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For the rest of the week, Penloputty found that any time she drew near -or at least within 100 meters- to Mel, her face would suddenly suffer scarf-of-thorns syndrome. A most horrifying disease, the victim would suddenly find their face enveloped in thick briers attached to thick, jagged vines and be rendered speechless –aside the frequent whimper or exclamation of pain. Mel hoped it wasn’t contagious, so he did his best to avoid her, instead focusing on his studies. After all, he had Professor Torrid on Tuesday, Professor Pothead on Wednesday, then a nice, relaxing day on Friday that will most certainly be soothing and calming with no possible chance of drama or violent changes. Nope. None whatsoever.

A shame what happened to New Jersey, though. Friday, in the middle of Magic Appreciation and History, he suddenly... disappeared. Popped right out of existence. Mel wished he was him at that point; being with the harpies and his thousands of children sounded far more appealing than staying here and listening to Professor Molly explain even more times magic was great. Hi, it’s magic. Of course it’s great. The only thing that tops magic is a triple-deep dish pizza with the slightest hint of burnt cheese on top and just packed with meat and veggies –and, even then, magic could make that even better.

At least there were more students than the last time Mel was in this classroom. Four had recovered from their time with the snek, and, after being interviewed by Benjamin, were allowed to return to the classroom. He was quite happy to see that they weren’t completely changed by the life-changing event of being snaked. Baltimore offered his thanks, as did Fairmont, but Philly remained as aloof and judgmental as ever. Her twin, though, gave him a little wink before following Philly to the back of the room, but that’s twins for you. One always has to be a contrarian.

Class came to an end after yet another event in history that turned out to actually be influenced by magic instead of, you know, politics or human nature or resolve or the need to better ones self or another group of people that ultimately leads to hubris. Through the eyes of magic, such complex ideas and notions of freewill and societal values really did become as simple as laying out sticks... Mel to this day still doesn’t know if that is a blessing or a curse. Who cares about human suffering or willpower? Magic! Space race? Magic! Atomic weaponry? MAGIC... He couldn’t have sprinted to Daisy’s faster. Alas, only one trail of fire was left behind; Brin has made it a habit to become a backpack. She at least settled down over the last few days; they only fucked from ten to dawn instead of all day. Baby steps.

Mel came to a screeching halt before the angel once more, grooving alongside. The angel was turned away, singing to herself, dancing to one helluva funky beat, slowly rotating, gyrating and grinding to the music. She finished turning around, finally noticed Mel and crew, and... yipped. Not a bark, not an exclamation; a high-pitched, quick little yip. The music stopped, and she gave Mel and company a dirty look, which Mel returned in kind.

“Why’d you stop the beat? Shit was tight,” Mel stated.

“You startled me,” the angel said, and the music resumed. Though the angel fought not to dance, it wasn’t long before Mel was taken by the beat again, swaying, letting it move him, all the while she did watch him. “Damn. White boy got some groove in him.”

“For most of my life I thought I was a black man in a candy coating, so I enjoyed some of the perks.”

“Why would you think that?” He explained to her that, on Earth, his initials were reminiscent of the very thing he described, but she was not convinced. “Vocally, it sounds like you could have been the white rapper, too.”

“Hell yeah, but why not enjoy both?”

She giggled, and finally gave into the beat, as well.

“You crazy, but damn if it ain’t a good kind of crazy.”

“That’s my master,” Brin said, kissing his cheek. She was still on his back, but he could feel her moving to the beat as well, grinding against.

All stilled as the music was cut off again.

Daisy strolled passed Mel, shaking her head, tittering. She opened her room, then turned back to Mel, smirking at him.

“You know, that’s the second time I caught you with my painting,” she said. “You sure you’re coming here to see me?”

“You’re part of it, yeah,” he said.

“As long as I am a part, that’s acceptable.” She tittered and grabbed his hands, pulling him into her room. It had changed since he was here last week. Not much, but enough for Mel to notice, so it must have been noteworthy. Thicker, darker fabric covered the arch to the landing, giving the room a dusky hue. Daisy let him go, and he sidled to the table, taking his seat. Saliim took hers, her shoulders still alight, like two candles, making this a rather romantic rendezvous. Brin must have noticed, as well; she refused to be shrugged off, refused to slink into the seat to the left, but ultimately complied as Mel started to untie his sash. When it came down to it, she’d rather be by his side than allow others to see him; harder to prove abuse, Mel presumed.

As this battle for the ages was waged, Daisy had slunk off to the kitchen. It wasn’t long before the smell of boiling water then a sweet, berry tea wafted out, but Mel was already incredibly relaxed. He had the monkey off his back, was out of Magic is Awesome!!!! -has to be four because lets completely stomp on English grammatical format- and was in a soft-lit room with two of his favorite people... and Saliim... There has to be a negative somewhere, after all, so, if it’s only her-

Of course it wasn’t.

The room buzzed; Daisy came out of the kitchen, wearing a frilly apron –was there a special on those lately? Why does everybody have a frilly apron! This isn’t the 50′s. Not all women wear aprons when in the kitchen, even less when they aren’t really baking... This was, also, a point of annoyance for Mel, but he could not deny that it made her booblies go POW! Which made an original point of annoyance that much more annoying.

“Who could that be?” Daisy said, giving the angel the password, and Mel’s annoyance was compounded, seeing who it was beyond the picture. “Penelope! Good evening. We were settling in for a cup of tea then some movies; would you care to join us?”

Just as she was about to speak, however, her deadly disease decided to flare up. The thick, jagged branches creaked and popped into existence, wrapping around her head, their tips ending before her mouth, twisting and locking as their briers dug in.

