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Hansel and Gretel


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McCall Winters

[CW: blood, death rituals, drugging.  Call is not nice.]


Blood was the key.  So many witches of his acquaintance balked at the necessity, using incantations and potions to replace what, to Call's mind, was necessary for the equation.  Life force equaled magic.  You could draw a little from the elements, from the earth, you could heighten the power of that paltry energy with words and sigils, you could draw from yourself, but in the end all that it came to was life.  And blood was swimming with it.


The young man on the altar was no longer struggling.  That bright, oxygen-rich, magic-filled elixir bubbled from the cut that made a gill at the side of his neck.  McCall slicked his fingers with it: warm, tacky, rich.  He began to paint designs on the bared flesh of the man's torso, on the altar around him.  He painted the tops of the tall, unevenly burned candles.


A humming rose in the air.  It was like very soft strumming on a stringed instrument, like the wings of a thousand moths, like something you forgot a long time ago when you were a child and everything was bright and blurry and full of sensation and half-formed preferences.  Something that went beyond what you wanted and what you did not.


Call dipped his long, elegant fingers in the blood again, and this time opened his mouth, painting a long salty, iron-harsh line down the stretch of his tongue.  He did not enjoy the taste, but it was necessary.  If he had enjoyed the taste, he might have suckled at his fingers, licked away the last of the claret swell, but he washed them instead.  And turned to a small table where he had laid a black ceramic bowl of silver filings, an athame, and a bundle of herbs and sweet grass.  He reached for the knife--


The doorbell rang.


Call made a small, annoyed sound deep in his throat.  Once, long ago, he had been a social creature, fond of entertaining, but that seemed to wither and die like the cells in his body, bolstered by dark magic, had not.  Yet all the people he had once had over were long dead.  His wife, whom he had loved, though not desired.  His children, who drifted away from their small Virginia town like moths drawn to the flames of the Vegas casinos.


His friends, shot in the wars or wasted away to illness.


He could have saved them.  But in the end, their path led to that ending.  Their path had a pit at the end of it.  And he could build all the bridges he wished to over the pitfalls in his own path, but it felt... somehow wrong to interfere in the natural descent of another.  As if to do so would require not merely a companionable comfort, but love.


And he had not loved even one of them.


Making another sound, a soft, "Tch," Call turned back to his work, reached out for the athame and--


The doorbell rang again.  With it was a sharp rap and the word, "Police!"


Call froze.  Was it?  Could it?  He stared down at the young man bound to a makeshift altar in his kitchen (it was his kitchen table), still alive but only with a ghost of a pulse.  It wouldn't be long.  Then everything would be over, the spell, the future... He would have to flee the house.


He checked the kitchen mirror for flecks of blood on his clothes, but found nothing.  Leaving the spell for now, he closed the kitchen door behind him and called pleasantly, "Coming!"


When he opened the door the officer: young, black, handsome, not overly nervous: swiveled on one hip.  "Hello, sir," he said.  "There have been reports of break-ins in your neighborhood.  Do you mind if I come in?"


I have never minded anything more, Call thought.  On the surface he smiled and hoped it wasn't as cold as his usual glassy expression.  "Of course, Officer, but I assure you, there's been no break ins.  No unusual activity at all."


"Good, glad to hear it, but if you don't mind me checking the rooms you haven't been in?"


"Upstairs, then," Call said firmly.  And then, with a sudden flash of brilliance.  "Oh, Officer.  Let me get you a cup of coffee.  It's freezing outside.  Just wait one moment."


He closed the door behind the young man, who if he were not quite so young and quite so frozen might not have allowed himself to be manipulated so, and slipped through the kitchen door fast enough not to show a glimpse of the kitchen table.  He had a pot of coffee on.  It was old, and would taste foul, but not after Call was done with it.


He picked up the herb bundle, whipped it through the boy's blood- not good for anything else now, time wasted- and stirred it into the thick, attractive ivory mug that he had poured the coffee in.  He murmured soft incantations, watching emerald and aubergine sparks swirl and start from the muddy surface of the coffee.


Smiling, he left the dead boy in his kitchen and returned to the police officer in his living room, extending the steaming mug of brew.


"That will warm you right up."
December 19, 2018 09:34 pm

McCall Winters

He wouldn't kill a police officer, of course.  Especially not one brought to his home by accident, who doubtless had family and friends who would worry for him.  But he would not, either, be threatened by discovery, of fleeing in the dark, leaving his home and his animals, for something as ridiculous as a burglar in the area.


How pleasant if the burglar had been fool enough to enter his home, but of course, with the dogs in the yard, he wouldn't have risked it.  They were all large, and while they adored visitors, they had the same opinion of random drop-ins from unusual corridors or over fences as Call did.  And while he knew very well he was a much worse fate than being bitten, even by three very big canines, a burglar would be smart enough not to chance it.


But the cop.  He was an unexpected loose end.  Call smiled as he handed out the coffee and his smile twitched wider when the young man drank some of it.  For a moment, emerald and deep purple sparks danced across the younger man's very dark brown eyes.  Then they sank into the irises like flowers tossed into a lake, and the police officer drew in a deep breath, drank more coffee, and his muscles relaxed and his pupils dilated.


Now, Call knew, he could walk the boy into his kitchen, with the dead man lying on his dining table, and not risk a word.  But there was no reason at all to do that.  The man in the kitchen was useless.  The cop wasn't.


"What's your name, officer?" he asked carelessly.


"Alex, grandfather."


Perfect.  The draft was perfect.  Even with the blood magic making him look like he was barely in his twenties, his thrall knew the truth, addressed him in a manner that was respectful, in his mind, for an old man.  Maybe someone who really cared about Dorian Gray syndrome or whatnot would mind, but McCall was thrilled.  He was easily old enough to be this young man's grandfather, and preferred to be given that authority.


"Thank you, Alex," he purred.  "Now, I don't think you're warm enough.  Why don't you use the poker and bank up that fire while I get some fresh logs and let the dogs in?"


Alex balked a little.  "I'd be happy to get the firewood, grandfather, you shouldn't-"


McCall clucked.  "I want you by the fire, warming yourself.  Don't give me any more backtalk."  He soothed the sharp words by stroking the cop's very soft, very close-shorn black hair.  "You're freezing," he added, very firmly indeed.


He went through the kitchen now, not bothering to worry on the door, and let the dogs in.  Megaera came first, white fur slightly dampened with melting droplets of snow.  Next was Basil, all massive tan face and nervous sweetness, and afterwards, golden brilliant King, his smart old man.


Knowing Alex wouldn't move despite the wait, Call went to the pantry to lay down the night's meal for the dogs, then went out to the wood pile and brought a decent amount of logs.  He might have enjoyed having the young man get them for him, but he was not about to risk his control.


He came back into the living room slightly cold and slightly breathless.  Alex was still drinking his coffee.  The fire looked as if Alex had never been taught how to stoke a wood fireplace, and Call shrugged, accepting that.  He took the poker from the young man's hand, did his work and laid another log on, before sitting down.


King came along in the meantime and laid down on Alex's shoes.  The cop petted the dog happily.


"Why did you visit me tonight, Alex?" McCall asked gently.


Alex looked up and an expression of guilt crossed his face.  "It's just--" he said, and looked around miserably.  "It's just Vanessa's really fussy, grandfather and I don't think Kitty knows what to do."


Perfect.  Perfect.  McCall tried to make the smile on his face look pleased and benevolent, rather than that of a vicious, happy blood witch, but... this was perfect.
January 02, 2019 09:38 pm
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