There's A Bell in the Well
The chilly December air bites into the young girl’s raw cheeks as she sprints through the trees of Salem woods. The low-hanging branches snatching painfully at the girl’s fiery red hair, the barbs at the ends scratching her delicate arms and legs. Her dark green eyes are wide with fear as she desperately tries to suck in quick breaths, the townsmen could be heard a few feet from behind. Their dog’s barks and their drunken yells echo among the snatching black trees, it’s as if the wind carries their hateful words to the girl’s ears.
Her whole body trembles from head to toe, she wishes it was due to the cold but she knows that it was due to the burning hot fear that is coursing through her body. Her heart feels as if it’s about to beat right out of her chest as she zig-zags through the trees.
In her fear she is sure she hears one of the men right next to her ear, spitting their hateful words at her. She could feel their scornful looks burning deeply into her back, for a moment a burst of pain blossoms from where the phantom stares are being aimed.
She always thought that fear was a funny thing, how something as small as a mouse can make one so frightful, but now she understands that fear is more than pitched screams and tears. Fear is a cold hand that grips one’s soul, it’s something that has someone pushing until they can no longer push.
Fear was something that tripped you up…
A pitched scream leaves the girl’s mouth as she goes sprawling to the icy and damp ground below, a gnarled root has captured the girl’s foot. The landing knocks what little breath she has from her lungs, leaving the girl gasping for air as she stares up at the clear night sky through the branches. The wetness of the earth began to seep into her white cotton gown, drenching her back in cool mud and fallen leaves.
She closes her eyes as she forces herself to rise, a pained cry leaves her as she stands. Her left ankle throbbing painfully. Lifting her skirts, she notices the purple bruise beginning to raise to life on her pale skin.
The sound of the dogs and men begins to grow nearer, with a pained breath sucked between clenched teeth, the girl takes off once more. The pain from her ankle shakes her to the very core, a rush of nausea fills her body as she pushes through the pain.
All she has to do is make it across the stream just ahead, Topsfield is where she can be safe. The girl remembers a time when she and her mother met a kind woman there, her name was Cassandra and she always promised that the girl can always come to her for safety and reassurance.
The sound of the bubbling stream breaks through her fearful thoughts, and a semblance of relief begins to flood through her body.
’Just a little farther!’ She thinks.
A loud BANG echoes through the trees, and for a moment the girl thinks a tree may have fallen, but then her confusion turns into a burning and aching pain that shoots through and down her entire left side.
The pain is too much to bear, she falls to the ground, landing harshly on her bony knees. She looks down and notices the deep red of her blood slowly dying the front of her gown to a deep black color. She presses her hand to the stain, crying out as paint shoots through her once more.
’Th…They shot me?’
The howling laughter of the men breaks through to her, but even with the fear of them setting back in the girl couldn’t force herself to move.
Thick fingers grab her fiery red hair, the meaty sausages wrapping the strands around so tight that it brought tears to the girl’s dark green eyes. She could feel the man lean down, could see his scruffy face out of the corner of her eye. He was the shopkeeper, Mr. Jotson.
“Thought you could bloody getaway, aye witch?” His rough voice says right next to her ear.
The girl’s nose crinkles in disgust when the smell of stale whisky fans her face. She can hear the other men getting closer, Mr. Jotson must have been the one to rally the troops. The girl tries to wriggle her way free, but that only leads to a sharper tug on her hair and a boot digging painfully into her wounded ankle.
“P-Please, I’ve no knowledge of what it is you think I’ve done, but… p-please let me go. I promise to never return to Salem for as long as I live!” She pleads.
Mr. Jotson lets out a cruel laugh as he hauls the girl upright, disturbing the gushing wound on her side and her throbbing ankle.
“No knowledge, aye? We all know you are the one who’s been hexing the crops. Don’t go about denying it, love! Since you’ve bloody been here, our crops have died and now look! Little children and wives are dying from the famine you’ve brought upon us!”
A cry leaves the girl’s mouth when Mr. Jotson lands a hard kick on her injured ankle, she is sure that it’s more than broken at this point.
