All About The Eve

This is a story that I entered back in September for the  Fall 24-Hour Short Story Writing Contest. It was obviously intended to be a Halloween theme, which is why the results came out today (I didn’t win). The bit in italics was the prompt and we’d to continue from there. Some of the lines, by the way, are stolen from a post I wrote a few months ago about white witches, in case you think they sound familiar..

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She wiped her hands on the apron, peering out the window. Red and orange leaves hurried by as the cold autumn wind battered the small cabin. The girl should have been back from the errand by now. At that moment she saw the red flying braids as her daughter raced across the yard. The Devil’s Mark on her right cheek, a constant reminder, was clearly visible, even at dusk. The girl, breathless, burst through the wooden door.
 
“Ma! Come quickly!”
 
Rachel sighed. This was unlikely to be good news.
 
She followed her daughter out into the yard. The girl pointed to the dog-kennel, inside which sat a large bucket of whitewash.
 
“Buster?” guessed Rachel.
 
“Yes,” said her daughter. “I’m sorry, Ma, I was just waving at him.”
 
Rachel realised that it was really her own fault. She had sent the girl to gather wood for the fire, so when she had waved at the dog she had effectively been pointing twenty wands at him.
 
Rachel had so hoped that the girl would not turn out to be a witch like her. There was nothing magical about her father (in every meaning of that phrase, Rachel now realised), so she had hoped that her daughter would be a normal human being. From the moment she was born, however, she had had a small purplish blotch upon her cheek. The nurses had called it a birthmark, but Rachel had known better, that it was the Devil’s or Witches’ Mark. All the baby had inherited from her father was his red hair.
 
She had planned to call the baby Alison, but once she saw the mark she knew that she would have to choose a witch’s name.
 
The child was now witch Hazel. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you Google something in a hurry.
 
Now Rachel took her own wand from her apron and waved it. Buster re-appeared, sniffing suspiciously as if trying to determine why he could smell paint.
 
“Come on, honey,” she said to her daughter. “It’s nearly dinner time.”
 
Hazel’s baby and toddler-hood hadn’t been too bad, if you forgot her ability to turn her bath-water into orange juice, to change the channel you were watching to one with the Teletubbies on it, and to fart soap-bubbles. In time her father had turned into a pig, not via magic but in personality, and had left, leaving Rachel to raise Hazel alone.
 
Hazel grew. While the other girls of their small town had loved Barney, Barbie and Justin Bieber her heroine had been Ginny Weasley.
 
But there was no Hogwarts in real life, so she had had to attend the local school. At first everything had been fine, the kids had teased her more about the colour of her hair than the mark upon her cheek, but soon things had started to happen, unexplained, unexplainable things.
 
All of the school books had one day translated themselves into Portuguese. On another day the school bus had arrived at the school, with the kids enthusiastically singing The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round. The wheels were certainly doing this, but to little effect since the bus was travelling two feet above the road. Then came the disastrous day when Hazel had got a fit of sneezing, and in the space of ten seconds the headmistress had turned into a toad, then a frog, then a prince, and then a 1972 Dodge pick-up truck.
 
Rachel had taken Hazel from the school (“I can’t keep her here, the place is obviously haunted”) and had moved out to a small cabin in the woods. She was well aware that she was perpetuating a stereotype by doing so, she might as well have added a pointy hat and a cackle. She even had a broomstick, though only to sweep the yard with.
 
Out here she taught her daughter herself. After all, she reasoned, at school they teach that Reading, Writing and Arithmetic all start with the letter R, and she was sure that she could do better than that. She also taught Hazel about witchcraft, about how herbs and lighted candles and burnt incense could promote serenity and positive energy.
 
White Magic, in other words. Or Aromatherapy, if you prefer.
 
Now Rachel took the bundle of sticks from Hazel’s arms and turned back to the cabin. She could see smoke coming from the window, so she rushed in to the little stove and sure enough the meat in the frying-pan was now a charred black solid lump.
 
“Well I’m almost like witches throughout the ages,” she thought. “I’ve been burning the steak.”
 
She threw the meat to Buster, made a quick salad and called Hazel for dinner. Afterwards Hazel did her homework (how to avoid warts) and then got ready for bed.
 
Outside the wind was really howling now, sending black clouds scudding across the face of a full moon.
 
Hazel’s Devil’s Mark was a brighter than normal purple, a sure sign that she was excited. Rachel smiled at her as she tucked her into bed. “Tomorrow’s a very special day, isn’t it?”
 
“Sure is, Ma,” said Hazel.
 
“Who’s coming tomorrow?” asked Rachel.
 
“Easter Bunny!” shouted Hazel.
 
Rachel and Hazel live in Australia, where autumn runs from March to May.
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