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Marla Medizza and the Miopsa mirror. Chapters four/five...

by Peter Culbert 5 months ago in Fantasy

An evening of dread and fear.

Marla Medizza and the Miopsa mirror. Chapters four/five...
Photo by Halanna Halila on Unsplash

Chapter four.

Realisation and regret.

‘Marla, hush!’

‘No Mam, she gets a hunk. I am more than happy to accept Stella’s offering over this.’

‘It may be a metaphorical image Marla dearest.’

‘Nan?’

‘This is a dreadful state of affairs darling; it honestly will not do.’

Her elder sister erupts into tones of hilarity.

‘I am glad you find this funny, I truly am.’

‘Quit the giggling, right now!’

‘Miopsa mirror, is it ever incorrect?’

‘I have never known it to make a mistake, Eliza darling.’

‘Stupid bloody useless thing!’ screams Marla, storming out of the room, pursued by Stella, holding her belly as she bellows. Bella trudges behind, sounding perturbed. Mum and Nan follow, deep in verbal exchange.

Marla crashes into the kitchen door, knocking it from its hinges. They go with her; she turns around hands on hips. Her expression, disbelief, and horror.

‘There has to be a way we can solve this?’

‘We will get this sorted, darling. You simply need to avoid him.’

‘How do you plan on doing that? He is wearing a bloody hooded garment, he is faceless. How can I avoid meeting with him if I do not recognise who he is!?’

‘I cannot believe he’s carrying your severed head!’

‘You, hush, right now, you are getting on my last nerve. You are. I promise you we will sort this mess out. I am confident your Nan has seen this image in the mirror, just a malfunction?’

A pause follows. Their eyes fixed on the eccentric old lady in the room’s corner, glugging at a generous glass of whisky. A whole glass of liquor later, she joins the exchange.

‘I am sorry, darling, yes?’

‘I am sure you have come across this dreadful happening before now.’ Eliza states, winking at her mum.

‘Something in your eye, darling. I have never observed such a macabre reflection, ghastly. Anybody for Scotch?’

‘How do we straighten this mess out?’

Grandmother perches, gawking at the indentations of the crystal tumbler in her hand.

‘There could be a way.’ she retorts.

‘At last, what is it, Nan?’

‘Your great Aunt Elspeth, darling, dotty old thing. She lives on the Isle of Muck, Scotland. She will help you.’

‘Great, where is this place?’

‘I am not going to the highlands, it’s bloody miles away!’

‘I fear your options are limited, Marla. I understand that she and she alone is the person who could resolve this unsightly issue. If what the mirror is displaying is true, and I have no reason to question the image. Your great aunt may be your only saviour.

‘Did she experience this?’

‘This has never occurred until today. Something of this nature was bound to rear its ugly head. It is jolly rotten luck that has happened to you. Tot of whisky darling?’

‘I am glad he chose her and not me, that’s for sure.’

‘Marla is your sister, please show concern.’

‘It may save me a long trip if we call her?’

‘Call Marla?’

‘This Elspeth woman?’

‘She doesn’t own a phone, darling. That woman is odd, nothing resembling me or you.’ Mum raises her eyebrows and glares at the girls ‘---the only way to communicate with her is by letter or in person.’

‘I am not travelling hundreds of miles to visit her, it’s not my head he is after Mam.’

‘It may not be yours, Stella, but your sister’s. We are family, girl power and that, we will travel together.’

‘Is there any chance we may cease with the word severed, it has not materialised yet and may never, Nan?’

Her grandmother remains aloof to Marla’s pleading, opting to glug on her scotch instead.

‘This is bloody great. Mam, why did you bring me here!?’

‘I did not realise this could occur. You have a long path ahead, much to discover about who you are. May I suggest you study the roots of the Medizza family?’

‘A visit to the highlands will have this resolved in a jiffy.’

‘I am not travelling to a mucky island; I am out with the girls at the weekend.’

‘That is fine Stella, I didn’t want you to come anyhow. He wants to chop my head off, so it’s my problem. I don’t need you; I can do this alone.’

‘I will not let you face this alone. I am standing by your side, no matter what.’

‘I will be okay, Bell, I assure you. Great aunt Elspeth is key in resolving this.

