Henry and the Phone Witch
Femi Oriogun-Williams


It began with the trees. In the glades of the forest where the boys would play, a sickness crept through the branches. The leaves turned black, the fruit shrivelled and fell to the forest floor, and soon the green clearings were thick with rotten plant matter. Then the animals of the farm began to grow weak, their milk turned sour and their meat became tough.

There was once a family who lived in a house set into a hillside with a small brook flowing at its base. Down the hill and beyond the brook lay a thick and altogether unknowable forest. While the father and mother dutifully ploughed and tilled the land, their two boys grew up playing with the creatures of the forest, and they never wanted for anything. But just as the moon governs the sea with its tidal kismet, their happiness was dictated by mysterious forces.

Left out the door follow the path to an opening on to a hidden green space. You liked to take our walks across it, sit on a bench on the far side, and talk, looking out across the forest. You could see for miles, the landscape like a great, sleeping beast.

The family had little need for contact with the outside world, nor did they seek it, and had, until then, spent their days oblivious to it in the paradise they had crafted. When the land became cursed, the mother and father gave a small sum of money to their eldest son, Henry, and told him to travel north, to the city. There they hoped he might make his way in the world, and return to them with riches enough for them all to survive.