Ethereal Stories: The thimble knight

I visited a theatrical costume museum recently, unfortunately the guide was a pretty boy but bearded, always from behind and we were in a group so I didn’t dare to mention that I was deaf. I didn’t understand anything but I had a good time staring at his posterior!
Seriously, I saw pretty old sewing boxes there. I never had the patience to learn sewing but I am always fascinated by the dexterity and meticulousness of the seamstresses and their attention to the smallest details. In short, these sewing boxes inspired me this little story which I hope you will like.

I

Naïa’s grandmother was a fortune-teller. She braided the threads of lives that she bound for eternity. She embroidered the frayed beards of the fabrics of fallen heroes. She sewed rosebuds on faded bodices and veiled taboos to patch up couples. His shop was famous. All the pains of the heart that the canton counted thronged there. And then, one fine morning, as spring was approaching, she died.

When she died, Naïa inherited her sewing box, a cherry wood box whose wood, polished by years of handling, was as soft as a castle banister. It must be said that the object was transmitted from grandmother to granddaughter for more than two hundred years.
When his mother gave it to him, she also handed him a cloth envelope, closed with an embroidered seal, but she specified:
“First take the time to observe what the box contains, Naïa. Your grandmother, by her gesture, designates you as heiress of the gift, but you must do your scales to begin. For that, you have to familiarize yourself with the tools, the materials, that you appropriate them, that you discipline them and when you can sew with your eyes closed an envelope similar to the one I am giving you, then you will be able to look at what ‘it contains. Not before. »
The tone was solemn, it called for no questions, no answers either.
Naïa took the envelope, put it aside and gently opened the box. This had five compartments: that of wool, cotton, silk and linen threads, that of braid and sequins, that of buttons and staples, that of pieces of fabric and that of pins, needles and hook guarded by a silver thimble.
For several weeks, Naïa scrupulously reviewed the contents of the box. She analyzed it, inventoried it, classified it. Finally, when she knew the box by heart, she got down to sewing.
She began with small jobs, the first of which was the making of a black, opaque headband, to learn how to sew blind. Gradually, she became more complex. She systematically did everything twice, once while watching, once blindfolded and, in case of error, started again and again.
She trained for two months before becoming interested in the envelope. Then, she listened to it patiently and tried to reproduce it by choosing her needle carefully. She copied it, several times, looking, applying herself. Finally, when she had acquired perfect control of her gesture, she adorned herself with her blindfold. She often pricked herself, but insisted. It was the embroidered seal that was the most difficult to achieve, but, at the end of June, the envelope was made, identical to that of her grandmother. So she opened the latter and found an enigmatic letter inside.

II

“Naiah,
The gift does not exist. In reality, none of us have ever actually possessed it. It comes from the thimble.
For him to reveal himself, you will have to choose a knight. To do this, follow these instructions:
First, go to the cemetery. Find a grave that holds a brave man, one of those who died in battle – no matter what war they were fighting. Do not choose a deserter, this one will never help you. Find out about his past. Choose a man who loved, without being afraid and without counting, as one throws oneself into an abyss, one needs a passionate being. Choose well, Naïa, you can’t go back, you can’t start again.
As soon as you have found the grave, dig the earth with your bare hands, collect the one that remains hanging under your fingernails and fill the thimble with it. Press well, nothing should fall out when you flip the dice. Filled flush. Water this soil with orange blossom, every morning, for a week, at a fixed time.
Then, slip the die into the envelope you just made. Seal it up, put it in the sewing box and wait to hear it wiggle. At this time, you will open it. »

Naïa went to the cemetery, she noted on a paper the names of the possible pretenders to the title of knight, she searched, in the archives of the city, their feats of arms, their history. She questioned the families, eliminated little by little those who were not suitable, then made up her mind.
She followed her grandmother’s instructions step by step and in the month of November, on the third precisely, the envelope was shaken. Thus was born the knight Lord Emeric of the thimble.