‘I am worried Marl.’

‘I am a big girl now, do not worry, I am confident to return home before you know it.’

‘You are not leaving by yourself. We are taking the journey together.’

‘I’m not going, end of story.’

‘Hush up Stella!’

‘Marla, we will do this together. I am not allowing you to take this trek on your own.’

‘Bella needs you at the house. God forbid we should leave her alone with her. I am going to be fine.’

Of course, she does not believe a word she is reciting to her Mum. She does not want her fretting while she is away from home. The terror stampeding through her is attempting to break free and present itself. She cannot let that happen.

‘Jolly splendid show, that is settled, then. I am positive I have a map somewhere in the drawing-room.’

‘Thank you.’

Their grandmother exits. Silence follows as the four of them avoid eye contact.

‘Here we are darling, this will offer guidance to your great aunts’ home. Another thing, you will not get far in that old rust bucket your mother hangs on to. Follow me, I have just the thing.’

They escape the house and stroll across the courtyard to a barn. Nan groans as she wrenches the doors free.

‘Ladies, I present to you, the showroom.’

‘This place is outstanding. Are each of these cars yours?’

‘They are, indeed, Stella, mine and your departed Grandfather.’

‘This was your Grandpa's most beloved car. I can’t drive it nowadays, so now I will give it to you.’

The dust-soaked tarpaulin cover is yanked away.

‘It is a Rolls Royce Phantom, his pride and joy.’

‘Ugh, it’s so ancient. What about this red sporty number instead?’

‘One day, Stella, you will be elderly. Finding yourself standing before a mirror and inspecting the lines on your skin. Each wrinkle, a milestone of your life journey. The wrinkles shall show happiness and sadness, and each as important as the other. Sometimes being ancient is a blessing. I am old, just like this motor vehicle, but we both could give you youngsters a run for your money. I still have such fond recollections of your Grandfather and me on the backseat of this colossal beast.’

‘Nan, too much information!’ screams Marla.

Stella giggles, Bella blushes.

‘I think under the circumstances, now is the time?’

‘No Mother, I have urged you not to.’

‘Not to what, Mam, what does she mean? What the heck is happening?’

‘She is that cat’s mother!’

‘I apologise, but I am bathing in a bath of bizarre bubbles.’

‘It is crucial they experience who we are Eliza, now is as good a moment as any.’

Mum stands staring at her girls, then back to their Nan, and then to the ground before lifting her head.

‘It is imperative, they know the truth.’

Silence opens the door to Marla, chomping on gum. Stella rifled through her fave pop mag and Bella pressed her court shoes into the gravel.

‘Alright, I guess you are right, under the circumstances.’

‘Splendid, come with me girls, we have much to uncover,’ utters Nan as she glides across the lawn toward a modest stone hut.

‘In here, the four of you.’

‘What the heck is this place, it smells of sweat-drenched socks and death.’

‘Similar to your room, Stella?’

‘Whatever Marla, don’t lose your head!’

‘Oh, get lost.’

‘Not much further ladies, we are close.’ They descend further and further into a black and eerie gloom.

The plunge is eternal, the ebony cloak consuming their bravado and wringing out their fear onto the steps underfoot.

‘I can’t see a bloody thing.’

‘Not much further Marla dearest, mind your p’s and q’s darling.’

‘Jolly good we are here,’ announces Nan.

‘What the heck is this dusty old dungeon?’

‘Your new home, hopefully,’

‘Where is that candle,’ she mutters, knocking on a table in the centre of the room.

‘Ah, here we are,’ she utters as the matchstick flares. The light from the flame sets ablaze the dank stone surfaces.

‘Welcome to the Medizza coven stead,’ announces their grandmother, thrashing her arms similar to a woman possessed. Marla coughs as the dust clogs her throat.

‘Woah, what is this place?’

‘A room your mother visited twenty years before, Bella. A sanctum that has played a tremendous role in the family for many decades.’

‘I presumed only wizards and wannabes used these rooms. I don’t understand why we need one?’

‘I always thought you were a witch, Stella.’

‘Whatever Marla.’

‘It’s fascinating’ announces Bella, running her palm across the infinite dust-ridden books. She pauses at a battered-looking cabinet in the corner, opening it up and thrusting her hands through the cobwebs.

