The Witch’s Revenge
The argument was old. Was Ms. Ann Templeton, Spooksville’s most powerful and beautiful resident, a good witch or a bad witch? There was no question that she was a real witch. Adam Freeman and his friends had seen too many demonstrations of her power to doubt that. But whereas Adam and Watch liked to think she was a nice person, Sally Wilcox and Cindy Makey were certain she was dangerous.
The argument started in the Frozen Cow, Spooksville’s best known ice-cream parlor. Because the owner would serve only vanilla ice-cream,
they were each having a vanilla shake when the idea of visiting the witch’s castle came up. Of course later they would blame each other for the idea. Later, that is, when they couldn’t find their way out of the castle.
It was a hot summer Wednesday, ten in the morning, a perfect time for a milk shake. School was still a few weeks away. As often was the case, they were trying to decide what to do with the day.
“We can’t go to the beach because of the sharks,” Sally said as she listed the various possibilities. “We can’t go to the lighthouse because we burned that down. We can’t go to the reservoir because we burned that as well. And we can’t go to the Haunted Cave because it’s haunted.” She paused. “Maybe we should try to contact Ekweel2 and go for another ride on a flying saucer.”
Watch shook his head. “We forgot to get a communication device from him. We have no way to contact him.”
“But he promised to call us someday,” Adam said.
“Yes,” Sally replied. “But he’s an alien. They have a different perspective on time. Someday might be ten thousand years from now for him.”
“I thought you didn’t like Ekweel2,” Cindy said to Sally. “You kept calling him Fat Head.”
“I called him that because he had a fat head,” Sally said. “That does not mean I disliked him. I call you plenty of names and I still like you.” Sally added, “Most of the time.”
Cindy was not impressed. “I am so relieved.”
“What if we didn’t do anything special today?” Adam suggested. “What if we just hung out and relaxed? We could play checkers or chess or something.”
Sally stared at him as if he had lost his mind. “Are you all right, Adam?”
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just because I want to have a relaxing day doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.”
“But this is Spooksville,” Sally said. “We don’t relax here. That’s the best way to get yourself killed. You always have to be on your guard.”
“I don’t see how playing chess could be dangerous,” Adam said. “Even in Spooksville.”
“Ha,” Sally said, turning to Watch. “Tell him what happened to Sandy Stone.”
Watch frowned. “We’re not sure if the game did it to her.”
“Of course we are,” Sally said. “She was playing on the witch’s chess board when it happened.”
“What happened to her?” Cindy asked.
Sally shrugged. “She turned to stone. What would you expect with a name like Sandy Stone?”
“Is that true?” Adam asked Watch.
Watch appeared uncertain. “Well, we did find a stone statue of Sandy not far from the witch’s castle. And the statue was sitting in front of a mysterious-looking chessboard.”
“I don’t understand,” Cindy said.
“Chess was Sandy’s favorite game,” Sally explained. “She was a master at it. She could beat anyone in town. The trouble was, she boasted about the fact, and apparently Ms. Witch Ann Templeton heard about it and didn’t like it. The witch plays chess herself, and sent out a challenge to Sandy, which Sandy accepted.” Sally paused and shook her head. “And that was the last any of us saw her alive.”
“Are you saying the witch turned her to stone because Sandy lost to her?” Adam asked.
“It may have been because Sandy beat the witch,” Sally said. “The witch is a well known sore loser.”
“Is the stone statue still there?” Cindy asked.
“No,” Watch said. “It was made of soft stone, like compressed sand. The first good storm and it was gone. Down the gutter.”
Cindy glanced at Adam. “Do you believe this?” she asked.
Adam shrugged. “Ms. Ann Templeton never seemed that bad to me.”
Sally snorted. “Just because she’s pretty and smiled at you, Adam, you’re willing to forgive years of murder and genocide.”
“What does genocide mean?” Adam asked Watch.
“Unpleasant behavior toward many people,” Watch explained.
“I can’t believe she’d murder anyone,” Adam said.
Sally threw back her head and laughed. “You’re too much! What about those friendly troll bodyguards of hers we met in her cellar? Have you forgotten how they tried to spear us for dinner? Do you think they were just playing? Do you think she didn’t approve of their hunting habits?”
“But it was Ann Templeton who gave Bum and me clues about how to find you guys while you were trapped in the Haunted Cave,” Watch said.
“Yeah,” Adam said. “She also gave Watch the
magic words that helped us rescue the Hyeet from the cave. How do you explain that?”
Sally replied with exaggerated patience. “She told Watch how to get into the cave because she figured there was no way he’d get out. She probably told him the magic word because she was hoping we’d all get trapped in another dimension.”
