The Winter Statue

I entered this story for a short story competition, unfortunately I wasn't chosen to go into the next round. I wasn't expecting to progress any further in this competition, but I was interested in the feedback the judges would give me. I was pleased with the feedback I received, it was very encouraging and some of the points they made regarding creating a back story for Billy, made complete sense to me. 

When you look at Billy sat on the bus, earplugs in, listening to his music, he looks like any other person on the bus, wearily making his way to and from work, life set out in a monotonous routine, gazing blankly out of the window watching the London landmarks race by. His eyes are his best feature, they are green, deep, deep green and are hypnotic, when you look deep into his eyes, you are willing to do almost anything.

But, if you looked at him extra carefully you’d notice that these eyes are darting back and forth, every time somebody gets on the bus, he quickly assesses them, steals a look in their plastic bag full of groceries from the supermarket and suddenly, in a flash of lightning, the bar of chocolate from that person’s bag is suddenly in Billy’s pocket. Nobody has noticed a thing.

The next person alights the bus, Billy takes a liking to their sweet dessert, in a flash, Billy is reading the instructions on how to cook it.  He smiles to himself, humans can be so stupid sometimes, they are so absorbed in what’s going on in their own pitiful lives, they don’t notice what’s going on right under their own very noses.

Now, if you were a passenger on the bus and you were wondering where your lovely cake was that you were sure you paid for just ten minutes ago and were looking forward to eating with a cup of tea later on tonight, then you should look very closely at Billy’s activities. You may think you’ve just seen a black mist, swooshing around the bus, you may think that it’s nothing important, but it is, it’s Billy, he’s perfected his spell and he can move faster than the speed of light.

You may have already guessed, but Billy is not a human, he looks like a human, dresses like a human and acts like a human, but he is in fact a warlock. His real name is Vlyvius, but that would raise suspicion, so he decided on Billy. He had seen the name Billy on a poster, Billy Smart’s Circus, and he thought that this Billy had sounded very clever, so Billy it was.

Billy spends his day as humans do, he has a job, he goes to the gym, he travels on public transport and he loves going to the cinema, especially when there’s a new fantasy film released, he likes to laugh at how the humans perceive his world. His favourite food is lasagne together with a nice red wine. Contrary to popular belief, he doesn’t eat rats tails or drink the blood of small sacrificial animals, maybe they did in the past, but they definitely don’t do it now.

He leaves the bus, with a few more items than when he first got on and heads towards his home. A very average house, but with an added bonus for Billy: it has a cellar.

Once home, he changes into something more comfortable, a robe, trousers, black shirt and black leather boots, “Ah, much better,” he says as he makes his way down to the cellar.

There are test tubes bubbling on the benches, a cauldron filled with oily black liquid and his prized possession is in the corner, patiently waiting for its master to beckon it, his broomstick.

Billy looks around the cellar, as well as his materials for conjuring spells, there is an assortment of bits and bobs laying around, he looks at his latest acquisitions, three garden statues that he has stolen, they come from a set: Summer, Autumn, Spring and Winter. Summer is a young girl with a basket, carrying apples and fruit. Autumn is another girl with a collection of acorns and leaves in her basket and Spring is a young boy with a sheaf of wheat in his hand. He just needs Winter to complete his collection, for what? Well, that doesn’t matter, Billy just enjoys the thrill of stealing.

Laying scattered around the cellar are reminders of past crimes, things he has stolen, which apart from the memory of how he felt when he stole the item, they mean nothing to him.

He looks at his Book of Contemporary Spells and asks it, “Where is the final statue that I need to find? The one that is Winter, show me a sign?”

A mist rises above the Book, it surrounds the three statues and Billy strains his eyes to see what is happening. The mist forms the figure of the fourth statue, it is a small boy with his coat collar pulled up to keep him warm and he has some firewood in his arms. The mist then forms the words, “The Berkley Mansion,” and then disappears.

Billy goes to his computer, (not everything is done by a spell nowadays, sometimes the internet works just as well) and he discovers that Berkley Mansion is a few hundred miles away in Scotland. Billy takes out his pocket watch, “Hmm, midnight, I should be able to make it there and back before dawn,” he thought. He looks at his broomstick, which gives a little shudder, it is ready to go whenever he says the word. So, he says the word, well four words actually, “Let’s go to Scotland,” and Billy expertly jumps on and they fly out of the bottom window of the house.

Up in the air, Billy looks down as he sees the landmarks rush by, The London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace all flash by and soon they are heading out of the city towards Scotland…

Pica is upset, she doesn’t know why, she just has a feeling that something wasn’t right, as if something was going to happen that she was powerless to stop, which was pretty surprising as she actually did possess some powers.

Her mother taught her all she knew, but Pica struggled to learn all the different spells, it was like a completely new language to her. Sometimes Pica wished that she didn’t come from a family of witches, it was a lot harder than people thought to control the spells, many times she had inadvertently cast a spell in the middle of a supermarket, when the frozen chips had flown into her shopping trolley by themselves, but so far no-one had noticed this happening.

