Featured Review on this writing by C A Sechler

Spellbound

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: BoMoWriCha Prompts


A short story written for the new BoMoWriCha House daily challenge. Cover by the phenomenal Markie Bee. https://www.booksie.com/users/markie-bee-223538

Submitted: August 12, 2018

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Submitted: August 12, 2018

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Spellbound.

The library was her favourite place, quiet for the most part. They were unlikely to follow her in there, Shona and her gang, Lorna thought. She could never work out what their problem was with her; she’d never done anything to any of them to provoke their hostility, their relentless bullying.

Mostly it was of the verbal kind, constant put-downs and insults aimed her way. Graffiti rumours, social media posts spreading false stories about her. Lorna found all that far harder to cope with than the pushes, the shoves; at least with those she did have a chance to instantly retaliate. She even preferred to have her work stolen, torn or spoiled with stains. The words and the rumours were what hurt her most, especially in the way that they spread.

Even Beth, her best friend for years, had started to become suspicious following a story that Lorna had been seen with her boyfriend. Beth had to know that there was no truth in the rumour and yet things had definitely changed. It hadn’t helped that Beth had not seen Seb on the night in question. But neither had Lorna.

She approached the steps with eagerness, took them almost at a run, and as the door to the library closed behind her, Lorna exhaled in relief. If Shona, or any of the others should follow her inside, at least they’d have to be quiet in their attacks. Somehow the idea of any of them surrounded by books brought a smile to her face; studying anything other than their own reflections just was not their style.

The wet weather had seen more people than usual taking refuge in the library. The main part, with the fiction books, the more popular non-fiction ones too, was quite crowded. The more specialized areas were always a bit more deserted.

Lorna was not really looking for reading material so she went further in the library. It was her safe place, her bolt-hole. It did not really matter what was on the shelves around her. Besides, she had found some very interesting reads in the less visited shelves and had learned a lot of random facts over the years.

Today she felt a pull to walk even further back. Shelves of old books that could not be removed from the premises, presumably because of their delicate nature. There were map books, historical accounts, volumes of classical works in their original covers. Lorna was scared even to touch them, for some did indeed appear like they were barely holding themselves together.

And yet there was one book that seemed to beckon to her. It was old, going by the cover, but was much smaller than those that surrounded it. It almost seemed to move itself back out from its position in front of Lorna’s eyes. The book wanted her to pick it up.

There was no one else around. Lorna took the book from the shelf and studied the cover. No author’s name but a title; ‘Spellbound’. Inside the cover there was no library stamp, no sign that it belonged there at all. Very strange, Lorna thought.

It appeared to be some sort of diary, at least from the first few pages. Not something that could be picked up and devoured in minutes though, as the entries were hand-written, not in easy-to-read print. The book seemed to want to go with her. Lorna knew that was nonsense, books did not have wants, desires; even so, after taking another quick glance around, she placed the book carefully in her bag.

Then came the guilt. She was stealing something, taking something that did not belong to her. But then, she reasoned, from the look of it, the small volume did not belong in the library either.

She had the urge to run straight away home, but Lorna fought against that feeling. The librarians all knew her, at least by appearance, were used to her hanging around for a good while every time she visited. If the book should be missed, maybe her hasty departure would be remembered....Better to linger, for a while at least.

Lorna moved forward to the more popular shelves, picked a couple of poetry volumes to sit and browse through, all the while the volume feeling heavy against her leg. An hour passed. Long enough for her to have stayed, time enough for Shona and her side-kicks to have got bored and moved off.

The rain had turned more to drizzle and people were beginning to file out and make their way home. Being sure to raise her hand to a couple of the librarians, Lorna joined them and headed out of the doors and down the steps.

* * * *

It wasn’t until she was safely shut up alone in her room that Lorna took the book from her bag. Even then, for some strange reason she was nervous about opening it, starting to read. It felt like one of those things that once began, there could be no going back from.

Ridiculous! Lorna told herself. It was only a book after all. What could a book really do to change her life.

Once she got used to the script Lorna found the journal slightly easier to read, for that was what it appeared to be. Kathleen, that was the name of the author, no surname though. She was a single mother, in disgrace, and very much made to feel like an outsider. There was no mention of the village by name, at least not in the early pages, but Lorna could picture the sort of place.

Kathleen had been pushed out of the village, to take shelter in an abandoned hovel, which in her heavily pregnant state she had done her best to make habitable. The villagers shunned her, offered her no assistance, and she gave birth on her own.

