Gordon led them out of the house and they headed for the apple orchard. As they walked away from the house, the back door suddenly flew open with a crash. No one was standing there.
â€œWhat if sheâ€™s gonna kill our parents while weâ€™re gone?â€ Donald asked.
â€œThatâ€™s what the poisonâ€™s for,â€ Gerdie said. â€œTo kill â€˜em.â€
â€œWell the door flew open,â€ Donald said.
The wind picked up and Alice ran for the apple orchard with her switchblade out.
â€œYouâ€™re not supposed to run with scissors, let alone a switchblade,â€ Gerdie called, ever the voice of reason.
Alice stopped to wait for the rest.
As they headed for the apple orchard, one of the apples on the ground flung itself at them, flying over their heads and barely missing Gordon.
â€œWhat was that!?!â€ George cried out.
â€œMaybe we shoulda brought more pumpkins!â€ Donald said.
â€œHow can pumpkins protect us?â€
â€œMaybe youâ€™re hiding it and they canâ€™t see it.â€
â€œItâ€™s right here!â€
â€œWell! Why are they flying at us?â€
â€œWell-well-well-well, we can - we can conduct an experiment,â€ Edward said. â€œIf we - if we - if we light one of the pumpkins and see if it happens and, if it happens again, then they donâ€™t protect us.â€
â€œYeah, light it up!â€ Donald said.
â€œThereâ€™s not a candle in this pumpkin,â€ George said.
He still held Edwardâ€™s jack-o-lantern.
â€œPut one in there,â€ Donald said.
Gerdie took one of the black candles out of the pillowcase and put it in her terrible-looking jack-o-lantern. She lit it and it flung strange lights all over the place.
â€œThatâ€™s not even a jack-o-lantern!â€ George said to her. â€œItâ€™s just a pumpkin with weird holes in it!â€
â€œSoâ€™s yours,â€ Gordon said.
George looked at Edwardâ€™s jack-o-lantern.
â€œThis is a jack-o-lantern!â€ he said. â€œWill be if thereâ€™s a candle in it.â€
Edward lit one of the black candles and put it into the jack-o-lantern. Alice did the same, taking one of the black candles into her own and lighting it up. Gordon put a regular candle in his own jack-o-lantern and lit it. A couple of more strange things happened but neither was anywhere near Aliceâ€™s or Edwardâ€™s jack-o-lanterns. Donald guessed it was because they had the black candles in them. Edward and Gordon figured the well-carved jack-o-lanterns, when they had a black candle within, were keeping the terrible spirits away.
â€œE-e-e-excuse me, group,â€ Edward said. â€œI-I have an announcement. My hy - my hypothesis was correct.â€
â€œYour what?â€ Donald said.
â€œOh. Whatâ€™s that?â€
â€œIt-it-it-it is - it is a reasonably concluded prediction based-based-based on a â€¦â€ Edward said.
â€œWhat did you find?â€ Alice asked.
â€œI-I think that - that the - that the pumpkins - that the pumpkins that turned out - that turned out well,â€ Edward said. â€œSorry - sorry Gerdie. W-w-when they - when they have the candles in them, they-they n-n-nothing bad has happened to people who have those.â€
â€œJust â€˜cause mineâ€™s different doesnâ€™t mean that itâ€™s bad,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI-I-I-I-I didnâ€™t mean - I didnâ€™t mean - I didnâ€™t mean to say that but-but-butâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œItâ€™s bad, Gerdie,â€ George said. â€œItâ€™s so bad.â€
â€œWhat do you know!?!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI have eyes!â€ George said.
â€œBut-but-but-but what I, wellâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œLooks like a potato!â€ George said.
Edward, with some difficulty explained how the other two pumpkins with black candles seemed to be keeping the things at bay while Gerdieâ€™s hadnâ€™t.
â€œWell, you didnâ€™t give me your pumpkin,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œMine sucked anyway,â€ Donald said.
â€œWhy, you want this one?â€ George said.
â€œYeah,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œAll right, here,â€ George said.
He handed Edwardâ€™s jack-o-lantern to her and she put her own on the ground. Gordon replaced the candle from the kitchen in his own jack-o-lantern with Gerdieâ€™s black candle. George picked up Gerdieâ€™s pumpkin.
