Deep in the Black Forest, or "Schwartzwald" as the locals call it, there stands a small, moss-covered cottage. Its quaint gingerbread trimmings give it a charming Eighteenth Century rustic look. Civil servants of the Bavarian state government maintain the hut and its surroundings, and give guided tours to any hikers who happen by. Nailed to a post out front is a faded wooden plaque explaining, in six languages, that this was reputed to be the home of the fabled "Wechselhexe," or Change Witch.
"Sir, could you kindly tell me what that's all about?"
The tour guide slowly shook his head at the young American tourist's question. "My dear fellow, the Brothers Grimm never wrote that particular story down. They considered it "unsittsam," indecent. And with good reason. Even in our modern, permissive era, it might be rather strong medicine even for those who consider themselves enlightened. In any case, it is best you do not enquire into matters that do not concern you."
Charlie Mason had a reputation for doing just that. Over the years he had stuck his nose into many a dark corner, and had lived to tell the tale. So, he wasn't about to be put off by an officious middle-aged park ranger in a funny-looking uniform.
That night Charlie was back. The cottage loomed darkly under the full moon, unlit and empty. It was unlocked.
The flickering beam of the penlight showed the same well-manicured interior he had seen in the daytime. There was the open guest book. He looked. His was the last name in it. What the hell was he looking for, anyway?
Secrets? Hidden trapdoors? Ha! This phony hut was just one more roadside tourist trap. A waste of time.
Charlie thought he heard a voice echoing in the distance. Was someone singing?
Outside. There was someone outside. In the bright moonlight, a woman was dancing. Dancing and singing.
He cautiously edged out the doorway. It was a young girl, her long tresses flying above her narrow hips as she twirled, her face savagely alight with the joy of her song. A cloud obscured the moon and it was no longer a maiden dancing. She blurred and her features and form flowed into those of a mature woman, heavy of breast and hips, with a wicked gleam in her eye. Charlie blinked. He looked again. Now it was a hag who was dancing, dried up, wrinkled, with a face that had known far too many sorrows. The dance slowed, then stopped.
"I've heard tell of a witch in these parts."
"Eine Hexe? Bin ich nicht, denn?" the old woman answered.
"A witch? What else could I be?" Charlie heard. He understood not a word of German, but the meaning of what she was saying penetrated deeply into his awareness. He approached closer.
"Na, Bursche, was soll ich denn mit dir?" Well, my boy, what am I to do with you?
Her face was no longer that of an old woman. She was a maiden, and a young maiden, at that. Her figure was that of a girl just past adolescence. As she whirled around, she transformed yet again. She was a woman in late middle age, a merry widow exuding lewdness in her every gesture. Her clothes had somehow vanished. "Wagst du?" she asked as she beckoned to him. Do you dare?