Hallowe’en 1996: The Case of the Sixth Spice Girl

Kelly opened the door to the Spice Girls and quietly sighed as she joined them. Under the costumes were her five best friends. They had tried to come up with a group costume for six for the Hallowe’en party, but the Spice Girls idea was too awesome to pass up, and Kelly drew the short straw.

“Oh cool, are you like, our manager or something?” Baby Spice (her friend Natalie) asked. Kelly rolled her eyes. None of her family members had figured out who she was either. She thought it was obvious. Plaid skirt, loafers, cashmere sweater, headband. And what made it the most obvious was the thing that inspired the whole costume, the magnifying glass necklace she found at the thrift store.

The girls knocked on the odd door here and there on their way to the party. They knew by now who gave out the good candy and who would yell at them for being too old to be trick-or-treating. They were almost there when they decided to go to Miss Josie’s house. She volunteered at the school library, and everyone thought she was awesome. The boys all had crushes on her and the girls all wanted to be her. She opened the door and beamed at them. Her wild curly hair was wrapped up in a scarf and she was wearing a long flowing dress. A large necklace with an amulet hung around her neck. Her nose ring perfectly complemented the fortune teller look.

“You guys look great!” she said, giving everyone some candy. A chorus of “Thanks Miss Josie!” rang out. As she put a chocolate bar into Kelly’s bag, Miss Josie said “Hey Kelly, I have a quick question for you. Can you hang on a sec?”

Kelly nodded and watched as her friends continued on without her. Miss Josie reemerged from her house with a Discman. “My boyfriend bought me this contraption, but I can’t get it to work! She shrugged. “You know how I am with technology!”

Kelly smiled. Miss Josie was notorious for guarding the obsolete card catalog with her life.

“No problem! Let me see it.” As soon as she took it, she laughed. “Your headphones aren’t plugged all the way in. Here we go,” she said as she seated the plug properly. “That should do it!”

Miss Josie giggled as she listened for a minute to whatever was playing. “Thank you! You are such a perfect Nancy Drew!”

Kelly was so happy someone finally knew who she was that she felt a little faint, and she thought she saw Miss Josie’s amulet pulse slightly. She shook her head to clear the fog.

“You better be on your way, Nancy!” said Miss Josie.

Kelly turned and walked down the walkway. George and Bess and the others were a couple blocks ahead of her. What on earth were they wearing? Then she remembered. The case! The details of their plan to catch the smugglers came back to her. As they arrived at the party and everyone headed downstairs, Kelly snuck down the hall, opening doors as she went. She found a small office at the end of the hall. Hidden under a pile of papers in the desk drawer was a small notebook full of numbers and drawings in a tight scrawl. Examining them with her magnifying glass, Kelly realized they were the smugglers’ plans. This must be a code to tell each other where to meet! The clues all clicked into place in her mind. She slipped the notebook in her pocket just as she heard footsteps coming down the hallway. She tried frantically to open the window but the door opened and a man came in the room before she could get out.

“What do you think you’re doing in here? What did you see?” Kelly bolted in desperation and tried to get past the man, but he grabbed her before she could get through the doorway. “I’m calling your parents!” He fumbled for the phone on the desk and Kelly took the opportunity to wiggle away. She ran out the front door but her foot caught on the pumpkin on the porch and she tumbled down the stairs. As everything faded to black, she wondered who would stop the smugglers now.

Rise and Descent

Fifteen stories above the street, here I am.

One story for each year it’s been since the accident.

I stand near the edge, looking down, thinking of the experiences that led me to this place. A year ago, I decided to be bold. But it’s not that experience that led me here. No, this goes back fifteen years. To the cold steel on steel that battered my body and crushed my soul. It left me unable to take risks, paralyzed with fear.

There is a great deal of safety in this bold risk. They strap me into a harness, a complicated dance of straps and buckles, ropes and pulleys. Memories come rushing back of a hard plastic back brace, my body’s former prison. You are in control, they say, it’s not too late to turn back. Don’t tell me that. My body has betrayed me before; it may do it again. My mind is set on rappelling, my body running down the stairs.

Helmet: check. Gloves: check. Now just lean backwards into the air. My once-broken body rebels – are you kidding me with this? But my mind is set like flint.

