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?”
“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?”
“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.