With Spring Break for many, a holiday Sunday for a few more, and a ton of schoolwork over the weekend, I completely missed posting stories on Monday. Of course, with the above happening there were also no submissions. So, I’m stepping out of my own parameters, a little, and putting one long story in to cover this week’s post. I was hoping to split the story into three smaller sections, but its length is well served here, today. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, and I hope to have fresh stories for you, next Monday.
By: Brittany Adkins and Colleen Boehm
Death is a humorous thing. It’s not as peaceful as some would think. When one dies at the hands of those in hatred and fear, they become a being fighting for a place in the spirit world and are constantly struggling to come back to this hellish place. This hellish world is paradise compared to the spirit one, but the spirit of a burned witch is worse than any demon, lich or soul eater. It writhes in agony and suffers daily for what the world did to it. For ever living in a constant state of torture and pain. It will bend and twist even the purest of souls into this dark and distorted thing. A thing when once released is more dangerous and destructive than any natural disaster. Hell was coming to earth as promised, when she was burned 200 years ago for being an unwed mother but most of all being a natural born witch.
Halley had lived in Salem her whole life. She was the perfect puritan woman. Never causing a stir in the community and never under the watchful eyes of the witch hunters. That was until she fell in love with Justin. Another witch within her coven and a pastor in the church. It was a love that was forbidden and one they could not hide from the community. One in which the other witches of Salem despised.
It was an early morning in mid-October, the veil was thinning rapidly and it was the perfect time for her to make her ascension to her grave. The wind stirred as a small group of leaves took the form of a raven sitting on a low branch in an old oak. He had been waiting for this day. The rest of the ravens hid in fear not knowing what was to come next. They had heard the call of the spirits who walked amongst them. They hid in the shadows, waiting to see which spirit would arise. The ravens knew there was someone clawing their way back to a body. The grave stone was overgrown with weeds of wolfs bane, nightshade and valerian. She been forgotten over the centuries and so had her crimes. The ravens cawed as they began to fly over and land near her grave. They knew what she would bring. They were the first sign to the coming trouble.
The earth made a low terrifying rumble as she clawed into her grave and her spirit breathed life back into the old bones. As her heart began to beat with a vengeance again she opened her eyes as a haunting smile graced over her lips. She flicked her wrist and pushed up as the earth parted and pushed away from her. She climbed out of the pit and smiled as one of the ravens landed on her shoulder.
“It is time my friends. Show me the way.” She said to them, as the ravens took off above her in a fury of feathers and sound, showing her the way to the city, as was he had intended all along.
The modern world was much different from old Salem, but the feel of power had never left. She could feel it, on the soft wind that blew through her long black hair and around her long black satin corset dress. On the hard concrete as her boots clacked as she walked, and in the cool air that caressed her soft ivory skin that was reforming around her frame. Witchcraft was still very much alive in Salem, though this craft was weak, watered-down and a shame. The power she felt was dormant and deep and was rarely tapped into, as if it was waiting for her.
As she walked with the raven on her shoulder a drunk man called out to her from the side walk, “Isn’t it still a bit early for Halloween?” He said with a drunk laugh to her.
Why is this creature speaking to me? I do not have time for this. The thought seemed to ring out of her mind, like the loud bells of Notre Dame. Halley stopped, turning her head slowly to look at the pathetic creature who had spoken. He reminded her of a drunken man that visited her while she was in the jail cells. She awoke one morning to find this man relieving himself through the bars onto her. As she scrambled away from him he had laughed. “You like that don’t you whore?” he mocked as he finished and staggered away. She pulled her knees to her chest and cried.
With the memory as fresh as if it had happened less than an hour ago, the rage she held grew strong. She couldn’t stop herself as she tapped into the dormant magic of the area as her eyes burned red as if she was trying to burn through him like the fires of the pits of dark realms she once called home. She smiled an impious smile as she spoke, “Aren’t you a bit late?” She said to him as she turned and walked over to him.
