Currently viewing the tag: ""The Anger of Innocence"

Part 6: The Challenge

Story Written by James Rada, Jr.

“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah Adelsberger said nothing when she arrived at her Aunt Anna’s house in Graceham on the first warm day of 1973. She should have been happy or at least in a good mood with the 68-degree temperature and sunshine. She also knew she hadn’t killed her teacher, and she wasn’t responsible for her classmate Christine Weber’s death either. It was a burden lifted from her conscience, but it had been replaced with another problem.

“What’s wrong?” Aunt Anna asked as she mixed some herbs and spices to a stew cooking on the stove. She looked like a witch at that moment.

“Nothing,” Sarah muttered.

“Sure seems like something’s wrong. You’re usually not so quiet. Are you having bad dreams?”

The dreams of Mrs. Zentz, her science teacher at Thurmont Middle School, had seemed too real when she had them. Sarah knew now that they hadn’t been her dreams at all, but projections meant to anger her.

“No, but…” Sarah looked her aunt in the eyes. “I suppose you already knew that!”

Anna Eichholtz stopped what she was doing and rinsed off her hands. “What are you talking about?” she asked as she dried her hands on a dish towel.

“I know about the dreams,” Sarah said. “I know you used me.”

Anna gave a light snort. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never used you. I’ve tried to help you.”

Sarah jumped up from her chair. “You tried to help you! You used me to get what you wanted.”

She hadn’t wanted to say anything to her aunt, but once she started, everything started to spill out.

“What I wanted?” Her aunt smiled. It was a nasty smile Sarah had never seen on her aunt before. It scared her.

Her aunt said, “As I recall, you’re the one who killed two people.”

“No, I know that now! Stop lying!”

Sarah turned and sprinted from the house. She ran across a field to Hoovers Mill Road. Then, she kept running until she reached her house.

* * *

Sarah’s nightmares returned that night. Mrs. Zentz attacked Sarah and tried to kill her. It didn’t anger Sarah now, though. Mrs. Zentz hadn’t killed her when she had a reason to. She hadn’t even been angry with Sarah for sending the birds to attack her, or rather, thinking she had sent the birds.

“I’m not afraid,” Sarah told the dream Mrs. Zentz. “You’re not real.”

Mrs. Zentz opened her mouth and growl came out. Her teeth lengthened and sharpened. Her hair grew shaggy. Spikes poked out of her back, and her fingers lengthened into claws.

The sudden shift startled Sarah, but she quickly calmed down.

Then the dream monster attacked, and Sarah screamed.

* * *

Monica Adelsberger ran into her daughter’s bedroom, still pulling her robe on. Sarah lay on her bed thrashing and yelling in terror but still asleep.

Monica shook her daughter’s shoulder. “Sarah, wake up. You’re having a nightmare.”

Sarah didn’t wake, but she quieted down.

Monica patted Sarah’s cheek. “Wake up, honey.”

Sarah calmed somewhat at her touch. Then her eyes opened, and Monica saw her daughter’s blue eyes had turned pale, so only the pupils showed.

Monica drew back sharply. She knew what this meant. She had seen it before. Something supernatural was in control of Sarah. It wasn’t a demon or spirit; Monica had fought that type of possession before. It had to be another witch.

Sweat beaded on Sarah’s brow, and her hands clenched into fists at her sides. Monica pulled sweat-dampened hair off her daughter’s face.

“Don’t be angry, sweetheart,” she whispered into Sarah’s ear. “Don’t give into the anger. Release it. She can’t control what isn’t there.”

* * *

Barbara Zentz startled the women of her coven when she walked into the clearing. Donna Eyler even screamed as if she was seeing a ghost.

Kate Montgomery looked from Barbara to Anna Eichholtz and back. “Anna said you were dead,” Kate said.

Barbara held her hands out to her side. “As you can see, I’m not. I’ve been … indisposed for a few days, but I’m back and ready to take my place among my sisters.”

The women in the circle nodded, but Anna shook her head. “I lead the coven now.”

“But you lied to us,” Kate said. “You told us Barbara was dead.”

“A slight miscalculation.” Anna’s light-blue eyes narrowed. “One that can be corrected.”

“You aren’t more powerful than me,” Barbara said.

“I don’t have to be. I have the coven’s power.”

Barbara had hoped Anna would give up her quest for power when she saw Barbara was alive. Unlike most witches who tried to work with nature rather than force it to their bidding, Anna would not give up her power now that she controlled the power of the witches in coven. The only way for Barbara to take back leadership of coven was for Anna to give up the power or for her to die.

“A coven is not for one person to control,” Barbara said. “You lead a coven, otherwise, you are a thief not a witch.”

Anna laughed. “You sound afraid, Barbara, because I’ve done what you are afraid to do.”

“We won’t let you control us!” Barbara shouted.

“I could care less about you,” Anna said.

She waved her hand, and Barbara grabbed at her throat. She dropped to her knees trying to catch her breath.

“Do you understand now? Even if you had used your power against me, it is the power of one. I have the power of many.”

Barbara knew what was coming and managed to throw up a shield, but when Anna’s power hit, it still felt like being punched in the face. Barbara staggered back but held onto the shield.

Anna struck again, and the shield broke with ease. Ease for Anna. It hurt Barbara so much she screamed.

Some of the other witches struck at Anna with different spells, but Anna’s power included theirs. Her shields easily deflected the spells.

The fire in the center of the clearing flared, spitting out fireballs. The women ducked and rolled out of the way of the flames. Anna would have jumped out of the way, too, but her shields stopped the flames.

Then she saw Sarah shamble into the clearing.

Sarah was tired and her head ached, but she had pulled herself out of the nightmare with her mother’s help. Now she had to stop her aunt.

