The branches had been stripped bare by the winter, their crisped brown leaves sitting at the base of the narrow tree; my stomach tightens at the sight of the ropes, nooses, swaying in the cool afternoon breeze,
Loose strands of my long blonde hair sweep across my face and I quickly tuck them back into my grey beanie, the large camera in my hand has dwarfed in size by my oversized winter gloves, I raise the lens to my hazel eyes and take several steps backwards so that the tree in it’s entirety can fit in the frame, the ground crunches below the weight of my boots.
The click of the camera breaks the deafening silence and reminds me how alone I am. Standing here. In the middle of this large forest, surrounded by death, the witches, were hanged here by the town centuries ago but their presence still lingers, cooling and thickening the air, as the realization seeps into my consciousness, poisoning my brain, my stomach begins to tighten into small tiny knots, my chest also tightens and sends my heart into a panic,
“One more, Alice, then run,” my voice is husky and timid. I raise the camera to my eye once again, inhale, press the button down, then turn on my feet and bolt in the opposite direction, weaving in and out of the thin, narrow overhanging naked trees – my rapid breathing fills the silence – by the time I reach the edge of the forest and slow into a walk I am panting, my lungs burning and screaming for oxygen.
* * *
“Over the course of the weekend,” Mr. Burton announced only several hours ago, “you and a partner of your choice will collaborate on a project, it can be anything. Fictional or not, you can decide,” the middle aged dark haired man begins making his way through the row of single desks distributing large cameras out, “on Monday, you will both present your project to the class.” His aged face wrinkles more-so as he smiles down at me and hands me a camera, the large camera is cold in my small bony hands.
As he passes by me, my eyes scan the classroom in search of a partner. Will is looking at me with a hopeful look upon his gaunt face, his wide blue eyes are fixed on me; I smile and give him a nod – Will has been a friend of mine since elementary school, last year he confessed his love for me and I turned him down, and I feel horrible for not being able to see him as anything else other than a good friend, during the summer, Will had a breakdown and is now on anti-depressants and I can’t help but feel partly responsible.
After class he stood waiting for me in the hallway,
“Hey Alice,” he beamed at the sight of me, I smiled and threw an arm over him, “how are you, Will?” I asked, to which he shrugged, we made our way through the school corridor without speaking,
“So,” he was first to break the silence, “I have an idea for our project,” he says,
“What is it?” I asked, giving off a hint of a smile out of curiosity,
“The hanging trees,” his voice is low and serious, my brows furrow, confused.
“we can take some photos and research the history of the town, did you know there were actually witch hangings in resco forest shortly after the town was founded?” He asks, but continues without an answer,
“On Monday we can really scare everyone with what we’ve got documented,”
I let out a loud laugh and slap his arm, nodding, I agree. “I can walk there after school this afternoon and take some photos,” I tell him, “I’ll call you when I’m on my way home and let you know how they turn out, okay?” Will nods and I hand him my phone to enter his number and I thank him before we go our separate ways.
* * *
The long grass whips at my jeans as I march through the field towards my neighborhood, I pull my gloves off quickly and fumble trying to unlock my phone, I find Will’s number and call him,
“It’s me,” I say breathlessly as Will answers on the other end of the phone, “I got the photos.”
“How’d you go?” He asks
I’m still trying to breathe normally,
“I’m not in any hurry to do that again,” I force a laugh and continue, “but, I got some good photos. So I hope we get good marks.”
I walk through the fenceless boundaries of the neighboring yards, past their weatherboard house into the small cul-de-sac street with overhanging trees that I call home, my house is two-stories with white weatherboards and dead grass, two steps lead up onto the front porch, the frosted glass front door is ajar,
“Mum!” I shout, using my foot to open the door, “is anyone home?” the creaking door comes to a stop as it hits the wall,
“In the kitchen Alice!” She finally calls back to me, “I’ve left some groceries in the car. Can you grab them please?” my shoulders fall in defeat and I sigh, “sure!” I yell flatly.
