Samhain – 31st October – Present Day
Seagulls caw their lonely cries as they hang in the wind that whips the waves outside the harbour.
It is now the 21st century in the village of Port Gwyneth. Change has been slow, but inevitable. Tracks have become roads, dwellings of wood are now buildings of masonry.
On one side of the cove, the stones still stand on. On the other promontory of the cove, a relatively new addition. A landmark Art Deco hotel. Four storeys of white reinforced concrete surrounded by scaffolding.
A lone dog walker, an old man, walks the labyrinth of cobbled streets. Lost in thought, he considers changes wrought on the village during the decades of his long life. He no longer lives in the cottages around the harbour. No longer living in the cottages around the harbour, ramshackle back when he was a child, he and other fishing families, have moved up to the top of the hill.
Glad to escape small, damp dwellings, to larger, sunnier, pebble-dashed council houses. With indoor toilets, and all the mod cons needed for an easier, more comfortable way of life.
Rich incomers, from wealthier parts of the country, now live in the old, quaint cottages. Few live in them all year round. A part time dream, the idyll of living by the sea.
Port Gwyneth is busy in summer with tourists, wandering around, cluttering up the narrow streets. Much of the work here is seasonal, and unemployment is high.
Holiday season over, it’s October’s end, a few leaves on the trees are red and gold, most lie brown and mouldering beneath. The beginning of winter, the dark half of the year. Celebrated, this day, in the old pagan festival of Samhain.
Underneath a grey and heavy sky, few lights can be seen along the Quay, and the streets are quiet. Summer visitors, long gone.
The village is place where sudden storms blow up, and down again, in an instant. Sea pounding cliffs and rain scouring the treeless moor in the distance.
The local secondary school, high on the hill, becomes immersed in black, foreboding, clouds. A storm coming, fierce enough to raise the dead, to unearth dark secrets.
Sitting on the toilet, Mizzy can’t believe what she sees. A deep, brown, gunky-gross stain in her underwear. Not a shock, she has been expecting it, but, how did her mum know it would be today? Today of all days. Her birthday, and the day Mr. Trenwith insists on doing his stupid lesson about the silly witch.
Thank god mum insisted on slipping a spare pair of knickers and a sanitary pad into her school bag, thinks Mizzy. Aware that any telltale signs will provoke jibes and cat-calls from her classmates.
When they began to bleed, some girls spent the entire day crying, not wanting to grow up. Mizzy feels only relief. ‘So, I’m a woman now,’ she mutters to herself, ‘good, it’s a start.’ It’s great being a child when you are small. The older you get, however, the more annoying it is having everyone telling you how to live your life. To have to dress in the same uniform every day, put up with all those silly rules about behaviour. Not just the ones school invents, but also ones her classmates live by. The way you should look, the things you should be interested in. Not thinking of the world around them, only their own little lives. Who’s snogging who, what clothes are in fashion, and the amount of makeup you can get away wearing. She has hidden her contempt them. Sneaking away to spend lunchtimes by herself, reading.
Now she is a woman, she is determined things will be different. And they will be, for everything in her life is about to change.
A group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds, shuffle into the classroom, and slump into their chairs. Mr. Trenwith, the history teacher, stands before them.
A short, narrow-shouldered young man, wearing a tweed jacket with patches at the elbow. He hopes this attire makes him seem older, of greater academic stature. Although born in the village, he feels his few years away have changed him. Given him a more metropolitan outlook than the locals.
‘Today,’ he intones to the class, ‘is Halloween. Now, seen as an opportunity for some harmless fun. Behind these modern celebrations, however, there exist stories of past superstitions. Which led, over three hundred years ago, to a terrible event in this village. I’d like to discuss the lessons to be learned from the behaviour of our forebears. Mizzy, perhaps, you can tell us your feelings on this.’
Mizzy has been dreading this moment, becoming the centre of attention of the whole class. Flicking her long red hair over her shoulder, she looks up and feigns surprise, ‘Sir?’
‘Come on, Mizzy, it’s your family history, after all,’ replies Trenwith in exasperation, ‘You, of all people, must have an interesting perspective on what happened?’
‘Not really, Sir, I mean, people were just superstitious then, weren’t they? Believed in magic and all that, and they picked on an old lady. Sad and all that, but it was a long time ago.’
Zara Rowe, the golden tanned queen bee of the school, looks up from secretly checking her smartphone, ‘Sir, Sir,’ she interrupts.
‘Yes, Zara, do you have an opinion?’
‘Well, Sir, I think she must have done something bad? No smoke without fire is there?,’ She replies, pointedly looking around at her posse of similarly bronzed followers.
Taking her cue, Kylie takes the chewing gum out of her mouth. Looking, knowingly, at Mizzy, she pipes up, ‘The Kemp’s have always been a bit weird.’
‘Yes, Zara is right,’ interrupts her boyfriend, Tyson, ‘didn’t the old bag poison people and that?’
A voice, quietly interjects, ‘I doubt it.’
The class all turn to look at Oskar Ostrowski, the new boy who started at the school in September. Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, he stands out from his fellow classmates. Realising he is the focus of attention, he blushes.
‘Oskar,’ says Trenwith, interested in this contribution from the quietest child in the class, ‘You have an opinion?’
‘Yes, I do,’ replies Oskar, a little surprised at his own forwardness, ‘Maybe, they just made her a scapegoat, because she was different from them.’
‘What, like you, an emmet!’ smirks Zara.
‘Actually, Zara, Rowe is a Norman name,’ says Trenwith, ‘so, you see, even your family were once emmets!’
