Before I was old enough to go to school- before I was stupid enough to believe ‘there’s no such thing as witches’… I knew one.
She haunted every thought, and hid around every corner. She was always under the bed waiting with daggers, and if I dared look out of the window and into the darkness, I would see her face.
Most of the time she was too quick and all I would see was the fog that her breath left on my window or her moving shadow on the wall.
Her favourite food was children, and she particularly liked chewing on the ankles of skinny-legged little boys like me.
When she couldn’t get her hands on children, she would round up the neighbourhood cats and perform sacrificial rituals behind her garden shed.
After making a circle of small rocks, the Witch would stand inside it, holding a poor cat by the neck and up towards the moon.
From out of her pocket, she would pull a rusty knife and make three (2 down and one across) swift swipes.
The contents of the cat -blood and guts – would slop down onto the Witches face and for a few minutes she would feast like an animal- only pausing to clacker her blood soaked teeth at the moon.
I know this because I used to creep up and watch her. I knew that if she saw me I would surly be sliced up and eaten, and yet I had to watch.
Behind that garden shed, with figures of animals painted in blood on the walls, I witnessed some of the most horrific scenes of my life.
The carcasses were hung in the rafters.
Those gruesome midnight shows from all those years ago had been burnt into my brain, and only a fool would think that I could escape unaffected.
Like the Witch, I too collected animals. But I promise you I never sliced them open, and definitely never drank their blood or ate the guts- that is certain at least.
I was merely after the skulls.
Hanging on my bedroom wall was a vast collection- all from different animals and all of different sizes ranging from small mice, rats and cats to much, much larger beasts.
Tonight, my hunt took me to the old abandoned industrial area at the foot of the Newtown flats- half rubble, half still standing.
Four large brick factories’ had stood inactive since some time in the 1980’s. The only residents were the occasional half dead body and the odd rat that would scurry over and feast on the bile trickling from the corner of their mouths.
At the time of writing, only two of the factories remained. The one at the back left corner of the industrial area was still in use until recently. It housed Paws in the City, a kennel for runaway cats and dogs.
Unfortunately (for the cats and dogs), a demolition team had not known this when they started to rip through the brick walls, burying alive the animals inside.
Once some digging had been done, a skull-collector would surely hit the jackpot!
I walked across the rubble, mere feet above the freshest pet cemetery in town- the smell of dead animals wafting up all around me.
Standing on the great heap of fresh destruction, I was completely alone, or so I thought.
Things started getting strange when I began to hear a bell. Not a Black Sabbath type bell, but a small tinkle, the sound a cat’s collar would make.
I first heard it ringing about thirty metres over to my right, and presumed it was just some iron or wire moving in the wind.
The ringing made a beeline and came straight towards me at cat like speed.
The witch that haunted my childhood hadn’t been in my thoughts for years- a couple of decades at least. But tonight as I heard that bell, I thought of her again- could instantly feel her presence and I knew she was there…somewhere.
The clouds covered the moon, and I was in pitch black darkness.
Suddenly, the ringing was at my feet and I felt a series of bunts against my shins. Then I began to feel it around my ankles. At first just a gentle brushing, then an inquisitive nibble. But then it tuned into a sharp piercing pain- something was biting me- it’s teeth puncturing my skin and driving deep down into the intricacies of my ankle joint.
Whatever it was, it had a very strong jaw and very sharp teeth. I kicked in all directions but nothing I did seemed to help and I was left to thrash about like madman in the rubble.
I’m not exactly sure what happened after the biting- maybe I tripped and hit my head. What I do know is that when I woke, the biting had stopped and I could see the moon again.
It was then that I saw her, the unmistakeable dark figure standing over in the corner.
She stood there, and pointed at me.
I lay in the rubble, paralysed with fear- unable to move at all.
Then, a voice entered my head.
It was the voice of the Witch.
Shrill and creepy.
“Little boy, little boy…you’re the one, little boy…”.
“You’re the one who used to watch me, aren’t you little boy”
“….you saw the three swipes. You saw me drink the blood. And you saw me eat the guts…”
“…The gods are not happy, little boy. You interfered with the sacrifice and for that you must pay…”
The Witch gave an evil laugh.
“I MUST HAVE YOUR SKULL….” The voice boomed, then returned to its original shrill pitch and finished with “…little boy”.
I saw the figure in black again. This time the Witch was closer and over to the left, only showing herself for a split second.
With each throb of my brain, she appeared closer and closer, until she stood over me with the moon to her back.
I lay at the Witches feet, completely at her mercy.
She moved around me, bending down to arrange a number of rocks and fragmented bricks.
The Witch was making one of her stone circles, and I lay at its centre.
She stepped into the circle, revealed a rusty blade, and reached down to grab me by the throat.
She raised me up towards the cloud hidden moon- my feet inches off the ground.
The clouds parted and I saw her face- her crooked nose and spikey blood stained teeth- she clacked them together like Hannibal the cannibal in anticipation for my blood and guts.
Her skin had a sickly green tinge and looked slightly rotten.
Raising her blade, the Witch prepared herself for the three swipes, and I prepared myself for disembowelment.
“I will have your skull, little boy”, her voice boomed at me.
She raised her arm high behind her and then brought it down in a swift sweep across my abdomen.
I felt a red-hot slice, the first of the three…then the second- upon which time the contents of my belly came slopping out in a warm splurge. The third swipe only speed up the process and I watched the witch slurp and chew on my guts, and this was the last thing i saw…after that, there was nothing.
I left the boys body lying amongst the rubble. It wouldn’t take long for the rats to emerge from the cracks and nibble it all away. Then the cats would do the rest.
His head however, I took with me.
The gods would be pleased with the sacrifice and the coming hunting seasons would surely be fruitful.
I wiped the blood from my knife, pulled by hood down over my face and left the gruesome scene behind.
Out on the street, I kept to the shadows and moved quickly, making sure to keep the lopped-off head well hidden.
Arriving at my house, I went straight to my skulls, as I always did, and admired them for a moment. There were mice and cats and dogs and rats, as well as much, much larger beasts. But the one I held in my hand, the skull of the skull collector, was the best yet.
It was freshly hacked off, fleshy and bloody, with a good head of hair- as black as night.
On a nail in the wall I hung the boys’ head by a clump of his hair.
Knelt before the skulls.
Performed the nightly rituals and repentances.
And went to sleep.