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Authors: Paul Kater

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BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
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"I know. I take good care of myself," Hilda
said, pride evident. "Uhm, what are you going to do now? I have a
problem to handle."

William scratched his head. "I am not really
sure. Looks like the truck is not going anywhere soon, unless you
have a Ford dealership around who can get here."

Hilda stared at him blandly. "We have only
regular things here. Cartmakers, wheelmakers, horsemen." She hoped
she got through to him.

A feeling of discomfort crawled over William.
The car was a mess. He didn't even want to consider what had
happened to the engine, but from the looks of the front of the car
it had been shortened by a considerable number of inches.

He took his phone and flipped it open. "No
signal. Why had I already expected that..."

"What magic is that?", asked Hilda, peeking
at the shiny device. "Can you kill people with that?"

William grinned. "You'd have to try very
hard, Hilda." He put the phone away. "Maybe I ask stupid things,
but can you fix the car for me?"

Hilda looked at William as if he had asked
her for her virginity. Then she looked at the car. "That."

"Yes. That."

Hilda walked over to the car and looked at
it. "What does it do?"

"You drive it. You sit behind the wheel, fire
up the engine, shift gears, press the pedals and you go."

The wicked witch was intrigued, and looked at
what William pointed out. "This is an insane cart," she decided.
"There are three pedals, and you only have two feet."

"You don't press all of them at once."

Hilda gave him a contemptuous look. "Insane.
And what makes it go? There is no horse. No mule."

"There's a big V 8 engine in the front," said
William. He was not too technical, but he knew that.

"Vee ate..." Hilda sampled it on her tongue.
"What is vee ate?"

The book salesman started to worry. This was
not going well very quickly. "It is under there," he pointed, "but
it is all cracked and wrung out of shape now. I can't open it."

Hilda snorted. "Such a big man. Abscindo
obductio."

A blood-chilling sound came from the front of
the smashed-up truck as the bonnet was torn away by an invisible
hand. William became a whiter shade of pale as he saw and heard it
happen.

Hilda could not look into the engine
compartment and cast a slightly accusing glance at the owner of the
scrapheap. A flick of the wand made her float up. "So, that is vee
ate. Doesn't look like much, William. I'd put my silver on a horse
if I were you."

"Does that mean you can't fix it?" The
salesman felt all hope fleeting.

"Yes. Sorry. I have to have some idea of what
it is in order to fix it. This is..." Hilda shrugged and shook her
head. She was not happy with the situation, but she knew that she
had to do something for William. He knew nothing and probably could
do as much. She got her feet back on the ground, walked to the door
of the truck and looked inside. She mumbled a few words and
waited.

Some metal parts inside the car made it clear
that they did not like to be ripped out of shape, but that was not
Hilda's concern. A few moments later she turned to William and held
out her hand. "Here. Yours." She held the small crystal ball that
she had taken from the Swarovsky shop in the man's nutty world.
"Good to keep that with you, trust me."

William accepted the precious little ball and
with delight he saw that the tiny light inside it was still
dancing. The ball had not even been scratched.

Hilda looked at how he gazed at the light,
how his face relaxed and his eyes started to shine as he saw the
bouncing light. "You like it, don't you?"

"Yes. I do. Very much. It is a precious
reminder of our encounter. Our first encounter." William closed his
fingers over the ball as he looked at the wicked witch. "When you
had gone, I could hardly believe that you had been there, Hilda.
But then I found this ball in the back of the old truck, and when I
saw the dancing light, I knew it had to be true. And now you are
here- I mean now I am here. You really haven't changed a bit."

Hilda frowned. "Let's get down to business,
William. We cannot stay here. My goal for coming here has been
blown. Your... thing there is not going anywhere. I guess I'll have
to take you with me for now and then we'll see what we can work
out." She snipped her fingers, and from somewhere the broom came
running. "You got any stuff you want to take with you?"

