Monday, 1 October 2012

Witch's Bile Part Nine: Open Flames

Hello and welcome to the ninth and penultimate instalment of Witch's Bile. Just a quick reminder that parts 1-8 are here if you haven't read them yet and you want to understand what's going on. Otherwise, the monster is on his way. Please enjoy


I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Well, actually, scared’s a bit of an exaggeration. Concerned. I was concerned that arranging for a murderous monster to be directed towards my house might be a bit reckless. I mean, he might kill Jo, who I was supposed to be looking after, and more importantly, he might kill me. And Jo wouldn’t have been my problem if you hadn’t sent her to me, Émilie, so technically anything bad that happens to her while in this country is your fault. She could have been safe in Paris, or London. Anywhere, really. But instead she’s in a small town in Illinois, USA, with me. Because you sent her. And because you sent her, he came too.

I was aware that my plan had problems. These beasts that have one single, unalterable goal can seem easy to direct but there are annoying little variables. Monsters in a trap will always react violently, lashing out in any bloody direction. Bloodily. And no matter how stupid you think they are there’s never any guarantee that they won’t suddenly figure out what’s going on. So yes, I had my concerns. I thought it would work, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a very stupid idiot who thinks that their plan will go off without a hitch.

Jo wasn’t stupid enough to make this mistake but she went along with it. She took some convincing and grumbled enough, but she went along with it.

“If this goes wrong, we’ll die,” she told me after I’d told her that there was no other way. It was stating the obvious but I can only assume stating it made her feel better. I nodded and told her that I was sure that it wouldn’t go wrong. If it went right, we would be free from this un-killable psychopath within an hour or so.

I got the call twenty minutes after Sheriff Larch and his terrified deputy left. Apparently once I’d told him that there was a fair chance that the man he’d captured could decide to kill his entire police force, he was keen to get the monster out of his custody and into mine. I assumed that the monster couldn’t drive, so assuming Larch had called as soon as he’d freed him, we’d have our visitor knocking on our door in about forty minutes.

I got things ready as best I could. You know as well as I do that you can check and double check that you’ve prepared spells properly but there’s no guarantee that they’ll go off without a hitch. I got Jo to help me with the magic. As we sat mixing up the necessaries the books said were required, she looked up at me with this weird sort of smile.

“This is the first time you’ve taught me anything,” she said.

Cheeky little bitch.

So forty minutes later we stood in the front hall, staring at the front door, waiting. Jo looked nervously at me. I looked back at her, only slightly less nervously. We could both sense that he was close. When forty five minutes had passed I got worried. Then I heard the back door open.

I span around and saw the man standing in my kitchen. Larch hadn’t been lying. A cracked rib stuck through his black shirt and odd lumps down his right side hinted at more than that. When he opened his mouth to speak I saw he’d lost several of his teeth, which will happen if I run you over with my car.

“I heard she had someone here,” he said, speech slightly slurred. “Where is she?”

I wasn’t thrown by the question. Jo had done exactly as I’d asked and slipped out of sight. I shook my head and he stepped towards me. I took a step to my right, towards the basement.

“Don’t lie to me,” he told me. “I know she’s here. I know she’s here with someone. Where is she? I need to talk to her.”

As he moved closer I saw his scruffy beard was caked with blood. I assumed it was his own but there was no way to be sure. He reached down towards his belt and took out a long kitchen knife, which I recognised as one of mine. He must have taken it when he had been here before leaving presents for us. His stumbling stopped and he stared at me for a moment as if trying to tell whether I was lying or not. Obviously he convinced himself that I was as he moved forward with alarming speed and grabbed me by the throat.

“Where is she, bitch?” he growled. Clearly the last part of that sentence was really supposed to put the fear of god into me and I thought I had probably given Jo enough time.

“The basement,” I gasped, “she’s in the basement. With him.”

He grunted and transferred his grip to the back of my neck, pushing me towards the basement door.
“Open it,” he said. “No tricks.”

Clever boy. I opened the door for him and what he saw made him release his grip on me. It also made him go charging down the basement steps.

An illusion is simple enough to create but it’s pretty fucking useless once the person you’re trying to fool tries to get his hands on it. The monster saw a handsome young man who was moving towards Jo in suggestive fashion. To put it bluntly, he was naked. But when the fruitcake with the knife tried to cut him, it would go straight through, which is why Jo was running up the stairs as soon he finished going down them.

Had there been time and a third witch, we could easily have come with an imaginary Jo as well but as it was we had to make to with the real one. She wasn’t happy about it but I told her that there was nothing else we could do.

The other person who wasn’t happy was the monster in the basement. As Jo cleared the top step he turned and looked up at us. He’d swung for the phantom’s gullet and had hit the brick wall in front of him instead. He was furious. I could feel Jo trembling beside me.

“You tricked me,” he spat.

“Burn,” I answered. He laughed and held his arms wide.

“That won’t work on this body.”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” I told him and pointed at the unfortunate nest of spiders in the corner that were just catching light on top of the cans of gasoline. Not all animals are receptive to spoken magic but when I'd moved them earlier I'd managed to get on their wavelength. I felt sorry for them but there was no time to dwell on it as we slammed the door shut.

We had cast a spell on the door which took effect as soon as both of us were on the same side. I thought that this was rather selfless of me given that I could have simply locked him, her, and the imaginary nude Adonis down there to burn. Not that I told her that. We went through the living room and grabbed the bags we’d packed while waiting for the Sheriff to call as the screams began.

You never really get used to the smell of human flesh cooking but this wasn’t exactly that. There was a whiff of formaldehyde and, as the smoke poured out from under the door, another scent that I recognised but couldn’t quite place. Whoever had done this had left their mark on his body. It was familiar but I didn’t have time to really savour it. We left before the fire got out of hand, and then watched from the street as it did.

I hadn’t lived in that house for long but I had liked it. I wasn’t entirely emotionless watching it all go up in smoke. But Jo was safe for now. And so was I.

I’m sorry if this seems a bit underwhelming but it’s something that I don’t understand when witches tell each other that something can’t be killed. This thing bled. Its ribs broke. It must have been able to heal itself over time, given what Jo said about it being run over by a London bus, but very few things can survive prolonged exposure to fucking fire. There's an argument to be made for lack of subtlety or finesse but, given the noises it was making, it wasn’t surviving down there. And if it comes back, then we’ll burn the fucker again.

Anyway, I have to make a statement to Sheriff Larch. Well, I don’t have to. But I want to see the look on his face when I try to explain what happened. I’ll record another message from the road.


Hope you enjoyed this. The final part will be up very shortly and then the blog will focus on other things for a while. There's a general blog housekeeping update in the offing but for now, please enjoy Jarvis singing Leonard Cohen. As always, thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jonny, sorry I've been out of the loop for so long - I only have internet on campus at the minute and things are kinda busy over here. I did want to write around about update #7 but I didn't really have anything to say except that I'm continuing to really enjoy this series! As always it's fun to see an emerging world with its own mythos, and I especially like the matter-of-factness of the fantastic elements. Keep it up!