Halloween in Dunwich Part 4 - The Witch of Altar Rock
CoC 1-6e Jazz Age
“Why are you so gross, Cousin Maureen?” Gordon said.
“H-hi, Cousin Maureen,” Edward said.
“You’re not a cousin,” Donald said.
“Why, you children shouldn’t be out on a night like this,” Cousin Maureen said. “Dark things be loose on nights like this.”
“Well, why are you here?” Donald said.
“You’re so brave for comin’ up here,” Cousin Maureen said.
“Uh-huh,” Donald said.
“Oh thank you!” Edward said, smiling at her.
“C’mon on, now,” Cousin Maureen said. “Ah’ll take y’all back ta the house where et’s safe.”
“No!” Donald said.
Gerdie ignored the woman and tried to read what was written on the altar. They symbols were Hyperborean but the letters didn’t spell out words. They seemed to be more runes that letters to write something. Maybe it was some kind of enchantment on the rock. That was her best guess at least.
“Listen,” Cousin Maureen said. “I don’t wanna kill you, but I will if I must. You’re not powerful enough to stop me.”
“C-c-c-cousin Maureen, I-I-I─” Edward said.
“So, you shouldn’t even try,” Cousin Maureen went on.
“I-I-I-I didn’t - I didn’t even think that-that-that-that murder was on the table,” Edward said.
“This boy’s being rude,” Cousin Maureen said of Donald.
“No, it’s on the altar,” Gerdie corrected Edward.
George rolled his eyes. Girls were so dumb.
“Listen, you’re all family,” Cousin Maureen said. “You’re all descendents from me. I’m your great-great-grandmother. And as family, I love all of y’all.”
“Then why you trying to kill our parents!?!” Donald said.
“I-I thought you were our cousin,” Edward said.
“Yeah!” Donald said.
“No, that was a fib,” Cousin Maureen said.
“I’m your great-great-grandmother.”
“A thousand years old or something!”
“Only a hundred and twenty six.”
She smiled condescendingly at him.
“Well, that’s a long time!” Donald said.
“I was betrayed by my husband,” she went on. “And murdered by him and his brothers. Because they found out about my beliefs.”
“They why you trying to kill our parents? They don’t know!”
“Because, once the ritual’s finished, I’ll be alive again. And once I’m alive, I can raise you and provide you with a loving home.”
“I’ll teach you magic. I’ll school you in the nature of my faith. I’ll help you attain powers you can’t possibly imagine.”
“But I like my mom and dad!”
“They’re holding you back, boy.”
“No, they’re not!”
“I draw well. They teach.”
“All you have to do is wait ‘til morning. Let’s go back to the house.”
Cousin Maureen turned to Alice.
“What about you?” she asked.
The little girl looked at her for a moment, frowned, and then turned so her hair fell between her eyes and Cousin Maureen’s, cutting her off from her. Alice was torn though, because she wanted to know but she also wanted her mother and other relatives back.
“Edward?” Cousin Maureen said.
“Why you gotten kill ‘em?” Donald said very quietly.
“I-I-I-I-I think an alternative solution should be sought out,” he said. “‘Cause I don’t - I-I-I-I-I don’t think I quiet agree with the moral - the moral implications of it.”
“Well, we can sit here and talk about it as long as you want,” Cousin Maureen said.
“Huh-uh!” Donald said. “We don’t got long.”
“You got plenty o’ time,” Cousin Maureen said.
“No, we don’t!” Donald said. “They’re gonna die in the morning because you’re mean!”
“You got plenty of time,” Cousin Maureen said again.
“I-I-I-I think I will a-a-a-a-agree to talk once you - once you turn the spell off,” Edward said.
“Well, how ‘bout you?” Cousin Maureen said, turning to Gerdie. “Little Gerdie. My great-great-grandchild?”
Gerdie just fiddled with her little handkerchief filled with Hyperborean coins.
“What about you, little boy, you’re from around here?” Cousin Maureen said to Gordon. “You have great potential.”
“I don’t know you, witch!” Gordon growled.
“That’s so rude,” Cousin Maureen said. “That’s so rude. You rude boy! What about you in the shadows over there?”
