There was a common misconception about witches that Amanda was sick and tired of hearing: green skin, wicked to the core, covered in boils, and wholly unattractive. She liked to think of herself as being somewhat pretty, even if she was also somewhat short, and even if people assumed that her gal pals were her older sisters – or worse, a parent or an aunt.
She would argue against the wicked nature, if she wasn’t about to contact a demon to make a deal for some power. Just a loan. Just a little bit, enough to make a difference in a spell. She didn’t want to get into the specifics of why she needed the extra power. She didn’t think a demon needed to know that she wanted to separate a couple. She didn’t think it would be right for a demon to know.
She planted her candles on the ground, around the pentagram she’d chalked onto the floor, and lit them quickly and quietly. The summoning spell was simple, a few choice words and the burning of a sigil over a candle in the middle of the pentagram. Smoke spilled from the floor, black and swirling with a storm inside.
“Hey presto, we have a demon,” she muttered.
The demon was like ink when it formed, glistening and hungry, eyes like coal staring at her. It didn’t have a mouth, but she could hear it speak, its voice like burning paper. “Witches,” it scowled. “Such precious little things. So capable of summoning and so ignorant of the costs.”
She glared at the demon. “I request your power. I need to cast a spell. It’s important.”
“And in exchange?” the demon asked. It sidled closer to her, bound by the summoning circle. “What do I get, trapped as I am in this realm because of your desires?”
“Ten seconds inside,” she told it.
“A minute,” the demon replied.
“Deal,” the demon said, with something like a smile stretching across its face, if it only had a mouth and if its face wasn’t made from swirling ink. “Thirty seconds of power, and thirty seconds inside.” She nodded, and the demon reached to the edge of the circle. Amanda grabbed its hand. The ink swirled up the length of her arm, around her neck, and through her mouth down her throat. It was like drowning and burning at the same time. She wasn’t sure which would be a more unpleasant way to die.
Inside, she could feel the demon. Thirty seconds began.
Power burned up in her, and she lit another candle. The fire swam around her, licking her skin, and she thought about her spell. She didn’t like it, but it was necessary. A breakup spell. A voice in her head hissed, The soon to be Mister and Misses Irving, and she shuddered. The demon could hear her, swimming around inside like a… well, a demon. Metaphors be damned.
“I’m doing this for you, babe,” she whispered, and she let the spell explode into the air. It took some time to take shape, to identify love and reason and intent. Breakup spells were risky. They played with the true affections of the heart. They were meant as last resorts, and Amanda thought that maybe this was her last chance.
I wonder do they know the truth, the voice whispered. Twenty seconds to go. Does Leonard know that you once wanted to sleep with him? Or does Amy know that the real reason you can’t attend her wedding is because you think she deserves better?
“Shut up in there,” she whispered.
You love them both, but you think they’re going to tear each other apart.
“I mean it, demon, stop it or I’ll end you.” The spell flickered in front of her. “Damn it. Need to concentrate.” The demon wasn’t wrong, but it was annoying, and that was often worse. “Leonard is a good guy, mostly, but he makes stupid mistakes. And Amy… she’s too good. She’d let him hurt her before she ever left him.”
So you have to break them up? And right before their wedding?
“They’re not right for each other,” Amanda told the demon. Fifteen seconds. The spell waivered, and she redoubled her efforts. The demon thrilled at being used like a battery. “They need to break up. They need to never see each other again. Wedding be damned.”
Damned indeed, said the demon. Let me show you something out there. And she did. She closed her eyes, and she saw a graveyard. In that graveyard was an apple tree, black and white and pristine. A few miles away was an orchard. The apples were red and glistening. Connect the black and the white with the red and the green, and your spell will be a lot easier.
“Easier how?” Amanda asked, but the demon merely chuckled. She thought about it a little bit. Ten seconds. Nine. Eight. “Screw it,” she muttered. Demons didn’t always offer free advice. She focused on the apples, and their colours, and in her mind an invisible line connected the orchard to the graveyard. Seven. Six. The orchard turned monochrome.
Good. Good. Much better than a simple break-up.
“What did I do?” she asked. Five. Four. Silence from the demon. “What did I do, demon?”
So much more than you hoped, and so much less than you desired. Three. Two. Next time, a full minute. One.
Her concentrated snapped as her body soared across the room to the pentagram on the floor. She coughed out black ink, practically like tar. Something caught in her throat, and she almost passed it trying to heave it up. Two chunks of coal crashed against the floor.
The demon looked up at her from the floor, a vomit-mixed mess. “A word of advice, witch: stay away from that wedding. And find a good undertaker.” The demon wink as it vanished, and Amanda sank to the floor.
“Something wicked this way comes,” she sighed, defeated.