Countdown to Halloween Story Marathon (story # 4)

by Brandon

The fourth story in the marathon is from author E.B. Boggs.

Enjoy!

A Witch For All Seasons

by E.B. Boggs

 

Gordy had been on the road for a couple of days now, riding to New Hampshire to visit an old Air Force buddy of his from the war. The New England countryside was beautiful in the fall and it was still warm enough to ride his Triumph for the trip.

The area here was so much more urbanized than his hometown in Virginia. All the houses seemed to be smaller and crammed together.

‘Just different, I guess,’ he thought. He had just passed through Salem, where they held the Witch trials so many years ago. Just the thought of hanging people or burning them at the stake to punish them for being different gave him the creeps.

The hour was pretty late and there wasn’t much traffic on the streets. He had decided to stay off of the interstate to avoid the rush hour traffic, but the rush hour was now long past. He pulled his bike over at a street lamp and pulled out his map from his backpack. He was looking at the map, trying to figure out if he should keep travelling or find a spot for the night when he saw the girl.

She looked to be about ten years old and was dressed rather oddly, wearing a night dress and bonnet. She was standing by the lamp looking at him.

“Hi there,” he said. “It’s awfully late for you to be wandering around the streets. Are you lost?”

The girl shook her head and looked at him with a blank expression.

“Where do you live?”

The girl pointed up a dark street and turned and began walking in that direction.

Gordy looked up the street but didn’t see a light on in any of the houses. And the street lights seemed father apart and dimmer, somehow.

“Wait!” he shouted after her. He had an uneasy feeling about the girl. He feared something might happen to her.

He got off the bike, stuffed the map in his backpack and got his keys. She had stopped just a little ways off and was watching him. He started moving toward her and she turned again and began to run up the street.

“Wait!” he yelled again and began trotting to catch up with her. She was moving pretty fast and he increased his pace to try and catch up with her.

He was just about even with her when he hit something that felt like a wall made of jelly. Well, not real jelly, but something with the same consistency. It seemed to be transparent and even though he tried to stop, the wall enveloped him and pulled him further into it, pulled him through it.

“What the hell! What was that?”

I prithee, brother, wilt thou aid me?” the girl finally spoke.

“What? Why are you talking like that?”

“Canst thou not see that I am in dire need of help, sir?”

Now it was Gordy’s turn to stare blankly at the girl and nod his head. He did a one hundred and eighty degree turn to go back through the ‘jelly’ wall, only it wasn’t there.

He stumbled back in the general direction of the wall to no avail. It was gone and he was here. Wherever ‘here’ was.

“What’s going on here?” he turned and asked the girl, a touch of anger in his voice.

“Pray, sir, I need your help! Wilt thou not offer succor to me in my hour of need?” She began to cry. Gordy hated that. He could never stand for kids to cry. He thought back to his time in Vietnam and remembered a young girl there. He trembled slightly as a cold chill ran up his spine.

“Don’t cry! Please don’t cry, I’ll help you, I guess . . . I’m just not sure where we are,” he said.

The girl sniffed for a moment as some tears ran down her face, but she did offer a small smile.

“Grammarcy, kind sir! And we are in Salem Village, where else?”

“Umm, yeah, whatever you say. Now, what do you need me to do?”

“We must recover the toad; the green toad! My Mum needs it to prove her innocence.”

“The green toad? A live toad?”

“Nay, good sir, ‘tis a carving of a toad, made from green stone.”

Gordy scratched his head, still wondering what had happened to him. He had been through some strange events in his life, but this one topped it all. And he was stone cold sober.

“And where might this toad be?”

“Well sir, it lyest at the bottom of Wilkin’s Pond about a mile past the log bridge over the Great River. If we hasten, we canst be there by first light.”

“Canst we now?” Gordy said, a little sarcastically.

“Aye!” said the girl as she moved off ahead of him. After hesitating for a moment, Gordy began to follow her.

