Lindsay Ackerman is a Witch – Chapters 1-5 – Middle Grade Magical Realism

Lindsay Ackerman is a Witch

By D.A. Niel

1

Some days are good, some days are bad, and some days are so unbelievable they defy any reality as ordinary as good or bad.  Today my reality shifted so far left of ordinary that I don’t think I will ever be the same.  I was sitting in Earth science class taking notes at a furious pace, which didn’t even come close to the pace Mrs. King was delivering information.  I looked down at my notes to make sure I had copied them correctly but when I looked up it wasn’t my class I saw.  The room was dark except for the emblazoned, disembodied head of my classmate Lindsay Ackerman.  The green flames licked and slithered around her face.  “I choose you!” she cackled.  The flames around her head blazed brighter and greener engulfing her entire head.  Then just as quickly as the vision appeared it was gone.  I was back in science class.  The sound of my chair crashing to the ground brought me back to reality and caught the stares of the other students.

“Ben, what this disturbance about?”  Mrs. King glared at me from the white board.  I covered up the vision with a coughing fit and signaled to Mrs. King I needed to get some water from the fountain.  I just needed to get away from Lindsay, who was a mere few desks away and get a grip on my sanity.  Mrs. King excused me with a curt nod and continued her lesson.  As I left the classroom, I looked over at Lindsay, a pretty, wide-eyed, blond girl.  Her eyes followed me.

Out in the hallway, I took several deep breaths.  I probed a little deeper into my vision.  Flames, Lindsay’s floating head, her cackle…what did it all mean?

No matter how hard I tried to conjure up memories of her, I couldn’t remember Lindsay past last week.  Everyone, including myself, acted like we’ve known her all the way back to kindergarten.  And I’m pretty sure everyone, again including me, felt like Lindsay was our best friend. She was a nice, social girl but I still couldn’t or didn’t have any memories.  My brain couldn’t wrap itself around this dissonance and my head began to throb.

I got to the fountain and muttered to myself, “She’s a witch.”  It’s such a preposterous notion.  Witches don’t exist, right?  I was trying to rationalize the situation but the more I thought about it, the more it started making sense.

I leaned over to get a drink when a voice behind me asked, “Who’s a witch?”

I aspirated the water and truly had a coughing fit this time.  Oh, God, is Lindsay behind me?  Had she followed me?  I turned slowly around.

Thankfully, it was just my younger sister, Nora.  “What are you doing out of class?” Nora had a terrible habit of wandering the halls during class.  I didn’t know how she got away with it but she did.  She was and always had the ability to weasel her way out of work or trouble; an art form that I could never grasp and therefore usually just followed the rules.  And yet she was always on the high honor roll list and teacher’s pet.  It was confounding.

“Mr. Farnsworth asked me to take a note to Principal Jacobson.” Nora held the note as proof.  “Um, so who’s a witch?”  Nora fixed her brown eyes on me.

“Tell you after school.  I…I have to get back to class,” I said.  I was still shaken but I knew I was right.  It wasn’t just my mind freaking out but my body was reacting too.  My stomach felt like it had dropped and a cold was moving in to replace it.

“Aw, come on.  Give me something!” Nora bounced up and down.  “Is it a teacher or a student?  You can’t leave me hanging for the rest of the day.  I’ll literally die, if you don’t tell me!”

“Later, Nora.  Enough with the dramatics, you literally won’t die.  Don’t be basic,” I said.  Nora could be dramatic but in the good way that was endearing.  But today even her endearing dramatics couldn’t put me at ease.

“If you think I’m going to let you forget to tell me, you’re wrong!”  And with a dramatic flourish of her hand directed at me, Nora turned and continued her way to Principal Jacobson’s office.

Outside Mrs. King’s classroom I made sure my face and thoughts were in check.  I walked in and started to head toward my desk near the back of the class next to the windows.  Walking between the rows of desks, I looked over at Lindsay, studiously taking notes.  She locked eyes with me and the sickening cold feeling in my stomach increased.  I picked up my chair that was still toppled on the floor and sat down in my new and frightening reality.

2

            The dismissal bell rang, and I made my way to my locker, avoiding Lindsay’s stare.  I couldn’t shake the vision.  I needed my algebra book to study for tomorrow’s test, but had no idea how I was going to focus.  Rummaging through my locker, I never heard Lindsay approach.  She tapped me on my shoulder.

Her touch was searing and ominous.  My stomach jolted and the sickly cold sensation came back.  My shock at her touch must have reflected on my face because she made a face back at me.  “I made a copy of my science notes for you.  I wouldn’t want you to not know what happened while you were getting a drink.  Or maybe you already know everything, every which way.” Lindsay looked me directly in the eyes and her eyes, I swear, flashed red for the briefest of seconds.  “You seem to know a lot, which amuses me.” I did not miss the sinister edge to her voice.

Did she know I knew?  No, she couldn’t possibly.  How is this real life?  No sane person ponders if their classmate is a witch or not.  Was she reading my thoughts?  Oh, God!  Is she reading them now?  I tried to clear my mind but it was a vain attempt.

