Love and Magic

Dating a witch is much harder than I expected. Being with Amelia is normal enough. Replace living in an apartment together with a shack at the edge of town, and it’s pretty much the same. We eat together, sleep together, kiss and hug and all that fun stuff dating such an amazing girl comes with.

But there are some…intriguing quirks that I didn’t realize would be in a relationship with magic.

I never expected having to clean up salt sprinkled on the living room floor. I never thought I would wake up to a spirit from a psychedelic dream realm hovering over my face. I never thought I would have an argument about not filling the tub with some sparkling purple concoction when I need to shower.

And then there are her customers. I don’t like the human populace as it is but watching her deal with the cliental of a witch is not helping sway my opinion. Most are normal enough. A good luck charm for a job interview, an enchanted barrette to make their hair shiny for a date, a potion to help with alertness to help cram for a final (because let’s be honest magic is way safer than overdosing on Adderall), reasonable stuff.

Then there are the…special people. Like the pack of wannabe Kardashians demanding for charmed skinny jeans to make their butts bigger as they tortured their purse sized chihuahuas. The dude so plastered on tequila shots he somehow confused a small shack near the woods as a McDonalds, only to realize where he was and slurred out for a what he called “An Infinity Egg McMuffin”. To this day I don’t know what he meant by that. The countless, COUNTLESS number of people asking for love potions, or as I call it date rape with more steps. And my personal favorite, the woman who came at three a.m. with a screaming son devastated about his dead goldfish. She pleaded to revive the croaked little bugger, to which the kid proceeded to barf right onto my pajama bottoms. That was a fun night.

Amelia was always patient though, mixed with a pinch of beautiful sadism. When it was clear the buyer was at her home for selfish or even dangerous purposes, she gave them what they asked for. But as my darling always warned, “magic can be unpredictable, the results may vary”, and that variance came from her. Amelia would never want to kill anyone, just hand over a swift bitch slap of karma. She can’t change them but hopefully they come out a little more humble or wiser after the experience.

They still paid her, anyway. She made good money helping the people in town, and despite the few bad customers she loved doing it. It made her feel rewarded in many ways. About a year ago a family from a county over came for her help. Their daughter was sick, and the desperation was evident on their face. I watched her pour over that brew for a whole week, barely sleeping. She could never get it full proof and suggested to the parents a spoonful a day with whatever medication she had. About a month later she got a letter. The daughter was finally given a clean bill of health, and by the afternoon Amelia had it hung in the living room.

Working with her isn’t that bad either. I don’t have any magic of my own, but I’m the best little partner a witch could ask for. I helped her draw protective runes on the walls, picked herbs and ingredients she needed, keep her potion brews and mythical zoology books in place. I cleaned the dishes while she cleaned up the cauldrons. I dusted the shelves as she dusted her bottles of frog legs and goat tongues. It was nice being domestic with her. And living with magic doesn’t make it less fun seeing it again! I get to watch fire appear out of nowhere and small chimeras that wander nearby, as well get to have sex with her? Who wouldn’t want that!?

There are ups and downs with dating a witch. But magic with benefits is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

 

The Library

Past the county’s rushing river, a hop and skip away from a painted forest, and a leap from mountain range covered in herding goats, there sat a large, worn library. It stood short and stout, a sinking roof with peeling yellow paint chipped away from the harsh weather. The only thing that would catch a wandering man or a woman heading to work was the windows. Tall stained-glass drowning in violets and greens and dripping reds and blues. Pictures of Lancelot and Dracula and great storybook battles with dragons sketched in a burning orange, or a grand pirate ship crashing against glass colored like rushing waves and stormy gray skies. There wasn’t one wall that didn’t have these windows pulsating with hues and adventure. On a warm summer day or a frosty winter morning, right at the peak of dawn, the light pours through these windows, cascading speckled beauty and life across the landscape or the interior. I used to sneak out of my home before the sun would come up and dance and do cartwheels in the colors of the library, before heading inside and reading until I passed out on the carpeted floor. I wanted to spend my life there.

Older, old enough to get a job, I stacked books and swept floors. I spent my childhood here, but never realized the secrets this place held. I would stay late nights helping Mrs. Crater ready the fading library for tomorrow. She mismatched the building, a tall lean woman with sharp pointy cheekbones and a chin that jutted out just a bit too far. The only thing that the two soulmates have in common was worn wrinkled skin and sinking dark gray ceilings. She was quiet, sweet and almost too good with children, and better with adults. Mrs. Crater let me check out whatever book I wanted, if I brought them back how they were, maybe even in greater condition. But only after I do a check and chat with each section of the library. I didn’t misspeak, I meant to say chat. The library was jumping to life with stories and ideas and books. Each section wasn’t just that, it was a country. And each country had a guardian.