“For what?” He chuckled thinking it was a joke.
“For death of course.” She replied in a sing-song tone as she crouched down to his level.
He looked confused but he was oddly comforted by her haunting smile. “Wow lady, you’re really weird. What are you talking about?” He asked her as she shoved her hand into his chest and ripped his heart out. He looked at her for a brief second in shock while the magic kept him alive with his heart beating in her hand. She smiled and crushed it like a rotten apple as he slumped over dead.
She dropped his heart on the side walk, wiped his blood off with her skirt and continued down the road as the ravens cried out to her. The magic was still as strong as ever and she could still mold it to her will. Now, she knew she could take on the rest, even though death seemed too good for them, but dying was easy. Being dead was the struggle.
The ravens above her called to her showing her the way to the first one’s house. She was once known as the town midwife. Now, she was a nurse whose day was just beginning. The ravens all landed on her roof marking her for doom. Halley looked at the door that opened slowly for her and closed behind her in the same way. Joan helped her throughout the pregnancy and even delivered the baby. She was a witch in the coven who craved power. From the first time Halley went to see her for the morning sickness, Joan knew this baby would be her chance to be rid of Halley.
They say when the reckoning is coming to correct the imbalance, even the air in the room will get sucked out to hide from death’s dark hand. Her power was so strong and dark that even the reapers would not enter to take the souls after she finished. They would be doomed to suffer years as lost souls in the regular world before the true torment would being in the spirit one.
Halley made her way up the stairs and opened the door slowly. She saw Maggie standing in front of the mirror getting dressed. She waved her hand to close and lock the door magically. She stood back and smirked as she could be seen in the mirror, she waited for Maggie to see her.
Maggie or Joan, as she was known as in this life, was a beautiful young woman, dressed in her hospital scrubs, fixing her long blonde hair in the mirror of the vanity. Her sky blue eyes caught the reflection of the beautiful and terrifying image of Halley. She had not seen her before but her soul had, and knew her well. Her eyes scrutinized over every inch of Halley’s reflection just to insure she was not hallucinating. It was her. The girl she had killed for being a witch and giving birth to a demon. Maggie could remember young Halley showing up on her door step asking for herbs to help with some minor back pain. She had given her some willow bark and instructed her to make a tea with it for the pain.
Halley looked down at her dress and smiled a wicked smile before her eyes flashed back up meeting the terrified eyes of Maggie. “I know. I love this dress. It hides blood so well. You are most likely wondering why I am here. I came back for all those who did this to me. You were the one who delivered my son,” She began in the sing-song tone again before letting the malice pour out in her voice. “And you were the one who told me to leave him by the old oak, just because he was born out of wedlock! You told a young mother to murder her child because you didn’t want to be held responsible. But to make matters worse, you also told the council that I gave birth to a demon! Your horrible judgement and lies led me to be burned at the stake! You were my coven sister! A friend and one I should have been able to trust with such a secret! For those crimes against me it is time for you to see the evil you have brought back!” She yelled to her as windows grew dark with shadow and the room grew cold. Halley’s pregnancy flashed through both of their memories. From the first time she was diagnosed as being pregnant until her belly began to swell.
Maggie screamed and spun around quickly clutching her heart that seemed to be pounding out of her chest. “But you’re dead…How? You look the same as you did when you were burned.” She said as her soul spoke for her.
“See a good witch would have known. You were nothing more than one of these watered-down aspirants that run amuck in Salem’s streets now! A lowly being that should have paid attention to what she was doing! You could have never stood up to me though you wanted to. You wanted my spot in the coven didn’t you?! You got rid of me thinking I was gone for good, well guess what? I’m back and it’s time to pay for your actions!” Halley yelled before she held her hand out palm up as she watched Maggie’s belly begin to grow as if she were with child. More of the memories began to flood back. This time closer to the delivery. Memories of Joan telling her to just leave the child once it was born. It’s a demon and should have never entered this world. Joan had said to her. Memories of the few days after when Halley took her son to the oak and left him there and Joan going to the council and informing them of the child being born.
