Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Witch's Bile Part Five: An Admirer

This is the fifth instalment in my "gory misanthropic witch" series. If you're behind, you can find the links to the previous parts here. Otherwise, please enjoy!


Full of surprises, our Jo. I suppose she hasn’t exactly been lying to me. Given that I’ve barely spoken to her she hasn’t had much opportunity to. I’m cross with her, though. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not. I do think there are certain things that are useful to let your landlord (or housemate, mentor, or whatever the hell I am to her) know as quickly as possible, just so the air is clear. The details of our mutual friend who likes to leave dead boys’ faces as gifts would be an example of something I’d like to have known sooner. But that can’t be helped now.

For the purposes of this exercise you given me, these reports you’re making me send, I’ll tell you exactly what Jo told me after we turned away that grieving father having denied him our help in hunting down whatever took his boy’s visage. I was angry, I don’t mind telling you, and I had to take some time to calm down. I don’t like people asking me for things, especially when they’re grieving. They won’t take no for an answer. But nothing was going to stop me from finding out exactly what Jo knew and why she had been…well, I’m sure she was surprised by what we found in our kitchen that night, but she seemed a lot less perturbed than you’d think. Finally I decided this anger was good. It would help me confront Jo, really get in her face.

I went downstairs and found Jo sitting at the table where I’d left her. She looked up as I entered the kitchen and watched silently as I poured myself a glass of water. Leaning casually against the kitchen counter, I took a long sip, staring directly at her. She looked right back at me like she didn’t give a shit. There wouldn’t be a better time. I’d just come out with it. Well, sort of.

“So, do you have something you want to tell me?” I asked. As she opened her mouth to speak I continued: “About last night? About what I found in my kitchen? What do you know about it?”

She looked up at me, those big eyes of hers narrowing. She knew.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“You know something,” I told her. “You can deny it now but what’s the point? You might be a witch but I’ve got a couple of decades of practice on you and a pure bloodline. You’ve got a nasty temper and book knowledge. I’ll get it out of you, one way or another.”

There was a moment when I thought she might get up and storm out of the room. I thought about what would happen if she threw a proper tantrum. Specifically, what the consequences to my kitchen would be. But it was not to be.

“I know who he is,” she said. “But I’m not sure what he is.”

She knows how to start a story. I took a seat opposite her and let her tell her it.

“He found me at school, in my final year. I was on a six-week placement in London and staying with a couple of witches in Angel, while seeing a boy in Hammersmith. His name was Chris. It was nothing serious, but he was nice and he didn’t ask any questions. I knew it wouldn’t last, it couldn’t, and I was fine with that.

It was towards the end of my placement. I was aware of someone following me one night, and for the next three nights I could sense him everywhere I went. But whenever I turned to confront him he’d be gone. One night coming home from Chris’ I missed the tube and had to take a night bus home. I was the only one on the top level when I got on. I closed my eyes for a second and when I opened them again he was in the seat across from me.

I was scared but I knew that I wasn’t without the means to protect myself. So I gathered my courage and asked him what he wanted. He turned to look at me. He was younger than I thought he would be, he might have been handsome at one point. His dark hair was scraggly, as was his beard. He had these red scratches all over his face, like he’d been in a fight with some kind of animal. His eyes were bloodshot. When he spoke his breath stank like something had died and gone rotten in his mouth.

‘I want to talk to you,’ he said. I waited for him to say something else and when he didn’t, I asked him what he wanted to talk to me about. ‘I want to get to know you better.’ I told him was going about it the wrong way. ‘I know you think you can do better than me,’ he said, ‘and that’s fine. But I’ve bettered my chances a little.’

He took a blue plastic bag from his coat and handed it across the aisle to me. I didn’t want to take it but I wanted it to be over. I opened it as he watched me, he didn’t move, he didn’t even flinch when I started screaming. Inside was a bloody mess, a hunk of skin, but as the flesh shifted in the bag I could make out what it was. It was a person’s face. It was the face of my boyfriend. Chris.

