Cynthia: The North Carolina Witch Who Cursed My Family - Part 3
Exerpt from Part 2
Todd lifted his right hand to examine his thumb. It was swollen and as red as fire.
Funny, how just one digit of a hand or foot could ache so much and make his whole body scream with pain, but that was exactly what was happening to Todd Cook.
Sitting on the fallen log beside his brother, Benjamen, Todd couldn't believe how he'd been fine one minute and feverish the next. It wasn't until Benjamen mentioned Todd's thumb being swollen that he realized it was hurting, and now it hurt so badly it was all he could think about. He peered down at his thumb and couldn't believe how terrible it looked.
If Todd didn't know better, he'd have sworn someone had smacked his right thumb with a hammer. His thumb was flaming red, black around the nail, and had swollen to twice its size. Pus was running from beneath the edges of the nail bed. Todd didn't know much about medicine, but it was obvious the thumb was infected. Something told him he needed to get home right away.
"Benjamen?" Todd said, "I think we need to get on back. I'm not sure how much longer I can stand this. My thumb, I mean - it hurts so bad. It's all I can think about."
Benjamen leaned over to examine his brother's thumb, "Sorry. It does look mighty bad." He noticed a bird calling from the sky and looked overhead, "Uh ... little brother? Have you noticed that crow up there? I think it's been following us. Or maybe it's a different one flying around - but, it's givin' me the willies. Reminds me of that ugly old crow that's always hangin' round Cynthia."
When Todd didn't answer him, Benjamen said, "Todd - Remember how Cynthia spent an awful long time holding onto your hand after shaking it? Looked like she was rubbin' on your thumb too. She didn't do that with Davis nor me. Seemed like she was mighty focused on you."
Todd tried to stand up, but couldn't quite keep his balance. He sat back down, "I reckon. I didn't notice, I guess. Why? Ya think she did something to me?"
"I ain't no expert on witches, but she sure did spend a lot of time strokin' your thumb. I'm afeared she might've put a spell on ya, and if'n she did - well, there ain't no tellin' what might happen."
"Pa's gonna be mad aplenty if that's true," Todd said.
"Let's not worry about Pa right now. We just need to get you home. Come on, lean on me. We'll make it back. Just take it easy."
The two brothers set off for home. It took a few hours for what might ordinarily have taken only one, because Benjamen had to practically drag his brother along the road. By the time they made it there, Todd was practically delirious. Benjamen had tried to keep Todd focused and awake by forcing conversation, but all Todd managed to do was mumble a few yes or no's. They finally reached home around noon.
"Mamma!" Benjamen shouted, "Mamma! Hurry!"
Cora rushed outside and instantly realized that Todd was in trouble. She helped Benjamen get Todd inside, then sent Benjamen into town to bring back the town doctor. She and Margaret did their best to bring down Todd's fever by patting him down with rags dipped in water. There wasn't much they could do about his thumb, though Cora tried her best to clean it.. By the time Dr. Burgis arrived from town Todd was barely conscious.
While he examined Todd Dr. Burgis asked Benjamen questions, but when it had been established that Todd hadn't been injured, the doctor was speechless. There was nothing he could do for Todd, he'd said, except try to remove some of the secretion from underneath the thumb and give him some morphine. Benjamen knew better than to mention Cynthia's possible involvement. Everyone knew about that witch, but no one dared talk about her for fear she would cast a spell on them too.
When Davis and William got home from working at the mill, Dr. Burgis had already left. Benjamen and Cora told them what had happened to Todd, including what the doctor said, and William was positive that Cynthia had cast a spell on Todd. He cursed and slammed his hand against the wall.
Davis and Benjamen glanced at each other, then looked back at their father. William reached for his shotgun hanging across the door, "Benjamen, You stay here with your mother. I don't want her alone tonight. Davis, you're with me. We'll have to rely on one gun. We need to leave the pistol with Benjamen." He turned to Cora, "I know you don't cotton to my taking off for that damned witch's house half-cocked, especially at night, but we can't wait 'til sunrise. Todd might not make it that long, by the looks of him."
Cora nodded, "Do what you have to do, William. Just save our son."
It was just before midnight when Davis and William arrived at Cynthia's house. Their lanterns didn't cast much light, but the moon was almost full, so they could easily make out the front door and the woods around the house.
William knocked on the door, "Cynthia? Come on out! Got me a man and a shotgun our here."
"What? Who be outside my door?" Cynthia was acting like she didn't know his voice, but William knew better.
"You know who this is, and you know why I'm here, so come on out before I shoot you dead, old witch!"
After a few seconds of silence William could hear her lifting the latch. The door slowly began to creak open, but William shoved the door open with his foot, "Now, dammit! I got a son who's dyin' thanks to you, so you had better show yourself - less'in you want a hole where that face of yours is."
Cynthia stepped outside the door holding a black shawl, "We needs a coat. Cold out."
"I don't care how cold it is. You're comin' with us. Now."
"We tells ye how to save Todd. Then ye leave us."
"Nope! You. Are. Coming. With. Us!" William said. "I don't trust you. So get on out here. You walk beside me. And Davis? You point that pistol at the back of her head while we walk, and don't look away for a second."
And thus it was that they made their way back to the Cook House.
When William, Davis, and Cynthia arrived, William grabbed Cynthia by the arm and knocked on the door with the butt of his shotgun. "We're back, Cora. We got Cynthia out here with us."
Benjamen opened the door to let them inside. He looked at William and Davis and shook his head - Todd was much worse. He was thrashing around - delirious - and Cora and Margaret were both at Todd's side doing their best to keep him in bed.
"All right, ye old witch," William said, thrusting Cynthia ahead of him, "You'd better take away the spell you put on him. And if you don't heal Todd, you won't be leavin' this house alive."
Cynthia stepped up to Todd's side, and addressed Cynthia, "We needs to be close to em, Missus. Real close."
Cora and Margaret moved away from the bed and waited beside William, Davis and Benjamen.
Cynthia took Todd's right hand inside hers and began to mumble in some strange, incoherent language - all the while stroking his thumb back and forth. She continued the same ritual over and over for almost five minutes, although it seemed like hours to the Cooks.
At last, Todd stopped thrashing, his body still and limp. The air inside the house seemed to grow warm. Cynthia backed away from the bed and raised her arms towards the ceiling. Then, in one swift and final gesture, she dropped her arms to her side and fell to her knees on the floor.
"Mamma?" Todd sat up in bed and slowly shook his head, "What happened? Why am I in bed?"
Cora rushed to his side and took him in her arms. "Oh, Todd. Todd."
"It's gonna be all right, son," William said as he moved to the foot of the bed. Davis, Benjamen, and Margaret followed their father and crowded around Todd.
Cora held up Todd's hand, "Look! The swelling is gone, and his thumb has been healed," she said. "It's like magic."
"It was magic all right," William said, "and there'd better not be any more. But we don't have to worry about that ever again, do we, Cynthia?"
Todd turned to look at Cynthia, but she was gone.
"Damned witch woman!" Todd said.
"She can't have gone far," said Benjamen. "I'll run after her!"
"Nope. Let her go," William said. "I'll deal with her tomorrow. Our family will never be safe from now on. I'm gonna pay the Conjur Man a visit in the morning. There's got to be a way to get rid of Cynthia for good."
To Be Continued Tuesday, October 27 2020. You don't want to miss the last episode when we learn how to kill a witch! Come and join us for the final episode, Part 4!