THE WITCH’S CASTLE

As a child, we spent most weekends at my grandparents on my mothers side. Mom was one of 12 children, the Cook side of the family was quite prolific, thus
producing many offspring, so, I had many cousins to play and explore with.

My grandparents, were farmers, living in a very rural area of Indiana, with
my cousins, and younger brother of one year.the pursuit of adventure began.

I had a few older cousins, but with the group of us that often played
together..I was one of the oldest.so I was by virtue of age.the leader of
this ban of reckless and dangerously bored little hillbilly children.

After suffering as much damage to livestock and property as he could handle,
grandpa kicked us off the farm, ( something about chickens never laying eggs
again, or the cow being dried up.and who’s going to fix that window?) with
grandpa threatening to beat the living tar out of us.we decided to expand
ourselves, and explore the country side. Of course, being respectful of
property, life and limb.

Across from grandpa’s place, was a fenced in cemetery.which was of no
interest except after dark.

The early 60’s TV show Combat was a big hit, and I was the Sargent. As we
stormed the enemy from one small dirt mound to another.the dirt clods were
hand-grenades, and sticks were guns, and the sting of bullets were rocks
thrown at each other to make this war as realistic as possible. Never
intentionally aiming for the head.but, they were small rocks.and soldiers
don’t cry.

Fighting our way down a lane that went deep into enemy territory, never
looking behind us, for we were advancing upon the enemy and concerned only
for the ground we were taking from our invisible enemy. We rounded a bend in
the lane, and hidden from view from not only our grandparents, but from the
rest of the world.there, dead center in this section of land, was this large
grove a dense tree’s.

Understanding the perfect ambush potential the enemy had over us. We dove
into the nearest cover. The sand burrs and thistles just added to the
realism of this imaginary war. In this cover, we formulated a plan to take
this forest from the enemy.

I sent cousin Danny to the right, and cousin Bobby to the left.each taking a
small squad of cousins with them, and after they were in position..we
advanced our way into the forest.throwing our hand-grenades, and firing our
machine guns we charged into the woods, screaming at the enemy.

As we fought the Germans, and battled our way deeper into the woods, we
never realized how deep and dark the woods was..until, suddenly..from out of
the darkness was this huge old house.dark, and smelling of rotting wood, and
death. We stood there, mouths open, our hearts beating like huge drums
inside of us, our breath held in check.just incase we needed it later for
that mad dash our feet already knew was about to happen. There seemed to be
some sense of danger hanging upon that house.almost an evil. More likely it
was just the imagination of a bunch of kids.

With out needing to be spoken, we all knew that there was probably something
living inside that old house. Not a person, but something.ghost, or witch’s
or such. Hanging in the silence, you could taste the fear of the dozen or so
kids ..our hearts racing, and a cold sweat building upon our flesh, we took
a small tentative step toward the house.

To this day I am sure I saw something move inside the house. I yelled a
warning, (some said it was more a scream) to my fellow soldiers, and with
one unified scream, a dozen small children, ages 6 to 10 ran for their lives
through the dark and unmarked trail going through the woods. Their was a
crash from the house, and we all knew we were about to be eaten by
witches.(witches always eat kids).The faster we ran, the more noise and
terrible gnashing of teeth from behind us, thus stimulating even greater
speed from us.

In an attempt to reestablish my place as leader in the front of the pack.I
was gently moving aside the smaller and slower of the cousins, with the
agility of a trained athlete, and the finesse of a ninja.I burst from the
trees into the light of the sun..I had considered stopping and turning to
see who and what was left of the cousins.but, a scream from behind me
inspired my feet to such great speed I could not stop. I was amazed that my
feet had their own ability to think and respond outside of my own
request.but, seeing as they were making such good time, I decided to just go
along with them.

I took off like a flaming goat, (and yes, flaming goats are terribly
fast.another reason grandpa told us to leave or be beaten.) As I headed
across the clearing I looked over my shoulder, and saw cousins going in
every direction, a sight that may of looked quite funny if we were not in
such a panic. Just as I was about to slow down, I saw .the creature burst
from the trees. It was huge, and had a terrible look of death in its huge
brown eyes, and large horns upon its head to impale us..I knew it was going
to get us all, drag us to the house, where it would consume us one at a
time..I never new such fear. I fell, trying to hurdle a 5 foot fence at full
gallop. Not easy to do when one is only 4 foot tall.

Once I stopped bouncing, I turned around and faced the creature.expecting to
be taken savagely, like the leader I was, I faced my death gracefully. Other
than the screaming.I was quite graceful.

Okay.so I over reacted, but deer look an awful lot like demons, and besides,
I am sure I heard someone yell..Demon..run for your lives.so, as soon as I
could stop the cousins from screaming and running in circles.we had a
decision to make.

