A Halloween Story

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The children were gathered around Grandmothers kitchen table. She had started this Halloween tradition, that every year she would have a little gathering with her grandchildren on the eve of Halloween, and carve pumpkins.

‘Alright, everyone got their markers?’ asked Grandmother, and was met with a chorus of little nodding heads, ‘Well, get drawing then!’

‘Tell us a Halloween story granny!’ asked one of the children.

‘Maybe if you say please…’

The children all looked at each other smiling, a silent agreement, that they would all say please at the exact same time. It worked, and so their granny began:

‘Once upon a time there was a small town. In that small town there was a cemetery. It was called the Coallake cemetery and it was at the very end of Coallake road. Coallake road was pretty long. The Grants farm ended about 200 yards in. The rest of the road was surrounded by trees, their branches floating over like a never-ending arch. It was very rare anyone went further than the Grants farm. There was an almost invisible force field at the beginning of those drooping trees; people might go down for a stroll, a horse ride, or to walk their dog. But they all stopped and turned before the trees.

But Betty’s new puppy, Rollo, didn’t know that. In fact, Betty herself didn’t know that. She had moved to town only two months before, her mother got her a puppy because she felt bad for uprooting Betty from her old house and away from all her friends. Betty didn’t go out there much. They lived in her grandparents old house, where her mother had grown up, but she hadn’t spoken to her parents since Betty was born. Betty had never met them, and she had never been to this town. It was the start of summer when they had moved, and having no school to go to, Betty spent most of her days in the house reading books, watching TV and training Rollo, while her mother was at work.

Eventually Betty realised that Rollo would need to be walked. She had asked her mother could they go out somewhere, maybe find a nice park near by for Rollo’s first walk. But her mother said she was busy with work, however she did come home one evening with a new Leash for Rollo.

And so, the next day, after her mother left for work, Betty took Rollo for a walk. Down Coallake road…’

***

Betty

 

I didn’t really know where was best to walk around here. The only shop in town was almost a 10 minute drive for mum and I didn’t want to make Rollo walk that far on his first ever walk. I put his little red paw print collar on, it stood out on his golden fur. I had to loosen it a bit, because I didn’t want to hurt his little neck. The new leash mum got was one of them ones you can adjust the length. I didn’t really know how to work it, but I figured it was best to keep it on the short length for now.

Our little road was pretty short, just our house, 4 others and then it hits a dead end. Well I guess it’s not really a dead end, but it has a huge gate and I’m not really sure where it leads, so I just decide to turn out of our road. Rollo sniffs around at everything he sees, and when we come out of our road he automatically goes left following some scent or another. It seems as good of an idea as any to let Rollo and his little nose lead the way.

Only a handful of cars pass us, but I get so freaked out every time one does, I end up picking Rollo up and cuddling him until it passes, still unsure how he might react to that. After the third car, I notice a turn off slightly up ahead of us that seems like a much less busy road. I figure we could walk down it a bit and then turn back, as to not overdo it on Rollo’s first walk.

The sign for the road reads, COALLAKE ROAD. The way to town is opposite to this road, so I’ve never seen the sign before even, but it seems safe enough and no signs of any cars coming or going. Plus Rollo and his little nose have already started to turn in. Similar to our road, there isn’t many houses, maybe a few more than ours, and this road seems to go on longer too. It also has a farm. ‘GRANTS FAMILY FARM.’ I think the lady who works in the store in town is a Mrs Grant, they must supply from their own farm.

Around where the farm ends would match up to the dead end of our road. Only this one doesn’t have a dead end, or a gate. The road continues, it just looks like there isn’t any houses further down. Rollo is really starting to tug on the leash, so since there’s no cars around, I fiddle with the leash until it loosens. The second it does Rollo is off like a bullet, and I am dragged along after him. I guess we are going down that road then.

‘Rollo, I can’t run that fast!’ I shout at him, but it falls on deaf ears as he just keeps going. That is until we get to the end. Maybe this road is more similar to ours than it looks further back. This one also ends with a big gate. Only this one also has words shaped between the metal bars. COALLAKE CEMETARY.

