In a Field of Bone-Bonnets

Aimee Picchi



The hut shuffled to face the sunrise, a habit that pleased the old witch, and kindled the fire in its hearth for her morning tea.

The old woman groaned as she picked up a crumpled note from the floor. The scrap had been tossed into the hut in the middle of the night while she snored in her feather bed. The hut had remained still — the witch had told it long ago that those who came to her for help were frightened enough  and might run off if a giant chicken-footed hut suddenly moved.

The witch and the hut both knew what the note would say. The messages were always the same, even if the words were different.

“Another woman needs my help.” The witch wheezed as she reached for her bag of medicines.

The ever-glowing skulls strung by the hut’s doorway clattered. You need to rest.

As she reached for her walking stick, she gave the hut’s central beam a pat.  “My dearest hut, we must both continue until we can no longer move. Stoke your fires at dusk. I’ll be back by then.”

The hut watched with worry as she limped into the woods.

As the sun arced across the sky, the hut rotated on its chicken feet to follow the warmth. It opened its shutters and aired its insides, then closed its shutters when the afternoon air grew hot and humid.

As the sun was setting, the old woman stumped back, her breathing labored. Fatigue lined her face, and she stepped inside unsteadily.

You are old enough now to stop doing this, the hut clattered.

“Helping others does not stop at any age.” The witch climbed into bed, drawing her quilt to her chin. “I know in my bones my end is near. You have served me well, with more care than I would ever have imagined. But you are a magicked thing.  You need a witch’s power to remain alive. I’ve used the last of mine to grant you three days to find a new witch.”

The hut settled on its haunches. I cannot continue without you.

The witch touched the hut’s timbers. “Dearest friend, I hope that is not true.” She began drifting off, but mumbled softly, “To find her… the town holds a clue, but is no place for you… wrong turn, you could burn… red among bone finds your new home.”

The hut tended the fire to keep her warm and rocked from foot to foot to soothe her pain.

By morning, the old witch was as still as stone.

The hut stood in the clearing. The old woman had always done the thinking for them.  Its timbers groaned knowing the old woman would no longer hobble across its wooden floors or have it run through the woods so fast the birch trees lashed at its windows. The hut would do anything to feel her footfalls again. The emptiness swelled inside it.

It sought out the willow where the old woman liked to sit on hot evenings. It dug into the dirt, ignoring how its claws ached.

At last, it stepped back, studying the grave through its porthole windows. Satisfied, it tilted its frame until the old woman’s body slipped out of bed and into the grave.

It mounded dirt over her, and covered the grave with scarlet wolf-teeth daisies and white bone-bonnets, her favorite blossoms. Shaking its beams, three skulls tumbled from its door frame and landed among the flowers.

The skulls sang a eulogy in pale chromatics of unwanted endings.



The hut imagined sitting by her grave for three days, letting the magic drain away. Its windows would lose their shine and its feet would sink into the ground. With time, animals would make it their home.

Dearest friend, I hope that is not true. The memory of its witch’s voice echoed in its rafters.

The hut heaved itself upright on shaky legs.  I will honor her wish as best I can, it clattered.

The hut’s shutters creaked in sorrow as it said goodbye.

The town holds a clue…. she had said.  The hut made its way toward the nearby town.



By afternoon, it was walking through wide boulevards, looking in the windows of fancy shops selling starched white frocks and tiny crystal figurines of creatures the hut had never seen. The old woman would have little use for this town, the hut thought.

As it trundled through a side street, a man in a butcher’s apron leaned from his shop door.

“Is your witch inside?” His eyes darted toward the windows. “Come out, old lady!”

The hut backed up.

“No witch, eh?” Emboldened, the butcher jabbed an accusatory finger at its timbers. “My wife went to her a year ago, for medicine. Only things that came back were a lock of her red hair and a bloody scrap of her skirt.”

The hut turned, confused. It remembered the red-haired woman. She was clever, asking the old witch about plants and medicines. She wore her hair in a thick braid twisted into a bun, and the freckles on her nose seemed to dance when she laughed.

“Now, I understand if that old witch got fed up with her. Irina could be mouthy. And always running off to the fields and hills. Getting up to no good. God knows even I lost my temper. But she didn’t deserve what you did to her!”

The witch never ate women or girls. Only men who hurt them, the hut said in a deep tone.