‘What are these, Nan?’ asks Bella, picking up two miniature bottles.

‘Ah, yes, darling, they are special. Magical elixir created by my very hand. Potions are a prominent part of the history of the witch.’

‘I am sure they are, but why have you brought us into a prison cell?’

‘I am glad you asked, Marla. Let me explain to you.’

‘In the year of our lord 1788. The powers that be of that era declared a young girl named Medusa Medizza a sorceress.’

‘Was she Nan?’

‘Was she what, darling?’

‘A witch?’

‘Well, yes, of course, she was but tomato, tomato. Whether she was or was not is irrelevant.’

Marla falls silent, puzzled.

‘The rotter’s sought to harm her, rumours she was a hex were widespread. The talk proved correct. Jolly rotten luck if you ask me. Are you keeping up with me?’

‘Err, not particularly Nan, if I am honest.’

‘Excellent, anyhow the powers that be at that ghastly period in history proposed to burn her at the stake. Here is the extraordinary part of the story. Medusa received a visit late at night from a cloaked stranger who came to warn of her imminent downfall.’

‘Who was it?’

‘Who was what, darling?’

‘The masked person who visited her?’

‘To this day, nobody knows. As promptly as the visitor informed her, she vanished into the darkness. Many folks maintain the veiled individual was the one they call the witch of the cloak, a supreme being matched by no other. Others declare it was Medusa’s ghost or a dream. Either way, the information she imparted proved worthy. Medusa spent days and night creating a spell to snatch the souls of those who sought to cause her harm. A few nights later, September twenty-fourth of the year of our Lord 1788 to be exact.

‘There was a knock on the door, just as the ghostly visitor had forewarned. She was met by a dozen or more witch hunters. She called upon the spirit of the air, sea, and land, and with the incantation she created, she thrust each of them into damnation. Their spirits were cast in glass for an eternity.’

‘The miopsa mirror, Nan?’

‘Yes, Bella, the one and only.’

‘You state that an ancestor of ours was powerful enough to imprison these people?’

‘I am precisely expressing that, but something just does not add up, something is a miss.’

‘What are you suggesting?’

‘I understood that the evil that exists in the miopsa mirror never shows itself. That was until I saw the image earlier.’

‘Nan?’

‘The hooded entity inside the mirror, gripping your severed head, is a mortal but one of supreme power. This man, Cornelius Darkus, was the most macabre in Europe, a blackened heart. A witch hunter so powerful, he sent shock waves through our kinfolk. He is the monster who led the witch hunters that night to capture Medusa. He is part of the quintissum quadrangle, a realm of four that if joined as one will unleash fury of the dark one.

‘How do you recognise him; he was wearing a black hood in the mirror? How do you know the image and cornet are one of the same?’

‘Cornelius darling, please keep up, anyhow I am glad you asked Stella.’

She hoists a binder from a large trunk in the room’s corner and blows the dust from its cover.

‘Where the bloody hell is it, here we are. His name is scribed not just in this book but in many. Notice the mark on his right hand, a birthmark to the layperson, but look closer.’

The girls lean forward, scrutinising the symbol.’

‘It looks vaguely like a red splodge to me.’

‘Far from it, Marla, see here,’ she utters, flipping through the pages of the dusty old leather-bound chronicle.

‘What the heck is that, a monster?’

‘This Bella is Cerberus, a hellhound, or should I say the Satan’s beast. Legend has it that many years before Cornelius tracked Medusa, he battled against Lucifer himself. The feud was savage, bloodstained, and they fought to the death.’

‘What kind of psychopath chooses a duel with Lucifer, and why?’

‘Power dearest, even though the devil reigned supreme, it was at a price. Darkus slayed Cerberus that day and consumed his soul.’

‘Wait a minute, can we roll this story back a moment? You are telling us one of our ancestors was hunted by this madman and his crew. Medusa Medizza escaped, but not before sending their souls into that crusty mirror in the main house. Using, let me guess, a magical spell?’

‘Yes, that’s precisely what I am saying!’

‘He entered hell and had a scrap with the devil, the real Satan, the one who lives in fire and shit?’

‘That is correct, darling.’

‘Mam, come on, this a joke, right?’