Nothing but future ahead of me, I begin my descent.

September Reviews

Starting this fall, we’ve decided to post our favourite book of the past month and the book we’re most excited to read next. Feel free to comment with your own favourites and recommendations!
What was the best book you read in September, and why?
What book are you excited about in October?


My best read of September was a reread. I decided it was time to revisit The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and it was a good yet frightening decision. She’s said that she didn’t write it to be science fiction but speculative fiction, as she thinks it’s a possible future, and in the current political climate it felt terribly near. The last time I read it was shortly after university, before I had kids, and I remember being furious with the ending. I felt that it undid the story, made it into a farce, and took away its impact. This time, however, I read it differently, and the ending made me sad. The first time I didn’t understand the choices she made. I didn’t understand politics and real life that well either, and though I’m pretty sure I’m still no expert, it definitely felt more real and relatable. I highly recommend it.

I’ve just started reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and it’s really beautiful but heartbreaking so far. I think October will be hard pressed to bring me a better book than this one.


This is weird for me, as a fiction junkie, but my best read of September was non-fiction. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer weaves her deep knowledge of plants from her background as a botanist with the indigenous teachings she has embraced as a member of the Potawatomi Nation. The writing is beautiful and the tone is hopeful. I recently read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (I guess I do read non-fiction) and this is a great companion read. It expands on Klein’s appeal for us non-indigenous folks to follow the lead of our First Nations peoples in the struggle for environmental justice. I give it all the stars.

My to-read list is way too long, but I really want to get my hands on The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.! I also now need to reread The Handmaid’s Tale. Good thing I hung onto my copy!


The best book I read in September was The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. It came across my desk at work (the library), and the cover image hooked me in ways I can’t quite articulate – it reminded me of the show Stranger Things and the pose of the girl on the cover is similar to my tattoo. It wasn’t until I was halfway through reading it that I discovered the film version coming out later this year.

The Girl with All the Gifts takes a unique spin on zombies. Called ‘hungries’ throughout the novel, zombies begin as a fungal illness that has spread unequally around the human race. The story is split in perspective between four different characters, but the most compelling by far is Melanie. We begin the story deeply in her POV, and immediately notice that something is off about her childhood. She lives at school, but the teachers are afraid of her and her classmates. She’s wheeled from her sleeping quarters to her classroom while strapped into a chair. Her favourite teacher is admonished for getting too close, and the doctor is not interested in healing the children. The author takes a visceral, highly visual journey through this post-apocalyptic world, as Melanie ends up traveling with her teacher, a doctor and two military men through a destroyed England.

In October, I’m reading the classic sci-fi book The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s been on my list for many years and I’m finally sitting down with it this month.

The Bookstore

Lily almost missed the entrance to the bookstore, tucked away behind the beautiful but unruly mess of shrubs, flowers and vines. She hesitated before pushing the glass door open because she thought she saw the stooped figure of an old woman on the other side, but when she pushed open the door and went inside there was no one there.

“Hello?” she called. “I’m just dropping off a resume, I saw the ad in the paper at the University.”

No one answered. Lily pushed her way through the maze of books. There were books everywhere. Books in bags, books crammed on the shelves two rows deep, books stacked in teetering piles, some taller than Lily. There didn’t seem to be any organizing principle, there were just books everywhere. Lily continued towards the back of the store where the main room branched off into two other smaller rooms, each overflowing with more books. She could see another smaller room through one of these rooms, also full of books.

Sun was streaming through one small window, set high above one of the shelves, and Lily gaped at the size of the dust motes whirling around in the single shaft of light. She ran her fingers over the spines of several of the books on a high shelf, recognizing some of her favourites. She continued back through the back rooms, pausing to look at books as she went. The further back in the store she went, the older the books seemed to get, and the more organized. Instead of the bags and haphazard piles of the front of the store, the back rooms, still full to the brim, were full of tidily shelved books, even organized by topic, or in some cases, alphabetically. The dust wasn’t as thick back here either. But there was no other sign of a person having been in this store for quite a while. There wasn’t even a cash register anywhere. She thought about giving up her job search for the day until her eyes fell on a tiny desk in the very back corner of the room. There were two cardboard boxes sitting on the desk, and next to each one was a single yellow post it note. The first box was empty, and its accompanying note said “Place Resumes in Box.” The second box was full of books, and the note next to it said “Please take one.”