I pushed the wheeled metal cart full of books needing to find home again, first heading to the romance division. Immediately I heard unabashed sobbing coming from the back. I sighed and made my way over to Amelia, hunched over on her knees crying into her hands. The walls were carved with different sweethearts, some scratched out angrily. Tissues and rose petals littered the carpet.

“Heart troubles again?” I asked, placing all the Sparks’ books back into the shelf.

“Am I ugly? Why doesn’t he even look at me? I know he likes me! Am I ugly!?” I looked over at the snotty and makeup smeared face, trying to find the right words.

“…No?” This caused a larger crying fit. I quickly got back to the cart and power walked away. As her sniffles faded they were replaced with the sounds of a gun’s trigger. I picked up some books, passing Billy, large cowboy hat tipped down. Sand and dirt crunched under my feet, a tumbleweed skittering past us and the buffalo skulls that decorated the brackets. I could feel his cold steel eyes on my back, but I haven’t felt a chill since my first week here. He cocks his pistol over and over to intimidate me. It didn’t work.

“You going to say something or are you going to be the strong and silent outlaw?” I asked, putting on a painfully bad southern accent. A husky chuckle came from his throat.

“I can’t git anythang pas’ you, can I?” He flicked his hat up, sending a stubble covered smile my way. I shrugged.

“You’re going to have to try harder than that,” I replied, back to my cart and leaving him and his Western section alone. I picked through the next bundle of books when a cannon ball whizzed above my head. I felt hairs tickle the bottom of it. I dropped to my knees, the loud cackle of a dumb adventure boy hovering over me.

“Finn! We’ve talked about this!” I stood snatching the stack of books I needed to return. Finn hopped onto one of the shelves, the one marked adventure, as he continued to laugh.

You talked to me. I just pretended to listen and chose to ignore it.”

“You could hurt someone or worse, one of the literal thousand-year-old books in the back!”

“Oh lighten up, I know where to aim so that doesn’t happen. And Crater lets me express myself.” He bent backwards, standing up on his hands, walking down the shelf. He avoided the rope and swords he laid haphazardly around his unit of books. The only neat thing in that place was the large model ship sat at the end of rows of books. I tossed a book at him. He tumbled down onto the carpeted floor with an ‘oof!’ I slammed the stack needed to be returned there into his chest.

“Then be useful while you’re at it.” I headed back to the cart, pushing to the next section.

“You can’t subject me to stacking duty!” Finn yelled, but I ignored it. Soon I couldn’t hear his whining anymore. But the farther I pushed the darker it got. I was getting to the worst division in the library.

Horror wasn’t a bad genre, but it wasn’t fun to be around it so much. The tall shelves almost reached the sky, a slight fog creeping out between the dark abyss in the middle. Cobwebs and thorn covered vines stuck to the walls, slithering in between the few spines I could see. Pressing the to be returned books to the edge, I never even thought of setting foot in the there. I swallowed hard and tugged the gates around both sides, closed, locking them in place. This was the only section that needed to be secured each night. I never met the guardian of this one. On occasion I swear I could see a silhouette of something, but only for a brief moment. Sometimes I caught long boney fingers, other times I thought I saw horns the size of tree trunks. Whatever large creature lurked inside it never made a sound. I felt a sudden cold gust on my back and booked it to my cart, almost running to the next part of the library.

My dread was soon replaced with the sound of a bouncing ball. I smiled, looking down at the tiny girl in dark pigtails and red overalls occupying the children’s section. She played with a large purple kickball, amongst the other toys covering the entire place. A slide and swing set mingled with the wood shelving.

“Hey there Joselyn.” She turned to me and grinned ear to ear.

“More books!” She ran over to me, reaching for the stack in my hands.

“Can I put them back! Please please pleaaaase!” I chuckled and handed her them.

“Ok just be careful.” She didn’t stick around to heed my warning, hopping between shelves with the books around her chest. I shook my head, kicking the ball over to the corner before she could stumble over it.