â€œDonâ€™t hurt my pumpkin!â€ she said.
George moved it from the center of the path, putting it next to a tree.
â€œSo nobody steps on it, dummy,â€ he said.
Alice continued walking through the orchard. The strange things stopped happening to them completely, as if whatever was causing it feared the jack-o-lanterns and was keeping its distance. They crossed the apple orchard without any other problems. On the other side was Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s cornfield, which had very few stalks left though a few still stood, scattered around the field.
Gerdie noticed some of the scarecrows seemed to be missing.
â€œGordie, you did take the scarecrow costumes, didnâ€™t you?â€ she said.
â€œI did not!â€ Gordon said.
â€œYou took it down!â€
â€œI did not!â€
â€œWell, where is it then?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re right over â€¦ oh,â€ Gordon said.
The other children looked around.
â€œOh, there it is!â€ George said. â€œItâ€™s over there.â€
â€œWait a minute,â€ Donald said.
â€œThatâ€™s closer than it was.â€
â€œDidnâ€™t you say they walked around? You said they walked around.â€
â€œI thought they were bodies!â€ Alice said.
â€œMaybe they were,â€ Donald said.
â€œThey shouldnâ€™t be able to walk around,â€ Alice said.
â€œWeâ€™re not supposed to be out here late,â€ Gerdie said.
It looked like several of the scarecrows were missing. One was nearer to them off to the right, not in the same place any of the children remembered it being during their hayride earlier. Alice pointed it out.
â€œI told you they moved!â€ Gerdie said. â€œYou didnâ€™t believe me!â€
â€œThis is strange,â€ Alice said.
â€œHold on!â€ Edward said, not stuttering at all. â€œNobody look at that scarecrow!â€
â€œI already did,â€ Donald said.
â€œThen look away!â€ Edward said.
â€œOkay,â€ Donald said.
All of the children looked away from the scarecrow. Edward waited a little bit and then turned back. The scarecrow was standing right next to him. Then it lifted up its arms and brought them down on the boy.
â€œMy hypothesis was correct!â€ he cried out as the scarecrow beat on him.
Edward was not hurt though he was terrified.
â€œHey guys!â€ he cried out. â€œHey guys! Gimme a hand with this!â€
Two other scarecrows stood up in the cornfield where they had been laying down and started shuffling towards the children. Alice ran over and grabbed Edwardâ€™s arm.
Donald rushed the scarecrow with his butcher knife, stabbing the thing. It didnâ€™t seem to do much of anything. He grunted in frustration. Gerdie moved towards the scarecrow and held up Edwardâ€™s jack-o-lantern so the light from it fell on the thing. There was a strange hissing noise as the light seemed to burn the cloth that made up the body of the scarecrow.
â€œLook out!â€ George yelled.
He rushed the thing, swinging away with his baseball bat. He struck it in the head, knocking the painted on smiling face of itâ€™s horrible burlap-sack head sideways. The thing stumbled but did not fall. Gordon, having seen the light hurt the thing, also rushed forward and shined the light from his own jack-o-lantern on it.
Alice started to pull out her switchblade but, when she saw the light from the other jack-o-lanterns hurt it, she moved forward to shine her own upon it. Edward backed away, cowering from the scarecrow.
â€œGet behind me!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œThatâ€™s a very astute observation with the jack-o-lantern Gerdie, thank you!â€ Edward said quickly.
The scarecrow beat George about the head and shoulders but it didnâ€™t seem to really hurt the boy. Hay flew from the thing, scattering around the field and the children. Donald held up his lantern but the light from it didnâ€™t seem to do anything to the scarecrow.
â€œGet him, Donald!â€ Simon called.
Donald stabbed the scarecrow but didnâ€™t seem to harm or injure it in anyway. He cursed. Gerdie held up her jack-o-lantern, burning the thing once again.
â€œHome run!â€ George yelled.
He swung and completely missed the scarecrow, leaning back to far during the swing.
â€œYou call â€˜home runâ€™ after you hit it,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œShut up, Gerdie!â€ George yelled.
