The judges for Casilda's Hat Contest have spoken! Casilda's hat has found its master.
To win this toothy hat, many of you submitted excellent stories explaining its origin. I suppose it's a cliche to say that choosing a winner wasn't easy, but it's true all the same: this was a tough one. So tough, in fact, that we've picked a first AND second place winner. "Well, get on with it!" you say. Oh, all right. If you insist.
In 1st place, winning the prized hat: "Casilda's Hat" by Rena
Congratulations, you two! If you haven't already, please send me your mailing addresses. And congratulations to everyone else as well! Each and every entry was wonderful in its own way. We thoroughly enjoyed reading them all! And now the winning entries:
1st and 2nd place are posted below. Click here to read all top 20 entries!
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"Casilda's Hat" by Rena (1st place!)
"You see, Casilda, what the Devil's work can do." The man's right hand fumbled with his rosary while the other held the white hand of one solemn, black haired girl who was watching a bonfire, with something indistinguishable at the center of it. Her little feet shifted back and forth, and her body swayed with them, in a sad, nervous sort of dance.
Brother Michael looked around the churchyard, his eyes dragging along little, insignificant details of the scene, focusing on bushes and carts and gravestones, and not the pyre whose smoke stung his eyes.
"Your Mama did the devil's work and she is suffering now, as she will suffer for eternity. Child, you must understand that this is how Satan works. He is everywhere and he might seem nice to look at, but, oh! Jesus's face is much sweeter to behold."
Casilda became very still.
"Jesus is very handsome?"
"Oh, so much more than you can imagine, Casilda!"
Her mama had described a man as very handsome once. She described him dead in a stream, with his entrails all falling out from her mama's kitchen knife three days later. Now mama was burnt like a bread left to toast for too long and Casilda supposed she would not see her anymore, not in the way that she remembered. She remembered mama always making things – teas, and poppets, and odd-shaped pendants to hang around necks and doorways, and always-good food. But Casilda supposed she would have to do without these things, because Brother Michael had burnt Mama - like toast - and Casilda might be young, but she knew Mama wasn't going to come back.
And soon there was little left too see, either of Mama or the fire, so Brother Michael led her away, into the church, past all the pews and the nave, through a doorway in the back, up a flight of stairs, into a hallway full of doors. He pushed Casilda into a room as best he could, but she didn't want to go in. She hovered in the doorway, clinging to the doorknob just above head, watching Brother Michael as he unlocked a door, and entered his own room. She turned and walked into the room that she had been told was hers to sleep in. It had bare wood floors, smooth plaster walls and one large window with two iron bars covered in chipping red paint. There was a chair, and a nest of blankets in the corner.
It was then that Casilda began to feel very lonely. She missed her Mama terribly, because Brother Michael had promised to take care of her and he did not seem so keen on making things as her mama had been. Casilda wondered if, maybe, she could find a fire and if, somehow, she could get into the fire, so she could find Mama, and stay with her in the fire, instead of with Brother Michael in the church. She spun around a few times in the middle of the room, thinking about her mama and fire and the bare little room.
Still, she wouldn't know where to find a fire, or even how to make one. Lonely as ever, she curled up on the blanket-nest, and fell asleep in the late afternoon sunshine.
It was very dark when Casilda awoke, but she knew someone was in the room with her.
A deep chuckle resounded in the room. "No, Casilda"
She grew a little afraid of that voice, but she also grew a little angry that someone had come into her room without her permission.
"Who are you?" she demanded, her little voice raised.
"Your Papa, Casilda."
She stood up, and drew closer to the chair from which the voice came. The man sitting in it was tall with very dark hair and thick eyebrows, dressed all in black, with big black boots, and a black hat - its large, flat brim tipped upwards, so the man and the girl could study each others' faces plainly in the weak moonlight cutting into the dark from the window.
"You knew my mama?"
"We knew each other very well."
She scowled deeply, her feet doing a stomping sort of dance.
"What's wrong, Casilda?"
The man's dark eyes flashed as he looked toward the door, and then they grew somewhat distant.
"Ah yes, Brother Michael…"
He took her little white hand and led her from the room, into the hall, and then into the locked room where the friar slept.
Hours later, the two exited the same room, a little bloodier for the wear, and looking quite pleased with themselves.
Papa led Casilda from the church, she leaping and twirling all the way, and looked down at her with a certain fondness. Dawn was just beginning to break over the dusty road outside the churchyard gates. He took a cord from his pocket and held out his hand expectantly. Casilda gave him the contents of her tightly fisted hand – three bloody teeth, extracted from the late Brother Micheal, long before he had stopped screaming. Deftly, the man strung the teeth on the cord and knotted the cord around his wide-brimmed hat.
When he removed the hat from his head, the grey dawn revealed two glistening black horns emerging from his dark hair.
"Casilda, my daughter, my own…."
