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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1674106
Cramp Winner: Finacetta has added elderberries where there shant be any. Calamity ensues.
Vincent sniffed the heated potion and gagged: it was foul when it should’ve been sweet. He looked at Finacetta. “Did you add something else?”

Finacetta looked wide-eyed, like a doe staring into the rising sun. She nodded finally and the cauldron stated to smolder. Vincent scowled and began trying to scoop as much potion out as he could as a means of salvaging the cauldron, for an unknown potion always has the potential to ruin such a tool. It’s hard enough finding a good cauldron these days.

“What’d you add? Flour? Boo-berries? Elderberries?”

“Yes, I added elderberries, but I had no idea that would happen.” She said this while pointing at the frothy potion.

At that moment, the potion’s froth subsided and it solidified on the surface, clutching Vincent’s ladle firmly. He scowled again and reached for his stoutest pestle, hoping he could break the surface and at least salvage his ladle. “Back up, missy. You’ve no clue what you’ve done here.”

He could hear Finacetta start to whimper but he knew he couldn’t deal with her at the moment. Striking the potion’s surface, he saw it crack and liquefy. He also saw his ladle slide easily beneath the surface and he knew it wouldn’t be smart to reach in with his bare hands and grab it. Not with such a potentially volatile concoction.

Looking back at Finacetta, he sneered. This is her fault anyway. Might as well teach her a lesson about adding unnecessary ingredients.

“Get my ladle back, you.”

She stepped back another pace, shaking her head.

“This is your doing so help me undo it. Before the whole mess becomes too terrible to rectify.”

With much hesitation, Finacetta stepped forward. Her hand trembled as she slowly put it out, ready to dip it into the potion. Vincent was mindful of the fact that it might firm over again, but he knew he’d deal with that if it occurred.

She rolled her sleeve up and dunked her hand into the cauldron in one fluid motion. It was only a second later when she yanked it out with the potion-laden ladle within her tight fist. She threw it to the ground and flung the foul-smelling potion from her hand and arm. “It kinda tingles,” she whined.

“It’s supposed to burn. We’re trying to make liquid-fire here.”

She frowned. “I thought the elderberries would make it a prettier color.”

Vincent shook his head. “Color is no issue when it comes to potions, Finacetta. It is their properties that matter.”

Behind her, Vincent saw smoke rise from the potion. It curled around the pair in a ghostly manner. Finacetta looked afraid but Vincent held no fear on the matter. He looked down at the ladle and it dissolved. Before he could do anything else, the bottom of the cauldron fell out, dousing the fire and splashing against the pair’s footwear. Finacetta said nothing but Vincent whelped: he wore metal rings on his toes and had deduced that the new potion was one that corroded metal bases quickly.

He jumped to sit on his workbench and easily flung his doused slippers off while Finacetta only sobbed; the edge of her robe absorbed more and more of the reeking liquid. “I’m sorry, Sir Vincent. I just thought…”

“Stop your thinking, woman. And clean up this mess. That should be enough of a reprimand,” he said while looking at how far the liquid had spread through the room.

Finacetta nodded and went for some towels.

While waiting, Vincent noticed a peculiar thing: the potion had run into a hole in the wall and forced out a mongrelized family of rats. He held a certain fear for the rodents and he silently wished that the potion corroded them along with any metal. But the rats pounced through the potion-ocean with ease in search of dry land.

When they found none, they began to climb furniture for new heights. This worried Vincent and he turned his head to look behind him. There were several rats already seated atop the table with him. They must’ve come from other holes while that one mesmerized me! The tricky fops!

In a panic, Vincent hopped from the table and immediately regretted his action as his feet splashed in the potion. Finacetta came back with an armload of towels so large that she couldn’t rightly see into the room. Vincent knew he didn’t have much time while he hurriedly slid off his ornamental toe rings, for the potion would work in a matter of seconds on metal so small.

Finacetta called out that she couldn’t see anything and Vincent, hopping madly on one foot, bumped into her after managing to remove only three rings. He stumbled and hit his head on the workbench’s leg. This caused the rats near the edge to become jarred and they fell on him. He screamed, causing Finacetta to finally drop all the towels.

Vincent then started howling as the potion ate through his toe rings and, by default, his toes. The room, already filled with the sour stench of the potion, began to smell of crisped flesh and he thought he might vomit.

Finacetta did vomit, atop the pile of towels. The rats went for the vomit as their hunger outweighed their desire to be dry and Vincent wet himself while suffering through crispy toes and hoards of rats running over his dazed form.

It took the rest of the day to clean up the mess. Finacetta apologized profusely while Vincent applied a heavy salve to his burnt toes. Afterwards, he threw out his stock of elderberries, even though they could be used to make a potent blemish cream.

Peppering her many apologies, Vincent heard Finacetta say “I had no idea that would happen,” while whistling and shaking her head.

Word Count: 965
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