When Annie met Silas
Pillsbury is a town in Somerset and to Silas’ eyes it was famous for a sheer lack of things to be famous about. It possessed none of the unusual customs that could often be found in old English towns, not even a wheel of cheese to be chased down a hill. His mother had told him it was upon one of the tallest hills in the county, but not the tallest as that honour went to the chalk hills when Silas looked up the fact online. His father had told him it was famous because it lacked any high-street named like Costa or Waterstones, but for Silas that just meant bad coffee and terribly dog-eared books to read. The only remotely interesting thing about the town was how close it was to Stonehenge; although the honour of being closest had been taken by Amesbury so they didn’t even have that going for them.
“You’ll see Silas; once the radio station has been built this little town will be put on the map.”
Silas looked away from his book and up at his old man who was grinning in the rear-view mirror. Malcolm Raines was middle-aged and balding, with thick horn-rimmed glasses and a comfortable gut that almost overlapped his belt. At least a few of those things were hereditary, Silas already had the glasses and he lived in constant fear that his hair would be next to go.
“Oh don’t glare at your father like that Si. I know you didn’t want to move, but the contract to build the station tower is huge for your dad. He can give us a good life in Pillsbury.”
His mum meant well and Silas managed a weak smile before turning back to his book. He was trying to be happy for his dad, he understood that the contract was huge, but he’d always dreamed of being a journalist, walking the pavements of a bustling city somewhere in the world. They were things he definitely wouldn’t find in Pillsbury. He felt the train ticket poking out of his pocket and a wave of guilt accompanied him. His university accommodation was ready for him; it didn’t matter if he left a little bit early.
As if his derision had summoned it up the town appeared in the distance. It was perched on top of the almost-tallest hill that his mother had mentioned, encircled by the remains of what might have been an old fortress wall back in the day. The only way up to the town was a steep road that zig-zagged back and forth to help cars reach the top at a sensible incline. As their car started the climb Silas risked poking his head out of the window to look at the ever increasing drop, with only a low stone wall to keep them safe. As the car turned the first corner Silas turned his attention to the porous bedrock and could almost imagine eyes looking at him from the black depths.
They climbed higher until Silas could almost imagine they were above the clouds with the eyes left below in the depths. The entrance into the town was through a gap in the ruined wall that Silas had spotted, and he could almost imagine great timber gates closing behind them as they drove in. The main street of the town was big enough for two cars to pass side by side, but only just, and it seemed to stretch for the length of the town. Silas looked at some of the shops that made up the high-street as they went by and fixed his eyes on Paige and Turners bookshop as the car drove past it.
The high-street eventually gave way to housing with a variety of flats, apartments and terraces all squeezed in so they were all touching the main road. Silas knew that there must be other houses further back and away from the road, but with so many buildings stacked side by side he couldn’t see through to the ones behind. Up front he could hear his dad counting under his breath as the house went by, and nearly jumped when his mother cried out twelve in success. His dad pulled the car into a small drive that connected to the garage and then let the car stutter to a halt. They all surveyed the property for a moment with varying responses. If Silas had been able to read his mother’s mind he would have heard her mental squeal of delight, and if he’d been able to read his father’s mind he would have heard an inventory of all the junk his father was planning on filling the garage with. He could read anyone’s mind thought so he had to be content with his own thoughts, that the place looked like a suburban nightmare.
“Come on boys, let’s go explore.”
Ever the dutiful son Silas got out and tried to feign excitement for his mother, who charged through the side door and into what turned out to be the kitchen, squealing out loud as she looked over the newly fitted appliances. His father ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ in all the right places as they spoke; meanwhile Silas explored more of the house. Silas was please to notice all the plug sockets in what he guessed to be a lounge, hinting at the potential for modernisation. He was also surprised to find that the back wall of the house didn’t have any windows with all of the light spilling through from the massive bay windows in the kitchen. Feeling thwarted in his attempts to view the rest of the town Silas found the stairs, peeking in the cupboard under them as he went, before climbing up to the second floor.
