Harvey Anderson always knew the universe was against him, but thereâs a lot of stuff he never expected to happen, like having a crush on the most popular girl at school, and then falling into a giant hole in the middle of nowhere with her. And if that wasnât enough, somehow they managed to release a soul-sucking, ancient witch as well. So yeah, thereâs that. Youâd think itâd be pretty hard to beat, but knowing Harveyâs luck, itâs about to get a whole lot worse.
K. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. K. A. Last is currently studying her Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt University, with a major in English, and minors in Childrenâs Literature, Art History, and Visual Culture. She now resides in the countryside on the mid-north coast of NSW.
I shine my torch beam across the floor, then up the walls and back to the floor. An uneasy feeling settles into the pit of my stomach. I donât want to ask the question Iâm about to ask, but I canât help myself.
âAre those human bones?â
Lian tenses beside me. âI hope not.â
Toni takes a few steps into the cave, moving to the left and skirting around the wall. I follow, and Lian comes close behind. I feel her grab the back of my T-shirt. I donât mind the contact. Iâm creeped out and glad Iâm not down here by myself.
As we move farther into the cave, it becomes clear that something terrible must have happened here. Toni stops, and the light from her head torch shines on a human skull. I jump and a funny noise comes out of my mouth. Black, gaping holes stare at us. A huge spider slowly crawls out of one of the eye sockets, and an invisible finger traces my spine. Bile rises into my throat, and I supress the urge to vomit.
Lian grips my arm and presses against me. We crowd in behind Toni, neither of us prepared to have any space between us. For some reason, I feel safer huddled together when itâs probably not the best idea if we need to run away screaming.
âYep. Definitely human,â Toni says.
She runs her torch around again and more skulls shine white in the darkness. Some of them are still attached to skeletons, which are sitting on rocks with their backs against the wall, bits of clothing draped off them. Other skulls lie on the ground, detached and without bodies. I keep my torchlight on the spider. I do not want it creeping up on me in the dark.
âWho are they?â Lian asks.
âSomething tells me we wonât find a driverâs licence in their pockets,â I say.
âCan anyone see the wand?â Toni takes another step forward.
Lian and I shuffle with her, and I grab her arm with my free hand. The three of us search the cave with our torches, and my stomach rolls again. Our lights bounce around, and then I catch something that glimmers.
âThere!â I point and realise neither of the girls can see me because all our light is in front of us. âI think â¦ oh God.â I train my light where I saw the shiny thing. âItâs â¦ is that a hand?â
Finger bones curl around a stick with a stone at the end. The stone is black but shiny enough to reflect our torchlight. Twine binds the stone to the head of the wand in a twisted mass. Itâs not very pretty.
âI donât want it to be a hand,â Lian says. âBags not getting it.â
Toni snorts. âSeriously?â
âWhat?â Lian says. âI said it first.â
âYou can stay calm when a spider runs up your arm,â I say, âbut you canât pluck a stick from a dead personâs fingers?â
âYou do it then. I have no trouble admitting I donât want to touch dead people.â
Toni hasnât offered to get it either, even after questioning Lian. Sheâs as scared as us, which makes this a whole lot worse. Up until now, Toni has been the level-headed one. The one with all the answers. Now, her arm shakes beneath my hand.
I take a breath. âGet ready to â¦ I donât know. Kill the dead people if they attack me.â
I let go of Toni and take a step around her. Lian lets go of my arm, and fear rushes through me as I lose physical contact with both the girls. I take a few measured steps towards the hand holding the wand, careful not to step on any bones along the way.
Until now, I havenât considered that the hand might be attached to an arm, attached to a body. I shine my torch around and wish I hadnât. It is attached to someone, or at least, a skeleton that used to be someone. Strips of fabric fall in tatters around the form. With every step, I get more scared.
âTheyâre all dead,â I mumble under my breath. âThey canât hurt me.â
Only weâre dealing with witches and magic here, and I donât actually know that these bones will leave me alone. Especially since Iâm about to take something from them. I edge forward and stretch out my free hand, clutching my torch tightly with the other. I stop and lean forward, not wanting to get any closer, and use the length of my arm to get the wand.
My fingers brush the bones as I grab the stick and I yelp, pulling my hand back.
âWhat?â Toni asks. âWhat is it?â
âNothing,â I say.
I flex my fingers and try again, telling myself that itâs no big deal, theyâre just bones. Finger bones, but just bones, nonetheless. I manage to grip the wand, and I pull to free it from the dead skeletonâs grasp. At first it doesnât move, and then it comes away with a snap.
I jump back with the wand in my hand, the bony fingers still gripping to it.
âOh my god!â Toni says. âYou broke the hand off!â