It was tiny: two legs of midnight blue wool, two arms of braided yellow cotton thread, black sequins instead of feet, others, gold, instead of hands and, for a helmet, a press stud; all emerging from his thimble armour. Barely out of the envelope, he seized the spear hook and proud of his new gleam, in a surprisingly thin voice, spoke to Naïa:

— Good day, lady, what can I do for you?
Naïa was surprised by the tone and the formula which contrasted with the sudden familiarity, but probably that was how a knight spoke. She was not disconcerted:
— Hello, Lord! I will call you Lord, it will be easier. In reality, I don’t know yet what you can do since I don’t yet know what you can do. What can you do ?

Lord then declaimed:
“I am the anti-heartbreaker
The Tailor of Woven Fates
The ardor mechanic
The healer of wounded loves! »

What lyricism, boastfulness! Naïa told herself that she had not chosen the most humble of knights…
“Perfect, Lord, but, in practice, how does it work?”

— I do not know, Naïa. By crowning me a knight of the thimble today, you awaken great powers that I have never before been confronted with. But do not be afraid, my dear, I nobly carry out the tasks, which with honor, they come to entrust to me.
— Okay… let me think.
— My devotion will be as it always was: flawless. No one can claim that in the past I fled before the slightest obstacle or that I refused to face…
— Shut up, Lord, please! I said, “Let me think”!
— Certainly, I consent to it, but when Lady Fortune unites, as here…
— Lord!
— Damn, but if…
— Stop!
— If it suits you.

Naïa had, until then, followed her grandmother’s instructions, but it was clear that she was coming to the end of her roadmap. Sitting in the workshop that had served as a shop, in front of her sewing box, associated with an elf hungry for archaic words of which the tomb had deprived her, Naïa began to doubt the relevance of her choice. She was proud of the hopes placed in her and wanted to prove herself worthy of them, but it had to be admitted that the situation was funny. She was going to have to discipline Lord whose verve exasperated her, but above all find how to use her “powers” to work for the happiness of all.

Naïa thinks that her knight needed a mission that would serve as a trial run to test his abilities. She knew that the Tellier sisters were angry, she told herself that reconciling them could constitute a first challenge whose consequences, in the event of failure, would be limited. However, she preferred to act in the shadows.
So she submitted the idea to Lord and waited for his instructions. This one, perhaps offended by the fact that she had molested him, was, this time, concise: it was necessary, to begin with, that she bring him back a few hairs from each of the Telliers. Naïa therefore waited, hidden in the thickets, in front of their home and as soon as they left, broke in, inquired about their brushes in the bathroom and took her loot there.
As soon as she returned to the workshop, she handed her treasure to Lord. He seized it religiously, settled down cross-legged on the table and began to weave. He metamorphosed thus concentrated. Naïa looked at him, fascinated. A ballet was a ballet, there was so much grace in his gestures. He worked in silence, skilfully mixing brown and blond hair with cotton and silk threads. When he was done, he handed Naïa a one-centimeter square that she detailed on the count. She then discovered, in the intertwining of fibers, a complex pattern of great finesse that looked like a cabalistic sign.
The next day at the market, the Tellier sisters laughed together in front of the fishmonger’s stall.
It was time to reopen the store.

III

Naïa saw a lot of people marching by as soon as trade resumed. The division of labor between her and Lord was simple. She received customers, served them tea, made them sit down and questioned them. Lord, hidden in the sewing box, was listening. Then they debriefed. Lord then drew up the list of what he needed, then, after Naïa had provided him with the necessary material, sat down on the table – like the very first time –, the open box at his side, and began his work. .
On the weekends, when the shop was closed, Lord gave Naïa sewing challenges and Naïa gladly played. Lord was still winning, but Naïa was constantly improving.
Years passed like this, many conflicts were settled, one would have thought that the region was a huge game of go where dark designs were followed by the return of white innocence. The reputation of the shop no longer stopped at the borders. So, six years after Lord and Naïa met, Ludmila entered the shop.
Naïa, barely arrived, had just opened the box to say hello to the knight when this beautiful sixty-something Russian entered. Dumbfounded by her beauty, Naïa did not have the reflex to close the box in time. The damage was done…

This woman was a doll with white hair and high cheekbones, rosy with the coolness of the air. In his intelligent eyes, of a blue “heart of a glacier illuminated by the sun”, there was a strange mixture of firmness and softness. Her clothes of splendid fabrics, from the dress to the coat, were only shimmering.
Naïa, captivated, welcomed him with deference, as one welcomes a princess… And Lord came out of his box declaiming:

— Madam, I have been looking for you for so many years.
That’s when it all went wrong… Ludmila pocketed the thimble with everything it contained and ran away.
Naïa could not catch up with her.

