A long time ago, there was an old woman who lived all by herself on a hill at the edge of town. She almost never went outside during the day, only going out at night after the moon had set. Townspeople claimed to have seen bright flashing lights coming out from her house, which had led them to believe that she was a witch. The last known sighting of the old woman was from a man who witnessed her burying a small book, presumably her spellbook, underneath a tree. She disappeared forever after that, but presumably, the book is still buried under the tree. Most people dismiss this as just a legend, but I’m completely serious about this. The location of the tree is now somewhere in Apollo City, and it might still be there!
Matt closed out the article and rolled his eyes. “A magical book buried under a tree by a witch? Yeah right,” he said to himself. “How stupid do you have to be to believe that?”. Of course, he had heard about the legend of the witch, everybody in Apollo City had, but he never took it seriously! He sat back and looked out the window of the school bus out into the city. Buildings spread all around him and extended into the distance. The story was still stuck in the back of his mind, though. Suddenly, the bus came to a stop with a lurch. He shuffled out of the door, through the school, and into the courtyard like always.
Sitting on a bench under a tree, Matt saw Athena, who had been his friend for as long as Matt could remember. Matt walked over and sat down next to her. She was currently engrossed in a textbook, with about 2 more sitting next to her.
“Hey Athena.” he said, trying to get her attention.
“Mmhm” she replied, not even looking up. Her eyes scanned the page line after line, completely oblivious to the outside world. This was par for the course for Athena.
“What was that for?” she said sourly “I was almost done anyway.”. Matt kept the book away from her as she grabbed at it.
“I just wanted to talk before school started. Is it too much to put the books down for 10 minutes?”
“Fine,” she sighed. “What do you want to talk about?”. Matt could have said anything. He could have talked about schoolwork, how they were, their problems, but for whatever reason, he decided to talk about this.
“I was reading an article this morning, it said that the legend of the witch was true and that the book is still buried under a tree. What do you think?”. Athena leaned back and thought about it for a while.
“Well,” she said “Even if the legend was true, the tree had probably been uprooted a long time ago. There’s no way to know which tree it is. And again, that’s assuming that it exists in the first place.”
“She’s right,” he thought to himself. “The article was just some random crazy person spouting nonsense. It’s called the legend of the witch for a reas-”
BZZZZZZZZZ. Matt’s thoughts were unceremoniously punctured by the warning bell for school.
“Come on!” Athena shouted at him “We’re gonna be late!” She grabbed his arm and practically dragged him off the bench and across the courtyard.
The two friends rushed their way through the school to the first class of the day, math. Outside the door was another one of Matt’s friends, Chris. He was sitting on the floor, frantically doing his math homework before the teacher came. Occasionally, he would look up to check for the teacher before looking back down to scribble some more. Athena walked up to him.
“So you didn’t do your homework again? Typical.” she said while shaking her head. Chris groaned.
“Listen, I actually have a reason this time.” He looked up from his page of chicken scratch. “I’ll have you know that Beyond the Beyond came out yesterday and I was busy playing it all night.” Athena rolled her eyes.
“At least you’re telling the truth this time. No surprise doctor appointments or paper eating dogs.” Chris had always had a habit of making up excuses for missing work and was a skilled liar because of it. Although despite this, he was still a fairly good student and would never lie about anything more serious than a late project. Athena glanced to the left and smirked. “Oh, by the way, the teacher’s down the hall, you might want to look less suspicious.” Chris’ eyes bulged out of his head as he stuffed the paper into his backpack and stood up straight. The three friends walked into the classroom together and took their seats as they waited for the familiar bzzzzz that marked the beginning of the school day.
“Hello, I am Principal Revani, and here are your morning announcements for today. The art club will not meet today due to…” the monologue continued on for almost 5 minutes, but Matt didn’t particularly care about it.
Instead, he started getting ready for class.
He reached into his backpack but to his surprise, his notebook wasn’t in there. Matt was confused; he was sure it had been in his bag when he left for school this morning, where had it gone? He turned to Athena. She was with him before school, she might know where it was.
“Hey,” he whispered “Do you know where my notebook is?”
“Hmm…” she thought about it for a couple of seconds. “Actually, yeah.” she whispered back. “You dropped it by the tree when I pulled you off the bench. We were in a rush so I didn’t think of telling you at the time.”
“Thanks,” Matt said. Next period was free for both Chris and Matt, and they would usually study together in the courtyard, so he would just look by the tree while he was there.
The rest of math class was uneventful. The slow, monotone drone of the teacher of chords and quadratics did little to hold Matt’s attention, and the end of class could not come fast enough. As soon as he heard the bell, he and Chris got up and walked to the courtyard, just like always. The pair reached the courtyard in almost no time, and entered together. Sure enough, Matt’s notebook was under the tree, right where Athena said it was. Matt breathed a sigh of relief; it would have been bad news if it was thrown out or destroyed. He jogged over and picked it up off the ground.
“Great,” he said, walking over to one of the nearby benches “Now let's get to studying.” He looked over at Chris, who was crouched down and looking at something at the base of the tree. He seemed fascinated by something buried, and began clawing at the dirt around the tree.