“Oh my,” Daisy exclaimed, reaching for h-

“Don’t!” Mel barked, whimpering as he bolted to his feet. He hit the table as he did, but not with his arms, chest, or legs –well, some people consider it a third one of those, but that didn’t change the fact it was flipped over onto the chairs across. He lumbered over, almost doubled over, and eased Daisy’s hand away. “I believe it’s contagious.”

“What is it, though?”

“I have no idea.” Peneloputty tried to mutter something, but only blood made it through, leaking onto the marble outside Daisy’s room. “Nope. None whatsoever.”

“You sure? Because it sounds like she believes you d-”

“None. Whatsoever... Strangely enough, though, it usually flares up around me, so I think it responds to her emotions.”

Again, Peneloputty tried to (angrily? Desperately? Why not both?) explain, but that only yielded more blood on the marble. No words could truly escape the thick, dense foliage that grew around her face, and the briers just kept peeling more and more of her lips away, scraping at the gums and her catching her tongue. Though she kept trying regardless, even as the blood turned from a trickle to a downpour.

“She should really go see Professor Klan about that,” Mel said, easing Daisy back from the painting. It started to shut, but Peneloputty’s eyes went wide, almost wild. She stuck her arm through... which didn’t stop it from shutting. So it flopped to the ground, twitching, as her screams turned from a muffled squeak to a full-blown bloody murder shriek that made the entire tower shudder under its agonized wails. Mel picked it up, cocking his head as he looked it over, before his eyes rested on the hand. “Hmm... Ladyfingers... I don’t think I’ve ever had.”

“I can make you some,” Daisy said. “They’re quick and easy to make, not to mention go great with sweeter tea.”

“So, what is it? Are they like chicken fries –oh my God... I want some chicken fries now! It’s been almost five years, but I remember them being so good.”

“That I have never had.”

“Mom loved ordering from... Swans? Swab? It was a mail-order food truck thing. They were so good; not even the King of Burgers could hold a candle to them once they started selling them.”

“How about this: I’ll tell you what you want to know if you tell me.”

“I mean, it’s not really fair. You can easily guess what’s in a chicken fry.”

“True enough, I suppose... Well, ladyfingers are basically sponge cake.”

“Oh. That sounds tasty.”

“They are-”

“Can I have my arm back?” Peneloputty whimpered through the door.

“In a moment,” Mel said, waving it at the angel painting. “It’s a discussion piece.”

“We really should give her back her arm, though,” Daisy said. “Who knows when we’ll stop talking; by then, it’ll be a rotten husk, which would only make Professor Klan’s job harder.”

“Fine...” Daisy opened the painting, and Mel wondered if they were being filmed by Kubrick. It was very reminiscent of that one scene in the movie adaptation of Maine’s favorite author’s work –the adaptation he despised. The angel could just be seen in the wall beside, looking absolutely disgusted. For good reason; the painting on the tower’s side was simply bathed in blood. Easily gallons of it were soaked into the marble floor around Peneloputty; if it wasn’t for the fact that Magic is Awesome!!!! Mel would have been surprised she was still standing. However, Magic is Awesome!!!! so Peneloputty was simply shaking like a leaf as green energy pulsed on the nub that was what was left of her arm and the torn skin that was her lips... Mel held out her arm, the digits resting just before her chin. “Need a hand?”

She simply stood there, looking between her own hand and Mel, those eyes aglow, simmering, smoldering with such a concoction, one Mel never had the chance to taste before. It’s not often you see agony, loathing, love, depression, arousal, sugar, spice, everything nice, AND panic all together in one dish, and it. Looked. Delicious.

At last, Peneloputty blinked, inhaled, ready to retort, but her disease acted up, snaring her face and voice once more, which only made that mixture in her eyes come to a boil and look even more delightful. Such colors, such broad strokes; it was true art, like something the greats would paint. If only she had the talent to put those emotions on canvas; there’s no way they would get a 2 out of 250 then!

Peneloputty snatched her arm out of Mel’s clutches then turned to the stairs, taking a shaking, sliding step towards them... given support by Mel.

“Come on,” he grumbled. “Let’s get you to Professor Klan’s.”

She looked at him, another emotion added to that swirling stew: surprise. Peneloputty tried to belch out a question, but did she really expect him to understand with her mouth full of wood? He did, but that’s beside the point.

“You’re still my friend... somehow, and I help my friends. Besides, the chance to see you fall from here to the infirmary is too great to pass up, so much so that I am willing to put myself at risk of catching your disease so I can be there to help you up and laugh... Not necessarily in that order.”

She tried to mumble something else... but stopped. Instead, she simply... stared at him, allowed herself to be lead down the stairs and through the courtyard. Meanwhile, Mel was disheartened and disappointed to see the colors, the emotions bleed and fade from her eyes. He didn’t think it was from actual blood loss, either, though they made a solid red line through the tower and all the way across grass to the infimary. Even painted the thick, dark, wooden door in it, as if they were expecting the final plague of Egypt, but Mel doubted her blood would stop that. Or it might; virgin blood and all. However, he believed more that it would entice the plague in and take more than just the firstborns.

Professor Klan met them halfway down the hall, mostly to stop any more blood from being traced. How dare she stop his potential blood ritual; he was going to summon her a huge cake with her crush inside: Charlie Chaplin. She just denied herself a fun time... so it was going around, then, since Mel was denied his. It was only fair, though: she did wait for him to get better. So, he hunkered down on the chair, with his Brin backpack and smoking Saliim, and watched as Professor Klan tended to her then rested. Because he was her friend... somehow.

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