â€œWhoopsie daisy!â€ Alice said.
Gordon put down his jack-o-lantern and pulled his axe out of his belt. He swung away, cutting the scarecrow in half. The burlap tore, straw flew out, and the scarecrow crashed to the ground in pieces.
â€œSee, thatâ€™s how you do it, George!â€ he said.
â€œNow you can shout â€˜home run,â€™â€ Gerdie said.
George stared at the two for a moment.
â€œI loosened it for you,â€ he said lamely.
â€œThat couldâ€™ve been my head,â€ Donald said.
Alice stared down at the scarecrow. She had not been expecting just hay, but thought a person was in the scarecrow or at least a dead body. Edward was also surprised that the scarecrow was only filled with hay. It had felt like something a lot heavier had struck him before. He looked around and saw Gordonâ€™s jack-o-lantern on the ground. He picked it up and pointed it at the nearest scarecrow, quaking in fear.
The things walked towards the children. Donald didnâ€™t think his knife was hurting the scarecrows so he backed up, putting the children with jack-o-lanterns between him and the scarecrows. Gerdie moved a little in front of Edward, guessing he was terrified. George moved just in front of the children with the pumpkins and waited with his baseball bat, choking up on it. Gordon joined him. Alice moved up to where Gerdie and Edward shined their lights at the scarecrows.
Edward let out a cry as the scarecrows stepped into the jack-o-lantern light.
â€œItâ€™s okay, Edward!â€ Alice said. â€œItâ€™s okay!â€
The scarecrows started to blacken and burn. They still tramped forward and beat on George and Gordon. The one beating on George didnâ€™t really hurt him but the one attacking George injured him a little but, smacking him in the head. Donald, behind everyone, looked behind them to make sure nothing was sneaking up on them. Nothing was.
As the light burned the terrible scarecrows, George swung away again, knocking the scarecrowâ€™s head off and then smashed the body and the legs of the thing, hay flying as it collapsed and stopped moving.
â€œYou got your costume now, Gordie,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah,â€ Gordon said.
He brought his axe down, cleaving the scarecrow right down the center and ripping it to shreds.
â€œCut in twain!â€ he shouted.
â€œThat costumeâ€™s no good anymore Gordie,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWe have two others,â€ Gordon said.
George was still smashing the scarecrow heâ€™d knocked down, bringing his baseball bat down again and again on the clothing lying in the dirt.
â€œGeorge, you donâ€™t have to prove a point,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYouâ€™re right,â€ George said.
â€œI just did.â€
â€œWow, you guys,â€ Edward said. â€œThat was - that was - that was some really good fisticuffs.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Donald said.
â€œYou did really good with your pumpkin,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œThank you!â€ Edward said.
â€œYeah, you just keep holding that,â€ Gordon said. â€œAnd Iâ€™ll hold onto my axe.â€
They continued across the cornfield, George and Gordon leading the way with their weapons ready. A few stalks still stood, along with a few overlooked corncobs. About halfway across, some of the stalks leaned in and the corncobs tried to bite at them. When the light from the jack-o-lanterns hit the stalks, they started burning.
â€œThe cornâ€™s getting revenge!â€ Gerdie yelled. â€œItâ€™s eating us! I knew this day would come!â€
Donald grabbed one of the cornstalks, brandishing his knife to cut it. Gerdie held up her jack-o-lantern and some of the nearby stalks burned.
â€œAh!â€ Donald yelled. â€œI never liked corn!â€
â€œMe either!â€ George replied.
George smashed some of the stalks with his baseball bat. Gordon smashed a few stalks that didnâ€™t seem to be moving. Alice and Edward brandished their jack-o-lanterns, Alice burning an ear of corn, the corn teeth falling out. She reached over to pick up the horrible teeth and found them just pieces of corn. Edward held his jack-o-lantern over his head in defiance of the terrible field.
Corncobs came at Gordon, one of them biting him with strange, corn teeth. He was bleeding and it hurt. Donald cut the stalk that he had grabbed. Gerdie burned more stalks with her jack-o-lantern and then George tore through numerous corncobs and stalks.
â€œDie! Die! Die!â€ George cried as he smashed at the field. â€œYou okay, Gordie?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Gordon said.
