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Authors: David Bernstein

Witch Island

BOOK: Witch Island
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Dedication

This one’s for Sandy.

 

I’d like to thank Don D’Auria and the entire Samhain team. Working with Samhain has been nothing short of fantastic!

Prologue

Margaret Rivers awoke tied to an iron post in the midst of a small clearing in the middle of a heavily wooded area. Freshly cut logs, both thick and thin, lay piled at her feet. The pungent aroma of kerosene filled the air. Night had fallen; the villagers’ torches cast hundreds of dancing shadows along the tree line. There were only five people left from the throng that had taken her from her home. These were the executioners, the witnesses to her death.

Her head throbbed from where she had been clubbed, but her focus remained. The villagers had killed her husband, her soul mate, then burned her house to the ground. Margaret closed her eyes, feeling the anguish of losing him, reliving his death. The entire town had been involved. She had been witness to mob behavior before, when her kind were the focus, which was the reason she and her husband had moved out of Manhattan.

Margaret’s people were misunderstood throughout Europe and America, having to exist in secret. Margaret and her husband had hoped that moving to a remote hamlet, combined with living on the outskirts of town, would have been acceptable to the townspeople, allowing them to live their lives, flourish, and do so without fear. But even in the remote countryside, living on the edge of town and minding their own business proved not to be enough.

“What have you done with Father O’Brady, witch?” a rugged-looking man with a full beard asked. He stepped forward, separating himself from the four other people with him.

“I’ve done nothing to no one,” Margaret said. “It is you that have wronged me.”

“Tell us where Father O’Brady’s body is,” the man continued, “so that we may give him a proper burial.”

Margaret spit at the man. “You’re animals!” she screamed, her fierce stare landing on the face of each person standing before her. “You’ll pay for this. Murderers!”

A balding man with spectacles and a walking stick stepped forward. “Tell us where the good father is, and maybe the Almighty will have mercy on your soul.”

“It’s your souls, and the souls of your children, that you need to worry about,” Margaret hissed. “I curse you all. Your god won’t save you from my vengeance.”

“It’s no use,” said a woman with long blonde hair. “She’s in league with the devil. She’ll spew nothing but lies.”

“You people are the devil,” Margaret said, trying to break free of her bonds. “Father O’Brady was—”

The large man hurried forward and backhanded her across the face. “You shall not utter the good father’s name, witch.”

Margaret raised her head, blood trickling from her mouth. “The father is a good man, unlike you all. I would never hurt such a person.”

“Lies!” cried the blonde woman. “Burn her now, before she spells us and gets us under her control.”

“Yeah,” said another man, holding his torch high. “Burn the witch and be done with her.”

The burly man lowered his torch to the pyre, then backed away. “Now you can join Satan in Hell, witch.”

Margaret cried out, her screams echoing far off in the distance. She prayed to the Good Mother, begging that her soul be absorbed into the forest and remain there until vengeance was hers. She had always practiced peace and harmony, to be one with the spirits of her ancestors, with nature, but her pain and fury were too great, and she wanted the murderers and their children to know of her suffering, of her loss, to know of her.

 

The five villagers remained, watching Margaret burn alive. Her screams sent chills through them, even though the devil women deserved to die. When the flames began to falter, more wood was added to the fire, the flames burning higher and higher, until all that was left were the witch’s bones. The charred skull fell to the ground and rolled toward the onlookers. The jaw dislodged and tumbled away. The rest of the bones crumbled to the fire, where they lay until there was nothing but smoldering coals.

“We’ll bury her here,” said the burly man, whose name was Kenneth Ryan.

A four-foot grave was dug out of the earth in front of the stake. Margaret’s remains were tossed inside a burlap bag and buried.

“We need a priest to bless this place and make sure the witch stays dead,” said the blonde woman named Jenna Mayfield.

“Well,” said Kenneth, “we don’t yet have one, but first thing in the morning, we’ll go to Washingtonville and have Father Donovan take care of this. The sun will be up, which should keep the witch’s spirit, if she is still present, from rising, at least until nightfall. Then Father Donovan will see to her permanent departure.”

 

 

The next day, Father O’Brady came stumbling into town, falling in the middle of the street outside of Gus’s Tavern. He was bruised and bloody, his clothes caked with dirt and leaves. He was taken to Doc Frederick’s place where Kenneth Ryan, the town constable, met up with him. A small crowd of townsfolk gathered outside, as news spread of the father’s return. There, Father O’Brady learned of what happened with the Rivers.

“You fools,” he said, sitting up and wincing in pain. “Do you know what you’ve done? You murdered an innocent couple. Good people.”

“Father,” Kenneth said, “the woman was a witch, living under the devil’s guidance.”

“No,” Father O’Brady said, angrily, then went into a coughing fit. “They were good people. I visited with them, talked to the missus on occasion when she came into town, her husband too sick to leave the house.”

Kenneth looked at the doc, who slowly shook his head, then crossed himself.

“I fear your judgment may be off, Father,” Kenneth said, “your mind tainted by the witch’s spell.”

Father O’Brady’s eyes grew wide, his face a mask of disbelief. “I know evil when I see it, and Margaret Rivers wasn’t in league with the devil.”

“Another priest has been called to take care of the matter. He shall hear your words, look into your soul and decide your fate. Until then, you shall remain in the custody of Constable Ryan.

