes.

Mitch looked down. His socks melted into the brown fur covering his feet. His pants slipped from his waist and shrunk into a pair of silk leggings trimmed in gold. His shirt tumbled apart into a tiny cape draped over his chest and shoulders, and long gloves hooked around his middle fingers. Fluffy white fur shot up over his chest, followed quickly by the surge of his breasts and the dwindling of his shoulders, where rich orange fur was creeping up his back.

He looked up. Seven constellations, arcane and unfamiliar, glowed in the sky. Yet he knew them, didn’t he? One for each of the Seven Schools, lending him a measure of their power...

His eye patch slipped free and swirled around his growing muzzle, then came to a stop perched on the bridge of his snout as a pair of small spectacles. As bright red hair tumbled in thick curls over his shoulders, the brim of his hat unfurled, and its new pointed tip flopped back behind his head. A pair of tall brown ears flipped up from underneath his hair, poking neatly through a pair of divots cut into the brim of his hat. The finishing touch was a white-tipped tail, which swept back and forth behind his thick, shapely, and completely bare ass.

A burst of magical energy blew back his sheets and ruffled the pages of his sketchbook. The sky and the constellations were gone, though he could still feel their presence. Mitch found himself standing in his room once more, knock-kneed, elbows tucked against his sides, hands balled into fists. His tail flicked anxiously behind him. He tipped his black nose down, staring past his snout and silver-rimmed spectacles. His breasts were barely covered by his cape, and his fluffy white belly and crotch weren’t covered by anything at all.

He wanted to say, ‘Oh god.’

“By the Seven Signs!” he gasped. His voice was warm and delicate.

The brush of his tail against his thighs made him gasp and swat at his legs, which only made his tail swish back and forth even more, until he stumbled back up against his desk. One of his ears twitched; he tried to bat it away, thinking something had landed on his hair, and knocked his witch’s hat off-kilter so that it slumped down in front of his eyes.

Taking slow, deep breaths, Mitch pushed his hat back up into place, then clutched his chest while he braced himself against the desk. The strangest thing about it all was how familiar it all felt, as if slipping on an old shirt and finding it still fit him.

Peering into his mirror, he tugged at the fur on his cheeks, fluttered his thick lashes, and pulled back his soft lips to examine his sharp teeth. As far as he could tell, this was real. He really was some sort of fox woman, though she preferred to think of herself as more of a witch vixen. “Why, I look old enough to start my own coven,” she muttered into the mirror.

No, wait.

He shook his head, looked himself in his jasper-red eyes, and said, “I am not a fox witch. I am not a fox witch.” He could say that as much as he liked, but it didn’t stop the potions brewing in his head or the sigils etching themselves onto his mind’s eye. “I am quite human, and my name is— mmnh.” The sounds twisted on the tip of his tongue. He pouted and wrinkled his snout, trying to force himself to say it. “I...I am...”

From behind him came a clunk, the creak of the window opening, and a gasp of, “Hecate!”

Hecate yelped and spun around on her heels. Her tail instinctively tucked between her legs and she pulled it in closer, suddenly intensely aware of her pantslessness in front of—of...a black cat? The cat jumped from the windowsill to her bed, curled their tail around their paws, and looked up at her with their clever yellow eyes. “Good to see you’re already suited up, Hex. Gonna be a busy one tonight.”

“Who are you?” Hecate demanded, still clutching her tail for decency. “And why am

“You still sleepy or something?” the cat asked. “It’s me, your Nekonomicon.” They leapt into the air; for a moment, they were just a swirl of black, before that shape resolved into a spell book, floating jauntily in the air and emblazoned with the same silver sigil on its front that the cat had worn on its collar. Then it tumbled around and dropped to the floor at her feet, a cat once more. They lapped at their paw casually, then looked up at her. “As for why you’re you, can’t help you there. Try asking a philosophy textbook.”

Hecate shook her head. The shock of meeting a talking cat that was also a book had broken her train of thought, and now she was struggling to put into words just what was wrong with this situation. “But why am I like this?” She held her hands out to either side of her, but then her tail began to fall away from her crotch. She gasped and quickly caught it, not wanting to expose herself, even if she was only talking to a cat. “And why is my name Hecate instead of Mm— real name?”

