Kevin dimmed the lights in the basement and joined his friends, legs crossed Indian-style, in a circle on the old concrete floor. He picked up an old aluminum flashlight from behind him and illuminated the underside of his chin.
“Legend has it, that before my mom and dad bought this house, and before the old man they bought it from moved to Florida, that the old couple who lived here were in cahoots with real live witches.”
The kids in the circle, all pimply middle school boys, hung onto Kevin’s every word.
“Where’s cahoots?” asked a chubby, bespectacled seventh-grader named Johnny.
“Beats me,” said Kevin. “I heard my parents talking about it with Aunt Teresa and Uncle Mike. I think it’s someplace in the Bahamas.”
A resounding oooohhh of understanding rang through the circle of preteens.
“Anyway, they must have brought back some of these witches from cahoots to stay with them in our house – right here in this basement. They practiced all kinds of rituals down here in this exact spot.”
Eddy, one of the more mature looking kids in the group, snuck a glance over his shoulder just to be sure the boys were alone. To his alarm – they weren’t.
The boys who were next to him didn’t seem to hear him. Eddy could hear Kevin sharing the tale of the witches who lived in the basement but couldn’t quite make out the words. The sound of his own heartbeat filled his ears.
In the far corner of the room, just barely visible with the light refracting on the ceiling, stood a figure in a long velvet robe. A woman with a pale face and sunken eyes swayed and mumbled something under her breath.
Eddy jumped up from his spot in the circle.
“Cut it out, Kev!”
Kevin continued his story, which held the intense concentration of all of the boys in the circle.
“They wore red robes, the color of blood, so when they did their sacrifices the stains wouldn’t show. And their faces were pale and glowed like the light of a full moon. There were two of them, a woman and a man. Both uglier than demons.”
Eddy’s gaze snapped to the other side of the room at the sound of a light thump. He shivered as the old man, bent and disfigured, stood stark naked in the dark edges of the room. The hideous woman followed his lead and dropped her cloak, baring all.
“According to the legend, the ones who can see the witches are never seen again,” Kevin said. “The witches make them vanish from sight.”
Eddy kneeled down to Kevin and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Dammit, Kevin! Can’t you see them?”
Kevin froze and his eyes bulged. His story cut short.
“Shit,” Kevin said.
The other kids sat quietly as the silence added to their fear.
“What’s wrong?” asked Johnny.
“I f-feel them… one of the witches… they’re right in front of us.”
Eddy realized Kevin seemed to be looking directly through him. He moved over to a tiny boy named Pete and grabbed his arm.
“Don’t just sit there!”
Pete screamed and fought to yank himself free as he felt two invisible hands pulling him up off of the floor.
“They’ve got me! Help!!”
The other kids jumped into action to yank Pete free from the grasp of the invisible force.
“No, it’s me! Guys, I’m right in front of you,” Eddy said.
He spun around from his cowering friends and saw the two witches were inching closer, chanting their indistinguishable words in unison. The boys who were before him just a moment ago were already halfway up the stairs. Eddy sprinted up after them.
The door to the basement was forced shut. The boys pounded on the door and cried out for help. Eddy tried to shove past them, which only added to their panic.
“Shit! Get the flashlight,” Kevin said.
The boys trudged down the stairs in a near stampede, as Eddy clung to the stair rail for support. He realized none of them could see him, but even worse, none of them could see the two witches.
Kevin picked up the flashlight and shone it around the room. The beam stopped directly on the belly of the naked man.
“I don’t see anything, do you guys?”
A silver dagger gleamed in the man’s hand as he held it high in the air. Eddy sprinted toward Kevin and tackled him to the ground just as the dagger came slashing downward.
Kevin seemingly flew through the air via some unseen force, and hit the ground, which knocked the air from his lungs and sent him gasping for air.
The female witch held a wire clay cutter by the handles and began to wrap the thin wire around Johnny’s throat.
“Johnny, look out!” Eddy yelled from his crouched position by Kevin.
It was too late. The witch pulled the handles in opposite directions and began to strangle the kid. Eddy pulled himself up from the floor and grabbed an old chair from the corner of the room.
“Look, Johnny’s choking!” yelled Pete.
Johnny grabbed at the imaginary wire around his neck. His face began to turn an unsettling shade of reddish-purple. The old chair seemed to levitate from its spot at the edge of the room.
Johnny winced as he braced for the chair to hit him, but instead, the chair shattered into splinters less than a foot from him.
Johnny dropped to the ground as the witch let go of the wire handles. The boys were in full panic again.
“Forget the flashlight!” Kevin yelled.
The boys raced back up the stairs again. Eddy picked up a splinter of the chair and swung at the witches as they trudged toward him with angry, sunken eyes. Eddy backed toward the corner of the room opposite the stairs and knocked over the old metal shelves which held an array of household junk.
The boys took turns pounding and shoving against the door, to no avail. Kevin stood still as if stricken by something.
The other boys stopped their pounding.
“What do you mean?” asked Pete. “Right here…”
The boys looked around blindly, but were struck with confusion.
As the witches continued their unnatural hobble toward Eddy, he knocked over another shelving unit and a can of paint thinner clanked onto the floor. The thinner filled the air with fumes.
Eddy felt blindly in the dark for anything that might protect him. His hands rested on a pile of old bricks, which he threw at the two approaching figures, but the blocks only seemed to irritate the witches more as they inched closer.
Pete hurried down the stairs and spotted the bricks levitating, then flying, then stopping against some invisible force.
“Do you guys…” he said. “Do you think it’s Eddy?”
Kevin inched toward the commotion and stopped with plenty of space between himself and the airborne bricks.
His name cut through the sound of his own heartbeat with a resounding clarity. Suddenly, Eddy appeared, brick in hand, to the boys.
“Guys! They’re right in front of me,” Eddy shouted.
“Who?” they all asked.
Eddy realized the witches had vanished from his sight.
“Th-they were right there a second ago. I could see them…”
Eddy’s voice grew weak and he began to cough as a hand hoisted him up from the ground. His feet kicked and swung as he levitated a few inches from the ground.
“Holy shit…” Johnny said.
The boys all looked at each other and seemed to come to an agreement.
“He fought for us,” Kevin said. “We’ll fight for him. Aaaaaah!!”
The boys all charged toward the unseen witches in an effort to save Eddy. Pete ran himself into the wall, running just shy of the figures, but the other boys managed to tackle them to the ground. Eddy fell to the floor and gasped for breath.
He’d fallen on a box of matches, which had spilled from their box onto the concrete floor. He picked up a handful along with the box and stumbled over to the paint thinner can.
“Get back!” he yelled.
The boys moved aside as Eddy splashed the paint thinner into the open air before him. He struck a match and lit the fumes ablaze in a bright orange burst of fire.
The boys lept backward from the power of the intense heat and gasped as the witches appeared before them in flaming glory. They watched as the figures writhed and let out an unearthly scream before collapsing to ashes at their feet.
They all stood there in a moment of awe before they heard the basement door unlatch itself. Johnny looked up to Eddy and gave him a big squeeze.
“Thanks for saving my life, Eddy.” he said.
The other boys joined in.
“Thanks for saving mine,” Eddy said.
The boys started back up the stairs. The flames grew tamer before they fizzled out entirely.
“That should send them back to cahoots once and for all,” Kevin said.
They latched the basement door behind them and vowed never to talk of the witches in cahoots ever again.