She looked past them all where George stood away from the group. He looked a little confused.
“George, you dummy!” Gordon said.
“You shut up, Gordie!” George called back.
“Well …” Donald said.
Edward stopped and picked up a handful of dirt off the ground.
“All right,” Cousin Maureen said. “All right. There. It’s stopped. It’s stopped now.”
“No, it’s not!” Donald said.
“We can talk as long as you want,” Cousin Maureen said.
“You’re a liar!” Donald said.
Edward looked at the cauldron but nothing seemed to have changed.
“You’re a rude little boy,” Cousin Maureen said to Donald.
“Well, you’re a liar!” Donald said. “You’re mean to us too! You tried to kill our parents!”
“Shush,” Cousin Maureen said. “They’re not important.”
“Y-y-y-y-you─” Edward said.
“Yes they are!” Donald said.
“─you - you told a fib!” Edward said.
“What have you done with them!?!” Alice said.
“They’re safe,” Cousin Maureen said. “They’re sleeping.”
“No, they’re not!” Alice said.
“No, they’re not sleeping!” Donald said.
“We read your diary,” Gerdie said.
“You put them to sleep and they’re going to be asleep forever!” Alice said.
“That’s so rude, to read another person’s diary,” Cousin Maureen said.
“We didn’t know it was yours,” Donald said.
“It’s still rude,” Cousin Maureen said.
“It just looked like an old book,” Gerdie said.
“We didn’t know,” Donald said.
“You’re bad children,” Cousin Maureen said.
“We thought it was Grandpa’s,” Donald said. “It was old!”
“You are rude, rude children!” Cousin Maureen said. “But I can teach you some amazing things.”
“Parents,” Donald said. “No. Leave them alone.”
Edward walked over to the cauldron and Cousin Maureen suddenly screeched loudly, changing into a strange, stinking semi-corporeal floating corpse. Gordon, Alice, and George were all shocked by the terrible transformation and the horrific thing that stood before them. Alice dropped her jack-o-lantern and it didn’t break when it hit the ground but rolled over. The candle within went out.
Donald was right next to Alice and grabbed up the pumpkin, snatching the candle out and lighting it on the fire, scorching his hand a little, and shoving the candle back into the jack-o-lantern. Gerdie, next to the horrible ghost witch, shined the light from her pumpkin on the apparition. The light apparently burned the ghost and she shrieked in pain.
“You bad little girl!” the witch said.
She floated to Gerdie and swatted at her with one hand. Gerdie ducked and as the ghost’s hand passed by her face, she could feel a terrible cold coming of it. It was like the coldest, most bitter winter wind ever. Edward dumped dirt into the cauldron. Nothing apparently happened, which confused him as he thought his trying to put dirt into it in the first place was what caused her change in the first place.
Donald stepped forward and shined the jack-o-lantern on the witch, burning her.
“You can do this, Donald!” Simon called, following him.
The other children wondered, for the briefest of moments, if he followed Donald around all the time and encouraged him.
Gerdie continued shining the jack-o-lantern at the witch, burning her even more. Then George charged across the clearing with a scream, baseball bat held high in his hands. He brought his baseball bat down on the witch woman while shrieking “Leave my mom alone!” The bat passed harmlessly through the witch’s ghost and crashed against the altar. He cried out in pain from the sudden impact he didn’t expect.
“You gotta use a jack-o-lantern, dummy!” Gerdie said. “You can’t hit ghosts!”
The witch’s ghost flitted around the altar and to the cauldron.
Uh-oh! Edward thought.
She reached into the boiling cauldron, scooping up a handful of the misty green wisps within.
“You’re a bad boy,” she said in a deep, rough voice, pointing at him her other hand.
She flung it at Edward who let out a shriek of terror. The strange wisp missed him, flying by his face. He thought he heard a maniacal, inhuman laughter from within as he passed.
Giggling goo? Edward thought.
Gordon ran over to the cauldron, pulling out the jar of applejack they’d prepared and opening it.
“Hey, Maureen!” he called to the ghost. “What would happen if I poured this in the cauldron?”
