Their sentence arrived concurrently with their punishment. The District Coven habitually gave its ruling in absentia. At one and the same moment both Elsie and Violet were advised of every detail of the ruling; felt their normal green blood turning to polyester super-microfibre stuffing in their veins and the veins themselves turning to cloth. Two full-sized, living and breathing witches became two small witch-toys and found themselves transported to a gift shop in Aberfeldy, Perth & Kinross, Scotland.
They found themselves hanging – well, suspended, since there weren’t exactly nooses round their necks – from a display unit in a stuffy little shop at the less frequented end of the High Street, next to a selection of socks. This, then, was their punishment for meddling in black magic and general mischief-making.
(…the cow that changed from Frisian to Jersey overnight; the fox tippet in the fashion museum that came to life and barked at a party of passing schoolchildren, causing one particularly delicate boy to faint; the bottled milk turning fuchsia on people’s doorsteps – oh, that was a good one – and the Chancellor of the Exchequer – not known for his sense of humour – and on prime time TV, what was worse – growing a sudden moustache. One minute he was clean-shaven, banging on about the eternal budget deficit, next minute a bristly ginger moustache was appearing on his upper lip. He could be seen becoming aware of it, gradually becoming more panic-stricken over it, even as he pontificated….)
‘We shouldn’t have done all them things, Elsie!’ Violet’s thoughts came through, slightly muffled by cloth and stuffing.
‘Damn right, Violet. But it was fun, wasn’t it?’
‘Fun while it lasted, Elsie, certainly.’
‘It’s so dull being a witch and not wreaking havoc, know what I mean?’
‘Too right, Violet. But if that was dull, this is going to be monumentally dull – hanging about in the Highlands for an unspecified time, swinging about among the woolly mittens and colourful fair-isle footwear, just waiting for some tourist to step over that threshold, ring that jangly bell and take a shine to us.’
‘Or one of us.’
‘That’s a thought. They might buy me and not you.’
‘Or me and not you.’
‘No guarantee we’ll both go together.’
‘Or they might buy socks instead.’
‘Or even mittens.’
‘Do you think it’s for ever?’
‘No – weren’t you listening to that last bit? It’s until we can redeem ourselves by doing something good.’
‘Think, Violet. Think of something good.’
‘You think, Elsie.’
But thinking was to prove surprisingly difficult, with stuffing for brains.