Edith Evilez passed in terror and fright on the night of October 31. The year is yet to be determined according to one of three profane calendars she might have followed. She is survived by her faithful, long-suffering and slightly malnourished assistant, her beloved pet hornet, and the partially sentient carnivorous pitcher plant that resides in her otherwise fetid greenhouse. Sometimes joined forces with Natalia Nogud and Ralph Rotneg. Gave stingily of her time and talent to the Society of Whisper-mongers. Was awarded the dishonor of the Pale Medallion for her work with wandering spirits. Served a partial term as a junior board member for the Pocket Goblin Company. Held certifications in dental assisting, equine communications, and eyebrow threading. Known for her collection of historical thimbles. Her last words, as recorded by aforementioned faithful assistant were, “Perhaps today, Satan.” Edith will be begrudgingly remembered by acquaintances and enemies for her stalwart efforts at frightening children, trodding upon the downtrodden, and the surprisingly delicate madeleines she baked for the summer block party every year. Edith will be missed by no one. Her passing being celebrated by all those who value dignity, humanity, and goodness.
“Who killed Edith Evilez?” the slightly malnourished young—or perhaps old—woman asked, as she thrust a dusty umbrella at a passing passerby.
The asker’s name was Trudy Trubbeld. And she had been standing at the corner, asking the question—or rather accusing the question—to various passersby since the death of her mistress and mentor, the aforementioned Edith Evilez, known to her enemies as Edie, and to her friends by no name, as she had no friends to call her by any name.
Receiving no acknowledgement or answer to her question, Trudy Trubbeld trundled back to the laboratory that was once the abode and workshop of her mistress and mentor. The slightly malnourished woman winced as the tattered fabric of her blouse rubbed against the still-healing bump in her armpit. Three nights past, on All Hallow’s Eve, she had been stung by a hornet the size of her middle finger. Edie’s pet hornet.
Trudy heard the ornery hornet’s droning as she entered the workshop, and her memory flashed back to the beginning of Edie’s end…
Edith Evilez peered at the vial of gray liquid, her fingers twitching like the legs of a spider. A purple drop pierced the gray and burst out, coloring the entire potion a dark shade of mauve. Diabolical dark sparks erupted at the liquid-air interface. With a gleeful sneer, Edith swept up the vial in her mournfully manicured hand, and prepared to drink.
But just then, the purple shade faded. The potion turned gray again.
“Alas, another failure,” Edith bemoaned. She sighed and poured the concoction onto the floor, where the gray liquid sizzled and pitted the stone tile.
Edith stalked toward the shelf of books against the western wall of her laboratory workshop, and in the light cast by a languid lantern, her shadow stalked behind her.
Edith addressed her shadow, without looking at her.
“Truly, Trudy, you are a most foul presence in my most foul life. Be gone from my sight!”
Trudy Trubbeld cowered and bowed. “I am dishonored, mistress,” she said.
“Did you move these around?” Edith asked, tapping her pitch pink fingernail against the side of the bookshelf. “Where are the volumes titled ‘Abominations of Nature Monthly’?”
Trudy sighed, both from hunger and anticipation. She had only earned half a ration so far and the sun had already sunk halfway down the sky. She stooped to the bottom of the bookshelf and found the thirteen-volume series of publications. She slipped out the one that she knew her mistress needed to perfect her latest spell, what would be her supreme achievement.
And Trudy would be there to witness it.
A sudden hammering on the front door drew Trudy’s attention. She handed the book to Edith. Then she left the workshop, passing through an enchanted seal at the door, into the hallway beyond, trudging and trudging until she reached the hallway’s end, at which lay the front door to the Evilez estate. The door was now shaking in its frame at each knock.
Trudy could guess who was on the other side.
She opened the door and found that she was right.
“Who’s at the door?” Edith called from the workshop, her cursed cadence echoing along the vile walls of the hallway.
“Townsfolk,” Trudy called back. “Shall I dispatch them, mistress?”
There came no answer from Edith, so Trudy smiled a grimy smile as she reached into a moth-eaten corner of her jacket pocket, and pulled out the disintegrating remnants of a moth, along with a delicate glass vial full of what appeared to be green gelatin.
Trudy squeezed the vial, and it broke. She felt glass shards pierce the skin of her palm. The “gelatin” spilled into her wounds. Her blood warmed the green substance. Trudy opened her fist and gasped with pain. Her skin was bleeding and blistering, and then…
…her hand ignited with a ghoulish green flame.
