Daniel woke up and groaned. His mouth tasted awful, and his eyes were crusted over. His skin tingled, all the way from the base of his toes to the roots of his hair, feeling as if a thousand ants were skittering across his body. What the hell had they been drinking last night, he thought as he tried to move his aching limbs.
‘Let’s go out to the Wislow farm,’ suggested Sam, taking a swig from his can of beer. He belched loudly and laughed.
Billy grunted his agreement, too drunk to put up much of a discussion.
‘Dunno mate isn’t Old Mrs Wislow a bit odd,’ ventured John.
Sam jeered at his friend. ‘What’s wrong, you pussy? Afraid?’
‘Nah, mate, just something I heard. Bunch of people went up there to talk to her about burning her fields or cutting down trees or summ’at and didn’t come home,’ argued John.
‘Yeah, I heard that too,’ said Daniel. ‘I heard she’s a witch. Why don’t we just go to the woods? I can nick my brothers are air gun, we can shoot cans.’
‘You’re a bunch of pussies,’ shouted Sam, throwing his empty can at them. ‘Get in the car you mummy’s boys and let’s go find your balls.’
Daniel and John looked at each other and didn’t move. Even in their drunken states, they remembered the stories of what went on up at Wislow Farm.
‘Oi!’ shouted Sam, blaring the car horn. Billy was slumped in the back seat, snoring loudly.
John shrugged and walked towards the car, Daniel dragging his feet behind him.
Daniel’s neck was stiff and shrieked with pain when he attempted to move his head. He’d had bad hangovers before but nothing like this. Perhaps Sam had slipped something into his drinks? Nah. He could be a dick, but spiking drinks wasn’t really Sam’s style. More likely he had caught a cold or something, running around the Wislow farm in the middle of the night.
Sam had crashed into the fence leading to Wislow’s farm. They had fallen out of the car, spilling cans and rubbish in their wake. Daniel and John helped drag Billy out of the car and dumped him by the boot. Sam screeched with laughter as Billy slid down the side of the car and face planted in a bubble of mud. A wind whipped around them, icy tendrils piercing their thin coats, sobering Daniel and John. Sam had strutted towards the small house, the pathway leading to the door was lined with pots of herbs and to one side was a vegetable patch. Candle-light danced in one of the ground-floor windows but it otherwise looked deserted. The wind caught the door of the shed to the right of the house, the banging causing all the boys to jump.
‘This place is shit,’ moaned Sam, throwing stones towards the shed, smashing one of the small windows.
‘Let’s just go, mate,’ said Daniel, kicking the flower pots over and stamping on the plants. ‘Billy’s out of his head. It’s cold and there’s nothing going on.’
‘Witch my arse. Load of bullshit and you wankers were scared. Alright, we can go smash up windows around the school.’ Sam kicked the flowers again and stomped over to his friends, roughly grabbing Billy and pulling him to his feet. He staggered under the weight of his friend as he turned. ’Where’s the car?’
Daniel spun. The car which had been nudging the fence-post was gone.
The skin on his hands felt as rough as sandpaper and flexing his fingers was an effort as Daniel slowly remembered the details of the night before. He remembered running and falling so perhaps he’d badly skinned his hands. That would explain the rough scabs. Man, he felt rough. He should have listened to his mum. She’d never liked Sam and said he would get Daniel into trouble. Well, starting now, Sam was no longer his friend. He was done with all his crap. Last night was the final straw. He’d not wanted to go to Wislow’s Farm, it was dumb and now he hurt all over. A sound behind him made him attempt to wrench his neck around, causing a loud crack as his vertebrae popped yet he saw nothing.
John’s focus had not shifted from the house since they arrived. He stood, unmoving whilst his friends looked for the car.
He slowly raised his arm, pointing to the front door.
Daniel grabbed John’s arm. ‘What are you pointing at? Stop arsing around and help us find the car. John refused to move. ‘’Oi, Sam, get over here. John’s gone nuts,’ shouted Daniel.
Sam tried to turn around but was hampered by trying to hold up a semi-conscious Billy. Finally, dragging his friend, Sam turned. He frowned, following John’s arm.
He dropped Billy and ran into the trees.
‘What the fu….?’ muttered Daniel. A yelp behind him and he turned to find that John had disappeared. Spinning, he heard Billy groan but just as Daniel moved to help Billy up from the ground, he slid across the ground in the direction of the shed, his hands grabbing at unseen hands squeezing his neck.
‘What did you do to my garden?’ a voice screamed from the house. Daniel didn’t see the face of the witch but heard her cane smacking the stone footpath as she hobbled along the path. He turned and ran. Then it all went dark.
Daniel’s eyes were still stuck closed. He tried to move his hand to remove the gunk from his eyes before remembering the crustiness covering his fingers. He tried flexing them again, then wiggling his hands but they barely moved an inch. Trying not to panic, Daniel focussed on moving his legs but like his hands, they wouldn’t twitch. He couldn’t feel anything binding him or holding him down yet he couldn’t turn his head or open his eyes to check. Becoming frantic, he strained his eyes, silently begging them to open. He rocked his entire body but nothing happened. He was stuck.
‘Ah, I see you’re waking up,’ a voice cackled. Daniel tried to move his head to find out where the voice was coming from but despite his straining couldn’t sense anything.
‘Don’t bother to move my little pretties. You damaged a lot of my crops last night and winter’s coming in. I need to restock my shelves, else I’ll go hungry.’
Daniel felt himself being lifted and heard ceramic hit as he was put down. ‘Now, you’re lucky my boy. I’ve strung up your friends in my shed. I think their meat will cure nicely. Whilst I’m waiting I’ve decided to have a nice leg of brat for my dinner, and whilst it’s already beer-soaked, I will need some herbs to go with it.’ Daniel felt his arm being tugged, then excruciating pain. He opened his mouth to scream but all he could taste was dirt. ‘I think this rosemary would go lovely,’ the old witch laughed, ‘But maybe I need more.’ Daniel screamed as the witch continued pulling pieces off of him.
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