Sophie stood on the metro platform, her eyes darting to the other commuters who stood near her.
Too near. It was dangerous for them to stand too near.
She held herself into as tight a package as she could, her arms crossed and hunched together, her chin burrowed into the neck of her sweater, and the soles of her shoes touching. A woman with an oversize purse wandered towards her, lost in the book that she was reading, and Sophie tripped as she hustled out of the way.
The metro train slid into the station with all of the grace of a ton of scrap metal falling down a garbage chute and the doors clanged open. Sophie waited until everybody else had boarded and the doors were about to close before she darted on board like a scared mouse diving behind a refrigerator.
With a twist of her hips she squeezed her way between a punk kid with a massive leather satchel and a prim, fastidious young woman with a tiny purse. Holding her breath, she slipped past a softball player and her long bag.
Then with a sigh of relief, she squeezed herself into a corner, farthest away from everyone else.
Unfortunately, that's when the metro train gave a mighty lurch and rammed the softball player's bag right into Sophie's gut. The pommel of the bat pressed her solar plexus. She wheezed and fell to her knees.
"Sorry," the softball player said, reaching down to help her up. The bag was too close.
"No," Sophie moaned.
The softball player frowned. Ignoring Sophie's protests, the softball player seized her wrist and hoisted her to her feet. The bag grazed Sophie's elbow.
"Drop that bag!" Sophie yelled.
The softplayer player stared at Sophie, decided that the accident had been repaid, and began to studiously dig into her softball bag in an effort to ignore the crazy woman. The next moment, Sophie heard the sound of a zipper, a long slurp, and the softball player was gone.
The bag fell to the floor. It rumbled as it burped.
"No no no," Sophie said.
At least the rest of the riders were keeping their distance, Sophie thought. Of course, they never seemed to notice the missing passenger.
She rode several stops past the one closest to her work because the train was too crowded to safely get past the rest of the passengers. Sophie had almost finished walking the mile back to her work when she noticed that she'd been tailed.
She ducked into a convenience store and pretended to browse the magazine rack. Her pursuer entered. He was huge and wore a long coat, covered in pockets. He paused in the entrance of the store, saw her, and started to walk towards Sophie. She yelped, dropped the magazine, and ran.
She knocked into the purse of a woman who had been walking behind her. Slurp! Burp!
Dammit! She barreled out of the aisle, and she heard the thud of the man's footfalls behind her. Dodging around a small child with a cartoon character backpack, she glanced behind her and so didn't notice how slowly the automatic door was opening. Sophie bounced off of it and felt something crunch on the back of her head.
When she came to, she saw a pile of paramedic's bags sitting next to her.
"Ugh," she said, feeling her head. Someone had wrapped it in bandages.
"They just kept calling the paramedics," said the stranger in the coat. He was sitting against a display of fake eyelashes. "Each set would disappear and nobody seemed to notice the pile of hungry bags that grew with each set. So I bandaged you up."
"And you didn't get eaten by anything?"
The man gestured at his coat. "Lots of pockets. No bags. On purpose."
"What do you mean, on purpose?"
"I've been investigating you for some time. I've heard rumors about a witch that turns bags into ravenous monsters. A friend of a friend said that she that travels the metro around here, so I've spent several months looking into her. You."
"I'm a witch?"
"Yep. Don't look so concerned. Most of the time witchy powers are the result of some neo-natal trauma. I knew a woman who projected an aura around her that made all music written by pre-18th century composers sound like Foreigner. She wanted to be a composer but is now the unhappily rich manager for a Foreigner cover band. Ever hear of Alice Stage and the Immigrants?"
"If you like Foreigner, you'd love them. You can tell that you're not listening to the real foreigner because of the full brass section. Anyway, my guess is that your mom caught an errant purse in the stomach one too many times."
"But why do you care?"
"Because somebody has to document the magic that surrounds us every day. Because life isn't as mundane as most people seem to think. Because somebody has to tell your story. Because once upon a time I made a drunken bet with a friend and I'm not going to owe anybody ten bucks."
The Moral: Watch where you're swinging that thing or else you'll cause someone's uterus to make a witch.