My next trip was to sci-fi, which was honestly the easiest one of my rounds. I stepped inside, placing everything that was checked back in onto hard steel racks, blinking with multicolored lights. My eyes would glance at the guardian floating at the end of the division. An alien, no name, hovered legs crossed, four arms folded into his lap. Large orange eyes, a few dozen on either side, contrasted with sky blue skin. I slipped the last book back in place, much closer to him, or her, or it I wasn’t sure. I looked up at it. It looked back, nodding in some mutual respect. I nodded back and once more headed to my cart.

The last section was honestly my favorite to read. I had always loved fantasy books, ever since I was a child pouring over fairytales to myself. Flowers bloomed between cracks, along with shimmery ribbons of gold and silver. A cobblestone strip was set under my feet. I made my way in-between shelves, placing stories back in their home once more. Suddenly glittery little droplets rained down and tickled my nose. I sneezed.

“Hey Petunia.” I sniffed and turned around facing the fairy no bigger than my pinky. She twirled around my head in an excited flurry.

“Pleasure to see you again. Thought I would send a little magic along your way!” Her squeaky voice filled my ears softly. More glitter rained down onto me.

“Thank you, Petunia. But again, I think I’m allergic.” I sneezed again, much harder. Petunia went sailing back landing into one of the lilies.

“It’s too similar to pollen…” I finished, picking her up in my hand. She gathered herself, shaking off dust and possibly snot.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, wiping my nose with my sleeve.

“Oh, it’s alright dear. Thank you for the books.” She flew out of my palm and  sat herself on the spine of one of the books.

“No problem. Stay safe.”

“You stay safer!” She twinkled, a slight chime of bells following. With an empty metal cart, I made my way to the circled check out desk. Mrs. Crater sent a toothy smile my way.

“Hope everything went alright for you,” She said. I shrugged.

“As good as it could be,” I replied, parking the cart with the others.

“Guardians are a bit intense.”

“It’s all fine, really. I’m just glad to be here.”

“Well that’s good. So what books are picking up?” I paused at her question, twisting my lips.

“I think I might wait until I finish the ones I have at home,” I said. She raised a pencil thin eyebrow.

“Really?”

“No not really. I already grabbed a new one.”

I stepped out into the brisk dusk air, my jacket clinging to my skin, book tucked in my side. I looked back at the decaying structure, walls and roof worrying my mind that it might collapse one day. But as I looked at the gleaming windows, that all dissipated. The library will always be here.

No matter what.

Who Are You?

The classic question of The Caterpillar. Blue as his blood, shades of indigo and robin’s egg swirl in mismatching spots up his back. His haughty nose turned up to the sky is the color of ink, nostrils flared. The only think cutting through the sweet-smelling smog he wafts through the forest is his piercing eyes. He asks it with a sneer.

“Who. Are. You?”

It’s hard to stand tall when you’re only nine inches high. And with his throne of fungus and weeds towering above you feel even smaller. Speaking only comes out in coughs as your lungs burn. His hookah sits firmly next to him, puffing perforated sludge into him, billowing from the corners of his lips. He looks like a dragon.

Are you deaf girl!?” He snaps “I said Who. Are. You?”

There is so much noise in each silence he takes between words. A paragraph of insults and spite loaded in each period, drenching in disgust. Finally, you just snap.

“I’m me dammit!” The Caterpillar is taken aback. You also surprise yourself. It’s never sounded so confident. So much control into two words you’ve said over and over to try and appease the storm in your head. You repeat yourself.

“I’m me! I’m nobody else and I’m certainly not you! So, deal with it! I. Am. Me.” Despite them watering, your eyes stare back at his in a new defiance. His demeanor has changed. A once puffed chest was now deflated, pushing smoke out in much larger doses. His multitude of wriggling feet twitch and scurry against the harsh top of the mushroom.

He’s scared.

It was now you who turned up your nose.

“Now it’s my turn to ask: Who. Are. You?” He stumbles, words tripping on his tongue. He inhales more of the hookah, the air becoming thicker and thicker in a cloud of purple and blue. It dissipates, and what’s left in your wake is a hollow skin and empty shoes.

You jut out your chin, hold your head high, and smile. Nine inches feels a lot taller now.

 

Night Prince

Dr. Gold didn’t know what to expect. Surely nothing, there had to be nothing, he wanted it to be nothing. But in fear of something, and maybe a hint of curiosity, he was going to stay in his office until it was dark.

Two months or so before, Dr. Gold had received a note. It was two sentences, but each ran his blood cold.

‘I will be visiting your office at night on October 25th. Wait for me, do not do anything rash.