The sounds of the other men send a feeling of cold defeat through the girl as she is forcefully turned around to be put on display by Mr. Jotson. She looks up at them, her green eyes narrowed in pain and in sorrow as she gets a good look at every single one of them.
Every man there is one that has scorned her, beaten her with whips kept at their sides reserved for their horses, spat at her for lingering for too long have the brutal beatings.
“What are we to do with her, Lawrence?” Asks Mr. Jameson, she knew him from the butcher’s shop.
A pained whimper leaves her pale chapped lips as Mr. Jotson jerks her around as if she were some form of a doll.
“The old well isn’t far from here.”
A shot of fear and adrenaline shoots through the girl, for a moment her pain is forgotten as she begins to struggle against Mr. Jotson once more. She’s heard stories about the old well, horrid tales that left her crying for her mother in the night when she was just a young child. They say the well is cursed, those who have gone to it for its nourishment never returned as themselves.
“It seems she’s heard of the curse! What’s the matter, lass? Scared of a pile of rocks?” One of the men taunts.
A roar of laughter erupts around her, and the feeling of Mr. Jotsons thick fingers digging into her gunshot wound stills her as a scream leaves her mouth.
That is enough for her struggling to finally die down, her body going somewhat limp as she’s hoisted above Mr. Jotson’s right shoulder. She looks forlornly at the stream that was only a few inches away, so close and yet so far away from safety that she can nearly feel the warmth of the fire that Cassandra would surely have going on this cold December night.
The well is just as they said it was, it’s a little under three feet tall, the rocks ranging in color. Cold greys and burnt blacks, a few browns can be seen within the foundation of the well. The wooden posts that use to hold the rope and pale are nothing more than splinters on the ground now, some say a bolt of lightning destroyed them, God’s way of warning people of the terrors this well can bring.
The girl is sat down on the ground, barely catching herself from falling once pressure is once again on her injured ankle. Her green eyes dart around, looking for a means of escape only to find the townsmen gathered around her.
“Pl…Please… Don’t do this…” She pleads.
The men snicker around her, some of them throwing drunken scorns at her, cursing her for even being alive as if she has a choice in the matter. One of the men jumps out at her, causing the girl to take a trembling step back. She cries out when the cool rocks of the well press against her back. The sensation of the cold rocks and her warm blood pouring down her side begin to be too much for the girl to handle.
“Alright, lad. Can’t you see the girl is sorry? Come on Darlin, we’ll let you go.”
She looks at the man who spoke, his name was James Clowder, his farm is only a few feet down from her mother’s rotting old cottage.
The girl takes a tentative step forward, keeping her guard up as she does. The men for a split second create a path for her to pass through them. Another step, the feeling of a stray rock digs into her bare feet. It’s the last solid thing she feels before she’s roughly pushed back, by the very man who said she could leave.
She tumbles over the well’s edge, her screams echoing against its walls as she falls to the deep darkness below…
“And as she fell, her screams could be heard against the wells earthy walls…’ Colby continues.
Mimi rolls her eyes at her friend, everyone else was so entranced by the tale. This was a story she’s heard a thousand times, pointless folklore used by parents to keep their kids on their toes.
“The last thing the men heard was the sound of the Bell’s neck breaking at the bottom of the well,” Colby gives a quick glance around and grins, “some say that she now roams the woods. Her neck bent at a gnarled angle and red hair a matted mess as she searches for the men who killed her.”
Mimi hears the sound of someone behind her five seconds too late. Hands much larger than her own grab her shoulders, causing her to let out a startled scream.
She turns around sharply, causing her long black braid to whip out nearly hitting the girl next to her. She didn’t care about that because lying on the ground behind her was Peyton, he has been friends with her since middle school.
“Peyton! You asshole, what have I told you about doing that?”
“Uh, not to?” He snickers while dodging a kick from her.
Mimi huffs and turns away from him, she’s not even sure why she even agreed to go on this camping trip. It’s not even her style, no, she would rather be at home studying for her calculus test that was on Wednesday. Somehow she allowed Colby and Peyton to convince her to join them on the senior class camping trip.
“Come on, Mim! It’ll be fun!” There’s gonna be spooky stories, smores, booze, and smoooores.”