Despite her efforts to continue to treat pain, restore souls, quench sorrows, without Lord, Naïa could not repair everything. But she didn’t lose hope and bought a thimble…maybe the gift would come back.

Naïa died six months ago. Today, I managed to make, with my eyes closed, an envelope identical to the one she gave me. My mother told me her story. Tomorrow, I will go to the cemetery, I will look for a knight and then, we will see if the gift accepts to manifest itself again.

The End

Ethereal Stories: Tear

Today I offer you a science fiction story inspired by the latest IPCC reports. It’s not very optimistic. For me it is high time that we move our ass to act but I have the impression that most world leaders do not give a damn because it won’t affect their generation.
I promise I’ll try to be in another mood for the next story.

I

A single tear that will never fall clearly stands out on my right cheekbone. My name is Tear. At least, that’s what the inhabitants of the Burrow call me. I have long forgotten the first name chosen by my parents, perhaps I never even knew it.
— Tear! Tear! Bring your butt, we found something!
It’s Cio’s voice. I wonder what they could find this time.
I take off at a run. I descend the steep slope overlooking the Burrow. A mixture of sand and loose stones rolls under my feet, I will soon have to think about getting back on the road. Cio is waiting for me at the bottom of the drop and leads me towards the crowd. I jostle the pock-faced twins Rari and Tul. They let me pass without flinching.

— What is that ?

— We do not know. We thought you would know.
I lean over and look at the metal box pitted with rust, it almost crumbles to dust.
“How did you find that?”
— It’s little Marr, he fell to the bottom of a crevasse. We tried to fish him out, but it was too late, he was in bad shape, his legs where his arms were, if you know what I mean.
I nod in silence, I’ve seen too many bodies dislocated by the fatal falls that are repeated at each bivouac.
Rari continues by cutting Cio off:
— At the bottom, we discovered a kind of very hard piece. Half of it had collapsed, but we were still able to get in. There were plenty of empty boxes except one, and inside was this. Another box. I look again. They have just opened the small chest. Cio protests:
— I’m the one telling! It was me who found the box, so it’s me who tells… Do you understand?
Rari and Tul start laughing.

— Ok, chief, it is you who tell.
I really like both boys, they live by their own rules. They follow the Walkers, but rarely mix with the Pack except when rescuing one of our own. This time, unfortunately, the rescue came to nothing. Petit Marr went there, like many.
Cio is carefully taking out a rectangular object wrapped in a sort of dry, cracked skin, and opens it very slowly, as if he was afraid that the inanimate structure would suddenly come to life.
— Oooooh! marvels little Lota.
A book, a real book, as old Roy described it to us. This one is different: instead of the words we can’t decipher, there are color drawings.
Everyone tries to see over their neighbor’s shoulder, the jostling begins, and it’s still the twins’ turn to calm the little band gathered at the entrance to the North maze.
Cio places the book in my hands, a proud smile on his chapped lips. I open to the first page, a few words are drawn on the top of the document, I squint, we don’t know how to read this, nobody knows. I continue, the rest is easier, these are images. I know what it is. Old Roy, before he died, explained everything to me. That’s why others respect me, I’m the one who knows.

Our history is oral, we no longer write it. Each Pack has a Storyteller, guardian of memory. I am a Storyteller, I have the memory of the world.
I sit on the ground, in the dust, and look at the orange sky. Our lookouts have not sounded the alarm, we still have a little time before the rains arrive. I raise my arm and show the first image.

