PodCastle 284: The October Witch

by Francesca Forrest

Read by Steve Anderson

Originally published in Kaleidotrope. Read it here!

“Need a lift?” It’s a woman in a pickup truck, maybe Josh’s age, maybe some years older, from the lines on her face. She’s probably been driving this truck since she was fifteen and hasn’t ever left these mountains.

“I’d appreciate it. Just back to the gas station would be great.”

The woman shakes her head. “It’ll be closed by the time we get there. My husband can drop you back in town tomorrow morning—assuming he gets back home tonight; otherwise I will. I’m Audra.” She offers a hand.

“I’m Josh. Pleased to meet you. And thanks.” He climbs in the truck. Audra tells him she works in town at the supermarket and that her husband is a lineman who’s been busy these past two days, restoring power after that amazing thunderstorm (the one that washed out the road where Josh’s car now sits). When she hears that Josh is in a master’s program, studying folklore, she grins.

“Then you must’ve heard about the October witch. I’m surprised you got in the truck with me.”

“October witch? No, I think I missed that one,” says Josh, returning the grin, wondering whether Audra’s spinning a line or if this is a real folktale he’s about to hear. “I guess she comes out on Halloween? And maybe, what, grabs drivers off the road?”

Rated PG. Happy Halloween!