Ethereal Stories: Witches.com

Today I post a text I wrote for an old project, making a short movie or a play with my sis and friends a few years ago. It never happened but one day maybe… Who knows?

Not being Spielberg and not having an unlimited budget, I wrote this story with several constraints. It needed a unity of location to avoid having to multiply decors and then a contemporary setting to avoid having too many costumes.
Good despite all that I hope that the story will be pleasant!

Witches.com


http://www.mirageboghandel.com

“Welcome, people of Sidh, to the supernatural site of the mirage boghandel bookshop, run by Christiana Spandemager* , licensed witch.
Here you will find all types of rare, exotic, forbidden, bewitched and other original books, available on demand or on order.
Proof of your belonging to the People of Below will be required for any purchase of an item of category 3 or higher.
If you wish to meet us, physically or esoterically, the contact tab will allow you to find our address in Copenhagen, as well as the signature of our psychic presence.
The bookstore and all its staff thank you for your visit. »

I

Well, that should do the trick. Anyway, it’s not like I got paid for this job. And then my mother can’t tell the difference between a bookstore’s website and a Facebook page, so good… That’s also why I was chosen.

Christiana, my mother, has run this bookstore since she was eighteen and she is very proud of it. The apple of his eye. Not like me. You should also know that, in the family, we have been witches from mother to daughter for more than thirty generations. In other words, a lot of time. And then there was me. A failure in the family tree, no doubt. For me, Eleanore, sixteen years old and all my teeth, witch’s daughter, witch’s granddaughter, etc. I inherited absolutely none of the family gifts. But really none, not the slightest talent for sorcery. I am unable to cast even a minor incantation or craft an itch charm. Not even a small potion of nothing at all. Still, any fool with a recipe and the right ingredients should be able to make a decent potion, but not me, no. Nothing.

I chuckle now, but it wasn’t easy at first. When it was realized that I did not have the slightest magic power, the disappointment was great. And if I got used to it fairly quickly, my mother did not. She just couldn’t accept that the daughter of the most powerful witch in Copenhagen, and probably this half of Denmark, could be an ordinary human without the slightest supernatural ability. She lived in denial for quite a while, trying more and more exotic incantations in an attempt to reveal my magical abilities. Of course, it didn’t work.

When she finally came to terms, she just decided that the rest of the world didn’t need to know who I was. Out of the question that the other inhabitants of Sidh learn that his daughter was a “disabled person”. This means that almost all of the People Below know nothing of my existence, with a few exceptions, such as Fatima or Alibert, whom I have known for a very long time.

Speaking of Fatima, here she comes to check that I’m not sabotaging the work out of resentment towards my mother. She walks through the door gracefully, tall, thin and imperious, her long hair flowing behind her. She smiles at me, sits down next to me, and casts a doubtful glance at my computer screen.

— The design isn’t too bad, but you should enlarge the font. What is the password to access the esoteric part of the site?
— Abracadabra.
“You’ve always had a deplorable sense of humor. Keep the presentation page, but change the background color, it’s too dull. What do you have to click on to get to the part reserved for Sidh?
— On the “m” of Mirage. It opens a page that asks you for the password, and if you give the right one, you get there. Besides, you and mom will have to distribute the flyers at the next black moon meeting, and tell the others to spread the word. Then, once on the site, you just have to choose from the items offered by my mother. I have classified them by subject and by dangerousness.

— Cool. So if I’m looking for the new “Handbook of Magical Deep Sea Plants”, I go first to “Botany” then to “Aquatic” and finally to “Level 2”, right?

— Exactly. There are also the dates and the authors, when they are known. And I’m almost done setting up the keyword search.

Fatima gives me a few more suggestions, before we abandon digital in favor of gossip. She always has an impressive number of juicy news under her belt, I sometimes wonder how she does it and if she isn’t using a little magic to collect all this information.

Fatima is my best friend and also the only one who belongs to the People of Sidh. She also descends from a very long line of wizards, dating back to a priest of the 9th dynasty of ancient Egypt, but her talents are the pride of her parents.
She was the one who had the idea for this website. In less than two days, she had managed to convince my mother that it would be excellent for business, she who until then had considered the internet an extension of Satan (not such a bad bugger, according to Mom, but very badly raised). The next day, I found myself mandated to create the bookstore’s website, with its hidden pages reserved for the People Below. My mother had made me understand that I had to do it well, and above all manage without her since technology and all its derivatives are a form of magic that remains completely hermetic.

