Witches End

by Robert Clay

Mrs. Milliband was old, older than anyone we knew, and she lived in a big Munster-like house with a sprawling garden, filled with strange twisted trees and wild-eyed cats that prowled this mini Serengeti in the middle of our urban landscape. We were just kids, so of course, Mrs. Milliband was a witch, and we imagined her dark boarded rooms as being filled with cobwebs, bubbling pots of terrible brews, and shelves, lots of shelves, crammed with jars wherein unspeakable glistening things floated in murky oily fluids. So one day, we crept onto her grounds, terrified and fascinated, to rub the grime off a window and peer inside in search of horror, and we found it. No pots or jars, no cobwebs to speak of, just letters, dozens of them scattered on tables and chairs, with one still clutched in her dead withered hand where she lay on the floor, jaw slack, still open but unseeing eyes glistening wet, as if they had been crying forever. We learned later that the letters had been written long ago in some distant muddy trench by a young soldier, before he was consumed by war, leaving his new wife alone, to read, and spend a lifetime dying of a broken heart. After that, I never believed in witches again.

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Robert Clay, author of Testosteronium, is a Seafarer now stranded on land. He lives in Cornwall in the UK.