The Shelter and the Stones

Blue, pink, yellow, green, and white. The stones are in a rough circle on the bench between us. It’s a blisteringly cold Halloween. While walking here I saw pumpkins watch the world go by from front gardens, faces in an audience, most smiling, one rather furious in what must have been an esoteric flourish of the artist. More than one house had a bloody handprint on the door’s glass. The door of what I knew was a childless couple’s house had a handwritten sign saying “no trick or treaters PLEASE!”

We sit in a shelter with a clock in its spire, like the top of a church that stretches far beneath the earth. Ahead of us the sea rolls in and out. My companion’s gaze is fixed on the coloured stones as if he’s trying to make them dance, or tell secrets. His name is Adam Turner and he obsesses me, or did, a very long time ago. This memory is very old.

I remember that he kept the stones in his bag, amongst other such totems of pagan magic. Adam Turner was a witch, though I’d tried many times to convince him that boys couldn’t be witches. He’d tell me of his trip to Epping Forest, ostensibly to visit a maiden aunt, but during which he danced among the trees and cried out incantations. He claimed to have met the Devil himself on the Naze at Walton, just after midnight, and pledged allegiance to him with a forbidden act.

Oh to be the Devil, I thought. ‘I wish she was dead’ he said, to the stones.
‘Come on, Adam, don’t say that.’ He smiled at me.
‘I thought you didn’t believe in magic?’ he retorted.
‘I don’t, not really, but you shouldn’t say things like that.’
‘Why not? She wants me to act like her latest boyfriend’s my dad. I told her, if I did that with all her boyfriends I’d have a new dad every month.’ I chuckled. He narrowed his eyes at the stones as if he expected them to play Ring o’ Roses. ‘The next time she gets drunk, I hope she never wakes up.’ It was then that I had my vision, whether conjured by witchcraft or the weird processes of thought, I’ll let you decide: Adam’s mother lay on the beach, hair splayed like light surrounding a saint’s head in a medieval fresco. It was night, and the Frinton sands adjusted to her shape. Her eyes were closed. Somehow, despite their being no expression on her face, she encouraged an overwhelming sadness in me, as though I’d found someone’s pet, abandoned.

The vision ended and Adam collected the stones. We walked away from the shelter. The vision haunted me for about five minutes and then dispersed like mist on a brisk Essex morning. I’ve long since lost touch with Adam. Remembering that day 20 years later, it occurs to me that everything comes home, in one way or another.
Written by Casted_Runes (Turpin)
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