A tickling on my arm woke me from sleep. I brushed then scratched at my arm where the itch was before rolling over and going back to sleep.
The next night the tickling happened again. I rubbed my arm and noticed how cold my skin was so I pulled the duvet closer around me. Dozing off, I thought I’d solved the problem.
The third night the same feeling on my arm happened. Half awake, I looked at my arm in the darkness, nothing stood out and yet it felt like something was there. I turned on the lamp and inspected my arm. All the hairs were standing up but there was nothing else. I went back to bed.
I was expecting the sensation that night. I lay awake and felt for the first time the actual movement of a spider walking along my arm. I turned on the lap quickly without moving that arm and I looked hard, inspecting my skin. There was no spider or bug on me or the bed…. I didn’t go back to sleep.
Night five. I kept the lamp on and dozed fitfully. Once again the hairs rose on my arm and I felt the spider walking there. I slapped my arm hard all the way down, hoping to kill whatever it was. Then I got up and washed my arm, scrubbing it almost raw. Back in bed, lamp still on, I slept well.
It didn’t end. Each night, the spider walked across my skin. Sometimes I lay awake waiting for it and other times, I woke up feeling it there. I went to see doctors, I got treatments, I brought new bedding, I washed before I slept, I tried everything I could but the spider didn’t go away.
Now, I feel it all the time. The spider is always there, walking up and down my arm.
The ropes bit deeply into her wrists but she held her head high. Around her, villagers chanted, ‘witch, witch, witch!’ She ignored their cries and walked bare footed to the edge of the pond.
Everything was already set up, the witch hunter hadn’t delayed. He pushed her into a chair and she was tied into it. More ropes cut into her skin and cold prickled through the under dress she had been stripped too.
She said nothing. Knowing there was no sense in talking to anyone. They all believed what they wanted to believe and how could the single voice of the accused sway a crowd like this?
A crank handle was turned and slowly she rose up. Men pulled her out over the surface of the water. The villagers started yelling and waving their farming tools or whatever else had been to hand before they had come storming to her hovel.
The witch hunter called for silence and spoke out, ‘if she floats she is a witch. If she sinks she is not!’
‘Witch! Witch!’ the villagers yelled.
She felt the cold swirl of the pond water against her toes then her whole body was plunged into the water as the rope holding her snapped. She heard the screams of the villagers then nothing as the water closed over her.
It was time. I walked across the beach, wet with seaweed as the tide was coming in. Bringing my dad’s ashes back here was fitting. We had loved this beach as a family and there was special rock we had all ways sat on.
It was there I dug a deep, deep hole and hide him under the sand. I could have just thrown the ashes into the sea but I couldn’t let go that easily. At least here, I knew where he was.
Patting the sand back into place, I let the tears fall.
The last of the sunset was a glimmer in the sky, the final hint of color disappearing into the night. Darkness rolled in fast then, bring with it heavy rain which the blustery wind used to hit everything it could with. A rumble of thunder echoed in the distance, sounding like cannon fire.
Looking out on to my empty street, I saw windows of light from nearby houses, flashing car headlights down the road and leaves tumbling past. I looked for the lightening, craning my head up to search the sky, but none came.
I closed the curtains on this scene and went to stir the flames which were gaining strength in the fireplace. Waves of heat were beginning to roll off and the logs were blazing.
Settling on the sofa with a heavy woolen blanket over me, the weather and fire became background noises. I sipped hot chocolate from a polar bear face shaped mug which steam was still curling off of. Placing that down, I picked up the heavy book and opened the anthology of ghost stories into my lap.
It was a crazy idea, an office set up outside wouldn’t work! Mr.Cooper believed his team would be more productive without the ‘shackled desk’ atmosphere. It did improve things for awhile but then it rained and nobody wanted to work outside anymore.