Cruel Laughter (full version)
By Scott, 12, East Grinstead, West Sussex, England
The heavens opened and lightning cracked through the cold night, illuminating the dark forest ahead of us. It was closely followed by a clap of thunder and rain started plummeting onto the car roof. It dribbled down the window from which I was attempting to peer out. I breathed against it, forming even more condensation, and wrote against it LOST. That had been the only word that my family and I kept coming across this holiday.
I told you to turn right! Mums voice brought me back to my senses and I found I had landed back on earth at the worst possible moment. Mum and Dad were having a heated argument in the front two seats, whilst my little sister Angela, my friend Andy and I sat miserably in the back waiting for a decision to be made.
It was your stupid idea to come here anyway! Dad roared, I wanted to go to Spain but no, he held onto the last word drawing it out to its full potential, you decided we were going to Scotland!
Dont you dare accuse me, youre the one who doesnt seem to know the difference between left and right! Mum retaliated.
Well you can talk; at least I can read a map!
If it werent for your terrible judgement, wed be there by now! I told you just to wait patiently in the traffic jam but you had to decide it wasnt moving so you took one of your detours! You even had the nerve to say you knew where you were going! Like hell you did!
The jam wasnt moving and I did know where I was going, if only youd had the common sense to tell me Id missed the turning, then maybe we would be in bed by now!
The traffic was moving and quite quickly actually and its not my fault youre deaf and couldnt hear my shouting that you were going the wrong way!
Oh well maybe I should get a hearing aid, as long as you promise to never act as my navigator again!
Dont you worry about that because Im never going on holiday with you aga
Mum broke off as a sharp wail cut through their argument.
A sob came from next to me and I realized that my sister was crying. She whimpered again and then began loudly once more. She bawled and tears streamed down her face. I looked ashamed at Andy; my family knew how to behave when in company! I saw my parents glance guiltily at each other and Mum reached back and picked up my four year old sibling and hugged her.
Oh Richard Im sorry, Mum apologized to Dad, Our stupid argument upset Angela.
No it was my fault really, Dad admitted, Now lets turn round and drive back home, forget the holiday, sorry Andy, Dad now addressed my friend, I know I said Scott could bring a friend but in light of whats just happened, I think it best
Dont worry about it, Andy cut in, I had the feeling he wouldnt mind going home; my family was bound to give him a headache. Well, I know they would to me if I were in Andys shoes.
Richard, did you say were going home, Mum asked her eyes narrowing, Because I did not come all this way for nothing! Were continuing until we find the hotel!
I felt another argument brewing and covered my ears.
Mary, I refuse to drive through that forest! Dont you know the stories about it?
Dont be such a coward!
Mum had barely finished her sentence when the temperature dropped by several degrees. The headlights went out as did the car light and our torches. We were in total blackness when I became aware of a blur whizzing around the car. Leaves flew up and attached themselves to the car windows. In the background the howling of wolves could be heard but over it all was a loud, eerie chanting. It was like someone humming, but only this creature was unfamiliar with the art. The voice was not sweet but full of menace and evil. It lasted a few minutes then with the whispering of the wind, faded into the night.
Im scared. Angela sniffled and began sobbing again only this time she did it in silence.
Lets get out of here, Mum squeaked.
Right, agreed Dad who had turned pale.
He turned the ignition key but nothing happened. He tried again but still to no avail.
Come on Richard what are you waiting for? Mum asked but she knew very well what was happening. Dad stared dumbfounded at the dashboard. His eyes narrowed and with an exasperated cry he wrenched the key and twisted it with all his might. I expected this to merely break it but to my surprise this attempt had actually had an effect. The car began to rumble, the radio came on but it still would not start properly. I clutched my head in my hands. We would never get home. Suddenly I looked up, the radio had started crackling as if there were an interference, and then, to my astonishment an ancient, harsh voice brought the singing of Blink 182 to a premature end. Uncharacteristically for this radio station, a weather forecast has interrupted the music hour. Something uncanny was happening.