II

A muffled scrape above our heads suddenly interrupts our conversation, followed by another. Fatima looks at me questioningly. I shrug, running a hand through my hair.

— It’s Alibert. Don’t worry, he moves furniture when he’s pissed off, and he’s had a really bad night.

Alibert is the vampire who lives in the attic. About four hundred years old, dainty, misanthropic, and completely outdated by the current century, it’s usually not a cumbersome roommate.
“Alibert?” Fatima asks with interest. What happens to him?

“He and my mom spent most of the night arguing loudly over one of Mom’s latest acquisitions. He ended up going to sulk, slamming the door to his room. It happens to him from time to time.
I understand my mistake when I see a glint light up in my friend’s eyes.
“A book by Christiana?” What kind of book?

— No idea, I say in a voice as neutral as possible.

But Fatima has already jumped out of her chair and is heading for the door.

— I want to see that ! Your mother isn’t coming home right away, is she? Come on, come on!

I personally think that this is a potential lot of problems, but I know from experience that when Fatima has an idea in her head, nothing can get her out of it, especially since my mother always has some pretty interesting stuff in store. So I get up with a sigh of resignation to follow her slowly down the stairs. The bookstore takes up the entire ground floor of the house we live in, filled with old, dusty books. Fatima doesn’t even glance at it. The real treasures are in the back room, where Mom keeps the goods for the Underpeople. Fatima starts rummaging everywhere.

— No chance that it is already referenced on the site?
— No, I haven’t had time to register this week’s arrivals yet.
Leaning against the door frame, I watch her move in all directions.
— Ah! she exclaims suddenly, straightening up, a big book with a cracked leather binding in her hands. That must be it.

She gently puts down the old grimoire, which must weigh a dead donkey given its size, then dusts it gently with her sleeve.
“So let’s see what we have here…
The cover is faded black, with a huge moonstone embedded in it and no visible title. Fatima tries to open it, without success despite her best efforts. She frowns, pouts, then whispers an incantation close to the crevices of the old leather. Nothing to do, the book remains stubbornly closed.

— Very well, sir is difficult. So we have to get down to business.

She spreads her arms to either side of her body, and begins to whisper words of power. Her beautiful black eyes turn milky white, her hair stands on end, forming a dark halo around her, her feet rise a few centimeters off the ground. It would be very impressive if I hadn’t already seen it done a thousand times. So I just shove my hands in my pockets, munching gum with a scowl.
Suddenly, the book begins to emit a slight hiss, which intensifies little by little. Then, with a hiss of rusty hinge and a vaguely eerie glow, it slowly opens, its pages scrolling by one after another. Then, in a cloud of dust, a flash of red light escapes from the book and flies towards the door of the shop, overturning all the books that are in its path.

For quite a long time, we said nothing, Fatima’s surprised eyes fixed on the grimoire, and my eyes scanning the mess in my mother’s bookshelves with a bored air.

— Well, decides to say my friend, what was that?

— No idea, you’re the witch. And I also want to tell you that it’s also you who will put away this mess before mom comes back.

Fatima gives me an annoyed look before leaning over the book. She mumbles, then winces.

— I can not read this thing, come here!

I approach cautiously and lay my eyes on the cryptic texts spread out before us.

— Don’t know.
I speak ancient Egyptian, ancient Greek, and Sumerian, but it’s not one of those languages. And you ?
— I did Latin and Aramaic, my mother insisted, but that’s not it either.

It was then that, coming from the depths of the earth, a dull rumble was heard, immediately followed by what sounded like an earthquake. The floor begins to vibrate, the walls to shake, the furniture to move and the books to tumble. I find myself with my buttocks on the ground, my coccyx in pain, Fatima’s knee in my ribs. Then everything stops.
I get up, help my friend to do the same, then we look at each other for a moment with the same thought: what the fuck?

III

— Uh, Fatima?
— Yes I know. You think that…
— “Does that have anything to do with the lightning bolt earlier?” Yes.
— Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Alright, so what do we do?

Our eyes are at the same time on the old book.

— The question is knowing what exactly we released.
— But we understand nothing of what is marked.
— Yes, it is a problem.

