Imogen popped one more Malteser in her mouth, cracking the honeycomb between her teeth. One of her front teeth wobbled precariously before slotting back into place.
‘I can pull that for you,’ said Layla, rubbing her fingers in anticipation. ‘Look,’ she continued, pointing to a gap, ‘I yanked this out last week. You should have seen the blood – everywhere it was.’
‘No, leave it,’ replied Imogen, edging backwards. ‘Let’s leave this too. The game is stupid. It’s for kids.’
‘God, Imogen, you’re such a loser. Just say the spell, then the word and that’s it. What’s written on these pieces of paper will appear. I promise.’
‘Well, it worked with the Maltesers, didn’t it?’ retorted Layla.
‘Very funny. I heard the rustling as you pulled them out of your pocket,’ said Imogen.
Layla scrambled off the rough floorboards.
‘Well, I’m off then,’ she said, pocketing the scraps of folded paper which rested in the chipped bowl. One of Mum’s favourites but she wouldn’t notice it gone. Since her new boyfriend, she never noticed anything.The television was permanently on as was the tablet on Mum’s lap. Being ignored wasn’t the worst, it was their yelling that did her head in. This was her retreat; her Dad’s old shed. It felt safe amongst the cobwebs and spades. Breathing in the musty damp air, Layla reached for the latch.
‘Wait,’ said Imogen. ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’
Layla tipped the papers back into the bowl.
‘But,’ she added, ‘we don’t have to say the spell aloud. We’ll just think it. Right?’
Biting her nails, Layla was silent for a moment.
‘That should work, but you have to say the word aloud.’
Imogen took a paper and unfolded it and frowning she closed her eyes. Real tight, with the balls of her hands rubbing against her eyelids, the paper dangling between her fingers. She muttered and then shouted out.
Layla rolled back in shock, knocking against the tool table which sent a trowel flying into the air, the slimy sloppy brown mud on it trailing messily on the floor and landing by her side.
‘Where did that come from?’ exclaimed Imogen, gaping at the mud and the trowel partially buried in it.
‘Yeah, it really does work!’ laughed Layla, ignoring her friend and grabbing a paper. She mumbled the spell quickly, then whispered, ‘mask’. The girls glanced around expectantly, then frantically. Nothing. With sighs of disappointment, they took a paper each and nonchalantly went through the motions with the two remaining words.
‘Midnight,’ said Imogen.
Sunlight shimmered through the grimy perspex window. More like midday, thought Imogen.
‘Murder,’ droned Layla.
‘I could murder this game,’ said Imogen, as she stood to leave. ‘Like I said, bloody stupid.’ The door clattered shut behind her, rattling the tiny hinges. Within seconds it flew open again and Imogen loomed over her, clutching a black wooden mask.
‘Look! This was on the tree. Just hanging there. I can’t believe it. I’m taking this home.’
Layla followed Imogen down the path to the house, shaking her head in wonder. How did her mother’s mask from Gambia end up outside?
Heading inside, Layla snatched some biscuits and crisps from the cupboard before going up to her room, slamming her door to the fighting downstairs.
‘Layla! Layla! Get help!’ screamed her mother.
Layla woke with a start and reached for her phone. 00.00. Midnight. Scrambling out of bed she ran to the door when she suddenly heard an ear-piercing screech. Her mother. Then silence followed by a cough becoming louder and she edged away from the door as the footsteps came closer. Stumbling, she reached the wardrobe and lunged inside, tapping at her phone screen.
‘Police! Help! My mother’s been murdered!’
© Annika Perry