"Open the book and read what is there
Sacrifice a lock of hair
Passion, devotion, all can be thine
A lover for you, fair and fine.
Hidden here, within the pages
The answer to love across the ages."
The invitation was positioned by the dark stranger with sticky tack to the shelf above where he had placed the book. Stroking the paper with the edge of his nail, he smirked to himself. The book had never failed him yet and he was in the mood for some new passion. Who would his lure entice this time? A bookish sort? Maybe a teacher? A little mouse, timid and insecure, looking for the man from her romance novels? Someone with spice? He licked his lips in anticipation. He wasn't fussy but he was a horny devil.
It wasn't long before his notice was noticed. How could it not be? The promise of love with the surrender of a lock of hair was too tempting because of the ease and the romanticism associated with it. Love can be enchanting - literally.
A young woman stood in front of the piece of paper and read it. She took the book. He was surprised by her movements which were less furtive and more practical, like she was on a task rather than being beguiled. The only time that she looked remotely wary was when she placed the book carefully inside a linen cloth before going to place it in her bag.
Linen cloth could only signify one thing: a trap!
Snapping his fingers, he appeared behind the woman, who smelt faintly of sage. With a flick of his wrist, he grabbed the edge of the cloth and the book fell to the floor, where it opened onto a yellowed page, empty of script or picture. He reached to pick it up and reclaim it but was surprised when he could no longer move, stuck in a position where his hand was reaching for the book and he was bent over. With one push, he would be on the floor. His eyes glowed as he struggled against the unseen force holding him in position but he was held fast.
"I'll have that, thank you," and a gnarled hand wearing a lapis lazuli ring set in silver reached in to pick up the book. He knew that ring. He knew that hand.
"You can stand down now, Natasha." The young woman nodded at Marla and moved as far away as she could.
"I'll release you from the awkward situation you find yourself in, if you promise to behave," Marla stated, matter-of-factly.
"Marla. How nice to see you again. Or rather it would be if I could turn my head," he said. "And as for behaving, what makes you think I wouldn't?"
The spell was released and he was no longer bent double. However, it was not his free will which enabled him to stand up straight as he went from jackknifed to rigidly upright in a single sharp movement. It made his back crack and he winced, despite his immortality.
Marla smirked. "Experience, that's what. Bitter, prolonged experience."
He had the decency to look chagrined at the slight but then Marla had been in his "custody" (he did hate the word imprisonment) for a long time as he remembered it until she had been "rescued" by, who was it? Beth, was it? Yes, it was Beth. Beautiful Beth. Ah, they were good times.
"It wasn't all bad, was it, Marla? My recollection of that experience was that it was not entirely displeasurable. I hope that yours is the same?"
Marla suppressed a memory long hidden of rucked sheets, candles and the musky smell of shared passion. She had been a slave to love, captured by her need and a promise. She had found the book, she had shared her hair, she had gained the passion that her life had been lacking, that she had craved. A lonely woman, desperate for contact of any sort and prepared to find it in any way possible. She allowed the image of her time with him to dissipate, knowing she was no longer that woman and he no longer had that power over her.
She had loved this demon because she had had no choice and it had ravaged her, consumed her - she had been out of control. It was an addiction wrought by darkness. When Beth had saved her, she had not wanted to go. A life without him was beyond contemplation but then, she hadn't known then that she had been fooled and that she was just a tool for his gratification. If Beth had not found her and fought for her, she would be a husk, discarded and used, like many before her. It had been a long road to recovery, to becoming the woman she was today and she had made it her mission to ensure that others would not suffer the same fate as her. But like all demons, he was cunning and very difficult to find. It had taken her years to track him, watching and waiting for the right moment, for the time when she was at her strongest.
She had known that she would not be able to do it alone but the solidarity of sisters is strong and year upon year, she gathered more and more women to her and through sharing and comforting and counselling had created a coven of such inimitable purpose, that she had finally felt ready to tackle him.
"How is Beth?" he asked her, still with the posture of a soldier as she and her coven held him in place. "Still as needy?"
With no hint of emotion, Marla stated, "Beth is dead." She would not discuss the death of her friend with this thing. She was calm and controlled and a very different proposition to the girl he had groomed. He would know that Beth was dead already and she was aware that this was one of his tactics, to regain the power and his control. She would not let him.
"Oh, what a shame!" He manipulated his features into sadness, the only freedom of movement that she would allow him. "Beth was so," he paused before adding, "obliging."
"Yes," Marla said. "Yes, she was."
He smiled a brilliant smile, of triumph, sensing that he was needling, that he was getting under her skin, troubling her very essence which was why when he felt the tightening around his throat, he could not hide his shock. Marla squeezed the smile off his face, his eyes bulging, his cheeks dropping, using the collected ire of women burned to do it.
"Stop," he managed to whisper. "Stop!"
She did. Not because he asked but because she was not cruel for cruelty's sake. Not that she was sure what a demon could feel in terms of emotion or pain. She had an idea that they were creatures of whim and were driven by power; puppetmasters, manipulators who gained much from the misery of others. The enjoyment that they received preying on those who are weakest was reprehensible and she loathed this creature for its leeching nature.