I jump down the steps and make my way across the lawn to the dirt driveway – houses in the neighborhood are in various stages of development – my mum’s car is parked at the end of the dug-out dirt patch towards the back of the house. I grab the large brown grocery bags from the backseat of the car and close the door using my backside, I decide the fastest way back into the house is through the back-door, so I make my way past the car and around the house to the back porch, using my foot again I slide the sliding door shut behind me; placing the groceries on the washing machine I walk in to the adjacent kitchen and dining room, my mum is packing the groceries away in the pantry,
“Why are you home so late?” She asks with her back to me,
“I had to go in to resco forest and take photos of some trees, did you know witches were hung here after the town was founded?” I ask my mum, she shakes her head – this is news to her too – and offers to help me with my research,
“I’m going to the library tomorrow to try find what I can,” I tell her. I pause for a moment before continuing, “Will Thompson is my partner for this project” mum turns around to face me, her aged face is expressionless at first, but she manages to force a smile. I can see through her happiness to the concern,
“How is he?” Her voice is low and soft, “I mean-” she’s lost for words,
I shrug and say, “he’s good, he’s out of hospital but he’s still on medication-”
“It’s not your fault Alice” she cuts me off, “his father was very abusive, and Marjorie resorted to alcohol to fill her emptiness, I mean, Will was bound to have some emotional problems.”
After helping my mother pack the last of the groceries away I decide to retreat to my bedroom to begin my project,
The wooden floorboards creak as I walk through the hall, I press against the front door to ensure it’s shut properly then turn around and make my way upstairs.
I have an e-mail waiting for me in my inbox, it’s from Will, the subject is our project; witches.
I open the e-mail and begin reading the attached link, it leads to a Wikipedia page about the witches of resco and their hangings in the nearby forest.
My eyes are glued to the screen as I read an old black and white article attached to the page. It was released in 1940 to coincide with the towns bicentennial, it tells how over thirty men and women were hanged, the first victim, Margaret Ross, being married at a young age was unable to reproduce, her husband, Richard, claimed her infertility was done by the hands of the devil. Margaret was the first of many.
The hanged ranged between the ages of 16-43, eventually the locals nicknamed the forest the gallow-trees;
The corpses were burned and buried in the forest in unmarked and often shallow graves, and as the town developed the authorities agreed never to build upon the land or remove the bodies of the victims out of respect.
Attached to the e-mail was a second link of a photo, a map, showing the town and the forest, with the burial sites highlighted, the map compared the original town map to one of present day; my house, and the surrounding housing developments. Have been built upon the witches burial sites.
“Will, it’s Alice,” I say quickly pacing my room,
“You got my e-mail,” he says on the other end of the line, his voice is low and quiet, I nod and try to compose myself as best as I can, “did you know my house was built here?” I ask him,
“Of course,” he says quickly “I saw it and e-mailed you immediately, this is great,”
“Great?” I repeat, confused and a little offended he thinks that, “h-how is-is it great?” I stutter,
“We can use it for the project,” he sounds amused, “we could use a ouija board and try and summon one of the witches, Alice,”
“No.” I tell him flatly, “that’s just asking for trouble,”
“Alice, think about it. We could record it or something,”
I continue to refuse him, but Will is persistent and eventually pressures me into agreeing to go along with his crazy idea,
“My mum is working tonight,” I say finally, “come around at 8.00 pm,”
* * *
I watch as mum turns out of the street before heading inside, I lock the front door and head upstairs to my bedroom where I change into a pair of black skinny jeans and an oversized grey knitted sweater, my long hair falls over my shoulders;
Will arrives right on time, the knock on the door breaks the silence through the house and startles me.
“Are you ready to do this?” He asks with a broad cheeky grin upon his face, holding the ouija board in hand,
“No.” I mumble, I open the door wider and let him into the house, he walks to the living room on the left and I tell him to take a seat while I grab us each a glass of water.
In the kitchen I pour us each a glass of water, the wind outside whistles through the gaps between the sliding door in the laundry, I walk into the small dark, square room and ensure the door is locked,
“Are you afraid?” Will asks from the kitchen and I flinch, “yeah,” I nod “how come I never knew about the towns witches before today?” I ask, “why wouldn’t they teach it in school?”