Lily took a copy of her resume out of the folder in her purse and placed it in the first box. She went over to the second box and started looking at the books inside. She quickly pushed aside the colourful, new-looking paperbacks on the top, and began opening and reading the first few pages of each of the others. There was a slim volume of poetry by Adrienne Rich, a copy of Hamlet, and one of Mrs. Dalloway. There was even an ancient looking copy of Beowulf. Lily pondered for a while and chose the Mrs. Dalloway. It had been on her to-read list for a while. She tucked the book into her backpack and headed back out to the front of the store. She reached out to push the door open and stopped short. In the thick layer of dirt on the window, a message had been scrawled.



Does it count as a hiatus if it’s retroactive?


Widdershire is the brain-child of three intelligent, insightful women. Women who have dreamed of being writers since their chubby little fingers could hold a pencil. Women who have filled notebooks with scribbled thoughts and devoured fiction for decades.

But these glorious, intelligent women have busy lives. We started a website without fully realizing that there would be moments of “I just can’t write this week!” and “My kid has been sick for 48 hours straight and the last thing I want to do is think about that website I started with my friends.”

So, we took the summer off. But we’re back. Fall is the default start of the year because of school starting and we’re using it as a relaunch after a summer of absence. Plus as we all know, fall is the best season. So, as you sip your pumpkin-spice-whatever and listen to the sounds of crunchy leaves under your feet, rejoin us in Widdershire as we publish our creative works. We have a few new features we’ll be rolling out over the coming months and we hope you’ll return to read them. We love stories and we love sharing them with you.

Thanks for reading, thanks for returning.
The Women of Widdershire: Annemarie, Jan and Steph.


Sometimes I see you alone. You frown at your stack of notebooks, look back at your laptop, punch out a few keys. You heave great sighs that you think no one can hear because you have headphones in.

Sometimes I see you with someone else. You never look terribly comfortable, or happy. I never see you with that person again.

You don’t see me.

People don’t know how much we are watching them. They don’t see the cameras or the microphones. They remember us when a crime has been committed, when we “review the tapes” and go out on a warrant. We bring in the perpetrator without hassle, generally, and we are lauded as heroes. Then we fade into the background again. That is how it should be.

I am in charge of watching certain tapes, looking for people who are planning to break the rules, or incite dangerous thoughts, or engage in risky conversations. I zoom in on your phones and computers and notebooks. I run the words through programs that make them easy to read. I watch you because you are on the watch list.

It has been months now. I have done good work. I am in charge of your file. Today you wrote “I feel that our blindness to the panopticon in which we leave is perhaps less innocuous than we would like to believe. I feel that we are being distracted from the truth: that our very thoughts are not under our control.”

I need to turn you in.

I feel you are right, even though I am the panopticon. I am the jailor inside the dark tower. I watch you and I report you and you never know.

You are beautiful, and intelligent, and you are so lonely. So, so lonely.

I feel we have so much in common.

My supervisor has asked for a report. I know there are cameras on me. I know those cameras see the things I am working on, that someone may or may not be observing me to see if I will do my duty or follow my heart. I do not know when they will strike.

I tell my supervisor that you have been writing incendiary things, that you are threat. They ask if you need to be rehabilitated or removed. I don’t know. If I give the wrong answer, I will be removed. I do not want to be removed. So I give the answer I must, and this terrible world, this controlled, sterile, unloving, uncreative world is allowed to carry on.

I ask you on a date. You wait for me at the restaurant, polishing your glasses. I have watched you for so long that I know you are both pessimistic and hopeful. I am led over to your table by the waitress. You see me, and the hope rises in your eyes. We have a lovely dinner. We both enjoy ourselves.

When we are done, the black car is waiting outside. I open the door for you. You get in. I close the door. There is a second black car, and this time the door opens for me.

I did my duty, but my feelings betrayed me.


A Few Haikus

composed on an airline napkin:

The sun over clouds

Puffs of fluffy white candy

Inedible wisps.


composed on a sidewalk:

Decent down the hill

Look Mom! I’m really going!

