Three times round the tree

Once, twice….. dare she do it three times? Katie looked at Sophie with big, wide, brown eyes that danced with eagerness.

“Go on……..go on.” Katie’s devilish smile egging her on, but all the while her sensible side resisting. “You’ve stopped, now you’re going to have to start again or it won’t count.” Sophie thought about it before circling the tree again, once, twice. No, she couldn’t do it.

“If you’re so keen for me to do it why don’t you?” Sophie pointed out indignantly.

“OK then, I will. I’m not scared.”

“Go on then.” The girls had been friends for as many years as they were old. Their mothers had been friends before the girls were born and they were inseparable. Katie was the angelic one with long blonde sweeping hair and a smile that would dazzle a muddy puddle, but with a wickedness that, not on a leash would get the pair into a lot of trouble. Sophie on the other hand was the sensible one, quite plain in appearance, her brown hair sensibly cut but with a steady calming side, that would air on the side of boring without Katies influence. They were like ying and yang, apart they didn’t work but together they were dynamic. “Maybe you shouldn’t. Our Mum’s will be cross.”

“Why should they be, anyway I won’t tell if you won’t.”

“But what if it comes true and they find out. How will they find out?”

“Well, you know how the saying goes, ‘Three times round the tree and the spirit of the witch that was buried alive will come back to life. Local legend claims the tree sprouted from the wooden leg of a witch who was buried here. It is said the church was then built around the evil woman to contain her wickedness and her ghost still haunts its walls.”

“You don’t really believe in all that nonsense, do you? You’re not going to tell me in all these years that no one has walked round the tree three times?”

“Well, they might, and whose to say bad things didn’t happen to them.”

“Well, I’ve never heard of anything bad happening.” The big oak tree must have been here for hundreds of years. Its girth was thicker than the two girls put together and its branches spanned the width of the inside of the old church. It was amazing how this church, which had been left to decay since the 17th century still held such mystical charm. Ivy hung over the still intact church walls and the nave, all that remained of this haunting relic. “I bet a squirrel buried an acorn years ago and that’s how the tree grew. There’s always a logical reason to everything.”

“Well, I’m not prepared to take the risk, you can if you like but be it on your head.”

“Scaredy cat, scaredy cat, sitting on a door mat.” Katie sung as she skipped around the tree trunk for the second time.

“Please don’t.” Sophie pleaded, but it was too late, the deed had been done. Both girls stood still waiting for a bolt of lightning or the ground to open up, nothing. Everything looked the same as it did before.

“See I told you nothing would happen, it’s just a stupid superstition.”

“Phew.” Both girls laughed.

“It’s nearly tea time and it’s getting dark, we had better get home.” The girls left the old ruin with its tales and headed home.

No one knows quite what happened next, whether it was the subdued lighting, the kids in a rush to get home or a careless driver, but as the black Ford car rounded the corner, he made impact with Katie sending her flying. Her crumpled body lay helpless on the ground, as a distraught Sophie screamed for help. It was futile.

Or was it the witch whose spirit had been awakened. Dare you try it?

This story was inspired by St. Mary’s Church at East Somerton in Norfolk

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