“It’s over, Aunt Anna,” Sarah said. “Stop this before more people get hurt.”

“Sarah, Sarah,” Anna said in a soothing voice. “I am protecting you from people who would hurt you if they had the chance.”

“I don’t know these women. They aren’t causing me pain.” Sarah rubbed her temples. “You are.”

“I can stop the pain.”

Anna lifted her hand and threw Sarah backward. Monica ran out of the woods to help Sarah.

Anna laughed. “You shouldn’t have come, Monica. This doesn’t concern you. You walked away from this life.”

“And you pulled my daughter into it!” Monica yelled.

Sarah threw her arm out, but nothing happened to Anna. Instead, a hard wind blew through the clearing, nearly extinguishing the fire. Mrs. Zentz was right. Sarah had power, but she couldn’t control it. She had never been trained.

Anna raised an arm in Sarah’s direction. Sarah wanted to create a shield to block whatever her aunt would do, but she didn’t know how. She felt her mother’s hand on her back, and Sarah felt a shield form around the two of them. Although Sarah saw nothing, the shield felt oily for a few moments. Then the feeling vanished.

Anna’s blue eyes widened. She frowned. “Poor, poor, Sarah. You must worry over whether the police will find out what you did to Christine. Did Sarah tell you she killed a girl, Monica?”

Her mother didn’t reply, or if she did, Sarah didn’t hear it. She was caught up in a vision as if she was Christine Weber collapsing beneath the weight of thousands of birds. They clawed at her and pecked at her. Sarah screamed in pain, and a bird pecked at her tongue. She saw the birds. Many of them had their eyes closed as if they didn’t want to see what they were doing. Amid the pain, she could feel a presence pressing on them from behind, forcing them to attack when they just wanted to fly away.

“No!” Sarah screamed, although she wasn’t sure whether she said it or just yelled it in the vision.

She hurt all over. Her hair. Her toenails. How could Christine have endured all this?

“Stop, please stop,” Sarah pleaded.

And the birds stopped. It was as if they were frozen in air. She wasn’t free of them, but they had stopped the attack, which is what Sarah had asked.

Was she finally controlling the birds? Did she want to control them? Mrs. Zentz had said magic shared was more powerful than forced magic like her aunt held. The birds might not be witches, but they were influenced by magic.

“Can you help me?” she asked.

The answer came from far away not from the flock of birds surrounding her. “You can make us.”

“I don’t want to do that. I want to stop the woman who is keeping you here.”

“Yes, we want to go,” the voice said. Were the birds speaking to her as one?

“Then help me stop her.”

“We are afraid.”

“I will give you the power to protect and control yourselves.” Sarah thought she could do this. Her mother’s touch had given her control, without controlling her like Aunt Anna had.

“We would be free?”

“Yes, but first she must be stopped.”

Sarah remembered her mother’s whispered voice when she had been caught in the fevered nightmare Aunt Anna had created. Release it. She can’t control what isn’t there. Sarah had released the anger then and the nightmare faded. She tried the same thing now except with the power she felt within her.

She opened her eyes and dropped to her knees suddenly weak. Anna still stood with her hand out to her sides. The other witches were on the ground. Sarah still stood, and she could feel her mother’s hand on her back, soothing her and giving her control.

“You are strong, Sarah, but control is more important. Control allows you to take the power you want,” Anna said.

“Not if I’ve already given it away,” Sarah said.

The birds flew into the clearing. Anna shifted her stance, and Sarah could tell she had gone from attacking to strengthening her shield, expecting the birds’ attack.

They didn’t attack, though. They kept their distance, flying around Anna faster and faster. They started glowing red, but that shifted to orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Sarah wasn’t sure she was actually seeing it until she heard her mother gasp.

“What’s happening?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know,” her mother said. “It’s beautiful. They look magical.”

As the colors shifted, the birds chirped and tweeted. It should have been a deafening chaos of noise, but the sounds blended so that Sarah could imagine it as a chant.

Inside the circle, Anna screamed, but the birds weren’t close enough to harm her.

“Are we free?” the voice asked.

“I don’t control you,” Sarah said.

The birds flew off in all directions. Sarah was sure when she left the clearing most of the millions of birds that had been invading Graceham for the past few months would be gone.

Anna was gone, but the birds hadn’t been close enough to attack. Yet, they had stopped her as Sarah had asked them to do.

She saw movement where her aunt had been. It was a crow left behind. Sarah walked over to the crow as it hopped around on the ground. Its wings didn’t look injured, but it couldn’t fly. Sarah was surprised only one bird had been injured in that swirling flock.

Sarah stopped near the crow, and it looked up at her with its blue eyes.

Sarah gasped and kneeled down closer to the crow. It didn’t move away. It just stared at Sarah.

“Hello, Aunt Anna.”

Who would have thought birds had a sense of justice?

Part 5: Taking Power

Story Written by James Rada, Jr.

“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.

The 12 women stood in the wooded clearing between Graceham and Thurmont. They all wore white cloaks with hoods that covered their heads. They talked quietly in small groups, paced, and looked at their wristwatches.

Finally, Anna Eichholtz stepped up to the small campfire burning in the center of the clearing. She slid the hood off her head.

“As I told you, Barbara isn’t coming, I will lead the coven tonight,” Anna said.

The other women stopped what they were doing and moved to stand in a circle around the fire.

“What gives you the right to lead?” Kate Montgomery asked.

Anna lifted her chin and stared at each of the other witches over the fire. “I removed Barbara, and she will not return. Now, as the most powerful among you, I claim the right to lead.”

The other women murmured. Some of them turned to walk away.

“How did you do it?” Kate asked. “You weren’t more powerful than Barbara. That is why she led this coven.”

