Terrifying things have been happening to Evelyn and Claire, mostly following Claire’s discovery of a strange and mystifying toy called The Garden of Bewitchment…
Evelyn’s head swam as consciousness returned. She lay curled in a fetal position on damp grass – the only patch of grass in a sea of heather and gorse. She struggled to lean up on one elbow, squinting at the pale sun as it emerged from behind a dark cloud. The dampness had penetrated through her clothes, chilling her to the bone, but she must get up. What had happened to her?
Memory swirled back. A strange house. Her sister tall as a giant. The man who had grabbed her. At least… But Evelyn could not remember any distinctive features. Just a shapeless form that grabbed Claire and tossed her aside.
Everything seemed perfectly normal now. The peaceful, bleak moorland. The curlew crying to its young. No sign of the house and garden or of the trees that seemed to have a will of their own. Could she have dreamed it? And where was Claire now? She prayed her sister had made it safely home, waiting for her, probably wondering what had happened to her.
Evelyn struggled to her feet. Her dress – stained with grass and mud. Her hair had come loose, and she had lost her hat. She must get back home. As she set off, she prayed she wouldn’t see any of the neighbors. How would the normally well turned-out Miss Wainwright explain her current state of dishevelment?
She hurried as fast as her tired feet would allow, reaching the cottage in a few minutes. When Evelyn had shut the door firmly behind her, she breathed deeply and called out to her sister. No reply.
Evelyn tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Something had tangled itself up there. She tugged at it, wincing as strands of hair came out at the roots. After a few more tugs, she examined her hand. Lying in her palm lay a small twig. Not heather or gorse. This was unmistakably pine. And there were no pine trees on the moor.
But there were in 'The Garden of Bewitchment'...
Evelyn awoke to darkness. The migraine had lifted, leaving the familiar feeling of physical tenderness. She heard voices and sat up, straining to listen. Claire’s room. Talking to herself again. The words were indistinct, but she recognized the timbre.
Another voice. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Her breathing came fast and shallow. Claire was talking to a man. There could be no mistake this time.
What was he doing in Claire’s room in the middle of the night? Evelyn made to push the sheet off her, but her head started to throb again. She lay back, praying for the pain to subside.
She heard the scrape of her door as it opened.
“Good evening, Evelyn.”
The man’s voice. Distinct. Directly in her ear.
© Catherine Cavendish