Andrew calmly entered through the door and stepped upon the cracked and uneven linoleum floor that lined the kitchen entrance of the outwardly innocuous flat. The entire tower block belonged to his employer and the top floor flat was occupied by one Mrs. Wyttick. The extremely old and senile woman was cared for by a trio of deaf orderlies who were also paid for by his employer. Andrew squeezed his way through the corridor until he saw the woman staring at a blank wall; he quickly concluded that the woman was probably not mentally present.
“Good evening,” Andrew said as he sat down. Mrs. Wyttick gave no response; she just wheezed, rhythmically, with an oxygen tank uncomfortably attached to her nose. “Good evening Mrs. Wyttick,” Andrew said. “I am working with the company that pays for your accommodation, and I have been asked to visit you to ask a few questions, and also to pass a message on.”
The woman remained silent, and so Andrew looked towards the orderly who was busily rushing around in the kitchen, and who had failed to pay him any attention aside from a quick smile as he passed her by. He decided to try the old woman one more time. “Mrs. Wyttick,” he said, “I’ve been asked to inquire about your relationship with a young girl named Annabelle.” There was no response from the sunken grey eyes. “Okay,” he added before taking out the note from his jacket pocket. “I won’t get much out of you,” he chuckled. “But I can at least pass this on. Right then—” he cleared his throat. “To the woman who taught the pompous Charles the first humility, and the price of divinity; to the woman who took from Cromwell his eldest son; to the woman who robbed Washington of his teeth, and tasted Lincoln’s flesh…”
“Well fuck me,” the old woman snapped causing Andrew to jump with fright. He looked up to see the decrepit and frail woman snatching the tubes from her nose with a shocking level of energy. “I have not had a gentlemen visitor in so so so so so sooooo long!” she cried, rubbing her hands together and laughing. “Ohhhhh,” she shuddered. “It’s so unfair they don’t let me play much anymore.”
Andrew, still in shock, did not respond, so the old woman leant forward; her eyes narrowed to a slit as she approached the anxious man until she was so close he could smell her foul and putrid breath. And he could see the whiskers on her face twitch with anticipation. “Well!” she shouted. “What is it you want!? Let me guess a little ‘lurv potion’”, she said derisively, before sitting back down. “Bloody hell I hope you didn’t go digging that full title up just for some fucking love potion! It was all just rohypnol for a start. Surely you realize that? All that bloody love people whine on about – witches don’t love love, they love rape for crying out loud you silly boy!” Awkwardly she stood up and tossed her blankets aside. “Look,” she said with a wink, before poking her tongue out. “Do it like this. Grab the silly fucker and pin her down and eurgh,” the old woman began to thrust violently into the air. “Make ‘em bleeeeeeed!” she screamed at a piercing volume.
Suddenly, she became still, and silent. The energy that had bubbled up explosively fell away in an instant. Andrew, unexpectedly afraid of the old woman for reasons he wasn’t fully aware of, heard only the sound of her piss cascading against the floor and the sound of a slow shuddering groan rising from her throat that grew into a frightful, and quivering, climax. Her eyes rolled and her body shook until she quickly sat back down again, and addressed Andrew once more.
“Oh sorry about that,” she said. “I had a flashback to my ninth birthday. Ha!” the old woman slapped her leg and cackled furiously. “Well,” she barked with a stony expression. “What is it? I don’t do love potions. My kind never have. What is it that you want?”
“I’ve been told to ask you about Annabelle,” Andrew answered, visibly shaken.
“Fattie?” the old woman asked.
“I…I…I don’t know,” Andrew stuttered. The old woman sighed, and crossed her arms.
“Yeah it’s fattie they want,” she said. “Oh that… that… that fucking sausage roll of a girl. I don’t know why they’d want her back. She came to me fair and square and I… well I admittedly,” the old woman smiled. “I might have taken an eency weency ever so wee—” and she held up her fingers to just an inch apart. “Oh alright! I took advantage of her. Well… I didn’t. The uh… God I can’t remember their names. The men did it, really. They took advantage of her. And, ya know, fair play to those lads they paid me more than was due because, I mean, who wants to fuck a fatso? Do you?”