Anna raised her hand. A small starling flew from the trees and landed in the middle of the fire. The flames ignited the bird’s feathers. It didn’t move or screech in pain. The witches gasped. The bird toppled over. It was a blackened husk.

“I brought the birds to Graceham, and they killed Barbara,” Anna said. “They will remain here to take care of anyone else who opposes me.”

The birds. Anna didn’t need to say more. Everyone knew of millions of grackles, crows, starlings, and cowbirds that had been living in Graceham for months. They were a nuisance that no one – not even this coven – had been able to drive away. Now Anna had proclaimed that she controlled them, and she did, although it wasn’t her alone.

Her niece, Sarah, might have the power, but Anna knew how to control that power and use it.

* * *

Sarah Adelsberger answered the knock at her front door. She opened it, and saw Mrs. Zentz standing there. Sarah stifled a scream. Her science teacher gave her a half grin.

“Well, that answers the question I had about whether you were involved in what happened to me,” Barbara Zentz said.

Sarah stepped back and hung her head. She expected to feel angry like she had when she had seen Mrs. Zentz for the past few months. Instead, she felt ashamed like she had after she had killed Christine Weber.

But Mrs. Zentz was alive. How could that be? Sarah had seen her disappear beneath thousands of birds Sarah sent to attack her science teacher.

“How?” Sarah asked.

“There’s so much you don’t know Sarah, and you need to know it,” Barbara Zentz said.

“I know everything I need to know! You want to kill me!” Sarah tried to stir up her old anger, but it just wasn’t there.

Sarah closed her eyes and tried to focus on needing protection. She called to the birds. They would come to protect her. They always came to her aid.

When she opened her eyes, Sarah saw only three birds had come, and they weren’t attacking Mrs. Zentz. They sat on the ground staring at Sarah. Where were the rest? Millions of birds were all over Graceham right now. You could hardly take a step without stirring up a flock and only three had answered Sarah’s call?

Sarah shook her head and said, “How did you stop them? How are you still alive? What are you?”

“May I come in? We need to talk.”

Sarah looked around for more birds. Seeing none, she stared at her teacher. Mrs. Zentz took her silence as assent and walked into the house.

“Are your parents home?” Mrs. Zentz asked.

“Not yet,” Sarah managed to say.

Mrs. Zentz nodded. “Good. This should be a private conversation. Do they know about what you can do?”


Mrs. Zentz raised an eyebrow like she did in class when she suspected a student was lying to her. “Even your mother?”

“No. Only my aunt knows.”

Barbara walked into the living room and sat down on an armchair. Sarah stared at her. It had been three days since she had sent the birds to attack Mrs. Zentz. Sarah thought the teacher was dead, but she looked fine. She wasn’t even scratched, although thousands of birds had tried to claw and peck her to death.

“Are you a witch?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, as are you apparently.”         

“That’s what my aunt told me.”

“Your aunt? Anna Eichholtz? She told you you are a witch?”

When Sarah nodded, Barbara closed her eyes and held a hand out, palm up, toward Sarah.

“What are you doing?” Sarah asked.

Mrs. Zentz said nothing. Then she took a deep breath and opened her eyes.

“I can sense the power in you, but it’s all raw power.”

Raw power? Her aunt had never called it that. It didn’t sound good.

“You have enough power to control the flock that has been causing problems around here, but without the training, you couldn’t keep them here for all this time. You don’t have the focus to make the birds obey your will.”

“My aunt trained me,” Sarah blurted.

Mrs. Zentz pursed her lips. “Really? You tried to get the birds to attack me again at the front door, didn’t you?”

“No!” Mrs. Zentz arched an eyebrow. “Well, I tried, but it didn’t work,” Sarah corrected herself.

Barbara nodded her head slowly. “You’re being used by another person who has control, but not your power.”

Sarah shook her head. “No, it can’t be. Nobody else knows what I can do. No one was even there for what I did to you and Christine.”

“Christine? Christine Weber?” Sarah nodded. “What happened to her?” Barbara asked.

“It was like what happened to you. The birds surrounded her and she disappeared. All that was left was some blood and a piece of her book bag.”

Mrs. Zentz sighed. “Oh, Sarah, you’re being used, and you don’t even realize it. Your aunt is controlling your power. Your anger gave her a way in.”

“No, my aunt has been trying to help me. I told you she’s been training me.”

“Sarah, you think you have control of your power, but you haven’t shown the control needed to do what you think you have done. Your power is like the water in a fire hydrant and you’re the hydrant. The water will pour out of you, but it takes control – the fire hose connected to the hydrant – to direct and use all of that water. Your aunt is the fire hose.”

Sarah felt a knot in her stomach, she didn’t even realize was there, uncurl itself. “Then I didn’t kill Christine?”

Barbara shook her head. “No more than the hydrant puts out the fire. Your aunt must have used an anger you felt toward Christine to find a way into your emotions and power. That gave her control over your power. Witches sometimes control another’s power to help train them, but the trainee always knows what is happening so she feels how to control her power on her own.”

“But she’s my aunt.”

Her aunt couldn’t have used her. Aunt Anna was like an older sister. She had watched Sarah every afternoon after school since Sarah was in Thurmont Elementary School. They were so close. Sarah told her aunt her secrets, her hopes, her worries. She had told her about Christine bullying her.

“She’s also a witch with big ambitions but only moderate power,” Barbara said.

“But she hasn’t tried to control me. She has been helping me,” Sarah insisted.

Mrs. Zentz reached out and patted her arm. “I’m sorry, Sarah. Calling the birds showed a great deal of control and experience, and you don’t show that level of control. You called three birds to you, and they only sat at my feet.”

Sarah stared at her in silence and then broke into tears. “Why? Why would she do this to me? I’ve had nightmares ever since Christine died.”

