To be a Witch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A mystery that is not so mysterious.

Submitted: October 26, 2014

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Submitted: October 26, 2014

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TO BE A WITCH

Seen from above, the ruins of the old house were not very exciting, only broken up bricks and the mere remains of floor tiles, the shards of window panes, the dried out wood of the window frames. The house itself had been the victim of the telluric elements for over a hundred years and where there had once been a solid building, now the only thing that was in evidence was the outline. Grass covered what had been the floor, and ivy and other climbing plants were making their way over the dark grey of the remaining walls.

The sky was a pale blue with heavy white clouds. The reflection of water came from a tiny stream that still ran from somewhere near the house to a hidden spot in the surrounding countryside. Closing up on the panorama, it was easy to observe that animals had made the ruins their home. Vegetation had taken over the whole place, and green became the dominating colour.

 

The helicopter hovered over a small flat piece of land and then touched down. Two policemen jumped out and looked around them. They weren’t very interested in the ruins at all, but they had received several complaints about lights and strange figures moving around in the ruins. That would have been all right but for one thing, the nearest houses to the ruins were in a small town half a kilometre away. Stepping gingerly over bits of broken-off bricks and rocks the two young men wandered around inside where a strong, wealthy family had resided, until the family fortunes had led to them abandoning the house. Its isolated situation had not proved interesting enough for any buyer wishing to take it on and renovate it. So there it had stayed for more years than anyone cared to remember.

“Colin, do you think we’ve been called up here on the whims of the elderly residents of that small town. What’s it called?” Robert Brown asked.

“”It’s called Little Copse, and it’s little all right. Nothing much ever happens here, that’s why the idea that anyone could have seen lights and people moving around, sounds out of character with the local population, and Little Copse.”

They were mooching around, rather than looking for anything special, and feeling the winds on their faces and its chill, could not get the idea that anyone had been up there. Against one of the still remaining walls there was a black patch. “Hm. That looks like there might have been a fire lit over there. Come on, let’s go and see if there’s anything else,” Robert said.

The ground in front of what might have been the smoke from a bonfire, had been well trodden down. Lying there were some black clothes, and the weird thing was that they bore marks of a white powder or paste.

“What do you think that white stuff could be?” Colin asked his companion.

“Goodness knows. It looks like school chalk to me. We’d better bag it and hand it over to forensics and see what they make of it,” Robert said, as he took out a plastic bag from his pocket and some latex gloves. The clothes with the white marks were quickly placed inside the bag. The two men strolled over the ground again, but didn’t find anything that could indicate what might have been going on up there in the ruins.

 

The helicopter started up its whirring sound as the rotor blades moved, and it flew back to where it had come from. Meanwhile, down below, the townspeople of Little Copse saw the helicopter climb up into the sky and disappear from view. They didn’t have to guess very hard to know why the police had been to the ruins, it could be for only one reason, and that was the complaints from the deadly twosome: Kitty Lord and her intimate friend Lena Harden. The elderly ladies had nothing else better to do than nose in everybody’s business - except their own. They were very closed-mouthed about their own matters, but had their mouths wide open and their cheeks flushed when what they had to say concerned anyone else.

 

“I can’t understand the police coming to the ruins when there’s so much crime going on in the world. They must be having a slack day at the police station,” Percy Peach commented whilst still watching the disappearing helicopter. He was with his drinking mates, Cecil Palmer, and Bill Newton. The three elderly gentlemen had experienced clashes with Kitty and Lena for several years, and the men vanished into thin air whenever they saw the two doughty females in sight. It wasn’t as if they were afraid of them, it was that they couldn’t stand them. Their idea of women was: that they should be less interested in gossip and more interested in cooking and looking after the people in their lives. One by one, the three men had tried to get a date with Kitty and Lena, with the inevitable result that the women were only interested in going to expensive restaurants or going on an all day excursion instead of just hanging out in Little Copse till they had got to know each other a bit better. When Kitty and Lena had gone away on holiday, the men had stated that maybe they should warn all the men who would be staying at the same hotel as the ladies.

 

Kitty and Lena also watched the helicopter returning to base. “Do you think they found anything up there?” she asked Lena.

“Well, you never know. There must be something up there after all the lights we’ve seen. Do you think anyone from Little Copse has ever heard anything or seen the lights?”

“I’ve never heard any talk about it. Only from us,” Kitty said, as she parted company with her friend.

“See you tomorrow,” Lena said amicably.