“It’s Halloween, Hex. If there’s any time you ought to be a witch, it’s tonight.” Their eyes glinted mischievously. “And if you ask me, Hecate’s your real name, not whatever you call your human suit.” They hopped back up onto the bed. “But we’ve gotta get going. It’s almost twilight, and—”

She wasn’t listening, because a memory she’d been tangling with had suddenly risen to the fore. “Tomos!” she said. “That’s your name, isn’t it?”

“Yep. Just call me Tome. But we really don’t have time for this.” The cat jumped off the bed and whirled into the shape of Hecate’s spell book, flying right at her. She let out a squeak of surprise and winced, but her arms snatched the book out of the air and cradled it against her chest in one practiced motion. The pages rustled against one another as Tome’s voice, slightly muffled, came from the book: “Let’s make that sword into something more useful...”

Peering down through her glasses, Hecate saw that the book had fallen open to an an incantation. As reluctant as she was to be a witch, the promise of doing actual magic was tantalizing. A faint tingle rolled down her spine; she could almost feel the Signs urging her on. Only a few minutes ago, she was putting on a pirate costume, and now she was casting spells. She felt worlds away from meeting up with Chris and Leah and Allie at the party. Shifting the spell book over to one side, she held her other hand out above the plastic sword still laying on her bed. As she started reading the incantation, all her distracting thoughts were brushed aside by the sensation of magic flowing through her, rising up from some deep reserve she never knew she had. Her eyes rolled shut but she kept on going, speaking the words by heart up to the very end: “By moon and stars, so make it be!”

Her eyes blinked open. The sword had begun to twist and warp around her magic. The blade stretched longer and rounder while the hilt split apart into bushy bristles. Cheap plastic swirled with wood grain or splintered into straw. Her ears twitched; through whatever magic- sense she had, she could tell the spell had finished its work. What had been a crappy costume sword was now a proper witch’s broom.

The book wriggled in her arm and leapt onto the bed as a cat and batted at the broom with their paw. “Hop on, Hex,” Tome said. “We’ve already got a werewolf on Sixteenth Street and an accidental demon-summoning on Hawthorne...”

Hecate’s ears perked up against their little stirrups in her hat. “Do you mean 1716 Hawthorne? By the stars, that’s where my human friends are going,” she gasped, too surprised to fret over her witchy swearing or that she had to specify human friends, as opposed to the alternative.

“Good, we’re in agreement then: time to go.” Tome pushed the broom of the side of the bed, then leaned over the edge and say, “Hey, broom. Up!”

At Tome’s command, the tip of the broom snapped up off of the ground and swerved between Hecate’s ankles like an over-affectionate cat. She tried to dance around it, but the broom was doggedly persistent. “Just a moment—” she said. She ought to warn Chris, but she realized as she patted her leggings that she had no idea where her cell phone was. “Will you please stop,” she huffed, planting her feet and reaching down to grab the broom. Getting her hands around the shaft was, apparently, the signal that she was ready—the broomstick shot upward, and suddenly her toes were dangling several inches off the ground while she, with her tail bushed and her torso bent over, squirmed uncomfortably atop the broomstick nestled between her thighs.

With a bit of careful balancing, she picked herself up, tossed both legs over the same side of the broom, and settled down on it sitting side-saddle. While she felt more precariously balanced like that, it was immensely preferable to the alternative.

“Tome!” she gasped, cheeks burning hot beneath her fur, clutching the broom with one hand and her hat with the other. “Why don’t I have pants!?”

The Nekonomicon hopped onto the back of her broom, which lifted another foot or so off of the floor. The window swung open as wide as it could go as they drifted towards it. “What’re you asking me for? You made that outfit,” Tome said, then added more quietly, “Personally, I think you’re a bit of a flirt.”

