The book of Witcheries
|Drama Newsletter Editors Choice 3/6/19 Listen to the audio version
"Must you twist and turn so?" The wart on Mary Mum's crooked nose wiggled when she talked. She was the ugliest witch in South Hampton and proud of it. It took absolute centuries to achieve the right effect.
Alice glared daggers at her mum. "You are twisting my hair. Why can't I get it cut? It is as long as a hangman's noose."
Mary Mum's skeletal fingers danced and wove the pig bristle brush through Alice's fine mane. "You are such a pretty girl. You do have a foul mouth. It is the only saving grace about you." She tugged the thick blond mass into braids before letting Alice go.
"You think my curses are quite good, don't you, Mum?" Alice dropped her pet toad, recently a rather wicked neighbor boy, into its tank of shallow water.
"Too good. A little more evil in the mix never hurts a witch's reputation, you know." Mum gave a knowing nod at her daughter.
Alice sighed. "Yes, Mum. I'll turn him back into a boy. A wicked boy now tamed by a young witch's hand, mind you."
"That's a girl. A boy is much more mischief in the making than a toad could ever be." Mum sniffed but gave a wink to show she approved of Alice's decision.
Even as the thought was made word, the deed was done. Where toad had been now toady looking boy shook fist. "I'm telling me mother. She'll have you burned at the stake."
"The truth you tell will smell like a lie. Your mother will clean your mouth with it." Mum waved the child hopping and skipping away with the half-remembered movements of being once a toad. "He has need of a lesson or two but is coming along."
"Yes. He is too fun." Alice gloated as her latest possession escaped for the moment.
"Remember, my dear..." Mary Mum looked expectantly at lovely Alice.
"Twists and turns." Alice supplied.
"And in what way may the knot be tied?" Mary Mum sang softly as a morning dove.
"We heal the day with our herbs to such as that brat's grateful mother. We curse the night with her aches and groans to make her morrow's breath call out with need."
"Exactly. That is why that brat's mother can see only what we make her gratefully see." Mum hummed contented with the world she wove magically around her. "Today, my child no usual witch's brew will do. A special task awaits us."
"I hoped you'd let me unleash the nightmares when the moon rises." Alice pinched her cheeks into fine blush.
"If we get back in time, girl. I'm afraid I'm a bit rushed. Your father has been making inquiries. Come along."
London town was shrouded in ghostly mist. Gray fingers of the gloom twisted and turned every street they passed into a macabre shadow of what might be instead of what was.
The figures of mother and daughter wove through the dank, moist air. Clouds wept glistening tears upon building walls as they passed. "Father? You never talk of him. Why now, mum?"
"He has a need only we can supply." The cackle that was mum's laughter startled passing strangers into hurried awareness of barely avoiding unknown doom.
"You aren't forgetting your promise? Today is my twenty-first birthday." Alice pouted prettily. Her mother's ugly humped back nature played well off Alice's innocent, sexy allure. Mum often used her as the twist attracting young male customers she could turn to her advantage.
"Just do your part and learn our ways." Mum hurried up a step making Alice weave in and out of sparse traffic to keep up.
"My pleasure." Alice simpered reflecting on her lot. Young men fought over pretty Alice, becoming animals inside their lusting hearts while remaining all too human in the foibles acted upon on the outside of their manner.
Her spicy scent and seductive curve to her walk caught every man's gaze. Alice never tired of watching the twists and turns this attraction produced. How they competed for her favor. The easy beck and call of any wish she wanted became effortlessly fulfilled and thus the knot was tied. "Where are we going, mum? We've never been this way before."
"To that little shop of horrors." Mary Mum stopped so suddenly, the mist barely had time to part for Alice to see what this appointment was all about.
"A second-hand shop? And such a dingy, little twist on this street of turns. I want no birthday present from here, mum." Alice stamped her foot, making sparks fly from the cobblestone.