Kitty was silent for a moment, and then said, “I’m not sure. I have a feeling that I shan’t be able to make it. You know how difficult my family can be.”

“Yes, I understand,” Lena said, secretly annoyed at her friend’s words.

Kitty turned and walked down the tree-shaded road that led to her house. Lena walked off towards her house, which was a monument to her late husband.

 

Kitty opened the front door and put her coat in the hall cupboard. The smell of toast came to her nose as she entered the kitchen. Her granddaughter was sitting at the table eating toast covered in thick jam and drinking a huge mug of instant coffee.

“Hello, Grandma. How’s tricks?”

“Very well, thank you. There was a helicopter up at the ruins this morning with two policemen who got out and explored them for a while, before returning to the helicopter and leaving.”

Sixteen-year-old Blanche, who had once been known as Bethany, didn’t stop munching the toast and drinking the coffee. Some years back, Blanche had made the decision to dye her hair black and change her name from Bethany to Blanche. She spent a good deal of the money she earned as a sales assistant in the local gift store, on her appearance. One of the things she also did, apart from dying her hair, was to whiten her skin even whiter than it already was. Blanche had fancied herself as a witch when she was younger, and had begun making an enormous effort to turn herself into her idea of what a witch would look like, hence the dyed hair and the whitened skin. On one of her visits to a large city, Blanche had acquired a witch’s hat, that is a wide-brimmed black hat that goes up to a point, and she had got herself a broomstick, too. She had taken to having her hair permanently made into tiny curls, thinking that curls became a witch better than long, straight hair.

 

One evening when her grandmother and her parents were at a meeting at the church hall, Blanche had dressed up in her witch’s outfit, including the lovely pointed hat, and had ventured forth on her first outing as a witch. She had no idea of what she was supposed to do. Even so, she left her home on her try-out as a witch.

Cecil Palmer and his wife lived not far from Blanche and her family, and as it was a damp evening he had taken out the rubbish and was going back indoors to join his wife and their cats and dog, to watch their favourite television programme, when a sound came to his ears. It was the sound of something scraping along the ground on the other side of his garden wall. Cecil approached the wall silently, and saw a point appear at the top of the wall. Then a figure, wearing a pointed witch’s hat over a pile of tight curly black hair, with a face as white as chalk under it, was shouting at him and shaking a broomstick. Cecil burst out laughing and said, “All right, Witch, what are you going to do to me?”

Blanche was silenced by Cecil’s reaction to her untimely appearance over the top of his garden wall. Then it started raining, and she felt rather silly and uncomfortable as the rain soaked her black clothes. Cecil was still laughing as he made his way indoors to tell his wife about the Witch of Little Copse.

 

Blanche got home as fast as she could, hoping she would be in bed before her family got back from the church hall. Blanche had a quick shower and cleaned off the white makeup and hid her dark clothes on the radiator in her bedroom. She knew her mother and grandmother would find them in the morning, but by then she knew they would be dry, the radiators were kept hot in her house. Kitty and family got home and couldn’t make sense of why there was water on the kitchen floor. They didn’t waste any time in trying to work it out, but turned on the television, sat down with a drink, to watch a late-night show. Meanwhile, upstairs, Blanche was shivering in bed, and when she couldn’t stand it any longer, got up and searched for her electric blanket, and got back into bed switching it on. The warmth of the blanket made Blanche sleepy, and so she was fast asleep till the following morning.

 

At the police station the forensic had discovered that the white was in fact white makeup. The black clothes had been bought from a fancy-dress shop in London. As there was no other item of interest the police had picked up from the ruins, they had nothing to base a story or crime on, or even if there had been one. Still, they wouldn’t take any chances, and kept the ‘case’ open - if it could be called that.

 

Kitty and Lena were entrenched in Lena’s living-room, drinking coffee and eating fairy cakes. Lena started the conversation by saying, “Cecil’s wife says there’s a witch in Little Copse, but she’s not very good. She didn’t frighten him.”

Kitty stared at her friend and said, “What’s he talking about? Witches in Little Copse! Whatever next!”

“Cecil says that, the other night when he was putting the rubbish out, the witch came up to the wall and shook her broom at him. He could hardly speak for laughing. He reckons that she won’t be very successful around here, if she doesn’t smarten up her act a bit.” Lena began laughing, thinking of how Cecil had described the witch.

Kitty found the subject of the witch boring and changed it, “Have you heard any more from the police about their visit to the ruins?”

