I never really believed in the Witch Tower. No one did.
It was just one of those scary stories parents told their kids to try and keep them from wandering off. The kind high school boys used to terrify grade-shoolers.
But then, somebody told Mabel Young about the tower, and she wanted to see it for herself.
“Can you come with me after school to find the Witch Tower?” she asked me after calculus class on Monday. Mabel is the new girl in school, quiet but smart, which makes her an easy target for bullies.
I know the feeling and figured she could tell. Probably why she sort of latched onto me. She’s kind of pretty, so I don’t really mind.
“That’s just an urban legend,” I told her, but she wouldn’t hear it.
So the next day, Tuesday, we headed out to Steckler’s Woods right after school. It’s mid-October, which meant we should have had about three hours of daylight left, but … we didn’t.
I swear we hadn’t been in the forest for more than fifteen minutes when it started to get dark. I know because we had just walked into the swampy clearing, which was about halfway through the woods.
I’ve taken the cut-through a hundred times, so I know the place.
“See, there’s nothing here,” I said and tugged on Mabel’s sleeve as I turned back toward the main road.
Just then, though, a wet, sucking sound came from the center of the clearing, and when I looked back, a three-story turret stood right there in the path. An old hag of a woman stood on top of the tower.
She wiggled her finger at the two of us, motioning us toward her.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I turned and ran. I guess I figured Mabel would run, too. That she could take care of herself.
When I got to the edge of the woods, a blood-curdling cackle shook the trees around me. I sped up.
I ran straight home and went right up to my room. I called Mabel’s number later on, but no one answered, and I wondered why her mother didn’t pick up, at least.
I didn’t sleep at all that night, last night.
And now, here I sit in calculus class again, and Mabel isn’t here.
I asked a couple of the other kids in the hallway if they had seen Mabel this morning. They both said the same thing …
And Mr. Larson didn’t call Mabel’s name when he took role. I’m worried about her.
I’m more worried about me.
In the legend, no one ever remembers actually seeing the Witch Tower, or the witch. She either casts a spell over them to make them forget … or she makes them disappear.
Mabel is gone.
And I remember everything.