Mrs. Zentz leaned over and hugged the young teen.

“It’s your power. The young had great power, but I have never seen as much raw power as you have in you. Your aunt can use that power to control our coven, and with that, she could do just about whatever she might want around here. She has tried to take control before.”

Sarah lifted her head. “What happened then?”

Barbara frowned. “Anna has only moderate power herself. I defeated her and took control of the coven when our last leader died.”

“Are you going to fight her again? Are you going to kill her?” Sarah might not like what her aunt had done to her, but she didn’t want her to die.

“I can’t defeat her when she is using your power to supplement her own. Even with the aid of the rest of the coven, I doubt it would be enough power. Even if I could, though, I wouldn’t kill Anna. It’s not my way, nor is the way of most witches. We practice a beneficial magic to heal and help others. I gain my power from the goodwill it creates. I work with nature. People want to see my spells succeed, which gives the spells more power than I have.”

“That doesn’t sound like the power my aunt talked about.”

“It isn’t. She fights against nature because she wants to control. If you swim with a river’s current, you will swim faster because the current helps you. That is what I do. Your aunt swims against the current, working harder and believing she will make the current go in the direction she wants.”

Sarah had tried swimming against the current on vacation at Ocean City. It could be hard work. She said as much to Mrs. Zentz.

The teacher nodded and stood up. “When you use the power the way your aunt does, you have control. You don’t have to share with anyone. However, if you share your power, whomever has control has her power multiplied. By leading the coven, I have control of the power of all the witches in the coven. Your aunt will seek to control the coven, because with their power and yours, she will be a match for any witch I know. She needs to be stopped.”

Part 4: Vengeance

Story Written by James Rada, Jr.

“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah Adelsberger sat in silence beside her Aunt Anna as Anna drove her new corvette along Main Street in Thurmont. Sarah had always enjoyed driving in her aunt’s flashy cars, but not this morning.

The principal at Thurmont Middle School had suspended Sarah for three days for backtalking and being insubordinate to Mrs. Zentz, her science teacher. The principal told Sarah she needed to calm down and get her priorities straight. She also had to apologize to Mrs. Zentz when Sarah returned to school.

That would not happen, no matter how long they kept her out of school.

Aunt Anna had picked Sarah up from school because Sarah’s mother worked in Frederick and couldn’t leave early. Her parents would have plenty of time to yell at her this evening, and Sarah had no doubt she would be grounded, too.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Aunt Anna asked.

“So, if I’ve got this great power, why didn’t it protect me from getting suspended?” Sarah asked.

Her aunt had told her weeks ago that Sarah had some sort of power like a witch, but not a witch. Sarah wouldn’t have believed her except for the birds she had apparently summoned to attack Christine Weber. The birds had kept coming to Graceham even after the attack, and now the tiny town had millions of birds living in it.

“Maybe it will protect you,” Aunt Anna said.

Sarah stared out the side window at the houses whizzing by. “How? I’ve been suspended already.”

“But you aren’t in danger from it…at least not yet.”

Sarah turned to face her aunt. “So the power only protects me when I’m in danger?”


“Who decides when I’m in danger? The power?”

“You do.”

“If I decided, then I wouldn’t have been suspended. Mrs. Zentz would be…”

“Would be what?”

Sarah shrugged. “Nothing.” Dead. She had been about to say, “Mrs. Zentz would be dead.” Sarah didn’t really feel that way, did she? She didn’t like Mrs. Zentz, but the teacher had done nothing so bad Sarah should want her dead. What was wrong with her to think that?

“The power is strong in our family,” Anna said. “Not everyone has it, but all those who have it are women.”

Sarah frowned. “Am I a witch?”

“Yes, I guess you could call us that, but we’re not quite witches in the way most women who practice witchcraft nowadays are.”


“So many of them don’t have the power. They are seeking it, but if they don’t have it, they won’t gain it. Our numbers have been growing because of the women’s liberation movement, but more of those women becoming witches are angry feminists rather than true witches.”

Sarah cocked her head to the side. “And we’re real witches.” It was a statement rather than a question.

“Yes, and if you choose, you can use your power to do good and protect yourself from those who have wronged you. Who has wronged you, Sarah? Who can you use your power against?” Anna asked.

“Does it always have to be against someone?”

Anna smiled. “Oh, yes, the only way to grow your power is to use it to dominate others.”

Sarah’s brow furrowed. That didn’t sound right.

“I’ve been dreaming about Mrs. Zentz since Christine disappeared,” Sarah said. “At first, we just argued. Now we fight in the dreams. I think she wants to kill me.”

“She’s your science teacher, isn’t she?”

Sarah nodded.

“And she’s the reason you’re suspended?”

Sarah nodded again.

“Then I think your dreams are showing you how your power can help.”

Sarah’s brow furrowed. “By getting in a fight with her?”

“Not literally showing you, but it’s showing you your power can help you like it did with Christine.”

Her aunt made the S-turn near the Moravian Church, which pushed Sarah against the door so that she was staring at the old church. She felt a wave of guilt.

“I don’t know how I did that,” Sarah said. “It scared me.”

“You thought about her. You focused on her so your power could focus on her. Then you got rid of the problem.”

Sarah’s parents grounded her for a week and gave her extra chores as punishment. They also agreed with the principal. Sarah had to apologize to Mrs. Zentz.

On the last night of her suspension, Sarah dreamed of Mrs. Zentz again. They fought, but this time, Sarah killed her. As Sarah choked Mrs. Zentz to death, Sarah felt happy, euphoric even. When she woke up, she still felt ecstatic. The feeling disappeared when her mother drove her to school, and Sarah had to apologize to Mrs. Zentz. Rather than shake the teacher’s hand, Sarah wanted to lunge at her and choke her. The feeling frightened her.