Trudy held out her hand to the townsfolk, and they recoiled. With perverse glee, she turned her hand this way and that. When one of the townsfolk came closer, she pushed him with her flaming hand.
The townsman jumped back, batting at his chest. But then he saw—as they all saw—that his chest was fine. His shirt had not caught fire. In fact, it was unblemished, save for what appeared to be the crumbling gray wing of a long-dead moth.
“It’s an illusion!” someone cried.
“This witch has no power!”
“Out of the way, minion,” Edith said from behind Trudy.
Out of reflex and habit, Trudy stepped aside and stepped back.
Edith stepped forth to the threshold of the front door. The townsfolk hesitated a moment. She held her hands before herself, palm facing palm, but loosely, as if a delicate creature was caged within. A butterfly perhaps. She unclasped her hands and held them out, palms facing up.
From each palm rose a creature with delicate wings. Delicate, membranous, jointed wings.
With a shriek, one of the bats fluttered forth into the crowd. The other followed. And two more bats squirmed up from Edith’s palm. She raised her arms above her head now. And a flurry of bats flew out and around the crowd. Torches flickered and failed. Pitchforks toppled. The townsfolk began to flee.
Edith’s laugh contorted into a cackle.
One bold townswoman broke through the mayhem and bore toward Edith.
Trudy, whose hand still flamed, intercepted the woman. But Trudy was frail, and by instinct, she held up her hands to defend her face. Her flaming hand happened to pass before the woman’s eyes. The woman, having seen the flames have no effect on the townsman, seemed to expect that it would have no effect on her.
She was mistaken.
The ghoulish green flame—whose effects were easily blocked by non-living matter—had a most grisly effect on living flesh.
The townswoman screamed and dropped to her knees as the jelly in the balls of her eyes began to boil. Her eyeballs burst. She was still screaming when Trudy took her by the crook of the elbow and spoke words of comfort, pretending to be a fellow townswoman.
Edith gave her minion a glance and led the way to the gruesome greenhouse.
The odd bat fluttered overhead as they passed into the choking warmth and the heinous humidity of Edith’s greenhouse. Trudy inhaled the gaggingly sweet odor of rotting rose petals. Dragging the townswoman behind her, she was almost struck by the thorns that were launched at her from an angry cactus. She managed to dodge in time.
Edith walked ahead without fear, for all that grew in the greenhouse grew at her displeasure. Nothing would (or could) harm her.
But beware anyone else who ventured forth.
Trudy gulped as she spotted red tendrils creeping toward her from ahead. One of them curled around her ankle, sniffing at her sagging sock. Trudy held her breath, grateful she had worn trousers that day, as the tendril climbed her leg to her knee and up to the hip and her side, winding around her armpit before crawling down her arm, around her hand, the hand that held onto the townswoman. The tendril brushed against the townswoman’s arm.
Trudy clenched her jaw.
Suddenly, several red tendrils launched toward her. Ignoring Trudy, they wrapped around the townswoman. Trudy released her just before the tendrils yanked the wretched woman away.
Several yards ahead of Trudy, there stood a giant pitcher plant, ten feet tall.
The red tendrils raised the screaming townswoman into the air, above the pitcher plant’s corrosive crimson lips, and dropped her into its dank acidic depths.
As the smaller tendril still clinging to Trudy released her, Trudy released a breath.
The eve was approaching, the eve of Edith’s triumph.
There would be a blood moon on the night of All Hallows, when the doors to all afterworlds and underworlds were opened, and spirits could walk the mortal, earthly plane.
The purple potion was a part of Edith’s perverse plan.
And Trudy, at last, was to play a part in one of her mistress’s spells.
At last, at last, after a decade and a season and a fortnight, Trudy would taste of magic and mayhem.
But the eve was approaching, and Edith still had not taught Trudy or shown Trudy the spell she had promised to show her.
Whenever Trudy asked, Edith would give the same answer, and they would have the same exchange.
“You don’t want to learn a failed spell, do you?”
“Then let me perfect it before I teach it to you. Brighten your wits for one moment, and tell me that you understand.”
“I understand, mistress.”
“Terrible, now you may dim your wits again.”
So Trudy went about her duties. She polished the jars of entrails and worms in the refrigerated cabinet. She relabeled the poisons in the pantry. She rearranged the cobwebs in the corners. She reaped the cursed corn in the field beyond the greenhouse (chasing away the red-eyed children who haunted it). She baked a batch of indigestible madeleines.