Hello everybody, Im here reporting the weather. Sorry about cutting off the music but, ha ha ha, were experiencing technical difficulties. After saying this, the voice cackled unnervingly. Anyway back to the weather. Freak thunderstorms have been interfering with the ignition of cars and have been forcing the wind to act in an extraordinary manner. Lights have been dimming or even extinguished and unusual noises have been heard. People caught out in these storms are advised to take shelter under trees. Well thank you for listening and now we return to the music
Say it aint so I will not go, turn the lights off, carry me home
Dad switched off the radio just as the song started again.
Well I guess that explains it, Andy concluded, Looks like theres nothing to be afraid of, but he sounded doubtful.
I guess youre right, Mum agreed, but she sounded cautious as well, as if someone had told her it was a bad dream and it wasnt real. I knew this because it was exactly what I was thinking!
Theres still one thing that bothers me, Dad commented, Wood conducts electricity so seeking shelter under trees is a bit stupid.
Dad, I said, In case you havent noticed, normal thunderstorms do not prevent cars from working and do not make weird noises! So this is not a normal thunderstorm and so I think normal rules of science do not apply! Its a good thing we took the camping stuff so lets put it to use and just take it and find a spot to sleep in the forest! Me and my big gob! If I hadnt said that maybe none of the following events would ever have happened
Im hungry, Im bored, Im hungry, Im bored, Im hungry
Angela, were all hungry and bored but were not complaining so shut up! I yelled at my sister and I plucked her off my back and made her walk instead.
Im hungry, Im bored, Im tired,
How can you be tired youve only had to walk a few paces?! I asked incredulously and I gave her a subtle kick.
Im hungry, Im bored, Im tired, that hurts, Im hungry, Im bored, Im tired, that hurts
Pack it in you two! Mum snapped.
I glared at Angela and she stared right back. I was looking at her and not where I was going, so was surprised when I crashed into Dad, who had halted in front of me.
Look ahead, Dad told us.
I turned my gaze and to my astonishment saw a small hut with a thatched roof. It had been totally painted black.
Do you think someone lives there? Andy asked.
I havent got a clue, I replied.
I turned towards Angela ready to kill her but to my surprise Dad actually took notice of her, normally when shes complaining he ignores her.
Angelas got a point, theres enough shelter here, lets set up camp.
Are you sure Dad? I asked, I dont like the look of that house.
Dont be so superstitious Scott, Dad mocked, We dont even know if anyone lives there.
I suppose so
Forget that grotty hut, Andy reassured me, Lets play cards.
We played until we decided it was time for bed. I climbed into my sleeping bag, bid Andy good night and settled down to a night filled with nightmares of flying leaves, howling wolves and above all a blur hissing at me, hissing of death
Let me play! Angela screamed.
No way, I retorted.
Go on then, I laughed.
Mummy, Mummy Scott wont let me play football with him and Andy!
Angela, dont bother Scott when hes with his friend.
It was the next day and the weather had cleared up considerably although it was still dark in the forest. Well with so many trees, the lighting would never be any different. Dad had gone to fetch the car, assuming it would now work. I laughed at my sister again and began to dribble up the improvised football field wed made using trees as goals. I glanced over at her and saw she was sulking at the edge of the pitch. I looked down at the ball again and saw a black fur ball launch itself from nowhere. It flew past Angela and headed straight towards me. My eyes widened and I covered my head waiting for the impact. But after a few seconds I realized it hadnt actually hit me. It had been heading for the ball at my feet. I looked down at the fur ball and saw it nudge the football between my legs and quickly follow. I lifted a foot, not wanting to tread on it as it rushed past my other, destabilising me. I teetered and then tumbled head first into the mud. Groaning I picked myself up and focused my eyes on this odd appearance. It was in fact a black cat. Feeling my gaze, it spun around and fixed me with a hooded stare. It had large, green, bulbous eyes.