‘Medusa was a witch, as was her mother before her, and…’

‘And?’

‘And those who follow the Medizza bloodline.’

‘Oh my, this story is getting better as the clock ticks, so you are informing me I am a sorceress, Nan?’

‘Not just you, the three of you are, as am I, as is Eliza.’

Marla paces the dim room, yanking on her dungarees, swiping her hand across the books.

‘Nan, may I ask, are you taking prescribed medication?’

‘Marla, apologise this instant. Everything that has been spoken is true!’

‘No, I will not. Bloody nonsense, she’s losing her marbles!’

‘I am right aren’t I Mam?’

There is a pause, an unwelcoming silence.

‘It’s the truth, each of you was born of the witch.’

Bella falls into an armchair. Stella places her hands on her hips. Marla glowers at everybody in the room.

‘This is ludicrous. I wanted to stay at our house, but I was forced to come here.’

‘I did not force you; you talk as if I dragged you here kicking and screaming.’

‘I could be out with my friends now. Instead, I am in this grotty stinking room chatting nonsensical witchcraft stories.’

‘She is clearly in shock, Eliza dearest,’ utters Nan.

‘I appreciate it may come like an earthquake to you. I am sure today’s revelations are not what you wished to hear, but it is vital that my granddaughters know their legacy.’

‘Mam, can we go now?’

‘Hush, we will leave, when I say we are leaving!’

‘As I was saying, I believe it is important you realise what you are part of this will help you in your future.’

‘Our bloodline started in the year 666. An age of pure evil, the time the Devil rose from the hellfire, enslaving the souls of most of humanity. A few escaped his macabre actions, including Formentus Mediata.’

‘Formus Medi who Nan?’

‘Formentus Mediata, the name Mediata in modern terms is Medizza. The dawn of the family bloodline, darling. Your ancestor was forced to exchange his soul with Satan to survive eternal damnation. The Devil agreed to his plea but inflicted the life of the witch upon him and so begins the story of how we, the coven, came to be.’

‘We are forebears of this bloke, Nan?’

‘Yes, Marla you are, just like the rest of us are, you are part of a powerful lineage of witches.’

‘Let me show you, darling.’ Her grandmother pulls away three bricks from the wall before reaching in and dragging out another dust-ridden book, bearing the words ‘De sanguine pythonissam’ composed in a gold coloured font.

‘What is that Nan?

‘This is De sanguine pythonissam, little one, or in English, the bloodline of the witch. Our ancestral tree. This is the most important scripture in my possession.’

Flipping the pages, she pauses at a page.

‘Come closer, each of you. As you can see, the lineage begins in the year 666. Formentus agreed to a pact with the Devil. If we scroll, we will see the names of our ancestors through the generations. As we move to modern-day with my grandfather, father, myself, your mother, and now, you three. It is important you understand what you are. We have a job to handle because If Cornelius Darkus does manage to free his soul from the miopsa mirror, we are dead.’

‘What are you saying?’

‘He will come for us, leaving no rock unturned in doing so. A plague of horror will suffocate the whole Medizza family.’

‘Why me, Stella is a stronger candidate to have her head hacked.’

‘Whatever Marla!’

‘I do not know, darling. I perceive that when Medusa cast Darkus to eternal imprisonment, her spell must have not been as potent as she required. She presumed she had imprisoned him for an eternity. The miopsa mirror does not lie, he will escape, and err.’

‘Find me and cut off my head?’

‘That very thing. You have such a charming head. It would be a shame for it to be cut from your neck.’

‘What does Great Aunt Elspeth have to do with this?’

‘Ah yes, I am glad you asked. Old loopy draws is the great, great, great, great. How many greats is that?’

‘Four greats.’

‘Great, great-granddaughters of Medusa. She, the ancient battle-ax, holds the remains of the original potion that cast Darkus into the darkness. If you can get your hands on the elixir, we may halt his escape.’

‘I thought you stated the future is set when shown in the miopsa mirror, and it cannot be reversed, Nan?’

‘The story leads us to believe. I am puzzled following today’s uncovering. I truly am.’

‘Alas, you do not have a choice. You must visit Elspeth, fetch the potion and return to here.’

‘Why my head, it wasn’t me that cast him to eternal imprisonment?’