They crossed the rest of the cornfield without incident.
As they entered the forest, they found an old trail. Gordon and Gerdie realized there had never been a trail there before.
â€œHey guys, itâ€™s-itâ€™s-it-itâ€™s a convenient trail for us to follow,â€ Edward said.
â€œYes, very convenient,â€ Alice said, suspicious.
She reached down and touched it.
The ground of the trail looked black and they realized it was a very old trail that had been overgrown. The reason it was visible was all the plants growing on it were dead. Plants on either side of the path seemed to be fine.
â€œMaybe they wonâ€™t attack us anymore,â€ Alice said.
â€œW-w-w-what this reminds me of-of-of-of-of when the Romans salted the earth in the Battle of Carthage,â€ Edward said.
They all looked at him.
â€œI guess so,â€ Alice said.
â€œOkay,â€ George said.
â€œOr maybe the witch poisoned it,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWeird,â€ Donald said. â€œMaybe there was a fire.â€
They followed the trail, that led up into the hills of Dunwich. The dark forest of nearly bare trees loomed all around them and they couldnâ€™t see far to either side. It was deathly quiet. No nighttime animals made any noises.
Eventually, they came to a large wooded hill. Strange stones all around the base of the hill glowed softly in the darkness. They examined the stones and found odd writing upon them. Gerdie recognized it as Hyperborean and saw the words spelled out â€œZerrowâ€™s Tower.â€ Other strange writings and glyphs upon the stones didnâ€™t spell out anything in particular.
A little boy was standing not far from Donald. He wore out-of-date clothing and a newsboyâ€™s cap. He had dark hair and looked to be about nine years old.
â€œHey-hey-hey-hey-hey-hey-hey group,â€ Edward said. â€œWhoâ€™s that?â€
He pointed at the little boy and Donald noticed he was pointing right at Simon. Donald looked past Simon but didnâ€™t see anyone there.
â€œHey!â€ Alice said. â€œWho are you?â€
Simon looked behind him too.
â€œNo,â€ Gordon said. â€œYou with the hat, dummy.â€
â€œMe?â€ Simon said. â€œYou can see me?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Gordon said.
â€œYes,â€ Alice said. â€œOf course.â€
â€œWhy wouldnâ€™t we be able to see you?â€ Gerdie said.
â€œâ€˜Cause Iâ€™m always around,â€ Simon said. â€œMy nameâ€™s Simon.â€
â€œWait,â€ Donald said. â€œYou can see â€¦ Simon? Oh.â€
â€œItâ€™s me!â€ Simon said. â€œThey see me.â€
He suddenly frowned.
â€œOh,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re all dead. Youâ€™re all dead.â€
â€œNo,â€ he said.
â€œThey mustâ€™ve died,â€ Simon said.
â€œAre we dead now?â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWhat are you talking about!?!â€ Alice said.
â€œYou mean youâ€™re already dead?â€ Gerdie asked Simon.
â€œYou could see me when you were alive,â€ Simon said to Donald.
â€œYeah,â€ Donald said.
â€œDo you know him?â€ Alice asked Donald.
â€œYeah,â€ Donald said.
â€œIâ€™m Simon,â€ Simon said. â€œIâ€™m his friend.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Donald said.
â€œHey â€¦ does that mean Iâ€™m the only one with an imaginary friend?â€ Edward said quietly.
â€œI hear voices,â€ Gerdie said. â€œDoes that count?â€
â€œOh thatâ€™s-thatâ€™s-thatâ€™s good too,â€ Edward said.
â€œIâ€™m not imaginary,â€ Simon said. â€œIâ€™m dead.â€
â€œYeah, heâ€™s dead,â€ Donald said, dazed.
â€œSo, youâ€™re a ghost,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œAh â€¦ okay,â€ Simon said.
â€œYeah,â€ Donald said.
â€œWhy-why donâ€™t you float?â€ Gerdie said.
â€œIunno,â€ Simon said.
â€œWhat happened to you?â€ Alice said.
â€œI died in a carriage accident,â€ Simon said.
Edward had raised his hand.