Lorna could not help but be staggered by the cruelty of people. What that woman must have gone through, all alone in a place of squalor! But she had survived it, and so, by some kind of miracle, had the baby.

Carrying on reading, Lorna discovered that there was at least one person in the village that had some compassion towards the woman and the new-born baby. Somebody left food outside, supplies, and when the weather became colder and a chill filled the air, there was chopped wood. Kathleen had no idea who was doing this, but whoever it was she was truly thankful for their kindness.

Knowing nothing about babies, Lorna could only imagine the woman’s loneliness as she struggled to learn how to cope with a newborn. Nobody helped her through the sleepless nights, nobody offered advice when it seemed like the crying would never stop. But the mother had no bad words to say about her baby, no regrets that she secretly wrote down. She had chosen to keep the child and she was not ever going to regret it.

Reluctantly, Lorna put the book aside, carefully placing it inside her bedside locker. She had studying to do, essays to write and already too much time had passed. Usually she had no problems in immersing herself in her work, but that night she had to work way past her usual bedtime for she found herself thinking more of Kathleen than of her assignments.

It was another bad day. Everywhere that Lorna went, either Shona or one of her many ‘friends’ were already there, whispering, nudging. From the looks that were aimed her way, along with the giggles, she had no doubt that she was the subject under discussion. Why wouldn’t they just leave her alone, give her a break?

She was sitting quietly on her own in the canteen, right in the far corner. Her history book was open in front of her. There was a test taking place after lunch and she was determined to do well in it. History had always held a fascination for her, along with compositions. Languages, science, and especially Math, she had to work really hard at to keep up her grades.

Lorna did not notice the guy approaching her table. Kevin, she thought, another of the students that tended to be picked on a lot. In spite of that shared experience, she did not recall them ever exchanging more than the odd ‘Hi’ in passing. When he sat next to her, put his arm around her, she knew that they were being set up.

So, Lorna, you’re taking me round the back of the labs then. That’s what I’ve been told, that it’s finally my turn.”

The whoops and laughter echoed as she stood, gathered her books and headed towards the door. They only increased in volume when Kevin started to follow her out of the canteen. She turned on him, both outraged and embarrassed for the two of them.

Don’t you understand, Kevin? You’ve been set up, I’ve been set up, just for their ‘entertainment’!” She cast a withering glance around the canteen, then ran, taking sanction in the History classroom, where the teacher, at least, was present.

Lorna was seething. How dare they put that sort of rumour out there, concerning her. No wonder no one wanted any more to do with her, for hadn’t Shona painted her as the slut of the school.

When the other students made their way in to the classroom, Lorna carried on reading her book. She pretended that she did not hear the whispers and giggles but when it came to focusing on the test paper she found it difficult to read the questions. The tears were brimming in her eyes but there was no way she would let even one of them fall.

She’d messed up the test, she knew it. But at least she’d tried. Signing herself out early, Lorna made her way back home, just thankful that it was a Friday and the weekend lay ahead of her.

No one was home so Lorna scribbled a note to her mother, saying she had been sick, still felt bad and had gone to bed. That was only half a lie after all. She did feel sick – sick of the bullying. And she was going to bed. That journal was calling to her.

* * * *

Kathleen struggled through the winter. Her child, a girl, seemed to be content to lie in her crib, staring for hours at the mobile that the woman had fashioned for her. Wasn’t it important to give even the youngest of babies some kind of mental stimulation. The night sky was a sight Kathleen was familiar with, and that was what had led to the inspiration of a mobile of the moon and stars.

The child seemed quite normal, so far as Kathleen could tell, with no others to compare her with. She feed, she slept, she cried, she kicked. But when one day, the baby had fixed her eyes to those of her mother’s, she realized that her daughter was very different.

The journal from then on took a different direction. Kathleen never named her daughter in the journal, maybe in an effort to offer her some protection from those that would be sure to hunt her down.

For it was from that tiny baby that she began to learn of witchcraft. Spells, signs, incantations; Kathleen shared them all in her journal. Intricate drawings, detailed recipes, all written in the woman’s own hand. Curiosity seemed to be the main consequence, an irresistible desire to learn more and more. Lorna could understand that, she felt the same way herself.

Copying the pages, Lorna found that her ability to learn increased. She could memorize those spells, could reproduce the signs. There was no doubt that many of the ingredients would be hard to come by, but not all. If there was any truth in the journal at all, Lorna might just be able to strike back.