He shrugs while leaning on the kitchen counter, “when I was off school, in between therapy sessions I’d read a lot to fill in the time, and I came across the article I sent you today and I investigated the woods and found the ropes. It’s insane,” he shakes his head, “I guess the townsfolk weren’t proud of what they did and decided not to talk about it,”
We walk back to the living room together where the ouija board is awaiting us upon the ottoman and his phone – already recording -
“You place your index finger and middle finger on the planchette,” Will instructs me, I copy him and take a deep breath in, he tries to suppress a smile but fails.
“Okay,” he finally says, “relax, Alice, I’m going to start asking the witches questions,”
I keep my eyes on the wooden planchette and the large board beneath my hands,
“Is anyone there?” Will asks,
I feel the planchette move across the board to the ‘yes’
“Did you do move that?” I ask quietly, he shakes his head,
“What is your name?” He asks.
“Fuck. Off” I remove my hands from the planchette and stand up shaking them, I quickly shake my head and take deep breaths, “no more,” I say to Will, he gets to his feet,
“I read about her,” I say, my chest is tightening, rising and falling quickly, and I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes, I blink and they spill down my cheek, “she was accused of being a devil worshiper,”
Will eventually calms me down and agrees to stay with me until I fall asleep,
I lay on the couch with my feet over him while he holds the camera and views the photographs taken this afternoon,
My eyes become heavier with each blink and suddenly the darkness and sleep consume me.
I awake with a startle; I’m facing the couch and the lights have been turned off, Will has placed a blanket over me to keep me warm – but he’s long gone, I think – my blood turns cold suddenly as I hear a click, it’s the camera, I roll over to face the dark living room, the lamp posts outside have let it minimal light, enough, however, to cast shadows of the trees outside over the blank walls, the camera clicks once again, this time the light flashes, blinding me, I bolt upright, clutching the blanket in my hand,
“Mum,” I whisper into the darkness, another click and flash go off and I let out a loud, terrified scream and shout for my mum. Loud footsteps boom from upstairs, suddenly a light comes on from somewhere past the hallway, my mum appears on the staircase in her nightgown,
“What’s wrong, Alice?” She asks,
I throw the blanket aside and race over to her, “can I stay with you tonight?” I sob into her nightgown, she holds me tightly and tries to console me, I can feel my body trembling but I have no control over it.
“Come upstairs, baby,” she whispers.
The sunlight awakens me, it’s golden and shining through the dust covered windows that overlook the small street,
I throw my legs over the edge of the bed and force myself to stand and make my way out of my mothers bedroom.
“Are you okay, honey?” She asks as I enter the kitchen,
“You look as if you haven’t slept at all,”
I take a seat on one of the stools of the island bench, “I kept replaying it over and over again,” I mumble, blinking my heavy eyelids, “mum, do you believe in ghosts?” I ask, “because. Last night, something was in the house with me,” my lips tremble along with the rest of my body and I let out a low sob,
“Have you told Will?” Mum asks before suggesting, “maybe you two should change the topic of your project?”
* * *
“Did you look at the photos?” Will asks me on the other end of the line after I tell him about my ordeal last night, “I sent you another inbox. I found a Wikipedia page for Margaret Ross,”
“I don’t even want to hear her name,” I tell him, “I’m so freaked-”
“This will be worth it come Monday,” he try’s to reassure me, how is this still exciting to him?
“What’d you get on your phone recording?” I ask him, remembering last night he brought his phone along as a recording device,
“Wanna meet in town for lunch?” He asks, “we can check out my recording and your photographs,”
I agree and hang up and make my way to the bathroom.
I lock the bathroom door and undress myself as quickly as possible – leaving my knitted sweater and skinny jeans from last night on the cold white tiles – I wash my hair and body and change in to a pair of black tights and a long sleeved maroon dress, I collect my clothes from the tiled floor and leave the bathroom.
Tossing my dirty clothes on my bed I walk around my bed to my closet and pull out a pair of black ankle boots, my grey beanie is on the end of my bed so I collect that and my phone before making my way back downstairs.
“I have to work tomorrow night,” mum says as I walk into the kitchen, “if you to. Get Will to stay over, I just don’t want you being home alone,”
I smile and collect my keys and the camera from the kitchen bench before kissing my mother goodbye and bounding out the front door into the late sunny Autumn morning.