Hecate might have taken offense to that, but she had to duck down to make it through the window without knocking her hat off, and then they were rising up into the open air, the breeze rustling her cape and tickling her bare toes. She felt a sudden sense of anxiety as she looked down at the people on the sidewalk below—not because she was flying some thirty feet above the ground, but because she was a half-naked, full-figured fox-woman on a broomstick, flying above the heads of people who could very easily look up and see her. Yet no one did, as if some kind of magic shrouded her from direct attention.

Up they climbed, higher and higher, while her nervous grip on the broom slowly relaxed. Tome was guiding their flight, allowing her to get used to the sensation of flying again.

Err, for the first time.

The setting sun turned the sky copper and purple, while the wind blew her red curls back behind her shoulders and made the tip of her hat flap behind her like a trailing flag. The sight of the town below her, with its autumn-tinged trees and neighborhoods glowing with light, brought back memories, including...

Hecate perked up and poked her snout over her shoulder. “Tome! Last year, on Halloween, I was at this party, and there was...this cauldron in the attic. And when I looked into it, I Hecate. And my friends, too, they’d all changed, and I think...I helped fix it? But then we all forgot, until just now I remembered...”

“Hey, now we’re getting somewhere!” Tome said. “Only took what, three hundred sixty-four and a half days? No time to reminisce though, we’re comin’ in hot.”

Even from above, Hecate could see the knot of havoc in the middle of the street. As they dipped down closer, she could see just what was at the center of it all: something big, and gray, and muscle-bound, and with a big snout like that it had to—’Ah-ah-AROO!’—yes, that was a werewolf all right. The big beast lumbered down the street, while people fled or huddled behind cars and dogs barked frantically from the safety of their yards.

The broom swooped low and let Hecate slip off. It wasn’t until her feet were on the pavement and she was staring up at the snarling, slavering werewolf coming toward her that she realized she had no idea what to do. Sure she knew enough to make a broomstick fly and had remembered a couple of offhand cantrips, but her mind blanked on the category of ‘things to stop a werewolf’. Worse than that, actually: all she could think of was a rhyme for remembering the components of a potion to cure. But she had neither wolfsbane, nor an alembic, nor several weeks to wait for a distillation to finish.

To make things worse, the werewolf had caught her scent. Its black nose flared with each big, heavy snort and it was advancing on her faster than she could back away. “Tome, dear?” she called out, “I could use some help here...”

From their perch on the broom, floating a safe distance above the streets, the black cat dropped, tumbled through the air, and landed in her arms as her spell book. “Here!” they said, flipping open to an incantation.

Hecate had no time to see what the spell was. Her eyes darted between the incantation and the werewolf’s hungry maw as she ducked out the way of a swipe of its claws. She read the words aloud as fast as she could and finished the spell off with, “By moon and stars, so make it be!”

But instead of bursting out of her, the magic curled and twisted around her body. Its power, its strength, surged through her. Sharp claws and thick pads burst from her hands and her feet canted up into heavy paws. Her gloves and leggings split open as muscle overtook her thighs and biceps, burning as sharply as if she’d just finished a workout. Instincts pounded in her head, louder than anything else. She let out a furious snarl, eyes glowing red and feral. What did this wolf think it was doing in her territory? It needed to be taught a lesson.

The werewolf flattened its ears against its head and bared its fangs at her, but for all its posturing, it was beginning to back away. Now it was Hecate’s turn to stomp forward, puffing hot, fogging breaths into the cold evening air.

Before the wolf could turn tail and run, it was slammed back into the asphalt, with sharp claws digging into its shoulders and thighs clenched tight around its waist. The huge, orange-furred beast on top of it threw her head back and howled in triumph. Now, to claim her prize...

“Hey, Hex. You did a good job,” Tome said.

Not even the night breeze could cool the pink blush buried beneath Hecate’s furry cheeks. She was grateful that her clothes had neatly stitched themselves back together as soon as the were-fox spell had worn off, at least. “I do not want to talk about it,” she said.

“I mean, that’s one way to wear down a werewolf.”

She might have turned Tome into a toad right then and there, if she didn’t have to ask him for the spell to do so first. So instead, she silenced him with a glare and sniffed, “Perhaps I ought to have some time to prepare before you throw me to the wolves.”