Im terribly sorry young man, Bleens very playful today.
I twisted round quick as a flash and saw a decrepit looking women standing behind me.
Who are you? I squeaked.
Its so wicked of me not even to introduce myself. You may address me as Ms Itch. I live in the hut over there.
Angela and Mum came up to me and there was an awkward silence.
Whos Bleen? I asked finally, deciding it was up to me to make conversation. Bleens my cats, Ms Itch answered Hes black with green eyes so I came up with the name Bleen, a cross between black and green.
Oh, well its very
imaginative, Mum said at last but she was thinking the same as I was, this old ladys a nutter!
Dont worry Im not crazy, she laughed. I was astounded that she had read our thoughts? But there was something else bothering me. Her laughter, it was more like a cackle. The fact was that I was sure Id heard that before.
Well Ill leave you campers to enjoy you day, shall I? she said by way of ending our conversation.
Thats very thoughtful of you, Ms Itch, Mum said remembering her manners.
I turned to go back into my tent when I felt a trickling down my hand. I looked and saw and small dribble of blood pulsing from a cut I must have received when I fell over. Ignoring it I started to walk again when Ms Itch spoke to me.
You should put a plaster on that cut.
I cocked my head and stared suspiciously, How did you know I had a cut?
Oh thats simple I saw the blood dripping onto the ground, she answered patiently.
That was understandable enough although I felt shed reacted too quickly as it was only a small cut and the blood would take time to run off my hand.
I have plasters in my hut why dont come with me and soon well have you right as rain.
Yes thats a wonderful idea, thank you very much Ms Itch, Mum jumped to the idea.
I wouldnt need plasters if it werent for her stupid cat, I muttered.
Scott, how dare you! This kind ladys trying to be nice so you will go with her!
Actually my dear lady, Ms Itch told Mum, I totally agree, it was my cat thats why Im trying to help him, now come along child.
Oh dear I really should cut my nails, Ms Itch tittered, apparently oblivious to the excruciating pain she was causing me. It was in her abode and I was even spookier from the inside than from the outside. There was only one room with an uncomfortable looking black bed, open black wardrobes containing dress after dress of black clothing. A glass, black cabinet containing black bottles, beakers and flasks of black mixtures, in fact the only item in the hut that wasnt black was a weathered brown broomstick. It sat in one corner of the room, on either side of which were black bookshelves containing black bound books. When we entered, Ms Itch sat me down in a black chair, explaining that obviously her favourite colour was
black. Id felt like saying Durr! but thought it unwise, her being my nurse as it were. Then she went to one of her bookshelves, took out a book and proceeded to her glass cupboard. She mixed a few of the liquids and then to my astonishment took a plaster from the bottom of the vial, which I was sure hadnt been there before. When I asked her about this, she explained that the liquids helped keep the plaster fresh; somehow it sounded like quick thinking to me.
On examining my small wound, she declared there was dirt in it and that it needed to be cleaned. I personally saw no dirt in my cut but waited patiently for her to fetch some water. So I was completely unprepared when she sunk her extremely long nails into my cut and began fiddling about.
My mother taught me this manoeuvre! she shouted above my screams, Water is no good, its absorbed by the skin however if you go in personally and remove the dirt, that is flawless!
I had no doubts now that Ms Itch was crazy. Sticking great long nails into a cut will only make it fester.
Although, she said as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, Medicine was not that developed in my mothers time, however she said Marie Currie taught this to her so it must work! Ha, ha, ha!
I was in too much pain to regard the bizarreness of this comment and also that trademark cackle didnt help matters.
Please, I begged at last, Stop!
She did not take any heed to this and she only stopped when someone knocked at the door. Quickly, she withdrew her nails and clutching my hand I glanced at them. I hadnt noticed but they were actually longer than I had thought. In fact they were longer that any normal persons nails. They were drenched in blood but the scariest thing was her warts. Her hands were covered in large slightly green warts. I looked away and felt that I was going to be sick. The sight of those bulbous green warts, tainted with my blood was enough to make anyone ill. Not to mention that I was still in excruciating pain. I felt like I was going to pass out and I would have done if it werent for the knock on the door which became more insistent.