His parents room faced the main road through town, and was identifiable due to the massive built-in wardrobes that his mother had maturely called dibs on when she realised they were there. There was only one bathroom which made Silas nervous because his mother had been known to fall asleep in the bath for hours at a time. Finally he found his room and was pleased with the size of it as it stretched the width of the house, though once again he was unable to find a window on the back wall of the house. For light he had to manage with a skylight built into the gently sloping roof, and a small window that looked out over the garage. It was at that moment, when he looked out of the window to the house across from him, that Silas first saw Annie.
Unfortunately for him she was fresh out of the shower and when she saw him looking out of the window her reaction was more than a little explosive. Silas had to duck as a hairbrush flew across the distance between them with surprising accuracy, followed by the entire contents of Annie’s room near enough. Behind cover he heard a lot of swearing and slamming of drawers and then a thump as someone landed on the garage roof. He risked a peak and found a fully-dressed Annie pulling herself up through his window, her face an inch from his. Silas tried to find the right words to fix the situation. Annie took the opportunity to punch him in the nose.
“You little creep! You think you can sneak into an empty house just to spy on me? When I find out where you live you’re going to wish you’d never crept up here”
Silas almost blushed as Annie ran out of words and resorted to incoherent snarling and the occasional blistering curse word, and had to duck under his arms as she found the nearest object, the book he’d carried in from the car, and proceeded to bash him over the head with it. His salvation came in the form of his parents, who stood and gawped at the odd tableau. Annie was distracted by the new arrivals for a second which gave Silas the chance to speak that he needed.
“I didn’t sneak in here you batty woman, this is my house! I’ve just moved in today.”
Annie looked from Silas to his parents, who nodded to confirm the truth of the story and then dropped the book, her cheeks rapidly turning red under the attention.
“Oh…well…hi.” Welcome to the neighbourhood!”
Annie left the room via the window shortly after that, promising to come in through the front door with some of the boxes that needed unloading. Silas noticed that she was careful to close the curtains to her window, now that she knew someone was living next door, and shook his head before walking downstairs. True to her word she appeared at the front door with one of the boxes from the car looking embarrassed and apologetic.
“I really am sorry about that. Some of the guys around here are real jerks, and I just assumed…”
Silas was tempted to make a joke about the ass she made out of herself by assuming but his mother started gushing about how it was an easy mistake and he missed his opportunity. After introductions were made Silas found himself loaded with his own boxes and took them upstairs to his room, trying not to sulk in front of his new neighbour, he might have succeeded if he hadn’t turned to find her waiting in the doorway.
“I really am sorry, Silas.”
He saw her wince as some of the bruises she had given him started to ripen on his face and he felt a silly flicker of satisfaction.
“Whatever; put that box down over there.”
He noticed her bite her lip and look away from him before putting the box down and gritted his teeth when a wave of guilt hit him. Why did he have to feel guilty? She was the one tha hadt punched him in the nose.
“Hey listen, there’s a Halloween party later, costumes and everything. You can come with me; I’ll introduce you to everyone at the college”
Silas wrinkled his nose at the mention of parties, something he had tried to avoid like the plague since leaving school, and his eyes moved towards the box full of books that was half open by the bed. Annie noticed his expression and followed his eyes down to the box, rolling her eyes when she saw what was inside.
“Yeah, or you could blow off everyone for a musty old book?”
She picked one out at random and shoved it in his chest with enough force to knock him back onto the bed.
She turned to leave and had stomped as far as the hall before Silas found his tongue.
“I haven’t even got a costume…”
Annie’s head appeared in the doorway, a brilliant smile on her face.
“Leave that to me.”
Silas chuckled under his breath, perhaps he could stay for one more night.
Halloween in Pillsbury was apparently a big deal as Silas found that the road through town had been closed off and the space turned into an open air party. The air was crisp and cold, biting at his lungs as he breathed it in, while under his costume it did a lot to relieve how hot and sweaty he was. Annie had taken advantage of his height by dressing him in a long purple coat, so dark that it was almost black, with a high collar that brushed his ears every time he turned his head. Underneath the coat was a pinstriped suit of an equally dark purple and a pair of black shoes shiny enough for him to see his reflection. He tried to see what he looked like but looking down too far nearly dislodge the ridiculous hat he was wearing on his head. It belonged in western, and between it and the collar Silas doubted that anyone would be able to see his face.