“Well, next up we’ve got a haunted mansion. Good news is it’s less haunted than usual this year. Mostly just spooks and scares, which is none of our business. Cursed paintings, though...”

They swooped down low over the mansion, and slipped in through one of the upstairs windows. The broom drifted to a stop in the dim, cobwebbed hallway, right in front of a large portrait set into an ornate golden frame. Whoever the subject of the painting was, she had long, dark hair, an icy complexion, a dress made of deep red velvet and lace, a distant, placid smile, and a far-too-real look of abject panic in her eyes.

Hecate adjusted her spectacles, pursed her lips, and nodded quietly. “Certainly looks cursed,” she said, then turned and looked expectantly down at Tome.

They turned back into a spell book and flopped open. “Nothing as, uh, in depth as last time. The spell gets you into the painting and gets you back out, plus anyone you’ve got with you. Only catch is, they’ve got to want to come with you. Otherwise they’re not getting out.”

Every so often as Hecate read through the description of the spell, a flurry of memories from her time spent studying witchcraft would come over her. While she wasn’t yet comfortable with this whole witch thing, it was coming more and more naturally to her all the time. Ah yes, of course, she thought, entering works of art WOULD fall under the School of Oneiromancy...

Once she’d read the spell top to bottom, ensuring that Tome wasn’t leaving out any important details (like whether or not a spell to turn into a were-fox would send you into heat) she slipped off the broomstick and read out the incantation. A dream-like sensation washed over her as she slipped just slightly out-of-step with the physical world. Swaying gently on her feet, she held a finger out toward Tome and said, “If I’m...not...twent, twenty. If I’m...”

“Got it,” Tome said.

Hecate gave a thumbs-up, then stepped through the painting. All at once she was lucid again— and struggling to breathe.

“Oh, stars above, what is all this nonsense,” she groaned, sweeping the long, flowing sleeves of her dress out of the way so that she could tug at the corset laced tight across her chest for some air. The way it squeezed her, she had to assume it had been made for someone with a less-substantial bosom than her own. Yet her painting-clothes bore a striking resemblance to her witch’s attire, particularly in the small coat tugged over her shoulders, and in the traces of golden trim.

She picked up a nearby candelabra and took a moment to appreciate the way the candlelight flowed like oil paint across her body. Then, lifting the hem of her dress, she began to wander down the hallway, calling out, “Hello? Is anyone there?”

The painting-mansion stretched into a byzantine maze of endless parlors and halls and drawing rooms, but Hecate trusted her instincts—and followed where the light and color seemed to be strongest, shying away from the rooms that were fading or starting to flake away. When she finally came upon someone sprawled out on a sumptuous lounge, she was certain she’d found her victim. Although he was squeezed into the same dress and bore the same flowing black hair as the portrait, the painting had yet to blot out his flip-flops, baseball cap, or frat-bro build.

She knelt down before him and held the light up to his face. His gaze was distant and gauzy. He asked, “Are you one of the Master’s...?”

“No, dear. I’m...” Hecate hesitated. ‘A witch’? “ to help you. You have to come with me, okay?” She set down the candelabra and tried to slip an arm underneath his shoulder. His head lolled back against the cushion and he let out a strange falsetto giggle.

“Then the master will take you, too. He loves pretty little things the most...” he said, with a hazy smile on his increasingly crimson lips.

She snorted and said, “I’ll drag you out of here myself, if I must.” But all her attempts to get a grip on him were futile, and getting him off of the couch wouldn’t help her at all if she couldn’t make him want to leave. The color was leeching out of his arms and face, replaced with pale porcelain skin and lavishly painted makeup. His whole body was shrinking too, and filling out the dress more and more as the seconds slipped by. She wouldn’t have much longer to try and reason with him.

“Please, just for a moment, you’ve got to come with me. There’s something I need to show you,” she said in her most patient voice.

“The Master is coming,” he moaned. “I need to be perfect for the Master. I can’t...”

