Cindy threw a stone into the well, waiting for the splash.
1…2…3 splash! The well was deep and had water in it. She was fascinated and cautious at the same time. Her greatest fear was dropping Miss Mindy into the water and she clutched her dolly against her chest as she peeped in.
They were new to the house which sat on 3 acres in a lush valley just outside Birdsville. The old house and its grounds were a playground to the little girl, who having no siblings spent hours exploring. Cindy was tiny for her age, having been born 8 weeks prem she was still catching up. She was a bright child with an active imagination.
They peeped over the side again and Cindy scratched her chin on the stones drawing a thin line of blood. Pulling back she rubbed it unhappy that she got hurt. She turned to go, hesitated and looked over the wall again. Did she hear something? Quietly she waited. As she was about to give up, she heard it again.
Shocked she and Miss Mindy ran back to the kitchen giving her mother a fright.
‘What now honey?’ her mother bent down and examined her chin. “What did you do?’
‘There’s someone in the well’ she said. Mother laughed.
‘No honey, there’s no-one in the well.’
‘There is, they said hello.’
Her mother nodded and dabbed Cindy’s chin with her apron.
‘Go wash up its suppertime.’ She patted her on the head as she left wondering where her over-active imagination came from. That night at dinner Cyindy tried again.
‘Daddy there’s someone in the well, they spoke to me.’ He paused his forkful of beetroot dripping bloody juice onto the plate.
‘Why won’t you believe me?’ Cindy’s forehead creased.
‘Hey angry face, tell you what’ daddy said with a wink, ‘after supper we can go and see.’ Mother shook her head, no wonder the child adored her father.
‘Colin, just be careful I don’t want her playing by the well.’ He nodded at mom, sneaked a wink at Cindy and smiled. She couldn’t wait for him to finish, jumping up and down next to the table.
‘Cindy!’ mom said. She knew that voice and stopped, waiting patiently until he finished then ran outside. Clutching Miss Mindy tightly, she leaned over the wall.
‘Listen daddy.’ He did, but there was nothing.
‘Hello?’ She called down to the well, leaning in. Nothing.
‘Where you gone?’ Cindy asked again but no voice floated up from below. Cindy was disappointed. Daddy smiled, holding out his hand.
‘Don’t play by the well Cindy, it’s dangerous and if you or Miss Mindy fall in, we won’t find you.’ He raised his eyebrows seriously. She nodded, throwing her little arms around his neck as he picked her up and twirled her around until she was dizzy.
Of course, Cindy was back at the well again the next day. She sat with her back to the scratchy wall playing with her dollies. Miss Mindy was always in charge. Today she was a teacher and Cindy used her bossy voice to tell the other dollies to behave.
She looked up, mom was watching from the window and waved. She waved back and carried on playing.
Jumping up she peeped cautiously over the side. Leaning in as far as she dared to, she could see oily black water. The walls of the well were uneven and the stone glistened like black gems in the cold wetness. There was an odd smell and Cindy wrinkled her nose. If she had known what decay was, that would be it, but the little girl only knew it was horrible.
‘Who are you?’
‘I am Minn.’
‘That’s a funny name.’
‘Its very old, like me’ Minn said.
‘How old are you?’
‘Too old to count. And I’m lonely. Do you have friends?’
Cindy thought about it. She had cousins and friends to play with. ‘Yes.’
‘I don’t.’ Minn started crying which made her sad.
‘I’ll be your friend. Don’t cry.’ Cindy’s eyes teared up.
‘You will? Will you come down and play with me?’
‘In the well?’
‘No mommy and daddy said I can’t. Its scary down there.’
‘No. No. Mommy and daddy are wrong, its beautiful. Do you see all the sparklies in the walls?’ She did. The walls were a star-filled tunnel, each catching the light and throwing it to the next.
‘Yes, pretty ones.’
‘Oh they are so pretty. Do you want some? I can share with you. There are blue, green, pink…’
‘Oh pink ones.’ She clapped her hands in delight. ‘Yes, yes please. How do I get them? How about the bucket, will you put them in for me?’
‘No Cindy you have to come and get them.’
Cindy hesitated. Pretty pink sparklies sounded wonderful but she was too scared, what if it was too deep or mommy found out, she would be in big trouble.
‘No, mommy will be mad, please send them in the bucket or…or.. I dunno, but I like pink sparklies.’
“COME DOWN NOW YOU STUPID BABY.’
Cindy fell backwards off the wall, terrified of the nasty voice. She grabbed Miss Mindy and ran into the kitchen.
‘Mommy, mommy.’ She was crying and her mother rushed to pick her up.
‘What’s wrong?’ she wondered if a bee had stung her.
Hiccupping sobs Cindy managed ‘the voice in the well called me a stupid baby.’ Her mother stared at her for a second then cuddled her.
‘I told you to stay away from there, I don’t want you hurt. Do you hear me this time?’
Cindy knew better than to argue. She drank some berry cool and tried to forget about the ugly Minn.
Only when tucked into bed did she remember her dollies outside. She headed out to get them. Sneaking past her parents and up to the well, she grabbed her dollies and was about to run when she heard crying. Hesitating she heard it again, it was Minn.
Her and Miss Mindy peeped over the side. ‘Are you ok?’
‘No, I’m sad’ the crying resumed and Cindy felt awful.
‘Cause I have no friends and all these sparklies that I want to share. I made a pretty necklace of them for Miss Mindy.’ Cindy’s eyes sparkled. ‘Lemme see?’ she said leaning further into the well. She peered into the darkness, spotting movement.
‘Where did the sparklies go?’
‘Into the necklace of course. Can you see it?’
Cindy leaned in further. To her horror, Miss Mindy slipped from her arms into the well making a small splash. Cindy stepped back, bursting into tears and putting her hand over her mouth to stop the sobbing noises. She couldn’t fetch her daddy, there would be big trouble. But she loved that dolly and had to get her back.
‘Cindy? Cindy are you there? I have Miss Mindy and her necklace looks so beautiful, you must come and see. She loves it.’
She was torn. Her love for her dolly outweighed her fear of the well, as Minn knew it would. She decided that she would do it, she would get her dolly back.
‘How do I get down?’ Her timid question bounced off the dark walls exciting Minn. ‘Get the bucket. You can use its rope to slide down and then I will use it to pull you back up again.’
The sweet child, nodded in the darkness, climbed onto the stone wall scratching her shin this time. She was determined to get her dolly back and see the sparklies necklace, she reached for the bucket.
‘Its too far, I can’t get it.’
‘Yes you can! Don’t be a baby, I can see from here you’ll make it, lean forward. More, more. Just a little further.’ Tears filled Cindy’s eyes and she was determined to show Minn that she wasn’t a baby.
She slipped and fell as Minn knew she would. Cindy bounced off the wall breaking her arm, she opened her mouth to scream but hit the water. Her scream became a gurgle as she tried to stand. It was so black down here that Cindy couldn’t see her hand in front of her face. Luckily, she was close to the side and could grab a branch, at least it felt like a branch, with her good arm.
‘Minn?’ she was sobbing in terror now, it echoed lonely in the cold well. Shock prevented her from feeling pain but not the cold, it seeped into her body pulling the life out of her.
The darkness moved, it was Minn and it had Miss Mindy. Cindy gave a terrified sob and held out her shaking hand. Minn stepped forward taking her hand. It was so cold and so dark, Cindy felt relieved that her friend was there.
“Come Cindy’ it said, dragging her under ‘lets go see the sparklies.’