The Tragic Death of a Boy on the George V Bridge

Submitted into Contest #186 in response to: Write a story within a story within a story within a ...... view prompt


Fantasy Speculative Kids

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The doorbell rang, not once but three times, and Clementine’s heart echoed the dum-da-dum gong. Uninvited, Rosalva Yozhikova had arrived, leaving Clementine with a wild urge to flee. But somehow, she must convince Auntie Rosa to never unblock Ethan’s powers. The Boy Without Magic—Clementine’s twelve year old son—must not regain his gifts.   

Smoothing her skirt, Clementine fought for calm. At age thirty-three, she refused to be intimidated by her childhood mentor.

She opened the door.

Auntie Rosa appeared fragile with her bent back, hunched shoulders, and her face a mass of deep wrinkles. Her outward appearance didn’t mean her powers had faded. She might be closing in on the century mark, but Auntie had surprising powers, and could still put Clementine—herself a star-ranked witch—in her place.

A new patch of tumors erupted on Clementine’s face, a sure sign of inner turmoil.

Rosalva lifted her cane, one of her many affectations, and shook it at Clementine. “Get control of that glamour. I don’t like looking at it.”

Compelled by long habit, Clementine hung her head. “Sorry, Auntie. The glamour has taken on a life of its own.”

At just over five feet tall, Clementine was attractive despite the tumors and her tendency to chubbiness. She had thick, honey-blonde hair streaked with silver and wide blue eyes. Since her marriage to Wyvern North thirteen years ago, she’d projected a glamour that imitated neurofibromatosis, sprouting tumors of varying sizes and colors ranging from pink to dark brown. For years, she’d chosen when to look sick, mostly at times inconvenient to her husband. But what began as pretend ugliness was now real.

“Nonsense,” said Rosalva. “You have a surfeit of magic is all.” She grimaced and plunked herself down in Clementine’s favorite chair. “How about tea?”

Clementine fetched the tea tray herself and set it down in front of Rosalva. “Black or green tea, Auntie? Milk or lemon?”

Nay bud gloym—Don’t be daft, girl,” said Rosalva in Russian. And then in English added, “You know how I take tea.” She looked around. “Where’s the Samovar? Didn’t I teach you to make a drinkable glass of tea?”

“This is Canada, Auntie. English tea is what we make.”

Strasny—dreadful. But now, tell me what the fuck I’m doing here, visiting you. Wyvern insisted I talk to you, and I take it you didn’t want me here. You didn’t invite me. Not to mention, it’s winter and your little apartment is a nice one. You should have asked me to stay. But no. Your husband puts me up at some freezing cold hotel like a distant and unwanted relative. Instead of your dearest tetushka.”

Clementine glared at Auntie Rosa, then looked away to pour tea into delicate China cups.  “It’s no colder here than in Siberia where, I understand, you’d be buried under several feet of snow. And staying at the Hazleton is nothing to complain about. Wyvern wanted you to be as comfortable as possible. You wouldn’t have been comfortable staying with me.”

“Wyvern…” Rosalva sneezed the name, a sound followed by her famous sneer. “He wants me to fix that boy of his. Doesn’t he know what you’ve done?”

Leaning forward, elbows on knees, Clementine smirked. “Wyvern told you about his—our son. Ethan.”

“Yes, yes, the Boy Without Magic, cause célèbre, so what?”

“Wyvern wants you to find Ethan’s magic, and that’s why he’s buttering you up. But Auntie—”

“Do hush up. You must think me in my dotage. You, the boy’s mother, don’t want him to have his natural powers. You want the North heir to be without magic. In fact, I know you stole his magic, you bad, bad girl.” When she wanted to, Rosalva Yozhikova spoke perfect, idiomatic English with the merest accent.

Clementine shifted leaned back against the tufting of her pink velvet Chesterfield sofa. “Blocked Ethan’s magic, Auntie. Not stole. And I know you think I should kowtow to Wyvern. You engineered the dowry, and you know what he wanted me for.”

“Your powers.”

“Right. But here’s the thing. Why should the North heir necessarily be a powerful witch? Have you met him yet?”

Nyet.” Rosalva put her cup and saucer on the floor, her face stern. “You were against Wyvern from the beginning. A handsome, clever, powerful, wealthy man. Every girl’s dream of a husband. I never understood it. Now, before I help, if I can help, you tell me why you stole Ethan’s powers.”

“Better than a reason, I’ll tell you a story.”

Both women sat back, Clementine gathering her thoughts while Rosalva adopted a look of intense listening.


Bonnie Suthreen eyed her brother, Georgie, who drew sigils in the margins of his arithmetic text.

“Wait,” said Rosalva. “Our Bonnie who married my brother Evgeni? Your babushka?”

“The very one,” Clementine replied.

“I never let her tell me any of her stupid stories. She had no reason to be proud of being a Suthreen.”

“Maybe you should have,” said Clementine. “You wouldn’t have been so anxious to sell me to the Norths.”

