The sky was beginning to cloud over as Corey and Juliet made their way across the fields. Their destination was the small wood that stood like a dark silhouette among the limestone rocks. The morning had been so promising, but the sky began to darken, and they felt the first drops of rain on their faces.
“Run,” Corey took Juliet’s hand.
The wood was much bigger than imagined, and the trees huddled so close together, they gave shelter from the rain.
“It’s pelting down,” Juliet wiped the drops from her face.
“Yeah, but it’s dry in here,” Corey said.
“Should we go in further?” Juliet looked into the darkness.
“Why not,” Corey shrugged. “It’s only trees.”
They walked along a well-trod path that wound through the wood. It was not as threatening as Juliet thought, and nice to be there among the silence of the trees.
“It must go on for miles,” she gasped.
“I don’t think so,” Corey said.
“I see something,” Juliet called. “Right up ahead, it’s getting brighter.”
The wind was whipping up, causing the trees to sway in some crazy dance.
“There’s some sort of building over there,” Corey pointed to a gap between the trees.
“Let’s make a run for it,” Juliet said. “We can ask for shelter there.”
It was the ruins of an old church. Hidden by yew trees and overgrown bushes, the only thing still standing was the steeple over the porch.
“It could be worse,” Corey said. “At least we’ll be out of the rain.”
The rusted gate groaned as he opened it, the hinges frozen from misuse. The path was uneven and weeds, growing through the cracks, made it slippery and dangerous.
“Don’t fall whatever you do,” Corey warned. “I’ll never be able to carry you all the way back.”
“Are you saying I’m fat?” Juliet studied the ground and chose her footing with care.
They huddled in the porch until the rain eased off, before stepping out to have a look around. At the side of the church there was a small graveyard.
“Someone takes care of this place,” Corey said.
The graves were ancient, the markers leant left and right; as though trying to see beyond the large, stone effigies of angels.
“There are flowers on this grave,” Juliet looked down at a posy of wildflowers. “Someone must be tending it.”
Corey knelt and read the faded inscription.
James Finn born 1884 died 1956
Petal Finn born 1884 died 1997
Beloved wife of James
Reunited in death.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Corey frowned. “If I’m correct, James died when he was seventy-two, but Petal lived to be a hundred and thirteen. The engraver must have got his dates mixed up.”
“Come to pay the folks a visit,” the voice startled them. “It’s nice to see you still remember.”
Every child has read about witches and seen them in books and films, but to come face to face with one is something very strange and frightening. The old woman had long, silver hair and bright, all-seeing eyes, peered from beneath a hat of black wool. She wore layers of petticoats beneath an ankle length skirt, black old-fashioned lace up boots and a fringed shawl.
“What’s the matter, my pets,” She smiled. “Did old Biddy give you a fright? I’ve been hearing stories about you two,” she shook a long, bony finger at them. “Been spending too much time in the mortal world, haven’t we?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Corey said.
“There now, there’s no need to look so worried. Old Biddy’s not judging you in the least. I saw it coming long ago, and that Pierce Hogan has always had it in for your kind.”.
“Who does she think we are?” Juliet whispered.
“I don’t know,” Corey said. “But let’s play along and find out.”
“Come along and you can tell me all about your adventures in the mortal world.” She gestured at them to follow her.
“Come on,” Corey grabbed Juliet’s arm.
“We’ll go back and have something to eat.” The old woman said. “It’s going to take some time for me to get used to seeing you in those clothes.”
“Remember Hansel and Gretel; the witch fattened them up with sweet things?” Juliet whispered.
“Listen, if she has a cauldron big enough for both us, I’ll be out of there in seconds,” Corey said.
The cottage lay hunched in a hollow. A few fat-looking chickens pecked at the ground in a small wire enclosure. Juliet caught Corey’s arm and nodded towards a window, where two, bright eyes watched.
“She knows you’re coming,” Biddy laughed.
The black cat purred and zigzagged between their legs demanding attention. Juliet sighed with relief and reached down to pat the soft fur, but the cat eyed her suspiciously and backed away.