‘Your connection to this is a tad confusing at this moment. I am confident it will come out in the wash, dearest.’

Nan pulls a shiny box from underneath the table.

‘Hold out your hands each of you.’

She places a pendant on each of their palms.

‘These are praesidium pentagram. When they touch the skin of a representative of the Medizza bloodline, they offer each hex protection and allow the potential of each of us to the fore.’

‘Potential Nan?’

‘Yes, Stella, each of us is born with one unique power. It is part of your DNA.’

‘What is your extraordinary power Mam, I mean you knock up a fab shepherd’s pie and bacon sarnie?’

‘Your Mother relinquished her life of witchery many years ago to lead a traditional life to have children, to care for you children. Should Eliza decide to embrace the pentagram again, she possesses an ability far beyond my own. There are five kinds of witches in the Medizza family. Earth Enchantress accounting for ninety-eight percent, which includes me. Sea Sorceress accounting for one percent. Air Avenger accounting for half a percent. Fire hex, making close to half a percent.’

‘And the fifth witch?’

‘Ah yes, the fifth, a supreme being so mighty, he or she could stop the world from turning.

‘What is it? The name of the fifth one?’

‘Ah, yes, the fifth witch, the enigma of the eternal. A supreme sorceress spoke of only in legend.’

‘Which one are you, Mam?’ requests Bella, her eyes gaped in anticipation.

‘Your mother is, or should I say was, a sea witch. Not only can she command the tide, but her incantations will seal the fate of much evil that lurks in the darkest of corners.’

‘I have an idea.’

‘Which is Marla, darling?’

‘We should wait till this Darkus bloke escapes and you and mam kill him with your magic or whatever?’

‘I wish life was that simple. Cornelius captured and killed Cerberus. He amassed strength far beyond that of me and your mother. If we were to combine our energy, we could not stop him.

‘Nan, are you saying I am up shit's creek?’

‘Marla, I understand you are upset but please refrain from such language.’

‘I apologise, Mam, but it’s true. He will escape that mirror and chop my bloody head off, and I am powerless to prevent it from happening. I am supposed to be heading to the nightclub next Saturday. Not the best idea. Dancing without eyes, is it? I am so pissed off Mam, I apologise for my foul language, but I am annoyed.’

‘I understand your worry, but you are stronger than you realise. I have watched you mature; you are extraordinary.’

‘Not special enough to stop him, though?’

‘What now, Nan?’

‘Time is of the essence, Bella darling.’

Marla embraces her mum. For a moment, her fears melt away.

‘What do you believe, Mam. Nothing but a simple malfunction, and everything will be alright?’

‘I do not know, Marla, but I assure you, everything is going to be fine. I will let nothing happen to you.’

‘In the future, Marla’s torso may be missing a head. If that is the case, can I have her share of Christmas cake this year? She cannot eat it?’

‘Stella, shut up, you are going to feel the back of my hand if you persist with your nonsense!’

‘Okay ladies, we have spent too much time on chitter-chatter. Chop chop, back to the Manor,’ announces their Nan leading the way.

The girls ascend the dank stone steps. Marla petrified, her bravado slipping from her with each stride. Whether she likes it, she is for the chop and no abundance of wit or sarcasm was going to help. This was not an altercation between her and Stella. This was her life, her very survival.

‘Come come, ladies, into the study,’ utters Nan, flailing her arms as they cross the lush lawn back into the house.

They tread toward the dusty chamber; the creak of the oak door giving way to mothballed dust, choking them as they enter.

‘Chop chop, oops sorry Marla, time is of the essence.’

Their grandmother opens a glass cabinet and yanks open a drawer before pulling out a brown polished wooden box.

‘Okay, let me see,’ she mutters, rifling through its contents.

‘Ah, here we are,’ she announces, taking out a small stick.

‘Marla, please step forward.’

She edges forward, Stella sniggers. Mum places her hand on Stella’s shoulder and glares at her. ‘Hush or it will be your head for the chop when we arrive home.’

Nan presses her finger on Marla’s temple ‘I command you to see Marla Medizza, I order thee.’

Marla falls back a few steps, regaining her composure.

‘What the heck are you doing?’

‘Just opening your eyes, darling.’