I walk the few blocks to the heart of town, Will is waiting for me in the window of a locally owned cafe; His face looks thinner than ever, his eyes are bulging and surrounded by dark black circles – he’s tired – and by the looks of it a little agitated,
“Hey,” I try to sound upbeat with a forced smile plastered to my face,
He nods and gestures me towards the small table where his phone and jacket are,
“Will,” I say his name softly, carefully, “are. . . Are you okay?” I stammer,
He sniffs and wipes his nose while shaking his head, “I went into the woods last night,” his voice is shaky, “to the witches hanging site…” He falls quiet, his heavy eyelids close,
“What is it?” I ask urgently, I reach out and take his free hand,
“The ropes weren’t there,” he finally whimpers. “After you fell asleep I decided to investigate the site myself. And there was nothing there.”
We sit in silence as I try to take it all in, my chest tightens and suddenly it’s as if all the air has been squeezed from me, “um,” I gasp, my brain is scrambling for something, anything. And then, “Your phone,” I say as my eyes fall upon it, “did you manage to record anything?” I ask.
He nods and slides his phone across the table to me,
“I had to take a torch from your house so I could see. . . The quality is crap, but, you can see what I’m talking about.”
I press play and begin to watch the video; it’s shaky and only shows the dirt and the leaves peppered along the ground, I can hear Will breathing in the cold night, then, the camera begins to pan upwards. To the trees I stood amongst yesterday afternoon, except now they are free of their nooses. They are now completely naked, “holy shit,” Will says on the video – and that’s where it ends.
“My camera kept going off last night,” I say, sliding the phone across the table back to him and then the camera, “I haven’t looked at any of the images yet,”
Will takes the camera in his pale hands and begins searching through the images, “they’re just of you asleep. And you waking up,” he lets out a small laugh, “and screaming-”
“This is serious,” I say through closed teeth, “the ouija board. The ropes,”
Will slides the camera back across the table to me and apologizes,
“Last night,” he says softly, “I think something communicated to us. Through the board.”
After eating our lunch we decide to head to the town library,
“I don’t know if we’ll find anything,” Will says, as we approach the library steps, “I stumbled upon the witches on a whim, I had nothing to do with my days, I mean, therapy goes for two hours. I had to fill the other twenty two somehow,”
I push the wooden doors open and we walk into the musty old building, it’s dimly lit, most of the light is coming from the computer screens along the side walls.
“Excuse me,” I say to the small, frail, elderly lady behind the front desk,
“Can I please have a look at old town records. I’m doing a project on a certain historical event,”
The lady looks up at me through her magnifying-glass sized spectacles and asks in a low rattled whisper,
“What are you researching dear?”
“The witches that were hanged in resco forest,” I tell her firmly,
Her wrinkles grow deeper as a broad smile spreads across her face, “dear,” she chuckles, “we’ve never had anything like that happen around here. You’ve been misinformed, sorry,”
I frown, confused and look over my shoulder to Will, who shrugs.
I let out a sight, thank her and retreat from the library with Will,
“Why is everyone covering it up?” I ask shaking my head furiously,
“Who’s proud to say they hanged a bunch of locals?” Will retorts, “we can collect what we have and still present it on Monday,”
* * *
Will sits on my bed as I sit at my computer and open the e-mail from him. I open open the link and it comes up as an error, refreshing the page doesn’t help. It again comes up as an error,
“What is going on, Will?” I ask trying again and again to refresh the link,
“It must have been removed,” he says leaning over my shoulder,
“Why. . . Why, why would someone do that?!” I am so furious, my eyes fill with tears once again, “what the hell, we have nothing now, Will, nothing,”
He sighs and repeats himself from earlier, “who’s proud to say they hanged a bunch of locals?”
“Google,” I quickly mumble, “we can google Margaret Ross,” I close my inbox and open up Google; Margaret Ross. No searches found.
“This can’t be real,” Will mutters over my shoulder, he refreshes the page but once again we fall short, “anyone can edit anything, they can create pages and delete them and no one would know anything,” he sighs and paces my bedroom for a short time then stares out the window leaning on the windowsill,
“They’re playing with us, aren’t they?” He says with his back to me,
“The witches?” I ask, he nods slowly.