-Dracula’

Dracula. This had to be a fake. A joke from a student. Revenge from a colleague. Dr. Gold was a cryptologist, he had studied and poured over every shadowy beast this world might have to offer.

But Dracula? No, no it couldn’t possibly be real. That gnawing feeling haunted him for two months, though. A part of him wanted it to be real. To prove all his years of research led to something tangible.

Sun, his only source of any protection, slowly dipped from the sky, turning the whole atmosphere pink. And then violet. Then indigo. Finally, the heavens above were an inky black, speckled with white stars.

It was nighttime.

Dr. Gold waited like instructed. An hour past, two hours. His eyes gazing out his window for any sort of movement. Nothing.

Gold let out a huff, feeling ridiculous.

Of course it wasn’t real. It was just a joke, a good laugh at the good doctor. All of this nonsense made him miss supper.

He turned to grab his coat. And then something moved in his peripheral. Gold looked out again to the street below. A streak of something moved past the corner of his eye. A person, moving too fast for any mortal being. They weren’t human. He pressed his face to the glass, ragged breath fogging his view as he tried to see more.

Figures shrouded in darkness darted under him.

Towards his unlocked front door.

“Dr. Gold?” He whipped around at the voice behind him. A young man, no more than nineteen, stood in the doorway, dressed in a red vest and long black coat. A cane in one hand, a dark top hat perched on his darker curls.

“Dracula?” Gold hissed.

The young man smirked.

“Pleasure to meet you, sit. Forgive me for such a sudden entrance. There’s only so many hours I can be out.” He removed his hat and coat. The doctor still didn’t speak.

“May I sit?” Dracula asked as he did so anyway, pressing both palms on the top of his cane. He raised an eyebrow.

“Your heart’s beating fast, Dr. Gold,” He said, almost musing to himself. Gold didn’t know what to say, do, God he couldn’t move. He could barely breathe. He swallowed thickly.

“You…you’re…real.” It wasn’t a question. A statement. Something needed to be said out loud so Gold could process it. Dracula was real.

“I am, Doctor. And I came for your assistance. I’ve watched empires build and ruin themselves, great leaders once so prosperous I watched fall onto their death beds. The world has evolved before my eyes. And yet, people just…get everything wrong about me. Everything. From the moment I’ve been here. I’ve tried, by God I tried, but I can’t seem to convince the masses. You however…” he pointed the cane towards Doctor Gold. A silver-plated skull of some creature laid on top.

“You can convince them. You’re books on everything that goes bump in the night have done perpetually well.”

“I…I guess,” Gold mumbled.

“So modest. And quiet too. You are more perfect for the job than I could ever imagine.”
“What job?” Dracula smirked at the doctor’s question.

“Writing my autobiography. I’m tired of lurking in masked corners as some fairytale. I’m ready for the public to really know who I am.”

“H-How will I do that?

“You will interview me, I’ll instruct you on how I want it written, I’ll look at drafts very diligently Dr. Gold, so any opinions you have might be best kept to yourself.” He chuckled as if what he said was a joke. Dr. Gold swallowed again, afraid to ask but he just had to.

“And what if I say no?”

Dracula’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t say anything for a minute, which felt like an hour to Gold. The vampire tilted the top of his cane where the skull adornment lied towards himself.

“Do you know what animal has this skull, Dr. Gold?” He asked. Gold hesitantly nodded no.

“Oh come now, surely a doctor would know?” Dracula teased, knowing very well a cryptologist actually wouldn’t know. He stood and started to pace.

“Over the millenniums I’ve been able to collect a hefty amount of followers towards my side.” He clicked the silver skull with his nail.

“Wolves being one of them.” As if on cue, a howl echoed outside, chilling Gold to his core.

“I’ve also gained a loyal group of breatharian who are right now distracting the doorman downstairs who let us in.” Dracula leaned forward, palms pressed firmly on the desk, cane between his thumb and forefinger.

“So mark my words by God’s light and the Devil’s inferno if you deny my request or in any way destroy it in the process, my wolves, my men, and myself included will eviscerate every single adult, child, and infant that lives in the two blocks near your office.”

Gold let out a muffled wretch deep from his stomach, a small cry escaping his lips.

“Now you’re not so cruel as to let gallons of innocent blood seep into your hands, are you?” Dracula asked, barely pretending to care. Gold knew that this was all a game to the midnight creature, either way he would win.

Gold looked Dracula in the eye, jaw square, a forsaken crease in his brow.

