Where Witches Drowned


It made him feel uncomfortable from the moment it entered the house. The moment he saw it peeking out of its carrier bag as Layla rooted around for the receipt. It even made its way into his dreams. Dreams about a pretty little eleven year old girl lying face up in the water, her hair tangled in grasping tendrils of dark green weeds, the hideous contraption floating independently round her body.

And here it was splayed out like a gigantic dead spider in a contortion of spindly suspender legs and crumpled lace. He approached the bed as if it were an open coffin, a warm dribble beading, then darting down between his shoulder blades as he slid a forefinger under one of its metal adjusters. The silky smooth panel of its gusset shone back at him. He stepped away, rubbing his hands and glancing towards the orange strip of illumination let in from the hall by the slim gap between the door and the wall. Outside, opaque high cloud slipped past unveiling the fat pale face of the moon. Its light washed in through the window, framing the subject in a bone-white grid.

He snatched up a stuffed pink elephant perched on top of a pillow, pinning its stubby body between his knees and yanking at the erect trunk until it finally split from the head spewing a large clump of white synthetic sponge out onto the deep blue carpet. Tossing it aside so that it bounced into a darkened corner, in its place he carefully positioned a framed photograph of a handsome young dog in a red leather collar.

#

Clear yellow sun poured through pert emerald leaves not yet wearied to greyish-green by a summer of heat. Newly awoken brown and cream-flecked butterflies rode a frivolous breeze, whilst from out across the fields there came a plaintive cry, a thunderous chugging and finally the screech of metal as another journey on the heritage steam railway wheezed to an end. Eric sank into a thick cushion of moss clinging to a toppled tree trunk with his hands between his thighs and his shoulders hunched up around his ears. He surveyed a trail of pads and claws imprinted deep into the soft sandy earth before him, recalling how fat their dog Connie had gotten when the walks stopped. How her bulging, rheumy eyes burrowed into him sideways from her all-day bed in the old tapestry armchair. The chair where she flopped for what seemed like years, building up a thick layer of fat beneath her tatty golden coat. The chair where she ended up as nothing more than an inanimate block with a head stuck on top. Waiting and waiting and waiting at home while Layla took her love to town. Sinking deep into the fragrant mulch of last year’s foliage, Eric pushed on towards the centre of the wood. Under and over great arches of tangled briars, snagging his jeans and grating a knuckle on the dry scaly skin of a snaking ivy.

Past the gaping wounds left by fallen boughs which screamed like arms wrenched out at the socket and onwards to where the huge oaks kneel with their short, disfigured trunks and twisted branches thrown up begging for forgiveness. To where the mobbing circle of old trees shuffle back to open out a panel of sky framed by a jagged portal of angry dead wood. A panel of sky reflected below by an amoeba-shaped body of turbid water sunk down into the ground.

“Is Mrs Cole right...did they really drown witches there?” It had been a hazy summer’s day over ten years before and the old bag had stopped them yet again to indulge her passion for inflicting morbid folklore.





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