The old woman’s eyes pried away at Andrew furiously. “Well do you? Would you fuck a fattie? Or do you chase the chunk, eh?” she added.
“I, um… I don’t under…” Andrew stuttered before the motor-mouthed hag started up once more.
“No!” she shouted loudly. “No one wants to fuck a fatty, not really. That girl should have, as far as I’m concerned, said thank you. I told her, ‘mop up the blood, push it back in like a sock, and say thank you.’” The old woman stopped and pressed her hand against her chest, only to flutter her eyelids innocently. “It was the only way she was ever going to lose her virginity. Best thing ever happened to her were those two or three days. Or were they months? Oh, I can’t remember. But after that I just gave her what she wanted. You can guess what that is can’t you?” she laughed.
There was a pause. Andrew didn’t know what to say. “She wanted food,” the old woman told him. “So I… well I gave her food. Lots and lots and lots of food. I mean at first she wouldn’t eat cause she was uh… well not really all there in the head any more. But then I spoke to him and he gave me my voice in turn for the girl. After that she started chowing down like the little fatty that she was and… well I’d never had a daughter—least not one I didn’t debone or sell—and for a while I actually kind of liked being good to the lard bucket. But I… well you know what it’s like, don’t you?” she asked. “You have something in your hands and you can’t resist so I…” there was a long and pregnant pause as Andrew waited for her to continue. “I pushed her limits,” the old woman finished.
By now Andrew had lost all sense of why he had come, and could not resist asking,
“Well,” the old woman said. “It started with tacks. Then some nails. Then I had barbed wire and passed it through her and started yanking on one end. Then I thought that she clearly handled the pain quite well so I started up with gross things then. Carrion, uh, diseased flesh… I mean shit is the obvious one but God, I eat shit all the time it's hardly that bad.” The old woman smacked her lips together and chuckled. “So I got inventive. I tried stuffing animals in animals, miscarried children, liquefied fat, fermented blood, erm… oh God let me think… there were a couple that really set me off. That was it!” she cried. “The syphilitic whore. Oooooh,” she cackled. “That one had me a good ‘un. I mean for fuck’s sake lad it was one big flappy boil. Size of a fuckin’ cricket ball it was! To think it started out as some poor slapper’s cli—”
Andrew audibly swallowed, trying to keep his stomach from emptying itself on the floor. The old woman caught sight of this, and she smiled from ear to ear. She leant forward and whispered, “You know boy, she gobbled it up like a fucking dog. It’s cause when I put something on someone it doesn’t stop. It’s all in the words. Everything, the whole universe, it’s just someone else’s words—didn't you know? Ha… Can I ask?” she said, sitting back once more. “Haven’t you wondered why that ugly cunt is deaf?” The old woman wiggled her eyebrows and jabbed her thumb back towards the kitchen where the orderly worked. “You must be expendable.”
“What...” Andrew paused. “Why is she deaf?”
“It’s in the words!” the old woman cried. “My voice was given to me by my dearest lover and it’s not theirs to take. It’s mine and it's the most powerful force anyone can ever feel in their hearts and minds. And I would normally take this opportunity to give you the worst day of your life. But,” she smiled knowingly at Andrew. “Why don’t you go back and tell them what I’ve told you. It’s not the first story I’ve told them. For all they know it’s true. I’ll let you off this time. It’s been a while since I’ve smelled a man.”
“Mrs. Wyttick,” Andrew said, standing up, preparing himself to leave. “I… I wasn’t just sent here to get a story. I was sent here to tell you something.”
“Oh I remember,” she said. “Spit it out! Spit it out out out out!”
“They told me to tell you that they’ve found her,” he said confidently. “And that you should prepare for what happens when direct evidence of your behaviour comes to light.”
“Fucking sluts,” the old woman hissed, waving her arm towards Andrew dismissively. “Wasting it they are. They’re wasting it, hiding away like children. But not me! Well… go on then,” she added; her animated vigour growing muted, and dull. “Go away and tell them nothing, or everything. Just... Just shoo.”