William stared at the floating broom that had
raced up to them. "Uhm, yes, I got a bag with some clothes with
me."

"Get it out of your thing, then we'll
go."

William went onto the back of his thing, and
forced one of the metal crates open. The lid had taken a severe
bashing on the trip from the real world to this funny place. He
found his weekend-bag. "I hope this is not too big."

Hilda grinned. "Not a problem. Anything
else?"

William jumped off the back of the picked,
his bag in hand. "Nothing I need just now," he said.

"Right." Hilda took her wand. "Pocket-size,"
she said. Seconds later, the bag was indeed small enough to fit
into a pocket comfortably.

"Holy Bejeebus.", said William as she pointed
at it.

"Put it in your pocket, or wherever you like
it, man. Don't give me that holy crap. I don't do holy crap, I tell
you now. And don't forget that." Hilda conjured up a second broom
and handed it to William. "Here. A ride you can depend on. Better
than that no-good piece of junk you came here with."

Henry Ford would not have been happy to hear
her statement, had he been able to hear it.

"Right," said William, eyeing the broom. "And
how am I supposed to go about this?" He mounted the broom best as
he knew.

Hilda let out a sound that is best described
as utter despair. "Planning on flying backwards, are you? Here, let
me show you." She mounted the broom, bristles to the front, and
lifted off a few feet. "That is how it works."

William stared, again. "Not the way they told
me how it works," he grinned. He turned the broom around.

"Okay. Hold on and don't wobble about too
much. I'm not used to flying two people at the same time. I'll go
slow at first."

William had no idea what to expect, only that
there would be a very uncanny and uncomfortable feeling between his
legs, that would make proper sitting a chore. To his surprise,
there was nothing of that. It felt as if there was a soft cushion
under his behind as the broom lifted him into the air. It did not
feel unstable at all.

"Are you okay there?", Hilda asked from
several yards higher up.

"So far, so good," William said. He did not
dare to wave at her. Holding on to the broomstick with both hands
did feel like the proper thing to do. After all, it was only a
broomstick.

"Cool puppies," Hilda said with a grin. She
found some bizarre pleasure in this. "Hang on then, we're going!"
She started off the flight slowly, as she had promised. Gone for
now were the anxiety and the fear about the challenge, the worries
about how to get out of that alive. She had a new thing to
entertain herself with, and that give her a thrill she did not have
very often.

William at first only focussed on staying on
the broom. The environment went by mostly unnoticed. After a few
minutes already, however, he felt more confident. The invisible
seat was stable and felt good, so he glanced up to Hilda a few
times, who flew higher than he did for some reason. He also now
dared to look around a bit, seeing the last bits of mountainous
area fleet away beneath them. They were approaching a magnificent
lake, blue as only in fairy-tales or photoshopped pictures. The
grassy patches around it, interspersed with incredibly high trees,
were greener than green. He saw herds of sheep, and people walking
along with them in clothes that belonged in the Middle Ages, as
they were not flying that high.

The shepherds did not notice the witch and
her strange companion up in the air, or did not deem them
interesting enough to react to. After all, there were more
important things to do, like making sure the sheep were not
drifting away from the herd. Sheep were important.

"We're going higher," Hilda warned William.
It was necessary to avoid the high treetops. She was however a
wicked witch. She got it exactly so that William's shoes hit the
tops of the first trees they were coming over, making him squeal
and grab hold of the broom again with a frenzy.

"Relax, nothing can go wrong," Hilda told
him, but her laughter did not underline that statement.

5. Flying business

As they progressed, Hilda sped up the
journey. Otherwise, she knew, it would be past dusk before they'd
reach her house. While they were flying faster, talking had become
more difficult, which was fine with Hilda. She pained her head
about what had happened, and the complications that it would
present while she was trying to mosey herself through the challenge
bit.

William was getting more confident about the
flying business and looked around freely now. They had passed over
several small villages that all looked interesting. He would love
to go there and see what kind of bookstores they had, if any.