“I’ll do it.” He gruffed, sealing his fate inside a coffin. Dracula smiled, fangs finally presenting themselves.

“I knew you’d see it my way.”

Dark

The car slowly pulled up to a forlorn street. Papers fluttered against splintered sidewalks, brushing past abandoned store fronts with spiderweb cracks in the glass. The back-passenger doors opened, beckoning the two occupants outside with the sight ahead. Donavan and Yazmin stepped onto the street. In front of them a small cement staircase led down passed the sidewalk to a plain wood door. It was the best looking thing on the block. Donavan turned to the decrepit driver.

“What is this place?” He asked. The driver stared at him with cold dark eyes but didn’t respond. He sped off in the rusty hearse, leaving the two alone and confused.

“Well, nowhere else to go.” She shrugged and made a step towards the staircase. Suddenly, a sign neither of them seemed to notice flashed to life. ‘HELL’ in bold letters blinked a neon red, while an arrow above cascaded a similar color towards the stairs. The two looked at each other, hearts catching in their throats.

“We were sent here for a reason,” Donavan argued, trying to hide the shakiness in his voice. He climbed down to the door, with Yazmin following behind him, less confident. The teens stared at the large brass doorknob, marked with the star of Lucifer. Donavan twisted at it, a dull but stark burning sensation at his palm. He grimaced and forced the door open. The two were hit with blaring music and the strain of more neon red, glowing much brighter this time. The scene before them laid out less like a fiery pit of inferno and more reminiscent of a house party. At the bottom of more stairs kids their age talked and danced around a blood colored lit living room, booze and delicacies passed around like lifelines. A small stage sat in the corner. A girl in a black cocktail dress belts a scratchy rock song into an old microphone, accompanied by guitarists and a drummer. Her hair was a bright bundle of blue, contrasting with the hue around her. The band of misfits continued to play as she stepped off stage with the swing of her hips, walking towards the two once they reached the bottom

“Welcome.” The whole room was thunderous with sound, but she could be heard as clear as day. A tray with two bottles of beer and an abundance of candy and other sweets was shown before Donavan and Yazmin. The boy holding it, a young blonde with dark kohl around his eyes, winked at them, with a mischievous glint in his smile. Yazmin immediately went for a caramel square, only for Donavan to grab her wrist. He eyed the girl and the tray suspiciously. She smirked.

“Please, enjoy. We don’t bite here.” The kohl eyed boy nodded in agreement. The two hadn’t drank or eaten anything for a while. They were parched, and this was their only option. He grabbed a beer with her following and drinking it happily. He took a small, hesitant sip. It burned all the way down, much more potent than usual beer should be. This was straight up venom, but he already wanted another sip. And soon, he gulped down half. The blue haired girl snapped her fingers. A petite and busty brunette appeared at his side, clinging to Donovan’s arm. She held up a cigarette for him, which he took in his lips without a second thought.

‘The hell?’ he questioned to himself silently, a she lit it for him. He looked for Yazmin only to find her greedily pocketing candy, the kohl eyed boy at her side as well.

“Have fun you two,” the blue haired girl cooed, waving a flirty goodbye at them. She stepped back on stage. Donavan turned back to his friend once more only to find her already lost in the crowd. Another busty girl, a blonde this time, appeared on his other side, offering a strawberry. Loving the attention and feeling alcohol already creep into his system, he accepted, taking a bite.

The next minutes…or hours…damn it could even had been days. Donavan’s mind was lost to the haze of drum beats and cannabis smoke. He had planted himself onto the couch, the two girls still at his side, pampering him like he was some Adonis. Yazmin was nowhere to be found, or he couldn’t see her past the thick rimmed sunglasses he was wearing. He didn’t know how he got them, they were just on his face now. A familiar black dress and blueberry shade shifted into his vision, almost melting with the tinted lenses.

“Taking pleasure in everything I assume?” She chirped at him, clasping her hands together. He chuckled between being fed butterscotches and licorice. He sat up, sunglasses hanging off his nose as he looked up at her, a smirk on his face.

“It’s…different.” He gruffed, taking a new cigarette in his mouth, blowing out a ring of smoke. It was more than different. He wasn’t Donavan anymore. Something ate his mind, a sticky tar like shell forming around his soul. He was a husk, a beast, hearing no nagging voice when he partook in drugs, gluttony, womanizing, or other debaucheries.

“I hope you mean in a good way. I wouldn’t want any of my patrons to feel…left out.” She patted his knee and walked away. He smirked wider, letting out more puffs of smoke, flicking embers to the carpet. He sat back, gesturing for his girls to continue fawning over him.

