Witch Hunt

Whoa, I am so glad this bullshit is over with. These has been, by far, some of the worst months of my life. Of my life! This is including the summer when I was fourteen and I got mono. I mean, I was laid up for a month and felt like absolute garbage… but I mean, at least people didn’t die, you know?

Lemme start over and say that this all started because someone threw up a frog at lunch.

It was a pretty nice day out, sun was shining, teachers weren’t going crazy with the homework load yet. We were all in high spirits. I was making a quite impressive statue of mashed potatoes on my tray when Simone began choking.

Simone wasn’t eating that day, which adds to the whack-ness of that. She wasn’t feeling too good after gym and was just having a juicebox instead. But suddenly she just started gagging and grabbing at her throat, leaning over the table.

Mabel patted her back and asked if she was okay, jokingly asked if there were bones in that juice. I think I could hear Simone gasp out, “There’s something in my throat,” before she yacked her guts all over the table.

Gross, I know. What appeared to be mostly digested strawberry n’ cream oatmeal and granola splattered over the table, filling up poor Andrew’s tray till it overflowed and almost spilled into his lap. Something brown and green flopped into the middle of it all. For a few moments, it was still.

Then it twitched and got to its four legs, croaking loudly before hopping into Mabel’s lap.

We were all too stunned to react until that frog moved. Mabel screamed and threw it across the room, where it made a horrifying squelching sound as it smashed into the lunchroom wall. That poor frog. First it had to be vomited up and then met a frightening if not quick death by brick wall.

Of course, the whole cafeteria exploded into complete craziness after that, I mean, it’s not every day someone catapults a frog through the air, and the gym teacher had to be called in to calm everyone down. Coach Drake has one of this big, booming voices and can get the attention of a whole room with like, no effort. Everyone got their shit together while Mabel and Simone got marched to the principal’s office. Thankfully neither of them got punished, although the principal didn’t believe that Simone actually barfed up a frog.

I mean, it’s pretty unbelievable when you say it out loud like that, but point is that Simone wasn’t pulling any funny business. The school went crazy with the news that she’d somehow puked a live frog.

Our school has a newspaper run by a journalism club. Kathy Prince is the president, and I gotta give it to her, she is passionate about the role. It’s not really my thing, I’ve been in the gymnastics team since my freshman year so I don’t do clubs, but I can appreciate passion.

Kathy ran nuts with the story, claiming that someone had put a curse on Simone because she beat them out for a spot on the gymnastics team. Which is ridiculous, but you have to understand, my school is really boring. We live in the middle of nowhere and our school team is called the Beavers. (Yes, the boys really have too much fun with that one). This was big news.

But as all big news goes, it dies out… especially when there’s bigger news at stake.

Someone kidnapped Kathy’s baby sister.

Aubree was the cutest lil thing. Kathy’s mom Maggie was bragging about how Aubree just won second place for cutest baby for this online contest and that she was going to appear in a magazine any day now. Poor thing just vanished out of her crib one night.

Yeah, that was crazy. People don’t just steal babies around here. I mean, someone did steal a toddler about ten years ago but all I cared about back then were crayons and purple dinosaurs. Sure I knew about stranger danger, but if it didn’t directly affect snack time, I didn’t care.

Sorry, off track, people say I have a mind like a squirrel.

Maggie had a legit meltdown, offering thousands of dollars in rewards for any information for Aubree’s safe return, but there was really nothing to be gained. Aubree was gone. There were no clues, no ransom note, it was all pointless.

But this… I think it sent Kathy off the deep end, because she swore up and down that witches were to blame.

I could understand if Kathy was twelve, tweens have the nuttiest ideas, but she’s sixteen. I mean, losing your little sister can really screw you up, but that was a little far fetched. But her journalism club ran with it, and then started the witch hunt.

And people started dying.

Winter Roth’s real name was Amy. I think she just wanted to be unique. She was a weird kid, that was for sure. She tried to be Goth, wearing these enormous boots and really cheap black lipstick, but she ended up looking kinda silly. She went through some really weird phases, I’d known her since we were in sixth grade. Back then she was obsessed with anime so she’d speak in broken Japanese and had a really unsettling crush on the one Asian boy in our class. Poor Michael, we laugh about it now but I swear he looked pained whenever he saw Winter. Last year Winter claimed to be ‘cat-kin’ and would randomly meow and hiss at people in the halls while wearing fake cat ears.

Oh thank god she grew out of that this year… but even though she was weird and kinda obnoxious, I don’t think she deserved to die. She was found at the bottom of a cliff at the nearby park by a few dogwalkers. Her head had done an 180 on her neck and she was apparently so beat up that her parents couldn’t positively identify her at first. Someone had taken out a lot of rage on poor Winter.

I went to her funeral. So did Michael. We told her mom that we were sorry she was gone and that we’d miss her. And strangely enough? I kinda do. It’s weird not digging through my locker and hearing Winter hum off tune as she got her books. Sue me, I’m weird like that.

