Ľ The Coven - Part Two - Dark Stories

- A March/2004 Special Feature -

by Andrew Wooldridge

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For years my knowledge of Witches from movies and books always gave me the impression they were fat, hideous creatures that conjured up spells by a cauldron. And that wasnít far from the truth, but men could also be Witches, and I was one of them. It was amazing how they morphed into human form. Thatís how they were able disguise themselves from the rest of the world. The very thought of me ending up like one of them sickened me, but Aunt Anne had put me straight and told me that thanks to my Father being a human, that I wouldnít end up looking like one of them.

It was the only pleasant news I had heard all night!

I had until midnight the next night to prepare for what Aunt Anne called the ceremony. She said there was sense in waiting not that I had discovered the family secret. The now complete group would get together and conjure up the spirit of Markay - a powerful spirit who could provide us with enough power to protect us from the Hunters.

The next day the sun shone down on a chilly afternoon town. I was to run a few errands for the night and my first was to grab a few things in town. I was waiting in the supermarket cue and I was last.

"Weíll be here forever," a voice from behind spoke to me. I turned around and saw a small, slender woman with shoulder length red hair that draped over a young, ---- face.

"Here to Christmas," I jokingly replied.

"Or Halloween!"

She had caught my attention. I looked at her and smiled humourlessly. But that didnít keep her from talking. "If we wait any longer weíll have to buy a Witches costume before we get to the counter."

My mind suddenly clicked into place. This woman was acting suspiciously for a casual conversation. How much of a coincidence could it be for a woman talking to me about Witches the morning after I find out my family come from a long line of them? No, this was no coincidence, just canít be. Standing behind me had to be one of the Hunters that Aunt Anne told me about. The same people who had murdered my parents, and were now onto me.

I ignored the woman as much as possible, trying desperately to hide my fear and avoid suspicion. When I got served, I rode my bike all the way home, looking back in case she was following me.

As I entered the kitchen, Aunt Anne was there to greet me. I told her everything that happened at the supermarket. "Just in time," she said. Ever since I found out her dark, hideous secret, she had had treated me with more kindness. Kindness I could live with. "You learned the family secret a day before they found us. What luck," she smirked.

The Coven had arrived early for a little grotesque feast for the occasion. I had to make their sickly meals by digging up the garden and preparing it again when she had come storming into the kitchen, asking me to go down to the butchers to pick something up for her. 

It was turning eight Oíclock and the sun was disappearing behind the distant trees. Most of the squirming snacks had been eaten. I never saw any resemblance between the Coven and Mum and Aunt Jane. I never once saw them in any hideous form, slopping down juicy worms and insects. The image of them doing so sickened me, physically.

I tightened my grip on the £200 pounds of notes Aunt Anne had given me to give to the butcher. She never told me what I was supposed to pick up. She just said, Iíll see when I get there, then warned me not to take too long. Luckily she had told Francis - the only male Witch I had ever heard of - to drive me to town. 

Within minutes I was in itís old Ford watching the darkening woods speed by. "I heard you encountered a Hunter today," he said, sounding somewhat pleasant.

"I think it was a Hunter," I spoke as I watched the blurred images. "She never said she was one, but she was dropping hints: talking about Witches and Halloween, ye know?"

He nodded and turned right down the road that leads into town. The sun had vanished now, leaving only the lamposts to provide the necessary light. It was almost deserted in town. The roads were empty and bats ruled the skies. The butcherís was the only shop to have on a light. Normally he would be closed, but he was waiting for me to collect something.

It took me five minutes to collect the item and run back to the car. To my surprise the item was alive and moving. Aunt Anne had specifically asked the butcher if he could provide a live cockerel. He caged it and covered it with a small blanket then handed it over to me.

But on my way out I bumped into somebody, dropping the cage sending the cockerel into a frenzy. "Iím sorry, I didnít see --"

Silence fell over me. The woman from the supermarket stood dazed, then seemed to recognise me like she was supposed too. "Oh, Iím sorry, let me get that for you," she crouched down.

"No, donít," I almost screamed. 

The woman had pulled back the blanket, revealing the cageís occupant. She looked up at me with glazed eyes. "What do want this for?" She stood up, holding the cage from me.

"Whatís going on?" Francis shouted worriedly from his car. 

As the woman turned to stare at the stranger, I grabbed the cage from her grasp and ran to the car without looking back. "Itís her!" I yelled.

Jumping into the car behind the shaking cage, I yelled again, "Itís her. The Hunter."

Before she could catch up the car skidded away, leaving an annoyed, disgruntled woman shouting at us from a looming distance.

On the journey home, not a word was spoken. I think I was still in shock. Francis looked calm, but there was something in those phoney eyes of his that left him shaken. How close could I have been to ruining this event? Too close than I wanted to be. 

