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.