The Tonoloway Witch

Holbein-deathBeen writing a lot of ghost stories lately, both inside and outside the novel project–this looks like it wants to be part of a series under the working title The Tonoloway Woods. My usual stuff–cabin, woods, creepers, etc.

The Tonoloway Witch

The man was dressed in shapeless white clothing and he stood still in the forest until he was sure the woman had seen him. Then he started walking towards her.

She’d seen him more than once, so she stood her ground. His gait was formal and deliberate, even as he waded through briars and stepped over tree-fall.

He picked up speed. His face was red. He kept his arms down by his sides, but she could tell he wanted to use them. She could see how much he wanted to shred the forest with his bare hands.

Never before had he made it all the way to the tree line, but this time he walked right out of shadow into sunshine where he stopped and asked, “Is this the hospital?”

There was no hospital, not since the fire. But there was a cabin. She went inside it to drink coffee and read.

He stayed outside, standing just beyond where he should, hands by his side. He leaned a little into the wind when it picked up.

The cold snap brought winter birds to the feeder even though it was only September. The orderly was so still that chickadees and juncos used him, touching off his scalp and shitting berries on his shoulder. By evening there would be bats to contend with as well.

In the morning he was joined by a hairy-kneed patient in a paper gown. The patient’s eyes were milky, and he tilted his face up whenever a bird flapped by. Sometimes he tried to hold the orderly’s hand, but he couldn’t pry open those giant fingers.

After lunch a pharmaceutical salesman staggered out of the forest and stood at its edge, protected from the sun by the orderly’s shadow. The patient tried to hold his hand, but the salesman preferred to hug his sample case to his chest.

The sun set and together the three men teetered between the forest and the cabin. They watched for her silhouette, the cant of her shoulders behind the shade.

They discussed green worlds.

Progress. She had to admit to that. It was time to send out the announcement: The Less Than men were almost here.

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