Hell Hath No Fury
by Vanessa Horn
“Why here?” Chloe asked doubtfully. “Why your Granddad’s shed?
Jo shrugged. “It’s out of the way so no-one’s going to disturb us and” – she smiled knowingly – “it’s got exactly the right atmosphere.”
“S’pose.” Chloe shuddered, noticing a hirsute spider making its way towards her. Resisting the urge to scream girlishly, she instead placed a flower pot over it. Then indicated towards the large cauldron in the centre of the room. “Shall we?”
Nodding, Jo opened up her large hessian bag and reverently extracted a leather-bound tome. The other two stared at the title: Spells and Potions for the Betrayed.
Becky shook her head. “Seriously?” she muttered. “You actually believe this is going to work?”
Jo laughed hollowly, her eyes narrowing to glittering slits. “Well, if it doesn’t work on October 31st then it’s never going to, is it?” She reached back into the bag, now bringing out a length of twine.
Becky took a deep breath. “I don’t see why you have to do this, Jo. I mean, even if you succeed in breaking them up, he chose her over you – do you genuinely want him back after that?”
Jo snorted.”Of course not! No, I want… revenge. On him and on her, whoever she is!”
“You still haven’t found out yet?” Chloe was mystified. She knew Jo would have tried every avenue to find out who had ‘stolen’ her boyfriend; it was odd that she hadn’t succeeded.
Jo shook her head. “Not yet – despite my best efforts. But it doesn’t matter, the spell ‘ll have the same effect, regardless.”
“Surely you don’t really believe you can curse them?” Becky sighed. “Look – scratch Matt’s car, dump manure in his drive; get your own back that way, why don’t you? Anything but this – this is just… weird!”
Exasperated, Jo looked up from her rummaging. “Well, weird or not, you did promise to help me; I need three women for this spell to work, after all. Now, make yourself useful and add this rainwater to the cauldron.” She handed over a small plastic container.
Raising her eyebrows in silent exasperation, Becky nevertheless removed the lid and tipped in the water. As it swished into the heavy cauldron, it made a strange gurgling sound and – despite her skepticism – she shivered.
Jo nodded in satisfaction and passed an object to Chloe. “Good. Now, Chlo – if you could light this special candle and place it in the holder on the table over there, next to the twine…”
Feeling slightly unnerved by the strange glint in her friend’s eyes, Chloe dug into her pocket, drew out her lighter and lit the slim, tapered candle. She took a hurried step back from the pungent aroma that followed as the flame licked the wick. “God, that stinks!”
“It has a very powerful substance embedded in it, that’s why,” explained Jo. “I had to send off for it. Wasn’t cheap either! Still, it’ll all be worth it in the end, when those two lowlifes get their come-uppance!” She chuckled – an unfamiliar and unsettling sound.
Chloe and Becky exchanged concerned glances but, before they could comment, were distracted by the cauldron; the contents were starting to hiss and spit, releasing tiny wisps of dirty-blue smoke.
“Ah, it’s ready!” Jo declared, rubbing her hands together. She took hold of the candle, motioned for the other two to gather around the cauldron, and then closed her eyes. Chloe rolled her eyes at Becky but her friend was preoccupied, still staring intently at the sputtering cauldron.
When Jo spoke again, her voice was low and guttural, with an intonation the other two hadn’t heard before:
“Single candle burning bright
Bear two yet be one
Matthew and the unknown one Wrapped-up tight
Let them come undone
Unleash the spirit of discord
Unleash the spirit of suspicion
Let no small block remain ignored
As you let me have fruition.”
On her last word, Jo quickly seized the twine and held it over the candle. As soon as the flame had burnt the rope in two, she thrust the burning ends into the bowl of rainwater to extinguish the fire, then, running out into the half-dusk of the deserted allotment, proceeded to bury the two pieces in separate vegetable patches. Open-mouthed, Chloe and Becky hovered by the shed doorway, not sure whether they were supposed to follow or not. However, Jo returned within minutes, brushing the excess soil from her jeans.
“Right,” she said, now back to her normal voice, “All we need to do is to wait for the candle to completely burn out and then the spell will be cast.”
Becky cast a dubious look at the flame, which was still burning brightly and fetidly. “It’ll take ages,” she volunteered, slightly nervously.
Jo shrugged. “It is as it is.” She lowered herself onto a packing crate and folded her arms resolutely.
Chloe and Becky simultaneously exchanged glances, sighed and gingerly sat down on the damp floor.
Some hours later, when the dusk had eventually slid into night-time, the solitary candle flickered for a few seconds and then – finally – extinguished. The three women gasped when, instead of the instant dark they’d been expecting, tiny shoots of colour fired around the shed, followed by a huge blast and then total blackout.
After several moments of fumbling, Chloe managed to flick on her lighter. With shaking hands, held it up to check on her friends.
Jo smiled. “It worked!” she hissed triumphantly, “It worked!”
Puzzled, Chloe then turned to Becky and gasped as she took in her friend’s appearance. Becky was a sham of her former self; skin covered in weeping boils and pustules, hair thin and stringy, and – possibly worst of all – several teeth missing.
Her breathing irregular and noisy, Chloe swung round to Jo. “Did you know?”
Jo let out a long sigh and rested her eyes in satisfaction on the now-weeping Becky. “Well, let’s just say I had my suspicions!”
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.