WEP – The Road Less Traveled

Gran lived at the end of Wildwood Holler in rural West Virginia, on a road that cheered the heart with its pure beauty. Gran was a sweet giving woman, and most of the residents in the area called her “Doc” because of her knowledge of herbal healing remedies. Others called her a sorceress.
Gran was amused by the talk of black magic. The rumors had started after my grandfather died. He had a bad heart, but most of his family blamed Gran, claiming she’d bewitched him.

In his memory Gran only wore black. On her excursions to town for supplies, she’d wear her best black cloak and hat, adding to the mystique. Folks would cross the street to avoid eye contact and, in the lines at the grocery store, they’d back away so she could go first.

The fear of her powers grew after three hoodlums decided they’d pay the witch doctor a visit.

Her log cabin sat at the end of the holler, on a small rise, and her front windows, oval in shape, gave the appearance of glaring orbs. She lived alone and appreciated the view of approaching visitors.

On a windy October day, Gran saw three youngsters and knew they were up to no good. Two of the boys stayed behind, but the third marched to her front door. He knocked but jumped in surprise when she opened it.
“Well, young man?”
“My mum, she’s got a bad headache. She sent me for help.”
“Of course. Tell me about her pain.”
The boy shrugged. “She hurts. She’s gone to her bed.”
“I see,” Gran told him. “Give me a minute.
Gran doubted his need for the remedy, but she couldn’t turn him away. And a headache remedy was simple.

“This is willow bark tea, just brew some for her. She should start feeling better soon.”

“That’s it, tea?” the boy said.
“It has healing properties, I promise.”
He threw a nickel at her and raced back to the others. “Tea, she gave me tea.”
“Let’s test it. See if it works.”
“Don’t we need someone with a headache?”
“It’s either tea or a magic potion. Let’s see what it does to Carol. She’s stupid enough to drink it.”
The boys hurried home and mixed the remedy into Dirk’s sister’s usual tea mixture. She drank, but nothing happened. The fact alone pissed them off. “We need to go back. We need proof she’s a witch. Only this time we won’t knock on the door. Jay, draw us a picture of the inside of her place. We’ll go at midnight.”
“But what if she catches us? Turns us into toads?”
“We’ll be real quiet. Dress in black and remove our shoes. She won’t know we’re there. We just have to listen for her snoring. My grandma snores like a freight train, that’s why mom put her bed out on the porch. Once we’re sure the witch is asleep, we’ll find the proof. Make sure your flashlights have new batteries.”
For the next several days and nights it rained. So much so that the boys delayed their adventure until the sun came back out and dried the muddy roads. Halloween night the moon was high, the air cold, and the atmosphere electric. Bravado built up over the week due to the severe weather didn’t fade even though the boys were planning their visit on the spookiest night of the year.
“Maybe we should wait. If she’s a witch, her powers will be at their highest. Won’t they?” Jay asked.
“We’ll get there after midnight. It’ll be the First, and by then her powers will be all used up. It’s perfect,” Joey, the ordinarily quiet of the three assured them.
The boys were so sure of their plan they went straight to the cabin. Tiptoeing up the steps, they opened the door. It screeched against the intrusion. A sound that seemed to form the words, “get out”. The noise had the boys standing perfectly still. Waiting, each drew a deep breath, but Dirk found his courage and motioned. They followed his lead and stepped inside. The room was pitch black. Each of them tried their flashlight. None worked, despite the new batteries.
Dirk immediately lit a match. “Do you see a candle or a kerosene lamp anywhere?” he whispered
As they gazed around the room, a noise quickened their hearts. Suddenly a flash of light caught their attention, and all three of them stared with mouths open.

Gran had suddenly appeared at the door of her bedroom. A green light highlighted her face, and a well-practiced cackle escaped her throat.

The boys took off. Screams, high pitched and full of fear trailed after them. Gran turned off her flashlight, put her emerald green glass coaster on the table and laughed until she cried.
“Happy Halloween, boys.”
I wish that were the end of my story, but those boys got the townspeople all riled up with stories of a magic potion that almost killed their sister. While some called the boy’s story hogwash. Others said that it proved evil lived at the end of Wildwood Holler.

Two weeks after Halloween several men visited Gran. Only they didn’t knock on the door. They threw burning torches through her windows. As the cabin burned to the ground, green flames and a horrifying scream chased the true evil back to town. Grown men crying like babies stumbled over each other on the sprint back. The leader of the group was found dead in his bed the next day. They say that terror was still visible on his countenance.

Gran’s body was never found, but now Wildwood Holler is known as Witchwood Holler. A haunted place where floating green lights, the disturbing sound of crazed laughter, and the failure of anything electric to work, continues to scare off the heartiest of the ghost hunters.
980 words / FCA
Yolanda Renee © 2018

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