So, it’s like, a graveyard? I wonder if my grandparents are in there? This town isn’t that big, there couldn’t be more than one graveyard, so they must be. Mum was extremely secretive when it came to them. But I know their surnames at least, and I know that my grandma died two years before my granda, so I could work it out from the headstone. I decide to go in and have a look, and Rollo is already wagging his tail by the gate waiting for me to open it for him. It’s heavier than I thought it would be, I actually need to use both hands, while trying to hold onto Rollo’s leash at the same time. It creaks so loudly as I push it, I feel I must be disturbing the dead and need to apologise. ‘Sorry,’ I whisper to no one, and squeeze through to look for my grandparents graves.

 

 ***

‘What Betty didn’t know of course, was that she wasn’t talking to no one. But she hadn’t disturbed the dead. The dead were waiting for her…’

‘Mother, what kind of story are you telling these kids?’ asked her daughter who had come into the living room. All her Grandmother’s children also came over on Halloween eve, but they weren’t supposed to interfere with the pumpkin carving.

‘None of your business. You heard plenty similar when you were a wee’en.’

‘Yeah and I remember a lot of sleepless nights because of some of your stories,’ said her daughter, as she kissed her own daughters forehead and admired her pumpkins face.

‘You go on and get out of here, I’ll see to it that all the kiddies will be sleeping tonight thank you very much.’

‘Hm alright, just not too scary okay,’ the daughter replied as she grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge for the adults and went back to the sitting room.

‘Who else was there granny?’

‘She said already idiot, the dead.’

‘But who was dead granny?’

‘Lots of people, it’s a graveyard.’

‘Yeah but did she find her own granny?’

‘Alright, alright. Enough talking, and let me get back to it. You are right of course, there was plenty dead to be found. And yes, she did find her granny. But someone else found Betty…’

***

BETTY

It didn’t take long to find it. The graveyard sort of split into two sides. One side looked almost haunted, the trees that grew over the road outside continued on that side, casting shadows all over the left side of the graveyard. You could see glimpses of headstones poking out between branches, but some of them looked almost sunken into the ground. My grandparents couldn’t have been buried long enough for that to have happened and the other side of the graveyard looked much fresher. I say fresher, I don’t think anything could be described as exactly fresh in here, but these headstone all stood upright, and there were less trees and less overgrowth. No fresh flowers on a single grave though.

My grandparents seemed to be the newest of the new graves here. I knew right away it was them, as the top of the headstone said STOKE.

 In loving memory of

Elizabeth Stoke 1934-2004

AND

Her loving husband

Brian Stoke 1931-2006

   I’d been to the graveyard in our old town, some of my friends had grandparents buried there. All the graves had fresh flowers, and the headstones usually mentioned their kids, their families. Had my mother somehow controlled what was written here? Or had whoever made this, just not know they had a daughter? I wish I understood this family better. Maybe I could search around the house a little more, see if I can find out any more about my grandparents, since at least I knew their names now.

I started walking back towards the gate, but Rollo started tugging towards the other side of the graveyard. It was strange, that on such a perfectly still and sunny day, the branches on those trees seemed to be swaying. I stared at the trees. They made that side of the graveyard appear endless. Rollo tugged once more and the pull took me away from thinking about what might lay further in those trees. I figured Rollo wasn’t going to give up trying to run off down there, but thankfully he was small enough to pick up. I held him in one arm and reached for the gate with the other. Funny, I didn’t think I’d closed it, and hadn’t heard the creaking sound of its movement. At the same time as I reached for it, I felt something reach for me. Like something had grabbed my shoulder. I turned in a panic, had someone else come in after me and I hadn’t heard? But when I turned no one was there, but what had I just felt? I looked all around me for an answer. And then I looked to the ground. There was a single leaf there. It must have fallen and hit me. I reached for the gate once more and went through it before anything else could freak me out. I decided not to walk Rollo down this way again.

 

 

I woke up back in the graveyard. How did I get here? I looked around panicking, where is Rollo? Why am I on the other side now? The branches of the trees were everywhere, I walked into one every time I turned. It was just as I had thought earlier, endless, I was walking and getting nowhere, it was like I was walking past the same grave over and over. Am I dreaming this… I left the graveyard hours ago, I had dinner with my mum, I bathed Rollo, I went to bed… This is a dream.

Something grabbed my shoulder, I had a feeling it wasn’t the leaf this time. I turned slowly. This is just a dream, I repeated to myself as I turned with my eyes closed. When I finally felt brave enough to open them, I saw a girl standing in front of me.