I feel a pang in my stomach,
“what are we going to do?” I ask nervously, Will shrugs and turns to face me, “no one will listen to us, we don’t have any proof,”
* * *
The late afternoon grows darker faster, as the ominous storm clouds gather in closer;
A loud clap of thunder brings the heavy rain pelting down, my phone sounds and it’s a text from Will letting me know he has made it home safe and sound, and dry.
I smile and set my phone down on my bedside table.
* * *
“I was researching the witches,” mum says to me over our bowls of chicken and corn soup, “I couldn’t find anything,” she continues, “are you sure they’re real?” She asks,
I nod and tell her all about the nooses in the trees and the ouija board session last night with Will. I even go so far as to mention the Wikipedia page with the photo inserts of articles about the witch hangings,
“It’s bizarre,” she finally says once I am finished, and we eat the rest of our dinner in silence.
* * *
“My mum doesn’t believe us,” I say to Will over the phone while pacing my bedroom,
“My mother doesn’t either. And being an alcoholic you think she’d believe anything,” he says jokingly.
I feel obligated to let out a small laugh to ease the tension in his words, “I’m off to sleep,” he says through a yawn, I nod and rub my eyes, “yeah,” I yawn as well, “I’m pretty tired too. Goodnight Will.”
I change out of my clothes and into flannelette pajamas and climb into bed, a flash of lightning lights the heavy black night and a loud boom of thunder rattles the house, I hear the window shake in it’s frame and look over at it, past my bedside table lamp – something suddenly catches my eye – I get out of bed and walk over to the window, at the base of the windowsill an inverted cross has been scratched into the wood, there’s another flash of lightning and clap of thunder that sends everything into darkness. The rain continues to slap my window with heavy, continuous drops. The outside world is cloaked in darkness. I tip-toe across the wooden floor and back into the warm comforts of my bed where I pull the covers tight around myself and bury my face into my pillow.
I car hear the wind whistling through the trees outside, it sends a chill through my bones, it howls through the spaces between the windows and doors, the cold and the darkness enclosing in on me.
I hurl my covers off and throw my legs over the edge of the bed, getting to my feet I cross the bedroom and close my door, the smaller the space the safer I’ll feel. As I make my way back to my bed the lightning lights up the night sky once again, this time, what captures my eyes is outside. In the trees a few feet from my house, hanging over my small street, nooses have been attached to them, they blow wildly in the storm, I am unable to move. My bones harden, my skin also and m heart stops dead in it’s tracks. My lungs are airless pockets.
“Mum!” I screech. Turning on the balls of my feet I bolt out of my bedroom and into the upstairs hallway, “Mum!” I bellow at the sight of more nooses, this time they’ve been tied around the light fixtures,
my mother appears in the doorway of her bedroom, the look of terror is quickly plastered upon her face.
She races over to me and grabs me by the arm,
“We’re leaving now!” she screams, we sprint down the staircase and out the back door to the car space in the dirt ditch.
We reverse out of the driveway and speed out of the street;
Mum and I spend our night at a truck-stop diner, drinking large cups of black coffee and trying to settle our nerves.
I fell asleep on the rubber chair of the booth, mum wakes me with a hand to my shoulder and saying my name softly,
At first I am confused, “where are we?” I yawn, but when I come to full consciousness I remember where we are. And why.
“Let’s go home, honey,” my mother looks as if she’s aged ten years overnight, her face is weathered and tired. I doubt she managed to sleep at all last night,
I look out the large windows into the morning light, the sunlight has slowly begun to melt the icy build-up off our car – the only one in the parking lot – I climb out of the booth and drag myself behind my mother out of the truck-stop diner.
We drive half the ride home in silence, “maybe we could get the house blessed?” My mother suggests, “get rid of whatever this is.”
I stare blankly out the window for a few moments before mumbling, regretfully, “I never should have agreed to go along with this project. Or that stupid fucking board,”
I feel my mothers hand on my leg,
“It’s not your fault,” she says, trying to comfort me – it fails – as we approach my street my stomach drops and veering around the corner I am afraid to look ahead at the overhanging trees that cloak my neighborhood, I take several deep breaths before forcing my eyes to look ahead.