“Drink?” Donovan looked up again. It was a man, gray haired and plump with soft wrinkles. He wore a dark suit with red embellishments, but it was awkward on him, hanging off in places. The man balanced a golden chalice on a tray. It shook slightly to match the tremor in his hands. Donavan peered at the man’s stern gaze in warm brown eyes. He was confused, as in a sea of teenagers this was the only person well over nineteen. But, with his new form not the one to decline a drink, shrugged and took the chalice. He shooed the bimbos off his arms, grabbing the cup. It was cold to the touch, a surprisingly welcomed difference to the humid atmosphere of dancing and huddled bodies. Donovan took a large drink, letting the honey yellow liquid run down his throat. It wasn’t like the sweeten and rich drinks he was receiving before. It was bitter, with a sharp cinnamon or spicy taste. It burned his nostrils, but his body wouldn’t let him stop.

When he finished drinking half, the cigarette fell from his lips. The room started spinning. His throat was on fire as the feeling of a screwdriver stabbing him in the brain hit all at once. The older man disappeared to the sound of wings flapping, leaving behind the tray and the loose-fitting clothes. Donavan shut his eyes tight trying to let the painful spell past. When he opened his eyes again, everything was wrong. The music that bumped through the walls was now off key and flat. A dark gray replaced the vibrant red. He looked around, panting heavily. The wild party was now a decaying room filled with…

Monsters.

What once were humans now eroding creatures grasping at clumps of dirt, not candy or liquor. Donavan looked down at his own hands, caked in rust and grime, pale to a chilling slate. He scrambled for the tray the chalice was perched on, looking at his reflection. Cracked bleeding scabs of corroded metal formed on his face. His cheeks and eyes were sunken in similar to a corpse. His dark hair now faded to a yellow straw and ghostly white, oily and frayed.

He had to leave, now, before he came a monster himself.

He had to grab Yazmin. He snatched the chalice, sloshing the liquid truth around inside it. The girls tried to snuggle up to him again, more scabbed and deformed than person anymore. Donavan shoved them off, almost tripping as he stood. He ran and stumbled between crumbling creatures finding Yazmin drinking sludge from a broken glass. She stood in a similar state to him, covered in soot and eroded pus marks. He grabbed her wrist.

“Yaz. Drink. Now.” He forced the chalice to her lips. She sputtered but drank the rest with no objection.

“Donnie what the f- “she suddenly grabbed a counter near her as she groaned, grabbing her head. A creature near the two noticed the chalice and screeched. Yazmin looked up again, the horror on her face confirming that the drink worked. Soon all the other monsters were screeching at them. The two fought the piercing noise and managed to push through the throng of decay and head to the stairs.

“Get them!” The blue haired girl bellowed, pointing a long claw at them, horns jutting from her forehead and eyes a black abyss. The two kicked and pushed at the groping monsters as they tugged and ripped at their clothes. They climbed the stairs as fast as their legs would allow, the corrosive beasts grabbing at anything they could wrap their mangled hands around. Yazmin managed to get to the top opening the door. Donavan tried to follow behind, but one monster gripped his ankle, pulling him down. He slipped slamming his arm and chin into the edge of the steps. He was dazed, vision fuzzy from the fall. More grabbed at his pant legs, sliding out of Yazmin’s reach. Thinking fast, she ran back downstairs to where Donavan was, slamming her heel into as many faces as she could. Rusty cracks split open on foreheads, sending green and red ooze sputtering out.

“Donnie!” She screamed, breaking through his cloudy head trauma. He managed to push off the remaining grips on his legs, climbing the stairs. Yazmin grabbed his shirt, pulling both of them onto the ground but on the other side of the door. Mangled hands clawed at them but would not, or could not, push past the frame. She kicked the door closed, sending of wave of deathly silence around them. The two were panting, gasping out air they didn’t realize they were holding. They were covered in scratch marks, bruises, and Donavan’s head and arm were still pulsating in pain. But as they looked at each other, the grime and soot and scabs were gone. Their skin was a healthy tone again. Yazmin coughed, raking a hand through her hair.

“You good?” she asked. He nodded, noticing the chalice still in his hands. He dropped it, letting the thing land on the street with a loud clank. It rolled slightly.

“You?” he asked.

