Poor Valley Witch VIII: Nubbins

Happy Friday, weekend warriors! I had a thought about Poor Valley Witch, so I thought I’d continue that narrative a bit today. Please read on.

If you’d like to read the previous installment, click here.

***

Landon sat in his car, cell phone in hand. His head was reeling. His thoughts were buzzing, full of white noise. He was an impulsive person naturally, and trusted his gut to guide him. It’s one of the things his father had always criticized.

“You need to slow down,” he’d say. “You need a plan. You keep flying by the seat of your pants, you’ll crash and burn.” Landon’s dad was right about that, usually, but Landon was naturally ornery as well as impulsive, so he pushed away the advice.

Now, it wasn’t his father’s advice he needed. It was his mother’s. She’d made the lost wax ring. In college, according to Mamaw. And here it was, on his pinky finger, plucked from a nest full of lost memories from his life, curated by vultures. Landon shivered, even though the day was warm. He thought he could smell their sickly-sweet stench, memory of their shuffling, rustling, black-feathered bodies evoking the sensation.

He looked down at the cell phone, thumb caressing the circular “unlock” button. He needed to go back to the Poor Valley witch, he was pretty sure of that. But he had absolutely no idea why. Why was she targeting him, sending her carrion-eaters to show him a cache of things hidden in his grandmother’s attic? He was starting to question Mamaw’s sanity, too. She’d said something about him being sacrificed. It was chilling, coming from her wrinkled lips, in her quavering, old-woman voice. But … was she all there? Was she lucid, or just spouting some creepy shit her dementia-addled brain had dredged up from a memory of some horror story she’d read as a kid? And which thing was more terrifying: his strong-willed grandmother going nuts, or her talking about his sacrifice while in her right mind?

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“I’m stalling,” Landon muttered, pressing down with his thumb to bring up his phone’s home screen. He tapped his mother’s name and lifted the phone to his ear.

“Hey, baby!” she answered on the first ring. “How’s my boy?” Her cheery voice grated in his ear. She’d been drinking, probably. It was there, under the cherry-sweet tone.

“Hi Mom,” he said. “Listen, I need you.” It was a bald confession. He would never have said those words in any normal circumstance; his mother had abandoned him and his dad, and he’d never forgiven her for that.

She picked up his tone immediately. “What’s wrong?” Not too drunk, then, he thought.

“I…have this ring,” he said, unsure of where to start his tale, or what he even needed her for. I’m grasping at straws, here, he thought. A gasp came through the phone.

“You need the nubbins,” she said. The cherry sweetness was gone completely.

“I have those, too,” he said, taken aback. They were in the mint tin, on the dash.

“Oh, thank god!” she said. “I’ll be there tonight. Tomorrow, if I can’t get a flight. I’ll come in to Knoxville. Stay with your grandmother. I’ll rent a car.”

“Ok,” he said, now completely flustered.

“Landon?”

“Yeah.”

“Stay at Mamaw’s. That’s important. Keep the ring and the nubbins close, and stay there.”

“Ok, Mom.” The connection dropped. What the hell was happening?

 

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