— It is a tree.
I hear “oh” and “ah” all around me. One after the other, the band settles on the ground.
— Is a tree what feeds the planet? asks little Lota, the smartest of the group in my opinion.
She has not reached the age of eight and I hope she will survive a few more years. I’ll teach him the history of the world like old Roy did before me.
— Yes, Lota, the trees fed the earth and the earth fed us.
— I would like to see one for real, exclaims Cio, the dreamer.
Everyone nods.
— We are the Walkers, one day our steps will take us where the trees still exist.
— Is it true that trees make clear rain?
I nod and turn the second page. Another tree.
— Plants create clear rain and offer it as a gift to men.
— Why aren’t we allowed gifts?
It’s Sven’s voice, I didn’t see it coming. I can’t take my eyes off his dirty face, his blue eyes shine fiercely, he is my rock, my stability, my reason to go on and on.
— The elders have decided otherwise,” Lota answers tit for tat.
Definitely, this little one surprises me from day to day. Sven sniffs and drops to one knee before whispering in my ear:
— Come on, I need to talk to you.
I get up and give the book back to Cio.

— Put it back in the box to protect it and bring it home, with the rest. Has anyone notified little Marr’s mother?
The twins nod and I smile sadly at them, then join Sven who is waiting for me a little further.
— What is it ?
— We have to leave.
— When ?
I never question Sven’s common sense. He is not mistaken. He knows the stone, he guesses the moment when it will no longer hold and will end up burying us all.
— Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow at the latest.
— The Trackers have found a location?
— Yes, but the walk will be difficult. We are going to lose people.
I sigh and lean my forehead against his chest. He says nothing, but uses me against him.
— We’ll take Lota. The twins and Cio will follow.
Sven rests his chin on the top of my head.

— As you want, but in case of rain, it will be every man for himself.
The law of the strongest, as always.

II

The watchmen’s horn sounds. A long hoot followed by a shorter one. This is the signal to warn of impending rain. Sven sits up and grabs my hand before running. I check in passing that the gang is no longer outside; they must have bolted at the first warning.
The northern maze is ours: Lota, Cio, Rari, Tul, Jay, who has found his place among the Trackers, Sven and me. This is the most dangerous part of the Burrow, we are used to it, we always choose the least easy, the least livable. Over time, we became strong and independent. Others fear and envy us.
— The lookouts have shit in their pants again, laughs Cio.
Lota interrupts him:
— Better too soon than too late.
— Well, it’s not as if we had ever narrowly failed to dissolve the mouth. We all have a scar to prove it.
His gaze passes over the tear that digs into my flesh and makes me look nostalgic. Forgotten memory of my childhood. I don’t know how it happened. My parents died a long time ago, I have always carried this symbol of sadness, this mark that nature engraved on my face.

Acid rain began hundreds of years ago. It all started with the disappearance of oil. The last stripe sucked from the bowels of the Earth left the world in total disarray. Other energies were put in place to fill the gap, but the demand was too great.
The wind turbines did not produce enough, the nuclear ended up being abandoned during the last accident which made Japan and Korea disappear unified. Tidal and solar power was used until the last moment, but the brown cloud definitely put a stop to any future attempts.
The earth is turning in slow motion. The sunlight hardly reaches us anymore, we die slowly, drowned in a muddy chiaroscuro.
Old Roy told me all that, and even more.
At first, American researchers had the brilliant idea of ​​melting our waste to reproduce the lost fossil energy. For a few years, the world regained its former flamboyance. Planes flew in the sky, machines worked for the well-being of the population, trade had never been so flourishing. Then the Day of Tears came. The first acid rain took everyone by surprise, ravaging cities and countryside, killing animals, crops, people.
During the first decades, scientists were hopeful that everything would stop and that the water in the sky would become pure again. Unfortunately, the years passed and the land turned into a desert. The survivors became hermits, protecting themselves in the caves, the only ones capable of resisting the acidity of the sky. Water and food soon became a problem. There was no shortage of acts of barbarism, the strongest survived.
We are piss children, as Cio says. We learned to distill urine. I never drank anything else. Life expectancy has been halved. We don’t have many old people among us. Their urine is too ammoniated, they live together and die together, poisoned by their own fluids.
We feed on insects and anything we can find edible and smart enough to avoid the rains.
We have become nomads. The rock protects us, but wears out quickly and we need to find something stronger day after day.
The Trackers locate the habitable places, it is up to us to make them our home for a few weeks before the inevitable march which will not fail to arrive sooner or later.
Pregnant women are the most protected, if we don’t want the human species to die out, we must reproduce ourselves in sufficient quantity.
Sven is ready, he thinks we should try.
Everyone is free to choose their partner, but sometimes gangs of Reproducers arrive, they only target women of childbearing age, we have never found any of them.
Old Roy only divulged the history of the planet to his successor: me, in this case. He said it was no good taunting survivors, that if we understood what the planet had once been like, jealousy, anger and disappointment would destroy what little hope we had left.
I do not envy our ancestors. My limited imagination cannot envision the extraordinary.

