Below is the next story in my paranormal flash fiction series about Monette, the magic mistress of paper. She can do a lot with paintings or drawings, origami or printed words. You can find Monette’s previous magic adventures here:
This story is my entry for the WEP August 2020 challenge.
Through the small rectangular window in the closed door, Monette stared at the floor of the entry hall of her clients’ house. Worms writhed inside, dozens of them, maybe hundreds. Small worms, but their sheer number was staggering. When she put her palm flat on the door, she could feel the heat of malevolent magic seeping out. She snatched her hand away.
“What happened, Jane?” she asked as she backed down the porch steps.
“I don’t know,” the young woman replied, her eyes huge and red from weeping. “We celebrated my husband’s birthday last night, had a few guests. Then we went to bed. And this morning … this. We grabbed out clothing and ran out like hell. I threw up until my stomach hurt. Then I called you, and John went to work.”
Monette grunted. She might hurl too, she thought, if she didn’t have to fix this wormy abomination. Worms, yew!
“Could you do anything?” Jane asked.
“I’ll try. First, I have to get rid of the worms. Come back to my car.”
They settled inside Monette’s car, and she pulled out a hundred-sheets pack of colored printer paper, ten sheets of each color, from her supply satchel. The sheaf was held together by a white ribbon, with a price tag still attached.
Monette folded the paper, turning each sheet into an origami bird, while Jane watched with a frown. “Birds eat worms, right?” Monette muttered, blowing a little bit of her magic into each bird. They fluttered, animated and expectant.
“Paper birds?” Jane asked faintly.
“I’m a paper mage,” Monette said absently, her concentration on the birds. With the first ten yellow birds, she walked back to the house. Jane trailed in silence.
“Open the door, Jane,” Monette instructed.
Jane unlocked the door and jumped out of the way. Monette pulled the door open and launched her yellow birds inside. “Have a feast, darlings.” She slammed the door shut.
“I don’t think ten birds will suffice. Too many worms.” She trudged back to the car. “Let’s make more.”
She went through thirty more birds – ten of each blue, red, and orange – before she decided it was safe to enter the house. She made ten more birds, lilac ones, and stomped in. Jane tiptoed at her heels.
Monette’s fingers ached from folding so many birds, and her head throbbed from expending too much of her magic too quickly, but she didn’t think she was done, and she was right.
Her colored birds littered the floor of the small house, the useless wads of crumpled paper now that their magic had expired. Too much eating, not good for anyone, Monette thought wryly. Fortunately, the floor was clear. In the living room, she released her lilac birds to deal with the leftover worms and stopped in front of a coffee table.
A black plastic skull gaped at her. As she watched, a worm wriggled out of one of the eye sockets, dropped to the table, and one of her birds swooped at it.
“What is it?” she asked quietly.
“Oh, boy,” said Jane. “A birthday gift. John’s old girlfriend brought it. I thought it was a joke. I thought … There were no worms last night.”
“What did you think?” Monette studied the skull. It radiated evil intent.
“I thought she didn’t hate me anymore. John and she broke up a year ago, after he and I met, but maybe she still holds a grudge.”
“Some grudge,” Monette said. “A year, huh?”
“We love each other. She made his life difficult the first few months, but then she seemed to have calmed down. I thought … she accepted. It’s been longer than a year. You couldn’t force who you love.”
“No, you couldn’t,” Monette agreed, remembering her own disastrous relationship. “But some emotions, like bitterness, cast a very long shadow.”
“There is a curse on this skull,” Monette said.
“I should throw it away.” Jane started for the table.
“No. Don’t touch it. It won’t help. I’ll deal with it.”
Monette pulled a large, pre-spelled cardboard sheet out of her satchel. The spell of flattening was inscribed around the edges. She always had several such pre-packaged paraphernalia with her. She donned her plastic insulated gloves – she couldn’t touch a curse with her bare hands – and gently put the skull into the middle of the sheet. Then she activated the spell with a touch of her finger and winced, as the pounding in her head increased two-fold. After she finished here, she would need at least a week to recharge her magic.
The spell flared. The skull resisted for a moment, and then sank into the cardboard, becoming a photographic image of itself. A worm trying to squiggle out of one eye socket froze, as it too turned into a flat image. As soon as the flattening was complete, the spell winked out.
“Excellent! Now the next step.” Monette rummaged in her satchel for a tube of glue and a brush and covered the sheet with a thick layer of glue, fixing the image.
Then she exhaled in satisfaction and sank onto the sofa beside the table. She felt drained, exhausted, and sad.
“Now what?” Jane asked.
“Now it should dry. Jane, please collect all the dead birds of mine and burn them in the yard. Don’t touch them with your hands. Use a mop.”
“Okay. What’re you going to do with that … painting?”
Monette sighed and rubbed her aching temples. “When it dries, I’m going to take it to the Vancouver Magic Guild and make a report. I’ll need the girlfriend’s name. What she did was illegal. Using magic to hurt or harass anyone is a crime. Whatever magician she used to make this skull should’ve known better. Gosh, I hate such cases. I hate ratting on my fellow magician, but I have no choice. They broke the law; they must’ve known it was a curse, not a prank. If I don’t report it, I’d be breaking the law too.”
“What will happen to the girlfriend?”
“That’s for the Magic Guild court to decide, not me, thank god,” Monette said. “But I don’t think she’ll trouble you again. Your worm infestation is over.”