And this was why she was here today. To stop him, yes, but also to make him pay, in the only way that she knew how.
"What do you want with me, Marla?" He was angry and Marla had a small thrill from knowing that she had got to him. "Are you just going to keep me here like this?" His eyes flashed, dark and metallic.
"What do I want with you?" she said. "That's an interesting question which requires a detailed explanation, which I'm not going to give you."
She paused watching his face, carefully as he tried to keep his expression from showing the savagery and darkness swirling underneath.
"But if you must know, the simple answer is, I am going to put you to work."
And with a flourish of her hand, the demon was lifted into the air, levitating horizontally above the lined-up trollies of returned books and from behind the shelves of the library her friends and fellow witches convened underneath him, like pallbearers at a funeral to accompany his prostrate, hissing form out of there.
"Would you like more soup?" He looked at the most decrepit human infront of him and wanted to smite him to the ground. Disgusting piece of excrement, moulded into bone and sinew. He could rend him limb from limb with a twist of his finger.
The homeless man nodded, sensing something sinister about the soup ladler in front of him and wanting to recoil from the look of superiority and anger emanating from him. His instinct was to move away but not without his soup. He presented his bowl as the volunteer carefully poured hot broth into it and the homeless man, Keith, a veteran, shuffled away, his stomach noisily heralding, with a loud rumble, the imminent arrival of sustenance.
The demon sighed. Only fifteen more minutes of this and then he was litter picking in the park. He didn't mind that so much although without the freedom to cause havoc and wreak despair and destruction on those around him, it was tedious.
He hated this. He hated it with every fibre of his supernatural being. This was hateful. In fact, he was starting to become a little depressed. It wasn't fair, being granted immortality and then being forced to live a life of servitude. And to be in the control of women, was just horrendous. He was a shadow of the demon he used to be and relinquishing control made him smoulder. The fire of his revenge when he managed to gain his release would annihilate.
He knew this would not happen while Marla was around. He knew that Marla would not live forever, which pleased him and saddened him: pleased because he would be free; saddened because he would not be able to enjoy the unendurable tortures to which he would want to submit her, which would maim and scorch and carve and sever...
He glowered at his predicament, as a lady, dressed in a fitted whitish dress, covered in patches of brown which he was sure were not mud, her white hair wild and unkempt, approached him with a bowl, her eyes deadened and flat.
"Would you like soup, dear?" he found himself saying, his civility part of the spell that held him. The old lady did not look at him but merely held out her bowl, and he ladled some liquid into it. Once full, she shuffled off, waddling like a zombie pigeon, on feet with long claw-like toenails.
Marla watched him from the other side of the soup kitchen. Natasha stood with her, watching too.
The sense of satisfaction was palpable from Marla. It was reaching across the space to tickle the human housing of the demon as it performed the tasks forced upon it, to do good, to make a positive difference, to give back. It was a drop in the ocean compared to the evil he had done over the millennia.
He was doing things against his nature and she knew that it was weakening him to do it. How much, she was not sure but his hostility spoke of his discomfort. Like kryptonite to Superman, or a sculptor with his chisel, engagement in good deeds was gradually diminishing his obsidian core. It was just that it had thousands of years to build up, fattened by domination and submission and pain.
She also knew that the control she currently had could not be sustained indefinitely or not by her. She was old now. She wasn't planning on heaving off her mortal coil any time soon but she knew that her time was limited from the brown spots on her skin, the thinness of her hair and the deeper lines on her face. She was comfortable with this as she knew that her life had had purpose and that her essence would join that of her sisters before her to be drawn upon in times like these.
However, she knew that there would need to be a leader here and now, to rally other witches and keep the demons in place. For he was one of many she had subjugated. Only this one had been personal, the others merely needing to be stopped.
She watched as another person, brought low by the strikes that life had meted out on him, trudged to the counter and offered a bowl to the demon. Again, he ladled but she could see that this experience was not radically reforming him. He was merely waiting for a chink, a glimmer of darkness to pour his blackness into and release himself from his magical bindings.
She looked at Natasha, this brave young woman next to her and knew that it was time to have the discussion. As Beth's daughter, she was the prime candidate to lead and the courage she had shown in the library made Marla sure that she was the right one. There was no-one else who had the presence and the ability that Natasha had shown.
There was just one problem which unsettled Marla and one of which she could not find the answer now that Beth had passed.
Who was Natasha's father?
Before I wrote my Puck entry for the Under a Spell challenge, I had started writing this bit of fluff and as I had a spare morning, I decided to sit down and see where the writing juices took me with it.
I don't like to leave my stories languishing as I have discussed in other works, links below:
This current creation is a bit of a concoction itself - a bit Charmed, a bit Buffy, a bit Supernatural, a suggestion of the erotic, which is not where I expect my stories to usually take me but spells have been used to garner love through many stories so why not have a demon ensnaring young women to do his bidding? I mean, Satan and sinning is all about the punishment if you give into your appetites. What if these could be used to keep you prisoner?
I've left the ending open as I often do and I may pick this up again. I may not. Either way, I hope you enjoy where this take takes you.
Thanks for stopping by! If you do read it, please do leave a comment.
About the Creator
Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.