Our eyes meet again, then we smile at the same time.

— “Alibert!”

Fatima grabs the collection, slips it under her arm, then follows me down the narrow, dark stairwell toward the attic. I climb the stairs four by four, grab the ladder that goes under the eaves and drum at the hatch. It opens abruptly, revealing the aristocratic and upset face of Alibert.

— What, what is it? You don’t wake people up at such an hour! First that tremor out of nowhere, and now this. It is still daylight.
— I’m sorry Alibert, but it’s an emergency. We need a linguist.

I see a glint of interest light up in his tawny eyes. The vampire has used his immortality to learn every language, living or dead, he knows of.

After a period of reflection almost long enough to be vexing, he ends up stepping aside slowly to let us enter his lair, then stretches out his hands to greedily grab the book Fatima presents to him.

—Ah! he exclaims triumphantly, laying his eyes on it. I knew that one would be a problem, I said so. A magic lock of such power after all this time…

He places it on an antique lectern and opens it reverently, gently stroking the cover with his long, slender fingers.

— Yes, he mutters, an old book, very old, a lot of power locked in there…
He continues his merry-go-round for a moment, then begins to decipher.
— “So, reiker, no, erek… utar, hmm, that word, maybe alum?” Hmmm…

Fatima and I are not moving, waiting for his verdict.

— It’s a Bad Norse translation of a very old and almost forgotten dialect. A little gem. Wait, I’m trying to understand. Memory…bad…jail?

Suddenly, he throws his head back with a small cry of a wounded animal, before turning to us, his eyes wide with terror.

— When…when you opened this book, did anything unusual happen?

My friend and I exchange an embarrassed look.

— “It’s possible,” I said cautiously.

The vampire starts shaking all over, which normally only happens when he discovers a stain on one of his Armani shirts.

— My God, he says in a low voice (which is the equivalent of an apocalyptic swearword with him), ‘the earthquake, I didn’t imagine it, was it? I believe that you have just condemned Copenhagen.
—Sorry ?

IV

Fatima doesn’t seem to find it funny, her lips pursed in a thin line, her fingers clenched as if she were about to strangle Alibert. I place a soothing hand on his arm before glaring at the vampire.

— Would you care to explain to us what exactly it is all about?

He drops into a Louis XIV armchair with a dramatic expression and puts a tearful wrist to his forehead, like the diva he is. His attitude is starting to piss me off, so I plant my hands on my hips, stand my full height above him, and put on my sternest face.

— Alibert, you’re going to tell us what you know, or I’ll tell Mama that it was you who encouraged us to open the book.

His shocked look is comical. My mother scares the crap out of him.

— You wouldn’t do that!
— Are you sure ?

Silence. I raise an eyebrow.

— Very well very well ! I was going to tell you about it, anyway. You know, of course, about the monster that sleeps under the foundations of the city?

Fatima nods knowingly as I open my mouth in disbelief. Eh ? But I am absolutely not aware of such a thing! What is this story ?
They explain to me. Apparently everyone in Sidh (apart from me) knows that the bases in Copenhagen were built to imprison a sleeping monster, which my mother obviously didn’t see fit to tell me. What kind of monster? No idea. Why is he imprisoned? No idea either. How was he asleep? Always nothing. It has been there for more than two thousand years, without moving, so long in fact that no one cares about it anymore, as if it were just part of folklore. In short, we are no further ahead.
“What has to do with the flash that escaped from the book?”
Alibert clears his throat, which does not conform to the character.
“Well, it seems that this book served as a container for a wake-up spell designed specifically for the monster in question.

— It’s annoying.
— Yes indeed.
— So the earthquake just now?
— Probably the monster that was starting to wake up.
— So it’s not over?
— I do not think so. From what is written here, we have about twenty-four hours to put him back to sleep before he breaks free from his prison and destroys Copenhagen.
— Okay, it’s doable. How do we put him back to sleep?
— I don’t know, there’s nothing marked about it. It just says “see the Sayings of the mage Hreidmar” or something like that.
— Oh.

V

New silence. We all look each other in the eye, not really knowing what to do. Then suddenly, enlightenment. I rush to the hatch to reach my room on the floor below, and come back with my laptop. Alibert doesn’t have one, he doesn’t even have a telephone, since he pretends not to know of the existence of any technology dating from after the 17th century. Note, however, that this aversion to the modern does not extend to clothing.
My two companions throw me looks of incomprehension.

