Rita was driving from Minneapolis to Wisconsin for the Annual Storytellers Festival that was held every year in Madison. Caught in the crosshairs of interest and talent, the organizers heard Rita telling a story in the hotel lounge last year and were impressed, as Rita was an accomplished storyteller. They invited her to participate this year, so it was her first time at the festival getting up on stage and telling stories. She was nervous, but she was excited more than anything.
Rita’s mind was split between the GPS helper’s voice and practicing her stories, so she was taken aback when she heard a pop and then the car started wobbling. A flat, oh sh*t. Rita was on a lonely stretch of a 2 way interstate where traffic was sparse. She pulled over and inspected the flat, then went to the trunk to get the spare tire – which wasn’t there. She then remembered that a few weeks ago, she had pulled the spare out to make room for the bags of birds’ sunflower seeds that were on sale and had forgotten to return it to the trunk. Rita went back to the interior of the car and grabbed her phone. No signal. At this rate, she was going to miss her chance to see the storytellers tonight before she went on stage tomorrow afternoon.
Rita locked up the car and started walking, hoping for a passing vehicle or a house. In her mind, she thought how many obvious horror stories have I heard that start out just like this and began to laugh. It was late afternoon by this time. No traffic passed, which seemed odd to Rita. She saw no driveways or homes either. After an hour of walking she saw a lamplight near the road a block down. Running for it, she saw a winding driveway, which she quickly ambulated. On the way, she heard a screeching chirping sound above her and looked up. It was a pure white squrrel with glowing red eyes, tail just a-whipping as it screeched at her. Now Rita was getting the creeps.
She looked down the driveway and saw….. you guessed it, an old mansion, shrouded in the shadows of tall willow trees. Again feeling like she was in the middle of a horror story, Rita had two choices: turn around and return to walking on an untraveled stretch of highway in pitch black; or take her chances with this creepy mansion. She hustled up to the door and was impressed with its iron embellishments and lion door knocker. She knocked it 3 times, saw a light go on in a side window, and waited.
The door creaked open and a very short woman looked up at Rita and began cackling, which was unnerving to Rita. The woman’s head was misshapen, like a potato, with only fine wisps of hair streaming from the very top. She was dressed in peasant’s garb from the 1800’s, with large golden earrings.
“My dear, I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, and her eyes twinkled so bright as they reflected the flames of the candelabra she was holding.
Rita had to force her vocal chords to work as she squeaked out, “Waiting for me?”
“Don’t worry, dearie, I mean you no harm. You’re one of us, after all.”
An ice cold chill went up Rita’s spine as her head swiveled to look behind her in the pitch black. Her eyes adjusted enough to see that the trees lining the driveway were full of glowing red eyes, which had to be more of the albino squirrels. Rita found it hard to breathe as she turned back around and stared into the deep green pools of the old woman’s eyes.
“Come on in and I’ll fix you a cup of tea. Then we’ll see about getting you to your storyteller’s festival. My name is Haggis, by the way.”
Rita’s mind seized up as this all was getting to be too much to absorb. She numbly followed Haggis into the very dim lighting of the hallway until they reached the parlor, which was well-lit. Rita was shocked to see quite a large group of assorted women already seated and sipping tea. She quickly counted up 11, so adding Haggis to the total made 12.
As if reading her mind, Haggis turned around and touched Rita’s hand with a cold, withered hand and said, “Yes, you’re number 13. Once we take care of a little business, you can be on your way to the festival.”
All 12 ladies cackled together, then stood to gather in a circle around Rita. Holding hands with each other, they swayed back and forth as their cackling became chanting, which caused a great drowsiness in Rita. It was the last thing she remembered that night.
Now morning, Rita woke up, already dressed in one of the outfits she’d packed in her suitcase, sitting in her vehicle. She got out to check the tire. It was repaired and ready to go. She started the engine; looking at the car clock she saw she had just enough time to get to the festival.
As Rita pulled into the parking lot, she heard a buzzing sound in her head then the chanting, like she heard the night before. Her left forearm began to itch. Pulling up her sleeve, Rita found a strange symbol had been tattooed on her. She rubbed it with her index finger – and remembered everything. She smiled. Oh my, was her audience in for a story.
Fandango’s FOWC is crosshairs, the Word of the Day Challenge is obvious, Paula’s 3 Things Challenge words are lamp, squirrel, potato, and Teresa’s Haunted Wordsmith’s Daily Prompts are the genre of witches-horror and the photo.