She mentally curses Colby for using her love of smores against her.
“What’s even with this story? Like… is it even real?” A girl to Mimi’s left speaks up.
“Of course, it’s real! There’s even a memorial stone at the well for her.”
Mimi looks at Colby in confusion, how can he possibly know that? The point of the story is to keep little kids out of the woods. To her knowledge, there really used to be a well, but it was torn down back in the 40s.
“How would you know? Your mom is like… the most paranoid person about the story, Colby. She’d lose her shit if she found out you’ve been here before now.”
Peyton is right, Mimi remembers how Colby’s mom even went as far as putting up a six foot wooden fence in their backyard. She wanted to go higher, but even the Dumont family couldn’t get pass the height regulation.
“My brother and I snuck out once! Her and dad were at some party with their rich friends. Keyton wanted to explore and being the annoying little brother I am, I had to tag along,” Colby argues.
“So you blackmailed him?”
Mimi snickers when Colby’s face goes red at her accusation.
“If you guys don’t believe me then go look for yourselves! It’s by that stream that dried up.”
Mimi rolls her pale blue eyes, what’s even the point of feeding into this lore? It’s fake, a figment of the towns imagination, she can’t help but laugh at the idea of hunting for the well.
“What’s so funny?” Colby sneers.
“You are, Colby the story is just that, a story. Our parents just used it as a scare tactic to keep us out of the woods. That’s it.”
It was harsh of her, but they were old enough to know the difference between fact and fiction. Besides, even if the Bell in the well was true, why wasn’t she mentioned with the other witch trial victims? Sure, she wasn’t hanged like the others, but even Giles Corey was documented and he died via pressing.
“I think you’re just scared, Emilia.”
Mimi looks up at Colby and narrows her eyes at him.
“Ohhh, shit, he used her government name,” Peyton says in fake shock.
She turns her cold look on him, shutting him up immediately. Colby was trying to make it personal for no reason.
“I’m scared? Seriously? It’s fake! A made up folklore that was told to us as kids!”
Colby snorts and holds his hands up, “I’m just saying. If it’s fake and you’re not scared then you wouldn’t mind going with us to find it.”
Mimi huffs, she knows she shouldn’t fall for it. Colby is just pushing her buttons, she’s not going to give in, she’s better than acting like a petty teenager.
“Ashley Barnes would do it,” Colby teases.
At mere mention of her name, Mimi knew her resolve was shattered.
“Fine! If it means I get to prove your dumbass wrong, then I’ll do it!”
In a fit of anger, Mimi stands from her seat. A glare fits over her usual soft features, angry tears filling her eyes. For a split second she sees the regret flash in Colby’s chestnut eyes. It’s the last thing she sees before sprinting through the trees.
Mimi ignores their calls for her, roughly wiping her tears away. How could he bring up Ashley fucking Barnes? The girl who has been making Mimi’s life a living hell since grade school? When she’s far enough, Mimi slows down into a walk. She sniffs pitifully before angrily tearing her braid down. She rakes her fingers through her hair, gripping it as she does. She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.
“I overreacted…he was just trying to rile me up,” she looks around and groans when she sees nothing but black leafless trees, “and now I’m fucking lost…great.”
The sound of leaves rustling on the ground causes Mimi to jump. She does a full 360, squinting in the darkness hoping to make out a shape among the trees. The sound comes again, this time from behind her. She pulls her phone from her pocket and switches the flashlight on, the beam shaking due to her trembling hands.
“Colby, if that’s you I swear I’m going to kick your ass!”
The noise happens again, only this time a breathy giggle dances its way through the trees. All of the fight drains from Mimi’s body, the sound now felt like it was all around her.
She does the only logical thing there was and that is to run. The beam of her flashlight bounces around erratically as she runs. Adrenaline courses through her body, her breaths coming out in short breaths.
“There’s a Bell in the well, she fell way way down and no one was allowed to tell,” a voice hisses in the wind.
A scared whimper leaves Mimi’s trembling lips, “C…Colby, this isn’t funny! Stop it!”