—The catalog !

Fatima understands where I’m coming from, but Alibert continues to stare at me in bewilderment. I explain:

— I’ve almost finished cataloging Mom’s books on the site. If the solution exists, it must be somewhere in there.

I log on and start browsing the bookstore’s website, encouraged by Fatima’s suggestions.

— Look at “monsters”. No ? “Copenhagen” perhaps? “Spell Release”?

Minutes pass, our search is still fruitless and Alibert begins to question my genius idea with mocking remarks.

And then, he’s not laughing at all when the ground starts shaking again, not very hard, without violence, a bit like one of those sports machines supposed to help you lose weight. But it vibrates, undeniably. We exchange worried looks.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“The monster’s awakening?” Probably.

— Well, says Fatima, let’s try to deal with the problem in a logical way. Where are we most likely to find a spell capable of putting back to sleep a gigantic monster that has been imprisoned for millennia beneath Copenhagen?
— “The mage thingie perhaps?”
— “Hreidmar?” It’s not stupid. We should even have started there. Start the search!
— I Have Something: A Guide to Ancient Treatises on Magic, Section M.

Fatima and I rush downstairs, leaving Alibert in his attic, which he can’t leave as long as it’s light. We rush into the shelves of my mother’s shop, jostling the books that have already fallen to gain access to the M section. Each of us tackles one end of the section.

— I got it ! shouts Fatima after a few minutes.

She pulls a rather shabby book from the shelves and immediately opens it to find the passage she is looking for. She flips through the pages excitedly. Suddenly, I see her turn pale.

— What ? Fatima, what’s going on?

She hands me the gaping work. I read, after extrapolating the meaning of the text in Old Norse:

— The parchments of the Tales of the mage Hreidmar, containing in particular the runic sleep spell used to put to sleep in the entrails of købmandshavn** the very last argelot of the known world, were lost during the 13th century. No copy has ever been found. »

I look up at Fatima, who is looking at me with a look of despair.

— What shall we do now ? A silver buck is… This is very bad news.

I don’t answer, lost in thought, frowning, pursed lips. Indeed, the argelot, a kind of gigantic psychopathic vulture endowed with magical powers, is not really the kind of animal that we want to release in Copenhagen. For a long time, I think hard, in silence, facing the anxious expectation of my best friend.

— Fatima, your magic, how powerful is it?
— Very powerful, the most powerful in my family for ten generations. Almost as much as your mother, I would say.
— Well, then I think we can try something.
— What ?
— We’re going to do exactly like Hreidmar: we’re going to put the monster to sleep.
— But we do not have the spell!
— We don’t need it. I told you, we’re not going to put him back to sleep, we’re just going to put him to sleep. Now that we know what it is as a species, we can make one ourselves, a spell, we don’t need the mage’s.

VI

— I’m not very good at writing spells…
— Me, yes. You can’t imagine how many my mother made me invent hoping that it would awaken my gifts for magic. Sure, it didn’t work, but at least now I’ve got the concept under control.
— But it won’t work! I don’t mean to upset you, Eleanore, but your spells never work.
— They don’t work when I throw them. But if it’s you…
Little by little, I see Fatima’s eyes light up.
— It can work…

No more is needed. I immediately get to work, paper and pencil in hand, and half an hour later, I’m satisfied enough with my work to hand it to Fatima. Fortunately, moreover, because the vibrations of the ground have noticeably increased. My friend gives me a dubious look.

— Are you sure of yourself?
— Reasonably. Anyway, we have nothing else on hand.

Fatima nods, then begins, her voice full of power:

— That deep in the city of Copenhagen
The immortal argelot rests
And that on the forehead of the sleeping monster
Oblivion forever arises.

We wait a moment, anxious, but nothing happens. The ground continues to vibrate and the walls to shake. Fatima clears her throat.

— Well, maybe it’s time to call your mother.

I look at her in disbelief, my eyes wide like saucers.

— Are you crazy ? Do you realize she’s going to murder us?
— Eli, I don’t have too many solutions left.
— But I have not said my last word.