â€œEd, just ask the question,â€ Gordon said. â€œWeâ€™re not in school.â€
â€œEx-excuse me,â€ Edward said.
â€œYeah, I got killed in a carriage accident,â€ Simon said. â€œI got squished.â€
â€œExcuse me, Simon,â€ Edward said. â€œExcuse me, Simon. Are-are there little people in your intestines?â€
Simon looked at him.
â€œSee? I told you!â€ Gerdie said. â€œHe got squished but heâ€™s no longer squished.â€
â€œI dunno,â€ Simon said. â€œI donâ€™t know. I canâ€™t get in there. See?â€
He poked at his midsection.
â€œSee?â€ Gerdie went on. â€œGhostâ€™s spirits arenâ€™t affected byâ”€â€
â€œYeah, I got squished,â€ Simon said.
â€œThatâ€™s why I thought Uncle Randolphâ€™s story was weird,â€ Donald said.
George and Alice just stared at the little boy. Alice was a little surprised she couldnâ€™t see through him. He looked solid.
â€œBut youâ€™re not see-through,â€ Alice said.
â€œI wanna poke him,â€ Gerdie said.
She poked Simon but her finger went right through him.
â€œAh!â€ he said.
â€œDoes that feel weird?â€ Gerdie asked.
â€œNo, it doesnâ€™t feel like anything,â€ Simon said. â€œDonâ€™t do that.â€
Simon poked himself.
â€œHey, he canâ€™t get in there but you can get in there!â€ Gordon said. â€œSee if thereâ€™s little people.â€
Gerdie bent her head down and moved towards Simon, shoving her head into his midsection. He leapt away from her.
â€œNo!â€ the ghost said. â€œGet away from me, you crazy girl!â€
â€œGhosts are different,â€ Donald said.
â€œYouâ€™ve seen him?â€ Alice said.
â€œHeâ€™s been here the entire time. I kept it a secret â€˜cause people would think Iâ€™m crazy.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t know he was a ghost! I thought you were joking!â€
â€œUh â€¦ yeah.â€
â€œYeah Donald!â€ George said.
â€œI didnâ€™t see any little people, but â€¦â€ Gerdie said.
â€œNo little people,â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhat?â€ Donald said. â€œWhatâ€™d I do?â€
â€œHeâ€™s real!?!â€ George said.
â€œYeah, heâ€™s real. You wouldnâ€™t have believed me!â€
â€œNo way thereâ€™s little people,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYou were lying to us all this time?â€ George said.
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t have believed me if I said I saw ghosts!â€ Donald said.
â€œI mightâ€™ve. I mightâ€™ve. Would I have told you? Maybe.â€
â€œYou wouldâ€™ve told me I was crazy and I was lying.â€
â€œWell, you are crazy. And you are obviously a liar if you told us he was an imaginary friend.â€
â€œHeâ€™s right there now. Now you can see.â€
â€œYeah, but you were lying before!â€
â€œHeâ€™s not the only one I see!â€
â€œHe just hangs around me all the time.â€
â€œWait. Wait,â€ Alice said. â€œWhy can we see you now?â€
â€œIunno,â€ Simon said.
â€œIs it the lights?â€ Donald said.
â€œI-I-I-â€ Edward stuttered.
â€œIunno,â€ Simon said.
â€œThatâ€™s-thatâ€™s the connection that I made!â€ Edward said.
â€œHuh,â€ Donald said.
â€œMaybe,â€ Simon said.
â€œThis doesnâ€™t hurt you does it?â€ Alice said, pointing her jack-o-lantern at Simon.
â€œWhat?â€ he said.
He noticed her jack-o-lantern.
â€œNope,â€ he said.
â€œâ€˜Cause heâ€™s good!â€ Donald said.
â€œThat-that was - that was - that was - that was - that was a good experiment,â€ Edward said. â€œThank you.â€
Alice looked at her pumpkin and nodded in agreement.
â€œAnyway,â€ Donald said, a little embarrassed that his secret was out.
â€œLying to me all these years,â€ George said to himself.