He noticed that they were slowing down again
as they sailed over a large forest area.

"This is the forest where most of the gnomes
live," Hilda told him. She had dropped some altitude and was flying
next to William now.

"Gnomes. Right." William did not grin or try
to make a funny remark. He had seen so many things already that did
not make sense, gnomes were easily added to that gallery.

"When we're past this, we're going to make a
circle over the castle of the king and the mean queen," Hilda
informed him, "although most of her meanness has left her by now, I
guess." She chuckled and did not elaborate for William. That was
okay for him though, he was curious to see a castle in a fairy-tale
land. He had decided that that was where he had indeed ended up and
was reaching acceptance with that.

The castle took his breath away. No picture
in any book, in any artist's mind, could have equalled the
appearance of this phenomenal white building, with its high towers,
wide moat, large inner courts and giant flowerbeds.

The swoop they made around the castle did not
go unnoticed. Walt, who was walking outside for a while, enjoying
the last rays of sunshine, saw Hilda and the unknown guest. He
waved at them. As he heard the shrieking, cackling laughter of the
wicked witch, he grinned. It still was good to be king, and to rub
elbows with that witch at times. He did wonder who the person on
the other broom was. Perhaps, he thought, she had a visit from some
warlock, as the man seemed very much at ease on the broomstick as
well.

William did not wave at the king, as per
explicit instruction of the witch. "We do not wave at people.
People wave at us and we're the ones with the stuck up nose that
don't wave back," she had told him. "I know you are not a witch,
but you are not going to ruin my reputation because of that detail.
Be warned." And so he was warned.

After completing a full round along the
castle grounds, Hilda made the brooms set course to her house. She
praised herself for having a few more rooms. At least that would
not be a problem. A bed would be conjured up quickly enough. And a
lock.

They approached the house. It's red roof was
visible from far away, as the rays of the retreating sun appeared
to set it on fire.

"Looks like your house is on fire," said
William.

"Looks are deceiving. This is my house, I
know how it can act at times. Here, have another cupcake."

William did not dare to ask and accepted the
cupcake, a nice pink one. As all the others she had handed him.
"Somehow you don't strike me as a person who'd go for pink,
Hilda."

Her cheeks turned red, not pink. "Shut up. I
have brooms to land," she tried to ward off his interest.

As there was a second broom, she did not
attempt to land her broom on the green dot in front of the door. A
gentle touch down, as if someone pushed a really big feather under
his feet, was how they came back to the ground.

"This was the most incredible journey I have
ever had," William said. "Thank you ever so much for this."

"Could hardly leave you there in the
mountains, could I?", said the wicked witch. "Hey, any visitors
worth mentioning?"

"Not really," said the house.

"Holy Bejeebus," muttered William who had not
been prepared for a speaking house. It would not be the last thing
he was not prepared for.

"Right," said the witch. "William, you can
let go of the broom now..."

"What? Oh, okay." He let go of the broom that
floated away from him and parked itself against the wall of the
house. "Nice house you have here. Looks like brandnew too."

"Hah," said the house. "You wouldn't believe
the pain in her ass I had to be before she painted me again."

"Uhm..." William was a bit lost for words as
the house addressed him directly. "I doubt it was that bad."

The house did not find the man worthy to
further talk to him for now, after that remark.

Hilda walked up to the door, took the two
arrows from the doorjamb and walked into the house. William decided
not to wait for an invitation, he had already understood that Hilda
was not very much the kind for those. As he wanted to close the
door, the house beat him to it. Just to make a point.

Hilda's broom, that had followed her inside,
went to its regular place next to the fireplace.

William grinned as he saw it happen.

Two goldfish on the cup that was still on the
large black table, curiously peeked around the rounding of their
home and almost fell off it in surprise, as they saw a strange man
in Hilda's house.

BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
7.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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