We had to go explore this house. We had to conquer our fears, and control
our shaky bladders and go bravely into this dark and foreboding place. We
had to.it was our destiny.

But in reality, we had nothing else to do.

Stealthily we went into the woods, and with great quite we approached the
house.we were exceptionally quite. The noise of the younger cousins
whimpering and hanging onto our legs and being dragged behind us made
strangely little noise. It was almost as if we were in a void of noise.

The quite was with out sound of birds or wind.nothing except the slamming of
my heart in my ears.and the wheezing of my lungs as they again prepared my
limbs for flight. Isn’t instinct great?

Mustering courage I did not know I had.I climbed upon the porch.and
approached the door. I wiped away the dirt.and first looked in a window.I
saw a room with little furniture, and the chaos and dirt of long
abandonment.

The cousins one at a time joined me on the porch.and we all looked into the
darkness of the room.each seeing their own terrors within the shadows of the
house. The unknown.the adrenaline rush as fear and excitement filled me. My
heart was racing like never before.my knees were weak and shaking. I could
see colors like I never saw before. I could smell and hear and feel things.I
was ultimately aware for the first time in my life..and I loved it. This was
the beginning of my addiction to adrenaline, and I wanted more.

We decided to enter the house. The door was locked from within.but the glass
of the window on the porch soon gave way to a hand-grenade/rock. The crash
of glass.and that scream of horror from the deep recesses of the house, and
a flock of cousins again went screaming for the clearing.

Now we had done it.we had awakened IT. What ever IT was..it was now awake
and in pursuit of the delicate flesh of children. From now till I die, I
will never forget that sound.a terrible unearthly and non human sound
screaming so close to me that it seemed within my own head that I heard it.
I ran.I ran like never before.saplings gave like toothpicks in my path.I was
flinging brush and vine and branch aside as I ran for my life.

I could feel its terrible breath upon my neck, I could hear my cousins
screaming in pain from the beast claws. I ran.not daring to look back to see
what was happening to the rest of the cousins. God has blessed me graciously
in many ways.but at that time.the best gift of all the gifts He has blessed
me with, was very fast reflexes and feet. I was way ahead of the fleeing
cousins. With my eyes set wide open.my hands held out on straight arms.and
in total panic I crashed through the woods. I sensed it behind me.gaining on
me.with a sudden burst of speed that to this day I am sure has never been
replicated even in Olympic event.I heard the growling and the terrible noise
of rushing air as it breathed in great ragged gasps behind me.

I clear the trees and enter the safety of the sunlit clearing.it is common
knowledge to all kids that demons nor witch’s can go out in the sun light,
and the thought of being safe and secure seems at last a possibility. From
the moment I had taken flight, time had stopped. I had been filled with
terror as I ran blindly through the woods, and now..thank God, I am safe.

I learned a great lesson that day.when in the lead of a pack of panicked
cousins who are running for their lives from child eating demons, or witch’
s..don’t stop running.

After picking my self up off the clearing, and brushing off the various
sized foot prints off my back. .I stood calmly pulling the sand-burrs from
my face and hands while the cousins continued running in circles screaming,.
I knew they would stop running eventually, and my pride as leader and oldest
was not ready to let them see how shaken I had been. Besides.there were an
awful lot of sand-burrs.

After taking a head count, we discovered one cousin was missing. We all
stood looking back at the dark woods, and discussed who was going to tell
Billy’s mom that he had been eaten. We at first thought of going back home,
and pretending Billy had never been with us.or even exclaiming.Billy???
Billy who?

While in desperate discussion of what excuse to use, we looked around, and
saw a path torn into the cornfield opposite the clearing.and there, spent
and gasping about 100 yards into the corn, was cousin Billy..with thousands
of paper cuts from the corn leaves upon his neck, face and arms.he had the
look of a veteran soldier.scarred from many battles, and bearing that 1000
yard stare.and as soon as we got him to stop crying.we told him so.

After everybody had adjusted there courage, and taken a much-needed leak
upon the fence.we decided again to brave the forest of hell’s darkness, and
explore the house.

Again we went into the dark woods, two dozen scared kids taking the space of
three we were walking so close.and this time with steely resolve we decided
to explore the whole of the house.

After gaining access through the window.we went room to room.closet to
closet, like the well-trained military men we were.looking for enemy, or
demons. After a very thorough search, of the whole of the house. We had
destroyed the enemy, and discovered no demons or witches.

The day was getting late, and we had to get back to grandpa’s.you must
remember.this was in the day when parents still took you behind the wood
shed with a switch.no grounding or time out for us.it was a whoopen, for
sure if we were late.

So, we made a pact to not tell the parents or grandparents where we were, or
what we had been doing, and every Sunday that we were all here.we would go
to the Witch’s Castle.