Sarah seethed throughout the day. It wasn’t right that she should have to apologize. She had already been punished.

When the school day ended, Sarah rode the school bus home. However, she didn’t get off at her stop. She continued on to Rocky Ridge, which is where Mrs. Zentz lived. Sarah had found her teacher’s address in the telephone book. Sarah walked to the side of the small rancher so that she couldn’t be seen from the driveway.

Think about her. Focus on her, Aunt Anna had said.

Mrs. Zentz got home around 4:15 p.m. Sarah watched her car turn onto the driveway. She tried to stare at Mrs. Zentz through the front window of her Volkswagen Beetle, but the sun reflected off of it.

Think. Watch. Focus.

Sarah watched the birds flying towards her from all directions – crows, blackbirds, cowbirds, starlings, grackles. They landed and moved in close together to form a wide band of feathers around Mrs. Zentz and her car.

The car door opened and Mrs. Zentz stepped out. She looked at the staring birds and then glanced around. Was she looking for more birds or someone to help her?

Unconcerned, Mrs. Zentz started to walk toward her front door. The birds parted before her, but they weren’t hopping away. They toppled over and slid out of the way without Mrs. Zentz even touching them.

More birds arrived and flew at the teacher, but they seemed to bounce off an unseen wall and fall to the ground. Another flock flew in and was rebuffed, but Sarah could see Mrs. Zentz was sweating. Whatever she was doing to keep the birds away was wearing her down.

Think. Watch. Focus.

More birds arrived and swirled around Mrs. Zentz. Then the birds flew up and joined the melee. Sarah couldn’t see the teacher any longer. Too many birds were moving too fast.

Then the birds scattered, and like Christine, Mrs. Zentz was nowhere to be seen.

Sarah came out from her hiding place and walked over to where Mrs. Zentz had been standing. She saw no blood or scraps of material, but she also saw no sign of Mrs. Zentz.

What she did see was a patch of dirt. The grass had been pulled up to expose the dirt. A set of seven symbols had been drawn in the dirt in a circle. Nothing like that had happened when the birds attacked Christine.

What did they mean? They weren’t letters. Sarah had never seen anything like them.

Something told her they were wrong. They shouldn’t be here. They hadn’t been here before Mrs. Zentz came home. Now that they were, all Sarah knew was that they shouldn’t be.

Story Written by James Rada, Jr.

Part 3: Unfair Education

“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.

Sarah Adelsberger woke in the morning feeling tired rather than refreshed. She hadn’t dreamed about the birds covering Christine Weber and the teenager not being there when the birds flew off. She hadn’t even dreamed about bringing the bird with the broken neck back to life. She would have expected to have nightmares about those things because they had happened, but she had dreamed about something that hadn’t even happened.

In her nightmare, she had argued with Mrs. Zentz, her science teacher. She couldn’t remember what they argued about, only that they had been shouting back and forth. While Sarah believed Mrs. Zentz didn’t like her, the teacher had never treated Sarah as poorly as she had in the dream. The teacher made fun of Sarah’s questions and laughed at her answers. She called Sarah a “stupid, fat girl.” Sarah had also felt a lot angrier toward the teacher than she had ever felt in real life. Maybe it was because of the way the dream teacher acted, but Sarah had felt disconnected from her dream self. Although she was awake now, Sarah still seethed with anger.

She got herself ready in a fog. She dreaded going to school because she knew Christine wouldn’t be there. Christine was a popular student, and people would wonder where she was. No one except Sarah’s family would have cared if Sarah had gone missing.

At Thurmont Middle School, Sarah heard Marci Robertson say Christine was supposed to come over to her house after school, but Christine had never showed up. John Poole mentioned that Christine hadn’t seemed sick yesterday, and she was probably playing hooky.

Most kids wanted to talk about all the birds that were in the area. The thousands of blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds, and starlings had started arriving in the area yesterday, and only Sarah knew that she was the reason they had come. She didn’t know how she had called them or how to make them go away, but her aunt had explained to Sarah that she had power.

Sarah walked into her science class and felt angry at the sight of her teacher. Mrs. Zentz was a few years older than Sarah’s mother, but not as old as Mrs. Smith, Sarah’s English teacher, who looked like a dried apple. Mrs. Zentz’s straight, red hair had to be dyed, as bright as it was, and her dark, brown eyes felt like daggers when they narrowed in on you. When Mrs. Zentz smiled at Sarah, all Sarah could do was frown.

During the lesson, Sarah heard some other students murmuring. She turned around in her chair to ask what was happening, and she saw a line of blackbirds and starlings perched on the windowsill. They all faced into the classroom, and they were all staring at Mrs. Zentz.

The teacher tried to ignore them, but she kept casting glances over her shoulder toward the windows. Then she would stare at Sarah.

Sarah’s bad dreams continued, and they were wearing the young girl down. As the weeks progressed, she became sullen and depressed. She lost her appetite and started losing weight. Even the Christmas break didn’t improve her mood. She still dreamed of Mrs. Zentz, but now, they physically fought each other in Sarah’s dreams, punching, kicking, and pulling hair.

Sarah’s father wrote off her attitude as one of the unpleasant symptoms of puberty. Her mother didn’t seem as certain. She kept asking Sarah what was bothering her, but Sarah knew her mother wouldn’t understand. Only Aunt Anna knew what Sarah was going through. She gave Sarah exercises to do to control her power. Sarah did them and felt she was making progress. Then she would try to make the birds leave, but instead, more flew into Graceham.

The longer the birds stayed, the more problems they caused. Dead birds abounded. People hit them with their cars. Other birds starved because there wasn’t enough food for what was now estimated up to 10 million birds. Chirping and shrieking kept residents awake at night. The birds coated the ground with their droppings.