Im coming, Im coming, Ms Itch called.
She rushed over to me, slapped a plaster over my blood-drenched wound, tipped my head back and poured a hot liquid down my throat with the quick explanation that it would make me feel better. I doubted it but didnt resist, and then waited while she answered the door. To my surprise it was Andy.
Youre just in time, she declared, Ive just finished treating him.
I staggered out and walked with Andy back to the tent where we found Dad talking to Mum.
Wheres the car? Andy asked.
Gone, Dad said simply, Someone must have taken it and hotwired it or something. Ive alerted the insurance and theyll send out another car tomorrow. But theyre all the way in Ireland and the next ferry they can catch is in two days time, well be camping for another week I think.
Never mind, Mum reassured Dad, were getting our holiday after all.
I think, I stammered, Ill go to bed now.
Good idea, Andy agreed, Its getting late.
A cackle-like sound made me jumped but I couldnt locate it. All I could see was blackness. Then someone approached me as a wolf howled in the background. It was Ms Itch. She cackled some more and walked closer to me. I tried to walk backwards but couldnt. I was trapped!
My mother taught me this, she cackled and drew back her wart covered hands. I stumbled and fell in a heap on the forest floor. She laughed again and plunged her sharp, deadly nails straight into my heart. I screamed. My body jerked and I sat up straight. I was in my sleeping bag with sweat dripping down my forehead. I was breathing heavily and my eyes were open wide with terror.
Whats wrong? Andy groaned, yawning. My yell had obviously woken him as well.
Nothing, just a bad dream, I answered, Go back to sleep.
You havent been right since we met Ms Itch, Andy commented, You dont like her do you?
No, I admitted, I dont know why but theres something weird about her.
Dont take this the wrong way Scott, but I think youre just being paranoid. Shes just a lonely, old lady who lives in a forest. She hasnt done anything to harm you so why dont you like her?
Im not sure, I answered Its just a gut feeling.
What actually happened in her hut? Andy asked.
The weird thing is Andy, I cant remember. All I know is that I went in with her and came out with you.
Try and recall what actually happened while you were in there, think back, try to focus, Andy said soothingly.
Wait somethings coming back
yes, yes I recall seeing the inside of her house, everything in it was black except the broom. Ms Itch read a book and mixed some liquids together and I was aware of seeing a plaster appear at the bottom of a vial. I was sure it wasnt there before.
Andy prompted me.
Blank, I said. I dont remember anything until she made me drink something and then I left with you. Its like she spiked the drink or something.
Andy snorted, Thats ridiculous, shes an old woman, shes harmless. I agree its spooky that your memory is fuzzy but I dont think Ms Itch has anything to do with it.
Well then, tomorrow night come with me and Ill prove it. Well go into her lair while shes asleep and Ill find evidence that shes meddled with my memory.
Fine but I think youll be disappointed.
And with that we both promptly went back to sleep.
Are we still on for tonight, I asked Andy in a hushed voice the next morning.
Sure, Andy answered, And Scott, sorry if I was a bit nasty last night.
Same here, I said.
We were sitting in my parents tent having breakfast while Mum was bustling about preparing Angelas breakfast while she slept on. Dad was sitting on his sleeping bag reading a book.
Oh bother, Mum declared, I forgot to bring a can opener. Scott, be a dear and go and ask Ms Itch if she has one I can borrow.
Cant Dad go? I whined trying to avoid the chore, but I secretly dreaded meeting up with her again.
Your fathers actually doing something whereas youve actually finished your breakfast, and as far as I know, youre not engrossed in anything major, Mum insisted.
Alright, I said resigned to the fact that I wouldnt win this argument.