â€œWell, you wouldnâ€™t have believed me!â€
â€œSeeing ghosts â€¦ there any ghosts in my house?â€
â€œI dunno! I never been to your house!â€
â€œYes, you have. Oh. That was a long time ago though.â€
â€œI donâ€™t remember then.â€
â€œThat was five years ago.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so.â€
George started to describe the last time Donald had come to visit when the two families had met for dinner for some occasion that Donald didnâ€™t remember at all.
Gerdie dug around the large rocks but didnâ€™t find anything else of interest on them.
â€œHey-hey,â€ Edward said, noticing Gerdie staring at the letters. â€œExcuse me. Can-can-can-can-can you read that?â€
â€œYeah, but I donâ€™t know what it means,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWhatâ€™s it say?â€ Donald said.
â€œZerrowâ€™s Tower,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWhoâ€™s Zerrow?â€ Donald said.
He turned to Simon.
â€œDo you know who Zerrow is?â€ Donald said.
Simon shook his head.
â€œC-c-c-c-could you teach me?â€ Edward asked Gerdie.
â€œNo one taught me,â€ she said. â€œBut Iâ€™ve always been able to read it. No one taught me. I donâ€™t know how to teach people.â€
She tried to point at the lettering and read out what it meant. Edward took notes. Then she took out her coins and read out what was written on them. Edward took more notes.
â€œShe put her hand in me,â€ Simon told Donald.
â€œWait, you put your hand through him?â€ Donald asked Gerdie.
â€œYeah,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œThatâ€™s rude,â€ Alice said.
â€œThen I tried to stick my head in him,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWhatâ€™d you see?â€ Donald asked.
â€œI was trying to look for little people, but he ran away.â€
â€œOh. Iâ€™ve never done that before. Simon, can I stick my head in you?â€
â€œNo!â€ Simon said.
â€œAw,â€ Donald said. â€œBut Iâ€™ve never done that.â€
â€œWhat is wrong with girls? Donâ€™t talk to girls!â€
â€œIâ€™m not a girl!â€
â€œShe told you to do it! Donâ€™t listen to her!â€
Edward realized he didnâ€™t really have time to listen to Gerdieâ€™s translation of all her coins.
â€œW-w-w-w-we should exchange - exchange notes later,â€ he said.
She looked at him. Then she put the coins away.
They headed up the trail through the silent and brooding woods. George kept glancing nervously at Simon as they walked.
â€œWhen did you die?â€ Alice asked the ghost.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Simon said.
â€œWhen were you born?â€ Gerdie asked.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Simon said. â€œI was nine.â€
â€œYour nameâ€™s Simon,â€ Alice said.
â€œMy nameâ€™s Simon,â€ Simon said. â€œI donâ€™t remember my last name.â€
â€œD-d-d-d-do you remember your birthday?â€ Edward asked.
â€œNo,â€ Simon said.
â€œThatâ€™s what I asked, dummy,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI never got a party like all the other kids,â€ Simon said.
â€œWhat if today was your birthday?â€ Gerdie asked.
She looked at Edward.
â€œHappy Birthday!â€ they both said together.
â€œHappy Birthday!â€ Alice said.
Simon looked like he was going to cry.
â€œThank you,â€ Simon said quietly.
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you ever give him a birthday?â€ Gerdie asked Donald.
â€œYeah!â€ Alice said.
â€œI do!â€ George said. â€œBut I canâ€™t tell anybody â€¦ so we do it in my room.â€
â€œAw,â€ Alice said.
â€œThey said itâ€™s today,â€ Simon said.
â€œYeah,â€ Gerdie said.
Edward realized the young boyâ€™s clothing looked like something from the early 19th century.
â€œE-e-e-e-excuse - excuse me, yâ€™all,â€ Edward said. â€œIt looks like his-his clothes, theyâ€™re pretty - theyâ€™re pretty old, probably-probably ninety- ninety or a hundred years old.â€
He made a surprised face.
â€œSo, thatâ€™s - thatâ€™s her grandpa,â€ Edmund said. â€œThatâ€™s a grandpa right there.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Alice said.
â€œIâ€™m not a grandpa!â€ Simon said.
â€œHeâ€™s only nine!â€ Donald said.