Andrew began to walk away, feeling somehow vindicated by the sight of the old woman’s quiet and tempered reaction to the news that Annabelle had been found. He neglected to mention that they, in truth, only had a rough idea of where she might be. But it was pleasing nonetheless to see the vile old witch have to slow down, and recognize her coming fate at the hands of his employer.
“Good bye Mrs. Wyttick,” Andrew smiled, just before he left.
“Oh Andrew,” the old woman shouted as he approached the door. “About my gift… I made that fat little fucking sausage eat her own foot, and a million times worse have I wrought all across the Earth. Old worlds and new, I have shaped the destiny of wretched little cocks like you since the dawn of time. My first fuck toy was carved from mammoth tusk, boy. Even your employers are little more than whores who’ve cost me some time but not much. So you just bear in mind the next time you close your eyes and know that I'm still there in your head; I wouldn’t have a daughter if I was you.” The old woman roared with an unbelievable furore that seemed to shake the walls. “You wouldn’t be able to stop yourself!”
Andrew felt his heart sink as he left the door before he heard the woman bellow out a foul and piercing laugh. He wondered if anything she had said was true. He had put the entire experience down to dementia—he didn’t really believe her—but some part of him genuinely found her frightening. Her words seemed to have a tinny quality that sent them reflecting away inside his head until they sank into some unknown part of his mind, out of his reach and out of his grasp. He could barely recall the specifics of what she said, instead he only knew what she wanted. Or perhaps, he wondered, was it what he wanted? For a second he struggled to understand if there was a difference.
Not that it mattered, he thought, it was not like she could actually change how people behaved, and it was clearly just a coincidence that she mentioned a daughter. There was no way she could have known that he already had two.
Ian sat in the car next to the young woman who drove through the endless rain. She was a young and pretty woman, but she spoke with the affectations and mannerisms of someone much older. She was confident, and so professional and well composed that when he eyed her legs at one stage of the journey, he swore he could have felt a voice from inside his own head give him a schoolteacher style scolding. This had kept Ian strangely awkward and quiet for most of the trip, until he finally managed to break the silence.
“Thank you,” he said. “What you did for Zoey was… something else.” The woman did not reply. “When my wife told me about your letter,” Ian added. “What you claimed to be able to do, well I laughed at you, and then I got angry. I was a dick, and I’ve waited a long time to apologize.”
“We don’t like apologies,” she said.
“Yeah, well,” Ian stuttered. “You’re getting one. I mean… you all keep acting like it was nothing. That’s kind of scary.”
“Oh,” the woman said. “Why is that?”
“Well,” Ian answered. “You uh, you brought her back. I mean she came back and not like Pet Semetary ‘came back’ where there’s some bullshit karmic sting. It’s been eleven years and she’s healthy and happy, and she’s had lovers, and enemies, and breakups, and friends, and…” Ian chuckled affectionately. “She’s had it all. And I just kept waiting and waiting. Waiting for the nasty catch, for the rub, for some horrible thing that’d make her suffer—”
“We don’t make children suffer,” the woman said.
“I know,” Ian said. “You made a big deal of that but you gotta understand it’s a hard idea to digest that you’d give so much for so little. I’d die for Zoey and yet all you wanted was an ‘IOU’ when the time was right. For years I kept thinking you’d call me up and ask me to do something terrible, like skin a fucking dog or sacrifice a baby but in the end it was… well, what? Go to this house? Cross reference some lists? Meet some old people? I worked with that lad Andrew and he was nice enough—bit daft though—and that was it. It’s just a job. It’s just another normal job for a private investigator like me. I would have charged, at most, a grand for this kind of work. But you… for you, apparently, it’s easier to bring a girl back to the dead than it is to withdraw some cash from your bank. I don’t want to seem ungrateful but is that all it is to you? Is bringing the dead back like… like what? A party trick?” For a brief moment the woman looked across to Ian and smiled, before turning back towards the road.