When Christine never returned to school, the playing hooky story changed to her running away from home. This only seemed to make her even more popular because students thought she ran away to chase her dream to be a singer in New York City.

When spring arrived, Sarah’s father often talked about the Frederick County Government’s efforts to drive the birds off. County employees tried loud noises and explosions to scare the birds away, but it didn’t work. Next, they tried thinning out the pine grove where many of the birds liked to perch, but that didn’t work either.

Sarah had come to accept the birds and didn’t mind them. If her aunt was right, they were here to help her. That thought brought her a small measure of peace of mind, before her nightmares drove it away each night.

Sarah watched the birds sitting on the windowsill outside of her science class every day. The number of birds had increased so that they were jammed wing to wing on the sill. They all still looked into the classroom, and they all still stared at Mrs. Zentz.

“The birds must want to know more about science,” Mrs. Zentz sometimes joked.

No one mentioned that hers was the only classroom where the birds gathered, and that they were only there during Sarah’s science class. Odd questions without answers no one wanted to ask.

Sarah still had no idea how to control the birds, which she didn’t mind so much now, seeing how she had forced the cowbird to break its neck against a wall in November.


Sarah’s head jerked around to face front. Mrs. Zentz had asked her a question.

“Pay attention,” the teacher said. “I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of birds these past few months.”

Although Mrs. Zentz still smiled, Sarah could tell having the birds only on her windowsill worried her. She had become short-tempered since last fall, although she still wasn’t as mean as dream Mrs. Zentz.

“I like watching the birds,” Sarah said.

“Well, you can watch them when you’re not in class. It’s not like they’re hard to find. Now please explain the process of photosynthesis to the class.”

Sarah’s anger surged. She wanted to scream and yell at the teacher. Instead, she controlled herself and said, “No.” The other students whispered, “Oooooo!”

Mrs. Zentz put her hands on her hips. “No?”

“That’s right.”

“And do you have a reason for that?”

“I don’t want to. I want to watch the birds.”

“Then perhaps you’d like to watch them while you’re in detention.”

Sarah shook her head and turned away from her teacher. “No, I’ll watch them now.”

The teacher walked over next to Sarah’s desk. “What has gotten into you, Sarah? You are being insubordinate.”

“And you’re being nasty and mean,” Sarah said without turning back.

Mrs. Zentz slapped her desk. “Enough! Take your books and go to the office. I will call down and tell them to expect you.”

Sarah stood up quickly, knocking over her desk chair. Mrs. Zentz jumped back, and Sarah smiled. She pulled her books out of her desk and stomped to the door to the class. She didn’t even bother to pick up her overturned chair.

As she left, the birds pecked hard at the windows. When one of the panes cracked, some students yelled in surprise. It lasted only a few seconds until Sarah was out of the door and walking down the hall.

The Anger of Innocence

Story Written by James Rada, Jr.

Part 2: The Power

“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.

Sarah Adelsberger’s hand trembled as the 14-year-old reached for the bottle of Coca-Cola on her aunt’s kitchen table. She grasped the glass bottle with both hands and gulped down most of the soda until she thought a giant belch would explode from her throat.

Had she really seen thousands of birds attack another student from Thurmont Middle School? If not, then what had happened to Christine Weber? The birds had surrounded and covered her, and when they had left, Christine had vanished.

Sarah shivered and then smiled. It might be a terrifying image to recall, but Christine, her school tormentor, was gone.

A macaw landed on the table in front of Sarah. She jumped. It was just Francis, her Aunt Anna’s pet bird. Unlike any pet bird Sarah had ever seen, Francis wasn’t kept in a cage. He was allowed to fly around the house wherever he wanted. Amazingly, he always seemed to do his business in a sink or toilet. Aunt Anna insisted the bird wasn’t trained, but birds didn’t do that on their own, did they?

“Sarah, what’s wrong?”

Her aunt had stood up from the table to get herself a piece of apple pie. Now she stared at Sarah from the counter.

“I saw something today…I think it was horrible, but I’m not sure,” Sarah said.

“Tell me.”

So Sarah explained how she had followed Christine home after school to confront her and end Christine’s bullying. Sarah had been standing behind a tree, working up her courage to confront Christine, when the birds had attacked, and Christine had vanished.

“Marvelous,” Aunt Anna said when Sarah finished.

“Marvelous? Didn’t you listen? Christine vanished!”

Aunt Anna nodded. “I heard you. It was your power protecting you.”

Sarah shook her head. “My power? What power? What are you talking about?”

Aunt Anna pulled a chair near Sarah. She sat down across from her niece and held her hands. Anna Whitcomb was only 10 years older than Sarah, so they were more like friends than aunt and niece.

“I’ve been telling you that you have power. It runs in our family. If you have it, it makes itself known during puberty,” Anna said.

Sarah’s brow furrowed. This is what her aunt had been talking to her about since the school year had started? Sarah had just thought her aunt was a women’s libber, talking about the power of women in the 1970s.

But, this…this was unreal. Yet, Sarah had seen it happen.

“Christine was a bully,” her aunt said. “You told me so yourself.”

Sarah nodded slowly. “Christine had been picking on me again in school, calling me a cow.”

Sarah was pudgy, while Christine had hit puberty early and wore make-up so she looked like a high school prom queen. People said Sarah, her aunt, and Sarah’s mother all looked like sisters. Sarah only hoped that in 10 years she would look like her aunt with her shapely figure.

“Your power acted to protect you from Christine,” Anna said.

“But what about Christine?” Sarah asked. “All I found was a little bit of blood and a piece of her book bag.”

