Mercy, a short story by Gabriella Balcom at
Aberrant Realities


written by: Gabriella Balcom


Zanzia opened the bottle, looked inside, and raised it to her nose, taking a sniff. She winced, screwed the cap back on, and put it in the box. She pulled a baggie out next, studying the contents, and tossed it in as well. Opening a small carton, she caught sight of the shriveled plant inside, sighed, and touched it lightly before closing the lid and discarding the container. She gave two others the same treatment. After rummaging through the remaining items, she turned around, brows furrowed. “Is this some kind of joke?”she demanded.

Kynton blinked, expression blank. “No,” he finally replied. “Of course not. Why do you ask?”

“You can’t expect me to use this collection of junk.”

“What’s wrong with the things I brought? They’re what you asked for.”

“Nothing in this box is fresh. Not even one item. I figure some are weeks or months old. A couple smell moldy.”

“You should be grateful, not complaining,” Kynton snapped, his brown eyes narrowing. “Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to get some of that?”

“Yes.” Zanzia snorted and rolled her eyes. “But this stuff is practically worthless. And who constantly brags he can get anything at any time? You, that’s who.” She added, “You told me, ‘Of course I can get the things you need. Of course it won’t be a problem. Nothing is beyond my reach.’ You added on extra for certain ingredients, too.”

Kynton snatched a bottle out of the box and held it up. “You said you needed lotus. Here’s lotus.” He got out another item. “You said flowers and I got the blasted flowers. More that one kind.”

“Yes, but only two are the types I asked for, and both of those are old. And flowers aren’t all the same; one variety can’t be substituted for another. I have to have specific kinds for my spells to work. I asked for Blue Lotus, but you brought me white. I asked for…”

“Blue Lotus is rare,” he said, interrupting her. “It doesn’t grow in the United States and I couldn’t exactly fly to Egypt to get you some.”

“I know it’s rare. We discussed that, along with other things, when I gave you my list and the extra money you wanted. But now you’re playing dumb and I have neither the desire nor patience to deal with this. You’ve wasted enough of my time, and I still need the ingredients. Just give me back what I paid. I won’t be using you again.”

“Good riddance.” Kynton grabbed his container, turned to walk away, but sneered over his shoulder. “Forget about getting your money back. I’m keeping every last cent and telling everyone what you really are, you miserable, cold-blooded…”

Baring her teeth, Zanzia pointed a finger at him and began chanting. His body immediately rose a couple feet off the ground, and he dropped the box. “Ignoramus,” she said. “You should’ve known better than to insult a witch to her face.”

“Let me go,” he demanded. His body jerked as he struggled to break free of her spell. “You have no right to prevent me from leaving. You better listen and…” He abruptly fell silent, grimacing. “What are you doing to me? I’m having a hard time moving my mouth now, and my body’s tingling all over as if I’m going numb.”

“You are. I can’t have you resisting, can I? I thought you might be a problem, but that didn’t matter, because I needed you.” She studied her captive and gave him a small smile. “You see, there’s one very important ingredient I didn’t put on my list. But I’m about to get it.”

Kynton paled when she picked up a knife. “What’s that for? Hey, I shouldn’t have said what I did before. I didn’t mean any of it and I’m sorry.” She said nothing as she strode over to him. “Whatever you’re thinking of doing with that, please don’t,” he begged. “Please!”

Zanzia ignored him as his pleas turned to whimpers. Reaching out, she easily opened his mouth, pulled out his tongue, and sliced it off. Turning it this way and that, she studied it, a slight smile crossing her face. “Fresh human tongue is hard to come by,” she said conversationally, unmoved by his tears and the blood bubbling from his lips as he wailed. She turned away to toss his tongue into her cauldron, after which she pointed at him once again.

Instantly, he began shrinking with his skin growing darker. His yells grew fainter and fainter, tapering away into nothingness, and a slug soon floated in the air where the man had been. It hung there a couple seconds before dropping to the earth.

She stepped on the slug, squished him into sludge, and carefully scraped his remnants off her shoe and into her cauldron. Heading for her garden, she dug up fresh worms, oleander root, and hemlock for her mix. She added dried green moss and wolfsbane from her stores, along with a rattlesnake eye, bird feathers, fur from various animals, bark and dried leaves from several trees, three-day-old ash from her fireplace, and other ingredients. But she still needed more.

Zanzia headed into her backyard and stopped beside a small fountain. Holding her palms a few inches above the placid, crystal-clear water, she concentrated, brows furrowing. Images began to appear on the surface one after another — the things she still needed. She memorized their locations and recited another spell.

Time passed and an object appeared in the distance, speeding through the air toward her. Others soon followed. The desiccated heart and bones of a powerful sorceress who’d died hundreds of years earlier reached her first, followed by a dead vampire bat, liver, rabid rat, Blue Lotus blossoms, and berries from specific plants and trees.

Now it was time for the final ingredients, the ones she’d put off getting until last.

Zanzia strode through the woods toward a graveyard on the edge of town. When she heard voices coming from somewhere off to her left, she waved her hands in the air, cloaking herself with invisibility. This specific spell wouldn’t last very long, though, so she picked up her pace.

