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You Pedal, I'll Steer (part 6)

We rejoin our reluctant hero, John, on his way to school where he has to pass by a real witches house...

I was late going to school the next morning and had to pass Miss Hatten’s house alone. I don’t know what made me do it but I glanced over as I went by and there she was peering through the tangle of branches at me. I should have made a break for it but our eyes locked and I froze like a stick of wood. Just like that, the witch had me. I couldn’t even scream. All I could do was stare back at those two dead eyes and mess of gray hair while she wove me up in a spell. My heart whacked away on my ribs like a fist pounding against a door to get out. But my legs were locked. I remembered a scary story where a guy slowly turned to stone from the feet up and ended up a whole statue and now it was really happening! I could feel the clammy wet cement creeping up my veins.
“What are you looking at, kid?” she snarled. The she slammed her door and the spell broke.
I beat it straight to school wondering if I would forever be under her control any time she wanted. I decided I’d keep my trap shut about this. I wouldn’t even tell Alec.

The rest of that week Alec and I practiced riding every morning after our routes and worked on our two seater in the afternoons. School was hateful so I spent all the time I could on the desert island figuring out how long we could survive. I discovered a cave where we were safe from the flash storms. I even taught the others how to hunt and fish. After supper, I tried to teach Gully how to balance a treat on his nose. He kept eating them so I switched to getting him to walk on his back legs. All he did was bark. So I decided to teach him to sit down and shake hands. He already knew how to sit.
By Friday, I was still spooked about what happened at Miss Hatten’s. I was scared her spell worked and she had mind control over me. It made me wonder if she was directing me not to tell anyone. So I mustered up the nerve to tell Alec. I wrote a note in 19 and told him to meet me in 3. Gully and I waited together, but not long. I heard him crawling through the tunnels and Gulliver went half way to meet him which always slowed things down.
“Back off! Stop licking! Come on, move out of my way, dog.”
Finally, the two of them popped through and Alec listened carefully to my story.
“You don’t know how close you came,” he whispered when I was all done.
“To what?”
“I never told you what I’m about to say before because you were too little. But now that you’ve seen for yourself, I can tell you what happened.” He moved closer and talked so quiet I that even my breathing was louder. But my big ears caught everything. “Years ago, when she first moved here, she was like anyone else. She had a husband and kids and everything. But they moved into that house without knowing it was spooked by an old hag ghost that was murdered hundreds of years ago. Well, the old ghost possessed Miss Hatten and she went crazy. Her husband left and the kids stopped going to school and the windows were always dark. By the end of just one year, no one ever saw her kids again.”
A shiver ran right up my back and crawled around my scalp before it zapped my whole skin. “What happened to them?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, but I had to.
His eyes closed to slits and he took a quick peek through the crack in the blanket door to make sure no one was outside listening. “Promise you won’t tell anyone?”
My mouth was dry. I could see her dead eye stare floating in front of me like she was warning me off. I had to defy her. “I promise.”
“She ate ‘em.”
“That’s what they say, though no one ever proved it. The official story is their dad came and took them but people around here know better.”
“You’re making that up.” Although... “Who told you?”
“Chris heard it from his mother who knows the Seaton’s next door. They were here when it happened.”
I thought about the old white haired couple next door. They must have lived here since the street was first built. They wouldn’t lie. So it had to be true. “Ohmygod.” I could feel a big lump in my throat and my hands shook. “Do you think I’m her zombie slave?”
He pulled my eye lids up to have a close look. I rolled my eyes around so he could see the whole ball. Then he shook his head. “Not yet. But you have to be real careful how you pass her house from now on. We better go over the rules.”
I listened very carefully while he explained about staying on the far sidewalk and never looking at the house even when she isn’t there because it’ll make the spell stronger. Then I memorized a couple of spell breaker words in case she got hold of me again. I felt a lot safer by the time mom called us down for supper.