‘Hello Betty,’ she said. She looked about my age. My build, the same dark brown hair as me. My mothers was bright blonde, I always assumed I got it from my fathers side… She was wearing a long sleeved black dress with a white collar underneath. She held a broom in her hand, and, wait, is that a witches hat? Halloween is two months away…

‘Who are you?’ I asked her.

‘That’s me,’ she said and pointed behind me. There stood a large gravestone, almost the same height as me, it had big stone wines hanging out the sides of it.

HERE LIES THE REMAINS OF

ELENA COALLAKE

1927-1943

GONE TO BE FORGOTTON.

   ‘Gone to be forgotten?’

‘My family have a rather twisted sense of humour. In some ways, it’s true I suppose. I am forgotten.’

‘Are you a… ghost?’

‘I don’t like to think of myself that way.’

‘Well what way do you think of yourself then?’

‘A trapped spirit. Has a better ring to it, don’t you agree?’

‘Sure. So you are trapped here, in the graveyard?’

‘Oh dear, no. Not anymore.’

‘I really don’t get this. Are you dead or not?’

‘My body is dead. My spirit is quite clearly not. I was trapped inside this graveyard for 67 years. Until today. When you freed me.’

‘What are you talking about? I didn’t free you, I didn’t do anything, I just went into the graveyard, and left again. No spirit freeing went on.’

‘Plenty of people have came through this cemetery in the years I have been here, but none of them have been witches. Until now.’

This girl is mad. Or maybe I’m the mad one because I’m the one dreaming this. Dreaming about a girl dressed up in a Halloween costume in a creepy graveyard, who is suggesting I might be a witch… Wait, I might be a witch? Did she mean me?

‘Am I a witch? Is that what you are saying?’

‘What do you mean are you a witch? Of course you’re a witch, I wouldn’t be here if you were not.’

‘Where is here? We aren’t really in this graveyard, this is a dream.’

‘In your head.’

‘Yeah I know it’s in my head, but where is it that you think you are? You said you were free of the graveyard, but you still think you are in it?’

‘No, I am very aware I am not in it, I can’t control where you dream about.’

‘Then where are you?’

‘I’m in your head of course.’

‘So you are imaginary, I’m not really a witch, I’m dreaming about a made up witch.’

‘Oh heavens, what are you talking about? This is a dream, but I am here and you are here. I was trapped in the cemetery and now I’m trapped in you.’

‘Okay, well this was fun, but I think I’m going to wake up now, because this is way too confusing of a dream to deal with. Bye.’

I shut my eyes and imagine my bedroom… I’d never woken myself up from a dream before and had absolutely no idea how to do such a thing, but here goes.

Okay, I’m in my bed, in my room. Phew. That had felt too real for a minute. I didn’t usually remember so much about my dreams, but it felt like such a real conversation, I could even remember her voice.

I looked downed at the said of my bed at the noise of Rollo sleeping in his dog bed.

‘Curious choice of familiar that.’

Omg. What was that.

It’s me, Elena.’

It’s her voice, why can I hear her talking to me.

   ‘Because I am talking to you. Sweetie, if we are going to do this, you really need to keep up.’

I need to keep up? YOU need to go away. Get out of my head.

That’s exactly what I would like to do. But I need your help.’

Why, why me?

‘It had to be a witch. I couldn’t just jump into any old mortals head. That would never have worked. Their minds are too weak for one, and you need to be magic to pull this off.’

Stop saying I’m a witch. Look you have the wrong girl, but maybe if you tell me where to find the right one, I can help with that.

‘Betty, you are a witch. If you don’t believe me, try and turn the light on.’

I can’t turn the light on with my mind if that’s what you mean, I can get up and flip the switch…

   ‘No, with your mind, do it. Just try and see. If you can’t, I guess you are right and I got the wrong girl.’

Fine. I concentrate hard on imagining the light turning on. And it does.

  ‘See, now that’s cleared up…’

You obviously done that!

How could I have done that?’

You are in my head, you are the witch.

   ‘Yes I am a witch, a very powerful one of course, but I can’t do magic through your body okay.’

I don’t believe you.

  ‘Darling I don’t really care that much. You are a witch, believe it, don’t believe it. But if you want rid of me you have to help me.’

Fine. I want rid of you. How can I help you?

   ‘Well first, you’ll need to look the part.’

 

 

 

‘I can’t believe your wardrobe. Ghastly.’

