It was the end of summer. I was hiding at the bottom of my Nanny and Poppops garden, behind the tall Leylandii hedge when I first spotted the witch.
I had been peering through the closely knit branches to see if anyone was coming, when I noticed her small claw-like hand amongst the leaves. I stepped back against the boundary fence in shock as I heard a small, croaky voice.
“You can see me?” Asked the witch.
“Er…yes.” I replied, taking in her thin greyish face.
My eyes frantically tried to trace the limbs of her body, it seemed that the witch was part of the Leylandii hedge, as if she’d grown with it.
“My name’s Haggerston Grey, 3rd witch of Sussex. Who are you?”
“Jesse.” I replied.
“Well Jesse, I need you to find some garden shears and cut me out of this awful Leylandii. I can’t abide the smell another second.”
Then I heard my Poppops bounding down the garden towards my hiding place.
“Found you!” His familiar voice called out as he peered through the hedge.
“Can you see anything stuck inside the hedge just here Poppops?” I asked pointing in front of where I stood.
“Just your grubby face.” He answered laughing. “Come on, we better get cleaned up before lunch. We’ll come out again afterwards if you like.”
I ran round to the front of the Leylandii and held his hand. As we walked into the house, my eyes wandered over to the shed. There’s bound to be garden shears in there, I thought.
“Don’t do it!” Was the whisper I heard as I stood at the entrance to the garden shed straight after lunch.
I looked around. Where was that whisper coming from? I could see my Nanny and Poppops in the house, through the dining-room window.
I stepped into the shed.
“Don’t set her free!” Called out the whispering voice again.
I quickly turned around, all I could see was a Red Admiral butterfly hovering behind me. Surely not!
I reached out my hand towards the garden shears whilst watching the butterfly.
“No! She’ll turn you into stone like the rest of them.” Hissed the butterfly desperately, flapping his wings very fast.
“It is you talking!” I exclaimed to the butterfly. “You mean the witch?” I asked.
“Yes. She’s a bad witch, a very bad witch. All the stone figures that you see around the garden weren’t always stone. One by one, she trapped them and turned them to stone.”
My eyes darted across the garden, a dragon, a cat, a duck, a rabbit, a frog, a little boy and a little girl.
The butterfly continued. “If it hadn’t been for the magpie snatching her wand away one night she’d still be terrorising everything in this garden.” Whispered the butterfly and off he flew.
I walked over to the Leylandii and peered into the coniferous evergreen. I looked and looked. But the witch was gone.
I rushed round behind the Leylandii and checked again. I could see no trace of the witch.
“Of course you can’t see her,” said the large compost bin who sat next to the fence, “she’s made herself invisible. I often think it would be nice to be invisible for the day, then they wouldn’t know where to put their veg would they? Ha!”
“Oh my goodness, it’s really a rather strange day,” I exclaimed to the compost bin, “does this one talk too?” I asked pointing to the smaller compost bin next to him.
“That’s the listening bin, I’m the talking bin. She can talk but chooses to listen mostly. She says it’s a better use of her time but I’m not altogether convinced, I’m not even sure she’s listening to me half the time.”
“I thought the witch needed her wand to do magic?” I asked the talking bin.
“Well, sort of. Pica the magpie has buried the witches wand. He is still very angry at her after what she did to his mate. Sad business…”
The listening bin interrupted the talking bin. “What the talking bin is trying to say in his very long-winded way, is that as well as her using the wand for magic she gains power from people’s belief in her too. When you spotted her in the Leylandii, it gave her power, when you believed that she was gone and not invisible, she swelled in power. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has gained enough power to escape from the hedge altogether now.”
“We must be on our guard,” chimed in the talking bin.
Just then a rustling came from the other side of the Leylandii. The witch was climbing out of the front of the hedge, she was free! Straight away she pounced on the Red Admiral butterfly trapping him under a flower-pot.
“Only you have the power to help Barnaby and the others now.” Whispered the listening bin.
I looked at the two compost bins and then through the hedge at the witch. What could I do about it?
“I’ll get Nanny and Poppops, they’ll help.” I suggested to the two bins.
“You can’t,” said the talking bin, “they don’t believe in witches so they can’t see her. They’ll think you’re making it all up. That’s the trouble with grown ups.”
“Well what can I do then? She’s got Barnaby!” I exclaimed.
At that moment a beautiful black and white magpie flew down and perched on the fence next to us.
“I’ll tell you what you’re going to do.” Pica said to me, “you’re going to help me dig up the witches wand so we can use it against her. It’s buried in the herb garden. Quick, we must hurry before she sniffs it out.”
I followed Pica to the end of the Leylandii and as I crouched down and crawled behind the flower beds, he hopped along beside me. Soon we had made our way down to the herb garden at the side of the house.