“We’ve heard the same as you. Nothing. Want to see morning television?” Lena asked her friend.

“Just a while, and then I’d best be getting home. There are things to do,” Kitty said, thinking that Lena didn’t have much to say for herself.

 

Blanche was with her chest and her nose congested from getting a good soaking on her first night outside dressed as a witch. Most of the time she just slept, but the rest, she sat up against the pillows and tried to send messages to her friends on the Wassup. Fortunately, Blanche’s black clothes, even the lovely hat, had suffered no lasting damage.

When her grandmother had been out of the house, was the first day Blanche had got out of bed and had removed the damp clothes from the radiator and had brushed them to a decent condition, and then stowed them away in a large box on the top shelf of her cupboard. Blanche was a little worried her mother or grandmother might find them if they had been placed under her bed.

 Blanche, to all appearances was suffering a bad cold and was in bed, nursing a bad case of humiliation at Cecil’s hands. She was busy plotting and planning her next move. The local news on television and the papers was about the finding of black clothes with white marks on them, up in the ruins. Blanche was rather perturbed about this, could there possibly exist another witch in Little Copse?

 

Meanwhile, back at the pub, Cecil was recounting the meeting with the witch for the umpteenth time, till at last the landlord said, “Doesn’t anyone want another drink? This isn’t a meeting room, you know.”

The normally heavy drinkers who spent more time at the pub, The Bear and Dwarf, than they did in their own homes, began ordering pints as fast as they could. The thought of putting Sidney the publican out, was worse than annoying their wives. Soon the sounds of drawing pints and the swallowing of beer silenced the conversations, much to Sidney’s pleasure. He liked his clients to chat, but at times they were so concentrated on chatting that they forgot to order drinks, or to drink them. That evening, two policemen walked into the pub, and started asking questions about the ruins, and if anyone had seen or heard anything that could be called ‘out of the ordinary’ taking place up there.

Percy said to the policemen, “You need to meet Kitty and Lena if you want to know about any strange happenings up in the ruins. Cecil’s friends, Percy and Bill, were silent as the two policemen left the pub, for the walk to Lena’s house.

The ruins were standing stark and mysterious that evening, as the two men strolled to Lena’s house. There was a wind blowing hard and cold, creating an unhappy and unpleasant atmosphere in the streets. As they went, dark figures moved silently from behind cars and trees, in the direction of the ruins. If they had been seen close up, their white faces would have stood out against the dark clothes. However, no one saw them, everyone was too involved in thinking about the evening ahead of them and their supper, followed by television or cards, if they were unable to find anything else to do.

 

Lena had spent her afternoon between the kitchen preparing the evening meal, and the living-room watching her favourite programmes. Since Kitty had left earlier that day, Lena had not given any thought to the visit of the police to the ruins. Her surprise at seeing two young policemen standing at her doorstep was hilarious. Lena’s mouth literally fell open. For once in her life she wasn’t so sure what to say.

“Good evening. Mrs Lena Harden? May we have a word with you about what you have seen at the ruins?”

“Please come in. Excuse me, but I’m preparing the supper.” Lena removed her apron and showed them into her living-room, where she indicated they could sit down. Then she switched off the television. “How can I help you?”

“We have it down on record that you and your friend, Kitty Lord, saw something mysterious coming from the ruins. Is that true?”

“Yes, it is true. We were walking home when we saw what could have been a fire, and we heard music. It didn’t last long, but we saw and heard things that had been reported before. We’re worried there might be Satanists, or worse, going there to carry out their not-very-nice practices. Have you seen or heard anything?” Lena asked anxiously.

“We may have something, but we’re not certain yet. Do you know any groups of young people who wear black clothes?”

“Nearly all the young people around here wear black or dark clothes,” Lena said, wondering when she would be able to have her supper in peace.

“What about using white makeup?”

“I wouldn’t know anything about white makeup, but perhaps the local theatrical society might be able to help you,” Lena told them desperate to get on with her evening entertainment and her supper.

“Would your friend, Kitty Lord, be able to help us?”

“Possibly, but if I were you, I wouldn’t count on it. Are you off now?” As she saw them both rise to their feet.

“Thank you, Ma’am, for your attention. Good evening.”

 

The policemen left Lena’s, and walked along the road to the pub where they had left their car.

“Do you think she knows anything?” Colin asked Robert.

“No, I don’t think so. She’s the typical elderly lady who imagines things where there’s nothing that holds water. Shall we visit her friend now, or leave it till tomorrow?”

