I waited. Her hand paused above the simmering cauldron. A bubble burst, spraying green liquid into the air. It landed on the ground with an ominous hiss.
‘What’s in it for me?’ The torchlight flickered, shadows dancing amongst the skulls that lined the cave.
‘I can get you into the underworld.’
She snorted. ‘The underworld?’ The spoon began to stir with a flick of her hand. ‘You can do that but don’t have the stomach to kill someone yourself?’
‘I’m looking for something that only you can do. I’ve heard you make a potion that has… explosive qualities.’
She cackled. ‘One vial of this will bring about a death as gruesome as anyone could wish for. It has served me well over the years.’ The skulls peered out of the darkness in agreement. ‘In fact, I used up my the last of my stores just a few days ago.’ She gestured to a skull on a nearby table, the last remnants of flesh clinging to its jaw. I grimaced.
Forcing myself to look away, I noted the bubbling liquid was darkening, bright green giving way to a thick, inky blue.
‘Is it ready?’ I asked.
‘Almost. It must be bound at exactly the right moment – with blood. Leave it too late and… well.’
She fixed her black eyes on mine. ‘Someone must have done something terrible to you.’
I met her gaze steadily. ‘I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for revenge. But I think I would be doing the world a favour too.’
‘How noble.’ She scowled. ‘So tell me how, exactly, you are going to get me into the underworld?’
‘Well… I’ve been there myself.’ I said. ‘Unexpectedly, I’ll admit. But I think I can point you in the right direction.’
Her eyes flickered towards the cauldron, which was starting to tremor.
‘Ah, perfect timing.’ She cackled again, this time with a sharp edge. ‘You strike an impossible bargain. There’s only one way into the underworld. Fortunately, you do have something I need.’ She grinned. ‘My potion must be bound, and as you’re here…’
Her dagger was flying towards my heart before I had time to blink.
It sailed through my body, hitting the wall with a clang.
She gawped at me.
Being a ghost had its perks.
After all, we’d been here before. I wasn’t offended that she didn’t remember me, even though my decomposing skull was sitting on her table. Nor had she remembered revealing her ability to perfectly time the potion’s binding with gleeful pride – just before she’d thrown her knife and killed me.
That’s how I knew if I could distract her for just long enough…
She looked from me to the rattling cauldron in horror.
Unbound and furious, the potion erupted, and the witch’s final shriek was drowned by an explosion of dark, oozing liquid and a roaring hiss.
Looks like I got her into the underworld after all.
I am absolutely thrilled that this story won a place in the ‘Alone in a Room with Invisible People‘ Podcast’s Halloween Special. It is read aloud by Mark Hermann, who does an incredible job – especially at bringing the witch to life! If you want to listen, you can find ‘Perfect Timing’ at the 75:24 mark.