‘Do you recognise what this may be?’

‘Yes, a stick?’

‘Yes, you are correct, but when put in the hands of its rightful owner, this simple stick takes on a life of its own. It is transformed into Baculum magicum or the wand of magic.’

‘I should get the first one since I am the eldest.’

‘In time Stella darling, patience is a virtue.’

‘Marla, please, place out your hand.’

The wand is placed onto her palm.

‘Is that it, what am I supposed to do with this?’

‘Patience darling, any moment now.’

Just as Marla stops speaking…, the mirrored cabinet doors swing free. The dust-laden chronicles fly into the air, producing a billowing cloud as they levitate. The stuffed creatures enclosed in cases claw and hoot, howl, and yowl. Marla steps back as a blaze of light transforms the dank walls into a brilliant white.

‘Lift your arms,’ yells Nan under a cacophony of sounds as books crash against the surfaces.

Marla lifts her hands above her head. She can sense extreme turbulence passing through her core. The room spins, brilliant white light glaring. The glass cases burst, firing a deluge of fragments across the stone ground.

‘Darling, repeat these words after me. Mala.’

‘Mala.’

‘Fastus.’

‘Fastus.’

‘Hermitus!’ screams Nan above the noise

‘Hermitus!’ she yells. The library collapses to the dusty stone tiles, the stuffed animals static once again. The brilliant light now dims, the noise, silence.

‘Okay, well, not the fireworks I was expecting, but you will get used to it, with practice.’

‘I am ready for mine please?’

‘Shut up Stella!’

Nan shows the room a small tatty-looking book.

‘What is that?’

‘This Marla, my darling, is the Medizza encyclopaedia of magic spells. Each incantation has a different score. Number one being the simplest to master. Ascending to level ten, by far the most challenging to grasp and the most powerful. With each degree, there may be consequences.’

‘Which are?’

‘Numbers eight, nine, and ten might slay the sorceress who attempts to cast. It has been many years since anybody dared to try. It may be wise to avoid these levels. We do not want to add to your troubles, do we?’

‘Can I just point something out before we go any further? I have Stella sniggering in my ear. I came here to visit Nan and now I am a bloody witch, a soon-to-be headless one. If I could rewind time, then things could be good again. I am supposed to be seeing friends later, but it looks as if I am going on an expedition to meet a great aunt whom I have never met to retrieve a potion to stop this Darkus bloke, well…’

‘Murdering you Marl?’

‘Shut it, Stella.’

‘Look, I know this has come as a shock to you, darling. Your mother and I were hoping to wait till next summer to present you with your wands. The plan was to throw a garden party, invite the rest of the Medizza clan, but needs must.’

‘Shock, you are not kidding Nan, I knew I should have stayed in bed.’

‘Remaining in your bedroom will not make this problem disappear. Your future has been presented. Fate is fate, it cannot be escaped.’

‘I am so sorry Marla, had I have known, I expect we….’

‘It’s not your fault Mam, I am scared, petrified,’ she mutters out of earshot of her elder sister, who is strutting around the place.

‘A garden party sounds fab Nan; will I get my magic wand then?’

‘Yes, darling you…’

‘Stella, stop, or I will shove your magic wand where the sun doesn’t shine. Your sister faces the biggest challenge of her life and you are not helping as usual.’

The room falls silent. Her Mum’s words to Stella add a stark realism to the surreal scene.

‘Sorry Marla, I didn’t mean to say that.’

‘It’s okay Mam, I see I am in danger. I just need to face it alone.’

‘I will travel with you Marl, please let me.’

‘No, Bell, I am not putting you at risk. It is my head on the chopping block.’

‘Marla, darling one further thing, as you recognise, each of us has a single unique power, the earlier you discover which you have, the better. I shall have the tow company deliver the car to you in the morning. I recommend you leave for your great aunts as soon as you are able.’

‘Can we leave shortly Mam I am out tonight?’

Marla glowers at her elder sister in disbelief. As much as she wants to tell her to shut up, she cannot. She is hurt to the core.

‘Yes, we are leaving soon, so button it.’

Mum sighs. Her expression is one of discontent, puzzlement, and sadness.

‘Well, apart from the unfortunate severed head matter, I consider this afternoon has been spiffing,’ utters Nan.