The second victim was a guy, Eddie Smith. Eddie was probably one of Winter’s only real close friends, and that was definitely because he was just as weird. He was actually nineteen and had been held back a year, he wasn’t too bright, but he was nice. He helped me find the computer class on my first day and then wrote me a creepy poem about how ‘my whimsical appearance and dark, soulful eyes’ called to him.

He stopped with that creepiness when he latched onto Winter. His goddess, apparently. He never had the guts to actually ask her out but he’d be caught staring at her at really awkward times. He was the most crushed by her death, he stopped coming to school and his Facebook page had gone full emo. I messaged him because I genuinely thought he was going to kill himself… and apparently someone else did too.

He was found hanging outside his house, but suicide was ruled out real fast after the autopsy. Again, same beating, except there was evidence someone had attempted to drown him as well. Or, well, I call it an attempt. It succeeded.

I’d only been to one funeral before all this and it was my aunt’s. And in one year I’ve been to two.

I know what you’re thinking. How do I know all these details? Well, Kathy’s newspaper kept up with everything. I swear I lost my cool when she printed notes from Eddie’s journal about how he loved Winter and how he hoped one day he’d notice someone at pitiful as him.

Listen, there’s a line, and you cross it when you’re printing a dead kid’s diary for a bunch of stupid teenagers to read.

But I noticed that she despite keeping up with every other little detail… she kept referring to Eddie’s death as a suicide. Despite everyone else saying otherwise.

I know, I should’ve gotten an adult. But I figured if I grabbed Simone and Michael I’d be cool when I went to go investigate Kathy’s house.

It was dark, obviously, it was past midnight and no one would be awake on a school night. Michael was humming the Mission Impossible theme as we crept around her house to the backyard, which was shielded by a suburban white picket fence. Michael picked me up so I could peer over and I swear to god I nearly shit myself. I wouldn’t admit that lightly either.

It was Kathy and a few of her friends and between them was a girl tied up on the ground having a total blubbering meltdown.

I recognized her almost immediately. Teresa.

Teresa was different. She never made eye contact, she hated being touched, and she was obsessed with dinosaurs. I just casually mentioned that I liked the long necked dino sewn carefully onto her backpack and she launched into a thirty minute talk about what species it was and how long ago it lived and all these other random facts.

It was a Brontosaurus. It was her favorite.

Right now Teresa was freaking terrified. I couldn’t even understand what she was saying, it was pure nonsense.

Kathy stood in front of her, cradling a red gas can in her arms. “This is your last chance! In front of God, confess your sins and tell me where my sister is!” She hissed.

My blood ran cold as she splashed Teresa with gasoline. One of her friends had a matchbox ready to strike. Teresa’s bottom lip quivered before she bawled. Kathy slapped her before tying a bandana around her mouth to silence her.

“If the witch won’t confess, that means the devil’s really got claws in her,” She said through gritted teeth, snatching the matchbox from the other’s hands.

“We’re not… actually going to burn her, right? We can’t make that look like suicide!” The friend said, suddenly looking squicked out.

Kathy punched her so fast that I blinked and missed it. “We’re surrounded by them! Witches! She is one of them! If she does not confess, she is a witch! I know it!” She screeched like a banshee, striking a match.

I launched myself over the fence and tackled Kathy to the ground. I’ve been in gymnastics since I was old enough to walk and can support someone standing on my shoulders. I’m not exactly a wimp.

I don’t remember what I was screaming at Kathy, only that I was beating her face in and hollering loud enough to wake the dead. The thing is in a close knit neighborhood, neighbors hear everything. Especially on a night this quiet.

I remember lights flashing on in houses down the street. I remember Michael trying to tear me off of Kathy. I remember Kathy begging for mercy.

I wasn’t in control of myself until an adult actually managed to rip me off of Kathy’s unconscious body.

Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending! Kathy didn’t die, but she did confess to killing Winter and Eddie, all because ‘witches’. Poor Teresa confessed that Kathy had lured her there with promises of a sleepover, and Teresa has a rough enough time fitting in. I’m inviting her into my friend’s group if she wants in, she might not be a gymnast but she’s a sweet girl. Kathy’s friends are going down too, along with, plot twist, Kathy’s mom! Maggie was in on it, she was the one who hauled up Eddie’s body to make it look like he hung himself. We’re gonna have a nice memorial for Winter and Eddie, maybe in whatever weirdo afterlife there is for them they can be together.

Best part is, I’m getting the fuck out of dodge with the rest of my coven! Listen, if there’s already witch burning going on, the rest of us have to go. They missed us, sure, but how lucky are they going to get next time? It was pure luck that Simone was the one to cough up the frog, we’re all betting Andrew’s the one who threw that hex out there. With her being a frog barfer and the rest of us fitting ‘the norm’, we weren’t suspected. No, witch burners go after the outcasts first. They always do. But we can’t rely on that saving us every time. My mom knows better, after she lost her sister.

I’m inviting along Teresa, she can come or go. I feel after all the BS that happened to her I think she’ll love to tag along and start over again. Not to mention Mom’s letting me pick Aubree’s new name! She can finally be out and about as my baby sister!

Should I just respell it as Aubrey or pick something in memorial of the fallen? Like Edys or Amy? Be sure to give your honest opinion. I gotta go, back to packing! Byebye!

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