The Witch in the Well - Tor/Forge Blog

Witchy Books for the Solstice

by Merlin Hoye

The days are dark, the wind is cold, and the solstice is upon us! We don’t blame you if you’re feeling a tad spooky—the weather practically demands it. We suggest that you embrace your witchy side and get into the spirit of things with some wintery rituals. If you’re running low on rosemary, incense, and tarot cards, never fear! Tor is here to help you with one of the oldest rituals we have—snuggling up with a good book.

Here are our recommendations to get you through the shortest day of the year in true witchy style. 

after the forest by kell woodsAfter the Forest by Kell Woods

Twenty years after Hansel and Gretal escaped from the witch, the land has been decimated by war, weird things are happening in the woods, and the siblings are struggling to get by. But Gretal has a secret—the witch’s stolen grimoire—and a recipe for gingerbread that seems strangely addictive. Could it be the key to keeping her family afloat or embroil Gretal in dark magic she isn’t prepared to face? The baking magic in After the Forest is truly a delight. I mean, food and magic are two of our favorite things so how can you go wrong? Just don’t read this book if you’re hungry. You might find yourself addicted as well. 

the witch in the well by camilla bruceThe Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce

This dark, fantastical thriller is the story of two childhood friends torn apart by a witch who died nearly 160 years before the story begins. When Elena returns to her childhood home she feels inspired to write the story of beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark who was drowned in a well by the townspeople who thought she was a child-killing witch. When Elena’s childhood friend Cathy finds out, she is furious. She has been researching Ilsbeth’s life for years and has very different views on her life than Elena. As the competition between the two women grows fiercer, they each become more and more obsessed with their subject and things get spooky fast.

red rabbit by alex grecianRed Rabbit by Alex Grecian

It wouldn’t be a truly witchy list without some horror representation so here’s a spine tingling folk horror that feels like The VVitch had a baby with Lonesome Dove. Red Rabbit is the story of a ragtag crew of misfits who travel north to claim a bounty after killing the local witch. The trials they encounter on this quest are worse than any witch could ever and this bloody romp of a western, full of demons, ghosts, and ghouls galore, will have you gripped throughout. 

one for my enemy by olivie blakeOne for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Most of the books on this list have one witch, singular, which is perfectly fine but what if you’re the kind of person who wants WITCHES WITCHES ALL THE TIME? If so, may I suggest One for My Enemy which features warring witches, witty witches, and witches falling irrevocably in love. This retelling of Romeo & Juliet is set in a Manhattan where two magical families have been fighting for years to stay in control of their criminal empires. Lev and Sasha defy their families and fall for each other and their story will keep you reading past your bedtime. 

princess of dune by brian herbert & kevin j. andersonPrincess of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Set two years before the events of the first Dune book, Princess of Dune follows Irulan and Chani before they were connected with Paul Atreides. While Irulan is trained in the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, Chani is initiated into the Fremen mystical ways by an ancient Reverend Mother. This addition to the series is full of female magic and it’s fascinating to see these two women come into their power.

Poster Placeholder of - 71Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

This is the story of Princess Marra of the Harbor Kingdom who sets out on a quest to save her sister from her despicable prince husband. To do this, Marra seeks the help of a Dust Wife, a creepy, witch-like character with a demon-possessed hen sidekick. Yes, you heard that right. Adventure ensues, friendships are made, families are found. Nettle & Bone is steeped in dark fairytale vibes, sister bonding, and if that isn’t enough for you, there’s a Bonedog who’s exactly what he sounds like. We would die for Bonedog. 

witch queen of redwinter by ed mcdonaldWitch Queen of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

For fear of spoilers (this is the third book in the The Redwinter Chronicles after all) I won’t say much about this fast-paced fantasy other than GO READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS (Daughter of Redwinter and Traitor of Redwinter) if you haven’t already! Witch Queen of Redwinter arrives November 12th of next year and you’ll want to be ready for this latest installment of riveting, witchy goodness full of suspense and complex characters. The story follows Raine, a cynical girl who has been forced to hide her ability to see and speak with the dead so she won’t be stoned to death by the warrior magicians in power. 