I was walking to the store. Elena still hasn’t really told me how I’m meant to help her escape my head, but she said I need to dress like a witch. Apparently my jeans and flannels make me look like a stable boy.

I’d been in the store once or twice with mum, but this was the first time I’d ever walked, I figured I could get away with carrying Rollo inside since he was small.

‘This town looks quite different.’

Well it has been 67 years, things change. Surely you seen some of that from the graveyard?

   ‘Things changed, not much, just new people popped up every now and then. Like your grandparents.’

You knew my grandparents?

   ‘Yes, Elizabeth was friendly with my brother once upon a time, soon faded. I mean I wasn’t alive to see it, but a warlock could never marry a mortal. And your grandfather was definitely a mortal and not my brother.’

So neither of them were witches?

   ‘No of course not.’

Is my mother one?

‘I have no idea, I’ve never met her.’

Well maybe you will, tonight when she is back from work. Will you be able to tell? Just by seeing her, if she is?

‘Perhaps.’

We got near the entrance to the store and I picked Rollo up, hoping no one would say anything about him, I didn’t want to have to tie him up outside.

The store is sort of like a quaint country general store. You can get your weekly shop, but also a new tire for your car, toys for your kids, and hopefully, they would have some Halloween costumes in.

A little bell rang as I entered. No one else was in the store at the minute, apart from Mrs Grant. Rollo struggled in my arms a bit, he always done that when he saw another person, wanting stroked probably.

‘Rollo, calm down,’ I whispered, hoping Mrs Grant wouldn’t come over. But she did.

‘Oh hello handsome boy,’ she said and starting stroking Rollo. He licked her fingers, ‘Good boy, just wants a little pet doesn’t he.’

   ‘Oh how can you people stand to touch it.’

‘I hope you don’t mind if I have him in here, I can keep hold on him.’

‘Oh it’s fine by me dear, he doesn’t seem like s trouble maker to me. Is there anything I can help you with today?’

‘Actually, I was wondering if you have any Halloween costumes?’

‘Oh well its only August yet dear, I haven’t even put in an order for them yet. You trying to be prepared early?’

‘Yeah something like that. When will you expect to be getting things in?’

‘Not for a few more weeks dear.’

   ‘We cant wait that long!’

No we can’t. I cant keep living with some dead girl in my head.

‘I don’t suppose you have anything, witchy… do you?’

Mrs Grant considered me for a moment, and then got a very determined look in her eyes.

 

 

15 minutes later, I was walking back home, carrying an old broom, a children necklace with a fake crystal pendant and a wide rimmed hat from the summer section. It looked nothing like the pointed one Elena had been wearing in my dream, but it was the best I was going to get. The only problem was, I still had no actual clothes.

   ‘Wait a minute, the house you live in, it was the Webb’s wasn’t it?’

I don’t know…

Your grandmother Elizabeth, she used to be Elizabeth Webb.’

Oh well yes, it was my grandmas families house and then my granda moved in when they got married.

   ‘The Webb’s used to be a fairly fashionable family in my day. I bet they had something you could wear. Are your grandmothers belongings still there?

I’m not sure, mum says there’s things in the attic, but I’ve never looked myself.

 

The attic is pretty big, I guess it’s kind of a big house. There’s stuff all over the attic though. Loads of old books and stacks of papers, I know there would be information about my grandparents in. But Elena wouldn’t shut up until I went and opened the trunks. There’s quite a few big trunks up here, Elena says they used to use them when travelling, but were good for storage too, since trends used to come and go so much, one had to store away last years until it can be worn again or re-purposed. I was guessing my grandmas family must have done a lot of that.

The first trunk I opened had old pairs of slacks and jacket suits and shirts and braces. Elena yelled in my head louder than ever to shut the trunk before I even got my hand on a thing in it. It was a boy trunk apparently, there was no way I could wear trousers…

The next trunk seemed more promising though. I was immediately met with yelping in my head at the sight of the frilly dresses.

Why are you so excited about this stuff, you weren’t even dressed like this.

   ‘Those were my common clothes, you won’t be dressing common.’

How will I be dressing…

   ‘Formal.’

Wait, why formal? Elena, where am I going?

   ‘To my house.’

To your house? Why do I need to play dress up to go to your house?

‘They wouldn’t let in someone dressed as a mortal, I told you, you have to look the part.’

Why can’t I go common, like you?

  ‘Because tonight is the summer solstice. No one will be dressed common.’