“There at the back of the bed, next to that violet.” Instructed Pica.
I started digging up the soil with my hands and making a pile to one side.
“What did the witch do to your mate Pica?” I asked as I dug deeper and deeper.
Pica looked away sadly, “She trapped Nita and turned her to stone.”
“But when we find this wand, we can try to turn all the stone figures back, can’t we?” I asked.
“It’s too late for Nita. When I got the wand from the witch, she was very angry and smashed Nita’s stone figure on the floor. It shattered into hundreds of pieces. I won’t see my friend again.”
I looked up sadly at Pica.
“That’s when I used her wand against her, I was so angry it somehow worked, I managed to expel her away, but only as far as the Leylandii. Luckily, the hedge soon swallowed up her limbs, trapping her there. I hoped that was where she was going to stay but I feared she would gain power again.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Keep digging Jesse, you’re nearly there.”
“Yes!” I shouted as my hand felt the hard stick in the earth and I pulled it free.
As quick as a flash, the witch leapt out from behind the water-butt. “I think you’ll find that’s mine!” She said grabbing it from my hand.
“Run!” Squawked Pica, but it was too late, the witch zapped him with the wand and turned him instantly to stone where he sat on the fence.
I ran, fast, across the garden and hid behind the shed which was positioned just in front of the Leylandii hedge.
The stone little boy and girl stood together both looking in the same direction. Funny, I hadn’t noticed them here earlier when I was by the shed. I followed their gaze to a wooden sign stuck in the soil of a flower bed.
“It won’t take me long to find you Jesse..and when I do…” Shrieked the witch.
I quickly read the sign, ‘The darkness of the storm determines the brightness of the rainbow.’
I could hear the witch getting closer, she was nearly at my hiding place.
I raced around the shed then squeezed between the fence to get back behind the Leylandii. I ran along to the compost bins.
“What am I going to do?” I whispered to the two bins. “The witch is going to turn me to stone and then I’ll never get to go to my new school.”
“I heard you say yesterday to your Poppops that you didn’t want to go to your new big school.” Said the listening bin.
“I’d rather be at school than turned to stone!” I replied.
“Sorry, we can’t help you Jesse, we’re just bins but we believe in you. You can do it.” Said the talking bin.
“The darkness of the storm determines the brightness of the rainbow.” I said out loud as I thought.
“What’s she talking about now?” The talking bin asked the listening bin.
“That’s it! I read a book at primary school all about witches and one chapter was about how they can’t stand rainbows. Their colourful, happy brightness poisons them.” I said excitedly.
“Well I don’t think you’re going to get rainbows here anytime soon. It’s a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the…”
But before the talking bin had finished speaking I had whizzed out of the open end of the Leylandii and begun making my way down the other side of the garden hiding in the cover of the flower beds as I went.
“Jesse my darling, come out. I won’t hurt you dear, you can trust your old friend Haggerston.” Gushed the witch as her beady eyes scanned the garden for Jesse.
Before long I was down at the greenhouse, I crawled down the side and through the door keeping low so she wouldn’t see me.
I looked up at the large crystal hanging in the greenhouse. I was going to need to get closer to the witch if this was going to work. I grabbed the crystal off its hook and ran out onto the lawn where she was standing, making sure that the sun was behind me.
“Jesse, I’ve been looking for you,” she muttered as she raised up her wand.
In a flash I raised the crystal up in the air and the bright sunlight shone rainbow coloured light through it onto the witch. As the spots of light hit her body she began to smoke and fizz. As I moved the crystal around, bigger spots of rainbow light made big holes and soon she had disappeared leaving just a small pile of dust on the grass.
I looked down at the pile in disbelief. I’d done it, I’d got rid of the witch, on my own.
“Jesse!” Called Poppops from the back door.
“Just a minute,” I replied.
I quickly gathered up the witches dust in my hands and took it round to the herb garden. I placed it into the hole that I had dug the wand up from and covered it over with the spare soil.
I ran back to the lawn and picked up the witches wand. I pointed it out in front of me and the words tumbled from my mouth, “Now that I’ve defeated the witch alone, turn all my friends back from stone.”
A twinkling, swirly noise whooshed through the garden and then all at once the figures were freed from their stone prisons. They all waved happily at me as Pica flew round and round in circles over the garden, “Hurray for Jesse!” He squawked.
I smiled and waved back, putting my arm down when I realised that my Poppops was padding out into the garden in his slippers.
“Come on Jesse. Your mum will be here to pick you up soon. I can’t believe you’ll be starting secondary school in two days time. Feeling any better about it?” Asked Poppops.
“I reckon I can handle it.” I said smiling up at him as I tucked the witches wand into my pocket.
He laughed. “Yeah, me too,” he said as we walked back into the house together.