III

We find Cio and the others in the northern maze. They have all heard the news of the imminent departure and are already packing up their meager possessions, except Lota, who remains motionless in the middle of the dark excavation.

— What is it ? Cio stole your rag again? – this piece of ageless fabric that she drags everywhere.
She shakes her head negatively.

— I do not want to leave.
— We must leave this cave or we will die, you know that very well.
— What if the rain stops?
— What if she didn’t stop?
Lota sighs, she has no choice, she has to walk. Sven pulls me into our corner, his gaze serious, his jaw tense.
— I spoke with Jay, the Stalkers who returned brought with them a Walker. A rumor is circulating. He stops and tests my face with his eyes so blue.

— A rumor ? You know rumors have killed more men than the rains.
— This time it’s different. The Walker comes from the West, he says the rains have almost stopped there. He has made it his mission to transmit information as far as the Russian republic.
Sven raises an eyebrow, he doesn’t know what the Russian republic is. The Walker is a Storyteller without a doubt. I explain in two words where the place is located and ask:
— What does Jay think?
— He says it’s the first time a sane traveler has come to us. He speaks coherently and can answer questions without rambling.
— What have the Stalkers decided?
— That we would go west.
— Do you really think the rains will ever stop?
— No, but we’ll go west all the same.
— What will we find there?” A toxic ocean that we can never cross. We know it, you and I have seen it with our own eyes. The world stops at the seas. Do you remember the swamps? How many died? Ten, thirty, a hundred?
Sven grabs my face between his two hands and follows my motionless tear with his fingertips. It has a strange delicacy that only I can see.
— Lota needs to believe it. Cio says nothing, but he’s scared. The twins told me that they had heard him cry in his sleep. And you…
I sigh. My eyes, accustomed to the darkness, spot a gray bat, with thick fur and fangs several centimeters long. She will not hesitate to attack. It too must survive. I push Sven to the side and throw the stick I keep in my belt. He twirls around and catches the animal’s wing, which falls heavily to the ground. Sven picks it up and snaps the back of his neck without flinching. We will have meat tonight.
He faces me now and resumes as if nothing had happened:

— And you ? Wouldn’t you like to feel safe? He raises the poor animal which hangs limply at the end of his arm and continues: wouldn’t you want to eat your fill every day?

— And if we fail?
Sven points to the cave with his hand.
— We’ve failed before, we just have to start over, doing better this time.
I nod slowly and meet his gaze. I read there the determination and the fear too.
Lota joins us, she drags behind her her travel bag ingeniously equipped with wheels, an idea of ​​the twins. The little girl’s eyes are circled in black. Concern can be read on his young face.

— Everybody is ready.
We are the vanguard, we will lead the way and if we survive then the Pack will follow.
Sven ruffles her hair.
— Go find Jay and tell him we won’t be leaving until tomorrow, we’ll be walking at night when the rains are less frequent.
Lota walks away, her steps lightened by this respite of a few hours. My eyes betray my incomprehension.