Maggie tried to plead with her for her life but she had no voice, not even the sound of air filling her lungs to scream. She watched a horrific smile slip across Halley’s lips as she felt something inside her belly move, then twist and turn and writhe. She looked down at her belly as it bloated out from her making her look like she was nine months pregnant and carrying twins. She was so afraid of what was in there because she knew it was alive. Soon a terrible pain began to erupt from inside her and something was pushing through at her navel.
“Now you know the pain of carrying children, and the delivery will be even worse. Come to me my darlings, come breathe new life!” Halley said in a hauntingly sweet tone as if she were cooing to a child.
Maggie tried to scream and cry from the pain but no sound left her mouth. She fell to the floor from the pain of feeling her flesh ripping and tearing as soon the deep red blood began to pour from her belly and something black began to push through. She watched as long black snakes slithered out from her. One by one they emerged from weak spots in her flesh, tearing new holes along the way, until they were pouring out in droves. She was losing blood quickly as she gave birth to thousands of them.
“Feast on your mother to grow.” Halley said to them as the snakes turned and began to bite and suck the flesh from her body. Halley smiled and watched as the magic kept Maggie alive through the whole ordeal until a greedy snake swallowed her heart. The door opened and she left the house as Maggie took her last breath.
Salem had known evil like this long ago, but over the years it had grown dormant. She was the reckoning, the murderous revenge, and the bringer of the apocalypse. The dark power that surrounded her and clung to her filled the streets urging people to stay in their homes. The streets stayed quiet as people responded to that urge. Only the wind blowing the leaves of fall stood in her way.
She followed the ravens as they led her to the next traitor. As she travelled down the streets her dark power began to call ominous clouds over the city. A storm began to brew as the ravens marked the next house for death. Halley walked inside as the door opened for her, as if the house was welcoming her and ready to be rid of its occupants. She walked down the hall as she called the darkness to block all the doors and windows.
The small cottage house belonged to the man who was once the mayor of Salem, but now he was a humble city clerk. He was once known as John and he was the traitorous witch who ordered Halley to be burned. She saw pictures of him with a family. She smiled, knowing the more blood spilt, the more power she would have.
She walked into his bedroom and stood next to the bed before looking back down the hall. She called silently to their son sleeping in his bed. He slowly walked down the hall and stood at the foot of his parent’s bed staring absently at them. Halley flicked her wrist raising the bed a few feet off the floor before dropping it suddenly to give them a rude awakening.
John and his wife both woke and screamed as their bed hit the floor. His wife saw Halley and screamed as she ran to her son trying to get him to move, speak or even just look at her, but he was frozen in his state. John backed away from her until he bumped into the end table.
“You…?” He said in a soft but terrified tone as he stared in horror at her. “I know you! It can’t be!” He continued confirming his suspicions. Flashes of Salem now danced in the back of his mind. The trial of one of his own kind, Halley. Choosing to send her to her death for her careless love.
“Yes, John it is me. Did you believe I would not come for you?” She said as the head board began to creak and crack before splitting into pieces.
“I…don…” he began before his wife interrupted them.
“Jacob make her leave!” His wife screamed at him still clinging to their son as she watched the pieces of their head board float in the air.
“Silence!” Halley replied. “You ordered me to burn and now you and your family will burn!” She continued as she guided the boy to start pulling up floor boards with a quick flick of her finger.
The split headboard created a column in between John and his wife. Their son started pilling the wood along the headboard as his mother tried to get her boy to wake up. “Good boy.” she cooed, “Now let’s get them into position.” And with another flick of her wrist the son pushed his mother against the headboard where invisible bonds held her tight. John launched himself at his son only to be thrown back against the other side of the headboard. The same restraints held him tightly. Images of Halley at her own stake grew. The wood, he remembered, was wet that surrounded her. It had rained the night before so it would catch right away. She suffered for hours from the flames and smoke before she finally died from being cooked alive on her stake.