The street is the same picturesque street that I’ve always known,
“What. The. Hell,” my mother mumbles slowly,
“W…w-where are the nooses?” I stammer, sitting upright I peer out the front windshield to get a closer look, but my eyes aren’t deceiving me. There is nothing at all wrong, no eeriness. Nothing at all off about the small cul-de-sac street.
My mother stops the car by the kerb and we get out, I am more hesitant than she is, but she waits for me to join her before we make our way across the damp grass, the only sound comes from the squelching of the mud and grass under our feet. We walk up the two steps together and pause on the front porch,
“Stay close,” my mother sniffs, she reaches out with a shaky hand and grips the doorknob, turning it she pushes the front door open – it squeaks it’s usual low, blood cooling, squeak – and it comes to a stop by the wall.
We cross the threshold hand-in-hand, nervously, my eyes are wide and suddenly I begin scanning the hallway, every nook and cranny that I possibly can,
“It seems fine,” mum quietly says, she let’s go of my hand and makes her way to the kitchen. I trail closely behind her,
Looking through the bannisters I try to catch a glimpse of the upstairs hallway, I can see one of the lights. It appears as it always has, unlike last night. And I become less anxious and, slowly, slightly more relieved.
“Oh my god!” My mother squeals, startling me, “what?!” I scream, darting into the kitchen.
The glass sliding door leading into the backyard bears a bloody pentagram symbol, and, at the foot of the door I notice what appears to be a cat. . . It takes me a minute to realize it’s still taking slow, shallow breaths.
“Knock, knock.” A voice echoes through the house, I take several steps back and look through the kitchen doorway to the front door, Mrs. Lawrence from across the street is standing in the entrance to our house, her wiry grey hair has been pulled back into a bun and she is draped in a warm woolen shawl, her cane bangs against the wooden floor as she crosses the threshold into the house,
“Is your mother home dear?” She asks frailly, I nod and call to my mother – not once taking my eyes from Mrs. Lawrence – “Rita,” my mother sniffs, trying to compose herself, “what brings you over here?” She asks,
“Last night,” Mrs. Lawrence whispers, “I heard a commotion in your house. And when I looked out of my window I saw the two of you leaving suddenly-”
“Everything has been taken care of,” my mother cuts her off, “it’s fine,”
But Mrs. Lawrence shakes her head slowly and waves her free hand at us, “No, No, No, my dear,” Mrs. Lawrence continues, “I kept an eye on your house throughout the night. And somebody was coming and going at different hours.” She says, “they were dressed in what looked like a black hood, and they carried ropes. A lot of ropes, too,” her aged face suddenly becomes soft with concern, “do you need help, my dear?” She asks.
“Mrs. Lawrence,” my mothers voice breaks, “thank you,” my mum looks to me and tells me firmly, “Will is staying here with you tonight, and tomorrow we’re going to the police, or finding a priest. Someone. Anyone. I don’t care,”
My mum and I both walk Mrs. Lawrence back to her house and thank her once again,
She closes her front door and I hear it lock as we make our way off her front porch.
* * *
“Someone was in your house,” Will mutters slowly in disbelief,
“Yeah,” I am sitting on the couch under a blanket with my mum – she’s just cleaned the mess from the kitchen and is, literally, on the edge -
“Mum works tonight,” I tell him slowly before asking if he can stay the night, his response in almost atomic, “of course. I’ll be over soon okay,”
“Okay,” I say before hanging up the phone.
* * *
Mum buttons her black work shirt and tucks it into her pants before running her hands down the front of herself, “okay,” she exhales “I’ll see you tonight, please call me if you need anything,” she says,
I nod and say to her “Will is running late, he’s stuck in traffic. But he’ll only be, like, ten or fifteen minutes so I’ll just hang out on the couch,”
She kisses my cheek and together we leave her bedroom and make our way back downstairs.
* * *
I stand on the front porch and watch as mum drives out of the street, my heart sinks watching her tail-lights round the corner and disappear,
I close the front door behind me and lock it then walk into the living room and sit myself down on the couch,
My senses and paranoia have kicked into overdrive.