Thrilling and Chilling Halloween Reads From TPG!


What time is that, you ask? The time of October, which means Fall, which means…HALLOWEEN! And yes, we first posted this list LAST Halloween, but we will not be taking questions at this time, thanks.

We’re kicking off the scariest month of the year with some thrilling old, new, and new-in-paperback reads from Tor Publishing Group! Check them out below and let us know which is at the top of your TBR in the comments.

MordewMordew by Alex Pheby by Alex Pheby

God is dead, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew. In the slums of the sea-battered city, a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns. Until one day his desperate mother sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew. The Master derives his magical power from feeding on the corpse of God. But Nathan, despite his fear and lowly station, has his own strength—and it is greater than the Master has ever known. So it is that the Master begins to scheme against him—and Nathan has to fight his way through the betrayals, secrets, and vendettas of the city where God was murdered, and darkness reigns.

Book of Night by Holly Black

Book of Night by Holly BlackCharlie Hall has never found a lock she couldn’t pick, a book she couldn’t steal, or a bad decision she wouldn’t make. She’s spent half her life working for gloamists, magicians who manipulate shadows to peer into locked rooms, strangle people in their beds, or worse. Gloamists guard their secrets greedily, creating an underground economy of grimoires. And to rob their fellow magicians, they need Charlie Hall. Now, she’s trying to distance herself from past mistakes, but getting out isn’t easy. Bartending at a dive, she’s still entirely too close to the corrupt underbelly of the Berkshires. Not to mention that her sister Posey is desperate for magic, and that Charlie’s shadowless, and possibly soulless, boyfriend has been hiding things from her. When a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie descends into a maelstrom of murder and lies. Determined to survive, she’s up against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, gloamists, and the people she loves best in the world—all trying to steal a secret that will give them vast and terrible power.

Last Exit by Max GladstoneLast Exit by Max Gladstone

When Zelda and her friends first met, in college, they believed they had all the answers. They had figured out a big secret about how the world worked and they thought that meant they could change things. They failed. One of their own fell, to darkness and rot.Ten years later, they’ve drifted apart, building lives for themselves, families, fortunes. All but Zelda. She’s still wandering the backroads of the nation. She’s still fighting monsters. She knows: the past isn’t over. It’s not even past.The road’s still there. The rot’s still waiting. They can’t hide from it any more. Because, at long last, their friend is coming home. And hell is coming with her.

Just Like Home by Sarah GaileyJust Like Home by Sarah Gailey

“Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories — she’s come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there, beneath the house he’d built for his family. Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be? There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

Black Tide by KC JonesBlack Tide by KC Jones

It was just another day at the beach. Then the world ended. Mike and Beth were strangers before the night of the meteor shower. Chance made them neighbors, a bottle of champagne brought them together, and a shared need for human connection sparked something more. Following their drunken and desperate one-night stand, the two discover the astronomical event has left widespread destruction in its wake. But the cosmic lightshow was only part of something much bigger, and far more terrifying. When a lost car key leaves them stranded on an empty stretch of Oregon coast and inhuman screams echo from the dunes, when the rising tide reaches for their car and unspeakable horrors close in around them, these two self-destructive souls must fight to survive a nightmare of apocalyptic scale.

The Witch in the Well by Camilla BruceThe Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce

When two former friends reunite after decades apart, their grudges, flawed ambitions, and shared obsession swirl into an all-too-real echo of a terrible town legend. Centuries ago, beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark was accused of witchcraft after several children disappeared. Her acquittal did nothing to stop her fellow townsfolk from drowning her in the well where the missing children were last seen. When author and social media influencer Elena returns to the summer paradise of her youth to get her family’s manor house ready to sell, the last thing she expected was connecting with—and feeling inspired to write about—Ilsbeth’s infamous spirit. The very historical figure that her ex-childhood friend, Cathy, has been diligently researching and writing about for years. What begins as a fiercely competitive sense of ownership over Ilsbeth and her story soon turns both women’s worlds into something more haunted and dangerous than they could ever imagine.