Alice drew out and opened her switchblade knife but wasn’t sure what to do. She had seen George’s ineffective attack and watched Gordon with his bottle of poison.
“Uh …” she said. “Uh …”
She moved towards Gordon.
Donald moved to the ghost and shined his jack-o-lantern at it. It burned her. Gerdie moved towards the witch, shoving the other children out of the way and shining her jack-o-lantern light on the ghost, burning her.
“You are terrible children!” the witch cried out in a horrific voice.
George looked around unsure what to do since his baseball bat didn’t seem to hurt the ghost.
“You old … you old bag!” he cried out.
He smashed one of the poles over and over and over again with his baseball bat.
“Gimme. My. Mom. Back!” he shouted each time he strike the pole.
The pole shattered under the youth’s attack.
“Why don’t you do it and find out!” the witch’s ghost said sweetly to Gordon.
She reached into the cauldron again, pulling out more of the nasty-looking wisps and flinging it at Donald. When the wisp hit him, he felt it clawing and biting at him as if it was alive as it dispersed into thin air. It burned and was horrific.
Gordon dumped the moonshine in the fire, hoping to douse it. Unfortunately, the alcohol in the poisoned applejack fed the fire and it roared and burned blue for a few moments. The stench of rotten flesh filled the air. Gordon got a big face filled with stinking smoke and turned green, putting his finger to his mouth. He stumbled forward and puked into the cauldron.
“Gordie!” Edward cried. “Gordie, I appreciate the effort but alcohol is flammable! Thank you!”
“I even knew that!” Donald said.
Alice, standing next to Edward, picked up the jack-o-lantern he’d placed on the ground when he got the dirt. She shined the light on the witch’s ghost and burned it. She shrieked once again.
Edward looked around, realizing the dagger they’d found hidden in Great-Grandpa Silas’s room might be magical and, if so, might be able to harm a ghost even if other material substances couldn’t. He also realized the other thing that might be able to harm a ghost … was another ghost. He thought Gerdie had the knife but didn’t see it on her.
“Black knife!” He yelled. “On the witch! Simon!”
He pointed at the other ghost.
“Get punching!” he cried out.
Simon looked confused.
Edward put his foot on the cauldron and tried to push it over. He could feel the heat under his shoe and the cauldron didn’t move at all. He was not a strong boy, however.
Donald ignored the goo still upon him and shined his jack-o-lantern on the witch’s ghost, burning her more. Gerdie took the knife out of her pocket and held it out to Alice. Alice grabbed it while George beat on another pole.
“That’s mine!” the witch ghost said to Alice.
She flew around George and tried to slap Alice but the freezing hand missed her.
Gordon ran over by Edward and tried to shove the cauldron over with his foot as well.
“Oh!” Edward said. “Th-th-thank you - thank you for the assistance!”
The two boys working together, shoving the cauldron with their feet. It tipped but then tipped back.
“George, get over here and help tip this thing!” Gordon called.
“What!?!” George said.
Alice slashed the witch’s ghost with the dagger. She was surprised to feel resistance against the dagger when she struck the incorporeal corpse. The witch screamed. Clear ectoplasm spewed from the wound and then dripped off the ghost.
“Simon!” Donald said. “Go hit her!”
“I … I … I … I’m scared!” Simon said.
“Don’t be!” Donald said. “Just get over there! Just do it! Just do it!”
Simon nervously jumped from foot to food and shook his fists in front of him, anxious.
Gerdie shined her jack-o-lantern on the witch’s ghost and the horror shrieked again as the light struck her. With a scream of anguish and rage, she faded away into nothingness. The altar stone stopped glowing and Simon faded away at the same time, though Donald could still see him. It became much darker on top of the hill, even the flames dimming almost immediately. The strange mist in the cauldron flew out and vanished in the woods. It appeared to be filled with just gunk.
“You could write out the symbols,” Gerdie said to Edward.
“Oh!” he said. “Let me get out my note - my notebook.”
He dutifully copied the symbols into his notebook. Gordon told George to help him tip over the cauldron.
“Dammit Simon!” Donald said.
“I was scared,” Simon said.
“Simon, you didn’t help,” Donald said.
