Chapter Excerpt of  Trial By Witch

Chapter Excerpt of Trial By Witch

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I’ve dug bullets out of my back, bamboo splinters out of my hands, and even retrieved asphalt gravel from my own backside.  But the shards of glass imbedded in my shoulder, neck, and face were proving much more difficult than any of that.  Especially with freshly burned hands.

On the bright side, the Miller kid was dead, ending his family line, and I finally earned the scars on my hands and feet.  Yippee for me.

I have a medical kit for just these occasions and the plastic tweezers felt clumsy in my hands.  As I pinched them over a large, two-inch piece caught in my left cheek, the plastic scraped over the side and the points jabbed straight into my eyeball.

“Shit!”

Trial by Witch

Trial by Witch

It was quiet in the abandoned workshop where I had escaped to after the fire.  My curse echoed in the large empty space.  Only a few overturned cardboard boxes and about a dozen empty oil bottles scattered the room and the boarded up windows boasted a sign for a father-son car repair business.  The large roll-up doors on the north end were bolted to the floor but I could see where someone had taken a crowbar to one, trying to pry open a space large enough through which they could crawl.  I had climbed in through the roof hatch after scaling the side of the building thanks to a Dumpster and I had the place to myself.

I tried again at the glass in my cheek, still squinting, eye watering.  The piece was proving to be a hindrance and I finally gave up with the tweezers and pinched it between my thumb and forefinger and pulled.  Blood oozed around the cut as I finally wrenched the glass free and dropped it into the oil pan I’d found sitting on the workbench.  I could see in the reflection of the small sun visor mirror that hung from an unraveling piece of ribbon that the cut had already begun to heal.

The witch hadn’t mentioned my uncanny ability to heal in her love-hate letter to my father and after scouring the book hundreds of times, searching for any clue, I’d come to accept it and tried not to let it draw attention.  When you’re chasing someone half-way around the city and you’re hit by a car or fall from a five-story building, it gets a little hard to explain to onlookers why you’re not dead.  My only guess is that the witch had to keep me alive and well to make sure her plan worked.  As long as the injury isn’t too grave or life-threatening, I get to live on and fight the good fight.  If it is too impossible to heal, if someone successfully manages to put an end to me, well, I still get to live on and fight the good fight, but it gets a little tricky.

Luckily, these injuries happened in darkness.  Well, save for the glow of the fire I pretty much started.  When Justin’s lifeless hand fell with the lighter, it ignited the pool of gasoline he had poured.  The fire spread quickly and it was apparent that I’d gone and trapped myself.  Justin’s body began to smolder as it caught fire, his clothes damp with his own sweat, but the deed was done and I had earned my scars.  I dropped the gun when the sudden, intense pain in my hands caused a spasm.  My hands began to blister and I could feel the webbed skin between my toes pucker and stretch.

Just like the witch said it would.

I didn’t wait around to suffer the pain of a whole-body burn and the subsequent healing process–although blessed with the ability to heal, the witch ensured that I could feel every moment of agony.  Awesome.  I doubled over and allowed myself a minute to recover from the pain but it was a minute that I couldn’t afford.  We were on the ground floor and in that minute, the fire had engulfed most of the bottom portion of the building, following the thin trail of gas and catching the forgotten wooden pallets that Justin had also drenched in gas.  At least the sucker was thorough.

I looked behind me to see that my entrance had been completely overtaken by the fire.  The large wooden beam above the door gave way as the supporting joints melted and the thing collapsed, blocking the way with an inviting heat that said I’d suffer if I chose to go that route.  I didn’t bother to pick up the gun where I’d dropped it–I’d just have to dump it somewhere anyway–so I left it where it was and looked for a way out.  Jumping over a particularly large flame that had snaked its way toward me, I darted for the door leading to the stairs.  The little sign with the stick-figure man running away from the flames stuck in my head as I climbed the stairs, taking two and sometimes three at a time.  My feet throbbed and it’s safe to say that walking was unpleasant, but I continued on, bypassing the two locked doors leading to the second and third floors, finally finding the door to the fourth was unlocked and hanging ajar on fallen hinges.  I wrenched the door as open as I could manage, the skin on my hand screaming with the pressure and hot as the fire below, and wriggled through the opening.  Old cubicle walls, some stacked, some fallen over, littered the floor and the three large windows revealed the only possible exit.  The smoke from the fire had followed me upstairs and I was starting to feel the familiar burn at the back of my throat.

“They didn’t burn your sister, witch,” I told her, wherever she was.  I’m sure she was listening somehow.

I moved closer to the window and wiped away the film that had settled.  Below, the asphalt parking lot welcomed me, the faded lines of the handicapped symbol smiling, goading me to jump.  There wasn’t much left in the office and it would take some effort to break the glass and I had to work quickly if I was to avoid being burned alive.  That, I knew first-hand, would take some time to recover from and although neither was a good option for a normal man, I preferred the crushing injuries of a fall over smelling my own charred skin.

In the corner, I spied a small metal filing cabinet with the drawers pulled out of their tracks and laying near by.  I raced over and plucked up one of the drawers and then chucked it at the first window.  It bounced off without leaving so much as a scratch.  I picked up the second drawer and pounded it against the window with direct force.  Crack!

The handle on the drawer was loose and wobbled in my ruined hand, but I swung the drawer twice more and the window finally relented.  Thick glass showered down and covered the asphalt below and it never looked so welcoming.  I pulled myself through the opening and out onto the tiny ledge underneath.  Standing beside the window, I probably looked like a madman: soot-stained clothes, smoke billowing out of the floors below, the only possible outcome a jump to the ground below.  Luckily in this part of the city, I might have found a few homeless onlookers, but with the recent string of fires in this area, there wasn’t a single vagrant in sight.

A four-story fall could definitely kill a man and this would be my third fall of this height in my life–I’d fallen from much higher before and that had not been a fun experience.  I lowered myself on the ledge and scooted down so I was clinging to it with my fingertips, my legs hanging down and reaching just above the windows of the next floor.  Without giving me a second chance to think about it, my fingers lost their power, the hot, scarred skin giving way to pressure, and I fell.

The sound of my own bones breaking is something I’ll never get used to.  Most of the time, during these instances of what would have been a mortal injury, I stay conscious and the ensuing pain of being injured and having complete awareness of it is just another gift from the witch.  When I was able to pick myself up and reset the dislocated and broken things in my body, the warehouse had gone up and the walls were beginning to buckle.  The emergency response here was limited, at best, but I heard the faint whine of a siren not too far away, so I knew I had to get myself out of there.

There were plenty of choices, abandoned buildings that is.  The repair shop wasn’t the easiest to get into, but I thought that it could offer the best means with which to lick my wounds and hide.  After pulling out all of the imbedded glass that I could find, I made my bed beneath the workbench.

“Now boarding flight 4873 to Toronto,” I mumbled to myself.

I pulled out the book from where I kept it, sewn in the lining of my jacket, and flipped open to the page where Justin’s name had been.  The name was now written in black and faded.  The blood feud between the Millers and the witch was settled.

To find out more about Trial by Witch, go to the website:  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bjoanncrisp

To read the Paranormal Galaxy Magazine version of this article click on the title Chapter Excerpt of Trial By Witch

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