The Echo WifeThe Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey by Sarah Gailey

“I’m embarrassed, still, by how long it took me to notice. Everything was right there in the open, right there in front of me, but it still took me so long to see the person I had married. It took me so long to hate him.” Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

You Let Me InYou Let Me In by Camilla Bruce by Camilla Bruce

Cassandra Tipp is dead…or is she? After all, the notorious recluse and eccentric bestselling novelist has always been prone to flights of fancy—everyone in town remembers the shocking events leading up to Cassie’s infamous trial (she may have been acquitted, but the insanity defense only stretches so far). Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body—just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript. Then again, there are enough bodies in her past—her husband Tommy Tipp, whose mysterious disembowelment has never been solved, and a few years later, the shocking murder-suicide of her father and brother. Cassandra Tipp will tell you a story—but it will come with a terrible price. What really happened, out there in the woods—and who has Cassie been protecting all along? Read on, if you dare…Get it in paperback now!

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized. Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?

SlewfootSlewfoot by Brom by Brom

Connecticut, 1666. An ancient spirit awakens in a dark wood. The wildfolk call him Father, slayer, protector. The colonists call him Slewfoot, demon, devil. To Abitha, a recently widowed outcast, alone and vulnerable in her pious village, he is the only one she can turn to for help.mTogether, they ignite a battle between pagan and Puritan – one that threatens to destroy the entire village, leaving nothing but ashes and bloodshed in their wake. “If it is a devil you seek, then it is a devil you shall have!” This terrifying tale of bewitchery features more than two dozen of Brom’s haunting paintings, fully immersing readers in this wild and unforgiving world.

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward by Catriona Ward

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three. A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time. A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory. And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible. An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

HEXHEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear. The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

The Living DeadThe Living Dead by George A. Romero & Daniel Kraus by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

It begins with one body. A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead. It spreads quickly. In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come. Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead. We think we know how this story ends. We. Are. Wrong.

Nothing But Blackened TeethNothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw by Cassandra Khaw

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company. It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding. A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested. But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart. And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.


Fall Into Tor Books This Autumn!

Ready to FALL into some new books this autumn? (*wink*) Get your TBR ready for every book from Tor coming out this fall! Which one are you most excited to read?

September 6

The Atlas Six by Olivie BlakeThe Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (paperback)

Each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to earn a place in the Alexandrian Society, the foremost secret society in the world. The chosen will secure a life of power and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. But at what cost? Each of the six newest recruits has their reasons for accepting the Society’s elusive invitation. Even if it means growing closer than they could have imagined to their most dangerous enemies—or risking unforgivable betrayal from their most trusted allies—they will fight tooth and nail for the right to join the ranks of the Alexandrians. Even if it means they won’t all survive the year. Now available in paperback!

September 20

Image Place holder  of - 31Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

Kelsier, sentenced to die mining the Pits of Hathsin after attempting to rob the Lord Ruler’s palace, arose as a powerful Mistborn and inspired the revolution that shook the foundations of the Final Empire. His name and deeds passed into legend. But was that truly the end of his tale? Whispered hints to those he called friends suggested there was a lot more going on. If you think you know the story of the Mistborn trilogy, think again—but to say anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowing of this tale’s existence could be heresy.

September 27

The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangThe Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

It’s an old, familiar story: a young person hears the voice of an angel saying they have been chosen as a warrior to lead their people to victory in a holy war. But Misery Nomaki (she/they) knows they are a fraud. Raised on a remote moon colony, they don’t believe in any kind of god. Their angel is a delusion, brought on by hereditary space exposure. Yet their survival banks on mastering the holy mech they are supposedly destined for, and convincing the Emperor of the Faithful that they are the real deal. The deeper they get into their charade, however, the more they start to doubt their convictions. What if this, all of it, is real?