Marla sneers, ‘yes, it truly has been an eye-opener, for me at least.’

‘Ok, who is for a drop of the good stuff?’ announces Nan, wandering toward the drinks trolley.

‘Please let me come with you, Marl. We can succeed in this mission together.’

The anguish etched in Bella’s eyes is plain to see. A tear falls from her younger sister’s eye and cascades her face. Marla gently pulls her into a loving embrace.

‘Bell, Mam needs you here. Stella is as useful as a chocolate teapot. I am confident I will not be away for long. Please look after teddy and mam while I am away.’

‘Promise me Marl.’

Marla knows she cannot guarantee her safe return home. She cannot foresee that she is ever coming back to the life she once knew. The sight of despair in Bella’s expression breaks her heart, so she lies to her instead. ‘I promise you.’

‘Show me your hands Marl.’

Marla pulls her hands from the pockets of her dungarees.

‘Promise me Marl, do not cross your fingers.’

‘I assure you Bell, I will return.’

‘Scotch, ladies?’

‘I think they are fine, Mother, I don’t expect they need…’

Marla snatches the half-filled crystal glass from her Nans grasp and glugs the contents.

‘Same again, please, keep them coming,’ says Marla, holding a tumbler before her.

‘Gosh, you are your mother in more ways than one. Bottoms up lovely lady,’

‘Mother, I need her to have a focused mind. I don’t need her having a hangover in the morning.’

‘Oh, Eliza, stop being such a stick in the mud. I remember the nights you stumbled through the front door as drunk as a skunk.’

‘Go easy on that young lady,’ orders mum, removing the glass from Marla’s tightened grip.

‘We should leave now Mother.’

They hug. Marla places the wand in her bag as they utter their goodbyes. They leave the house, Stella opens her fave pop magazine, Bella grips her sister’s hand, Marla stares into the distance.

‘Right, you three, say goodbye to Nan and get into the car.’

‘We shall see you again soon, Mother,’ utters mum, planting a delicate peck on her cheek.

‘Jolly good, Eliza dearest. Hopefully, there will be three of them alive when you visit again.’

‘Thanks, Nan, that’s great, just bloody great,’ groans Marla, floundering onto the backseat of the car.

Stella perches herself beside her sister, her grin innate and exceedingly exasperating.

They make the pilgrimage home in deafening silence. Marla again pushes her face against the glass window as the lampposts whizz past her line of vision from right to left. This time the sight of them is different, nonconsequential, unimportant to her world. Her existence and beliefs held sacred have been turned on its head with a single glimpse into a crusty old mirror. For Marla, her future course had shifted from enjoying life into a desperate mission to save it.

Chapter five.

The eve of dread.

‘Hiya, how are you feeling, Marl?’ enquires Bella, emerging from behind Marla’s bedroom door.

‘I am alright, just.’

‘What is it, Marl?’

‘Scared to death, apart from that I am me.’

‘You will beat this, Marla; you are not frightened of anybody. You are stronger than the rest of us.’ utters Bella, perching next to her on the bed and caressing her hair.

‘It’s just before, you know.’

‘Before…’

‘What I mean is before today and the visit to Nans. I didn’t think I dreaded anybody, well at least that’s what big tough me professed. Fact is Bell, inside I have a fear of spiders, worms, moths, and everything else that flaps, rears its head. I am not who I purport to be and tomorrow I face a journey unknown, on my own. I have never been alone, I have always had you, Mam, and even stroppy knickers with me.’

‘Where are my bloody crimpers?’ yells a voice from the adjoining bedroom.

‘She doesn’t care what happens to me. Solely absorbed by her vanity.’

‘Who Marla?’

‘Stella, she is bothered by her hairstyle and impressing boys.’

‘I know she loves you, she is just indifferent, nothing resembling me and you.’

‘What you mean to say is she is a vain, stroppy, egotistical cow?’

‘I guess so, but deep inside she cherishes you, Marl. I believe she is grappling with Dad leaving and struggling to contend with her emotions.’

‘As are we, Bell, but that’s the way of life, isn’t it, it has its way.’

‘I don’t get what you are saying, Marl?’