The lady fled within, leaving Alice wrestling with the gloom. She left a girlish shiver in place before joining mum inside. Scattered bits and pieces of many lives lay stacked on shelves and in cobwebbed corners. A tiny bell rang, announcing their presence. "May I help you?" An old, shaky voice coughed out from behind a dusty counter.
A ragtag of a little man leaned forward. The spectacles on his eyes flashed at mum. Alice felt quite put out. Usually, a display of leg captivated any man. Perhaps a love potion was in order. She'd never bothered with one before now. Mum was speaking.
"I have something to sell, rather than buy." She crooned.
"I don't make much business that way. My shop is full to bursting. Look around. Perhaps a trade?" The little man stiffened. There was rust in his voice, making him cough again.
"I do see something I want." Mary mum turned a gnarled hand to a pouch sequestered in the folds of her cape. "What do you think these are worth in trade?"
The little man wet his lips, lizard tongue flicking in and out as he twisted open the strings. Two red ruby eyes glittered forth upon his countertop. Each shone with a light of its own, casting a red fever upon the shop keeper's face. "Satan's eyes." He gasped, thrusting a hand to his throat.
"You recognize them from the legend?" Mum hissed. They are priceless, don't you think?"
"Who are you? How did you get these?"
"Harold? Don't you know me?" Mary lifted her hood. In place of an evil, old hag, mum transformed herself into the beauty of her youth. It is an image we call carry inside. Only a witch knows how to turn time back for a moment's glimpse in reality's gauze.
"Mary? My god. After all these twenty odd years?" A coughing spasm racked the little man's chest.
"A witch I was and a witch I am. You came close to binding me to you with the power of love. We did have our day, Harold. Here is proof." Mary mum pulled Alice forward.
"Meet your daughter. No man could twist lies into romantic promises like you, Harold, then left me thinking the knot was tied, the deed was done."
Harold rubbed his bald pate, staring in wonder from one woman to the other. "Why now? I am dying to know but dying anyway." He coughed the contents of his cancerous lungs into a kerchief. The rich, blood red color matched that shining forth from Satan's eyes.
"A trade, Harold. I gift you Satan's eyes with their promise of eternal life for your fielty in caring for our daughter. Is it a trade worth making?"
Alice sniffed the air, wondering what mum was really bargaining for. Where was Alice's promised birthday present? Nothing in view interested her at all. What mum had seen in this creepy little fellow was beyond Alice's ken.
"Do they really work or is the legend all talk?" The shopkeeper fumbled the orbs up close, feeling their warmth soften his grasp. Thick black hair appeared in waves across his bald head. The hump on the man's back shed itself, replaced by ripe muscular ripples of youth. He straightened with new vigor, a princely fellow among men.
"Deal?" Mum's eyes flashed a little of the fire Satan's eyes held. She motioned to Alice to be still. "Your moment will come."
"Deal." Harold's voice was a rich baritone full of good health. Satan's eyes pulsed like a heartbeat within his grasp. "You've saved my life. I'll forever be in your debt, even though you stole my heart long ago."
"Twist and turn, lesson learned, let the knot so tied never be spurned." mum chanted with a girlish lilt Alice had never heard before. "Behold your birthday gift."
The handsome rogue who had been Mary mum's mate changed once more before Alice's amazement. Thick black hair grew like a carpet over the man's transforming body. It shriveled smaller than it had been as an old, old man. Claws lashed out from what had been hands. A black cat with strange devilish red eyes hissed as it sprang upon the counter.
"Your birthday gift, daughter mine. Your first familiar, a father true to you as no other could be." Mary mum turned, her face assuming its ugly true nature as the moment's past glorious memory passed from view.
Alice clapped her hands. "How wonderful. Thank you, mum. We are a forever family and I have a familiar all in one." The cat snarled, unwilling to be picked up. "Come now, father. I promise to let you out from time to time if you will be good." Harold the familiar shook its fur, leaped up into waiting arms and began to purr.
"Twists and turns, the knot tied sure, a witch's curse made pure." Mum cackled as Alice picked up her father familiar, leaving the rest of the shop's bits and pieces of life to whatever scavengers might chance by.