â€œYeah!â€ Simon said. â€œHow can I be a grandpa?â€
â€œNot nine - ninety,â€ Edward said. â€œHeâ€™sâ”€â€
â€œHeâ€™s only nine!â€ Donald said.
â€œBut he died!â€ Alice said. â€œWhen he was - he was nine!â€
â€œBut it - but it - but it - but-but-but-but-but-but it-itâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œBut nothing!â€ Alice said. â€œIt makes no sense.â€
â€œBut his-his clothes,â€ Edward said. â€œHis clothes - hundred-hundred years ago when-when-when-when he woulda wore those clothes.â€
â€œBut he died when he was nine,â€ Alice said.
â€œHow many birthdays has he had when he was dead?â€ Edward said.
â€œThat doesnâ€™t mean heâ€™s a grandfather!â€ Alice said. â€œYouâ€™re not making sense.â€
â€œHeâ€™s saying it was a hundred years ago when he died!â€ George said. â€œHe just says it poorly.â€
â€œI guess,â€ Donald said. â€œHeâ€™s still nine.â€
â€œNinety-nine,â€ George said. â€œA hundred and nine.â€
â€œNo!â€ Alice said.
â€œNo, heâ€™s only nine,â€ Donald said. â€œHeâ€™s been around for a bunch of years though.â€
â€œOh God,â€ George said. â€œGirls are so dumb!â€
Alice took out her switchblade and, with the push of a button, the knife popped out.
â€œIâ€™m not a afraid of you Alice,â€ George said with a pout.
But he did walk faster.
â€œBut heâ€™s only nine,â€ Donald said.
â€œBut if he - but if he can have a - but if he can have a birthday - if he can have a birthday when heâ€™s a ghost, then he can get older when heâ€™s a ghost,â€ Edward said.
They saw light coming from the top of the hill as they approached. It flickered like firelight.
At the top of the hill was a small clearing. A fire burned in the center, just visible through the trees. Once atop the hill, they found a ring of six poles, each nine feet tall. The poles were set upright and hung with bones, claws, feathers, and bundles of sticks tied into strange shapes. The ring of poles was about 20 feet across with the fire burning in its center, over which boiled a large, black cauldron. Strange wisps of green and white rose from the bubbling fluid inside the cauldron. They seemed to defy the wind and drifted about, slowly vanishing into the forest
â€œI think this is the witchâ€™s place,â€ Donald whispered.
Edward and Gerdie both realized some kind of terrible spell was in the process of being cast. Gerdie, Edward, Alice, and Donald all noticed glowing eyes in the wisps of vapor, making them feel a little uneasy. Gerdie, Gordon, Donald, and George all thought they heard low cries for help coming from the cauldron. They recognized them as the voice of their parents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives currently asleep at Great Grandpa Silasâ€™s farm.
â€œH-h-h-h-hey yâ€™all,â€ Edward said. â€œW-w-w-w-with my studies of - of - of witches - of witches and Wiccan culture I think that th-thereâ€™s a spell being cast and we should - we should - we- we should dump some dirt in the cauldron.â€
â€œDirt?â€ Donald said.
Alice didnâ€™t think he was correct in that regard.
â€œWhat do you mean!?!â€ Alice said.
â€œI mean - I-I-I mean - I mean - I mean - I mean - this-this-this-this is the source of the - of the spell - that-that-that was in the book,â€ Edward said. â€œThe sleep spell.â€
â€œNo itâ€™s not!â€ Alice said. â€œDonâ€™t you anything about nature!?!â€
â€œWhy would you put theâ”€?â€ Donald said.
â€œThings like this are normal!â€ Alice said.
â€œI-Iâ€™ve-Iâ€™ve-Iâ€™ve-Iâ€™ve read several books on the topic,â€ Edward said.
Alice thought on it and realized she might have been mistaken in her assessment of the situation. It certainly did look suspicious.
â€œThat sounds like my dad!â€ George said.
â€œIâ€™m gonna agree with egghead here,â€ Gordon said.
â€œDad!â€ Donald said.
At the far end of the clearing, within the ring of poles, was a large, glowing rock. It was flat and covered in strange runes that Gerdie immediately recognized as more ancient Hyperborean. Edward and Alice could make out strange noises but had not yet recognized their parents.