When we got back, I gave Aunt Anne the cage, then Francis had a quiet word with her, carefully checking he couldnít be overheard. As he spoke Aunt Anneís eye watched over me, sending a chill down my spine.

From then on the night was slow. Every minute seemed to last an hour. The celebration carried through to the witching hour: midnight. 

Ironic, eh?

A loud slap caught everybodyís attention. Aunt Anne stood on a chair, overlooking her horde. "Now people, if I could have your attention."

The moans and groans of the monstrous party guests quietened down graciously, allowing Aunt Anne to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen," she glanced at Francis for that last remark, "only half an hour ítil midnight. I guess you all know what that means?" 
Everybody chuckled. Aunt Anneís enormous, hairy fingers collided again with the intention of catching her guests attention. "Calm down, please," she spoke with -----. "We must prepare for a change that is better suited for us. A change that will finally give us what we have been waiting for all these years. A change that will make us the Hunters, and them the hunted." 
As I stood and listened, something within sickened me. Everything she talked about didnít make much sense to me, but there were some things I thought were better left unsaid. But that night, there was something in Aunt Anneís voice that scared me. It sounded kind of old and evil, not the usual way Iím used to hearing it, but something was different tonight. I could feel it.

After Aunt Anneís boring, but somewhat exhilarating speech to the group, we were moving. When I asked Aunt Anne where we were going, she smiled down at me and pattered my shoulder. "You will lead up front with me young Logan. After all, youíre an important part of the Coven now."

Somehow, that didnít make me feel any better.

I followed Aunt Anne as she lead the group out into the garden up the hills into the rural countryside. I had never explored the countryside before, Aunt Anne had always forbidden me from leaving the garden. But now I was in a strange land. Not the place I had been living for the past year, but a strange, quiet wilderness, surrounded by muffled cries of the creatures that inhabited the night.

As we approached a rocky hillside, I noticed a large dark mouth in the side of it. It was a cave and Aunt Anne - who led the way - entered without caution. I went behind the line, being the last. I didnít want to join them in the cave. There was something about this that worried me. 

As the other member walked past me into the cave, one of the creatures grabbed my shoulder and led me into the waiting darkness. "Come little Logan, we canít start this ceremony without you."

As the cold, sharp hand of the creature guided me into the darkness, a small but noticeable noise caught my attention from the bushes. I watched until the mouth of the cave devoured me, but all that emerged was the small, fragile body of a small rabbit. 

A small flame lit up ahead, followed by another and another until the small cavern everyone gathered around was bright with candles. Thatís when I noticed it: a large circle with twelve separate symbols drawn with chalk enveloped a pentagram. At the four corners of that were four wooden stakes driven deep into the caveís ground with a small pieces of rope.

As I drew nearer my nerves suddenly went into high gear. I was wanting to pull out of this, it was just getting to weird for me. Even though I just found out Iím in a family of Witches.

Aunt Anne took her place on a small stone alter overlooking the large symbolic images drawn on the ground. Everyone was gathering in a circle...and I suddenly realised I was in the middle. I spun around, watching everybody watching me, then I turned my attention to Aunt Anne, who had now dissolved her false, but satisfactory image, and everyone following her example.

"W-whatís going on here?" I was almost afraid to ask.

Aunt Anne grinned at me, revealing her black and yellow teeth that I hadnít noticed before. "What on Earth do you mean Logan? You said you were willing to help us in our bid to survive didnít you?"

"Yes, but-"

"Well maybe a little of this is my fault," she continued to taunt me with that disgustingly smile. "You see, I wasnít exactly clear on what your role in the Coven involved," she turned her head to think for a moment then turned back to me, "actually when I put that way, all this is my fault."

The cave echoed with bouts of laughter. I tried to look for a gap for me to run through and out into the wilderness, but I was closed in. I looked again at the wooden stakes in the ground and asked, "What are they for?" In a way I already knew, but it was one of those things you just had to ask.

"Those are for you Logan. Thatís where you will be tied up, and this is what you will be sacrificed with," Aunt Anne pulled out a long, sharp dagger. It looked old and rusty, and the handle was infested with otherworldly symbols.

My legs began to wobble and I felt like the most foolish boy on the planet. How could I have trusted her? Three days ago I wouldnít have cared what had happened to her, but I had foolishly followed her and her cronies in a bid to save them from extinction. She had played on my love for my parents, thatís what she did. She had told me what I needed to hear in order for me to become a pawn in her deadly game. I suddenly began wondering just how trustworthy her story of my parents death was. I had to find out.

My breath was seeping quickly. I found myself gasping for huge breaths of the caveís musty air. "Youíre going to kill me? But Iím your nephew, I thought we would get revenge on the Hunters that killed my parents and Aunt Jane?"