“How much do you know about us?” she asked.
“I know you’re rich.”
“Yes,” she replied.
“I know you can bring girls back from the dead,” he added.
“I know,” Ian paused. “I know that one girl I spoke to didn’t recognize my iPhone, and when I showed her Siri she accused me of trapping a woman in the ‘the obelisk of black’.”
“Had you?” asked the woman, to which Ian laughed, unsure if she was joking.
“No,” he said. “It’s Siri. It’s a robot. It’s not a real person, it’s just a machine that imitates a person.”
“How clever,” the woman smiled. “You’re all doing quite well for yourselves.”
“Yes… well,” Ian continued. “I figure… I figure you’re some weird esoteric order—women only—hidden from the world with untold wealth and powers.” The woman, hearing this, immediately laughed.
“Yes,” she nodded, growing somewhat warmer in her demeanour. “That’s right.”
“I think you’re witches,” Ian added. Instantly the woman grinned, and turned to Ian with a pleasant look of surprise.
“That’s one word we’ve been taught to recognize,” she said.
“So what?” Ian asked. “Magic? Seriously, magic for real?”
“I suppose,” she said, playfully shrugging her shoulders. “We’re mainly taught maths, science, engineering and neuroscience, not the ones your scholars have come up with though. But yeah, it’s pretty much magic, although your Siri is a kind of magic too. Don’t you think?”
“So yeah… magic. Is that what happened to Andrew? Magic made him do those things? His wife told me everything, thought I’d want to know given that I’d joined them for dinner once or twice,” Ian asked.
“That’s sweet,” the woman smiled. “And you can call it magic if you want. It’s easier I guess. We’d call it a neurolinguistic virus—a speciality of Evelyn’s—and you should be thankful Andrew shot himself before he got anywhere near those daughters of his.”
“What are you on about?” Ian exclaimed.
“A neuroling… a curse,” the woman reiterated. “Just think of it like that. It was a magic curse that made him do things against his will. Well…” she trailed off. “Kind of. In this case she made him want to do things to his children that were out of character.”
“No,” Ian clarified. “What do you mean ‘his daughters’? Andrew committed suicide in an animal shelter.”
“Oh,” the woman said. “We had heard… we thought… we had a recording of his conversation with Evelyn and she mentioned his… she must—” The woman paused and thought carefully for a moment before bitterly muttering to herself, “She has a sick sense of humour.”
“So let me get this right,” Ian said. “Evelyn made Andrew do those things with a magic curse?”
“Well,” the woman replied. “We’ve never really figured out where Evelyn got the power to do what she does. She’s never shared what she knows with anyone.”
“So,” Ian said, lingering. “Is that what happened to this girl we’ve been looking for? Was she cursed by this Evelyn too?”
Instantly the woman’s face grew sombre, and her shoulders slumped as though she had remembered a terrible sadness.
“We don’t know,” she said. “Annabelle was one of our member’s daughters, and Evelyn stole her away from us with tricks and lies as part of some grudge. By the time we realised where Annabelle had gone, and who with, it was too late. Evelyn had her hidden away behind all sorts of rumours and riddles. And we’ve been looking for so long,” the woman continued. “Annabelle’s loss was devastating. We are all each other’s daughters, and we’ve had to spend so long recruiting people like you—investigators, policemen, secret agents, you name it—to find her. Bit by bit we’ve pieced the clues together and after a long, long, time we’ve narrowed it all down to three or four places.
“Well,” Ian smiled. “I’m sure we’ll find her. And no matter what we find,” he said. “I’ll keep you safe.” The woman’s eyes widened and she glared across at Ian with a perplexing look of incredulity that, for a moment, embarrassed him. “That is why you brought me?” Ian asked, nervously. “Isn’t it?” The woman’s eyes shifted across for a second, before she turned back to the road and said,
“We don’t consider ourselves in the habit of needing a chaperone,” she corrected him.
“So why am I here?” Ian asked, but the woman quickly shushed him and said,
“Look! It’s here. This is the last place. This is where she has to be.”