â€œI hear voices!â€ Donald said.
â€œWe-we-we-we need - we need to figure out how to stop the spell,â€ Edward said.
â€œDid you say put dirt in the cauldron?â€ Gordon said.
â€œWell, maybe thereâ€™s instructions on the altar,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œBust the poles?â€ George said.
â€œWhy dirt?â€ Donald said.
â€œInstructions?â€ George said. â€œLike a manual?â€
â€œYeah!â€ Gerdie said.
George rolled his eyes.
â€œWell, thereâ€™s no witchâ€™s book!â€ Gerdie said. â€œDo you see a witchâ€™s book?â€
â€œHe had a book,â€ George said, pointing at Edward.
â€œWhat if that kills them if you put dirt?â€ Donald said.
â€œWhat - who - who - whoâ”€â€ Edward said. â€œWhoâ€™s in the cauldron?â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t hear it?â€ Donald said.
â€œHear-hear what?â€ Edward said.
â€œVoices!â€ Donald said. â€œIt sounds like my mom and dad in there!â€
Edward listened more closely and then realized the noises coming from the cauldron were voices, calling for help. He recognized the sound of his parents.
â€œSee!?!â€ Donald said.
â€œSimon, do you know anything about this?â€ Alice said to the boyâ€™s ghost.
Simon just shook his head.
â€œI ainâ€™t never seen nothing like this before,â€ Simon told her.
â€œOkay!â€ Edward suddenly said. â€œOkay! Uh â€¦ we need to figure out - we need - we need - we need - we need - we need - we need - we need to figure out what to do pretty quick!â€
â€œSo, we donâ€™t put dirt in it!â€ Donald said. â€œWhat if their souls were in there? No. Well, if they were souls, theyâ€™d look like him.â€
Donald pointed at Simon.
Alice had overheard their conversation and heard her motherâ€™s voice coming from the cauldron as well.
â€œThatâ€™s my mom,â€ Alice said. â€œThatâ€™s everyone! What are â€¦ what are they doing here?â€
â€œWell, they went to sleepâ”€â€ Donald said.
â€œYouâ€™re the witch!â€ George said. â€œYou tell us!â€
â€œExcuse me?â€ Alice said.
â€œWhat?â€ Donald said.
â€œGirls are witches!â€ George said, looking around, obviously terrified.
â€œMaybe the witch wants to use their souls to make her live forever,â€ Gerdie said.
Donald slapped George.
â€œOw!â€ George said. â€œGod dammit, Donald!â€
He slapped the other boy back and a slap-fight ensued.
â€œAll right! All right!â€ Alice said. â€œStop this! You boys are all the same.â€
George picked up his baseball bat. Heâ€™d dropped it when the little fight had commenced.
â€œWell, heâ€™s being dumb!â€ Donald said. â€œI wasâ”€â€
â€œI would - I would - I would - I would make a counter - counter argument that - that if - that if Grandpa - if Grandpaâ€™s story w-was true, maybe the witch is c-coming - coming back for revenge f-from when they stopped - from when they stopped her ritual before,â€ Edward said.
â€œWell, put her back in a hole,â€ Donald said.
â€œYeah!â€ George said. â€œPut her in a hole!â€
â€œMaybe sheâ€™s finding a baby then,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œBut â€¦ what?â€ Donald said.
â€œWhat?â€ Alice said.
â€œGrandpa was a baby when she stole him,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYeah, but â€¦â€ Donald said.
â€œAre-are-are we babies?â€ Edward said.
â€œI donâ€™t - I wouldnâ€™t think so,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œOh no!â€ Donald said.
â€œYou are!â€ George said to Edward.
â€œIâ€™m 13!â€ Alice said.
Gerdie took Edward over to the altar, going around the circle of poles. Gordon followed her. George held back, staying near the trail that led to the hilltop, looking around nervously. Alice and Donald went to the cauldron. As soon as they stepped foot in the ring around the altar, Cousin Maureen walked out of the dark woods nearby and stood near the altar. Gordon, Alice, and Donald, just for a moment, saw her as a moldering corpse and could smell the stench of death about the woman. Donald gasped.