Poster Placeholder of - 46Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford; introduction by Francis Spufford

Matthias Ronay has grown up in the low gravity and great glass citadels of independent Luna—and in the considerable shadow of his father, a member of the council that governs Luna’s increasingly complex society. But Matt feels weighed down on the world where he was born, where there is no more need for exploration, for innovation, for radical ideas—and where his every movement can be tracked by his father on the infonets. Matt and five of his friends, equally brilliant and restless, have planned a secret adventure. Their passage into the expanse of perpetual night will change them in ways they never could have predicted…and bring Matt to the destiny for which he has yearned. With a new introduction by Francis Spufford, author of Red Plenty and Golden Hill.

October 4

Placeholder of  -20The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce

Centuries ago, beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark was accused of witchcraft after several children disappeared. Her acquittal did nothing to stop her fellow townsfolk from drowning her in the well where the missing children were last seen. When author and social media influencer Elena returns to the summer paradise of her youth to get her family’s manor house ready to sell, the last thing she expected was connecting with—and feeling inspired to write about—Ilsbeth’s infamous spirit. The very historical figure that her ex-childhood friend, Cathy, has been diligently researching and writing about for years. What begins as a fiercely competitive sense of ownership over Ilsbeth and her story soon turns both women’s worlds into something more haunted and dangerous than they could ever imagine.

October 11

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette KowalThe Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Tesla Crane, a brilliant inventor and an heiress, is on her honeymoon on an interplanetary space liner, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She’s traveling incognito and is reveling in her anonymity. Then someone is murdered and the festering chowderheads who run security have the audacity to arrest her spouse. Armed with banter, martinis and her small service dog, Tesla is determined to solve the crime so that the newlyweds can get back to canoodling—and keep the real killer from striking again.

Mystic Skies by Jason DenzelMystic Skies by Jason Denzel

Fifty-four years have passed since Crow Tallin, the catastrophic celestial event that merged Fayün and the human world. One devastating result of that cataclysm is that most human babies are born fused with fay spirits. The Mystics of Kelt Apar, once beloved, are blamed for this worldwide phenomenon. On the island of Moth, the Barons have declared the Myst illegal and imprisoned all Mystics under house arrest. Under the watchful eyes of deadly Hunters, a much-older Pomella AnDone now lives as a prisoner at Kelt Apar with her granddaughter and apprentice Mia, as well as the rapidly declining High Mystic of Moth, Yarina Sineese.

October 25

Image Placeholder of - 91The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake

Six magicians were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. Five are now members of the Society. Two paths lay before them. All must pick a side. Alliances will be tested, hearts will be broken, and The Society of Alexandrians will be revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way.

November 1

Ocean's Echo by Everina MaxwellOcean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe. Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal’s escape.

November 8

Legends & Lattes by Travis BaldreeLegends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time. The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is. If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won’t be able to go it alone. But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.

Origins of the Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston; foreword by Harriet McDougalOrigins of the Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston; foreword by Harriet McDougal

Take a deep dive into the real-world history and mythology that inspired the world of The Wheel of Time®. Origins of The Wheel of Time is written by Michael Livingston, Secretary-General of the United States Commission on Military History and professor of medieval literature at The Citadel, with a Foreword by Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan’s editor, widow, and executor of his estate. Origins of The Wheel of Time will provide knowledge and insights to new and longtime fans looking to expand their understanding of the series or unearth the real-life influences that Jordan utilized in his world building.

Blood Moon by Heather Graham & Jon LandBlood Moon by Heather Graham and Jon Land

They may have managed to win a major battle against the powerful enemy determined to destroy civilization as we know it. But the war continues, with Alex and Sam embarking on a desperate journey to save mankind, even as their friendship blossoms into something much more. The roadmap for their journey lies in a mysterious book, the language of which has never been deciphered, until Alex finds himself able to translate the words that may hold the keys to saving the future. But an ageless foe, long the guardian of the secrets his race has left behind on Earth, arises to stop them at all costs. At his disposal is a merciless army that has been awaiting this very war, an army as unstoppable as it is relentless.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene WolfeThe Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

Far from Earth, two sister planets, Saint Anne and Saint Croix, circle each other in an eternal dance. It is said a race of shapeshifters once lived here, only to perish when men came. But one man believes they can still be found, somewhere in back of the beyond. In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe skillfully interweaves three bizarre tales to create a mesmerizing pattern: the harrowing account of the son of a mad genius who discovers his hideous heritage; a young man’s mythic dreamquest for his darker half; and the bizarre chronicle of a scientist’s nightmarish imprisonment. With a new introduction by O. Henry Award winning author Brian Evenson

November 15

Place holder  of - 26The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson

For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms and her partner Wayne find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god, Harmony, reveals that Bilming has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere—Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial…at any cost.