Elena, explain to me exactly what I’m getting myself into here…

 

***

 

‘And so Elena told Betty the story of her family. How the Coallakes were the oldest family in this town, and they were a family of very powerful witches. Elena did not know who of her family still lived in their home, but she knew which dead had passed over. She knew her brother was still alive, and he would be an old man now, but he would help her. But Elena knew her family never mixed with mortals. And if Betty showed up looking like one, they wouldn’t even give her the chance to prove herself. Betty had to be accepted by them. One of the family…’

 

***

BETTY

‘Betty, I’m home, I brought pizza,’ Mum called from downstairs. Elena and I had finally agreed on a dress and were just putting the outfit together.

‘Okay, coming now.’

So how will you be able to tell if she is a witch?

   ‘Have you ever seen her perform magic?’

Of course not, I didn’t even know I was a witch until now.

‘So you admit you are a witch?’

She got me, I was reluctant at first, and I still believed she could have controlled the light earlier, but after hearing her story, it was less hard to believe this was all real. Plus I knew she was in my head, it wasn’t just that she spoke to me, I could feel her in there.

‘Hi mum, how was work?’ I asked as I sat at the kitchen table, grabbing a slice of pizza.

   ‘My goodness, what is that…’

‘Oh you know, works work. What did you get up to?’ said Mum.

‘I went to the store.’

‘Honey, you should have said you needed something, I would have picked it up for you.’

‘Oh it’s okay… I didn’t really need anything, just fancied getting out.’

‘I know, you must be getting so frustrated being stuck in here.

That’s an understatement.

‘She gets me!’

So can you tell or not?

‘I’m not sure. I’m not sensing any magic energy from her. Ask her to do something.’

‘Can you pass me a napkin?’ I asked mum.

‘Sure,’ said mum as she passed me a napkin.

Has your brain shank in size due to the extra person in it? I meant ask her to do something magic.’

Oh.

‘Eh mum, I was watching something on TV, about magic today. This guy made the light turn on in a room, like with just his mind.’

‘That sounds interesting, how do you think he done it?’

‘He just sort of looked at the light really hard and it came on.’

‘Well honey, you know it was probably someone else, can’t really believe things you see on TV like that.’

‘Even so, I’ve been trying all day to do it, but nothings worked. Why don’t you try?’

‘You want me to try and turn on the light with my mind?’

‘Yeah, just for fun. But really concentrate though.’

‘Okay why not. Lets see if I have magical powers.’

She looked at the light and really concentrated. Nothing happened.

I guess she isn’t then?

  ‘Well she could be hiding it.’

If she could hide it then how come we are even trying this?

  ‘It’s rather humorous watching a grown woman stare at a light bulb so intensely isn’t it?’

I started laughing. So did mum.

‘So I guess neither of us have the magic gene then?’ she said.

‘Speaking of genes… Why don’t you ever speak about your parents? I only just today found out their first names, and grandma’s maiden name.

‘How did you find that out?’

‘Oh well… Mrs Grant. She told me, when I was at the store.’

‘I see. I guess the people here knew them well. Listen sweetheart, your grandparents and I had a falling out. Not about you, but about me being pregnant. I’ve told you I haven’t spoken to them since you were born. That wasn’t necessarily true. I spoke to my dad all the time actually.’

‘Wait, what? You spoke to granda?’

‘My mother, she was born in this town. In this house in fact. You might come to discover there’s some secrets in this town, and a lot of them are nonsense. My mother, she liked to spread rumours.’

‘What rumours?’

‘You only ever asked me about your dad once. I said “One day I’ll tell you, but please don’t ask again until I do.” Do you remember that?’

‘Yes.’

‘There’s a family in this town. They are a little different to the rest of us, always were.’

‘The Coallakes.’

Mum looked at me in surprise.

‘Yes. Has Mrs Grant told you everything already?’

‘No! Please, tell me.’

‘The Coallakes always lived here. In the mansion by the cemetery.’

What mansion?

You’ll see it later.’

‘When your grandma was a girl, she played with one of the younger Coallakes. Daniel was his name.’

  ‘That’s my little brother!’

‘She grew up with him, she knew him very well, once he asked her if he could marry her when they were older. She loved him, she thought it was true. They would be together forever, soulmates. But when Daniel turned 16, he became distant. He didn’t sneak out to see mother anymore, she never seen him in town anymore. She became so worried, one day she went to the Coallake mansion. She claims that what she saw terrified her, and she had visions of it still.’

