Black Magic Blues (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: June 19, 2015 in Fiction, horror
Tags: , , , , , ,

This week’s challenge: starting with a dead body. This falls under the category of a piece that could be turned into a longer piece, and I’m well aware of that. Word count limit was set at 1k, and this could easily be double that. Ahh well.

As always, comments are welcome and encouraged!

Black Magic Blues

“You haven’t moved anything?” David Caul held a handkerchief to his face at the smell coming from the deceased. The body had been there for a while, long enough to start to bloat, and more than enough time for the sickly sweet smell of decay to permeate the room. The carpet would definitely need to be replaced.

The landlady, a wizened little thing nearly folded into herself, nodded her bird-like head on a neck almost too frail to hold it aloft. “He didn’t pay his rent on time. I hadn’t seen him leave. Came up here, and I knocked on the door. When he didn’t answer, I unlocked the door. When I saw him like this, I called the police.” She paused, staring over her glasses at the heavy-set man in the ill-fitted suit. “You showed up. You police?”

Caul nodded as he knelt next to the deceased, setting his case down next to the body.  “Close enough. I’m going to have to ask you to leave, ma’am.”

“Going to search for clues?” She tried peering over his shoulder as he opened his case, but he kept it close to his body.

“Yeah, and I don’t like distractions, all right?”

The landlady sniffed, but Caul heard her close the door behind her. Caul looked around the room. Single bed. Desk with one chair. Small table, also with one chair. Small microfridge. Microwave oven. Closet with no door. Two suits. One pair of shoes.

He turned his attention to the deceased. Fifty years old. Thinning hair with a bad comb over. Heavy jowls slacked and drooping. Weak blue eyes glazed and unseeing. White t-shirt. Grey boxers. Black socks. Caul shifted the dead man’s right arm, saw the ripped flesh and the dried, black blood. Something thin and sharp had pierced up under his arm, probably tickled his heart after it had made mince of his lungs. Not a good way to die.

Caul had yet to meet a good way to die.

He took jars out of his case and went to work. The real police would be hear soon enough, and he didn’t want to have to explain what he was doing. He opened one jar full of salt, and used it to draw a circle around the deceased. He opened another jar, shook a crow feather out. He placed it under the swollen tongue of the dead man. Caul fetched a set of iron goggles out of the satchel, the lenses fashioned from cut quartz. He looped the weathered leather strap over his head, and the world went cloudy.

Caul spat words of power as he opened a lead-sealed jar, dabbed the noxious white ointment contained within on the dead man’s eyes, lips, and ears.

“All right, you bastard,” Caul hissed. “Where are you?”

A small thunderclap blasted through the room, and the tang of ozone filled the air, cutting through the stench of dead flesh. A figure sat on the corpse, all wispy smoke and forlorn look. The figure shared a face with the dead man.

“David.” The figure spoke, its breath little more than a whisper. “I’m dead aren’t I?”

David blinked beneath the goggles, eyes suddenly brimming. “I’m afraid so Paul.”

The figure looked down at its former body and wrinkled its nose. “God, I look like shit. How long’s it been David?”

“Five days, give or take.”

“Not that. Well, yes that, as well. How long since we’ve seen each other?” The wisp stood up looked around the room. “What a shit hole to die in.”

“Five years, Paul.” David cocked his head to one side, listening for the police. “We don’t have much time.” The figure stared blankly. “Fine, I don’t have much time. I need to ask you some questions.”

The wisp nodded. “Figure you do. You know the rule, right? Three questions and done.”

“I know.” This wasn’t the first time David had to interrogate the dead, and he figured that didn’t say great things about his character. “Who killed you?”

“Williamson.” The wisp hopped down from the corpse, tried to walk past the salt line. It rebounded back, fully contained. It furrowed its brow at David. “Is that really necessary?”

“Yes.” David felt his heart flutter at the thought of Williamson, a heavy hitter in their close-knit community. Williams was the kind of monster they told stories about to induce sleepless nights and paranoia. Still, murder was murder, and it wasn’t like the mundane authorities were going to be able to do much with this case.

“Where’s your grimoire?” David could guess the answer, but he had to ask anyway.

“Williamson took it.” The wisp sat back on the corpse, folded its arms, and sulked. David waited, hoping the wisp would volunteer more information, but it stared at him defiantly.

“All right. Last question. Where can I find Williamson?”

The wisp looked up. “At the Belle Reve. You know it?”

David nodded. The Belle Reve was a used bookstore that contained quite an esoteric collection in its backroom. “I didn’t know he was connected to that place.” He smiled, thin lipped and fierce. “Thank you, Paul.”

The wisp sniffed, its form dissipating into the air. “Hope to not see you soon, Paul. And thank you.”

David nodded, the words of power ripping from his mouth and making his teeth ache. The wisp faded, and the smell of ozone was replaced by the stink of the corpse.

All too aware of the time, David packed his satchel. He sprinkled dust over the corpse, then flicked a match on to it.

As he left the building, passing unseen by police officers, blue-green witch fire consumed the corpse.

David stared up at the building one final time. “Goodbye, brother,” he whispered into the night.

  1. craig says:

    I enjoyed this short tale a lot there is so much left open for the reader will there be more?

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