“If we go now, we’ll be disturbing another elderly lady’s supper and television. Did you see the programme she was watching?”

“What was it? Crimewatch, on the BBC?”

“Something like that. It seems that there’s someone around this part of the country taking other peoples dogs, and returning them with their fur dyed in black and white stripes.”

They stopped in their tracks and stared at each other, “The black and white relationship is rather interesting, don’t you think? Now we’ll have to try and get in touch with someone whose dog has had this experience. Come on, we’ve no time to waste.” The two men drove off back to the station, leaving Kitty in ignorance. She would hear all about the police visit the next day.

 

 The wind blew inside and outside the ruins without any respite. The long tongues of flame blew in all directions. The onlookers piled up bricks around three sides to keep it under control and to make it cosier. The figures surrounding the fire were wearing black clothes, and their faces were painted white. They were all much older than Blanche, but, not one pointed black hat could be seen.

 

Suddenly, other strange things started happening in Little Copse. Dark clothes were being stolen from clothes lines, but no other colour.

Then The Bear and Dwarf suffered an attack on its windows. They were painted all over in black, making it impossible to see in or out. Sydney rang the police and gave them the story, and asked if anyone would be going to Little Copse to do the necessary detecting and apprehend the ‘evil doers’, as he put it. The police told him not to clean the windows because they wanted to check out the paint, and find any other clues that the delinquents might have left behind.

 

Blanche’s cold, meanwhile, was getting better and she fancied another witch trip. One evening, when her family was in the living-room watching a reality show and screaming themselves hoarse, she slipped out of the house, fully dressed in her witch’s outfit. She carried her broomstick in one hand, and in the other hand a box of fireworks to throw into Cecil’s garden, and a packet of nails to burst the tyres on his car if he drove it out of the garage. Blanche was still incandescent from her last encounter with Cecil, and had made up her mind to hit him where it hurt. He hardly ever drove the car, nevertheless, it was his pride and joy.

On her way, she put anonymous letters in several houses in Little Copse, informing the tenants that Cecil was involved with a witch. That done, Blanche walked to Cecil’s house, lit the box of fireworks and quickly threw it over the garden wall, which created a terrible din that could be heard quite a long way away. Pink smoke went up next, and lit up Cecil’s house, and the accompanying glitter fell all over his immaculate lawn. Cecil and his wife were at home, but weren’t aware of what was going on till someone rang them up. They ran out of their house and saw their lawn covered in the remains of the fireworks. Blanche shook her broomstick at Cecil, but he threw a bucket of freezing cold water at her white face. Then he ran into the garage to get his car and follow her to find out who she was, only to puncture his tyres on the nails.

 

Blanche managed to run back to her own home without him following her. She was annoyed with Cecil for throwing water at her, after her having had such a bad cold, but she felt she had had her revenge as a witch on Cecil.

The rest of the family was still sitting in front of the television, as she went in silently and upstairs to her bedroom. She hung her clothes on the radiator to dry for the second time, and had a hot shower before getting into bed.

 

Cecil was shouting his head off about the witch assaulting his house again. His wife rang the police, who said they would go over there in the morning. He was told not to remove the nails as they may be clues. Cecil and his wife, with their evening ruined, went up to bed early, feeling frustrated on Cecil’s part, and puzzled on his wife’s part.

 

The next morning the same two policemen arrived at Little Copse to survey the damage done to Cecil’s garden. He was almost in tears as they examined the lawn. How could anyone possibly put all that glitter on his lawn, that had taken him so long to get exactly as he wanted it? The police saw the remains of the fireworks and the bangers. The worst piece of evidence were the nails spread out over the entrance to the garage.

The policemen stared hard at Cecil, and asked him, “Have you got any enemies you can think of?”

Cecil straightened his shoulders and said in a strained voice, “I have never offended anyone in my life, and I can’t possibly imagine who would want to do this to me. The witch is of undeterminable age and is raving mad. For some reason unknown to me, she screams at me over the wall, and then does all these crazy things.”

“Do you think it might be some lady you crossed in love, and she’d getting revenge?”

“Are you joking? I’ve been married for forty years to my lady wife. Do I look like the sort of man to have affairs?”

Robert said, “There’s no cap on looks or age in romance, how do we know you didn’t have a girl friend in the past, or even recently?”

Cecil was getting angry. Now it seemed that instead of being the victim, he was the guilty party. “I expect you’ll let me know when the forensics have finished their work.”