And we did. Every time we were together, we hustled down the ½ mile lane to
our own private house in the woods, safe from adults, and the rest of the
world, and our imaginations took over.

Over the next couple of summers, we gradually destroyed the house. Every
window was broken in some form of combat with an enemy. The plaster walls
were torn apart by machinegun fire, or mortar rounds. Doors ripped off by
bombs and bullet. Holes torn completely through outside wall through inside
wall.being shelled by enemy tanks will do that.

The house after two years or so, and hundreds of battles was showing its
age. Holes in ceiling and roof had let water from rain and snow into the
house. Rotting and sagging floors and ceilings made for a very dangerous
obstacle to maneuver our way around the house.

Being 12 years old now, and bored with the same old same old.the games
escalated.

We had explored every nick and cranny of the house.there were 5 rooms down
stairs, and two closets. The rooms were not large.but the ceilings were at
least 10 feet. Upstairs there were 4 rooms, and an attic that was accessible
through a very neat little trap door. There was not a room, a closet, or a
crawl space in the house we were not aware of.

Until, one hot summer afternoon.

This particular day, we again had about 2 dozen of us cousins at the Witch’s
Castle, and like a nest of ants, we were all over the house, throwing stones
and dirt clods, and fighting our war. My cousin Jerry, who is older by a
year my, my brother Roger, and I think cousin Danny, all decided to climb
out a window and go on the roof, which we did often.but looking for
something exciting to do, the thought of pushing the chimney over, and
having it fall upon the roof, came to one of us. I can’t imagine who.

The house stood 2 and a half stories high, with one long roof line, and two
gables off either side.the chimney, ran almost dead center of the house,
kind of in the corner of two gables.the main, and a side. Cousin Jerry and I
were the strongest of the cousins, and we slid down the roof from the corner
of roof and gable, to the chimney. Roger stood over the other side of the
main roofline, out of harms way, and Danny was sitting on the highest peak
throwing rocks at the cousins below us in the woods.

There were cousins running every where.we did not warn them of what we were
about to do.we thought the surprise of tons of brick and mortar falling
about them would be even more exciting if they did not know it was going to
happen.

The chimney was old.but very tall.as we stood under it, we looked up what
seemed like a dozen feet or more over our heads, and started to push.
Placing our feet against the roof behind us, and pushing with our shoulders
against the chimney, it swayed slightly, but did not move. We started
pushing it, letting it sway back, and then push some more. It got to swaying
back and forth as we found the rythem.

We pushed harder and harder.and it swayed back and forth. Little pieces of
mortar falling out between the bricks, and the ominous growling sound of the
tons of brick and mortar coming loose was felt and heard by the cousins
within the house.their was a silence. An anticipation of something big about
to happen.then, with a mighty push.the chimney swayed beyond what it and
gravity could bare, and in slow motion, it started to fall.

Like two idiots.Jerry and I stood there and just watched.with a stupid smile
of satisfaction upon our faces.we watched the chimney fall.and land upon the
roof.

We had this picture in our heads that it would make a noise.and fall off the
end of the house, and scare all the cousins with in the house.making for
some excitement. And scaring a few of the younger less experianced cousins.

When the chimney hit the roof.the house jumped out from under my feet.the
violence of the shaking house caught me by surprise, I was thrown down, and
started to fall and slide down the roof. I had become part of the avalanche
that I had started. I reached out, and grabbed what was left of the chimney
and hung on desperately.hanging by my finger nails it seemed, I looked over,
and Jerry to was hanging from the base of the chimney.we laughed. A laugh
that sounded a bit hysterical.maybe a bit adrenaline filled.

Besides the sudden shaking of the house, there was the thunderous sound of
bricks rolling off the roof, the crashing of wood and shingle. And something
worse.a scream.actually, many screams, and again, there were cousins running
out doors and windows and heading for safety. In my family.we had a strong
sense of self preservation. Hanging there.the house shaking and vibrating
under me.I laughed at the sight of so many people running in panic. It was a
plan that worked almost to perfection.almost.

As we hung there seeing and feeling all this, Jerry and I laughed aloud.for
this plan came off even better than we thought.we scared em all.

In the silence after, we scrambled to our feet, and brushed off the dust.
Looking around.there was a cloud of dust hanging over the woods.the house
almost hidden like with in a fog.

Grinning we looked up at Danny, who with wide eyes and a grip of death upon
the peak of the roof.we had to remove some shingles to get his hands free.
Once freeing Danny, we then realized that my brother Roger was no longer
standing upon the other side of the roof.we climbed up, and looked
over.hoping he had somehow held on, but fearing he had slid off the
roof.probably falling to his death.

He was gone.and I immediately began to worry about what I was going to tell
my mom.boy.was I going to get a wuppen for killing Roger.