I’m not entirely sure what happened next but I felt this…force come out of me. I could see him hanging above the floor for a split second before he was pushed out through the front window of the bus. I heard the screeching of brakes and felt the bump as we drove over him. When the bus stopped I ran down the steps and away as fast as I could. I didn’t tell anyone.

This was six months ago. I’d occasionally think that I saw the man out of the corner of my eye, or I’d get a whiff of that fucking stink from his mouth, but I could never see him. I couldn’t be sure, so I tried to put it out of my mind. A month ago I was staying at Émilie Étienne’s house in Paris preparing for the next level of my training. She called me into her study one day and handed me a parcel. On crinkly white paper sat the face of one of her servants who I’d smoked with at the back door of the house. It was a lot more…professionally done. This time I had no trouble figuring out what it was.

I told Émilie about everything. She listened and told me to go away and do some work. The next day she told me that she would send me here, to you. And if this person followed, that it would be our task to take care of him together.”

“And how do you know this boy, the one we found?” I asked.

“He asked me my name,” she said.

I let her go to her room. It had clearly tired her out, talking about this. I’m going to have a think about what it is we’re dealing with, but for now, I’d like to make it clear exactly how much I appreciate having a homicidal stalker pointed in my direction. Fuck you, Émilie. This is going to be unpleasant.


I hope you enjoyed this instalment. I know that these have been going up a little less frequently than I'd like but hopefully this will be resolved over the next few weeks. I'm going to be at FrightFest over the weekend and covering it for Cinetalk so watch out for updates! 

The novel is almost ready to be self-published, I'm hoping to get it ready over the next few weeks, then I can get back to focusing on the sequel. Which will be good, I've been looking forward to getting back to work on it. Anyway, check back in about a week or so for part six! Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Witch's Bile Part Four: The Bereaved

Hello and welcome to the fourth instalment of Witch's Bile. If you haven't read parts 1-3, you can find them here, here, and here.


Just a quick report this time, Émilie. There are things I need to discuss with Jo but I’d better give you a quick précis of the morning’s events. I suppose I should have expected it, but it’s not something you enjoy. No one wants to have to lie to a grieving parent about the whereabouts of their dead son’s face.

So, as I’m sure you remember, the last report I sent to you was largely concerned with the fact that somebody broke into my house and left a teenaged boy’s face on a plate in my kitchen as a little present. You’ll also remember that I burnt the face. This might have been a little rash, I agree, but I’m sure that you’ll agree that nobody wants a dead face hanging around their home, no matter how immaculately removed it may be.

Anyway, I woke up early this morning. Well, early for me and to my surprise I was first one up. I suppose that Jo might not have slept well after what she saw. I made my bitter sludgy coffee and I waited for my housemate to come down so I could get on with the business of questioning her. Arguably the timing was bad but I didn’t want to give her too long to create a convincing lie. There was just something about the way she reacted, or her lack of reaction, that had unsettled me, that made me think she knew more than she was letting on. So I sat and I drank my titanically strong coffee and I thought about the best way to go about this. I had settled on my old favourite bluntness when the doorbell rang.

Now, Émilie, I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was unusual, to say the bloody least. People keep away from me. I make sure of it. I tell them what I am so they’ll walk on the other side of the road. So when the doorbell rang the morning after our little home invasion I was somewhat perturbed, which is not a state I enjoy. I pulled my dressing gown around me to make sure that none of my bits were showing, stomped over to the front door and flung it open.

Standing on my front porch was a straight-backed, well-dressed man with closely-cropped dark hair, just on the wrong side of middle age, and about two feet taller than me. So bloody tall that I was forced to crane my neck to properly glare at him. As our eyes met I felt my desire to ruin his morning dissipate. It was obvious that he hadn’t just had his morning ruined. I knew who this was. As he cleared his throat I looked past him to the street and saw an only-slightly shorter blonde woman waiting by a black people carrier, clutching a handkerchief and trying not to look back at me. I turned my attention back to my visitor as he began to speak.