I can hear the trees rustling in the light breeze outside, the wind blowing across the wooden floors, between every crack and groove in the wood itself. . . I can even hear my own heart beating, the sound of my blood swishing around in my body fills my ears and deafens me.
A knock on the door startles me and pulls me back to reality – it’s Will – I climb off the couch and race to the door, he’s wearing a pair of tattered light brown chinos that hug his thin legs, and a black hoodie with his hands buried in the pockets,
“It’s freezing out here,” he says, peaking out from under his hood,
“How are you feeling?” He asks making his way past me and inside.
I close the door behind him and lie through my teeth, “I’m feeling a lot better,” but somehow he can tell and asks “really?” smirking I shake my head and say, “no. Not really,”
“Well,” his tone is more upbeat as he announces, “I drove my mothers car over here incase we need to high-tail outta here.”
* * *
Will lays on my bed with his face buried in the pillow as I change out of my pajamas from last night and in to a pair of black jeans and a white zip-up hoodie,
“Let’s go downstairs and eat,” I say turning around to face my bed, “we have leftover chicken and corn soup,”
He raises his head and smirks with wide eyes, “I am so hungry,” he laughs. He scampers off my bed, bringing the camera for our project with him.
“So,” I say to him as we walk into the hallway, “they were hanging off here. And, it was the scariest thing I have ever seen,”
Will wraps an arm around my shoulder in an effort to comfort me, “maybe we’re gonna need to share medication,” he says jokingly,
As we descend the staircase I ask him while we are on the topic of medication, “how are you feeling? I mean, with everything aside from recent events,”
He shrugs and lets out a low sigh,
“I’m as good as can be expected, I guess,” he says, “I mean, my mother drinks to numb her pain because her ex-husband used to drink a lot and beat me, and her. And when he wasn’t drinking he would still beat us and tell us how worthless we were,”
I shake my head, unable to imagine such a thing, “that’s horrible. How’d you cope with it all Will?” I ask him,
He shrugs again, “books. Writing. Anything that would take me away from this nightmare I was living, sometimes I’d make up stories to try and justify why this was happening to my mum and I, but, they’d always become some sick, twisted, macabre story because nothing I could think of could justify the actions of my father. . . The night he left us was honestly the happiest night of my life, when I woke up and realized he had abandoned us. I had never felt more relieved,” his eyes are glistening with tears,
I clear my throat and decide to change the subject,
“Let’s put our project together for tomorrow,”
Will races out to his car to grab his backpack while I heat up two bowls of soup for us to eat;
“I’ve put together a few things to show you,” he calls from the entrance, the door slams shut and echoes behind him. I flinch, when the microwave beeps I remove the two bowls and place them on to the kitchen bench below the microwave, “be careful,” I say with my back to him, “they’re extremely hot,”
Using my thumb as a claw I pick the two bowls of soup up and turn to place them on the island bench;
The bowls shatter when I drop them, hot soup spills everywhere but I am frozen and unable to move at the sight in front of me,
Will stands in the doorway of the kitchen with my mother in front of him, with a noose draped around her neck,
“Will,” I cry staring into his large blue eyes, “w-w-what the hell is this?” I ask,
He laughs through gritted teeth, “witches,” he spits, “could you be any fucking dumber?!” His shouts echo, making me jump,
“I bought the rope from a local hardware store,” he says, “I left the tag on one of them. I only realized last night when I came back to remove them,” he chuckles and presses his face against the side of my mothers face, she let’s out a terrified scream and tears spill down her face,
“Why are you doing this?!” She sobs,
Will laughs hysterically, amused with her question, “why?” He repeats, “Alice was the only constant thing in my fucked up life!” He roars, my mother cowers huddling closer to his body in fear, “when she rejected me, I had lost everything I ever held on to!”
I am trembling from head to toe, I can hear the air swimming in and out of my lungs, my chest rising and falling as if I had just ran a marathon, “how’d you do all this?” I ask, my vision blurs as the tears fill my eyes, I sniff and dab my eyes with the back of my hands.