‘What did she see?’

‘They were standing in a circle, chanting. There were dead crows lying all over the ground. They all had blood on their hands, and Daniel was kneeling in the middle, drinking blood from the corpses. Mother screamed, Daniel looked up at her. She ran away and he ran after her. But she didn’t want to see him again, and she never did. She grew up, met my dad, married him, had me and that was that. She told people the story to warn them away from the Coallakes. She thought they were evil.’

‘THAT IS NOT TRUE. All witches and warlocks must face ceremony into the dark circle. It’s a tradition. I can’t believe I missed Daniels.’

‘What has this got to do with my dad?’

‘When I was a little older than you, a new boy started at my school. He said he was also from this town. His name was Darius Coallake. I knew straight away he was Daniels son. Everyone knew he had had a son, but the Coallakes didn’t come to town much after what my mother had said about them. And what everyone else had started saying about them. It wasn’t a safe town for them anymore. I never believed a word of it of course. Darius was the most normal boy I’d ever saw. There wasn’t an evil bone in his body.’

‘He’s my dad?’

    ‘So your mum isn’t the witch. But hey, I have a nephew!’

‘We dated in secret for a long time. I could never tell my mother about him. And he couldn’t tell his family he was associating with a Webb, after it was their daughter who had tarnished them so much. Even though mother was a Stoke by then, they knew it started with her. Anyway, Darius and I mostly stuck to being together in school, sometimes we walked home together, but split up before our road. One day my dad saw us together. We were walking home, hand in hand, he drove right past us. I was terrified. I ran right home to stop him from telling mother. But I didn’t have to. He didn’t tell her. I never knew why. I thought maybe he didn’t know who Darius was and thought I was just with some boy, but why wouldn’t he tell mother that? I don’t know, I never found out anyway. This went on for about a year. Eventually I fell pregnant with you. Darius said we should run away together. I said no, I wanted my parents to know the father of my baby. Mother went ballistic. She kicked me out straight away. Darius said his parents would never let me stay at their house. We planned to run away together. He was meant to sneak out that night and meet me at the edge of town. But he never showed up. I was hurt of course. But what could I do, I had no home here then, I had to go. My dad had given me enough money to get myself set up somewhere else until I got a job. And that’s what I done. He sent me money, we spoke on the phone every now and then, but I never heard from my mother again, and I have no idea what happened to your father. For all I know he might still be up at that mansion.’

I hardly knew what to say.

‘Wow, she is a talker. You better make your excuses.’

I might need a minute here? I just found out my dad, who I have never even heard about until now, might be at the bloody place you are taking me to!

   ‘Yeah well chop chop and you might get to meet him.’

I got up and hugged my mum. She hugged me back. I knew she had a falling out with grandma, but I always assumed it was mums decision to leave. I had no idea she had been kicked out. All because of me.

   ‘Wait hold on, it was not because of you? You know that right?’

‘Thank you mum.’

‘It was about time I told you sweetheart. I should have already probably.’

‘Not just thank you for telling me. Thank you for everything.’

She squeezed me tighter and kissed my forehead.

‘I’d do it all again.’

I held back the urge to cry. As much as I desperately wanted to stay here with mum right now, I had to go. Elena needed help, and I might get to meet my dad. This night just got even more important.

‘Mum, I think I need to go clear my head okay? I might take Rollo out for a walk.’

‘Yeah sure, I get it, it’s a lot to take in isn’t it?’ She said as she stroked my hair.

‘Yeah. I’ll try not to be long.’

***

‘So Betty and Elena got ready to go…’

‘Wait so her daddy is a wizard?’

‘A witch you dummy.’

‘No a boy witch is a wizard, like in Harry Potter. Right Granny?’

‘Well actually, in Elena’s family, a boy witch was known as a warlock. And yes, Betty’s daddy was one,’ explained Grandmother.

‘I wish my daddy was a wizard.’

‘A WARLOCK silly.’

‘Do I have to put you lot to bed before we get to the end?’ Asked Grandmother and she looked sternly at the children, who then fell back into silence.

***

BETTY

 

I hadn’t wanted to risk mum seeing me in the dress, so I had put it, the hat, broom and necklace in a bag and thrown them out my window. I got changed out the back, with Rollo tied up to a tree branch while I done it. We had settled on a black satin ballgown. I didn’t quite have the bust to fill it to its potential, but the fake pendant hanging around my neck kind of made it work.