“Now go down stairs and get the rest of what you need like a good boy.” Halley said to their son. As she moved all of the wood into place with the help of her magic. Soon the boy returned with a lighter and lighter fluid. “Time to take a shower honey.” Halley smirked as the boy poured the lighter fluid over his body and through the rest on the pile.
John and his wife fought to scream and yell at their son to wake him up so he would stop but the bonds that held them took away their voice. “Ok honey you know what’s next.” Halley laughed. As she made the boy light himself on fire and walk towards his parents.
The flames were hungry for their flesh as it began to consume them quickly. Halley smiled as she turned and walked out of the house with the raven still on her shoulder.
As she returned to the streets to find her next soul, the storm above her began to rumble violently. She was feeding it from each life she claimed. Only one more was needed to complete the ritual.
The ravens called to her as they flew above her leading her to the last house. She skipped merely along the road felling accomplished with how close she was to completing her task.
Kenneth was the priest who claimed she was the devil’s whore. The funny thing about witches, none of them believe in the devil, only those who follow the “God” of the church do. Kenneth was no longer a priest but he was still a god lover, a deacon.
She looked up at the large group of Ravens sitting atop the house, she then looked at the one on her shoulder. “Come my friends, I will need you.” She said to them then walked into the house leaving the door open this time behind her.
Kenneth sat in the living room by his fireplace reading his bible. As she walked in she smiled at the fire as it quickly snuffed out. The sudden lack of fire and warmth startled Kenneth, making him turn and look at her.
“You? You were burned! How are you standing here now?!” He said as he stood in shock. “Get out whore of Satan!” He commanded.
“Silly priest, I told you I would return and bring your hell with me.” She giggled almost cooing to him. As she walked over and ran her figure across his chin in a loving action.
“It is impossible.” He replied in a frightened tone. He beat her and whipped her while she was in the jail cell. He made her daily life torture. All of his anger for the witches of Salem he took out on her. He didn’t know that a man of God could be that vengeful.
“Wrong! The skies will rain blood and the smell of death will fill the air. The beasts of the ground will tear the souls from the bodies and the birds of the air will rip flesh from bone. Remember? And, it will all begin with you.” She said as the raven on her shoulder cawed and the others came flooding in and began to peck and consume him.
He fought and struggled throwing his bible to the ground trying to get the birds to leave. The floor boards in the hall began to groan as wolves and bears made their way to him. His bible long been shredded by the birds was out of his reach, as he scrambled to find it without his eyes that a few of the birds had been fighting over. “My Lord Jesus Christ sav…….” Kenneth tried to call out as a bear grabbed his lower jaw and ripped it from his face.
Halley giggled manically as a wolf ripped into his belly and drug his intestines to the other side of the room to eat, and danced around the room as his life slowly slipped away. “Sweet little baby Jesus can’t save you now.” She mused as he took his last breath.
She then left the house and began making her way to the steps of the old church. Little did she know, there was still one more of the old souls of Salem still to be found.
Halley reached the steps of old church as wolves, bears and mountain lions began to emerge from the surrounding woods. More ravens, hawks and birds of prey began to fly and land on the houses surrounding her. Each of them was waiting for their victims. She raised her hands to the sky and spoke low and deep in an old language of the witches. The sky let out one last loud rumble as it began to rain. The rain was not normal water, it covered the ground in a deep red, thick coating of blood.
People began to emerge from their homes to look at the blood raining from the dark clouds above. One by one as they emerged from the safety of their homes, the beasts of the earth rushed to them snarling and growling before attacking them ripping their flesh from their bodies. The birds of prey also descended up on them to aid in the killing. The sight made Halley smile and laugh a malicious cackle.
As she watched, a priest came running out of the church. He looked around in horror and then saw her. She had once been his world and his soul had done nothing but search for her since her death. He was once her lover and the father of her son.