Hecate’s ear cocked to the side. Footsteps in the hallway, coming closer and closer. Someone was coming. She had precious little time left. How was she supposed to wake him from his Gothic-romance stupor?

What if she didn’t have to wake him?

Leaning on the sultry warmth of her voice as hard as she could, she sighed, “Ah, my love, my only! I am a ragged beast without you. Come away with me, I beg you! I cannot bear to be apart from you.” Confusion swam across his face—it was working, but she had to commit. Throwing her arms around him, she cradled her head in his hands and pressed her lips against his, dragging him into a passionate kiss.

The footsteps stopped. The doorknob was turning.

His lashes fluttered as he sank into the kiss with a delicate sigh. His hands began to slip around her corseted waist. She waited until the very last moment she could, then pulled.

One minute, the painting-mansion was whirling past her, as if being pulled into a vortex. The next, she was flung on top of a broad, firm chest, back in the dust and the gloom of the real-world mansion. As she pushed herself up and shook her head, the young man underneath her groaned sleepily. Behind her, the portrait was rapidly crumbling and fading in its frame, struck by two hundred-odd years of age in the span of a couple seconds.

Tome hopped down from the banister where they’d been waiting and trotted over. “Nice! Managed to talk him outta there, huh?”

Hecate staggered up to her feet, brushing the back of her hand across her lips. “...Yes. That’s what I did,” she said.

As she climbed back onto her broomstick, Tome jumped up and took their preferred seat at the back. “You sure do end up on top of people a lot,” they added.

Without turning to look back, she said, “And you sure do sound like you’d like to have all your pages dog-eared.”

While Tome made a show of puffing up their chest and looking offended, they kept their comments to themselves for the for the next few stops.

Night had fully settled in. Trick-or-treating was over, which was a relief, but Halloween parties were in full swing by now. And while Hecate still very much felt like a novice trying to live up to expectations even she didn’t fully understand, she was bit by bit maturing into a competent witch in her own right.

Just tonight, there had been the candy dragon she’d ‘slain’ with a candy-cane spear, and the vengeful mummy she’d lured back into its coffin by passing herself off as a jackal priestess... and the living pumpkin patch, and the fish-men, and the pod-people, and the whole thing with the cows (she was probably going to swear off of whipped cream for good after that one.)

But in all of that, she realized, she hadn’t run into any of her friends.

“Tome, didn’t you say something was amiss on Hawthorne? Some of my human friends are there. I ought to at least make sure they’re all right,” she said.

They were floating high enough that the town was laid out below them like a map, while wispy clouds drifted across the moon above. Tome kneaded their paws anxiously into the bristles of the broom. “I was kinda hoping that one would work itself out. It’s nothing too weird, regular demonic possession, turning-people-into-their-costumes sorta deal, but the demon is, well— we’re talking a real bigwig here. I’d be nervous sending you in against him at the top of your game.”

Hecate shook her head. “I couldn’t just leave them. They’re my friends.”

“Look, Hex, I know you’re worried about them, but...the demon’s gonna be banished come sunrise anyway, and we can just...clean things up as best we can then, all right?”

It was no use trying to convince her otherwise. Hecate had already turned the broom around and was bringing them back down toward the town. She didn’t need Tome’s help navigating; even if she didn’t know where the party was, she could feel her fur prickling as she circled down toward 1716 Hawthorne Street.

“What’s the normal procedure for demonic possession?” she asked.

Tome said, “Cast them out of the host, then banish or seal or...whatever. But Pneumamancy— that’s top-tier witch stuff. You couldn’t even fly a broom a couple hours ago.”

“I have an idea,” Hecate said.

This felt like a dream. But then everything since turning into a witch vixen had also felt like a dream, so what was one more on top of everything else?

Tome had recommended hypnosis as a way to get the demon out of whatever mortal host they were inhabiting. The spell she’d used to give herself a hypnotic gaze had also modified her witch’s attire accordingly—purple silk into black latex, gold trim into steel spikes. She thought it all looked a little ridiculous, and it was a challenge to walk in the tall boots that her leggings had grown into, but all it took was one glance to keep the lions and minotaurs prowling the front lawn of 1716 Hawthorne Street from making a sound as she walked up to the front door and stepped inside.