“On Thursday,” he begins, “Mr. Barton sat me down and told me about the upcoming project and wanted to make sure I would be okay to participate. Given my history of mental illness. I assured him I’d be fine,” Will grins widely, pausing for a brief moment for me to take it in before continuing,
“That afternoon I arranged the ropes in the trees in resco forest. And that night I created a false website for you to read. You’d be amazed what you can do on the internet, especially, when you’re off school and in between doctors and therapy sessions. . . So, when Friday came I knew you’d feel obliged to partner up with me,” he lets out a chuckle and bites him bottom lip, a little too hard. I notice that he’s drawn blood,
“When you fell asleep, I set the timer on the camera to go off. . . While you were screaming your head off thinking a bunch of dead witches were tormenting you I was removing the ropes from the trees in the forest. I only had to retrace my steps and film what I wanted you to see-”
“Is this going anywhere?!” I scream shakily,
Will nods and looks to camera,
“Have a look at it,” he says, “I bet you haven’t checked it since Friday night,”
I walk through the puddle of soup and broken glass and retrieve the camera from the bench,
“To the beginning,” he tells me when I turn it one,
I skip forward to the first photos I had taken on Friday afternoon, the next shows Will sitting on my couch with me fast asleep, his eyes are wide and so is his grimace. The next handful of photos show me screaming when I wake up – I close my eyes, embarrassed – finally, it comes to a photo of the inverted cross on the base of my windowsill, “I scratched that into the wood myself,” he tells me, “when I had my back to you,”
the next photo shows my mother and I reversing out of the driveway last night, and several photos of the house and trees outside decorated with nooses.
“I. . . I’m sorry, Will,” I cry, looking up at him,
“It’s too late,” he says, “my father didn’t expect me to kill him either. But I did, and I’ll kill you as well, Alice,”
Will yanks on the noose, strangling my mother, she immediately begins kicking and gasping, her attempts to scream failing, as I take a step forward Will pulls out a large butcher knife from the pocket of his hoodie and holds it out in my direction, stopping me in my tracks,
“I wouldn’t move if I were you,” his voice is cold and sharp,
My mothers eyes are bloodshot, her scrambling feet becoming steady and then, finally, they come to a complete stop. I let out a sob as Will let’s go of the rope, letting her body hit the ground with a loud thud, “mum,” I cry, falling to my knees. Shards of glass from the bowl press against my jeans.
Will saunters forward towards me, knife in hand, I lower my head and close my eyes, accepting that this is how I will die, tonight, my heartbeat slows down to a consistent beat now. I open my tear filled eyes and let the salty tears stream down my face. The glass jabbing at my leg finally sends my brain into survival mode, within seconds I am holding a large shard of porcelain glass in my hand, as Will approaches me I lunge upwards and bury the glass deep into the groove between his neck and shoulder, he brings his knife upwards and it comes to a jamming stop in my left rib cage. My eyes widen as my breathing is immediately halted in it’s tracks, I gasp but nothing seems to work, falling backwards I land against the kitchen counter, Will suddenly grabs the knife from my torso and raises it above his head, I shield myself with my arms as he slashes wildly at me. I am losing blood too quickly, the edges of my vision begin to blur and turn black, my chest screams, struggling to push onwards, I somehow manage to muster enough energy to pull the shard of porcelain glass from Will’s shoulder and begin stabbing at him violently, I don’t know if any of it has made any effect on him whatsoever, until he stumbles backwards, large, deep wounds spew blood out and down the left side of his face, his arms bare bloody wounds also. He stumbles backwards and disappears out of sight before everything fades to darkness.
* * *
When I come to I am surrounded by bright lights and beeping machines,
“Can you hear me?” A man – a doctor – says standing over me, I nod slowly, my head and neck ache as I do so,
“You’ve lost a lot of blood sweetheart, just hang in there okay,” and once again I am consumed by the dark.
* * *
Will hasn’t been seen again, apart from murdering my mother, he murdered his own that night, and is also suspected of killing a family of four and stealing their car;
I have survived, stitched and bandaged, but, alive nonetheless.
I am plagued by nightmares – both asleep, and awake – of what I endured, and I won’t ever be the same person I was before.
I guess, now, somehow in a sick ironic way, I can relate to Will Thompson, and that scares me more than anything else I have survived.
I won’t try understand the complex mind of a psychopath, but one thing I call tell you, is that he accomplished what he set out to do. He shattered my entire world.