Summertime bike ride.


composed on a phone:

Fondling the closet

Duck. I mean folding the clothes.

Damn autocorrect.


Belinda arrived in London at the end of August, telling her parents it was just for a fun trip abroad before college started. She knew there would be others heading to King’s Cross on September 1st. It had become a pilgrimage of sorts for fans – and this year was special. This year was the “Nineteen years later” date J.K. Rowling had written about.  She knew when she showed up, there would be people she knew there, if not by face, then by screen name.

She wasn’t even the biggest fan, it had been William who drove her crazy with Potter facts and showing her what he’d found online everyday, it was William who brought her into this online community. William who wouldn’t be with her.

They had been messing around in the backyard when he fell. Somehow this was the catalyst for all that came after it. She’d egged him on, taunting him to climb to the very top of the tree, then he tumbled, fell and landed in a heap on the ground. If only she hadn’t done it, if only she had made him keep his feet on the ground. She lived it over and over, thinking that if she had just stopped him that day, then nothing that came after it would have happened.

But that was wrong, and she knew it. The broken arm had nothing to do with what they found. The doctors kept saying how lucky it was that he’d broken it in the first place, because it helped them catch it early. It felt like one moment they were climbing trees in the backyard, the next she was watching her mother shave off the last of his thin wisps of hair. Chemo sucked away all his energy; he didn’t play volleyball or go for runs anymore. That’s when he rediscovered reading. All seven Harry Potter books in a month. He devoured them, then forced Belinda to read them to so they could talk about it. She was a fan, but nowhere near as obsessed as her twin.

He found friends online sharing his interests and they all talked about meeting. He was so confident he would be well by then. September the first, 2017. That would be the day he would go to King’s Cross.

Now here she was, alone in London, meeting up with William’s friends – ones he’d only known through a screen. She put on a red and yellow scarf and a striped pin and headed to the station. There was already a small crowd gathering around the platform – years ago there had been a statue of sorts erected, a half-cart seeming to be going through the wall. Several girls were taking a photo of themselves pretending to push it.

William had loved that part. He always said it was what got him hooked on the series – the idea that there was this wall he could go through. He would touch every brick wall he came near and Belinda could tell he was testing just in case it happened to be a gateway to another world. His hospital room had a window facing a brick wall and he kept looking at it in those last days, focusing intently on its redness.

Belinda walked towards the group, forcing herself to smile. One of the girls came up to her, smiling broadly. They exchanged screen names and talked about the site they both frequented, then she introduced her to the others in her group. Then came the questions. All they knew was that William had been their friend and Belinda’s brother, but then, six months ago, he’d disappeared from the site. Belinda sighed heavily and told them what had happened. They cried, they hugged her and told her how sorry they were. He had never confided in them that he was sick; his online life was the magical escape from the slow deterioration in his body. This group of friends just saw him as another fan. After watching the clock strike 11am, they decided to all go get a bite to eat together.

Belinda lingered behind, she pressed her cheek against the stone barrier between platforms 9 and 10, willing it to give way, trying to hear the voices on the other side. Tears streamed down her face as she finally pulled away. It was time to go.

The Council of Literary Heroines

Norah believed that stories were true. She grew up reading and read her way through school, all the way through university. Once she graduated, she wanted to write stories. That was all she wanted to do. So she wrote. Or at least she tried to write. Mostly she read books that were like the ones she wanted to write, she read books about how to write, and she browsed Creative Writing courses online, but was too afraid to actually sign up for one. She fell into the life that so many artists fall into: that of the minimum wage job. She had to work so many hours to afford her rent and food that eventually she wrote less and less, and the stories she read became more like escapes from her reality than realities in and of themselves.

She told her best friend, Phoebe, over coffee after their shift at the coffee shop: “I used to believe in stories, in magic, you know? It’s easy to believe in that stuff when you’re a kid and you imagine that you can do whatever you want. Then, you grow up a bit and you just get stuck in a rut and nothing seems magical or beautiful anymore.”

Phoebe said “Isn’t the whole point to write so that you can make your own magic?”