Georgie’s tutor seemed captivated by some boring book that wasn’t even in proper English and never noticed that Georgie was drawing again.

But Bonnie saw.

He was silently talking with little Billie. Mama said Georgie was too old for imaginary friends. Papa worried about Georgie’s health and threatened to take him to a neurologist or psychoanalyst.

Billie was no imaginary friend. He was real. When Bonnie focused hard enough, she could sense his presence. Billie was full of hatred for Georgie. His magic was a hundred times stronger than Georgie’s. Maybe stronger than her own.

Georgie had good looks and no need of magic. Bonnie coveted his black hair, blue eyes and unmarked skin. Destined to be short and dumpy, she had a pudding face covered in an explosion of reddish freckles. She practiced glamour in front of her mirror until Mama caught her. “Never mind your looks,” said Mama. “You’ll marry well for your powers.”

Rosalva pounded her cane on the floor. “How often have I said the same of you?”

“I resemble Baba Bonnie quite a bit,” said Clementine, turning her face away to hide an eruption of tiny pink tumors.

Georgie told Bonnie of his past lives. He’d say, "Remember the quiet, dark place and the voice that asks if you want to come back male or female?”

Bonnie had no such memories. Georgie harped on about his human life as the Lord of Penrule Plantation on some tropical island. How he grew rich from sugar cane. How one of his slaves taught him how to steal magic. The easiest way was while a witch died.

 As Lord Penrule, he had accused his indentured plantation manager, William North, of witchcraft and sentenced him to burn alive. But the plan to steal the North witchery as he burned had been foiled by William’s wife who stopped his heart before the flames reached him.

Georgie claimed that Billie North was William reincarnated. Georgie was determined to succeed where he had failed in the past, and steal Billie’s magic.

“What you want—someone else’s magic—that’s very bad.” Bonnie didn’t want Georgie to fall into black.

Today, Georgie fidgeted until he gave Bonnie a wink and said, “It’s time for Billie to die.”

Bonnie pushed her hand against her middle, sick with what was coming. Billie North lived not far from the river Clyde where Georgie was strictly forbidden to go. But Billie had always made it clear. He wanted Georgie to meet him on the new bridge, the George V, a long walk from the safety of the Suthereen home.

With a glance at the clock and a deliberate bang of his arithmetic book, Georgie slid out from behind his desk, giving Bonnie a grimace.

“Where are you going?” Bonnie intended to follow and stop him.

“You know,” Georgie whispered, before he rushed from the room. Bonnie ran to follow, ignoring their tutor’s shouts to return.

She slipped through the side door in the kitchen—Georgie had left straight through the front—and only then wished she had stopped for her overcoat. Georgie was bundled up in his woolen coat, a hat pulled down over his ears. Bonnie shivered in her shawl.

The thin December sun hid behind the clouds and a cold drizzle fell. Bonnie’s teeth chattered. Running until she had no breath, walking until she froze, she ducked into alleys, always keeping Georgie in sight until he reached the George V Bridge.

Georgie waved at… nothing. Bonnie didn’t doubt that he saw Billie. Georgie ran until he came to a stop at the center of the bridge.

Then came the confusion. Georgie climbing the balustrade. Georgie stretching out his hands. Georgie falling headlong into the river Clyde.

Bonnie heard Billie laugh. Breathless with horror, she dropped her shawl and rushed forward, ready to dive off the bridge and save Georgie. A woman screamed and a crowd gathered. Constables arrived. Bonnie reached the balustrade in time to see a rowboat on the water. Two men hauled something aboard. Georgie. It had to be. A man with a black bag—a doctor? —waited on shore, one arm extended to help pull the rowboat in.

Bonnie swallowed bile and wiped the wet from her face, equal parts drizzle and tears.

Rushing, she squeezed through the onlookers and down to where the man with the black bag lifted a slim, limp body from the boat.

“It was Billie North who pushed him,” she told one of the constables.

“Who the hell is Billie North?”

“That canna be.” A tall, wiry man came down the riverbank.  “I’m Angus North and I work—there.” The man pointed vaguely to the Tradeston area. “Billie’s me ten-year-old son, and at this very moment he’s home having his tea with his mam. I’ve never seen this boy before.” He turned to Bonnie. “Little girl, whatever you saw, weren’t my boy.”

“Stand back, little girl,” said the constable.

How powerful Billie must be to push Georgie off the bridge from far away. Bonnie clasped her arms around her middle. She hadn’t seen or heard him and couldn’t describe him. His murderous intent to kill Georgie had been clear as day to her, but she knew better than to insist.

“That’s my brother,” Bonnie said pointing to Georgie’s body. “My name is Bonnie Suthereen and he’s George. My father is Godfrey Suthereen.”

“Lassie.” The constable signaled and someone handed him a dry blanket. He tucked it around Bonnie’s shoulders. “Come along. We’ll talk to your father.”

She let the constable take charge of her and dead Georgie. She led him to her house, where the immediate outcry and grief were subdued.