I recover my computer to continue my excavations on the site, more and more desperate. Finally, I breathe a sigh of relief. Searching for the word “sleepiness” came up with something. Occult lullabies, section F.
A few minutes later, we have the book. The ground vibrates so much that you have to hold on to the walls to avoid falling. Another long moment of laborious translation from Aramaic, then Fatima and I exchange a skeptical look.

— “To increase the power of a sleeping spell, link the power of words to that of music using the tune and lyrics of a children’s lullaby. Watches love it. »

Good, and bah since it is necessary. I set to work and ended up handing Fatima the piece of paper that, with a bit of luck, will save us all.

— So you’re going to have to sing it to the tune of “Twinkle little star”, that’s all I found in a hurry.

She lets out a sigh.

— Very well.

Again, she lets the power invade her, begins to levitate, rolls back her eyes, her hair stands on end. Then, in a sepulchral voice, she begins to hum
Fatima begins to shimmer with magic, as the invisible filaments that bind her to the world appear. Her voice rings out, as if the universe responds with a deep echo to the power of her words. The song seems to glide through the air, sink to the ground, then get absorbed and disappear. Then, the continuous shaking of the floor and the walls abruptly ceases.
The witch lands on her feet, looking exhausted. She turns to me, a slight smile on her lips.

— “I believe we succeeded. Your spell worked, Eleanore.

I smile at her too, then burst out laughing, before looking around the room and grimacing. The worst is not yet over.

— “We make a good team, you and I, after all. But now that we’ve saved the town, and possibly the world, the hardest part remains: cleaning up the shop before Mom gets home, and finding a really good lie to tell her to justify…well, everything. Ah, and I hope you have a Nostalgia potion or two on hand, because you’re going to have to bribe Alibert so that the truth about what happened today never comes out of the attic. We have to be able to establish with certainty that these earthquakes have nothing to do with us and that we know nothing about them. Because otherwise, I don’t think all the powers in the world will stop my mother from killing us.

The end

Notes:

* Spandemager: Spandemager is the name of the first woman burned for witchcraft in Denmark in 1543.
** Købmandshavn: Former name of Copenhagen which means “the port of traders”.

Ethereal Stories: The Ventriloquist

Today I bring you a horror story. The beginnings of this story were written some time ago, quite a long time in fact. I started writing it shortly after my accident. I found it in a pile of writings that my grandmother kept, then I reworked it to become what it is today. This story comes from the bottom of me so I’m very attached to it, but I know that it may not please everyone.

If you want something happier, I suggest you wait until next week for another much lighter story.

Attention:

This story was written at a time when I was not doing very well and is much darker than what I usually write. I’m talking about violent scenes that might shock some people and I use profanity there.

The Ventriloquist

I

The man wore an old-fashioned black suit, he sported a thin mustache and his searching eyes were like two balls of hot coals. He was tall and thin, almost inconceivably. Alicia cringed when she saw him on her doorstep. A strange apprehension gripped her, gripping her heart in a vice of ice.
The stranger entered the vestibule. Discovering a razor-blade smile, he said in a honeyed voice without even introducing himself:

To form a couple, it inevitably takes two, is not it?

Uncomfortably, Alicia nodded. However, she did not understand what the man was talking about. The young woman bitterly regretted the absence of her husband: Paul would never have allowed this individual to enter their house! He had a holy horror of door-to-door salesmen, especially when they were as intrusive as this one. Intrusive…and bizarre, with its long, spindly body, which reminded Alicia of a horrible stick insect with a human face…
In the hallway, the stranger gave her a wink.

“Relax, dear! he declared. You have nothing to fear. They call me Benitor, the miracle worker. My partner and I are here to help you…

Alicia winced: her partner? Until proven otherwise, the seller was alone. No one accompanied him. At least, so far…
The man reached inside his black suit. Alicia had the absurd belief that he was a pervert. The patient was about to throw himself on her, armed with a kitchen knife, a taser or an ice pick… But the intruder contented himself with extracting a soft and shapeless mass, similar to a mask of rubber. He quickly put it on his right hand. A rattling voice then rose:

— Bonjour, ma petite ! Je suis Compère, l’assistant de Monsieur Benitor, mon bon maître… Son bras droit, en quelque sorte ! Enfin, l’assistant, c’est un peu facile : d’un bout à l’autre des Mondes, comme à l’intérieur des Cercles d’ailleurs, c’est moi qui me tape tout le boulot !