Okay, how do I look?

‘It will have to do.’

And with that seal of approval, I headed to the end of the road. Rollo leading the way.

   ‘You can not bring that dog.’

What am I meant to do with him? He was my excuse out of the house.

   ‘Let him loose would be the appealing answer.’

No way.

   ‘Well you will have to tie him to a tree or something before we get too close. They would never believe you would have a mutt as a familiar.’

He is not a mutt!

‘His breed is irrelevant, he has to stay outside.’

Fine.

I tied Rollo to a tree once we got past the gate. Like the cemetery the gate had similar scripture I hadn’t noticed before. COALLAKE MANSION. I promised Rollo I wouldn’t be long and gave him his toy bone to play with.

The road past the gate, looked exactly like Coallake road too. My hat was nearly knocked off twice by the low hanging branches.

What exactly do I say when I get there?

‘You say you’ve come to join the solstice.’

But who am I?

   ‘You’re Betty Stoke.’

You want me to be myself?

Who else would you be?’

But I can’t be myself. For one, I’m not really a witch. Yes maybe like literally I am, but I’m not trained or anything, I don’t know how to be a witch. And secondly, what if my dad is there and recognises me?

   ‘Well firstly, you don’t need training, as I will tell you what to do. And secondly, I thought you wanted to see him?’

I want to see him yes, to know he is real and alive and here. But I wouldn’t know how to talk to him as you know, his daughter.

  ‘Just make up a surname then, it doesn’t really matter. Its not about you, What you will need to do, is get my brother alone.’

You mean my grandfather?

 ‘Oh yes, I guess you are my great niece then.’

I knew we had the exact same hair colour.

   ‘Yes, we do look rather alike don’t we…’

I was through the trees enough to see the clearing. And the mansion. It was like stepping into a movie set. A horror movie set. It was huge, and black, with a pointed roof.  A long smoking chimney top stuck out the top. At one side there was a line of cars. I spotted two hearses. The other side had a gate running along side it. A gate to the dark side of the graveyard. I could see a row of headstones poking out. Even one with black angel wings…

‘Go knock on the door then.’

This is freaky.

‘This is home.’

I went up to the door, of course there was a knocker. Some kind of gargoyle head. I struggled to lift the heavy thing, but before I even managed one knock, the door swung open, with my hand still around the thing, pulling me over the door frame.

‘Can I help you?’ said the man who had opened the door. He was dressed like a butler. I guess he is the butler? He couldn’t be my grandfather could he?

   ‘Of course, that is not Daniel, in a livery for goodness sake.’

‘Eh, I’ve come for the solstice. Sir.’

‘Is Master Coallake expecting you?’

‘I don’t believe so. But I have travelled far to be here.’

He looked up me and down with a harsh eye.

He is not buying this.

   ‘Ask to see Daniel.’

‘Could I see the Master?’

   ‘No not master, say Daniel, make him think you know him.’

‘Daniel. I would like to see him.’

‘The Master is entertaining his other guests, in the garden. Follow me,’ he said and led the way.

I followed him through the house. It looks old and it smells like an old book. There’s a huge staircase leading upstairs, and various other doors, leading God knows where. I could only imagine. The man dropped me by the backdoor and told me he would inform the the master he had a new guest arrive.

The garden was lit with hundreds of little lights. They looked like fairy-lights, but there was no string.

Elena, why is there no string?

   ‘Shush while I concentrate. We need to find Daniel now. Before the servant comes back.’

I started scanning the people there. There was quite a crowd, I guessed they weren’t all Coallakes. Distant relatives, friends I suppose. Most of them were in formal attire as Elena had said. The men in tuxedos, the ladies in similar black gowns to mine. Some wore pointy hats, some wore no hats. I guess Elena’s fashion went out of style. Also none of them had a bloody broom. Does everyone looking at me now think I was the only lame one who flew here? I tossed the hat and broom and get a drink from one of the trays. It was in some kind of silver goblet. I’d never had wine before, but if I ever needed liquid courage, it was now. I took a sip. Omg that was vile.

‘Gross,’ I exclaimed slightly too loudly, as I spat it out.

‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU FOOL. Stop drawing attention!’