Two people stood at burial sites in the cemetery when she arrived, but their presence didn’t bother her in the slightest. Confident her magic was strong, her spells true, she turned her focus to the task at hand. She began another incantation, murmuring this one under her breath, and extended her invisibility to encompass a cluster of the closest graves. When she pointed at one of them, the ground vibrated, but only a little, and clumps of dirt moved on top before starting to churn. A hint of something dark appeared in their midst, and a bone rose from the soil. Zanzia motioned, and it floated over to her, after which she plucked it from the air. She removed a piece of material from a cloth bag she’d brought with her, wrapped up her booty, and placed it inside the bag.

Turning to look at another grave, she repeated the same steps, and slowly made her way from one section of the cemetery to another. The people already present there, along with others who arrived now and then, saw nothing, heard nothing, and eventually walked away, unaware anything out of the ordinary had even occurred.

Once Zanzia had visited every burial site, she left the area altogether, and headed for another one several hundred yards away. She looked around when she arrived, face darkening. The site was neglected and in bad condition, overrun by brambles and weeds. Heaps of trash had been dumped all over the place, some old, some more recent, and rotten smells permeated the air. People were buried in this area, too, although it was anything but obvious. No stones or identifying markers showed where the dead lay, and nobody ever visited here. Nobody but her, at least.

She clenched her jaws, gritted her teeth, and fumed a few moments before pointing at the soil to her left. It shifted slightly and a bone rose into the air. Unlike the others she’d collected, this one was quite small. She kissed it before wrapping it in fine cloth and placing it gently in another bag she had with her. Then she collected and secured two more bones — adult ones — from a nearby patch of earth.

That night, Zanzia went outside, nodding when she saw the blood moon hanging in the sky above her. It was extremely rare for one to occur on Christmas Eve, and she’d been awaiting it for months now. The planets were perfectly aligned to make her plans a success.

First, she traced precise patterns on the ground. Next, she positioned candles of various colors around herself. She faced the north, rang a bell, bowed, did the same thing while facing south, and repeated her actions in each of the other directions.

Turning now to face the nearby forest, she weaved an intricate design in the air with her hands, and started to chant:

North wind, south wind, listen well.
East wind, west wind, heed my spell.
Absent sun, your power you must send
for I need every portion you can lend.
Moon, now high above me in the sky,
grant me power in response to my cry.
You know why I have need of thee.
Do my bidding now. So I mote it be.

After calling upon the earth and oceans, she invoked the name of the long-dead sorceress whose bones and heart she’d obtained. She then changed her focus, and began a new chant:

Serpents large and serpents small,
I command you come, one and all.
Frogs, toads, reptiles, I bid of thee —
emerge right now and come to me.
Plants with berry, plants with leaf,
trees young or aged beyond belief,
creatures young, old, large, small,
heed my summons. Heed my call.
Wait not. All of you I demand to see,
so come to me now. So I mote it be.

Before she even stopped speaking, animals of all different sizes emerged from the woods — bobcats, coyotes, deer, bears, wild pigs, badgers, and more. Trees, bushes, and vines appeared, too, walking upright, their lower stems or trunks divided into two legs.

Alligators crawled out, followed by slithering snakes, crawling possums and rats, and swarms of beetles, ants, worms, and insects. Poisonous fish had also come to Zanzia’s call. However, now they walked on their tails and were able to breathe above water, as did the other amphibious beings. Birds flew around her head, joined by clouds of flies, mosquitoes, bees, hornets, and more flying things.

Zanzia addressed the creatures surrounding her. “I’ve waited for this night for so many years.  Time may have passed, but I did not forget and my memories have never dimmed. The townspeople robbed me of my mother. They robbed me of my father and sister. My entire family was eradicated as if they were nothing. My parents were sorcerers, but they hurt no one and lived peacefully. And my sister was naught but a child scant years older than me. The vindictive filth in town have gotten away with murder. They’ve enjoyed their lives and multiplied many times over, while I’ve been forced to endure the loss of my loved ones, missing them and mourning them every single day. The townspeople acted like they did me a favor, taking me to live where they did, and treating me like a clueless pet. But I’ve carried my hatred deep in my belly and the marrow of my bones. They thought I was too small to worry about. Too small to fear. Too young to remember. But I saw and heard everything. I’ve kept my power a secret all these years, and it’s done naught but grow.”

Striding in front of the massed life forms, Zanzia headed for the town, her army on her heels.

When they reached the outskirts, she brought them to a halt, and instructed them to cause as much pain and destruction as possible — anything short of death — and they swarmed forward. Screams soon rang out from every direction.

Zanzia faced the Town Council herself, and they fell to their knees. “This is Christmas, a time of joy,” they cried out. “Not a time of anger.”

“Joy?” Her face darkened. “You’ll never feel that again.”

“Remember the mercy we showed you,” they begged.

Mercy!” she raged. “I’ll show you mercy and a Christmas you’ll never forget.” She cast the spell she’d designed especially for them. Their bodies burst into flames, flesh and bones steadily burning. Zanzia smiled as they wailed and shrieked in agony. And, when their bodies healed, then started burning all over again, her smile widened.


The end.

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