The forest was as dark as ever and that I was alone today didnt help. I quickened my pace and soon entered the clearing. I wondered whether Ms Itch would be up yet, after all it was only nine oclock. I walked towards the black, oak door, and noticed the black curtains were drawn. Id knock and if there was no reply I would go and tell Mum smugly that Ms Itch was still asleep. But my plan was short lived. The door must have been unlocked and so the wind had pushed it ajar. I had no choice but to enter. Gathering all my courage, I knocked and swung the door open. Ms Itch was sitting in a black leather chair facing a black framed mirror. She was evidently putting on her make-up. When she heard me enter, she jumped up in surprise and faced me. I staggered backwards in astonishment. The only make-up she was using seemed to be face-powder, and in liberal quantities. Half her face was covered in pale powder and I recognized it as her normal skin colour. Except I now knew that it was a charade and it concealed her real colour which was
green! The part of her face that wasnt covered in powder was a sickly pea green! Her hands were green, her feet were green her face was green, she was green!
Get out! she screamed, Out you measly maggot, go before I
I didnt wait for her to finish, I flew from her hut like lightning, ready to tell Andy the horrific news.
Im telling you, you imagined it, Andy persisted.
And Im telling you I didnt, I argued back, Ms Itch has green skin. She powders herself so she looks normal.
Thats ridiculous, Andy declared.
Maybe, I replied, But I know what I saw. Anyway whatever there is to discover, itll be found out tonight. Lets have dinner so we can pretend to go to bed early.
Good idea. Lets find your parents.
We walked together to my parents tent but they werent there. I was surprised but not worried. I suggested that they could be possibly in Angelas tent but again they were nowhere to be found. By now I was beginning to fret, this was unlike them or Angela to wander off without telling me. Andy looked uneasy as well.
Lets have a look in the forest, Andy decided.
Ok, I agreed, But we mustnt stray too far in, remember, the camps being left unattended.
We hacked through bushes and undergrowth but still to no avail.
Its useless, I sobbed eventually. I sat down and felt tears welling up in my eyes.
I looked down, not wanting Andy to see me cry, and saw something sparkle on the ground.
Andy look, its Mums necklace, we must be on the right track! I exclaimed, hope returning to me.
Lets go, Andy said and we set off at a run. After a while, I stopped and said, We dont even know if they went this way. Hope once again faded from me but was rapidly replaced by fear from Andys next suggestion, Lets go and ask Ms Itch if shes seen them.
No! I shouted.
Scott, if you want to find you family, youve got to do things you dont like now come on!
Alright, I agreed and we set off to Ms Itchs hut.
Im sorry boys but Ive no idea where your family could have got to, the old crone drawled.
I was sure shed had a hand in their disappearance but dared not challenge her.
Oh well, thank you anyway, Andy said politely, They might be back by now, while we were looking for them.
I certainly hope so, she said and she patted me on the head and told me not to worry. Andy turned to go and I followed suit, anxious to escape her. I sneaked a final glance at Ms Itch before leaving. Anger bubbled up inside me as I saw she was grinning. Instinct told me she had kidnapped them for sure. I turned away in disgust and my eyes fell upon a large bunch of keys. I stared incredulously at the sight and I ran to catch up with Andy.
My family wont be back at the camp. Theyre in Ms Itchs hut. Theyre key rings! I shouted.
Thats absurd, Andy retorted.
I saw them! They were tiny key rings, attached to her keys! I shouted angrily.
Its you imagination again Scott, it defies all the laws of physics! People cant suddenly become key rings! Andy cried back.
For once in your life Andy, realize that science doesnt always answer everything!
Ok, ok whatever; now lets go and find some skeletons in her cupboard.
You never know, we might actually find some skeletons in her cupboard literally! We cant do anything now though, lets wait till nightfall.
We crept silently through the forest, as quiet as mice. Andy looked confident that Ms Itch was innocent and I was a nervous wreck.
