A fellow blogger Riley J Froud recently posted her story of fairies being trapped in wooden logs. This inspired me to write my own version which ended up going in a totally different direction. The witches were to keep Jo Roderick happy. Enjoy.
The cottage we bought was ancient, hidden away in a secluded spot in the middle of a dense forest. Beyond the white picket fence surrounding the garden were thirteen tall, dense trees, hiding it from view even if you passed close by.
After my sister’s breakdown from work-related stress she needed total quiet and relaxation. As long as there was Internet access I could run my business, so living in the middle of nowhere was not a problem for me.
We had to spend a fortune on renovations, having the chimneys cleared out, the open fireplaces blocked up, and finally central heating installed ready for the winter.
It was a surprisingly warm autumn and it was not until Christmas that we had to test the boiler. Everything worked perfectly, but whenever the heating came on we would hear a strange squeaking sound. I considered myself quite a handyman, but despite spraying every pipe and connection with lubricant I could never find the source of the screech.
At first Julie wouldn’t venture farther than the garden gate, but with the coming of spring and the improvement in her health she gradually progressed to walking through the woods. In an effort to encourage her to integrate into the real world again, I suggested she join me when I visited the village to pick up some supplies.
That trip became the first of many until it became part of our routine to share the journey every weekend. She had always been a sociable person, and with the gentle introduction back into society I could see her improving day by day.
The solitude, followed by the camaraderie of the community achieved what pills, potions and doctors could not. She became involved with the local women’s groups, baked cakes, helped at church jumble sales and ended up chairing the local social committee.
I was pleased she was getting her mojo back as it gave me more time to concentrate on earning a living. The only thing that worried me was she would not take the car to go to meetings in the evenings, insisting it was only a few minutes’ walk through the woods, and we should remember our carbon footprint.
She had started taking an interest in the history of our cottage, and spent many afternoons visiting the library and chatting to ancient recluses who remembered the original inhabitants. According to local legend the surrounding trees were witches who had upset the master, and been doomed to spend their lives as sentinels until someone released them from the spell.
Her new interest took over and every night she would regale me with more information. At first it was amusing, but as she became more obsessed I began to wonder if it was time we moved back to civilisation.
She refused point blank, even when I told her about my forthcoming business trip which would mean leaving her alone for a week. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she insisted. ‘Now the harvest festival is out of the way, there are all the Christmas celebrations to organise. I’ve got a million things to do, apart from finally getting somewhere with my research. It’s all coming together. I couldn’t possibly leave now.‘
Over time I noticed that every time she turned the heating on, she would go into the outhouse by the boiler. At first I thought she was checking to see if she could identify the source of the noise, or perhaps just scrutinising for leaks. Then I realised she seemed to be talking to someone.
“Who were you chatting to?” I asked her one day, when the conversation seemed to last longer than usual.
She jumped, blushed and fled into the kitchen to put the kettle on. ‘No one,’ she called over her shoulder. ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’
My business trip was extended, but whenever I phoned she seemed fine.
‘Don’t worry about me,’ she chided, ‘I’m got plenty to keep me busy, and lots of company.’
I was reassured until I returned home and found the front door wide open. It was nearly dark and I felt apprehensive as I called ‘Hello’ into the silence. There was no one in the living room, and when I dropped my suitcase into the bedroom I discovered that her room was also empty.
Puzzled I registered the warmth as the central heating clicked on and subconsciously listened for the usual squeak. For a moment all was quiet, but then I heard the sound of water running and a cacophony of squealing noises. Rushing into the outhouse I discovered Julie sitting on the floor with a wrench in her hand, surrounded by broken lengths of pipe.
‘I’ve freed the fairies’ she said. I looked round in horror at the shattered radiators and conduits lying everywhere. ‘They were trapped inside the pipes and nearly drowned every time the water flowed through.’
‘Julie. What on earth made you imagine that? Look at the mess.’
‘The trees told me. Only by releasing the fairies could they get their witch shape back.‘
By now seriously worried I tried to go to the car to use the mobile I had left in my briefcase.
At first I thought the front door had slammed shut behind me, then I realised the entrance was blocked by wood in its natural state.
Rushing to the window I thought I was losing my mind. It looked as if another tree was moving in the darkness to replant itself in front of the glass. The back door showed the same story.
The house was surrounded by the copse of trees and we were prisoners.