When I began to plot my escape yesterday morning, I started to factor in the possibility that someone was in my house, guarding me. That meant it would be best if I broke out through the window, but as quietly as possible – repetitive banging noises would be sure to alert the guard to my plan.
But then I thought, would they really give me a round-the-clock guard? This is Morkwood, a tiny village obsessed with an old law and fearful of superstitious nonsense. Were they really that organised? This wasn’t some huge conspiracy backed my money and power. This was just William lording over a group of unintelligent countryside folk who didn’t know any better.
Plus, I wasn’t that important.
Then again, they had kept me trapped in my own home. And they had taken Aunt Iris.
Either way, breaking out of the window seemed the best option. The door would require a lot more effort to break through.
I tried prising the wooden planks off of the window with just my hands, but all that did was imbed splinters into my fingers. I then tried using the heels of various shoes by wedging them between the glass and the wood to see if that would move anything. Of course, it didn’t.
Then an idea struck me.
I searched around in my wardrobe and found an old purse at the bottom of a bag, full of loose change. I grabbed a coin, placed it into the metal grooves of one of the screws and tried turning it counter-clockwise.
It was difficult – my fingers slipped and my knuckles scraped against the wood several times – but eventually it began to loosen. One by one the screws fell out and the planks came away from the wall, allowing morning sunlight to spill into the room. Its warmth lifted my spirits.
I started to plan my way out of the village. I would get down using the drainpipe (somehow) and creep around the outskirts of the village to get to the woods, heading past the lake to see if Aunt Iris was being kept anywhere around there. If not, I would simply go straight into the neighbouring village to ask for help.
As the last plank of wood fell from the wall, I looked down at my front garden. Amidst the piles of wreaths that had now accumulated on the lawn, there was now a larger, more elaborate wreath propped up against the front gate. At the top of it there was a head – but it wasn’t the head of a hare, or a bird, or even a cat.
It was a human.
The eyes were milky white. Mouth slack. Skin grey. Hair wet and dishevelled, entangled in the sticks and twine of the wreath.
I looked away quickly. I didn’t…I couldn’t…see her like that.
I began to retch.
What did they do to her? Why? Did they really think they could get away with it?
William did. William knew he would get away with it.
Suddenly, a numbness overtook me. Instead of mourning my last living relative, I found myself straightening up, turning away from the window and imagining exactly how I would end William’s life.
Although I felt numb, I know myself. And I know I wouldn’t have been able to get past Aunt Iris and through the gate when she looked like…looking the way she did…without making my presence known.
So I hid.
I closed my eyes as I opened up the window, I got into the cupboard, I closed the door and I waited in the dark.
I waited until the barricade was pulled away from the bedroom door.
I waited until men came into the room, saw the open window and yelled at one another.
I waited until they stomped down the stairs and discussed splitting up to look for me around Morkwood.
I waited a few more minutes, just to be sure they had completely gone.
Then I crept out of the cupboard and went down to the kitchen. I forced myself to drink and eat as much as my body could take.
I locked the doors and windows. I pushed the two sofas and a few other heavy objects in front of the front and back doors. I used the planks of wood from upstairs and broke down a few bookshelves to hammer the wood across each of the windows.
And now? Now I’m going to wait a little longer.
It didn’t take long for them to realise what I had done.
“Margaret! Open up!”
I peeked through the curtain. William was at the front door with a megaphone. There were also a lot of men milling around the house carrying an assortment of tools. I could see Arthur and Henry there – even Terry.
I quickly stepped back, not wanting to see Aunt Iris again.
“You need to let us in, Margaret.”
I imagined the life leaving William’s eyes.
“You can’t go anywhere, you do know that, right? I’ll give you a few hours to come to your senses, but then we’re coming in.”
“That’s fine with me,” I said.
A few hours is all I need.
Read the last episode of The Festivities of Morkwood.