She didn’t look like a witch or at least not like the ones you see on TV and the movies.  She was a petite girl with wavy blonde hair and large, bright blue eyes or at least they were currently blue.  She had pep to her step when she walked.  There were no phenotypically witch characteristics at all; in fact, she was more the opposite, with her clear skin, white teeth, and pretty face.  She didn’t dress gothic or wear dark make-up. “Stupid TV and its stereotypes don’t really prepare you for the real world,” I thought.

“Oh, um…thanks.” I took the notes from Lindsay.  “I’ve gotta go.” I might throw-up at any moment.

I walked off and remembered I still didn’t have my algebra book.  Crap! I’d have to turn around and face her again.  I could sense she was still there just watching me.  I turned back around and ended up nose to nose with her.  Did she just get taller?  I stepped back hastily and she was her normal petite self again.  “Um…I forgot my algebra book in my locker,” and pointed back at my locker.

Lindsay giggled, well maybe cackled, walked around me, pep and all.  “See ya tomorrow, Ben.  Have fun studying for the test!”

How did she know I had a algebra test?  She really could read minds!  Wait, she’s in my algebra class.  Get a grip on yourself!  I opened my locker and this time didn’t have any trouble locating my algebra book.  It was covered by my science notebook.  The notes Lindsay gave me were still in my hand.  I put them in my science notebook, and left both in my locker without looking at them.  I shoved my algebra book into my backpack and went off to find Nora.  No doubt she was impatiently waiting for me out by the bike rack.

3

            Nora was at the bike rack just bubbling with energy.  She started to squirm once she saw me approaching.  Her dark brown, curly hair bounced with excited impatience.  I still hadn’t worked out how I was going to tell her about Lindsay.  We had a great relationship compared to most siblings but I would be, in all seriousness, accusing someone of actually being a witch.  I must going nuts.  We did tell each other everything, so hopefully I could tell her this too.

I reached the bike rack and was unlocking my bike when Nora ambushed me with a storm of questions.  She rattled them off in quick succession and in one breath.  “So, who’s a witch? Did a teacher give you a bad grade? Someone call you a name? Who, who, who!?”  Her voice got tinnier with each question.

I looked around to make sure no one was within ear shot.  I leaned over to Nora and in a hushed voice I said, “Lindsay Ackerman is a witch and I mean an actual real, live, breathing, where’s my cauldron and broom, witch.  I know I sound ridiculous but I know I’m right.”

Nora said nothing for a few seconds, just looked at me with her dark brown eyes.  She burst out laughing into such a fit that she was bent over gasping for air and clutching her stomach.  She tried to regain her composure but every time she looked at me she started hysterically laughing again.  Once she finally settled down and could breathe normally again, I went into my argument.

“Think about it,” I leaned in.  “What is the first memory you have of Lindsay?”

She stood there pondering for a minute, began to speak, and stopped.  She looked at me her oval-shaped face scrunched up in concentration. “Ah!  She went to last year’s Winter Ball with Nick DeLuca.  She wore that purple dress everyone was talking about.”

“No, Nick went with Megan.  Megan wore the purple dress everyone was talking about.  How is it you always manage to bring up Nick in practically every conversation we have?”

“Because you like him, Ben.” Nora crossed her arms, leaned back, and dared me to challenge her accusation.

“What? How did you…I do not!”  Even as I denied it, I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks.  I did like him or at least I knew I had strong feelings for him.  I didn’t know what those feelings meant yet.  “Wait, we’re getting off topic,” I said unsuccessfully trying to control my blushing.  I didn’t want to talk about Nick right now.  I gripped Nora by the shoulders.  “Do you have any memories of Lindsay past last week?”

“You do like Nick.”  Nora stuck her tongue out at me and shimmied out of my grip.  “As for Lindsay, well, there was that party…wait…no.”  Nora shifted her backpack as she thought.  “What about the time we went to the zoo and…no, she wasn’t there either.”  Nora stood quiet for about a minute.  “Um…I can’t think of anything.  Why can’t I remember Lindsay but feel like I’ve always known her?  I like her, she’s awesome!”  Concern was showing on her face.  She was getting a vertical crease between her eyes, which always indicated Nora was in serious thought mode.

That was all I needed to hear.  If Nora couldn’t remember, I wasn’t going crazy.  She had a steel trap of a mind and wouldn’t just simply forget a lifetime of memories of a person.  Lindsay had put all of us under a spell.  We got on our bikes.

The ride home was quiet.  Usually, Nora talked my ear off about every microscopic detail of her day but she was quiet, which was a first for Nora except when she was watching TV.  She told me she needed to think about what I told her.  I didn’t blame her.  I still needed time to think about it too.  I mean how often does a witch just appear?  If I were asked that yesterday, I would have answered “never” without any hesitation.  But today everything changed.  I had a lot of questions and no answers.  But two questions worried me the most. What else has she done to us?  She obviously was powerful enough to spellbind all of us.  But the even more troublesome question, why was I able to, for lack of better words, break her spell?

4

            I threw my book bag down by my bedroom door and went straight to my window nook.  It looked out over our backyard, which was adjacent to a forest preserve.  I was still shaken and my window nook and view always seemed to calm me down.