— Why tomorrow ?
‘Because this will be our last trip.
My heart squeezes painfully in my chest. We will only travel west once. Our group is dying.
— We will create our own world, better and wiser. We will live in the open air and the trees will watch over us. You have told us so often. I want to see the earth as it is described in the books you jealously guard. I want to have children and I want to grow old, he explains to me with new seriousness.
I nod without being able to say a word, my throat tight. Hope is foolish, we shouldn’t get attached to it and yet…
Tonight we will sleep in each other’s arms and tomorrow, with bellies perhaps full of new life, we will walk.

The end

Ethereal Stories : Connected Beings

I don’t know why, I wanted to write about a love story for some time. Surely a consequence of the sentimental desert in which I have been wandering for some time now! 😅
I promise I didn’t write a touching romantic story and I think the ending might surprise you.
Good reading guys.

Connected Beings


I

What sets them apart has always been sentiment. Some simulate them, others live them. For 137 years now that the android and Man have shared the same planet, their relations have evolved considerably. From docile and submissive servants, they became confidants, sometimes even friends, then even more so for some. But the feeling will inevitably remain this irremediable difference, this gap separating the room made of nuts and bolts from a living heart.

Robots, by definition, are predictable. Their simulacra of emotions are designed, programmed by humans, and if the physical difference is less and less perceptible, the robots gradually becoming androids, then humanoids, perfectly imitating the appearance of a man, their emotions are predictable. In fact, their behavior is reassuring, comforting. They don’t rebel. Unless they are designed for that. They don’t surprise us. Unless we program them for. They carry out orders. And to perfection. They don’t balk, ever. They exist. For us.

II

This state of affairs was what Margot was looking for. Like others before her, like many before her, she had suffered the pangs of bad relationships. She had been heartbroken by the unpredictability of men. The idea initially seemed crazy to her – how can you fall in love with a machine? – but in 2315, this kind of questioning was rare. Humanoid/human relations, if they were not yet the norm, were much more tolerated than during the last century. Mentalities had evolved since the generation of his parents.

Moreover, with the latest updates, humanoids now even simulated the vital needs of humans, they fed themselves and went so far as to imitate sleep to recharge themselves. The very existence of these couples, unable to procreate, had also helped save humanity from overpopulation, ending centuries of deprivation.

Also, when her friend Constance told her about a dating hologram site (impossible to find true love? Schedule it to measure! Satisfaction guaranteed!), she didn’t hesitate for long. She had thus quickly made contact with a holographic secretary who, following a long series of questions and personality tests, had presented her with the ideal humanoid, Henri.

III

Henri wasn’t just perfect for her, Henri was literally made for her. She hadn’t had to play games, hadn’t had to seduce him. She hadn’t had to force herself, hadn’t had to lie. She was herself, and he accepted her, he was designed for that, for her. He responded to all her requests, he executed each of her desires. After the chaos that her romantic life had been, Margot was reborn. And thanks to a humanoid, a robot, an artificial being.

During the first times, this thought did not leave her. How can one love a fictional being? Is it even possible? Madame Bovary would certainly approve. But according to the snippets of memories Margot had of her ancient literature lessons, the story had not ended very well for her.

Despite everything, Margot gradually began to surrender to this relationship. It started with small things: she took pleasure in no longer waking up alone in her bed. She liked to take his hand when they walked down the street. She found herself thinking of him when she was working. She surprised herself because she missed him.

The relationship was just like what Margot had always been looking for. Simple, without complications, without this undeniable phase that every couple goes through where one tries to hurt the other. They didn’t argue, or at least enough so that, as Margot had requested during Henri’s programming, their relationship remained credible on a day-to-day basis. Henri was there, his very existence was dedicated to him. She was happy, finally.

IV

Having children had never interested him. She wanted to live for herself, not to be at the service of another being who would deform her body and cost her all her time and energy by even coming into the world. So being with Henri was the perfect solution, and Love at First Contact guaranteed to schedule it without her ever having to. The illusion had to be perfect, never show any flaws.