"Well I can hardly take revenge for something I did myself now can I?" Her smile widened with that little piece of heartbreaking information.

I never had a chance to respond, the rest of the Coven had closed in and was now forcing me to the ground; holding my wrists and my feet as others tied the rope tightly. But with all that they were doing to me all I could think about was what Aunt Anne had just told me. "But why?"

She walked from behind the alter, twirling the dagger gently in one hand into her palm as not to draw blood. "To summon Markay you must be willing to make a big sacrifice. In my case it involved the first male member of the family, born into our craft. I knew your Mother would never make that sacrifice, even if it was to save our kind, but I never counted on your Aunt Jane to keep her promise to your Mother. So she had to be dealt with. Unfortunately, you could only be told about the family when you turn sixteen, but fortunately for us you found out just a few months before your sixteenth birthday. So thereĎs no point in delaying the ceremony any longer."

I was shocked and speechless. Since the day I had arrived, I always knew that there was something evil lurking in Aunt Anne, but I never in my wildest dreams thought she would murder her own family.

As the tears streamed down my face, I could do nothing but scream and struggle as the ritual began around me. The enigmatic chants of Aunt Anne and friends haunted me. I watched, paralysed in fear as the words Aunt Anne chanted were coming to an end, and her large, wobbling figure loomed over me; and cruelly held the struggling cockerel up in one hand, and quickly sliced the blade over its throat. Itís blood spilled onto me, forcing me to squeeze my eyes and turn my head.

The more I struggled the more my wrists began throb as the circulation was cut short. Aunt Anneís voice screamed in my ear as she crouched by my side. The tears stung my eyes, and my voice was growing restless. I felt weak and helpless as her voice grew louder and her grasp tightened around the bloody dagger. My time was coming to end, I could do nothing but listen to the very last words that would seal my fate.

"So please Lord Markay, except this gift from us; except the very blood the runs through my veins..." her hand raised the dagger, ready to be plunged into my flesh "...SHOW YOURSELF MY LORD!!!"

I closed my eyes tightly as the blade came crashing to my chest. All I heard was a loud bang, then silence.

No pain shot through my body. The only sounds to be heard were the gentle sobbing of my fear. As I opened my eyes, I realised the blade had never pierced my body, but had broken from the handle.

Then a heavenly voice spoke, "get away from him!" 
It was a familiar, but saintly voice. I turned my head and saw the very woman who I was trying to escape from the Butchers. She stood in the caveís mouth, holding a smoking gun. 

One of the creatures had tried to tackle her, but she had gotten off the shot before it was close. The Coven gathered around her, growling in anger, cursing her interference. There were too many of them to handle, she would run out of bullets before she had killed them all. And just when I thought that hope was taken from me, the cave filled with men and women branding swords and daggers.

A battle ensued. Blood was spilled everywhere. I watched in horror as a massacre took place before me, helpless to help, but secretly enjoying the bloodshed of the Coven. 

The mysterious woman ran through the battle and crouched by me. "Donít worry, Iíll get you out of here," she pulled out a small dagger and carved through the ropes, freeing me.

She helped me to my feet and stumbled back as Aunt Anne plunged the rest of her rusty dagger into the womanís shoulder. "Before I go, Iím going to accomplish one of my objectives," she hissed as she raised her hairy hands to my throat and began to choke the life from.

I struggled, but it was no use. My breath was failing fast and I would soon pass out. Then her grip eased, her lips fell over her gritted teeth. Her head slowly tilted to one side...then fell off. The rest of her dropped to the ground with it.

Screaming, I stumbled back and saw the woman. Blood seeped through her jacket down her arm onto the fingers that held a sword, before dripping to the ground. She looked at me with sorrow eyes.  

Then there was darkness.

When I awoke, I was in my bedroom on my bed. The mysterious woman came into the room as she heard my moaning. She sat beside me, I noticed her arm was in a sling. "I guess you have a lot of questions, huh?"

Over the next hour we had discussed everything that had happened the last few days. It turns out that Hunters arenít so bad people after all. They hunt down and destroy only, the most evil of Witches, and Aunt Anne and her cronies had long ago delved into the dangerous realm of black magic - which resulted in their grotesque appearance. The woman had explained that she was following me and had been for some time, but when she had bumped into me outside of the Butchers, she saw the cockerel and knew Aunt Anne would try the ritual tonight. She tried shouting at the car, trying to warn me, but I was too caught up in Aunt Anneís lies to even consider an alternative explanation.

The woman stood up and walked to the door; she paused when I spoke to her, "Hey?"

She turned her head, "Yes?"

"I never did catch your name!"

"Itís Doris!"

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Copyright © 2004 Andrew Wooldridge