The so-called Benitor raised his shark gaze to the sky, as if to say: “Ah! He’s starting again!”

A ventriloquist! Well, as a way of selling, Alicia had to acknowledge that it was original. However, she remained anxious, almost frightened, because the puppet was not reassuring. It was a head, obviously that of a man, with a pale complexion and blue lips, stringy hair and eye sockets filled with darkness. Morbid, was the word that came to the young woman’s mind, and it was the adjective that best suited this hideous figure.

The thing resumed:

— We are here to offer you a unique offer, which you cannot refuse. Yes, yes, I assure you: no need to play scared sluts!

Alicia doubted she had heard correctly. For a moment, she thought she would take to her heels. But, paralyzed by fear, she remained incapable of the slightest reaction. And something, in the stick man’s sooty gaze, nailed her to the spot…
Adopting the cavernous tone of his own voice, and wearing a serious countenance, Benitor continued:

— Be sure that we understand your sadness. We sympathize. After all, fate has befallen your husband. It’s natural for you to be upset…

Buddy spat on the ground, at Alicia’s feet. A reddish spit, within which a horde of maggots was struggling. The young woman felt her heart racing. But, stunned by what she had just heard, she found herself once again unable to make the slightest gesture. Paul had been in hospital for two weeks, in critical condition following a serious car accident. He lay in a coma, and doctors were pessimistic about his chances of ever waking up.
How did this stranger know her husband? And then, what did he want?

— You’ll soon understand,” the disfigured puppet gritted, as if reading his thoughts. We have come to offer you our services, because we are able to help you. Finally, it was he who insisted, above all…

The mask nodded in the direction of its master.

— I was just going to take it easy,” he continued. But hey: it’s the great chef who leads the way! Anyway, what you need to know is that your husband can be cured today…

Alicia blinked, but didn’t formulate her thoughts. Nevertheless, the human head belched:

— Of course it’s true! What do you think ? That we came to cut the piece of fat, while your stupid husband slaps?

The word “slap” was accompanied by a deluge of scarlet sputters.

— So, the mask said, like I said, he could come home and you’d be free to get laid again, and everything and everything… At least, if you wanted to?

The sentence remained suspended, like a slap in the face. Of course she wanted him more than anything!

Benitor took the floor again to exclaim cheerfully:

— Good ! In that case, all you have to do is give us your okay, dear, so that we can get your husband back on his feet. My partner and I have exceptional power, which I like to call a gift. The power of life over death.

Alicia felt her heart skip a beat. If it was a joke, it turned out to be in very bad taste! Nevertheless, somewhere deep inside her, the young woman knew that an incredible thing was happening. She felt it dimly in the way the stranger spoke, in his horrible puppet parody, and in that strange vibration that seemed to cloud the air.

In a calm tone, the Tick-insect-man continued:

— Know, however, that in return, I will come and take what is rightfully mine. This is an honest deal, made between well-meaning people…

Compère partit d’un rire éraillé.

— So, continued Benitor, I ask you again: will you allow us to save your husband? Without quick action on our part, he will die, I can guarantee you that.

The young wife was flabbergasted by the audacity of the seller. However, driven by despair, she found herself sketching an affirmative nod. After all, what did she have to lose?

Benitor then declared, loud and clear:

— All in good time ! Your wish will be granted, and we will exercise our special gift on your loved one to save him. As for us, we will see each other very soon!

Buddy laughed again, an icy croak that twisted Alicia’s eardrums and hammered her skull. Then the ventriloquist also emitted a strident air, a shrill melody reminiscent without question…
The phone woke her up and the dream slipped away like a thief. The young woman sat on the edge of her bed, her head in her hands. She remained shaken for a moment: what a delirious dream! So real… But she didn’t have much time to think about it anymore, because the phone kept whining.

Alicia walked fearfully towards the bell, not daring to grab the receiver. This call in the middle of the night seemed like an ominous sign. Before she could stop, she picked up the phone.

— Hello?

C’était l’hôpital. Paul était miraculeusement sorti du coma. Ses jours ne se trouvaient plus en danger. Alicia remercia l’infirmière, raccrocha, puis se laissa glisser sur le sol où elle pleura à chaudes larmes.