November 29

Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake

Two people meet in the Art Institute by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist, undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. By the end of the story, these things will still be true. But this is not a story about endings. For Regan, people are predictable and tedious, including and perhaps especially herself. To Aldo, the world feels disturbingly chaotic. For Regan and Aldo, life has been a matter of resigning themselves to the blueprints of inevitability—until the two meet. Could six conversations with a stranger be the variable that shakes up the entire simulation?


Excerpt: The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce

amazona bna booksamilliona ibooks2 76 indiebounda

Placeholder of  -83The Witch in the Well is a dark Norwegian thriller from Camilla Bruce, author of You Let Me In.

When two former friends reunite after decades apart, their grudges, flawed ambitions, and shared obsession swirl into an all-too-real echo of a terrible town legend.

Centuries ago, beautiful young Ilsbeth Clark was accused of witchcraft after several children disappeared. Her acquittal did nothing to stop her fellow townsfolk from drowning her in the well where the missing children were last seen.

When author and social media influencer Elena returns to the summer paradise of her youth to get her family’s manor house ready to sell, the last thing she expected was connecting with—and feeling inspired to write about—Ilsbeth’s infamous spirit. The very historical figure that her ex-childhood friend, Cathy, has been diligently researching and writing about for years.

What begins as a fiercely competitive sense of ownership over Ilsbeth and her story soon turns both women’s worlds into something more haunted and dangerous than they could ever imagine.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce, on sale 10/4/22.


I remember it all so vividly, as if it were only yesterday. I just have to close my eyes and I’m there again, watching it all happen.

We have come out to the well at dusk; the bleak light, filtered through the treetops, paints branches on Cathy’s skin. It makes her look unfamiliar all of a sudden, like an alien creature—a wild thing.

“I promise you want to see this. Just be patient, Elena.” She looks back at me with her face half-draped in shadows.

Cathy.” I know that I whine but I can’t help it. I would rather be back at the castle, writing in our diaries, or even playing stupid board games with Erica. What I absolutely don’t want is to be out in the woods as the sun sets, draping everything in twilight colors. We are both wearing shorts, and the air is turning chilly. I have two mosquito bites on my calf that itch, and my fingers smell sickly sweet from raspberry lemonade. I ought to take a shower. It’s been a musty day.

Cathy turns back to me so abruptly that her long, dark braid dances down her back. “Well, it’s you who always complains that everything is boring,” she says. “But this is not! Trust me!”

I roll my eyes when her gaze is turned back on the well. I’m not sure if what Cathy considers exciting is the same thing that I consider exciting, which is why it’s usually my games we play, even if Cathy is the one who actually lives in these woods. She’s just not usually very inventive. When she stops by the well, an ancient-looking ring of stone, and grabs my hand in hers, I shudder. I look around at the dimly lit woods, and wonder what I’m supposed to see.

“There’s nothing here, Cathy,” I say. Her hand is as sticky as mine is. “What am I even looking for?”

She gives me a look brimming with disappointment, begging me to give her a chance. “I told you, we have to be quiet,” she half whispers and squeezes my hand. “We just have to look at the trees on the other side of the well. Just there, between the spruces. You can’t take your eyes away from that spot; just stare at it until it happens.”

“What happens?” I try to take a step forth, to examine the trees, but Cathy holds me back.

“You have to look across the well or it won’t work.” She sounds impatient.

“What won’t work?” I can’t help but smirk.