“Why were you there, Bonnie?” Papa asked. “Why didn’t you stop him?”

Bonnie shook her head, but her heart was full of Georgie’s badness. He’d tried to do something very wicked. Stealing another’s magic was the blackest black magic. She refused to tar his memory further by explaining Georgie’s plan. Her parents would never get over it.

She had to keep the secret of Georgie’s evil to her grave.


“Fetch me a blanket for my lap.” Rosalva shivered as Clementine’s final words died in silence.

Babushka Bonnie told me that story,” said Clementine, obediently laying a cashmere throw over Rosalva. “Not once. Many times.”

“I thought she was taking that story to her grave. Why tell you? And why did you believe her? And while I’m asking questions, why did you never tell me? Hell, girl, you lived with me for years.”

“Do you want to know what I think?” Clementine paused, her head bent, her gaze on the hardwood floor between her stockinged feet.

“Go on.”

“Baba Bonnie thought that Georgie would return. To me. She was warning me to watch. I have, I did. But because you married me to Wyvern North, it didn’t happen the way she thought it would. I know for a fact that Ethan is Billie North reincarnated. I’m mother to my great uncle’s murderer.”

“What makes you think that?” Rosalva clutched the cashmere to her chest.

“Because when Ethan was little, he had what I thought at first was an imaginary friend.”

“How little?”

Clementine shrugged. “Two years old. Three? He’d say things like, “he can’t get me” and “gotta kill him” until one day, in the grocery store, he swore he had indeed killed a boy named Georgie and after that, Ethan never mentioned Georgie again.”

“Let me get this straight,” said Rosalva. “Bonnie—my sister-in-law and damn Evgeni all to hell for marrying such a mouse—tells you, her granddaughter, not yet ten years old, this tale. A story about a boy with the surname North. Then you marry Wyvern North and make crazy assumptions about any future children.”

“Not crazy assumptions, Auntie. Not assumptions at all. It wasn’t till Ethan talked about Georgie that I put two and two together.”

Rosalva gazed out the window. “You think hearing this story will stop me from helping Ethan find his magic? This story is nothing but one of Bonnie’s tarradiddles. I didn’t approve of Evgeni marrying her despite her powers. I can’t believe that someone I taught and nurtured would steal—yes, girl—I said steal her own son’s magic. What do you think Wyvern will say and what will the Norths do if I tell them why the Boy Without Magic has no magic?”

Clementine’s shoulders rose and fell. “I didn’t steal his magic, Auntie. I blocked it. He was a toddler claiming to have killed this other boy, Georgie. What was I to think? Everything I knew about Billie North frightened me. And consider this. If Georgie returned again, wouldn’t he try to take Ethan’s magic anyway? Ethan is better off without magic. As for the Norths, I honestly don’t give a fig. I hate them all. I’d just as soon buy a little stone hut—oh—say in the Yukon and live there. And train star-ranked witches. And be an old, wicked hag like you.”

Rosalva rose, the wool throw falling to the floor in a heap, the tea tray rattling with her anger. She raised her hands in a gesture of defeat and said, “You should have come to me, Clementine. Before you blocked—I still say stole—Ethan’s magic. I just hope I can mend what you’ve broken. As for you, what happens next is up to your husband. I wash my hands of you.”

Rosalva stalked out of the apartment as best she could on her old, joint-stiff legs, while Clementine went to the window and looked out at the grey waters of Lake Ontario, the cityscape shrouded in fog. The red haze of her anger dissipated after a few moments of meditation.

The decision to tell Auntie Rosa had backfired. It wouldn’t matter. Karma still worked, and Rosa for all her immense powers wouldn’t succeed in unblocking Ethan’s magic. He was doomed, with an ugly fate awaiting him, punishment for what he’d done to George North.

Clementine didn’t know what fate exactly. Only that it would be horrible and one he so deserved.

And it might, maybe, give her some peace.


February 23, 2023 19:55

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Viga Boland
00:28 Mar 02, 2023

Oh Sipora…lovely name BTW…what a marvellous imagination. I so envy writers like you who can create fiction like this. Magic powers? I think you have them. Do you use Grammarly to check for grammar issues before submission? I really recommend it. Trying to proofread our own work is hard. I still squirm when I think back to when I published my first memoir. So many typos because I dictated many of the chapters and every so often, the program made mistakes which my daughter caught when she was reading the published copy! I swore never again. A...


Sipora Coffelt
02:28 Mar 02, 2023

Thanks so much for commenting. I use ProWritingAid and AutoCrit. I find that Grammarly is more appropriate for nonfiction and business writing. Sometimes, especially for folks writing creative nonfiction or memoir, a fictional character's voice can seem like a grammatical error. I live in Kansas.


Viga Boland
02:57 Mar 02, 2023

Kansas? Oh, didn’t expect that. I guess though that you are familiar with Canada and Lake Ontario?


Sipora Coffelt
16:10 Mar 02, 2023

Love Canada. One of my favorite places to visit.


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