I remember just two years ago sitting in this very nook after our dog, Gypsy, died.  Gypsy had been in our family before I was born.  My dad adopted him from a humane shelter.  He didn’t know his breed, just an awesome mutt.  Gypsy was such a good dog and we all loved him.  He was fifteen when he died peacefully in his sleep.  Sitting in the nook, after his death, I looked out into the yard and remembered all the fun I had with him, playing Frisbee, staring at the stars on summer nights while giving him belly rubs, and going hiking through the forest preserve with him.

I guess the nook helped me to remember all the good in the world.  It reminded me that even when life gets bad, it also gets good.  That’s what I needed now.  That’s why I automatically fled to my nook.  To be reassured that it would be ok.  But the good feeling hadn’t kicked in yet.  I could still feel Lindsay’s searing tap on my shoulder.  Her “You seem to know a lot” kept echoing in my head.  It was sickening sweet and yet so sinister.  She put a target on my back and had set out to destroy me.  I didn’t know why.

A soft knock came at my door and Nora asked if she could come in.  I opened my door.  Nora was standing there contemplative, chewing on the inside of her cheek.  The vertical crease was still between her eyes.

“We need to talk about this,” Nora said leaning against the door frame.

“Definitely,” I said.  “But first, I need food.”  We made our way downstairs and padded into the kitchen.  The afternoon sun was streaming through the bay window that looked out on to our front yard.  I grabbed the peanut butter and bread from the pantry and Nora got the strawberry jelly from the refrigerator.  Nora and I had had many heart-to-hearts over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“How did you know?  And don’t put too much peanut butter on my sandwich!  You always put too much peanut butter on, Ben!”  I teased Nora with a huge glob of peanut butter.

“Honestly…just popped into my head.  I wasn’t even thinking of her, I was actually paying attention to Mrs. King.”  I kept the Lindsay’s flaming head out of the conversation.  That was still freaking me out.  “That’s why I was out in the hallway.  I needed to get a hold of myself.”

“Weird,” Nora said through a mouthful of sandwich.  “So, why you?  You think others know?”  It was uncanny how alike Nora and I could be at times and yet so different.

“I don’t think so and no clue why me.  Everyone seems to be treating her normal.  There would be talk.  Have you heard anything?  Plus, she doesn’t exactly look like a witch.”

“First, does Willow look like a witch?  What’s a witch supposed to look like?  Stereotypes, really Ben?” Nora pointed her half-eaten sandwich at me.  “And, no…well nothing remotely close to ‘she’s a witch.’  Normal stuff, you know, like did you see her new purse, just trivial stuff like that.  But, oh my gosh was it a gorgeous purse.  Oh, I would kill for that purse.  It was a little Coach…”

“Nora!” I clenched my jaw.  She could get side tracked easily and go off on random tangents. “I don’t care about her stupid purse!” I threw my sandwich on to my plate.

“Right, um, no talk about her being a witch to report.”  Nora gave me a mock salute.

“Her freaking eyes flashed red!”

“Creepy,” Nora said.  We shuddered simultaneously, looked at each other and laughed.  There wasn’t much else we could do.  A fairytale nightmare was becoming reality.  “So what do we do with creepy, red eyed Lindsay?  Ben you have peanut butter on your face.”  Nora tapped her right cheek.

I grabbed a napkin from the counter and wiped my face.  “No clue.  I don’t want to bring too much attention to it.  We don’t know what Lindsay can do.”

“Well, let’s Sherlock the crap out of Lindsay and get some answers!” Nora grinned at me.

“Wow, just wow, Nora.  Your eloquence is beyond measure,” Sandwich crumbs flew from my mouth.  “You have such a beautiful way with words.”  We both cracked up.  “But you’re right.  Let’s get some answers.  Figure out what we’re dealing with.  I need to study for algebra first, but let’s do some research after dinner.”

“Ben, you’re such a nerd,” Nora teased.  “I’m going to go watch TMZ.”

5

            I had trouble focusing on algebra.  I went to my nook with my algebra book to attempt to find my inner peace and calm my mind.  The racing thoughts were making me a little nauseated.  I sat there with the unopened algebra book on my lap and leaned my head against the frame of the nook. What was I going to do?

I was going to study.  I may not be able to understand or control what was happening but I could most certainly control my grade in algebra.  Plus basketball season was just around the corner and I didn’t want to be ineligible to play.

So I studied, in my nook for the next hour.  Each problem I reviewed, I could feel my mind calming.  Algebra was logical and that’s what my mind needed.  I had two problems left to go over when I heard the garage door creaking open below my bedroom.  My parents were home.   They carpooled together because they only worked a block away from each other.  My dad was the director of communications for a nonprofit company that helped kids in need obtain technology like computers and tablets.  Our small town of Hickory had a high poverty rate.  My mum was the Vice President of Hickory’s local bank.

I went downstairs to greet them. I could go over those last two problems tomorrow during homeroom period.  They came in through the garage door with take-out bags in their hands, “It’s Taco Tuesday!”

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