 

 

Two days later, Father O’Brady was visited by Father Donovan, the priest from the nearest town. It was decided that Father O’Brady had indeed been spelled and was under the witch’s influence, and was no longer fit to serve the church. He was stripped of his collar and sentenced to hang, but would be given a proper burial so that his eternal soul would be saved.

Standing on the gallows, the entire town present to witness his demise, he began to wonder if maybe he had been spelled by the witch, for how else could things have gone so terribly wrong, so quickly?

 

 

Father Donovan visited the island where the witch was buried. To dig her up and desecrate her remains was too dangerous. It was highly possible that her essence would be able to escape into the body of anyone who touched her, or so it was feared.

Instead, her remains were left untouched. Father Donovan blessed the island, said a few prayers and laid salt around her grave. He ensured the townspeople that a witch’s spirit could not cross a body of water on its own, and that no one was to visit the island. A specialist would be called in to ensure the witch was vanquished for good, but until then, the island was deemed cursed, and forbidden to be walked upon.

Days later, the specialist arrived.

Chapter One

Jim Ryan couldn’t believe it was over as he exited the classroom. He headed down the hall and met Paul by Paul’s locker. The two friends grinned at each other, then smacked a loud high-five.

“Dude, we’re forever done with this place,” Jim said.

“Hell yeah,” Paul said. “Next stop, Pussyville, U.S.A.”

“Oh, real nice,” Gwen said, coming upon the scene as if from out of nowhere. She shook her head in disgust.

“What?” Paul asked, shrugging. “I’m going to a college where the girl-to-guy ratio is 4 to 1. I’ll be swimming in puss—I mean females.”

“Pig,” Gwen said. She turned to Jim. “Hi, babe.”

“Hello there, hot stuff” he said, winking, then slid his arm around her shoulders and held her close.

“Tell me again why you’re friends with this Neanderthal,” Gwen said.

“Hey,” Paul said. “I’m in my prime and can hold wood for hours.”

“Gross,” Gwen said, covering her ears. “Make him stop, babe.”

Jim laughed.

“And what about Shay, your one and only girlfriend?” Gwen asked. “My best friend?”

Paul turned to his locker and opened it. “I’ve been nothing but faithful to her, but with her going out west to school, and myself heading north, well, we’ll be worlds apart. We both have no expectations. And yes, I said ‘we’. What happens while we’re away is our own business.”

Gwen shook her head. “You two are nuts.” She turned to look at Jim. “Not us, right, babe?”

“Nope. We’re solid.”

Paul shut his locker, making sure to put the lock back in place.

“You’re supposed to take those off,” Gwen said.

“Let the janitor earn his money,” Paul said.

They walked down the hall, stopping to say hello and goodbye and see you later to various friends and acquaintances. Jim wasn’t able to take it all in. He wished he could, but his mind was elsewhere. He simply wanted to get home.

“You two are special, you know that?” Paul said, as they hit the sidewalk that led to the parking lot. “The classic high school sweethearts. You’ll live here your whole lives, raise a few kids and be as happy as pigs in shit, with a little bit of regret, but nothing that’ll cause you two to get a divorce or have an affair.” Paul held up a hand. “Before you get all weird on me, I’m saying that’s great for you two, but it’s not for me.”

“I think that might be the sweetest thing to come out of Paul’s mouth,” Gwen said, smiling at Jim.

“Nah, it’s just the truth.” Paul laid a hand on Jim’s shoulder. “Besides, the sweetest things I say are for Shay’s ears only.” He winked.

“I think you mean the dirtiest,” Jim corrected.

“No, it’s true,” Paul went on, “especially when she’s got my di—”

Gwen shot out her hand and covered his mouth. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Speaking of Shay,” Jim said, “where is she?”

“She left early,” Paul said. “Wanted to get a start on getting ready for tonight. With her parents out of town, she wanted to make sure everything was in order before the weekend.” Paul removed his cell phone from his pocket and glanced at it. “Shit, I’m going to be late.”

“Late?” Gwen asked. “School just got out.”

Already heading toward his car, Paul said, “Try telling that to my hairdresser. She’s booked up today. I can’t be late or I’ll miss my spot. Got to look good for tonight.”

“Didn’t he just get a haircut last week?” Gwen asked.

“I think so,” Jim said, shaking his head. “Only Paul would care about his appearance for a camping trip into the woods.”

“I have to go too, babe,” Gwen said, then stood on her toes and gave Jim a peck on his lips. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay tonight?”

“Yeah, fine,” Jim said, forcing a smile. He pretended to look out over the parking lot, avoiding eye contact with Gwen, not wanting her to see the lie in his eyes. He knew she’d bring the subject up—again, but it was only because she loved him.

Gwen reached up and grabbed his jaw, making him look at her. “We don’t have to go to the island. We can change the location. There are plenty of other places to camp out.” Jim attempted to speak, but Gwen held a finger to his lips. “I’m sure everyone, including Paul, will be okay with it.”

Jim gently removed her hand. “No. I’ll be fine. Really.” He made sure to make eye contact with her this time. “I want to be with our friends tonight, get a little fucked up and forget about life. Just have fun.”

“You sure?”

Jim nodded. “I’m sure.”

“And your parents? Did you tell them where you’re going?”

Jim shook his head. “No way.”

“They’re still freaked out about the place, huh?”

Jim frowned. “They’re old, and my mom’s superstitious, that’s all. They should be thankful I don’t do hardcore drugs or steal or get into trouble.”

BOOK: Witch Island
11.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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