“I know that you’re...I know what you say you are.” He paused and broke eye contact, his head turning on his giant’s shoulders to look past me. I realised that Jo had repeated her trick from last night and appeared behind me without my noticing. It’s impressive but it’s irritating. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t realise you had…” He broke off again, evidently unsure of exactly who Jo was.

“This is Jo, my niece,” I lied through a neighbourly smile. “Don’t worry about her, she knows. What can I do for you?”

He nodded at Jo and turned back to face me. Whatever he knew, he didn’t seem very scared of me.

“I’m sorry, Ms Belmont, but I need to know. I need to know if you had anything to do with what happened.”

Now, yes, this was an obvious opening but I wasn’t about to admit to anything straight away.

“I’m sorry, what are we talking about?” I asked.

He kept that eye contact, staring straight at me and there wasn’t just sadness in those eyes. There was anger too.

“My son,” he said, confirming what I already knew. “I need to know what happened to him. Did you have anything to do with it?”

I had a choice at this point. I could have told him the truth. I could have told him that, while I didn’t have anything to do with it, I was slightly aware of the situation and I had disposed of some important evidence. That there was a plate in my dishwasher that was waiting to be rinsed clean of his son’s DNA. So, obviously, I lied.

“No…” I said, and left it at that. He clasped his hands together and held them a few inches away from my chest as he started to sob.

“They took…when they found him, his face…” Listen, I’m not completely fucking heartless, of course I wanted to jump in and tell him that I knew, and that I was sorry. But I’d made my bed and he had to finish his thought on his own. And to the man’s credit, he clearly had the guts to go with that freakishly huge body. He straightened up, got his weeping under control and started to speak slowly but clearly. “My boy had no face when they found him. It had been…removed.”

Jo gave a little “sympathy” sound that I tried to replicate. I think mine sounded more like disgust but, in fairness, both were appropriate.

“I’m sorry to come around like this but you told us what you were and I just thought…I know it’s none of your business, but if you had any idea who could have done this, or if you could…”

He tailed off again and started looking hopeful. I knew that I had to make something clear to him.

“Jo, go inside.” There was a moment’s pause as I could feel her eyes burning into the back of my head before I heard her stomp off indoors. “Excuse me, Mr…”

The man held out a long arm. “Charles Kitson. That’s my wife Anna down by the car. My boy’s name is…”

“I’m sorry; Mr Kitson, but I can’t help you. I understand what you’re asking of me and why you’re asking it, but I can’t.”

He looked at me with those big blue eyes sticking out of his big head and it was obvious that he didn’t understand. “I don’t understand,” he said. “You come here, you tell us you’re a…you said you were a goddam witch, Ms Belmont. We’ve all left you alone, just like you asked. Are we just supposed to let you keep living here while this sort of thing happens? You say you’ve had nothing to do with it, why should I believe you when you won’t lift a finger to help me?”

I let him get all this out of his system. It’s very important to allow people to vent. When he looked like he was coming to the end of his rant I raised my hands.  

“I can’t expect you to understand, Mr Kitson. I can only tell you that there is a balance and I cannot interfere at this time. Now please, take your wife and go home. Please don’t make me make you leave.”

With that, I stepped back inside and closed my front door. I waited until I heard him leave and the car pull away. When I got back to the kitchen, Jo was waiting for me.

“He asked you to help, didn’t he?” she asked. I nodded. “And you said no?” I picked up my mug of coffee and went back to bed.

It’s later now and I’m going to have to explain myself to her. But why? Didn’t you tell her about the way we do things? We don’t involve people. We don’t work for anybody. She’s going to accuse me of being heartless but it’s not that at all. It’s just the way we do things. I’ll talk to her. But I’ve got the strangest feeling it’s only going to make things worse.


I hope you're enjoying this series, please let me know what you think. I enjoy writing Eliza and I'm looking forward to writing the next few instalments. Go on, have a song.