‘Sorry. Sorry everyone, I prefer white usually,’ I said to the group of people now staring at me. I tried to look away, but one man caught my eye. He was holding a silver topped cane and wore a red shirt under his tuxedo jacket. He also had dark brown shoulder length hair.

‘Dad.’

‘Excuse me?’ said the man, still staring at me.

‘Eh… eh… DARIUS You must be Darius Coallake?’

‘Yes I am, have we met?’

‘No, this is my first time here.’

‘And you came from?’

‘Far…’

Elena, where did I come from? Why didn’t you prepare me.

‘Shush, he’s coming,’ said Elena as everyone turned to the far end of the garden. I hadn’t noticed the tent that had been set up there until now. An elderly man came out of it. My grandfather I assume. He sort of looked, well just like Darius. I could see why my mother and grandma had both been drawn to these men. They both had an air to them, something that made you not want to look away.

I stared at Daniel Coallake until he was stood right in front of me.

  ‘Introduce yourself!

‘Oh, ah Master Coallake, lovely to finally meet you. I am a great admirer of you sir.’

He continued staring at me. Darius went to stand beside him. Everyone else was also staring at me.

So much for not drawing attention?

  ‘At least you have his attention. Tell him you can’t reveal anything until you are alone.’

Reveal what?

‘Who might you be then girl?’ he asked.

What should I say?

Why is she being quiet! Everyone is waiting for me to speak.

‘Betty.’

He continued to stare at me, and then he began to laugh. Instinctively, so did everyone else. Everyone except Darius.

‘Miss Betty. I don’t believe you have any business here. Show her out please Edward.’

‘Right away sir,’ said the butler, and he grabbed me by the elbow. My grandfather began walking back to his tent.

   ‘Say you know where Ted is.’

What?

‘Say it!’

‘I know where Ted is!’

Daniel Coallake turned back to watch Edward dragging me away.

‘Stop. Bring her to my tent.’

He continued walking and Edward pulled me along after. The tent had a big chair set up, like a throne, seriously who did he think he was?

    ‘He is master of this estate!’

‘You may leave us Edward,’ he said, dismissing Edward, and freeing my arm. However, I got the sense I wouldn’t be leaving of my own free will.

‘I believe you said, you know where Ted is. Prove it.’

What the hell Elena, how can I prove that?

  ‘He’s in a grave. You need to picture it.’

How can I do that?

 ‘Just picture a grave and summon him.’

Omg, Elena, I can’s summon the dead, are you joking? I hope you are joking.

   ‘You need to do it, he can tell you aren’t trying, he will kick you out any second!’

Okay, okay a grave. I can picture a grave, there’s loads of graves around here. Come on then Ted, let’s do this. I stood with my eyes closed, picturing a grave, and worrying about opening them to a zombie stood in front of me. But it was quite the opposite. I opened my eyes and there was Daniel Coallake, and floating in front of him, a dirty, ragged, old teddy bear.

‘Sister, it is you.’

What do I say?

 ‘You say nothing. Just nod your head.’

I nod my head.

‘This is the body you have chosen?’ asked Daniel.

Wait what does he mean?

I nod my head.

Wait how did that happen, I didn’t do that.

‘So be it. It’s nice to see you return. In my granddaughters body, how fitting.’

You knew who I was? Why am I not saying this out loud, I meant to say it out loud. Elena what is happening?

‘Yes, similar to my own, isn’t it?’ I said, but I didn’t say it, that wasn’t me.

Elena did you lie to me? Have you been able to control my body this whole time.

‘If you don’t mind speeding it up brother, the host is getting reckless,’ she said, from my voice.

Elena, what is he speeding up? Elena please what is going on?

Daniel Coallake was walking towards me, he has some kind of vile in his hand.

Elena, what’s in that?

‘Drink up, granddaughter, it was very nice to meet you.’

ELENA PLEASE, STOP HIM.

  ‘Goodbye Betty.’

No, no, nooooooooo!

My mouth opened. I drank the potion.

 

***

 

‘Then what happened granny?’

‘Did Betty wake up?’

‘Is Betty dead granny?’

‘What happened to Rollo granny?’

‘That is the end of the story as I know it,’ said Grandmother.

‘That’s a crappy ending granny!’

‘I want to know what happened to Rollo!’

‘Ah ah ah, none of that talk in my kitchen. Now everyone take a candle, and put it in your pumpkin.

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