As we looked over the edge of the roof, where Roger had been standing was a
hole in the roof.not very big, but big enough for Roger to of fallen
through. On either side of the hole were five scratch marks.we presumed made
by Roger as he fell through the hole. We slid down to the hole, and looked
down.hoping to find him in the attic.

But there was a hole in the attic as well.and in the floor of room below.and
it looked like a hole in the floor of the ground level room below that. We
quickly climbed down the roof, and through the window.upon entering the
room, we looked up with amazement at the hole in the plaster ceiling above
us, and the hole at our feet.

We ran to the stairs.and carefully made our way down.most of the steps had
been torn away to protect us from invaders when we were up stairs. And once
down stairs, we looked up at the 10 foot high ceiling and saw the shattered
remains of plaster hanging from slat boards. And.this shred of clothing.just
hanging there in silent testimony of a moment of terror poor Roger must have
felt.if he was still conscious at this time.which I made comment on.but
doubted.

Looking down into the hole that Roger had made.we saw my brother. He was
lying atop a pile of boards, and plaster, and dust.he was staring up at us
with lost and terrified eyes.he looked dead. And we were sure he was.

Cousins were now starting to come back into the house after the dust of the
avalanche had settled, and discovered the predicament I was in. I had to
tell mom I had killed Roger.

Roger was in a basement.way to go Roger.you found the basement. We called to
Roger many times, he never answered.he was just lying there, but now we
heard some occasional moaning and groaning. It was mentioned that some one
should jump down into the basement to help Roger.but, it sure looked dark
and scary, and smelled like dead animals, we could find no volunteers.

An alternate plan came to us, and Jerry and I each took the leg of Danny,
and lowered him face first into the hole that Roger made in the floor, and
had him point toward where the stairs were in the basement.

After he had pointed out the stairs we went to the room in search of a trap
door to access the basement. This room just happened to be directly under
the chimney that we had just pushed over, so there was a large amount of
debrea from the ceiling, and bricks that had come through the roof into the
room as well.

It took us quite a while to find the trap door.and as we were clearing it
away.the cousins in the other room keeping an eye on Roger yelled at us that
Roger was moving.

Leaving a detail behind to keep digging out the trap door, I went to check
on Roger.as he became more aware of his surroundings.he sat up, and.slowly
he looked up at us, and grinned.thinking he had once again beaten death.
Beating death was to become legendary for Roger and I.

We were all laughing and telling Roger how awesome it was what he had
done.and as we were talking, the trap door was cleared, and pulled open by
Jerry and the others. The light from the open door, now illuminated the room
Roger was in.

He looked around, and I lying on my stomach, I also peered into the darkness
of his discovery.

Being able to see is not always what it is cracked up to be. If Roger had
stayed in the dark, and we had gotten him out by the way he had gone in.I am
sure the speech impediment and nightmares he suffered for many months after
this day, would never have happened.

On the walls were chains and manacles. A room of tortures.a dungeon.a room
that smelled of the death that had obviously taken place within. And lying
under Roger were skeletons of the dead victims.the witch’s were real, and
now we knew where they hid.

There was this slow building of a noise coming from Roger.it at first was
just a moan, but it soon developed into a shriek that made your short hairs
stand up. Panic is contagious, and the shriek coming from the basement
scared the living crap out of every one of us.some ran.some stood and
screamed while running in place. The smell of death, and fear was prevalent.
And total panic enveloped us all.

There were terrible sounds from below, and I looked down and saw Roger
running and bouncing off the walls looking for a way out, and in his
panic.not using the stairs.

There was a crash.and a scream.and he was gone.

I looked, and there was no Roger.he was gone. I was really scared now.scared
for my brother.scared for what I was to tell the parents.and scared for
myself. For surly what ever had gotten him, was shortly going to get me.

He was no longer in the basement.he had not gone out by the stairs, and with
his disappearance, our collective nerves were gone, and in mass.we bolted
for grandpa’s.

We ran the distance of over a half mile with out even a breath taken.it
seemed like it took no time at all.the slowest, and the youngest, were
keeping up with the oldest of us. Fear of death and of being eaten alive by
witches had inspired even the smallest to run at warp speed.

As we crashed through the gate, and into grandpa’s yard, all of us screaming
bloody murder and warning our parents who were coming into the yard of the
witch’s and demons that were about to come down upon us and eat us
all.their, in my mothers arms.bleeding, and crying, was my brother.

Roger was never very fast.but that day, he had run the whole of the lane
with us so far behind him.we did not even see him.see, isn’t adrenaline a
great thing.

After the whoopen we all received, and the scolding.we all stood, (for
sitting was an impossibility) we discussed what new adventure it would be
the next time we went to the Witch’s Castle.

We could hardly wait.

For more short stories and best art museum 2017. Click here.