"I think you shall grow up to be quite the dancer."
"Why do you think so?"
"I have a feeling, that's all. I'm usually right about these things. You would do well to remember that."
"And remember, when you go through trouble, you should always expect a payment…something in return." He fingered the teeth strung on the hat in his hands thoughtfully and placed the hat upon his daughter's head.
"And be a good girl, Casilda." He laughed, long and deep and kept laughing as he walked away from the small, pale girl with a skip in his step.
Untitled, by Mike Kolachny (2nd place!)
On the hottest night, In the darkest place, A father filled with fright, Began to pace...
Drawing up a circle black, They cried with all their might, They tried to bring the bruja back, To help them out that night,
The candles flickered on the floor, The wax began to drip, Then suddenly appeared a door, Which opened with a rip,
The bruja entered gracefully, For one so old and worn, The parents looked up thankfully, And she looked back in scorn,
She didn't smile, She didn't frown, She paused a while, And reached in her gown,
Pulling forth a pair of shears, She cut the mother's hair, She bottled up the parent's tears, And placed the bottle on the stair,
The father held his lover close, She trembeled at his side, With a look so ghastly and morose, The bruja gazed upon the bride,
"A mistake you two have made tonight, For trying to call me here, But I'll admit I'm impressed by your valor and might, So I'll deliver this child, my dear,
Inside you lies the name from a tomb, A demon reborn in bloodied flesh, The baby writhing in your tender womb, Craves bodies new and fresh,
My sister met her long ago, In a dream of wooded hell, Her comatose body filled me with woe, And my soul I had to sell,
I learned of the fairy that kept her in sleep, That grew to chase her fast, Unable to wake, in this monster's keep, My dear sister did not last,
With candles lit and my head placed low, I fell deep into her dream, I traveled to the old hollow, The center of the woods began to gleam,
I ventured toward the eerie light, That I felt was waiting for me, When I reached the spot that was most bright, I saw the spirits flee,
How surprised I was to see them all, For I thought there was only one, The ghost of my sister, the faerie, and standing tall, Was a monster with a look of fun,
The ghost of my sister drew swiftly near, And smiled with a look of truth, She opened my palm and I gaped in fear, When she placed in it a tooth,
Solemn and still I stood as she faded, And I placed the tooth in my brooch, Looking deeply distraught and deeply jaded, The large monster was next to approach,
He flew toward me, all I did was stare, White fur, red eyes, and horns that loomed above, 'My name is Creazil and although this is rare, I bear a gift from a girl sent with love,'
He withdrew from the air a silken hat, And he placed it on my head, He turned away, slick like a cat, Moving as soundly as the dead,
Now of course I wasn't alone, There was one remaining voice, So fearful was I that I felt like stone, And I moved toward it with no choice,
The wicked fairy sneered my way, And I gazed my eyes on her's, With a demonic look that could take the light from the day, She began to speak in garish slurs,
'My name is Casilda and its time we met, I apologize for taking a life, Although I honestly cannot feel regret, I'm sorry I caused you strife,
I meant to draw you in these woods, For your magic is quite strong, When your sister came in bearing such little goods, She did not last so long...
But I promise you its not in vain, I am to return one day, And I will come back as a friend to help you gain, I'll earn you a decent pay,
I'll be the child you cannot bear, And yet I'll be so much more, Nothing has existed that can prepare, For the things I have in store,
Now sullenly I cannot come, Without something to help me out, I need a power vessel or I'll succumb, And my power will destroy all about,
With this energy drain, I can stay in control, But I need just one more thing, A weapon to hold, blessed with a soul, One that will make the departed sing,
Now go you forth to find these things, To aid me and my power, Be it human parts or magic rings, From cave to tallest tower..."
The bruja paused to look outside, She gazed up at the stars, Her weary face showed she often had cried, And she had battled, by the look of the scars,
"My first destination led me to meander, Where a girl lived who could not make a sound, Alas, at the bottom of lake Coriander, I found the tooth with power bound,
Next I was led to a place old and secret, Where Cupid's heart was broken, Stella did her best, and yet, Age had left its token,
All that remained of the vengeful child, Was a tooth in the depths of her lair, I took the tooth, whose power felt brazen and wild, Still more I had to ensnare,
In a broken part of history, I discovered an older grave, Like an old forgotten memory, Ms. Von Gier's ribbon was all I could save,
Finally I moved on bold and valent, To a stage long-since burned, A show had been held to display the children's talent, But flames and maddness are what they earned,
A tambourine from a little girl, Blessed with her uncanny magic, Soon enough Casilda will dance and twirl, And lead the world into something tragic,
With the ribbon tied around the hat, And the three teeth placed snug in the band, I came to find the mother that, Would seek my guiding hand,
So now Casilda, its time to rise! Come now you age old creature! Take forth from the earth, burn the stars in the skies! Let me see your every feature!