Sarah pulled the piece of blue canvas out of her pocket. She held it up for her aunt to see.

Anna smiled and nodded. “In that moment, you must have hated Christine for what she did to you, and your power worked through the familiars to take care of it for you.”

“My familiars?”

“Your spirit animal. Familiars can use our power to aid us when we need it. In our family, birds are often our familiars.”

Sarah glanced at Francis, who was still sitting on the table seemingly following the conversation. He even nodded when Sarah looked at him.

“But how?” Sarah asked.

Anna stroked Sarah’s hair. Their hair was the same color, but Sarah thought hers was stringy compared with her aunt’s lustrous, raven-black hair. “That doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that judging by the number of birds that responded to your need, you are very powerful, and that power will take care of any problems that threaten you.”

Sarah knew her aunt meant to comfort her, but the comment scared her.

When Sarah’s mother picked her up after she finished work, Sarah said nothing about what had happened to Christine. Aunt Anna had warned her that people who didn’t understand the power would not believe her or even fear her.

At the dinner table with her parents, Sarah stared out the window at the birds eating from one of the feeders that her mom maintained in the backyard.

“It’s late in the season for so many birds to be around,” her mother said when she noticed Sarah staring out the window.

“Is it?” Sarah said, barely paying attention to what her mother was saying.

“It’s November,” her mother said. “Most of them should have flown south to warmer places.”

“Why not all of them?”

“I guess they have a reason to stay. They’re lovely, aren’t they? I love to watch them fly. They are so free when they are in the air, gliding along on nothing but an air current.” Her mother sighed as she turned to watch three starlings hopping around on a bird feeder.

Later, after Sarah finished washing the dinner dishes, she put on a jacket and walked into the backyard to get closer to the birds.

She comes.

Sarah looked around but saw no one. “Who’s there?”

Will you make us act?

She realized the voice was in her head, but it wasn’t her voice. Then she saw a cowbird sitting at her feet. She held out her hand to the bird, and it flew up and landed on her palm. Sarah leaned closer and stared at the bird.

What would you force us to do this time?

“Is that your voice I’m hearing?”

Let us leave.

“Us? What? The birds?”

You are bad.

Sarah frowned. “What are you talking about?”

You force us.

“I don’t force you to do anything.”

You made us take the other one.

The other one must have meant Christine. She was the only one the birds had taken.

“I didn’t make you take her. The power did.” Sarah realized that she was arguing with a bird, but she couldn’t help it. She felt a surge of anger come from nowhere.

You are bad.

“Then go!” Sarah yelled. “If you want to leave so much. Go!”

The cowbird flew off of her hand, its wings flapping furiously. Sarah thought it would fly away, but it flew full force into the side of the house. She heard a sickening thud, and then the bird fell to the ground.

The anger vanished.

Sarah ran over and scooped up the bird in her hands. It didn’t move. She stroked its head gently.

“Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead.”

The bird’s head turned at an awkward angle. Its wings flapped, and suddenly it was standing in her hand.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

The bird stared at her, and Sarah realized that instead of black, the bird’s eyes were a smoky white.

Fly now.

Sarah heard the voice, but it wasn’t the same as the voice she had heard earlier. This one was deeper and sounded scratchy.

“It that you?” she asked.


The bird flew off.

Had she brought the bird back to life? What was happening to her?

Part 1: Taking Flight

“The Anger of Innocence” is a six-part original serial set in the Graceham area during 1973. Serialized fiction is something that older newspapers often did as an additional way to entertain their readers. We thought it was about time for serial to make a comeback. Let us know what you think.

Story Written by James Rada, Jr.

The blackbird fell out of the sky, diving so close to Christine Weber’s head that the blonde 13-year-old had to duck to keep the bird from tangling in her hair. She flapped her arms over her head trying to drive it off. When it didn’t land in her hair or claw at her, Christine straightened up and looked around.

The blackbird stood on the side of the road about six feet in front of her. It stared at her with unblinking dark eyes.

“Shoo!” Christine said, waving her hands toward the bird.

It didn’t fly away or even hop around. It might as well have been a statue.

She thought of swinging her book bag at the bird, but she didn’t want to anger it so that it would fly at her.

Christine walked around the blackbird giving it a wide berth. It turned to watch her as she walked.

She traveled the quarter mile between her home on Graceham Road and the bus stop twice a day during the school year. She’d seen plenty of birds during that time; crows, robins, cardinals, once even a hummingbird had zipped by her, but she had never seen a bird act as odd as this one. Occasionally, a bird would fly near her and even land on the street, but it always flew off if she got too close. She didn’t intimidate this bird at all.

She kept walking down the road. She couldn’t let a stupid bird delay her.

Christine thought about the homework she had to do tonight. Her teachers at Thurmont Middle School had no shortage of papers and projects to assign her, but she was an eighth grader. Next year, in the fall of 1974, she’d be a freshman at Catoctin High School, and she had to be ready. Tonight’s assignments would take at least an hour to do, and her mother would set her down at the kitchen table with a glass of Kool-Aid and expect her to get to work when she got home. She hoped she could finish quickly enough to have time to go over to Marci Robertson’s house and listen to the new Kool and the Gang, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Jackson albums that Marci had gotten for her birthday. Christine especially enjoyed grooving to “Dancing Machine” by the Jackson Five.

She paused when she saw the pair of blackbirds standing on the side of the road staring at her. They stood there in the grass, not moving. Christine stopped and turned back. The bird that had dive-bombed her still stood on the edge of the road not doing anything but staring at her.


When she turned around to start walking, a cowbird stood in front of her, so close she could have easily kicked it. She was tempted to do so, but it didn’t seem right. Like the other birds, this one didn’t hop around or peck at the ground. It just watched her. It wasn’t doing her any harm or even annoying her. It was just…weird.

