The Witch of The Bend
If there's one indisputable fact about the old lady who ran the bookstore it's that she was a witch. Not the type of witch who wore pointy black hats and cackled, she never wore hats and she had been known to laugh only once; at a dirty limerick. Nevertheless she was wicked. Any kid from The Bend could tell you so. There had been many first hand accounts of her nastiness, although there were few who could tell what happened first hand.
Ms. Crutch's Books sat in the middle of Main Street nestled between Auntie Mag's Desserts and Woodies Knick-Knacks, the latter specializing in Muskoka chairs. While the rest of the shops were delightful red brick, each with a cute hand crafted sign, Crutch's place stood out like a sore thumb, dark purple, sunken, bruised, cracked and crooked. So unsettling was her shop that no resident of The Bend would dare buy a chocolate tart from Mag's and a Muskoka chair from Woodies on the same outing, as that would require passing by Old Crutch's place, which is considered by most to be a very unwise thing to do.
The gang waited across the street trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, an act that always leads to looking conspicuous. They waited anxiously for Tommy, because Tommy was going to run up to Old Crutch's window and look in for at least ten Mississippi. Tommy had announced he would perform this feat the night before, not in the name of foolhardy daring, but to impress a girl, Lucille.
Now Tommy was not the first to dare knicky nine doors with the most malevolent dark force this side of the Equator. There had been many before him.
Once Billy Bartlette had double dared his brother Bobby to knock on the door. When Bobby had refused Billy raised the ante to a triple dog dare and there was no backing out. Bobby built up his courage and finally knocked loudly on the old wooden door. Then he ran like heckfire back across the street to his brother. For a moment he seemed like a big hero. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and was never able to bend his wrists let alone knock on anything with out excruciating pain for the rest of his life.
One man actually went in. Horus Camps a traveling vacuum salesman and stranger to The Bend wandered in looking for a good book about Hollywood stars from the 20's to pass the time on his long sales trips. He was never seen again.
The only adult expert on the subject was Bruce Park's groundskeeper Toe, who was named as such either because he smelled like one or because he had only three of them. Toe, who was far less creepy than Ms. Crutch (that's not say he wasn't creepy, it's just a testament to how creepy the old witch was) always wore the same dirt covered overalls and had as many teeth as he did toes. Toe would tell his "histories" to anyone who would listen, and anyone when you're a toothless groundskeeper bent on town witches is usually a young child who strayed too far from a family picnic. He would rattle on about how Crutch had once been married to Lucifer himself (the reason it didn't work out was unknown even to him). He knew that her heart was made of charcoal and that she ate children. He also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that her only weakness was decapitation. On this last point Toe was totally incorrect, it was balancing on stools.
The gang was about to give up waiting and forever declare that Tommy Muddle was nothing but a chicken. Lucille was just as disappointed as the rest of the boys. She was expecting her first significant romantic gesture. As this daring death defying feat was in her name she was of course flattered and had even rehearsed in her head how she would try to persuade Tommy not go, but he would anyway to prove his affection. It was all very grand.
Impatience simmered and was just about to boil when Tommy casually sauntered by. Lucille blushed and suddenly was too shy to go through with the rehearsed "Don't go" speech. A couple of the boys gave Tommy some last minute advice.
"If you see her, don't look into her eyes or you'll turn to stone." Said one.
Another boy interjected with "No! Only look into hereyes or you'll turn to stone."
"I heard she had no eyes" piped another.
"No, she has eyes, but they're made of stone," said the red headed boy who was an idiot.
"Just look in for a full 10 seconds, any less and it doesn't count," said the fat lazy eyed boy who was clearly the leader.
Tommy let out a nervous breath and began to cross the street. He thought to himself that there was no such thing as witches and even if there was, what was the chance that Ms. Crutch was one? Furthermore, even if she were a witch, why would looking in her window be so bad, wouldn't she appreciate a customer from time to time? Even witches need to eat, unless they ate children. He began to think that this might have been a bad idea when he realized he was at the foot of the dilapidated bookstore.
He's already had made it further than most. He pressed his face against the glass and looked in.
It was dark inside. The old wooden bookcases seemed to go forever deep into the back of the store. He glanced over to one of the shelves and saw Crutch. The old hag stood on a stool placing a large leather bound book back onto the highest shelf. The Witch was short and menacing. She had grey hair tied in a tight bun and her fingers were like gnarled roots. She turned her head and saw Tommy through the window. All the air squeezed out of him as his brown eyes locked on her cloudy ones.
Lots of things ran through Tommy's mind. The first was that he wished he had something to decapitate her with. Toe had informed him that decapitation is a witch's only weakness. He wished for a knife, or a sword, even a saw would do. Tommy saw behind her eyes. Clouds of blue fog hid deep black pits in which swam a terror older than time. The demon woman's terrible eyes burned right through the dirty glass and into his very being.
The moment their eyes met Crutch jerked back. The stool she stood on wobbled, back then forth, then slid from under the old witch. Crutch was thrown up. Then gravity pushed down. She hit the wooden floor right on her head.
Ms. Crutch, the Witch of The Bend, lay dead, her body flat against the floor, her head bent at a right angle to her body.
Tommy, the young boy of only eleven had done what no witch hunter or ghoul maverick had been able to do before. Discover the monster's weakness and execute it to perfection. I would like to say there was a parade in The Bend followed by a presentation of the Key to the City from Mayor Markham. I liked to tell you this, but many higher-ups didn't see the story this way. They would recount this day as the time some idiot kid frightened an old women on a stool causing her to lose her balance and break her neck. But Toe and the children of The Bend knew different.
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WATTY 2016 WINNER of the HQ Love Award! Strange Yarns is a ball of tangled tales. Twisted, knotted, and intertwined. Like Tales of the Crypt, the Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits. Strange Yarns is not just a collection of ghastly tales, these are...