No, she needed to get a grip. It was a book after all, not a life-changer. She needed to get things in to there proper perspective. She went downstairs, talked to her mother, got a snack and a drink, but it was not long before she was back in her room and reading more of the journal.

Her anonymous benefactor continued to leave Kathleen gifts and supplies. A couple of times she had almost caught sight of him, but she respected his desire to remain unknown. Without his help she doubted both she and her daughter would have made it from the winter at all.

And then it happened. The shocking event that turned the woman’s life upside-down. She opened her door one morning, and there he was, her benefactor, left hanging from a tree. There was a slash running from throat to stomach that made it quite clear that his death was certainly no act of suicide. He had been murdered, slaughtered, all because he had chosen to help her. She did not know him personally, but his death was her responsibility and she howled an almost inhuman howl.

With the knowledge that she had gained from her daughter, she would exact revenge on the village. They would pay both for her ostracism and his death, each and every one. It was not hard; she just needed to collect a few things, wait for moonlight. She drew out the sign, taking care to reproduce it exactly, then she spoke the words that set the village aflame.

And there, frustratingly, the journal ended. What had happened to Kathleen and her daughter? Had they made their escape to a new life? Or had they been caught by survivors, forced to pay in the cruellest of ways. But the biggest question of all, at least in Lorna’s eyes, was how had the journal ended up in her hands?

* * * *

The whole book had buried it’s way in her mind. Every word of it, every diagram, Lorna could picture just by closing her eyes. There were some tiny spells, some simple ones; it could not do any harm to attempt them, could it. She made a plant flower, she smashed a vase and put it back together again. Somehow, from reading that journal she had taken in the magic, become a witch.

Of course, no one would believe her even if she had someone to confide in. And it wasn’t as if she would do any damage, cause anyone any harm. Not even her mother would know.

When she approached the school she knew something had changed. Even when she was outside the gates students were looking at her, pointing, whispering. Every single one of them kept their distance. There were extra teachers in the hall, hurrying the students towards their home-rooms, their first lessons. But no matter how quickly they were hurried, each and every one of them got a good look at the illustrated message painted in thick black paint on the walls. All the benefits of going off with Lorna were crudely spelled out, with pictures to match.

Mr Vardy, the principal, descended on Lorna, took her straight in to his office. Did she know who was behind this? Had she been subjected to sustained bullying? Would she be prepared to name names? She was kept inside the office for a long time, pushed and pressurised into giving information that she was determined to keep to herself.

Mr Vardy finally gave up. It was not as if they did not have their suspicions but the girl really needed to put it in to words for them to be able to take things any further. How were they ever going to get to grips with bullying when no one would speak up?

Lorna would not be letting it go though. She knew that she could deal with it far better than any school sanctions. All the looks that were aimed her way, she pretended to ignore as she headed off to her lessons. She worked all the way through them, but if anyone should have looked over her shoulder they would have seen that she was working on something quite different.

There was still some planning involved though. How could she catch Shona and her side-kicks together? The canteen was the obvious choice. Lorna knew that if it worked she would forever be left alone; she also knew that if it failed, she would have made herself a total laughing stock – the biggest joke in the school. No risk really, then, for wasn’t that what she already was.

This would be the biggest spell she had ever attempted, and to do so in such a crowded environment was daunting. The images one the school walls flashed before her eyes. For herself, for Kathleen and her daughter, she would do it.

Lorna carefully drew out the sign, she did not need to practice the incantation as she knew it by heart. Just a couple of simple ingredients to collect in a glass, and she’d be ready. One of the boys was bound to be eager to offer her the use of a lighter, thinking of the ‘payment’ that they’d receive later.

Shona and her side-kicks were all gathered together around one table. Perfect! Instead of ensuring that she avoided them, Lorna walked directly forward, pausing only to borrow a lighter from some nameless boy. Once alongside the table she tripped, careful to spill some of the contents on to each and every girl. Then quickly she pulled the sign from her pocket, set it alight while muttering some words that remained inaudible to those nearby.

It was done, cast, there was no turning back now.

You.....!” Shona stood, her mouth opening and closing like a fish pulled from the water.

Frantically she gestured to others to go after Lorna either with their words or their bodies. They could not speak, could not move.

Don’t bother trying to bad-mouth me ever again, you stupid egotistical bitch. And that goes for your little pals too. Don’t try to touch me, or anything that belongs to me. From now on you are bound – spellbound.”

Lorna took a seat at a table towards the back of the canteen and began to read while she ate her lunch. No one else said a word.

 

 

(3048 words).

 


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