“But I can’t write! I’m so tired after working that I just crash at night, and when I do try to write, the blank page or the cursor just stare at me and nothing comes.”

As she walked home, Norah tried to think of something she would write about, but she was still blocked. She sat down at her computer as soon as she finished dinner, leaving the clean up for later.

She stared at her computer screen, the blank white page with the blinking cursor so familiar. She wrote a few words, then decided they were stupid and deleted them. She didn’t want to write about how she had nothing to write about, she had done that too many times recently and it wasn’t working to help her unblock. Finally, the phone rang. It was Phoebe.

“I’m just on my way to bed. You got anything yet?”

“Not yet, I wrote some things, but they weren’t any good.”

“Do me a favour and just write something now while you’re on the phone with me, and promise me you won’t delete it.

“Ok, here I go, I’m typing.”

“Alright, I’m going to sleep. Night.”


Norah looked at what she had written.

The stories were dying. She had to save the stories.

She sighed, closed her computer, and went to sleep.

The next morning, Norah woke up to the sensation that someone was watching her. She lifted her head and looked around the room, She shook her head and smiled to herself. She must have still been dreaming. She went about her morning routine and decided to bring her laptop with her to work. She had a short shift that day. Maybe she could get some writing in afterwards, if she could get over her phobia of writing in public (what if someone was reading over her shoulder?). She was fumbling with the strap on her bag while she opened the front door and nearly fell over when she saw that there was a young woman standing right outside.

“Hello, can I help you?

“Are you Norah?”

Norah nodded

“I’m from The Council of Literary Heroines.”

“The what?”

“The Council of Literary Heroines. You may not have heard that name, but you’ve definitely heard of some of us. The Council made up of all the great literary heroines: Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, Eowyn, even Alice, though she is perpetually tardy. Of course it is chaired by Josephine March, since she’s the writer of the bunch.”

Norah was torn between thinking the woman was a loon and thinking this Council sounded pretty amazing.

“What does this Council do, exactly?”

“They try to keep the stories alive.”

“And how do they do that? I mean, they’re not technically real, right?”

“What do you mean by ‘technically real’?”

“I mean, they really only exist in people’s imaginations.”

“Well, I only exist in your imagination, and yet here I am.”

Norah shook her head to try to untangle the knot of her thoughts, but it was just as convoluted when she refocused on the strange woman. There were so many questions that she wanted to ask, but somehow, the one that came out was this one:

“What about the heroes, do they have a council?”

“They do, but they aren’t as concerned with telling stories, more so with battles and war and nonsense like that. Preserving stories has really always been a job for women. But we don’t have time to get into all that. We really must talk about your story.”

“You mean my life story?”

“No, the story you are writing.”

“I’m not writing a story.”

The woman looked at her for a long moment. “I’m sure that you are,” she said, “absolutely certain.”

Norah shook her head. “I’m not. I desperately want to, I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but I sit down, and everything I think about sounds cliche and stupid and I feel like I have nothing new to say. I don’t have a story to tell!”

“You do. You began writing it yesterday.”

“I didn’t write yesterday. I tried to, Phoebe tried to make me, but there was still nothing for hours on end.”

“That’s not true. You wrote: ‘The stories are dying. She had to save the stories.’”

“But that isn’t anything. It is two tiny sentences. The only reason I didn’t delete them is because I promised Phoebe that I wouldn’t.”

“Those ‘two tiny sentences’ as you call them, are much more than that. In them, you name a problem: that the stories are dying. You name this problem because you see that it is true, even if you weren’t aware of that when you were writing it. You also introduce a character. You say ‘she’. When you wrote that word, I came into being. The Heroines took one look at me, and at what you had written, and sent me to you straightaway.”

Norah was overwhelmed. She didn’t know what to say or do. She looked at the woman, and her eyes drifted over to the wall clock by the door.

“Shit! I’m going to be late for work! I really have to get going.” Norah locked her front door and turned to leave.

“But will you do it? Will you write your story?” The woman asked.

“I’ll try! Can I call you for help?”

“I’ll be around when you need me.”

Norah picked up her bag. “Do I just, like, call your name or something? What is your name?”

The woman shook her head and smiled. “I have no idea! I don’t have one yet.”