The Wild Night
The night was cold. A breeze chilled the back of my neck as I stepped closer to the old oak.
‘Mother Ursula?’ I asked nervously. The night was silent. I straightened up slightly.
‘Oh, Mother Ursula?’
Suddenly, the night exploded. The tree’s leaves burst into fire and an owl hooted. A red figure rose out of a circular patch of soil in front of me. It cleared to become the demonic shape of a hunch-backed woman with a long crooked nose.
‘I have been expecting one so young!’ the figure crowed. ‘One to swap places with!’ The breath left my body. So it was true. Mother Ursula was real.
My friend, Alex Tupperman, had told me the tale and it had never left my mind, now, at fourteen years old, I knew the truth. He hadn’t been lying. She was real. Mother Ursula had been a healing woman four-hundred years ago. She was burnt as a witch, but had left her spirit on the patch of earth where her bonfire had been built and she had died. And now, at midnight on Hallowe’en, she had risen again to swap places for one month with anyone foolish enough to go near Old Oak Way at night. And the person she had swapped places with would vanish of the face of the earth, never to be seen again. Alex was the one who had dared me to go there, called me a wimp. And now I would die.
I couldn’t scream. I was choking, I stepped back and fell into a pit that had not been there before. Mother Ursula stepped closer, out of her circle of earth.
Suddenly, she screamed an ear-splitting scream that made my spine tingle. A fire had appeared in the circle of earth. My friend Alex stepped out from behind the old oak and was shining a torch in her face. Mother Ursula screamed and vanished in a puff of dark red smoke. A sob rose in my throat. Tears streamed down my face. Alex peered down at me and reached out a hand. I took it and rose unsteadily to my feet.
‘Are you all right mate?’ he asked in his strong Australian accent. I nodded because my mouth was too dry to speak.
‘You saved me.’ I said eventually ‘How? You told me there was no saving captured souls!’ Alex nodded grimly. It was obvious he too was petrified by what he had seen.
‘My sister told me last night. Mother Ursula can only capture the souls when they are totally alone. So I crept behind the tree as she rose and shut my eyes and covered my ears so I wouldn’t realise what she was doing. Then, I decided it was time to save you so I stepped out and Mother Ursula was bound by her curse not to capture you soul. Now Mother Ursula shall be bound to that circle for another year. But you are right. There is no saving captured souls. But you can stop her form capturing you in the first place.’ I leant against the tree. And that was when I saw it. Just behind the oak, near the circle of earth where Mother Ursula had rose from the dead, was a stone, about a foot long and a foot wide. Engraved into the stone were strange words, reading:
And here shall Ursula Blake, otherwise known as Mother Ursula, be executed by burning.
Et carése le fortuné dea se bruo capúle
nevoir se vour le cour madwa.
And thereson deevere consorté la macronté.
I shivered. ‘C’mon Alex, let’s leave.’ I said quietly and we ran away as fast as we could
The next day, Mum said to me ‘Jo, you’re looking pale. What’s wrong?’ I turned to her and whispered something but she couldn’t hear.
‘You’ll have to speak louder than that.’ I repeated myself louder but faster.
‘I’m-saw-Old-Mother-Ursual-and-she-almost-got-me!’ Mum laughed but her laugh got deeper and deeper until it was Mother Ursula’s harsh croak.
‘You’ll never be free of me boy!’ she cackled and then all went dark.
From Megan the Story Teller.