The class laughs, but rapidly fall silent as Zara gives them a vile look. Nobody messes with Zara Rowe, the Squire’s daughter.
Before the discussion proceeds, the Headteacher, Joyce Menhenick, bursts through the door, clearly, in a state of agitation.
‘Sorry to interrupt, Trenwith, I’m very concerned about the weather.’
Trenwith’s gaze transfers from Mrs. Menhenick, to the view from the large panoramic window. All the broad sky is grey and getting darker.
‘Hmm, yes, take your point, could be in for a nasty storm.’
‘Yes, nothing forecast, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t turn quite serious. I think we should all get home before it sets in.’
A wave of relief passes over Mizzy. Talk of the long distant history of her family having caused her to sink further into her seat, in acute embarrassment. Who cares what happened hundreds of years ago?
‘What’s an emmet?’ asks Oskar, catching up with Mizzy, as they walk out of the school entrance, under the glowering sky.
‘A nickname villagers use for incomers,’ replies Mizzy, ‘families on holiday, or moved here.’
‘Not very friendly, then.’
‘No. Considering most people make their money from them, a bit stupid, too.’
‘That Zara? Why’s she so stuck-up?’
‘Thinks she’s special, being the Squire’s daughter. Leader of the pack. They all act they’re having an amazing time, they drive me nuts. Shoving each other and screaming with laughter. As shallow as piss on concrete. Airheads. If it doesn’t involve pointing their phones at themselves, and pouting, they’re not interested.’
‘I feel sorry for them.’
‘Why? They’ve seen you every morning walking to school, with your nose in a book. Call you the Geek, you know, behind your back?’
‘I don’t care, I’d rather that than follow the crowd. We’ll never fit in, will we?’
Missy’s eyes flash, ‘What do you mean? You know nothing about me.’
‘You wear nice, but plain clothes. So, I’m guessing you don’t care about dressing up for people.’
‘Right little Sherlock, aren’t you?’
‘Also, judging from your posts on Instagram, you’re more into the world around you than taking selfies.’
‘Private detective and online stalker? Must keep you busy,’ says Mizzy, though her tone is light.
‘You keep yourself to yourself. You might’ve lived here all your life, but I reckon you’re just as much an outsider as me. Is it the witch thing?’
Mizzy laughs, ‘Yeah, having a mum who thinks she’s a witch tends to make a kid a target in this place. What about you? How did you end up here?’
‘Dad’s restoring the Promontory Hotel.’
‘So, you’ll be going once he’s finished the building work?’
Oskar smiles, ‘Bit of a cliché, assuming dad’s a builder because of my surname?’
‘Sorry!’ Mizzy says immediately, ‘That was dumb of me.’
‘Don’t worry, you’re not the first. Dad’s an architect. Used to come here on holiday when he was a kid and loved playing in the derelict old hotel. Always promised himself, if he ever had the money, he would return and restore it to its former glory. Made a packet in London, and so here I am. They’re spending a fortune rebuilding it.’
Absorbed in conversation, without realising it, they walk straight into Zara, and her posse. Surrounding them, circling like sharks.
Zara, eyes blank and chilly, stares at them, ‘Oh look, it’s the Ginger Witch with her new boyfriend, The Nerd!’
‘He’s not my boyfriend.’ Mizzy, coldly, replies.
‘Not done witchcraft on him, yet then?’ laughs Zara. ‘No,’ replies Mizzy, ‘perhaps, I should use bitchcraft, like you.’ ‘We should give her a dunking and see if she floats?’ says Kylie, provocatively.
‘Yeah, What do you reckon, girls?’ encourages Zara, ‘Shall we see if the witch sinks or swims?’
‘Rather be a witch than a stuck-up cow,’ counters Mizzy, knowing she has gone too far. Zara can’t back down now, without losing face in front of her acolytes.
‘Least, I’ve got mates, unlike you losers,’ laughs Zara, jabbing Mizzy sharply in the stomach.
This display of violence, is too much for Oskar, and he shouts, ‘Stop trying to pick a fight with us.’
‘What you going to do about it, Nerdy? You, think you saddo’s worry me?’
Mizzy replies, ’I’d be really worried if I were you.’
‘Why’s that then?’
‘You said yourself, I’m a witch aren’t I?’
Raising clenched fists, Mizzy chants, ‘Salmay! Dalmay! Adonay!’
‘She’s casting a spell or something!’ screams Kylie.
With a rumble of thunder, the threatening storm finally breaks, as Mizzy brings down her hands. With a loud bang, a cloud of purple smoke surrounds Zara, ‘I, don’t know what you did then, but that’s not normal,’ she shouts, in fear and anger, eyes wide in shock, ‘you’re a freak. Normal people, shouldn’t have to be in the same school as you.’
‘Za, best leave it, she’s not worth it!’ pleads Kylie, looking at Mizzy warily.
Zara flounces off; trying to maintain a facade of indifference, her entourage trailing after her.
Dumbfounded, Oskar says, ‘Well, that bit of magic scared them off.’
‘Not Magic – Science – I just said some made up rubbish words from one of my mum’s old books. The rest was a chemical reaction.’
Mizzy points to a broken glass vial on the ground, ‘See. Made it in the Science Lab. One-half zinc and iodine, the other water. Break it, so they mix, and you get a pretty little purple explosion. Don’t try it at home.’
Laughing, Oskar replies, ‘Wow, and they call me a nerd?’
As snow begins fluttering down, Mizzy smiles back at him, ‘Come on, we better get down into the village before it gets worse.’