II

A few days later, Paul came home. Life then resumed its course. The couple took advantage of the smallest pleasures of existence. Both seemed happy, truly, because they knew ephemeral happiness.
However, a shadow marred this idyllic picture.

Alicia felt that her husband was hiding something from her. Paul did his best to appear comfortable, but he often looked distant, bewildered, as if lost in a trying memory. The young woman was burning with desire to know the cause of this hassle, without however daring to question it. Her husband had just recovered from a coma; she didn’t want to rush him.

Finally, one evening when the couple was comfortably installed in their little garden, contemplating a magnificent starry vault, Paul confided. Feverish, he seemed unable to contain himself from speaking.

— I don’t know if you’re going to believe me, Alicia. Perhaps you will take me for a madman? However, I must tell you what happened, just before I came out of the coma…

Her voice sounded hesitant, which surprised Alicia. Her husband had always been someone strong, thoughtful and collected. But this thing that had been gnawing at him since his return… “ He came so close to death ”, she thought, shuddering.

Enough to shake the strongest of men.

— I was in complete darkness, he began anxiously. An intense darkness, almost palpable, which seemed to stretch to infinity. I was vaguely aware of being awake, but not really. It was a dream, or maybe a nightmare, but it was also very real…

Paul secoua la tête, frustré de ne parvenir à mieux s’exprimer. Il cherchait ses mots, incapable de trouver ceux qui auraient retranscrit au mieux son expérience.

— Quand ils sont apparus, reprit-il en frémissant, j’ai d’abord vu l’homme. Il m’a fait penser à un colporteur. Ce fut le mot qui me vint sur le moment, même si j’ignore pourquoi. Il semblait anormalement grand et mince, comme un insecte répugnant…

Alicia felt a deep unease as her own dream resurfaced. Her mind monopolized by Paul’s awakening, she had completely concealed the insane dream. Now the stick man came back to him.

With growing terror, she listened to the rest of the story.

— He held the head of a puppet, horrible, repulsive. Both approached me. I still couldn’t move or run away. I didn’t want to, however, believe me!

Alicia thought about the paralysis that had taken hold of her, in her own nightmare. A shiver ran down his spine.

— L’homme a tendu cette chose vers moi, continua Paul d’une voix défaillante. Cette horrible tête boursouflée… La marionnette s’est mise à dévorer un truc noir qui sortait de mon corps. Un genre de mélasse, ou je ne sais quoi. La créature mastiquait en provoquant des bruits atroces…

Paul paused. Alicia took his hand, both to support him and to reassure herself. When the young man spoke again, he seemed a little calmer.

— The most delirious thing is that it made me feel good! he wondered. Gradually, I regained awareness of the real world. As if this strange duo took hold of the evil lodged in me. Then I woke up.

Alicia remained silent. What could she have said? Her husband lived, that was all that mattered. She was afraid of shocking him, even traumatizing him, by evoking her own dream. Then she was silent, and the two embraced each other tenderly under the stars.

III

The night after Paul’s story, Alicia dreamed again. The ventriloquist reappeared, alone this time. He was smiling amiably, like an old friend met on the street. However, his arrival owed nothing to chance.
Alicia thanked him warmly for granting her wish.

— It’s nothing, Benitor assured him. And then I didn’t do much. It is Compère who should be congratulated, he who courageously took hold of the disease from which your husband suffered. Unfortunately, the poor perished in the business. This is how…

Alicia wanted to tell him how sorry she was, but the man didn’t give her time.

— I’m here to remind you of our market, he went on. You allowed us to save your husband, and now I’m coming back to take what’s mine. It’s because, you see, I can’t practice without a partner. I need someone through whom to transmit my gift. Since you had my help, it only seems right to return the favor. That is why…

As he spoke, Benitor pulled an ax from under his long black coat. Alicia stared at the blade, horrified and fascinated.

— You will understand, and forgive me, what is to follow. I am sure !

The ax sliced through the air and sliced clean through the young woman’s neck. His work done, Benitor bent down to take hold of his head. He put it on his right hand, like an ugly scarlet mitten. The magic worked and the face took on a demonic grin.

— To form a couple, it inevitably takes two, is not it? said it in a nasal voice.

Epilogue

When Paul awoke the next morning, he discovered with amazement, lying in the bloody sheets, the headless body of Alicia.