‘What the hell,’ he thought, ‘none of this is real anyway.’

As they walked along Gordy noted that there wasn’t a street as such, just a dirt path. And along the path was set some small houses made mostly of unpainted wood. Everything looked to be fairly primitive.

After walking for about thirty minutes they came to a log bridge built across a small river, perhaps thirty yards across. The sky began to lighten, it was nearly daybreak.

“Hasten thy steps, prithee good sir! The sky grows light and we have yet to reach the pond!” She began to trot up the path. Gordy jogged along behind her.

After a few minutes she veered off to the left of the path, stopped and pointed.

“Yonder lies the pond!” She then continued running until she was at the water’s edge. “It’s out there,” she said, pointing out at the water. “Brother William Allen threw it out there!”

Gordy looked at the pond. It was about a half mile long and maybe half that in width. It didn’t look too deep, but he was hesitant to plunge in. He looked at the little girl.

“So I’m supposed to go out there and look around for a green toad carved out of some kind of stone?”

The little girl just nodded her head ardently.

“But I don’t even know your name,” he said, trying to buy some time.

“Alice is my name, good sir. Now pray, wilst thou please recover the toad?”

Gordy sat and began to remove his boots and socks.

“What doest thou?” Alice said, looking aghast.

“I’m taking off my boots and shirt and jacket so they won’t get soaked when I go into the water. Don’t worry, my pants are staying on.”

“I prithee, sir. Have some modesty! I am but a child and you dare to disrobe before me?”

Gordy looked at her disgusted. She was determined to make this as hard as possible on him.

“Look princess,” he said in a mocking tone, “you’re the one that asked for my help, remember? It would be nice if I had dry clothes to put on once I find your toad!”

“I shant be able to direct you to it if I have to avert my eyes,” she began to cry, “and I’ll have to avert my eyes if you continue to disrobe!”

“Okay! Okay! Turn off the water works.” He began putting his boots back on. “We’ll do it your way.”

He walked to the edge of the water looking toward the spot she had indicated. The water was clear as crystal. He stepped into the water and began to walk toward the center. He was right, it was fairly shallow. He stopped when the water got to his knees and turned and looked at Alice.

“A little farther out and more to your left,” she said.

Gordy moved a little farther out and more left peering into the depths of the water. The water had reached his waist when he caught a glimpse of something green on the bottom of the pond.

As he moved toward it, the water deepened quickly. The water was now up to his chest. It was clear that he would have to submerge himself fully to retrieve the toad.

He noticed that the mud he stirred up on the bottom of the pond was being carried off to his left. Apparently a stream fed this small pond from somewhere to his right.

He took a deep breath and stooped into the water reaching for the green object on the bottom. He felt his hand grasp something that felt like a small statuette. He stood back up, shook his head to throw off some of the water and looked at what he held in his hand.

It looked like a fat lizard with some spiky protuberances and a misshapen head all carved from smooth green gem stone. He looked back at Alice who seemed joyous.

“Hasten thee kind sir, I do prithee!”

“Alright, I’m coming!” he shouted as he slowly walked back toward her.

It was full daylight now and he was soaking wet. His boots squished with every step and water dripped in torrents from him.

“Thou hast done it!” she cried out. “Mayest I now have the toad?”

As Gordy looked at the Toad. It seemed to be glowing softly.

“Perhaps I should just give it to your mother,” he said.

Alice looked shocked and hurt. “After all, it is hers, right?”

“Aye, it is her Toad,” Alice replied uncomfortably.

“And perhaps she will reward me for recovering it for her?”

“Mayhap she wilt.”

“Then let’s go find her,” he said.

Alice turned and began walking down the path with Gordy following close behind.

“Do you know where she is?” he asked Alice.

“Aye, she will be at the meeting house at the eighth hour this morning. There she will go to prove her innocence.”

“So, she’s in trouble, huh? What did she do?”

