Musings & Thoughts

642 Things – The Witch Child

“You are a camp counsellor. Make up a story that will scare the bejeezus out of your eight- to ten-year-old campers.”
NB: Apologies for my absence on the blog for the last week, I’ve been very busy at work, lots of additional shifts plus preparing to actually guide the tours! However, now that I’m working as a ghost tour guide, it’s perfect that I happened to open the book on this prompt!
Ghost of little girl dressed in white in the woods

     Tonight I’m going to tell you the story of a little girl named Annie. Annie lived hundreds of years ago, in the 17th century, in a village not too far from here. Her father had died when she was just a baby, struck down by disease. She lived with only her mother, in a small, simple cottage just outside the village. Her mother worked as a healer, gathering herbs from these very woods, which she would use to treat the sick people of the village. For many years, they lived simple, peaceful lives, until Annie was nine years old.
     Until the witch trials began. Women and men across the country were being accused of witchcraft, and executed when they were found to be guilty. One of the ways of identifying a witch? Healers and herbalists, those who were magically able to cure the sick. People didn’t understand how these herbal remedies worked, so they grew suspicious and distrusting of these people. People like Annie’s mother. Despite all the people in the village who she had helped to heal, to save from near-death, they turned on her. The villagers came to the cottage, bursting through the door, and dragging Annie’s mother in to the centre of town. She was accused of having dealings with the Devil, that he had granted her these mysterious powers. She denied the accusations, sobbing and pleading for mercy, but the villagers had become a frenzied mob by this point.
     They began to torture her, beating her and hurling stones at her, kicking her as she lay cowering on the ground. She tried to withstand the pain, until she caught sight of Annie. Her daughter was being held back, as she frantically tried to reach her mother, to try to help her somehow. Not wanting her daughter to see this horrific event continue, she screamed out for the crowd to stop, shouting that yes, she would confess, if they would just stop. She begged them to take her daughter away, to spare her the pain of watching what would come next, and to take care of her, as she was an innocent in all of this. They listened to her confession, but not to her requests.
     Without wasting a second, Annie’s mother was tied up while the villagers quickly built a bonfire in the town square. She was fixed to the stake in the middle, and the whole thing set alight. Annie had been held this entire time, as she continued to fight tooth and nail to reach her mother. But no one would take her away, to shield her from the execution, as they were all too eager to watch it themselves. Annie watched, screaming and crying, as her mother was burned at the stake. Once the event was over, and the villagers set about clearing away the remains of the fire, only then was Annie released. She sat in the town square, crying from pain and sadness, and sheer exhaustion. She sat there until the sun set, and the villagers had gone home.
     Only then did she realise that no one had offered to take her home. She had heard her mother begging for someone to take care of her, yet no one was there. Everyone had gone home, and left the little girl alone. She clambered to her feet and began wandering through the town, clinging to her doll. She wandered back to her home, to the little cottage, only to discover her situation had worsened – in their frenzied rage, the villagers had also burned down the cottage, having taken flaming torches from the stake and run out of town to hurl them at the little house. Annie returned to the village and began knocking on doors, begging for someone to take her in. But none would. She was the daughter of a witch, the child of the Devil. She was no innocent, she was the witch child, and she would grew up to be as evil as her mother, and no one wanted her under their roof.
     Not knowing what else to do, Annie wandered away from the village, tears streaming down her face, still trailing her doll with her. She had learned enough from her mother to know which plants in the forest were safe and which were poisonous, so she began foraging for food. Her fate remains unknown, as the villagers never saw her in person again. However, her doll was found weeks later, washed up on the river bank not far from the village. 
     And from that point, strange stories began to come from the village. People would hear screaming and sobbing late at night, the screams of a little girl in pain, screams which kept many of them awake all night. They reported objects flying across the room, as if thrown in anger. They found themselves waking up with scratches and bite marks, with no explanation for where they might have come from – the sorts of marks of a little girl fighting to be free of their grasp. And some even claimed to have seen a little girl roaming the woods around the village, her face wet with tears, flickering in and out of existence between the trees. They would run away when they saw her, more certain than ever that she was indeed a witch child, and the Devil had granted her these unnatural powers that haunted them.
     These stories continued for years, and even now, these woods and that village nearby are still haunted by Annie’s spirit. The spirt of a hurt, angry little girl, still seeking revenge for what happened to her mother, and for her own abandonment. So, if you hear screams or crying tonight, or if you wake up with scratch marks, or see a little girl wandering the woods, well then you may find yourself suffering the wrath of Annie…
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