The Witch & the Conductor

“The cheek of that person,” Baba Yaga grumbled and mumbled to herself while preparing a more-potent-than-usual magic potion. “Stealing the bicycle of Baba Yaga, the greatest, most-awesome, most-fearsome witch in the world,” she continued in a tone reeking of disbelief. The room was bare, except for a closet, out of which various yarns of wool of different colours kept tumbling out periodically, only to be shunted back in through a casual, disinterested gesture from the witch’s wand.

“If I get my hands on the miscreant, I will turn him into a toad, then make a nice hot toad stew, and have it for dinner,” she threatened no one in particular, as the room was empty except for her.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Baba Yaga’s ears perked up, and she slowly walked up to the door and opened it. It was the old Ticket Examiner, or Conductor as they are called in some countries, of the daily train from Flam. “What is it, do you need a potion to win the heart of a nubile nymphet?” she growled irritably upon seeing him.

Seeing her mood, the Conductor, whose name was Knut, stuttered and stammered, and just about managed to squeak out, “I am Knut, madam, and your bicycle….” Before he could continue any further, there was a ‘poof’ sound, and he looked down to find that the floor was much closer to his eyes than it used to be till just a moment ago, and his feet were now hairy, with tiny claws instead of fingers and nails.

He started whimpering on seeing this, and Baba Yaga couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying, so she casually turned him back into a man and said, “I don’t care whether you’re a nut or a squirrel, what have you done with my bicycle?” Poor Knut was petrified, and tried to reply, but no words came out of his mouth, just meek sounds.

So Baba Yaga obviously turned him into a sheep next, and said, “If you continue bleating like this, you will permanently become that Ba Ba Black Sheep whom nursery kids across the world keep pestering for three bags full of wool. So this time when I turn you back into a man, you better be ready with an answer. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY BICYCLE?”

And suddenly, Knut was a man again, but this time, he did not lose any time, and quickly blurted out non-stop, in one breath, like Shankar Mahadevan’s Breathless, or the Dutch Prime Minister’s welcome tweet in Hindi to the Indian Prime Minister, “Yourbicycle ishangingoutsideaboveyourbroomsticksmadam”

Baba Yaga hit her bony, wizened hand on her equally bony and wizened forehead, and taking a deep breath (and counting to 10 as her therapist had advised) said, “Can…you….please…repeat…but…very…very…slowly…this…time…please?”

So Knut gathered some courage, and said, very, very slowly, “Your…bicycle…is….hanging….outside….above….your….broomsticks….madam!

And it was then that Baba Yaga remembered that she had not taken her broomstick (regular or spare) last night to the local pub as she knew she would be getting piss-drunk, it was her ex’s 400th wedding anniversary yesterday after all, and she did not wish to fly after drinking. So she had taken her bicycle instead,and upon returning extremely late last night (at almost 8pm), with copious amount of alcohol of various varieties and strengths in her bloodstream, she had ‘parked’ her bicycle on her outside wall, by sheer force of habit, above her broomsticks.


Now Baba Yaga felt slightly guilty about turning poor Knut into first a squirrel and then a sheep, so she said in an embarrassed tone, “Here, take some magic potion. It will turn you into….”

But before she could complete her sentence, Knut ran as if his life depended upon it, he had already been turned into too many animals today, and he just wanted to get back to his routine, boring job of checking tickets on a train.


And so he missed out on hearing the rest of Baba Yaga’s sentence, “…it will turn you into the most good-looking man in the world, the envy of all men, and irresistible to all women, forever!”


About anuragbakhshi

At the age of 40, I decided to exit the corporate world, and enter the world of stories as a full-time writer. Wish me luck!
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