But tonight didn’t feel like a usual night, she looked up at the sky, she couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps it was something she had ate and that had made her stomach feel jumpy.

It was late, but she walked into the garden, hoping that some fresh air would sort her out, she went to her favourite statue in the garden, The Winter Boy. She would spend hours sitting next to it, trying to imagine what his life was like, what his name was and if he had any friends. Pica would talk to him, telling him her problems, her successes, her failures. She had even tried a few spells to see if she could bring him to life, but none had worked.

It was getting cold and Pica stood up, ready to go inside her home, when suddenly a noise caught her attention. It was a gentle thud of someone landing on the lawn. She turned around and saw a male, he had a broomstick in his hand, she realised that he was a warlock and he was stunningly handsome.

“Hello, can I help you?” she asked him, half expecting him to mount his broomstick and fly off, “What are you doing in my back garden?”

Billy looked at Pica, he certainly hadn’t been expecting to see anybody in the garden this late, how on earth was he going to explain himself and he could see the statue right behind her.

“I’m sorry, I seem to have landed in the wrong spot,” he lied, “Is this Brownheath Farm?” “No,” replied Pica, “This is Berkley Manor, and you’re trespassing.”

Billy sighed, this wasn’t going to be easy, but she seemed like a nice enough girl, so he decided to turn on the charm. “What’s a lovely young girl like you doing out on a cold dark night like this?”

“I’m just talking to my statue,” she replied, “I know that sounds stupid, but I do feel like he listens to me.” Billy had to agree that it did sound stupid, but he didn’t say that out loud, but instead replied, “No, that’s not silly at all, I totally understand, I talk to my cat all the time.” “But I’m sure your cat understands you,” she said to which Billy had to agree that his cat, Hex, probably did.

“Anyway, what’s your name? I’m Pica and I live here with my parents, I’m pretty sure you’re a warlock, aren’t you? Which is fine, because I’m a witch, but not a very good one.” Billy nodded, “Yep, you’re right, I am a warlock and my name is Vlyvius, but you can call me Billy. What do you mean, you’re not a very good witch?”

“My spells have a lot to be desired, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t and sometimes they just have a mind of their own,” she admitted. “I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it, it took me a few hundred years to get mine right,” Billy sympathised with her. “Here, let me show you a simple spell,” and he waved his arm up and down, chanting, “I need some food to eat tonight, some juicy pears that I can bite.” And immediately some succulent pears appeared on the floor in front of him.

Pica was impressed, the most she had conjured up when she felt hungry was a few grapes. “Show me something else,” she urged him, “Make this statue come to life.”

Billy hesitated, this was the statue that he was going to steal, he wanted it to finish his collection, but her face was full of anticipation, so he gave in. “Statue of this little boy, come alive, don’t be coy.” The mist rose up and surrounded the statue, weaving in and out of its body, then suddenly the boy shouted, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

Pica and Billy jumped, they didn’t expect the boy to have such a loud voice.  “We’ve brought you to life,” Billy explained, “It’s a spell.”

The boy looked at Billy with a hard stare, “I was quite happy standing in the garden with this lovely lady for company, how dare you ruin that?” Billy stepped back a bit, this statue had a bit of an attitude. “Well, if you don’t want to be alive, then I’ll just change you back.”

Pica stepped forward and said, “Hi, how amazing is this, that after all this time you can talk to me and I can answer you.” She smiled at him, but he didn’t smile back, “I want to be a statue, I was happy the way it was, you talking to me and me not having to answer you.”

Billy thought that enough was enough, “Statue of this boy so fowl, back as a statue, I beg you, now!” And just like that, he was a statue again.

“Oh, what a rude little boy,” Pica said bitterly, “I don’t think I will ever speak to him again.  I wish he would go away.”

Never one to miss a chance, Billy quickly said, “If you’re really sure about that, I could take him home with me, I have three other statues that make up the set.”

“Of course you can, I don’t think I want to see this statue ever again.”

So Billy waved his arms and said, “Statue come and join me in my home, it’s in London, not in Rome.” Billy immediately apologised to Pica for his rubbish spell, but it was the best he could think of. And with that, the statue disappeared and Billy mounted his broomstick.

“Goodbye Pica, it’s been great to meet you,” and he flew off into the distance.

When Billy landed back in his cellar, he saw that the statue was lined up with the other three, Billy felt a sense of achievement, he didn’t know why, he had no use for them, he didn’t particularly like them, but it had been a challenge to steal them, except for the last one, that one was the easiest one.

Billy went upstairs to get ready for bed, he had a long day at work tomorrow, he undressed and put his hand in his pocket to fetch his pocket watch. “Where on earth is that?” he thought, “I know it was in there when I left the house tonight.”

Pica watched Billy fly away until she could no longer see him, she felt a feeling of emptiness, she opened her pocket and took out Billy’s pocket watch which glinted in the moonlight.

She went upstairs into her bedroom and put it with all the other items she had stolen through the years, well she wasn’t called Pica, from the family of Magpies, for nothing!

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