The building that came into view as the car rounded the long and isolated drive was nothing but some rotten beams and jagged, charred, stone that jutted upwards out of the ground. As they approached the building Ian heard the woman gasp as the headlights brought into view some rusted brown and red graffiti that reached to the highest point of the crumbling walls. The writing was the sort of hurried and panicked scrawl you’d expect to see in a quarantine, or a war-zone, and it read,
“Beware the Fatso”. An ominous silence befell the woman, and trying to help ease her mind Ian told her,
“Places like this often get reputations for hauntings. And there’s a lot of dead cattle that keep turning up. It’s nothing to worry about, just English folklore going back hundreds of years. Now, I’ll get the torches and we’ll start looking. She might have been kept in some bunker or someone might have built something or…”
“No,” the woman said. “It’s the church.” She then pointed towards the collapsed pile of bricks and timber that was centred in the car’s headlights. “Evelyn wouldn’t miss an opportunity for irony.”
“But…” Ian stuttered. “This place was abandoned three hundred years ago. There’s no way she could have been kept in there alive. There’s no bloody roof!” Ian turned to the woman who was already preparing to leave the car. She had turned to reach behind her and grab a large umbrella, since it was raining heavily, when Ian began to tap her on the shoulder and say, “She’s not in there. Come on there’s no way that’s where a young girl is being kept.” The woman turned back to Ian and sighed.
“Annabelle went missing sometime in the 1300s,” she said. “We don’t know what we’re looking for. A girl? A corpse? We don’t know. There’s only a slim chance she might be alive.” The woman then turned back to the wheel and straightened her coat, pulling up her collar, before bracing herself for the cold wind and rain. She then turned on her torch, and kicked the car door open and left. Ian remained behind for a second or two, and muttered, quietly, to himself,
“Might be alive?” But he quickly composed himself and got up to follow her. It was raining heavily, and difficult to see, but they both had torches that made them each a glowing beacon amidst the darkness. Ian lightly jogged ahead until he had caught up with the woman, who was standing by a waist high wall. She was leaning over it and shining her light down towards the rotten oak floor. Occasionally the light would cut through the gaps in the beams of wood and reveal some dust, or water that dripped into a chasm below, but it was too transient and fleeting for anything real to be seen.
“There’s something down there,” she said. “Some room, or something maybe.”
“That uh,” Ian stuttered. “I guess that makes sense. But it could just be a crawl space.”
“Might be,” the woman replied. “But when the church was abandoned it was because of a sinkhole that had appeared underneath.”
“Surely not?” Ian exclaimed, but the woman did not reply. She just kept staring at the floor below. Ian would have asked more, but he felt increasingly anxious. Instead he looked up and shone his light towards the pile of disused furniture that lay in the centre of the small church’s ruins. It was around three-feet high, and untouched by plants or animals. As the woman continued to shine her light below Ian took some more time to look up towards what remained of the walls, and roof, and found himself unsettled by the absence of life. The church was a place of desolation, and stank of hopelessness and fear. There was a tangible sense of loss present in every nook and cranny.
Ian pushed these thoughts from his mind, and decided to keep looking towards the ground, until he finally noticed a small gap in the wooden planks somewhere near the edge of the piled furniture. He tapped the woman on the arm and pointed towards it, before quickly scaling the wall and walking, carefully, across the wet and slippery floor. There he managed to wrestle one of the pulpits out of the hole to reveal a neat tear that lead down into the chasm below. He shone his light downwards and highlighted only the rain water that cascaded down between the cracks.
“It’s deep,” he said to the woman who had now arrived by his side.
“How deep?” she asked.
“Deeper than my light,” he answered. “Just seems to go on forever. Wait,” he suddenly said, as his light caught the walls of the chasm and revealed strange white lines that rolled across the edges into strange intricate designs. “There are patterns on the walls. They’re uh… they don’t look like writing. They look like shapes. They look like…” suddenly Ian’s voice dropped. “Oh,” he said.