The breathy giggles turn into shrieking laughs, the piercing sound sends a shiver down Mimi’s back. Was this what Colby planned? To scare Mimi into admitting he’s right about the story being true? No, no there’s no way Colby planned this, it’s too elaborate.
“Whoever is doing this, please stop! I’m scared!” Mimi cries.
Her please makes the laughter grow louder, tears stream down her pale face as she runs deeper into the woods. She has to get away, find the campsite, but it’s as if she’s going around in circles. The laughter turns into hateful yells and the sound of dogs barking. Her fear amplifies forcing her legs to move faster.
She runs and runs until the ground disappears from under her feet. Her screams echo off of the dirt walls of the hole. It feels like forever until she reaches the bottom, her left ankle making a sickening crack once she lands.
A pained cry leaves her as she grabs at her ankle. The smell of musty earth overwhelms her senses, it’s as if she could taste the dirt. She looks around for her phone, letting out a frustrated wail when she sees it broken next to her.
“H…Help! S-S…Someone please h-help me!” She’s only met with her own echoes.
“What the hell was that, Colby!?” Peyton yells as he shoves Colby back.
That gives Colby all he needs to shake away his shock. He glares at his friend, ready to argue back, but he’s interrupted by a loud scream coming through the trees surrounding the campsite.
“Be pissed at me later, right now we need to go find Mimi.”
Colby pushes past Peyton, only to be stopped with a arm grabbing his bicep in a tight grip.
“If she’s hurt, I swear I’ll make you regret it.”
Colby looks into Peyton’s hazel eyes, silently telling me that he doesn’t blame him.
Mimi tries to stand only to crumble back down into the wet earth. She quietly cries into her hands, how is she going to get out of here? Where even was here? What idiot digs a hole in the middle of the woods?
She leans her head back against the dirt wall, a stray root snatching at her hair as she does.
“There’s a Bell in the well, she fell way way down and no one was allowed to tell…” Mimi tenses when she hears that melody once again, only now it’s right next to her ear.
“The Bell fell and fell until she fell no more. The Bell in the well shall forever dwell…”
Mimi covers her ears, yelling for the voice to stop. A shot of icy fear goes down her spine when she feels a breath tickle her cheek. She refuses to turn her head, but she can see a strand of red hair dancing within her peripheral vision.
“The Bell in the well forever dwells for all eternity.”
“Mimi! Come on now, this isn’t funny!” Colby yells as he walks next to Peyton. It feels like they’ve been walking for hours and they still haven’t found her.
“This is your fault, I hope you know that.”
Colby groans and stops walking, “I know! You’ve said that three times now!”
He takes a step back when Peyton rounds on him. Fiery anger burns in his eyes as he stalks toward Colby.
“And I’ll keep saying it! Why would you even bring Ashley up? Especially when she was just calling you out on your bullshit lie!”
Colby rakes his hands through his blond locks, he goes to speak only to cut himself off when he sees something over Peyton’s shoulder.
“What? Cat got your tongue?”
Colby slowly shakes his head as he points. Peyton turns around with an annoyed huff.
“What is i–Holy shit.”
There standing only a few feet away is the Bell, her flaming red hair blowing in the wind, her head bent at an unnatural angle, she looks at them with pale glowing green eyes. The boys flinch when she uses her finger to beckon them forward, the joint painfully cracking as she does.
“Th…This has to be a prank, maybe Mimi is fine and she’s fucking with us right now.” Peyton tries to reason.
“Oh, yeah it’s totally her in a wig! Think, Peyton! How the hell is Mimi going to get her neck bent like that!”
Colby nearly pukes when he hears the Bell’s bones crack as she slowly tilts her head to the other side. They watch as she lifts her hand, she points to her right, a bloody smile forming on her pale face.
“A Bell has fallen in the well.”
Colby and Peyton look at each other in alarm, “Mimi!”
Mimi tilts her head back, staring up at the night sky as she desperately tries to block the haunting voice out. She hears the sound of footsteps, for a fleeting moment she gains someone elses fear.
‘It’s the men, they’ve found me!’
“Mimi! Mimi are you down there!?”
Her fear finally washes away when she hears Colby’s voice.
She was finally going to be saved.