“Yes, Sir, you can rest assured on that,” Colin said.

 

In the car, both policemen began talking about Cecil, “You know, Colin, some really weird things go on in these small towns. This fixation he has about a witch is fascinating. Poor old thing, it’s his dream-girl probably.” The car shot up the hill in the direction of the ruins.

 

“Blanche has the most terrible cold. It’s really stubborn. I think the doctor should come and see her before it gets worse,” Blanche’s mother was talking to her husband, Liam.

“Well, if you think so,” said Liam, before leaving for work.

“Mummy, I know I’ve got a horrible cold, but I’d like to change my hair style.”

“Blanche, do you really think you’re well enough to go to the hairdresser’s? What’s the hurry? We can go when you’re a lot better.”

Blanche lay back in her bed, realizing that her mother spoke the truth. It would be better for her to go to the hairdresser’s in a few days’ time.

 

Up at the ruins the two policemen saw the remains of another bonfire. There were also pieces of black cloth with white marks on them. “What is going on here? The residents of Little Copse are rather reticent about anything out of the ordinary happening up here,” Colin commented to Robert.

“I think we should go back to the station and wait to hear about any new information related to the ruins.”

They stared around them at the remains of what must have been an elegant abode many moons ago. There was a snail staircase that went up into the sky, it gave the feeling of being on the point of falling down. There were a couple of large fireplaces, and glassless windows. The latest bonfire had been set up in the same spot against the wall as the previous one. On some of the walls there were small rag-like pieces of brocade that had once covered the walls. There were also tiny particles of glass that shone among the wild grass covering the floor. A slight wind blew through the lot. The deterioration had been slow but inexorable. Now, all the ruins needed, was a bulldozer to finish them off for good.

“It must be fun to come up here and play hide-and-seek. The local children more than likely spend a lot of time doing just that,” Robert said.

They sat down on some stones, and delighted in breathing the fresh air.

 

Four days after her altercation with Cecil, Blanche went with her mother to London to have her hair cut and restyled. The hairdresser asked her, “Have you any specific idea of the cut you’d like?”

Blanche had her head buried in the photos in a hairstyle magazine, but managed to say, “Cut it short, and dye what’s left a soft blonde.”

“Are you sure? Your hair’s very long, and it’ll take ages to get it so long again?” the hairdresser claimed.

“Please, just do it.  I want a change.”

“Just as you like,” the hairdresser said, and picked up the well-honed scissors and began cutting off the tight black curls. Blanche’s witch days were over.

On the way back from London, Blanche couldn’t stop touching her hair, even to running her fingers through it.

Walking home from the railway station they met up with Percy who was walking home too, and together, the trio saw a helicopter hovering over the ruins. The sound of police cars came to their ears.

They were coming up to The Bear and Dwarf in the High Street and could see very well, that on the hill, some things were happening. Blanche and her mother asked Percy what he thought was going on and he told them.

“Those people up there are being arrested for witchcraft,” Percy told Blanche and her mother.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing!” exclaimed Blanche’s mother.

Blanche stood quietly and didn’t open her mouth, more interested in what Percy might have to say next.

“Cecil told us in the pub the other night, of how he had come up against a witch twice very recently, and how he had chased her off by throwing a bucket of freezing-cold water over her.”

Blanche’s mother asked, “Why was he so angry?”

“The witch had put nails at the entrance to his garage, and then, adding insult to injury, she had thrown a box of fireworks over the garden wall, which made a dreadful noise and smoke, and left glitter all over his prize-winning lawn. He rang the police, and they’ve gone up there to see if they can catch the witch that upset him so much.”

Blanche nudged her mother, “I’m feeling cold, Mum. Can we go home?”

Mother and daughter said their goodbyes to Percy, and walked home, each one with her own thoughts.

 

The local television news was all about the bonfires and the black clothes found at the ruins, and the police about to arrest those who were sitting around a bonfire. Those who were sitting around the bonfire were going to be accused being part of a coven, but it turned out that, in reality, they were just actors rehearsing for a gothic film, using the old ruin as a set.

 

And Blanche went back to calling herself Bethany. The witch clothes, lovingly bought and used by Bethany/Blanche, were cut up by the would-be witch and dumped in Cecil’s rubbish when he was at The Bear and Dwarf.

 

That was the end of that, and life carried on the same in Little Copse, for a while at least. 


© Copyright 2020 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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