“What is it?” the woman asked. Ian, clearly rattled, stood back up before answering,
“They look like a child’s drawings. Little stick figures, dogs, clouds, the sun shining.”
“Oh God,” the woman cried, her hand coming to her mouth.
“That chasm,” Ian said. “It’s gotta be hundreds of feet deep. And the drawings bigger than a house. How in hell did she even get to the walls? How did she reach them?” The woman turned to face Ian, and he could see she was clearly upset.
“Stay here,” she said in a tinny voice, before turning and walking away back to the handbag she had left by the wall.
“Come on,” Ian said as he tried to follow her. But he found that he could not move his feet. He shone his light towards the woman who, while clearly crying, was also furiously rummaging through her bag. “What?” he shouted. “What have you done to me?”
“It’s been too long,” she said. “That hole… it must have been made by something huge. She couldn’t have stopped eating from the day that Evelyn hid her. God… no wonder she nearly sank the church. All this time with nothing but… but dirt. Dirt and pain.” Ian had grown afraid and was by now desperately trying to move his feet. Terrified he shone his flashlight all around him trying to understand what was happening.
“No,” he cried. “No, you can’t… you can’t be serious!?” he shouted. He looked back towards the woman who now held a small bell in her hands. “What are you going to do to me?” he began to weep.
“There’s nothing we can do for her,” the woman sniffed. “Except offer her comfort the only way we know how.”
“Comfort her!?” Ian cried. “How in fuck am I meant to comfort her!?” He was interrupted when the woman rang the bell, and the pair of them fell silent in anticipation. He waited anxiously, his light furiously trying to see something from the chasm below. He was terrified, and he knew he was about to die. He looked up to the woman, desperately hoping that she might pity him, when suddenly he noticed the glare of the car’s headlights disappeared, followed by a distant yet thunderous din. The woman grew concerned, and looked behind her towards the car, then back towards the bell in her hand which she rang again, and again.
Out of nowhere, from beneath the Earth below, came two gigantic columns of marble coloured flesh. At the end of each pillar—the size of a full grown man—were enormous paws with gnarled and yellowed claws that splintered, irregularly, out of the flesh of Annabelle’s clumpy hands. There were no fingers that she might grab the woman with; instead she tossed her colossal arms aimlessly with a tremendous strength that knocked bricks from the church’s stonework. Quickly enough she had skewered the screaming woman on her nails, and yanked her with a terrifying speed and ferocity back into the soil below.
Horrified, but relieved, Ian tried to process what he had just seen. Suddenly, he began to laugh. He had been betrayed, and saved at the last moment only by serendipity! He was thankful that the woman, who had so clearly intended to feed him to the monstrous Annabelle, had been caught instead by her own trap. It was brilliant. He turned to leave when he noticed, once more, that his leg could not move. He shone his light at his foot and tried to move it, but still could not. He had thought that whatever curse the woman had put upon him would have been lifted with her death, but he quickly realised that was not the case.
Desperate, he placed the flashlight down so that the beam glared into the abyss below, and pulled with great strength and difficulty. After minutes of work he noticed he had moved his foot by about an inch, which offered him some hope. But in his hysterical lifting he had not paid much attention to his surroundings. And so when he turned his head quickly during the struggle and glanced at the hole in the floor, it came as a shock to see the warped, and plump rotting face of a woman embedded in a white wall of veiny flesh. The skin that surrounded her and obscured everything behind her was distended and coated in crusted puss and layered with unending boils and filth. She chewed aimlessly on soil coated gore that trickled down her chin, and her eyes were a faded white with scratched and pale corneas that lacked direction. As she chewed thoughtlessly she also sniffed at the air with a curiosity.
Ian was dead still, and watched her intently, desperately trying to not make a move. But only moments had passed before the girl’s nose twitched, and she stopped all movement, and quickly jerked her head towards Ian, fixing her gaze upon him. The last thing Ian saw as he leapt forward and grabbed the flashlight was her drooling cracked lips that lay squished between her enormous folds of fat smacking together with a desperate greed and hunger.
Written by ChristianWallis