‘Time, continually opening doors you don’t wish to open. Before we visited our Nan and aside from my family and scruffy little Teddy. My existence surrounded going out with my friends, music, and now…’

‘Marl?’

‘Another door has opened Bell, behind it, who knows. Everything I have known and loved may be taken away from me. My mind and body yearn to be strong, for you and Mam. The fact is, I am scared beyond belief.’

‘Please do not say that, I beg of you. Nan said great aunt Elspeth can help you.’

‘What if she can’t Bell, what if she hasn’t got the potion to stop him escaping, what then? I stick around until this nutcase Cornelius Darkness enters this world and snares me, or do I?’

‘What Marl?’

‘Run far from here, a place he will never find me?’

‘No Marl, you cannot abandon us and if Cornelius Darkus does escape, he is going to have to kill us three. You must understand how much we love you. In your life, you have faced dark days and beaten them. Time to do it again.’

‘I hope you are correct Bell; you are a fab sister, I love you. Make sure stroppy knickers isn’t crimping her hair when he shows. Not sure he is going to delay the battle by seven hours.’

‘I heard that, Marla.’

‘Good, I am happy you did, big ears!’

The girls giggle, they embrace as the moon sprinkles drops of silver onto Marla’s bedsheet.

‘I need you to realise that you are a caring and giving sister. Keep those words close and never let go of them. Please take this, I know you have always admired it.’

Marla lifts her tiny record player from her wooden cabinet and plants it on her sister’s lap.

‘No, sis, your fave thing. You will be back in a couple of days. I cannot accept this.’

‘Okay, well, you hold on to it until I do. At least I will be assured I won’t return to it painted with nail varnish, covered in toast and bits of hair.’

‘Are you coming home to us Marl, please say you are?’

Bella wraps her arms around her sister and hugs her tight. Mum pushes her head through the gap in the door. She hesitates for a moment and beams, her tear-soaked eyes taking in a special time between her youngest girls. Sibling rivalry was left behind at Marla’s bedroom entrance the second Bella crossed the threshold; they were now sisters in arms, in more sense than one. Mum backs away from the doorway and smiles as she enters Stella’s room. Stella is busy fussing, staring at her reflection in the mirror while applying rouge to her cheekbones.

‘What do you think of this blusher, Mam?’

Her Mum stands and stares silently.

‘What?’

‘You could be nicer to her. She leaves tomorrow.’

‘Poor little thing, this day has transformed into a bloody joke. That image in the glass is a load of nonsense. This has become the Marla Medizza show once again. I am sick of it and her!’

‘I am not saying that Stella, oh it doesn’t matter.’

‘Close my door, on your way out, mother!’

‘Yes, yes.’

Mum sighs and paces away, drearily descending the stairs into the kitchen. She pauses and listens, her ears consuming the cheerful chorus of her two youngest daughters giggling. She smiles, perching at the table and lifting her teacup, pursing her lips, and blowing lightly.

Her fears for Marla’s safety are crushing, but she accepts she must conceal her worry until Marla has departed to visit her great aunt. She reflects her abilities as a hex and wishes she had remained a practicing sorceress to aid her daughter in her predicament. She gasps, a tear slips from her cheek, her soul suffocated.

A few moments afterward a herd of elephants descends the stairs as the knocker on the front door crashes against the woodwork. Mum glances to her right; Stella turns and waves.

‘I will be back later, don’t wait up,’ she screeches, slamming the woodwork. A picture falls from the wall. Mum sighs and walks into the hallway. It is a portrait of the four of them at the beach. The glass is broken and so is she.

That night Marla holds her blanket close, gawking at the stars enclosed in her bedroom window. Her mind is crammed with unanswered questions. Her gut-churning as the anxiety grows. Every ounce of courage is choked by the imaginary demons that seek to end her existence on earth.

‘Where are you, Dad?’ she mumbles to herself as a single moonlit teardrop trails her cheekbone and soaks itself into the cotton of her bedspread.

Marla realises there will be dark days ahead. A race against time. What she doesn’t understand is what awaits her at the finishing line.

Fantasy

Peter Culbert

I am a fifty three year old father of three. Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder late in life I have struggled at times with the road on which I tread. I have a real passion for writing, I may not be very good at it but this will never stop me.

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Peter Culbert
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