Here it is, part two of our short story collaboration, based on the Surrealist parlour game Exquisite Corpse. If you haven’t had a chance to read part one yet, you’ll find it here. Thanks once again to Madame Editors Jess West & Jo Blaikie, who are also part of this week’s writing team. You can find bios and links to individual author websites at the end of the piece. Happy reading and hope you’ll be back for the third and final part next week.
The police car wound through town, Will trembling in the back and Todd tense beside him. To Will’s surprise they didn’t turn up the High Street towards the police station.
“Hey, where are you going?” The policeman in the passenger seat was astounded. The driver made no answer, but Will knew. They were going home.
Granny was waiting at the door, the papers he had dropped that morning in one hand. She approached the car and pulled Will from the back seat. He flinched at her touch. Her hands were cold, cold as her voice when she spoke to the officers.
“You have seen nothing. You will remember nothing.”
Todd scrambled out and stood beside Will as the police car moved away and disappeared round the corner.
Will could hear the panic in his own voice. “So where’s Randy?”
Granny turned into the hallway and the boys followed her through into the front room. There on the floor was the blood-soaked corpse of Will’s tormentor, flies already gathering in the wound under his jawbone.
“Not a very nice boy, dear,” said Granny. “He knew rather too much, I’m afraid.”
“You killed him?”
The cat slid into the room and stood behind Will’s grandmother, its tail swinging from side to side and its eyes fixed on Will. And all at once there was a perfume in the air, a faint but unmistakable whiff: his mother’s perfume.
“Of course not. That was the others. Poor fool you are. You’ll understand tomorrow.”
She wheeled round, but the cat had vanished. Will looked at Todd. Tomorrow was his eighteenth birthday, but why would he understand then?
“I think you should go, Todd. You might not be safe here.”
“Of course he can’t go!” snapped Granny. “Why do you think I made the boys in blue bring him back here? He’s the witness.”
“What if I said no?” Will fidgeted under Granny’s glare.
Todd inched over closer to him, nudging Will’s arm with an elbow.
Her eyes narrowed. “I know what you’re thinking. If you run,” she gestured to Randy’s corpse on the living room floor, “your friend will end up like this young man.”
Will felt the shudder that ran through Todd, but to his friend’s credit, he held his ground.
“Who’s to say I won’t end up like that anyway?” Todd straightened to his full height. Though he was tall, he was also lanky. He didn’t exactly strike an intimidating figure. “Some weird shit’s going down, and you need to give us some answers.”
“Yeah,” Will said.
Grey, bushy brows rose high above Granny’s hazel eyes.
Still bolstered from Todd’s speech, Will spoke the words her glare had previously silenced. “And it seems like you need us more than we need you.”
Granny smiled and shook her head. She tilted it to one side as she appraised him. “I never thought you’d have the guts.”
Her smile struck Will as malevolent and proud at once, as though she were examining prey that had turned into a worthy opponent. Her features shifted to a blank expression as she lifted her hands. When Granny turned her palms up, lightening arced outward, shattering every bulb in the room. With one palm facing the window, she curled her fingers into claws.
The glass cracked and shattered.
With her other hand, she drained all colour from the room.
Peach walls and beige carpets bled out, leaving them black. The colours melted and burned midair, turning into a thick, dark syrup.
Granny guided the liquid into the shards of glass, the pane now a crackled black barrier against the light and life outside.
Todd tried to pry the door open, kicking the wall for leverage. He tested the locks, but the door refused to carry out its function. Todd examined the crack. Molten glass had bled over the threshold.
“We’re fused in,” Todd tried to phone emergency services, “and it looks like that black stuff is killing my cell reception.”
Will couldn’t look away from his classmate’s corpse, “I’m more concerned about what happens when this smell starts circulating.”
Todd turned to Granny, knitting on the couch, confident her display of power had gotten the message across. The cat rubbed figure eights around Todd’s ankles, putting him in his place.
“What am I here to witness?”