Annie on the other hand, she looked like something else. She was wearing a suit like his but midnight blue, with a cape hanging over her shoulders. The back was the same colour as her suit but when she turned her caught sight of stars stitched into the lining until it looked like she was wearing a piece of the night sky. As a blush crept up towards his ears he felt grateful that nobody could see his face. Her face was hidden by a cat-like mask but he could still see her smile as she walked over to him.
“Not bad Mr Raines, you should dress up more often.”
Silas gave a sarcastic tilt of his head before offering her his arm. She took it with a grin and started guiding him around the party, pointing out people she knew as they went. Many of them were leaving for university, and so the party was a giant send off. He noted that many of them kept encouraging Annie to come with them, saying that it wasn’t too late for her to get a place. She turned them all down but he could see her hesitation.
“Is little-miss-adventurous afraid of leaving home?”
He received a jab to his ribs for the joke but couldn’t disguise a wheezing chuckle.
“I’m not afraid of leaving home Silas, I’m afraid of what trouble my home will get into while I’m gone.”
He turned his head towards her, making a motion with his hand urging her to keep talking but she just poked his tender ribs and continued the introductions. Silas snagged a couple of cold drinks as they walked and as he looked up at the man carrying the cooler to say thank you he caught a glimpse of something too impossible to be real. He had thick teeth almost like tusks and mottled grey skin that stretched taut as the man grew. Silas looked at the mask the man was wearing and found his eyes torn between double images. One eye saw a monster from the darkest fairy tales, the other saw a regular guy carrying a cooler full of drinks.
“Hey Silas, don’t tell me one little beer has gone straight to your head?”
He looked at her and breathed out a sigh of relief to find her perfectly normal and then almost screamed when he looked over her shoulder and saw the parchment-like flesh of the thing standing behind her. It caught his eyes and smile, a smile with canines far too long for Silas’ liking. He stumbled, dropping the drink and barely hearing it smash on the ground. He heard a roar of laughter go up from a group of men his own age, but had eyes only for the monsters that leered at him from among the crowd.
“Silas come with me; I think you need some air”
He could feel Annie’s eyes on him, concern and a surprising gentleness that he hadn’t seen form her before. He let her steer him to the edge of the street, near one of the many houses decorated with pumpkins and collapsed on one of the front steps. He could hear Annie hovering over him, and looked up to catch her eyes, grateful that she looked normal.
“Annie, is this the kind of party where your friends might slip me something as a joke? Only because I’m seeing…I don’t know what I’m seeing.”
They were close enough that he noticed her eyes widen in surprise before she glanced over her shoulder. He followed her gaze and noticed one of the monsters from the party lurking nearby, eyes fixed on the pair of them. Annie turned back to him, arms tense at her side.
“Silas, look at him and tell me what you see?”
He looked closely and found himself confused by another double-image, a normal looking guy and ghoulish figure trying to stand in the same space.
“I don’t know some weird ghoul. No, someone dressed as a ghoul. That’s all it is right?”
He watched Annie bite her lip before turning and shouting something at the ghoul who balked at her temper and returned to the party.
“Silas, this might be hard to understand. But what you’re seeing is real.”
Silas felt his stomach twist at the possibility of the monsters being real and then chuckled to himself under his breath.
“Oh I get it. Prank the new guy right. Bad enough you had to punch me, now you have to make fun of me.”
He stood up and started stomping back towards home. He felt Annie grab hold of his arm and wrenched it free.
“Forget it Annie. I’m not in the mood to be mocked. Go have fun at your party, I’m going hom.e”
She let him go this time and he didn’t look back as he walked home, setting a furious long-legged pace. He let his temper keep him going, feeding it with every angry stomp of his feet. It burned in his chest right up until he touched the front door of his new home, but when the door fell from broken hinges his anger was replaced by dread.
