Listen to this story, narrated by C. S. E. Cooney:
In the cool of night, as the owls hoot and moonlight streams through my window, I whisper the spell to twine my hair into my tower. Tendrils of black flecked with gold worm their way into the mortar, seeking the smallest crevices in my tower’s stones and binding us together.
(I used to love my hair’s color, till during your assail you shouted how you’d heard of its beauty and that it made you love me sight unseen.)
My hair is long, but it’s painful for me and my tower both. If I did not adore my tower so, I would resent being so closely pressed to it that the rough stone marks my cheek. I would resent not being able to take so much as a step away from its wall, lest I pull all the hair from my head and break the spell.
But I love my tower, and I whisper the spell, and so I send it walking.
It starts as a rumble, ten stories below, where my tower’s slick stones bite into the earth. The rumble roars up, splitting it along its mortar on two circular sides, so that it forms legs, after a fashion. And oh, my tower groans at this, and I weep, for it hurts it so to do this, but it loves me enough to do whatever I ask, and I— I want it to walk.
(Is it vindictive of me if I say that, in my most furious moments, I wanted it to crush you? But, ah, I am not a murderer.)
The rumbles ease as my tower pulls its stone legs free of the earth and thumps them down again, one-two one-two, building into a ground-eating momentum that will take us far across the rolling meadows and through a forest.
In the forest, we do our best not to hurt the squirrels or the deer. They are only animals, and afraid of us interlopers, and they scurry away as my tower stomps among the roots and rocks.
(It is unfortunate that the devastation to the trees and ferns signals we’ve passed here. Someone like you might come to seek me out and set his sweat-slicked hands to the stones of my tower, dig the steel teeth of his boots into its sides. You yourself were not able to climb my tower before you procured steel-teethed boots.)
We reach a clearing by which a small stream flows, lit by moon- and starlight. I breathe out in relief for, while I love my tower and am glad of the spell, its steps do tug and pull at my scalp. Yet my tower, being rock, is never so alive as when it walks. Despite the pain, I linger a bit before whispering the spell that loosens my hair from its stones.
(During your last climb, you cried out multiple times that I was cursed. Once I grew vexed enough to shout that no, I wasn’t; couldn’t a woman have her privacy? Why shouldn’t I want to spend my days and nights and twilights alone in my tower? The next thing you said made me want to drop a millstone on your head. Poor dear; the curse has you so badly, you don’t even know your own mind. You don’t know you’re trapped. But I am not a murderer, so I did not drop a millstone on your head.)
The breeze through the window is cool and helps to soothe the ache of my scalp. It brings with it the scent of pine and juniper, of loamy earth and imminent rainfall. It is a good place to stop and rest a while.
I stride across the turret room and to the door. It opens with the barest touch, and then I’m spiraling down, down, down, laughing as I let my fingers drift across my tower’s stones. They retain warmth still from our exertion. At last I reach the bottom, and open the door that was never, ever locked. Not to me. How else am I to see the wonders of the world, if I cannot go out and explore them?
Oh. There you are, sir. I see from the way your eyes widen and your mouth gapes that you think I am here for you. In truth, I forgot that this was where we left you, after you at last scaled my tower and broke into my chamber, and I bound you with my hair and sent my tower walking.
Here, deep in this forest, you have been straining against my cut tresses these long months, yet the coils still twine round your wrists and waist and ankles, and root you into the rich earth.
You remain well fed, so I suppose the finches and robins have brought you berries, and perhaps a gentle doe has let you suck from her teat. You can bend so far as that.
I reach out and touch your cheek. “Poor dear. Has no one come yet to rescue you?”
You strain against my black-and-gold hair, and open your mouth, like to curse me. But some strands snake up and wrap around your mouth, for I long ago grew weary of your words.
I lean back against my tower. “Fear not, sir, for some fair — or rather, stubborn — maiden will free you, and surely you will love her solely for that.”
A muffled cry. You attempt again to wriggle free, but my hair is strong.
When you are freed — and you will be, for that is how these things go — I am sure I will become the witch in your story.
I don’t mind. Witches are the most interesting ones.
I climb back up into my tower. Again, I send it walking, and its shuddering, groaning steps announce to all that we are free, and we are powerful, and we are not in need of rescue.