“Halley! You must stop this!” He shouted as he spun her around to look at him.
“Justin?! You were not supposed to be here!” She said in shock.
“Yes I am. You are not meant to do this! You must stop!” He plead with her.
“How? It fuels me and rages inside me!” She asked as she fought to keep the ritual going.
“Please, Halley, remember me…and our son…this is not the way.” He said to her as the rains began to let up.
Halley’s memories of their love and their son flashed through her mind. She remembered how happy she was to be pregnant and even more so when he was born, but it was a horrible crime to have a child out of wedlock. After he was born she remembered taking him to the old oak to leave him for the wolves.
As her memories consumed her mind her concentration of the ritual broke, the rains stopped and the animals returned to woods. The people who were still alive cried out in agony as they writhed on the ground. She collapsed in his arms as she began to sob against him.
“I killed him…” She said between sobs.
“I know and it’s alright, you had no choice.” He said comforting her. “Come, let’s go see him.” He said helping her up and taking her hand.
“He is alive as well?” She said as she looked shocked.
“No, but we can visit his grave. I do often. It makes what we did easier.” He said to her with a gentle smile.
He led her through the woods behind the old church that was now overgrown, but the clearing remained the same as did the old oak. She walked over to the tree and touched it looking down at the soft earth were their son’s grave was, it was as if time had stood still in this place. She looked up and saw the raven from her shoulder now sitting on a branch. She didn’t remember it ever leaving her.
“See, being here again, together in this place feels right.” He said cupping her cheek before leaning in and kissing her softly but deeply.
The kiss seemed to span hundreds of years, making her darkness slip away back into the pits. It slipped away is if it was the black soot of winter being washed away by the spring rains. The warmth of the sun slipped down through the trees on them, as one of his hands wrapped around her waist and a blade magically appeared in his other. His eyes opened looking at her as a painful glint flickered in his eyes as he pulled back with the dagger slowly; he quickly stabbed it into her gut before the kiss was broken.
“I will always love you, but it’s time for you to stay with our son.” He said to her as he watched her collapse to her knees from pain on the gravesite.
Her face twisted with pain and betrayal as she looked down at her wound watching the deep crimson blood spill out of her between her fingers. She looked back up at him. “W..hy?” She said softly her voice broke from the pain.
He sighed watching her bleed out. “Because my love, this is my time, not yours. You were burned and meant to stay in the pits. Though, I must commend you on seeing through with your revenge. The spilt blood will make Salem the rich and powerful ground it once was, so thank you for that.” He said with a kind smile. It was what Salem needed to get back to where it once was before the burnings.
She was too weak to hold herself up any longer. She fell back onto the grave. As her blood spilled out onto the earth, it began a low rumble, pulsing and vibrating beneath her. She felt it begin to slip out from under her as her world began to grow dark. The earth wanted her body back.
He stood there and watched her die as the earth opened up and claimed her body. He turned and reached into the old oak tree and pulled out his ring that he put there centuries ago and slipped it on his finger. The ring of power for the coven was finally on the hand it was meant for, and as he began to walk away a small hand shot up out of the ground as the earth closed back over them, the sound made him turn around.
He walked back over to the hand and gently took it. “Not yet my son. It is not time for you wake. Soon. Go back to sleep.” He said as the hand slipped slowly back into the earth. He stood and turned to walk away as a wolf rounded the tree where the raven sat. It snarled and growled as it launched towards him and bit into his neck quickly severing his head. His body dropped to the ground as his blood soaked into the grave. Halley’s hand shot up through the soil grabbing his figure with the ring and ripped it from his hand pulling it into the earth with her.
The true death for all humanity was coming, not at her hands, but at another’s. The best thing about being the puppet master is neither one of them realize he was not in that grave, but was holding the strings that guide their actions, not as the devil on her shoulder but as the raven instead. His plan still held strong for when he called on her again. This time Salem would fall now that she restored Salem’s power to where it was before the burnings.