With an icicle twisting in his gut he walked into the house, noting broken plates and overturned furniture. A wave of fear and nausea almost overwhelmed him and he had to lean on the wall for support, but when he reached out he felt grooves worn into the wood. They looked a lot like claw marks. He heard somebody stepping over the door behind him and turned, praying for his parents, but finding Annie instead.
“Alright. Talk. Now. This has gone way past a joke.”
Annie nodded and beckoned him back outside. From the doorstep she pointed out all of the neighbouring houses.
“What do all of the houses have in common?”
Silas looked across to them, noting similar colours, occasionally the same make of car in the drive, but never anything they all had in common. He was about to say as much when he realised what he was missing, every single one of them had pumpkins by the front door.
Annie nodded and then tilted her head towards his house.
“They’re a sort of warning. Leave this house alone tonight, it’s off limits. Except your mum and dad were too new to the town, and I didn’t think to warn them. So no pumpkin.”
Silas laughed but it felt hollow, he knew his father all too well, the old man never believed in silly commercialised superstition, and his mother was too much of a neat-freak to risk pumpkin seeds messing up her shiny new kitchen.
“So our house wasn’t off limits and so they were…what took them?”
Annie took his head and pointed further down the street, back towards the party. Not all of the guests had the strange double-image, but enough of them did to make him nervous.
“Like most places Pillsbury has some supernatural residents. They keep to themselves for the most part, but Halloween is special. We wear masks to hide from them, and leave pumpkins to warn them to keep out. But every once in a while someone forgets, or doesn’t know. Then they get taken into the Twists.”
Silas thought about the rest of the town, the parts he had been unable to see from his house and somehow he knew that was where his parents had been taken, and that it wouldn’t be as simple as a jaunt through the town to rescue them.
“You know a lot about this, can you help me get them back?”
Annie looked down at him, and Silas reckoned that behind his costume he must have been a pitiful sight. All the reading he’d done about myths, legends, and the occult and when he’d finally been faced with it all he could do was beg for help from a woman he barely knew. He felt a swell of relief when she gave him an encouraging smile.
“It’s going to be dangerous. But blood means something in the twists. You have a blood connection to your parents. You can demand them back from whatever took them.”
Annie offered him a hand and Silas took it, surprised by the strength that hauled him to his feet. She led him the short distance to her house and took him inside. Annie’s house was, surprisingly normal. Silas wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but apart from the everyday clutter it looked just like his house next door. She walked all the way to the back wall of the house where, much to his surprise, there was a door built into the wall. Annie stood on tiptoes to look through the glass at the top of the door before turning to him.
“Silas, are you sure about this? Once we go through the door we aren’t getting back easily.”
She didn’t say it out loud but Silas knew that they were at risk of losing their lives inside. He considered waiting for daylight, reporting the incident to the police, and resigning himself to never getting them back. He might have begrudged them dragging him all the way to Pillsbury, but they were his parents, he would get them back.
“Let’s do this.”
Annie favoured him with a fierce grin and pulled the door open with a creak of hinges that let mist seep in, a mist Silas was convinced didn’t exist on the other side of the house. Annie went first, the mist curling around her legs, and Silas followed after, not wanting to get separated in this strange new world. Though his feet walked on rough cobbles Silas was sure his nose detected the smell of damp earth, the smell he remembered from his one and only camping holiday. He tried to look down through the mist to see if his feet were lying to him, but it remained impenetrable no matter how hard he stared.
The cobbled road was barely wide enough for two to walk abreast, and the houses on either side seemed to lean forwards, as if they were trying to make the small space even tighter, and some of the taller houses were almost touching at the top. There were no windows on the ground floor of any of the houses, but above that there were many, perfect for looking down on unwary travellers. Silas saw a flicker of movement from one of the windows, but when he looked properly it was just one of the curtains, he hoped.
As Annie took them between two houses that were squat and low Silas caught his first proper view of the sky and found it immense and changed. The moon seemed so close that Silas believed he could see every pit and crater in its surface. The stars around it shone with brilliant light, and seemed to move, constantly twisting with a randomness that, just for a moment, Silas thought he could understand.