She fed the plants.
And when All Hallow’s Eve fell, there fell a foul rain with it. The townsfolk disguised themselves as goblins and ghosts to keep evil spirits from entering their homes, or their bodies.
Meanwhile, the Evilez estate welcomed the preternatural, the supernatural, and the unnatural, alike for a night of macabre merriment.
In the kitchen clinic, vampires feasted on a buffet of blood. In the main receiving room, a zombie hoard shuffled out of time to an undead orchestra playing tuneless instruments. In the greenhouse, goblins played croquet with the skulls of the pitcher plant’s leftovers.
In her laboratory workshop, Edith ignored her guests and continued puzzling over her purple potion.
And in the cornfield, Trudy stood, her face to the rain, watching the blood moon peak from a break in the clouds.
She was standing there still when, hours later, she heard a scream from the house.
Past all the growling and howling and mewling and shrieking, the chortling, the wailing, the snorting, and the screeching, Trudy recognized the sound of that particular scream.
And she ran toward the house.
Trudy found her mistress standing before the window of the laboratory workshop.
“I’ve done it, my worthless wench. I’ve done it!” Edith raised an empty vile to the air. A film of mauve liquid still clung to the sides. She screamed with glee.
A flash of lightning illuminated the triumphant form of Edith Evilez.
That is when Trudy fell upon her mistress.
Trudy was a most faithful assistant. She knew where everything in that workshop was. Every potion. Every powder. Every mortar. Every pestle. Every newt’s eye. Every cat’s breath. Every baby tear. Every scoop, and bowl, and brush.
Edith had not even seen the knife slip from a thin top drawer into Trudy’s thin-fingered hand. She only glimpsed the knife as it hung in the air above her grinning face.
Her grin expanded as her faithful assistant plunged the knife into her chest…
The hornet came droning into the laboratory workshop as Trudy raised the knife over the prone figure of her mistress once more. The hornet flew forth and stung Trudy in the armpit.
Trudy cried out and dropped the knife.
She glared at the hornet.
As it flew at her again, she caught it in a glass bell jar and slammed the jar onto a workbench. The glass was heavy, and the hornet could not knock it over, either to escape or to defend its fallen mistress.
With her clean hand, Trudy pulled a potion from her pocket. A vial full of what appeared to be green gelatin.
Trudy held the vial in her bloodied hand, along with the knife, and she squeezed the vial until it broke. Within seconds her hand was aflame. The ghoulish green flame burned away all the blood and the tissue on the handle and blade, but left the knife itself undamaged. Trudy placed the knife back where it belonged. She drew her flaming hand over her clothes, careful to keep it from her skin and her face. She checked herself and saw that her face and her hair were clean.
Trudy gazed at her flaming hand as she spoke the same incantation that Edith had spoken to her hand three days past, when townsfolk had come to their door.
The flame was extinguished.
Trudy then began to scream and wail. She did not stop until she drew the attention of the party’s ghastly guests.
“No one killed her, you simpleton!” a voice called out, in answer to Trudy’s question.
Trudy was once again walking the streets outside the Evilez estate asking all who passed, “Who killed Edith Evilez?”
At the sound of the answer to her question, Trudy turned and spotted a familiar face. The woman slinked over, her lower jaw moving rhythmically up and down. Trudy realized that the woman, Natalia Nogud, was chewing her gums. The bright red stain upon her lips was not a cosmetic, but her own blood.
“No one killed that deliciously despicable mistress of yours,” Natalia said, spraying red onto the white fur cuff around her neck. “She died of unnatural causes.” She placed a hand over her chest where her heart would have been, if she had one. “Of the evil within.”
“That would be a most dishonorable death.”
Natalia nodded. “For a most dishonorable person.”
Trudy tucked her umbrella under her arm. “Mistress Nogud, you wouldn’t happen to be in need of an assis—“
“I must be going,” Natalia said. “People to disembowel. Places to pollute. You know how it is.”
“Of course. May you fare ill.”
And just then, the sky darkened, and it began to hail.
Trudy untucked the umbrella and opened it above her head.
“The sign is given,” she said, speaking to herself this time.
She returned to the laboratory workshop. She gathered six vials that she had prepared over the three days following All Hallow’s Eve. She went to the kitchen, to the refrigerated cabinet, and pulled out a plate on which sat a fresh oozing liver. She wrapped the vials within the liver and trudged through the rain to the greenhouse.
