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The bricks didn’t stick out of the wall far enough for Chuck to climb down into the well with ease. Instead, he had to step down onto them, with his feet sideways and they still hung over the edge a little. As he stepped onto the highest brick he was holding onto the top of the well’s opening as tightly as possible. He was shaking and was pretty sure if he took another step he would drop to his death, probably crushing the boy at the bottom of the well at the same time.
“I don’t think I can do this,” he said to Fiona.
“C’mon Chuck, just try. I have to stay up here in case anything comes to attack us. I think you’ll do better climbing down there than protecting us from attackers. You’ll be fine, just go slowly and try not to panic.”
“That’s easier said than done.”
As he slowly lowered himself down the well, his feet shakingly reaching for the next brick, Chuck was sure he was going to drop. His head went below the entrance to the well and the light dimmed. It also meant that he had to stop holding the edge of the well and move his hands down to the steps that he’d been standing on moments before. Chuck hugged the wall as tightly as possible, positive that he would stumble and fall at any moment.
Slowly he made his way to the bottom, his teeth gritted and eyes closed for most of the way. He was breathing heavily, terrified that his death was imminent, and still he continued. As he got deeper into the well, he was brushing up against fungus that was growing out of the cracks in the wall. It felt like there was more and more.
“You doing alright?” Fiona asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Just keep going. You’re almost there.”
Chuck didn’t respond again, he just focused on breathing and climbing down to rescue the boy. Chips from the bricks flew away as he stepped from one brick to another, spiralling around the well and slowly making his way to the bottom.
He looked down, thinking the end wouldn’t be in sight, but it was and he felt a lot more confident knowing that if he dropped down he wouldn’t hurt himself that badly, could probably even land on his feet.
“Are you okay?” he asked the boy as he got closer. “Are you able to stand.”
“I think so,” the boy spluttered and tried to stand up.
The bottom of the well was covered in the fungus, making it very soft to stand on. Chuck thought it would probably have been enough of a cushion to avoid serious injury when falling, but it was still a miracle that the boy hadn’t smashed his head open on the wall during the fall down.
“Okay, grab onto me and hold tight,” Chuck said while helping the boy onto his back.
He was almost frozen in fright as Chuck carried him upwards. It was slow going at first, as Chuck had to adjust to the weight. His arms and legs were aching and there were several points on the way up where he was sure his muscles would just give up and they would both fall. Something about knowing someone else’s life was in his hands kept him moving and the pair made their way upwards and out of the well in a fraction of the time that it took for Chuck to get down it.
“Well done,” Fiona said while helping the boy get off Chuck’s back while he was still clambering to the edge of the well, kicking away pieces of brick as he did.
“Thank you. Oh God, thank you,” the boy said.
He was shaking, covered in dirt, and was on the brink of bursting into tears.
“It’s okay now,” Fiona said. “It’s okay. Don’t worry anymore. We won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
Chuck fell to his knees as soon as he was out of the well and then collapsed onto his side. His arms and legs were aching more than they ever had done in life.
“I know it’s a lot right now,” Fiona said. “But I need to know. What’s going on here?”
“I don’t know. He just started saying things and they became true. He said he was going to keep us all here to die. I was so scared.”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry. Look, you need to find somewhere safe. Are you able to go home by yourself?”
“Yes, I normally get the bus.”
“Okay, go straight home and don’t look back. This will all fade like a dream soon, as long as you don’t come back here, got it?”
Fiona helped the boy to his feet and walked him over to the school gates. She waved her knife and helped him step through back onto the street.
He ran. Faster than he’d ever ran before. He turned corners, skipped the bus, and just continued running. He ran all the way home and when he reached the front door he unlocked it and walked in, without remembering a single thing that had happened in school that day. He got a glass of cola from the fridge, sat down, and turned on the TV to play some games.
“Are you ready?” Fiona asked Chuck, who was still lying on the floor wishing that he’d never have to move again.
“Not really,” he replied.
To Be Continued…
Part Fifteen is available here: https://ashleymanning.com/2023/03/31/magic-in-london-enrolment-part-15/! Don’t forget to subscribe to never miss a post:
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