“Hey, eyes down!”
He felt a twinge of pain, like weeks’ worth of migraines compressed into a second, and then it was gone. Annie looked concerned but he managed shaky thumbs up as he tried to ponder just what it was he’d seen.
A crack under foot stopped him in place and Annie turned in interest. Silas reached down, fighting the irrational fear that something might bite his hand in the mist, and his fingers brushed against something slender. It was his father’s glasses, broken under his foot.
“Don’t panic Si, it means we’re on the right track.”
He nodded and then proceeded to panic anyway, his imagination plagued with images of his mother and father devoured in the shadowy Twists. His panic lasted until a soft hand grasped his and held it tight. He looked up and into Annie’s eyes, seeing the fear but also the stubborn determination in the set of her jaw.
“We’ll find them, I promise!”
Their only warning that someone else was there was the low chuckle of laughter that announced his presence. Silas saw a shadow moving across the wall in front of them and turned to see what was casting it but found nothing but his own reflection in a nearby window. Then he saw a pair of feline eyes watching from over his should, visible only in the reflection.
“Finding them is easy Annie, you should know that. Keeping them however…”
The black of the eyes seemed to spread outwards like ink, covering a surface that had been invisible up until the point. The body of a cat big enough to be a dog resolved itself in ink, all of it but a speck of white on its breast.
“Mittens! What an unexpected pleasure.”
The cat, Mittens, hissed with anger and Silas saw the flash of bright claws as it flexed them in warning and threat.
“I warned you not to call me that Annie”
Silas turned and found Annie glaring back at the cat, ferocity equal to its own in her eyes.
“You lost the game puss, don’t come crying if you don’t like losing. Now give us back his parents”
Silas became the full focus of Mitten’s attention and felt his skin try to crawl away from the unnerving intensity.
“So, you wish to claim blood-right little man, to take your parents back from me?”
Silas tried to speak, but his eyes were showing him more than he wanted, a spectral double of Cat Sidhe growing till it seemed large enough to swallow the moon.
“What’s the matter little mortal? Cat got your tongue?”
Before the fear could overwhelm him, something sharp pricked his hand, the pain shocking him out of his paralysing terror. He looked down at his hand and found his father’s glasses, one of the broken pieces jabbing into his skin.
“No. Cat’s got my parents, now give them back you naughty kitty.”
Silas watch the canted eyes of Mitten’s narrow in anger but he had eyes only for Annie as she tried and failed to keep her mirth contained.
“Very well, you have the blood-right and not even I can gainsay that. But I can test you.”
Silas saw Annie’s amusement disappear and just like that she was glaring at Mittens with such intensity that Silas was surprised the cat didn’t burst into flames. Mittens smiled back and nodded towards a patch of shadow that resolved itself into the shape of Silas’ parents.
“There they are; asleep on their feet, but unharmed beyond that.”
Silas rushed up and hugged them close, not caring that they had no idea he was there. He looked into their eyes but could see Mittens was right, they were sleepwalking under his control.
“My challenge is a simple one boy. Lead your parents back to their beds before the sun rises and this night ends. If you do that you can keep them. Fail and I will take you too.”
Silas looked back to Annie who nodded in encouragement
“But, you will do so with no help from the little witch.”
Silas balked as the narrow cobbled alleys seemed to twist and turn around him, slithering like snakes in tune to the twisting skies overhead. Even his memory held no sanctuary as the route they’d taken to find his parents escaped his panicked brain.
“Annie, I can’t do this, I’ll never be able to find my way out of here, he’s going to keep us walking until sunrise and then…”
Mittens voice spoke from Silas’ ear and whispered full of malice.
“And then I will have you too boy, and you will suffer for the offense you have shown me.”
Silas felt close to tears as he contemplated the decision he wanted to make, but the one he wasn’t brave enough for. Then he felt a hand in his and a different voice spoke, gentle and kind.
“Silas, do you trust me?”