Her stomach growled. Though the estate was hers now, and all the food within it, Trudy had remained malnourished. She dodged the thorns of the angry cactus. She delicately stepped past a bed of spore-spitting poppies. She spotted a red tendril creeping toward her, drawn by the heat radiating from her living body.
She set down the plate with the liver-wrapped vials. The tendril would not care for the coldness of the meat, but it would savor the bloodiness.
Trudy watched the tendril pull the liver toward the giant pitcher plant that stood several yards away. She dared move no closer.
From that distance, she could not see through the plant’s outer wall. She estimated the time it would take for the plant to consume the liver. She waited for the six vials to dissolve in the plant’s grievous gullet and to release the calamitous contents within.
Trudy drew herself up and stood with her back straight.
At last. At last.
Trudy spoke a spell in an unsacred tongue.
She did not notice that the poppies began to wilt and wither as she spoke. She did not notice that the angry cactus shuddered at the sacrilegious sounds she uttered. That its thorns fell out. She did not notice that the poison berries of the poisonberry vines began to grow and bulge and seep, with a bright yellow juice that fell into the mouth of a mouse that had wandered in, carving its teeth into razors, staining its once-brown eyes a putrid yellow, and driving the mouse mad.
Trudy stopped chanting.
She raised her hands to the pitcher plant and noticed that her veins had turned black. They throbbed and prickled.
“I summon thee, spirit,” Trudy said. “I summon thee back to thy anchor. Wander no more. I summon thee back!”
Trudy’s veins writhed under her skin.
She heard and saw a tear forming along the length of the pitcher plant. The plant released a gurgling screech before it burst open.
A body spilled forth, sliding out in a rush of acrid fluid. The body stopped moving at Trudy’s feet.
Trudy heard and saw the walls of the pitcher plant curl back toward each other and zip together.
The body at Trudy’s feet jerked and coughed out the sticky liquid of the pitcher plant’s womb.
Trudy knelt down and peered into familiar eyes.
“Trudy…you fiend,” Edith said.
For the body was the body of Edith Evilez. She tried to raise herself with her hands and arms, but her arms were jerky and covered in slime.
Trudy did not assist her.
“Tell me,” Edith croaked, “for how long did you consider not waking me?”
Trudy rose and looked down at Edith with a sinister sneer. “Perhaps I never did wake you. Perhaps this is a dream that you are having as you float forever in the pitcher plant’s maw.”
Edith chuckled evilly. “Dreadful.”
“I killed Edith Evilez,” Trudy said, and the smell of sulfur suddenly suffused the tepid air of the greenhouse.
Edith snorted and spit out a glob of yellowy mucus. “The spell, the ritual…it was all a success.”
Trudy sniffed. “I wouldn’t have done it if I thought you would truly die.”
Edith rose to her feet. “I know, and I abhor you for it.”
Edith spoke a spell and a robe she had hung in the greenhouse flew toward her hand. She wrapped it around herself as she spoke another spell that brought a pair of boots flying into her hands.
Trudy waited, glancing occasionally at the pitcher plant, which still bore a seam where it had split moments ago.
“Now that you’ve completed your disloyalty training,” Edith said, “there’s no need for you to remain so famished. You can get as plump as you wish, without fear of accidentally—eh, ‘tripping’ into her gaping maw.” She tipped her head toward the pitcher plant.
Trudy tried her luck and strode toward the giant pitcher plant. Its tendrils lay still. That might have only meant that the plant was dormant, exhausted from giving birth to a wicked witch.
But suddenly, one of the vines snapped up and shot past Trudy. She turned and watched the vine wrap around the squirming, snuffling form of what seemed to be some mutation of a mouse. The vine snapped back and dropped the mouse in the pitcher plant’s empty cavity.
“The paper will have to retract your obituary,” Trudy said, turning her back on the pitcher plant. “I suggest they replace it with the headline, ‘Evil Edie’s Blasphemous Resurrection.’”
Edith cackled. “And what about you, sister-witch? No headline for you?”
Trudy peered past her, through the glass door of the greenhouse to the laboratory workshop.
“No headlines,” Trudy said, her black veins pulsing with power. “Not until I’ve finished playing.”
And she was no longer troubled, but was troubling…evermore.
Copyright © 2020 Nila L. Patel