How are we going to get in? I asked when we arrived. It was a point both of us hadnt taken into consideration. If we threw something through one of the blacked out windows, we would wake her. But in the end this was not a problem. The front door was still unlocked; I doubted if she ever locked it. Andy and I looked at each other and nodded. He reached slowly for the handle and very slowly and deliberately pushed the door open. It squeaked and he paused, listening to see if wed woken any life within. Eventually he continued pushing it open until the crack was wide enough for us to slip through. The first thing I looked at was the bed. Lumpy shapes could be seen from under the duvet. I was rooted to the spot but Andy began to tiptoe slowly towards the bed. I had no idea what he intended; was he going to wake her as he inched closer. I could hear his breathing and saw him, even in the dark, squeeze his eyes shut and rip back the duvet. Nothing was there. There were a few black pillows which were causing the lumps but otherwise, we safely concluded Ms Itch was not in. Andy nodded to me signing we should begin our search. We drew our torches and began to rummage around the hut. I immediately hunted for the bunch of keys and easily found them on the table.
Look, I hissed to Andy, Theyre my family!
They do look a lot like them, but it cant be, keep looking.
I pocketed the key rings and went over to the book shelf. Andy was examining the broomstick. He picked it up and said to me, This brooms very light, lighter than it should be. He laid it on the table and began taking his hands away from it but very slowly. I dropped the book I was holding in surprise. The broom had jumped from the table and was hovering. When he moved his hands, the broom swiftly followed. Ok
this is different
Andy said uneasily.
The brooms flying! I said stupidly. Andy jerked his hands violently and the broom fell to the table.
Well, weve established that Ms Itch has key rings that look like your family and she has a flying broomstick, Andy concluded, still not believing his eyes.
Focusing, I picked up the book Id dropped and began to flick through it. My jaw dropped. The title of the book was Ye Old Spell Book What use was this to Ms Itch? I wondered out loud. Andy came and peered over my shoulder and his jaw dropped too. I began looking at the pages and suddenly everything clicked into place. The pages were set out like recipes with titles. One title was Stopping cars from working, another said Jamming radio stations the next few were Conjuring plasters, Memory loss potion and Trapping peoples souls within novelty items. The back page was blank apart from Ms Itchs name. I looked more closely at it and my eyes widened.
Ms Itchs first name is Wilma, I said shaking.
Andy prompted me.
Think about it; put her first name as an initial.
Ms W Itch. I dont get it?
Put it together,
bravo, a voice made us wheel around. It was Ms Itch! So you finally learnt who I am, I salute you, she mocked.
It was you! I said not managing to keep the anger from my voice. It was all you! You were that blur, you made our car break down! You jammed the radio station to lull us into a false sense of security so wed come into your forest. You conjured the plaster and made me forget what really happened and you transformed my family into key rings! I hate you! I yelled.
Im touched, she said sarcastically, But dont fret, youll soon be joining them. She began walking towards us and I saw the door wide open behind her. Shed returned while we were engrossed in her book. We backed away from her and hit the wall. She cackled and spread her arms wide. A glow formed around her turned into a ball which headed straight for me. I drew back waiting for the impact, but it never came. Andy had thrown himself in the balls path.
Andy! I shouted. He stood up straight and rigid and slowly began to shrink. A burning light shined around him.
sorry I ever
Every syllable looked like agony for him.
Its alright, you were the best friend ever, I sobbed.
Run, run, dont let her get you too!
I looked up and saw Ms Itch glowing again. It was a matter of seconds before I too was a key ring. I was still holding the book and gathering all my strength, flung it at the window. The window smashed into a thousand pieces and glass shards rained on Ms Itch. I took my chance and leapt from out of the hut and began to run. I expected Ms Itch to chase me but she didnt. She stood at the window cackling.
No one will believe you if you reveal my real identity! she shouted.
Maybe not, I retorted, But one day Ms Itch, Ill get you back for all that you have done to my family and my friend! And thats a promise set in stone!
I turned and began to run towards civilization followed by a cruel laughter.
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