“She stands accused of a horrible crime, but the Toad wilst prove her accusers of bearing false witness.”

They had been walking for some time now and were approaching a cluster of buildings. Gordy felt as if he were in the wilderness somewhere. Everything looked so strange. So surreal.

“Yonder is the meeting house and there is Brother William. One of the accusers! I can’t bear to witness this!” She turned and ran off.

“Wait, Alice! How will I know your mother?”

“You will know!” she shouted as she disappeared up the path.

Gordy turned back to the crowd at the meeting house, some of whom were now staring strangely at him. He slipped the Toad into his jacket pocket and walked toward them.

“Whence comest thou, stranger? Thou hast a strange countenance and wear strange clothes.”

‘He thinks I look strange?’ thought Gordy, looking the man over. He had a large white collar with black vest and black baggy looking pants that terminated, and were tied, about his knees, with tight stockings from the knees down and shoes with a large buckle on the front.

“I’m from Virginia,” Gordy answered.

“Verily, I hath heard that they do dress strangely in that savage place,” another man said.

“Hey, I’m looking for Alice’s mother,” said Gordy, ignoring the man’s comment.  “I have something for her.”

“Alice Goody? But her mother hath long past and she will likely join her forthwith,” the first man said. “Bring Alice hither, that the stranger mayest see her.”

When Gordy saw the woman he had no doubt that it was Alice’s mother. She looked exactly like Alice, only older. She held out her hands.

“Thou hast something for me?” she crooned. Gordy reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew the Toad. The woman grabbed it quickly and the men began shouting “Nooo!”

The woman grew in stature instantly, seemingly eight feet tall, and an evil, green aura seemed to radiate about her.

She glared at Gordy malevolently and her now beady eyes blazed with hatred. He stood there startled and shocked for a few seconds, wondering what on earth she was going to do.

She raised her left hand and pointed the Toad at his face and chanted some strange words that sounded like it might be Latin or German. Several times during her chanting he heard the word ‘temporis’.

Suddenly it was as if everything was frozen. None of the people assembled there moved or even appeared to be breathing. Gordy was stunned. This was like a bad dream. He finally found his voice.

“What did you do?” he shouted at her.

The witch gave him a surprised look and began laughing, cackling at him. She narrowed her gaze at him as some lucidity seemed to return to her.

“You fool!” she said. “The Toad is my familiar. They robbed most of my power when it was taken from me. But I had just enough to project my child form through the curtain of time. And I found you. A perfect boob for my perfect plan. These trusting idiots will now be made into mincemeat, thanks to you! HaHaHa!”

“Why are you doing this?”

“These sheep believe I am a witch! Well, they are correct! They have hanged eight others that they believed to be witches too, but they were wrong about them! Those poor saps were under my control, doing my bidding! They were innocent, yet these ‘good people’ hanged them! HaHaHa!”

Gordy spied a double bit axe leaning against a nearby fence. He began moving that way slowly as he kept talking to the witch.

“So why haven’t I frozen up like the rest of these folks here?” he asked her. “Maybe your spells won’t work on me, hmm?”

“Now don’t try anything silly, boy,” she said. “My power is strong enough to handle the likes of you!” She again began chanting and pointing the Toad toward him. Gordy felt a tightening in his chest, as though he was being constricted by ropes wrapped around his body. It felt as though he was walking through thick mud. He was struggling to keep moving but managed to do so, sidestepping in the direction of the axe.

The witch seemed alarmed that he was still moving and began chanting louder. The wind began to whip up around her in a small vortex and the sky darkened. Her hair was standing on end, stretched and flailing around her head and her eyes began to glow a fiery red. Gordy noticed that a couple of the men there began to move slightly too, though much slower than him. It seemed that her concentration on him was causing her to lose control over the others.

“Damn you!” she cried at last, “Stop moving!” Gordy was almost to the axe but he felt like his chest was going to implode. He grabbed the handle of the axe with both hands and, in seemingly slow motion, drew it back over his head and hurled it toward the witch. Oddly the axe traveled, end over end, at normal speed toward her.