“I was scared,” Simon said.
Alice got out her switchblade and the magic knife and compared them. The blades were about the same size.
“Well, Cherise, I guess you got a friend,” she said to her switchblade.
She tucked them both away.
Gordon and George pushed over the cauldron and all the nasty liquid within poured out and down the hill.
“Why?” Alice said. “What are you doing?”
“Because!” Gordon said.
“What is that?” Donald said.
“Ew ew ew,” Alice said. “What are you doing?”
“Boy-boy-boy, I-I really thought we would’ve - I really - I really thought we would have done that a little bit sooner,” Edward said. “It’s embarrassing.”
“What are you talking about?” George asked. “What do we do?”
“I think it’s okay now,” Donald said.
“Our parents!” Alice said. “We gotta check on them! We gotta make sure that they’re alive! That they’re okay!”
George pointed at her and nodded.
They walked back down the hill, Edward staying to copy the symbols and Gerdie and Gordon staying with him. Donald, George, and Alice went down the hill towards Great-Grandpa Silas’s house. The three who stayed caught up to the other three in the cornfield. Gerdie got her jack-o-lantern from where George had put it by the tree.
At the house, they found everyone still sleeping. Gerdie shook Great Grandpa Silas.
“Whu?” he said.
Then he grasped his head.
“Aw …” he muttered. “That applejack had a lot more in it than I thought it would.”
His eyes were red and bloodshot.
“You were right Grandpa, it was the witch!” Gerdie said loudly. “The witch cursed your applejack.”
Great Grandpa Silas shushed her.
“Just … I’m going to bed,” he muttered. “I …”
“Here’s your keys back,” Gerdie said.,
“Oh,” he said. “Oh, thank you. Tell me in the morning. You’re a good girl. Tell me in the morning.”
He wandered up the steps, holding his head with his hand, obviously suffering a terrible hangover.
Gerdie went to her parents and woke them up.
“Gerdie, go to bed,” her father said.
“Great Grandpa’s right!” she said.
“You’re not in bed. You need to go to bed.”
She got them up and to one of the makeshift beds prepared for them in the house.
The other children woke their parents, all of whom suffered from what seemed like terrible hangovers: splitting headaches, sour stomachs, and feeling generally awful.
“No wonder there’s a prohibitin,” Gerdie said.
Edward looked over his notes of the symbols and found his jack-o-lantern was still in fine shape. He set L’il Ed out on the front porch safe and then got Gerdie to show him what the symbols he’d copied meant. Gerdie did her best, but she was very tired.
Donald had gone to the kitchen and got the apple jack jug that was left. He took it out into the back yard and poured it out, then flung the jugs away. The place on the grass where he poured the applejack turned black, much like the trail they’d found in the woods. He returned to wake his parents.
“Don, what?” his father said.
“You’ve been sleeping,” Donald said. “You … just slept here. You need to go to bed.”
“Okay,” his father said.
His mother and father headed for their room.
“You drank too much,” Donald said.
“I know,” his father moaned. “I know.”
“I’m more used to wine anyway,” his mother said.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Donald said.
Alice let her mother sleep and curled up by the fire herself.
* * *
The next morning came far too early for any of them. Thursday, November 1, 1928, was a cool but very sunny and pretty day. All of their parents still had terrible hangovers and more than one of them swore off applejack for life.
They had a big breakfast together but only the children were willing to eat the fried eggs, sausages, bacon, and hash browns. The adults mostly stuck to coffee and toast. Alice had eight pieces of toast with strawberry jam.
“Do you still see him?” Alice asked Donald. “You know: Simon? Anymore?”
“He’s right here,” Donald said, pointing to empty air.
“Ugh,” Alice said.
Simon waved at the girl who waved back at where she thought the ghost might be.
“She can see you still!” Donald said to Simon.
“No,” Alice said. “No, I can’t see him.”
“Oh,” Donald said. “You waved at him. Don’t lie.”
Gerdie told Great Grandpa Silas about their adventure and he listened but obviously didn’t believe the girl. Despite the other children backing up her amazing story, he merely smiled at her.
“That’s a great story,” he said. “That’s a good Halloween trick.”