Cradles the Brain: A Book of Short Tales

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She gathered her precious stones and candles into her arms, cradling them against her black clad chest. Laying them upon the purple velvet draped over her table, she set the candles up. The only one she needed was the pink one. She laid out the stones representing what she needed, such as chrysoprase, moonstone, red jasper, and unakite. Her book of spells sat next to her materials: rose petals, a picture of a lost lover, and salt. She casted a small circle around her items on the soft velvet and lit her candle.

Sitting down, she took a deep breath in and heavily released it, pushing the negativity from her body. Her vanity mirror displayed her reflection: pale face shining in the orange light; black lips leaving a hole in the face; detailed eyebrows and crisp cat eye. Dark waves of hair framed her face, the face of a modern witch. Her satin black choker was adorned with a shining stone. She winked at her reflection and took another cleansing breath. Out of her pocket, she pulled out a small vile. She uncorked it and anointed herself with rose oil. Setting that aside, she picked up her book, leather bound with yellowing pages, and opened it where the silky ribbon had delicately been placed. Up on the top of the crispy page, words in the finest scroll read, “The Art of Black Magic: Love Spells.” She read down the page with her finger, like she had many times before, and set the book on its spine. She arranged her stones in such a fashion as the book stated: surrounding her candle. In a trying-to-be-sensual style, she sprinkled out the rose petals atop the stones. She placed the picture of her lost lover in front of the candle, face down. On the back of the photo, in her cursive, words said, “May you return to me.” She closed her eyes and envisioned her and the man in the photo together again. She whispered what her cursive said three times, quickly. She opened her eyes and scanned the book before her. In soft whispers, she chanted,

“Lovers in quarrel,

It ended in a whirl,

Find your way back to me,

And fall in love with what you see,

I am the one for you,

And you are the one for me,

Like the sky is blue,

Your love will be true.”

She inhaled and exhaled a cleansing breath and looked forward. The photo of her lover was staring back at her now, the blue eyes radiating off the page. Wax from the candle the picture was touching dripped down to the photo and coagulated perfectly on the young man’s face. She gasped, surprised at the wax’s precision.

The candle’s flame caught her attention. It swayed when there wasn’t a breath of moving air in the room. It grew taller of its own volition. Slowly, it formed a shape, one this witch knew well. The flame split in two at the very tip of itself, forming a fiery heart. In awe, she took a mental picture of this most rare and extraordinary event. The flame grew taller still, so tall that it reached the ceiling, just barely licking the popcorn texture, shading it charcoal. The split was still present, making the flame look like an elongated lizard’s tongue. It danced and twirled and she moved with it.

She stood up, pushing her chair back, and mimicked the movements of the flame, assuming this was part of the ritual that she—the all-powerful witch that she was—had manifested. The flame finally stood still, as did this young woman. She watched, eyes alight, waiting for a sign of what to do next. The split became wider and soon it was in a capital T shape. A lump formed above the stem of the T and pushed upwards. It now looked like a cross. The lump transformed into an oval, sprouting from a small mountain of fire. The horizontal flames shifted and elongated themselves. They became thinner and more defined. Two orbs formed at the end of these and they each sprouted fine, thin shoots. The bottom of the flame, at the wick, formed a fissure and definition to, what you could call, legs were added. Part of the wax and surrounding air caught fire, creating a footing for this monstrosity. Breathless, this woman watched as a man defined himself from the small flame her candle had produced. His features were perfectly sculpted.

Fully formed, physically looking like a man, but burning hotter than the sun, he moved his limbs about. He opened his eyes and revealed two blue eyes brighter than the sky. Fury immediately enveloped them. He squinted at this young lady, disdain radiating off of him like the heat. She felt the heat delving into her flesh, but stood motionless. She had a fool’s smile upon her lips and in her eyes there was happiness, for she thought that she had created this being. She was gravely mistaken.

The fiery man bent from his tiny candle perch and snatched up the picture that he so resembled. He showed it to the young lady that was at his mercy. She reached for it, and, in his strong fingers, he let the photo light up. His flames ate it. It burned to nothing but a few specks of ash that he nonchalantly flicked in her face. He turned away from her and noticed all of the photos with that same young man plastered to the wall. He looked from them, to her, then back again in disgust. Again, he bent down from his perch, getting mere inches from this woman. She whimpered at the heat that penetrated her skin, but was too afraid and hypnotized to move. He snatched up the leather bound book and read the first line. Taken aback, he gasped and his eyes burned toward the lady. He set the book ablaze and the woman yelled.

She reached for where the book once was, now a tiny pile of soot on his palm, and the fiery creature nabbed her wrist. She cried out in anguish as her skin sizzled beneath his hand. He gazed into her deep brown eyes with his electric blue ones. He tilted his head back ever-so-slightly and took in a deep breath of air. He lunged his face at her and opened his mouth, releasing a roar and a wall of flames that quickly met this girl’s face. She tried to pull away, but his grip was too strong. She screamed as her face melted away and her brain liquefied in her skull. He let her wrist go, satisfied with his work, and her body slumped to the carpet below. Her cooked head smacked last, busting open and releasing an utmost foul stench.

He smiled and let go a hearty laugh from deep within the depths of himself. He stepped off the candle and onto the crushed velvet that lay before him. Flames licked upwards and encased the whole sheet of velvet. The table below it began to crackle and the candles atop it started to melt. He hopped off the table and landed on the carpet. Flames quickly spread throughout the room. He opened the bedroom door, setting it alight, and entered into the hallway. He softly caressed family photos as he walked down toward the staircase, exploding the glass and burning the photos. He lightly stroked the wall, leaving twin trails of fire on each side. Reaching the staircase, he looked behind himself.

The second floor would be gone within a few minutes. He lowered himself down the staircase, rubbing his hands along the banister. Stairway to hell. He went to the kitchen and turned on all the stove burners, without lighting any of them. He quickly walked away to the living room and waited for the gas to reach a flame. The whole house erupted in fire. He stood in the middle of the inferno, smiling, clearly pleased with his work.

Slowly, his body dispersed into the flames surrounding him. All that was left of him were his eyes. He blinked, completely disappearing until he was called upon again.

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