Cheerleaders and dragons, princesses and monsters, they all stepped aside when they met Hecate’s imperious gaze. This was easier than she’d thought. But maybe it wasn’t surprising that it was easy to walk into a den of demonic corruption. Getting out was the hard part.

In the middle of all the mayhem of partygoers overwhelmed by their urges to act out what they’d become, was Chris. Just Chris, sitting on the couch with a little plastic pitchfork in one hand, a cup of beer in the other, a headband with a pair of devil horns nestled on top of his hair, and a demonic sigil hovering several inches above his head, scorching the very air itself.

“Mitch! You finally made it!” he said. “I thought you were busy doodling or something. Still got that same fox costume from last year, huh?” He gave a theatrical wink.

Hecate stared directly into his eyes and said, “Leave my friend’s body.” The demon was smart, though—he deliberately avoided looking into her eyes, with more self-control than any human would have.

“Aw, that’s no fun,” he said, then took a big sip of beer and set his cup aside. “What’s the matter, no one buying your Girl Scout cookies this year?”

It took all of her concentrated effort just to keep from swaying in her boots. She couldn’t give her plan away; she had to look like she was in control. Short sentences, simple movements— those were all she could handle while still coming off as lucid. “I said leave.”

“Hmm. No, I won’t. Besides, I think Chris here could use a few new vices.” He rose to his feet and stepped closer to Hecate, cocking his head to the side. “And what’s this biker-witch getup you’ve got? You’re not thinking of joining in the fun are you?” A wave of heat crackled against her skin. If she had been human, or if she hadn’t exhausted herself against that werewolf, his lazy attempt at temptation might have worked.

Before he could say any more to try to worm his will deeper into her ears, her hand snapped out and clutched him by the throat. For one moment of surprise—it was a rather foolish thing to do to a demon--he looked into her eyes as she growled “Leave.”

The force of her hypnotic gaze did not so much drive the demon out of Chris as it drove Chris out of the demon. His body was flung back onto the couch, slumped over and unconscious as though he’d had too much to drink. The demonic sigil hadn’t moved an inch—but now, it was blazing against the forehead of the snarling hellhound whose neck Hecate was still clutching.

And now, the demon returned the favor with both hands: lifting her bodily off the ground while she kicked and squirmed and grasped at his wrists. “You little hypocrite,” he said, his voice cold and sharp. “Maybe I’ll see if I can’t pry you apart from that poor boy you’re riding around in. How did you talk him into this? The same way you talked me out of my body?”

That wasn’t how it worked. Hecate knew that; she and Mitch weren’t separate, they were two sides of the same coin—the same person, whether they were wearing a fox costume or a human costume. But there was a sliver of doubt, enough to catch her off guard in her half-dreaming state. What if she wasn’t a witch? What if she was just an art major who’d been tricked into throwing himself in front of a powerful demon?

Mitch began to panic. He couldn’t tell if this was a dream or if this was real, but either way, it was getting harder to breathe. The hellhound’s bare red hide wrinkled in a vicious grin.

Do you trust me?

It was his voice—her voice—the fox’s voice, whoever it belonged to. And she—he—they both had come to save his friends, even against Tome’s anxious pleading. So yes. He trusted her.

In your right boot.

One of his hands lost its grip and slumped down by his side. Stars and moons popped in front of his eyes. His dangling fingers grasped at his thighs, then tightened around a folded piece of paper that had been wedged into the top of his boot. All at once, the dreamlike haze lifted, as did his—their—her confusion. Her name was Hecate, she was a witch, and she had a very foolhardy plan.

“If I go,” she said hoarsely, “I’ll be taking you with me.”

The demon sneered and snorted into her face. “I don’t think so.”

A smile tickled her lips. Though her voice was little more than a rough gasp, she squeezed out, “Are you quite sure of that, dear?”

“I’m staying right here,” he said.

Hecate whispered, “Good.”