“Good.” The two stood, Donavan needing some help. As he clutched his head the two struggled up the cement stairs. When both got back to the sidewalk they heard the rumble of an engine. A pastel pink Volkswagen sat in front of them, right where they were dropped off in the beginning. The front passenger window rolled down, revealing two women in white uniforms. The passenger looked down at a clipboard.

“Donavan Chester and Yazmin Gold?” she asked, reading their names off. The two nodded weakly.

“Sorry for the mix up. We’re here to pick you up.” She smiled at them. Yazmin looked at Donavan. He shrugged.

“Nowhere else to go,” he croaked, still aching everywhere. Helping him inside, the two piled into the back.

“Hope it wasn’t too bad down there,” The driver said. Yazmin looked at a damaged Donavan.

“Could’ve been worse,” She replied.

The car drove off.

 

Lost and Found

Move your butt!”

“I am moving it! How about you put your back into it!?”

“Don’t yell at me!”

“Don’t yell at ME!”

The number of things people lose in a year are staggering. It is usually never something that huge, a missing earring, a box of paperclips, and of course the matching sock that disappears in the dryer. On occasion it would be something important like a passport or tax document that ended up in a pile, but many times it is nothing but loose junk.

But somehow all of that can really pile up. Which is why I’m here, trudging down the street with a wagon full of shit people can’t keep track of, returning it to their owners. Alongside me is Bella, pulling as I push.

We finally stop, sweating and out of breath, in some small suburb within who the hell cares city from kiss my ass state.

“What’s the next one?” I ask. Bella pulls out her clipboard from the satchel around her shoulders.

“Jim Tanner. 47. Lost one of those medicine boxes with the days on them,” she replies still panting. I plunge my arm into the mass of stuff. She grabbed both sides.

“Careful! If we have to pick up all of this up again I’m going to lose my mind.”

“Don’t worry it’ll end up in here along with the one I lost two counties ago,” I say bitterly. I pull out the plastic rectangle, heading up to the porch. I shove it through the mail slot.

“You need to do it more covert- “

“I don’t fucking care!” I snap at her, stomping back down to the wagon. Bella scowls at me.

“If we are going to survive each other, we need to act calm.”

“If you haven’t noticed, I am drenched and red face pushing shit that really should be easy to keep track of and half of it cover in B.O.! Calm is not a part of the equation anymore!” I see her about to respond but she stops herself, taking a deep breath.

“The next lost thing is around the block. Can you do that? Can you push something literally a sidewalk away?” Her voice was soaked in honey covered snide. I cross my arms.

“I’m taking my break.” I walk ahead not touching anything as Bella is left to drag the wagon. It was much slower but if that means I get to stop doing grunt work and watch her suffer, than I can stroll at a snail pace.

We turn a corner, and the address became clear to us. A stark white building with a square structure. A sign in red letters sits outside.

‘Whitman’s Nursing Home’

“Probably dentures or something…” I mumble. Bella stares at her clipboard, lines etching into her forehead.

“What?” I ask. She shows me what the lost thing was. A patient inside finally was getting it back. I sigh and nod. Inside the pile my hand encounters a jar. I make my way to the side of the building, looking for them. Bella follows me. The two of us found the right room.

A sickly pale woman covered in wrinkles and sunken eyes lays on a single bed, any warmth that could radiate was now replaced with an icy chill. No one has found her yet. I look down at the jar, the label crudely made of duct tape and sharpie.

‘Motor Function’

I pop the lid and let the contents spill into the room. Bella huffs and makes her way back to the stuff. I follow. Without any words I start pushing the wagon again. She begins to pull.

“You can take your break,” I say.

“It’s fine. It’s easier with both of us,” She nods at me. I nod back.

We head down the street.

The Villain’s Bride

Accomplice.

That’s what I was, that’s what I had always been. But now that word held weight. The weight of treason, destruction, murder. I was an accomplice to that. And I knew it would happen, the moment he told me he wanted the crown I knew what that meant. The blood was on my hands as much as his own, and I was going to stand and face the consequences.

It was the least I could do.

The kingdom once stood tall, reaching the heavens as it glittered under the sun and moon, a beacon of hope. It stood now damaged and crumbling, the main hall in ruins, my feet placed on cracked floors and shredded velvet. My trial was to be in the very place I helped destroy. The double doors swung open, as two men from what was left of the guards dragged him in by the biceps. He kicked and screamed, spitting venomous words at the court, at the guards, and most importantly, me. This was to be his trial as well. The dark wizard and his servant. The master and his slave. The husband and his wife.