He looked into the eyes of a madwoman who had battered him over the head, taken him to a party full of monsters, and then led him into the arms of a dangerous psychopathic kitty. She was also the woman who had known him for less than a day and willing followed him into danger to help him rescue his parents. He gave her hand a squeeze and turned to face his foe.
“Alright then, Mittens. You’re on”
Cat Sidhe was already gone, although Silas had no doubt the evil cat was watching from some unseen corner, waiting for the sun to rise. Silas started walking, his parents tottering dutifully behind him, and Annie remaining silent at the back, not willing to risk interfering. Silas tried his best to retrace his steps through the path they had taken, but he’d been too overwhelmed by the strange new place to pay attention. The asymmetrical buildings seemed similar by their simple lack of similarities. He felt a brief flicker of hope when he heard glass crunching underfoot, his dad’s glasses giving him a landmark to work from.
Striking out from there with confidence he lead them quickly, ever aware of the ticking clock that mittens test placed upon him. The sound of music reached his ears and he realised he must be close to the town where the party was taking place. He followed the music back around the corner and then his stomach plummeted as he heard glass break under his feet again.
“Oh god, Annie, this place is leading me round in circles.”
He saw Annie look up at one of the nearby houses, where Mittens was perched on the roof chuckling with mischief and malice. The cat inclined his head in a gesture of permission and Annie took Silas’ hand.
“Listen Si, I can’t help, but you have to keep trying, just a little bit longer.”
It might have been his imagination but he heard something in her words, a hidden meaning that escaped him but encouraged trust. And he did trust her.
The minutes ticked by as the Twists lived up to their name and turned him in circles, never revealing more than a passing glimpse of the town, but never in the same place twice. He kept glancing at his watch, noticing the time tick ever closer to midnight. He cast another glance over his shoulder at Annie and she gave him a smile.
“Just a little longer.”
He threw his hands up in the air in frustration.
“What are we waiting for Annie?”
She rolled her eyes at his temper and lifted up the watch on his arms so she could see it. Silas watched with trepidation as the second hand wound its way around and finally struck midnight, the witching hour. Then the first chime of midnight strummed through him like he was a string on a bass guitar, and the town changed before his eyes.
The twisting buildings became ghostly images, much like the ones he’d seen at the party, but rooted in one spot and unmoving. The twisting path glowed like neon underneath his feet and he could see every inch of it, even the point where it connected to Annie’s house. He looked over his shoulder at Annie and saw the stars in her costume glowing and shifting like she really was wearing the midnight sky.
“Silas go! This won’t last long”
With a whoop he started running through the twists, his eyes always locked on Annie’s door, and his parents started moving to match, with Annie encouraging them forwards. He could see Mittens following them over the rooftops hissing displeasure. As they ran Silas felt more of the bass notes thrum through him and realised that they were the strokes of midnight, and six of them were already gone. He put on a burst of speed and on the tenth chime reached the door. On the eleventh pulled it open. When the twelfth struck he tumbled through the door in a tangle of limbs as Annie pushed his parents through behind him.
“Trickery, Annie! Give me my prize.”
He managed to pull himself free and caught sight of Annie stood like a bulldog in the doorway, facing Mittens as the cat Sidhe’s shadow grew around him.
“He won the game on his own Mittens. You’ve lost, get over it!”
The shadow grew to enormous proportions and Silas could see it prowling towards the doorway to capture them.
“You asked for it.”
Silas didn’t see what she did, and whenever he asked afterwards Annie would smile and not tell him a thing. But from behind it looked like a star rested in the palm of her hand that made the stars on her cloak grow brighter. Mitten’s shadow shattered and the cat Sidhe disappeared back into the Twists with his tail between his legs. By the time the light faded Mittens was gone and the door was closed.
She turned and smiled although there was a touch of exhaustion to the expression.
“Come on, we still have to get your parents back into bed by sunrise.”
He nodded and poked his sleepwalking parents into motion again, guiding them out of Annie’s house and into their own. Only when they were tucked up in bed and Annie had pilfered a pumpkin for the front door did he finally relax, collapsing onto the sofa with a sigh of relief. Annie collapsed next to him and wriggled till she was under his arm.