She managed to forget that he wasn’t human. His reactions, his attentions, what he seemed to desire, everything in him breathed life, and if Margot had been afraid, from her previous contacts with humanoids, that carnal contact was not natural and broke the imposture, Henri’s skin, his eyes, his hair, his mouth, everything seemed authentic, everything felt authentic. The simulacrum was perfect, the lie became a reality, a utopia.

V

The years passed. Quiet, sweet, peaceful years.

If his friends were surprised at first by this choice of life, they quickly understood. Men remained far too complex mysterious beings and Henri made Margot happy, that’s all they asked for, that was enough for them, they accepted it.

It was less simple for her parents, who however ended up getting used to it over time when they saw their daughter blooming. The subject was only brought up during a few jokes from his brother during Sunday family meals.

Margot was aging well, her hair didn’t stand white, and the wrinkles didn’t seem to find a hold on her face. Henri meanwhile was getting older, and it showed. His laughter was now written in the corner of his eyes, his hair had taken on a salt and pepper hue, his hands were becoming more gnarled. Margot had probably asked for real-time aging, but with her time she forgot about it.

But after a few decades of relationship, she came to consider changing the model. Henri’s programmed nature still appealed to her on a day-to-day basis – which she could always keep afterwards – but the physical aspect became less attractive over time. If her holographic interview was now far in her past, she was convinced that she would never have asked for it with a belly for her old age, as small as she was. The illusion was becoming too perfect and she preferred to stay in her simulation.

Epilogue

As a courtesy, a strange thing when you’re talking to a machine, which she considered almost like a human now, she warned him one morning in April that she was going to contact the agency again to do what she called in her mind a “youthful update”, but which she formulated in front of Henri as an “improvement in their relationship” (could the humanoids be offended?):

— You will not be able to get what you want my dear, Henri replied calmly.
— We have the means. I know humanoids earn less than humans, but I’ve been saving up for a while, I’ve inquired about prices. I still want you, your spirit, everything we’ve been through together, I’ll only ask for a physical change.
— Honey, how old are you?
— 48 years old in three months, you know it well, we’ve been together for more than 20 years!”

Margot did not understand where Henri was coming from. He remained oddly calm but his answers made no sense to her. Was his programming starting to have flaws? Bugs?

— And how are you physically?” Henri continued to question her.
— Well…I’m lucky, my mother is still very well preserved for her age, we have good genes in the family.
— Margot, you don’t have any wrinkles or gray hairs. You are never sick, never exhausted. You always sleep well. You are always happy.
— Yes, thanks to you! What do you want to tell me ?!

Henri walked over to her, made her sit down on one of the chairs in their dining room and took her hands in his. He looked her straight in the eye:

— Margot, you can’t get what you want because I’m not a robot. You are you. You are a model humanoid designed not to know that he is a robot. How can we best simulate a feeling? Quite simply by being persuaded to live it. The illusion became perfect because the subject would not be aware of lying. The lie is no longer a lie when it is unconscious.
— But… well… it’s impossible,” she mumbled, “so you would have spent your life pretending to be a robot?”
 — Yes, because like so many others, I sought ease. My life did not suit me, I was alone, I had no one. A new experimental program promised to sustain me all my life, I had only to play the game of perfect love to develop their new technology… you. What would you have done in my place?
— No, you’re playing a bad joke on me and I don’t like it, I have a family! Friends ! All these people exist!
— They are also humanoids, Love at first contact has prepared for all eventualities, the illusion had to be perfect. You’re a Margot machine, but a machine I’ve come to love.
— I…I…I…”

Margot’s eyes widened, she stammered, unable to make complete sentences. She had a spasm. His eyes closed. His neck relaxed. His body sagged in his chair, his head falling back on the table.

Henri, still calmly, took out of his pocket a latest model holographic telephone, paid for by the organization. He pressed the third number among his favorites. After two rings, a familiar voice answered:

— Hello welcome to Love at first contact, what can I do for you?
— Hello Diane, this is Henri. The last model did like the others, he did not accept his condition. Do you reprogram a new one with yesterday’s backup and send me the next one?

The End

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.