“Chris, what are you doing playing in the dirt?” Matt said, “Come on, we have a history test tomorrow that we have to study for!” He ran over to stop him, but at that point he had already made a sizable hole.
“Huh?” Chris said, turning over to Matt “Oh, sorry. I saw something sticking out of the dirt and I just kinda thought it looked cool.” He turned back to the hole and resumed digging. “Don’t worry, I promise I’ll be done soon.” he muttered.
Matt looked down at the hole. Whatever was inside was caked with dirt, but he could tell it was small and rectangular.
“Heh, just a bit more and it’ll be out,” Just as Chris said that, Matt heard the courtyard door open, and with it came the face of Mr. Kngiya. Mr. Kngiya was a generally well-liked teacher at the school, but even he wouldn’t overlook something as major as vandalization.
"Hey, you two," He yelled from across the courtyard, "What are you doing here?" He seemed angry, very unlike him. Matt panicked and dragged Chris up as fast as he could, and the two tried to cover the hole that Chris had made.
"Oh, uh, nothing really Mr. Kngiya," Chris said, "We were just out here studying during our free period." Matt's heart started racing as the teacher came closer; he didn’t want Mr. Kngiya to see the hole and think that they were vandalizing the courtyard. If he did, Matt’s near-perfect record would be ruined.
"Oh really? Strange, I would never think of you as the studying type, Chris." He laughed, "I'm just kidding. But tell me the truth, what are you doing here?" He seemed curious, and tried to peek behind the pair. Matt began sweating bullets, but Chris remained somewhat calm.
"I told you," Chris said, "We're just studying. There's a really important test in English today and we wanted to study as much as possible." It looks like Chris's experience with lying to teachers was coming in handy. Mr. Kngiya looked at Matt and Chris suspiciously but backed away.
"All right, I believe you. You better not be lying to me, though," He turned around and headed towards the door. "Hope you two do good on that test!"
He closed the door behind him, leaving the two boys in silence. Matt wiped his forehead from the Niagara Falls that had formed.
"Th-that was c-close." He stuttered "You r-r-really saved us b-ack there" He sat down on a bench and collected his thoughts. Why was the book there? Who put it there? What's written inside? But one thought floated above all the rest. An extremely old book buried underneath a tree? "It… it can't be!"
“Huh?” Chris turned around “What can’t be?”
“Oh… nothing” Chris hadn’t grown up in Apollo City and didn’t know about the legend of the witch, so he decided to keep this to himself. Besides, what are the odds that they actually found the witch’s book? The tree was probably planted there when the school opened in 1927, and the book might have been some sort of time capsule. There was no reason to obsess over it.
Suddenly, the bell signaling the end of class rang and the two friends parted ways to go to their own classes.
The rest of school was pretty normal, with nothing really standing out as interesting. That is, until the last class, Science. The topic of the age of trees had put Matt far off in a daydream until the teacher's words punctured his thoughts.
“... the tree in the courtyard has been there for hundreds of years and was here before the school was even built. They didn’t tear down the tree because…”
Matt bolted to attention. The tree? It’s hundreds of years old? This morning, it had seemed like that story he read was just some random insane person spouting nonsense about a popular legend. But as the day went on, the story slowly proved itself true. An ancient book found under an old tree on a hill that was once at the edge of town? This was too perfect to be a coincidence.
The first half of the class he had been bored to oblivion, and now he couldn’t sit still. With an almost unbearable anticipation, Matt watched the clock slowly tick towards 3:00. A million thoughts swarmed through his head. What could be in the book? What does the book do?
“Meet me after school in the courtyard. It’s important.” Suddenly, the bell marked the end of school with a bzzzzz and Matt walked as quick as the hall monitors would allow him. So many tho Athena and Chris were already there, sitting on the bench underneath the tree. She was reading a book, and clearly looked annoyed.
“Ok, so what do you want?” Athena said, not even looking up from her book. “I have a lot of work to do, so this better be important.”
“Trust me,” Matt said, “This’ll be good.” He told her about what happened during second period.
“Woah…” She seemed shocked “So… it really could be the witch’s book…”
“Yep,” he said, “And it’s time to see what’s inside.” Matt took the book out of his bag and put it in his lap. “If this is the witch’s book, we could make history in this city.” Chris and Athena huddled behind him in anticipation. Gingerly, he pulled back the front cover of the book and…
“I-it’s blank!” Chris shouted in surprise. The yellowed page of the book was completely devoid of words.
“Wha?” Matt said. He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose, hoping that he was just tired. When he opened them, the page was still blank.
“Maybe she just left it blank on purpose,” Athena said quickly. “Check the next page.” Matt quickly flipped the page to the second one. Still blank. He flipped it again, still blank.
“This… this can’t be right!” Athena said in disbelief. “Here, give it to me.” She took the book out of Matt’s hands and sped the remaining pages like a flipbook. All of them were blank. Athena’s arms went limp and the book fell to the ground with a thud. Chris walked over and picked the book up from where it lied.