“But when the Cold People attacked,” Adam said, “she was one of the few people who really tried to fight them off.”
“She was trying to save her own skin,” Sally said. “Nothing else.”
“For once I have to agree with Sally,” Cindy said reluctantly. “I saw those trolls she keeps in her basement. She must be an evil witch to have such monsters in her castle.”
“Not necessarily,” Adam said. “She might just feel sorry for them. I imagine trolls have trouble finding places to live.”
Sally stared at him. “I can’t believe you just said that. Her castle may be many things, but it is not a home for homeless trolls.”
“I’ve never actually seen her hurt anyone with my own eyes,” Watch said.
“Yeah, but you’re half blind,” Sally said. “You’ve never actually seen the sun come up.”
“I can see the sun,” Watch said quietly, perhaps hurt by the remark. “I can see the moon, too, as long as I have my glasses on.”
“A lot of these stories about people dying and disappearing,” Adam said, “might have nothing to do with her. They might be caused by natural creatures, like aliens and ghosts and things.”
“But if she isn’t evil,” Cindy said to Adam, “why is everyone so afraid of her?”
Adam shrugged. “People believe all kinds of nasty rumors.” He added, “You know, she invited me to her castle once.”
“But even you weren’t dumb enough to accept her invitation,” Sally said, “Which just proves my point. Deep inside she’d just as soon eat your heart out as smile at you.”
“That’s not true,” Adam said. “The only reason I haven’t visited her at her castle is because I’ve been too busy since I moved here.”
“You’re not busy today,” Sally mocked.
“I wouldn’t mind visiting her at her castle,” Watch said softly, almost to himself. “I’ve heard she has the power to heal. I’ve always wondered if she could do anything about my eyes.”
To everyone’s surprise, Sally reached over and squeezed Watch’s hand. “Your eyes are fine the way they are,” she said. “You don’t need to be healed by that witch. I shouldn’t have said what I did about your vision. I’m sorry, Watch.”
Cindy glanced at Adam. “I can’t believe Sally just apologized,” she said.
“I’ve seen her do it once before,” Adam said.
Sally spoke seriously to all of them. “No one’s going to the castle. There are alligators and crocodiles in her moat that would eat you alive before you could even get inside. Believe me, the place is a death trap.”
“But there’s a drawbridge,” Watch said. “If she wants us to enter, she’ll let it down.”
Adam studied Watch. “You really do want to go, don’t you? Do your eyes bother you that much?”
Watch looked away, out the window of the ice-cream parlor. “Well, you know, I don’t like to complain.”
“Complain,” Adam said. “You’re with friends. How are your eyes?”
“I don’t know,” Watch said. Briefly he removed his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt. When he put them back on, he squinted in the distance. “I think they’re getting worse.”
Cindy was concerned. “Can’t you get stronger glasses?”
Watch spoke reluctantly. Clearly the subject embarrassed him. “The doctors say no. You see, it’s not just a focusing problem. Everything seems to be getting dimmer, like it’s always evening.”
“How is it at nighttime?” Adam asked.
“I can’t really see then at all,” Watch said. “Not anymore. I just bump into things.”
Sally was worried. “You never told us.”
Watch shook his head. “There’s nothing you guys can do.”
“But you should have told Ekweel2,” Cindy said. “Remember the way he fixed my ankle with his healing machine?”
“They weren’t as bad then,” Watch said. “And I didn’t want to bother him.”
“Watch,” Adam said, frustrated. “He’s our friend. He would have been happy to help you.”
Watch lowered his head. “Well, he’s gone now. And we don’t know when he’ll be coming back.”
“But maybe Ann Templeton can help you,” Adam said. “I think it’s worth the risk to ask her. Why don’t we do that now?”
“Do what?” Cindy asked.
“Go to the castle,” Adam said simply.
Sally and Cindy looked at each other. “The boys have lost their minds,” Sally said.
“They’re looking for help in all the wrong places,” Cindy agreed.
“You two don’t have to come,” Adam said. “If you’re scared.”
“I’m not scared,” Sally said. “I am just a reasonable thinking human being. Calling on evil witches—even in the middle of the day—is just plain stupid. She won’t heal Watch’s eyes. More likely, she’ll carve them out with one of her long red nails and have them in her evening soup.”
“She wouldn’t have such a terrible reputation if she hadn’t done something bad,” Cindy agreed.
“I trust my own instincts,” Adam said. “I think she’s a good witch. What do you say, Watch?”
Watch nodded enthusiastically. “I want to visit her. I think she’ll welcome us, especially since she’s already invited you.”
“This is going to be a long day,” Sally said darkly.