Granny winked at the feline avatar, “The completion of a transaction. On the eighteenth birthday of the first son, the shadow lenders will collect payment.”
Todd shook his head, “Right, they’re malicious, but they won’t mess with minors, huh?”
Will threw a blanket over Randy’s body. “What do you mean, payment?”
Granny stretched her design to reveal a spiral symbol from some ancient alchemy stitched into the yarn. “Your mother sought benefactors for her invisibility cloak. They required a return on their investment. When the clock strikes midnight, they will come.”
Will scoffed. “She’s full of shit. I was born in the late afternoon. I was a fat fetus, took all day to deliver. Mum never tires of telling the story because she loves me. She would never offer me as payment to anyone.”
Granny nodded. “That was part of the deal. They wanted her to mother you, keep you nice and sweet. They have refined tastes.”
Will balled his hands to fists.
“Ha!” Todd tapped his phone. “The WiFi’s still up. Looks like she doesn’t have dominion over all the utilities, yet.”
Amira K. Makansi
While Todd frantically typed in a message to the local police via Facebook, Will stared between Granny and the grey cat, unsure whether the two were allies, enemies, or something in between. The courage he’d sought all his life seemed to hover before him, ready to snatch out of the air if he so chose. But between his mum missing, the strange cat, his Granny’s witchcraft, and the body buzzing with flies in front of him, Will wasn’t sure he wanted that courage.
“So where is my mum, then?” He asked innocently. He glanced at the cat for effect, inquiring if she was the cat, but Granny just smiled, peeling back her lips to reveal a perfect set of pearly whites.
“You guys are so loony,” Todd muttered.
In a blur of teeth, claws, and fur, the cat leapt past Will and latched itself onto Todd’s chest, clawing and biting with the fervour of a demon.
“I’d watch what you say, young man” Granny shouted above the clamour of the cat’s yowls and Todd’s shrieks of pain. “Tempers are frayed enough already!”
Will jumped to his friend’s defence, trying to pry the cat from Todd’s chest and neck, but was only rewarded with a sharp bite. For a moment it continued like that – Todd howling, Will scrabbling at the frenetic cat, and Granny watching the encounter with narrowed eyes.
Then, quite abruptly, she barked out several words in an alien language, whose sounds could only be described as ghoulish. The cat calmed, releasing Todd and dropping to the floor, cleaning its face as if nothing had ever happened. While Todd whimpered and surveyed his wounds, Will stared at his Granny.
“You’re not even on my side in this,” he said. “For God’s sake, Gran, what are you?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what I’m not. I’m not your grandmother, but you always suspected as much didn’t you?”
Will stood unflinching at the news.
“Go on. I’m listening. I mean, it’s not like I have a choice, now you have us captive here.” He gestured to the sealed door.
“That was a necessity,” the old woman snapped. “I told you when you found those papers that we must prepare, but would you listen?” She rose from the couch and glided over to Will. “It’s not easy to explain, but I am on your side. We hoped never to have to explain all this to you, but your mother’s work on that invisibility cloak remains incomplete and now they will make her pay.”
Will saw a look of sorrow cross her wizened features.
“Goodness knows I’ve done everything to protect her from this day!” She suddenly threw up her hands and, turning from Will, took a deep breath. “My name is Scareesha.” Her voice softened. “I am a Protector. There are many of my kind and our Order work against The Shadow Lenders. I was sent to protect your mother after she became embroiled with them.”
From behind the couch amber eyes flickered.
“He was one of us.” She motioned to the body on the floor. “An immature, foolish Protector who got himself killed by them for meddling in matters beyond his comprehension, but a Protector nevertheless.”
“I wish you could lay an invisibility cloak on him.” Will balked at the stench emitting from the lifeless mass.
Scareesha considered the corpse for a moment, nodded, then stepped back. She raised a hand as before and a lightning bolt shot across the room. In a split second the body and blanket disintegrated into dust leaving no trace of Randy MacGuffin.