“Annie, what was that? For a moment it felt like I could see everything.”
She looked up at him and for a moment he thought he could see her as she appeared to his sight.
“Those born under the chime hours have a second sight, and in the chimes of midnight when you were born, that sight multiplies exponentially. For a moment there Si you really could see everything.”
They settled into companionable silence and then Annie broached a different subject, one that made Silas squirm to remember.
“Hey Si, you know in the costume shop. Something fell out of your pocket while I was holding your clothes.”
She held up his train ticket and he realised he was due to be gone in less than two hours.
“You leaving already?”
He plucked the ticket from her hands and looked at it for a moment. He could be free of the town with this, get to move somewhere with some hustle and bustle, a good place for a journalist to begin his career.
“I guess not.”
With a sigh he threw the ticket over his shoulder and got comfortable on the sofa. After a few moments of companionable silence he asked the question that had been niggling at him.
“Annie, what are…what did you do in the Twists?”
He’d almost asked what she was but saved himself from the dangers of insensitivity anyway. Annie rolled her eyes, a gesture he was sure to get used to and chuckled under her breath.
“To answer the question you meant to ask Si; I’m a witch. Is that ok?”
The question was lacking her usual brash confidence and Silas could almost hear the vulnerability in her tone.
“No. Not one bit.”
She favoured him with a smile almost as bright as the stars on her cloak and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before settling down again. Silas laughed quietly under his breath, Pillsbury was suddenly a lot more interesting.
“Well, witch or not, you know how to throw one heck of a welcoming party.”
He heard Annie snort with laughter from somewhere near his shoulder, and when he looked down he caught eyes filled with mischief.
“Just wait till you see what I have planned for our second date.”
If it had been a day before then Silas might have balked at that statement except now he’d faced monsters, magic and mischievous kittens. After facing something like that he reckoned that going out on a date with Annie would be a walk in the park. All of which just went to show that Silas really didn’t know Annie. Still he had time to learn.
Watching from the window was a black cat with a white spot on his chest. A cat everyone assumed was a ‘he’. Truth be told Mittens was a she, a she that was very good a mimicking the deeper voice of a man. It made it that much easier to keep her true name hidden when everyone was looking for a man’s name. She watched Annie settled on the sofa and hissed with displeasure, and would have given nothing to scratch the boy, Silas, until he was red raw. But a challenge was a challenge, and he had won. With a sigh she shrugged her shoulders once, twice, three times until the fur started to recede and her stature started to grow. Claws became fingernails, the tail became a tail bones and black fur became dark black hair with a single streak of white. When Eliza Hallows was done with her transformation she looked nothing like a witch, but if Silas’ parents had caught the look in her eye they would have said she looked everything like an angry parent. An angry parent who’d just caught her daughter making moon-eyes at the boy next door. That wouldn’t do at all.
Ask Annie is a hugely popular radio show that broadcasts daily from Pillsbury, Somerset. Most people think it's a comedy, written to entertain them on their way to work, but a few people know better. The succubus having unwanted attention from male admirers, the gremlin who can't touch a coffee machine without it exploding, and even the fire elemental with anger issues, they're all real, and they all need help. That is why the titular Annie broadcasts because she is a witch with all the answers. This is a story from her past when she first met Silas Raines, amateur-occultist and student. He is being dragged to Pillsbury, where a certain witch lives, to make a new home with his parents, or at least that's what they think. Hidden in his pocket is a train ticket that will whisk him off to his new life at university and away from the woman who might one day be his wife. The only thing stopping him-drum roll please-is Annie she of the fiery temper and strong right hook. Alone even she might not have been enough to convince him to stay, but Pillsbury is hiding secrets, secrets that any good occultist would give various limbs to learn, and it's about to share some with Silas. As midnight fast approaches on Halloween Silas finds himself in a race to save not only himself but also his parent's lives too. Alone he might be lost, but he has Annie, and she seems to have all the answers.