She stepped around the bird and kept walking, although now she walked faster than she had been. She wanted to be inside her house. She wouldn’t have to see these odd birds there or feel their eyes upon her.

A half a dozen starlings landed on a power line that ran above the road. That was nothing unusual except that they also stared at her.

Christine shook her head. She had to be imagining this. One bird might stare at her but not every bird she saw.

She hurried down the road until she saw the flock of blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds, and starlings sitting on the road. There must have been hundreds of them. They formed a thick line, not only blocking the road, but stretching a yard or more to either side of the road.

Christine stopped. She couldn’t walk through the birds, although she might kick her way through them. She was beginning to doubt that though, as all these birds stood unmoving and staring at her. She wished for a car to drive up, so she could hitch a ride. At this point, she didn’t even care who was driving. Let the car drive right through this line of birds. They would either fly away or be flattened.

She hurried onto the field next to the road, planning to go around the line of birds, but they all turned in unison and hopped to stay in front of her. Christine ran in the other direction, thinking she could move faster than the birds and get around them. They took flight to move quickly to block her path.

Christine couldn’t be sure, but it seemed there were more birds now than before their short flight.

Then, even as she watched, a flock of birds flew in from the direction of Thurmont. They swirled around overhead and landed in a circle around the young girl. Thousands of birds formed a solid circle around her that was six-feet wide.

Christine turned looking for a way through the line. It was too broad for her to jump over. She swung her book bag at the birds. They didn’t move, and she knocked them over like bowling pins. The fallen birds flapped their wings until they could get their feet under them again.

Christine suddenly realized what made her so uneasy about the birds, in addition to their staring. The birds that had fallen over hadn’t made a sound, not when the book bag had toppled them and not when they had struggled to stand up. If Christine had been hit with a book bag, she would have yelled, and she was a lot bigger than a bird.

“Help!” she shouted, hoping someone in a nearby house would come out to help her.

Someone had to be nearby. She wasn’t so sure what anyone could do to help her. If the birds wouldn’t move for her, they wouldn’t move for anyone else. Christine would feel easier, though, if she wasn’t so badly outnumbered. Not that 5,000 birds to two people was much better than 5,000 birds against just her.

“Help! Somebody, help me!”

No one came, and no one was in sight. She was on her own.

Christine suddenly yelled and ran toward the outside of the line. She kicked at the birds and judging by the crunch she heard, she stepped on at least one of them. And still none of them made a sound.

She had only taken a few steps into the birds when they took flight and flew in a circle around her. Christine stood in the center of it all, afraid to try and push through the swirling wall of birds in front of her.


She doubted anyone could hear her. She could barely hear herself among the beating of wings. Christine looked up at the sky in time to see the swirling birds close the gap of sunlight.


Sarah Adelsberger stepped out from behind the blue spruce tree so she could see things better. The swirling flock of birds numbered at least 10,000, probably more. They spun in a tight circle as large as a house.

Even as she watched, the circle tightened and grew denser so that no flashes of daylight could be seen through the column. Then the birds shot off in all directions in a wild flurry.

Sarah walked across the field and crossed the street. She came to a stop where the column of birds had been. She saw a few spots of blood on the grass and a quarter-size piece of canvas from Christine’s book bag, but that was all.

Sarah picked up the piece of canvas and put it in her pocket. Then she looked into the sky at the birds, most of which were specks against the sky as they flew off.

Somehow, she knew they wouldn’t go too far. They had come for a purpose.

To be continued…

Old Glory

Poem by Francis Smith

Yes, Sir! I can see

Old Glory proudly perched

Upon her battered staff.

            And yes, at five a.m.;

            In the glorious light of dawn,

            Old Glory holds her own

            Above the sturdy ramparts

            Of old Baltimore’s

            Fort McHenry.

As you may know,

A famous old church tune

Kept surging in the soul

Of that wakened spirit

Of Francis Scott Key.

            As the patriotic hymn

            Kept Francis humming

            Its age-old tune,

            The dawn also broke

            In his fertile brain.

To his delight, his thoughts

Of war and peace

Burst into the solemn melody;

The words for the tune

And so was born

Our ‘Star Spangled Banner’

In “dawn’s early light.”   


Poem by Amanda Sweeney

I know my soul,  my courage,  my life, I have tested myself to change out of the old soul,  I poisoned with tragic misery of not how I can explain from the torture I went through  with no passion,  now I seek and found my passion with my beast,  my beast helps keeps me controlled with the right soul I found with him, I begin to now find love with more than ever, the happiness finds me gratitudes I yet have not never seen all yet, but it will never end with my beast, to keep find the right and blessed eternity of great pleasures we keep in our souls make one of the soulmates we are meant to be, through pain, suffering, aches,  headaches of all kinds, love, sadness, happiness is the most of all to not complain, we just want to be the turtle doves, the angels that GOD keeps in his nature to live a full long life, to not complain at all!   


On Catoctin

Photo by Debbie Wivell

The photo shows the Roddy Road covered bridge, just north of Thurmont, off of US 15, where Roddy Creek Road meets Roddy Road at Owens Creek.

Debbie Wivell took this beautiful photo of the historic bridge on Saturday morning, June 1, 2019.

The Roddy Road Covered Bridge, built in 1856, is a small, one-lane Kingpost design wooden covered bridge. It crosses Owen’s Creek near Thurmont. It is 40 feet long, 16 feet wide, with a 12 foot-8 inch clearance.

The Roddy Road Covered Bridge is the smallest of the county’s covered bridges. There are two more covered bridges close by; the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge and the Utica Covered Bridge.

Explore the natural beauty of this park and bridge, go fishing, or relax with a picnic.