The man’s mouth opened and closed. He trembled as he ran into his shop and bolted the door.

The rest of the day was no better.  A grandmother smiled in passing at the hut but a gang of young men threw rocks. It recognized a few women. The witch had healed them and handled the men who came stalking after them. But under the eyes of town guards and offended proper citizens, none of the women would approach the hut.

Its timbers groaned as it left the town.

The hut felt more than its energy slipping. The first day hadn’t brought any help in finding a new witch, only lessons about how humans feared it and the old woman. The hut sighed through its eaves.

A shutter came loose and dropped onto the dusty road behind it.



On the second day, the hut felt weak enough to be worried men might bring it harm. Its joists ached, and it wondered if this was how the old woman felt in her last days. At the outskirts of a village, it turned in at a little wooded glen and hid, waiting until dark to search for a new witch.

But a chicken-footed wooden cabin with glowing skulls about its door was never going to be well concealed. Especially at night.

An uneasiness came over the hut as it heard the villagers bang their shutters shut and lock their doors tight. It saw a line of flickering lights approach, The village watch came running at it, shouting and waving flaming torches.

A spark jumped to its shingles, igniting a fire on the corner of its roof.

A wrong turn… In searing pain, the hut fled through the woods until it reached a stream in a gulley. It pitched itself in and dipped the corner of its roof into the muddy water, dousing the flames and cooling its shingles.

As the hut crouched in the gulley, its worries about guards and burned shingles gave way to a deeper ache that settled into its frame.  If the old witch were alive, she would climb up on its roof and repair the ruined corner.  As much as the hut had provided a home for the witch, the witch had given the hut care, belonging, and purpose. The magic, the hut saw, wound down far deeper than its own timbers.




On the third day, the hut decided to avoid people. Her witch had said the town holds a clue.. but only the butcher had spoken to it. He’d said the red-haired woman liked flowers.

Its witch had loved the delicately pretty wolf-teeth daisies, and the healing white bone-bonnets. She used to sing “Wolf teeth upon the heath, field of bonnets bone upon it.”

Perhaps, thought the hut, the red-haired woman would also pick bone-bonnets?

The hut plunged through fields and hillsides in search of the flowers, its feet blistering and its chimney mortar crumbling.

As the sun fell below the horizon, the hut caught sight of a meadow of white flowers nodding in the breeze. Bone-bonnets. Even if it were to lose its magic here, the hut was at ease with settling itself down in such a field, allowing its timbers to become home to insects, birds and vines.



But in the midst of this field stood a red-haired woman, picking flowers. Irina. She looked up and waved.

The hut approached slowly.

Your husband thinks we ate you, the hut said.

The woman laughed, her freckled nose crinkling. She had a loose-limbed ease about her, now that she was healed and free.

“Another of his lies. I sent him a piece of my skirt bloodied by my monthly, a lock of my hair, and a note saying bandits held me for ransom. Knew he wouldn’t pay. Been camped out ever since I left you, practicing what old grandmother taught and helping those that find me… how is she?”

The hut’s skulls tapped out an echo of the eulogy.

She hung her head and stood silent for a moment.  “I’m sorry,”  Then she rested her hand on the hut’s wooden beams. “Her magic is fading.” She looked up in concern. “You need another witch…”

The hut leaned forward, its windows studying her closely. What had been faint when she visited the old witch was now a growing river of magic running through her veins.

She told me to find someone. The hut shifted on its feet, suddenly shy. She told me — the hut paused. I know that my work is not yet done.

Irina placed her hand on the hut’s railing. “If you will have me, I would be honored to call you home. I hope I may prove as much a home for you as you shall for me.”

When the red-haired woman stepped onto its porch, the hut’s hearth flared with heat. She patted its doorframe, and the hut felt the weight of loneliness lifting.

The hut’s door swung open as its skulls blazed.

Welcome home.





“In a Field of Bone-Bonnets”  ©  Aimee Picchi
Aimee Picchi is a writer and editor based in Burlington, Vermont. Her fiction has appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, Flash Fiction Online and Daily Science Fiction, among other publications. A classical musician by training, Aimee is a graduate of Juilliard Pre-College and University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. Her website is and she can be found on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

Two versions of “Baba Yaga’s Hut”  by Ivan Bilibin, Russian, 1876 – 1942, altered slightly.
“Meeting” photomanipulation by Fran Eisemann, using Pixabay stock.

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