The Witches of the Glass Castle

By: Gabriella Lepore

 (The Witches of the Glass Castle Series Book 1) 



Mia gasped for unpolluted air, but the opaque purple smoke poured into her mouth and spilled down her throat, filling her lungs and suffocating her. As she scrambled up the rickety step ladder, flames licked at her legs like the venomous tongue of a serpent.

‘Dino!’ she cried, choking on the thick fumes. She clung to the wooden step ladder, her slate-grey eyes scanning her surroundings. But she could see nothing beyond the flames and smoke that engulfed the stone-walled basement.

Mia covered her mouth and nose with the sleeve of her knit cardigan. Her eyes smarted in the toxic air, but she forced them open.

‘Dino!’ she called out again, her voice hoarse.

And then her brother ruptured the flames, diving for the step ladder and pushing her up to the hatch door.

In a scuffle they burst into the hallway, coughing and sputtering. The hatch door slammed shut, enclosing the blazing basement. Mia staggered to her feet, but her legs buckled and gave way. As she fell forward her palms hit the wood floor with a smack.

Dino lay several feet away, clutching his head with both hands and writhing in pain.

Mia crawled to him, reaching out to him.

‘Get away from me!’ he spat. His coffee-brown eyes were fierce.

Mia shrank back, afraid of him for the first time in her life. Although he was only a year older than her, his barbed voice suddenly seemed to propel him to decades her senior. Even his face no longer seemed like the face of a seventeen-year-old boy, but more like that of a grown man.

Dino let out a tortured cry.

Dazed and frightened, Mia called out for help even though she knew nobody was home. She and Dino lived with their mother and their aunt, but neither of the two women had been home when the power had cut out. Mia and Dino had gone down into the basement to investigate and that was when the explosion had happened.

But to Mia’s surprise, she heard the sound of footsteps descending the staircase. For a second she wondered if she was imagining it, but then a familiar form appeared in the hallway.

‘Aunt Madeline!’ Mia cried in relief. ‘There’s a fire in the basement. Dino’s hurt!’

Madeline crouched over her nephew as he seethed in pain. He gripped his head, his chocolate-brown hair darkened from sweat.

Mia pushed her own hair back from her face, freeing strands that had been stuck to her tear-stained cheeks. The brunette shade was identical to her brother’s.

‘He’ll be OK,’ Madeline confirmed, calmly. She placed her hand on Dino’s brow, her fingers cluttered with colourful rings. After giving him a cursory glance, she rose to her feet.

‘Cassie!’ she called for her sister, though with no real urgency.

Mia, still huddled on the hallway floor, watched as her mother appeared on the scene. Standing beside each other, Cassandra and Madeline were like mirror images. Both were beautiful, with wild red hair and bright-blue eyes. Only from their dress sense was it apparent that Cassandra was a little more conservative than her free-spirited sister. At that moment, both women wore the same blasé expression on their faces.

Dino let out another tormented howl. ‘Get away from me! All of you!’

‘What’s happening to him?’ Mia cried. She reached out to him again, but he swiped her hand away.

‘He’s going to be fine,’ Cassandra said in her usual motherly tone. ‘Maddie, darling, perhaps you should take Dino upstairs while I talk to Mia,’ she suggested – although it was more of an order than a request.

Madeline nodded her head and hauled Dino to his feet, guiding him through the hallway. He stooped and stumbled into the wall with a thump.

‘Oops!’ Madeline chuckled light-heartedly. She aligned him back on course to the staircase.

With her aunt and brother gone, Mia returned her focus to her mother. ‘There’s a fire in the basement,’ she blurted out. The words seemed to jumble in her mouth as she spoke.

‘Don’t worry,’ Cassandra told her. ‘It’ll burn itself out.’

Mia paused. ‘No. It’s a…’ she stuttered, trying to explain herself, ‘…it’s a huge fire. There was an explosion. I lit a candle and it…it just blew up. The entire basement is on fire.’ She waited for the severity of the situation to sink in for her mother. But it didn’t happen.

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