Then with a whoosh, the demon’s hands crashed together with nothing but thin air between them. The witch had simply vanished, without so much as a tuft of orange fur left behind. Snarling with rage, he opened his paws, staring down at them, then casting his gaze around to either side. Where could that self-righteous hag have gone!?

Then he heard something, or rather, he didn’t. The crowd around him had gone silent. Still. Their faces in shadow, their forms indistinct, blending together, black as ink. They were nothing but silhouettes, and he had been so focused on the witch in his hands that he hadn’t even noticed. Realization slowly dawned on him, but already his claws and limbs were stiffening. He could no more move them than you could move the stroke of a pen across a page. His mouth curled open in a roar of silent rage, and then finally, everything came to a stop.

Meanwhile, Hecate tipped her head back against the couch cushions, chest heaving slowly, surrounded by a room full of passed-out partygoers gradually returning back to their natural forms. The spikes and leather of her witch’s attire relaxed into gold and silk as she let the hypnotism spell lapse, then allowed herself a minute or two just to breathe. She would never have thought she’d feel this relieved to be back in this outfit again.

She couldn’t rest on her laurels for too long, though. She ought to be on her way before people started waking up. So once she’d had time to savor the ability to breathe, she rose from the couch, and snatched up the folded piece of paper that had fallen to the floor. As she unfolded it she found the figure of a snarling hellhound, standing in the middle of her quick sketch of a party, claws raised as if he meant to tear his way out of the paper itself.

Good luck with that, she thought with a smile.

When she got back to her broom waiting outside, Tome took one look at the drawing, shivered, and said, “No way are you sticking that between any of my pages.”

“Sounds like you had a rough night,” Mitch said.

Chris leaned against the doorframe of Mitch’s room, baggy-eyed and pinching his nose. “Yeah, man. We think someone spiked the punch, or...something. Good thing you, y’know. Missed it or whatever.”

“Yeah, I just got so wrapped up in other stuff I lost track of time,” Mitch said. “Thanks for coming to check on me, though. If I were you, I’d probably have gone straight back to my room and passed out.”

“Hey. S’what friends are for,” Chris said, then pulled his hand away from his face and peered over at a black lump curled up on Mitch’s bed. “Woah, you got a cat? I didn’t think they let you keep pets here.” He stepped over and gave the sleeping cat a few scratches behind its ear. They yawned, blinked curiously up at Chris, and let out a groggy mrowl.

Mitch felt his cheeks getting warm, but he shrugged and laughed it off. “Well, they don’t technically let us, so...just keep it quiet.”

“Haha, gotcha. What’s its name?” Chris asked.

Mitch and the cat shared the slightest of glances. “It’s uh, Tome.”

Chris nodded along as he stroked the cat’s back, then a look of realization crossed his face and he grinned. “Ohh. I get it, like, tomcat but tome-cat.”

Again, Mitch glanced at Tome, whose narrowed glare said ‘wow, what a comedy genius, he’s the first person to ever think of that’. He grimaced a little and shrugged back at Tome. You kind of had to take the bad jokes when you were friends with Chris.

“Anyway, yeah, glad it’s just a bad hangover or whatever. Probably ought to crawl into bed...or shower. Or both.” Chris got up and headed for the door. “See you later, man.”

Mitch nodded and waved from his seat at his desk. He’d been going over the spellbook designs from last afternoon when Chris had dropped by. “Yeah, you rest up, dear.”

The door had already swung half-shut, but when Chris heard that last ‘dear’, he paused and poked his head back in. “Wait, what?” he asked.

“Bye!” Mitch said, hopping up and pushing the door firmly shut. Once he’d heard Chris’s muffled ‘all right, whatever dude!’ he leaned back against it and let out a sigh of relief.

Tome’s head peeked above the covers as they stretched their legs, front and back, with a small, satisfied purr. “Honestly, you’re more convincing as a witch than as a human.”

As Mitch relaxed, his ears flipped up from beneath his hair, his tail swished out behind his back, and soft fur began to ease back over his face and arms. “Oh, do be quiet, you overgrown pamphlet,” he said, letting his voice slip back into its vulpine tone. “I’m not used to being both at once.”