“Aiieeaah,” she screamed in frustration and dodged to one side. The axe continued on its trajectory and though it missed the main target, the handle struck the witches right arm and she dropped the Toad.

Instantly everything returned to normal. Brother William grabbed the Toad before Alice could get it and she began crying out in a tormented voice.

“You fool!” she gestured at Gordy. “You’ve ruined everything! A curse on you and your family for the next four generations! Nothing but ill luck will you have; and your family will starve!”

“Your silly words have no effect on me, witch. Remember? You fooled me with your illusion of a small girl, but your magic failed you.”

“Verily, thou hast saved us all. Though we couldst not move, we couldst hear and see what happened,” William said. “We have wrongfully convicted eight others for the misdeeds of this witch. Now wilst she hang so that justice shall be served.”

“And what of the Toad? She drew her power from that thing.”

“Aye, ‘tis an evil thing. I sought to put it beyond her reach in a stream of water, yet she had another recover it for her.”

“May I have it? I wish to destroy it,” Gordy asked.

William handed him the Toad and he moved to a stump and set the thing on top. He grabbed the axe and swung an overhand swing and hit the Toad. Once, twice and on the third swing it shattered. Gordy picked up the broken head of the idol and stuffed it into his pocket.

“That should do it. She won’t be able to use that anymore.”

“Aye,” William said, “she wilst be using nothing ever again by sundown today. The Emerald Horny Toad ist destroyed and with it, her evil power. Thanks be to ye, friend.”

Gordy noticed that the light seemed to brighten in the area, getting brighter and brighter as the sounds and images of this strange place began to fade. Soon he could see or hear nothing except for the bright light. He felt a tapping on his leg.

As his vision returned, he saw a clear blue sky and the chubby face of a police officer looking at him.

“Are you alright lad?” the chubby face asked.

“I believe so,” Gordy replied and realized he was lying on some grass. He heard the sounds of traffic and people talking. He sat up and looked around. He was sitting on a narrow strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. A crowd had gathered.

“How did you end up here?” the policeman inquired.

“I’m not sure,” he began. “I stopped to look at my map and then there was this little girl . . .”

“Ahh, dressed in a night dress and a bonnet?”

“Yes. How did you know that?”

The policeman turned around and addressed the crowd.

“Okay folks, everything is alright. Someone else has seen the girl ghost. Move along now, everything is okay here, go about your business.”

“But how do you know about Alice?” Gordy asked.

The policeman turned quickly to him with a puzzled look.

“Alice you say? So you know her name?”

“Yes, Alice Goody. That’s what she told me.”

“Alice Goody!?! Have you been reading about the witch trials son? Alice Goody was a witch that was hung in Salem Village nearly three-hundred years ago. She confessed to forcing the others that were hung to perform witchcraft and so they hung her too. You sure you’ve not been drinking?”

“I haven’t been drinking, but I’m starting to feel like I could use a drink.”

“I suppose the next thing you’ll be telling me is that you have the missing head of the Toad that Alice used to channel her magic power?”

Gordy quickly put his hand in the pocket of his jacket and felt the outline of the Toad’s head.

“No sir,” he said a little unsteadily, “I’d never say something as outlandish as that.”

“Do you feel alright lad? You look pale.”

Gordy walked over to his bike and put the keys in the ignition. He looked at the police officer and noted his nametag. He did feel a bit sick at his stomach.

“Officer Allen is it? If it’s alright with you I think I’ll be on my way.”

“Fine with me if you feel up to travel. Go carefully now.”

Gordy cranked the Triumph and pulled out into traffic. Suddenly, the notion of hanging a witch didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

___________________________________________

E.B. Boggs is the author of an Alternate History novel about vikings settling the American continent. It’s available on Amazon. Be sure to check it out.


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