The court, made up of angry and black hearted subjects, were open to judging glances and harsh whispers once he was forced to his knees by the guards, keeping him still. I was left standing, only one guard at my side. I was too nervous to question the differential treatment, my eyes kept locked at the throne. The king and queen, in their rich and ripped gowns, stared down at us with cold glances. They, however, were nothing compared to Kaia. Poised, graceful, and could send a dragon cowering, she hailed over the magic of this land, ruling with a soft voice and an iron fist. With long delicate fingers she conjured a glass periwinkle ball. Trapped inside was a dark hole, as if God plucked away a part of the universe leaving behind nothing. The only ounce of life was the occasional inky tentacle that shot out, grabbing at only the ball, retreating back into its midnight cave. His magic in his purest form, the magic he used to try and snatch the kingdom, the magic of a dark wizard no longer inside its host. Kaia held the glass ball in her hand.

“Marconius Lock,” she turned to him, “You have been charged with treason against the kingdom, destruction of the city, and multiple counts of murder against the royal court. These are serious crimes that you have been found guilty of without question. Your powers have been stripped away and your fate will be decided shortly.”

Her gaze turned to me. I clutched my throat, where my heart had jumped to under her look of stone and brick. She stepped closer, and if I could I would have stepped back.

“Daphne Lock…”

I swallowed thickly and closed my eyes. This was it, my day of judgement. The day I was punished for following the man I foolishly fell for.

“For showing loyalty to the throne, even under dire pressure of enslavement to a dark master, you are going to be given a choice.”

I opened my eyes, eyebrows knitted in confusion. I must have heard her wrong, my imagination running wild against my senses.

“A choice?” I asked, trying to find my voice. She nodded curtly.

“If you wish to accept it.”

I turned to Marconius. His face was twisted in anger and shock, eyes darting between the two of us. The court seemed to have discussed this, nodding as well. Even the king and queen softened their looks once they turned to me. This is wrong, this is all wrong.

“I don’t deserve a choice. I was not loyal to the throne. I…” I looked to Marconius once more, “I was not enslaved by him.” I loved him. I could not admit that to the court, but I was in love with him. We are married for God sakes, how could I not love him at one point?

“Enslavement, my dear girl, does not always mean being bought to serve. Sometimes, it means someone you trust using deception on you.” I looked at the ring on my hand, the dark red jewel now heavy on my finger.

“Amongst your aide in hiding subjects from his wrath, as well as in his defeat.”

“I didn’t-”

“As well as willing to go against him and warn the king, successful or not.” She was right. Between leading families to a safer place I did try, and Marconius found me. I don’t remember much between his yelling and me waking up in rubble. I soothed my sore ribs as I went back to that dreadful moment.

“So, I will offer again. You have a choice,” Kaia stepped closer once more, ball in both hands.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Well, whichever you choose you will still be heavily watched by me and the kingdom, just to be safe that you are truly loyal, but the choice is this. You can decide that Marconius is placed in a cell never to see the outside world again…” I heard him growl underneath his breath, “I destroy his magic and the world moves on. Or, you take his magic, use it as your own, and to return the favor, he will become a personal servant to you.”

“This is outrageous!” He tries to stand only to be forced back to his knees. His voice made me jump, as I thought over the proposal.

“I…I’ve never handled magic before.”

“You’ll become comfortable with it soon enough, and be able to look over books and scrolls to hone your skill. But it is daunting, and a large responsibility. It still is up to you.”

I looked down, picking at my nails. I had been with him for so long. He wooed me with his romance and illusions when I was alone and without a home. He charmed me into his arms, into his life, into his bed. He slipped the ring on my finger bounding me to him. Not to each other, to him. I loved him, a part of me still does. The thought of owning him. To repay every moment he made me feel like I wasn’t a wife, or even a person. To every poisonous scheme I had to follow, no matter how evil. I might not be able to.

“Darling,” I turned to his pleading voice, “You couldn’t do that to me, would you?” He placed on a smile, pouted his lips, and let his eyes shine to warm my heart.

He was desperate, trying to use that same charm he used so many times to get what he wanted. He wanted to go to jail.

He was afraid of me.

I turned back to Kaia.

“Magic is overwhelming…” I could see him nod in encouragement at what he thought my decision was. I made eye contact with the confidence in his irises.

I smiled, a coy and almost cocky aura tight against my lip. His face dropped, panic etched in every frown line and creased brow.

“But a husband shouldn’t be so far away from his bride, should he?”