“Oh, will you just wait?” She gives me another scolding look. “I went to the lake with you even if I didn’t want to, and I had a great time. You will too if you just do as I say. Don’t you want to see something wonderful?”

“Sure,” I indulge her and roll my eyes again. Cathy’s stories are rarely fantastic, but this one was—enough so that I wanted to come, but now that we are at the well, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to see something that’s actually there, or something we just make up. I’m unsure what kind of game this is. I stare at the darkness between the heavy spruces until my eyes water, and the rank smell of the well makes me twitch my nose. I want to ask Cathy why we have to look across the well, but she has narrowed her eyes and is breathing slow and deep, much like Mom does when she’s doing her meditation. I try to copy her, if only to have this done with. Then suddenly, Cathy squeezes my hand so hard that it hurts.

“Look,” her voice is a quiet hissing. “Look, Elena. I told you so!”

I focus my gaze and then I see it; there’s something solid between the trunks. It looks like a large heap of stones, covered by moss and lichen. At first I think it’s mist that swirls around it in fine, pale gray tendrils, but then I can tell that it’s smoke, oozing out from the stone pile’s top. I can’t smell it, though; there’s no scent of burning.

Then I see the door.

It is small and rectangular, made of wood that looks old and water damaged. Dark stains bleed from the bottom up. The boards are held together by twine, and the handle is made from wood as well. Around it grows some peculiar plants from between the stones; some are light and curly, others long and stringy. It looks like hair pushed into the cracks. On the ground before the door, something glows white in the poor light. At first, I think it is mushrooms. Then I think it is bones.

“Oh fuck,” I finally curse. “Oh fuck, Cathy. We have to get out of here!”

“No, no.” She grabs a hold of my arm to keep me there with her. “It’s not real, Elena. Don’t you see? If you squint your eyes, it’s gone again.”

I look across the well, but the small stone cabin is still there. The smoke still curls into the air. “Looks pretty real to me!” I try to wrestle my arm free but Cathy won’t let go. Her short fingernails dig into my skin and it hurts.

“Wait!” she begs. “Wait! Just wait until she comes out.” Her eyes are large and pleading, but I won’t have it.

“Cathy, we have to go!” I can’t believe that she’s just standing there, looking at that ugly little cabin as if unable to resist.

“Don’t you want to know who lives there?” She gives me a weird smile and looks all excited.

“No, I fucking don’t! Let me go!” Just as I am about to kick her in one of her bad legs, I finally manage to wrestle my arm free.

“Look,” Cathy says again, sounding breathless. “She comes out now.”

I dare a glance in the cabin’s direction, and keep my gaze there just long enough to see that the door is indeed being opened from the inside, scraping along the ground.

Then I bolt.

“Elena!” Cathy is hot on my heels, sounding normal again, pleading and unhappy. “It’s not dangerous!” she promises behind me. “She won’t hurt us!”

I’m in no mind to stick around and find out, though, and rush down the path toward the castle, with my heart pounding in my chest and my mouth flooding with a metallic taste—like well water.

“Fuck you, Cathy!” I yell, but only because I’m scared.

“Wait for me!” she calls, far behind me now. She can’t move very fast on the uneven ground. “I thought you’d like it.” She sounds unhappy. “I thought it was the sort of thing you liked.”

“Fuck you!” I cry again, loudly toward the sky, and it does help a little to curse at the moon. I come to a halt, panting and sweating, and angrily wipe tears from my eyes. I wait for Cathy to catch up, but mostly because I don’t want to be alone in these woods in the dark—not after what I’ve just seen.

She keeps rambling beside me as we continue down the path. “It’s not really there, you know, so it can’t hurt us—”

“Shut up,” I mutter. “Shut up!” I keep my gaze glued to the dark ground before me, just so I won’t have to look at her. My arm still hurts where her fingernails bore into my skin.

“Please, Elena, don’t be angry,” she pleads, but of course I’m utterly furious, and remain so until the brilliant glow from the castle windows penetrates the dark night before us.

Perhaps it never truly subsides.

When I ask Cathy about it later, she says that it never happened.

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