The full moon shines down on the old walls of the Vulturu graveyard, where the Grey sisters are preparing to leave in their hunt for mushrooms and… zombies!
‘C’mon, Miezul Nopţii. You’re riding back home with me.’ Missy stops on her way out of the graveyard to pick up her black cat. It looks at her with big yellow eyes. Then it looks towards the nearby forest where the infamous grounds of the witches’ massacre four hundred years ago shine blood red in the moonlight.
She reaches out and caresses the silky fur, feeling the warmth of her beloved cat. ‘I see. You want to wait for Tara, huh? Do I have to remind you that she broke your neck not very long ago?’
She slumps down on a tomb, settling in to wait. Miezul Nopţii jumps up next to her, purring and pushing at her mistress’ arm.
The cat meows and turns its attention back to Granny who is but a light grey shadow between the huge trees.
‘What is my selfish, egotistical, stuck-up and conceited sister doing now?’ Missy pushes up her glasses to see better.
‘Oups!’ Granny ducks as a pigeon dives towards her.
It circles closer and closer around her head, then it coos and flies off. It starts over again and again, until Granny understands it’s trying to show her something. It drives her towards a specific place where the blood red coating of the sacred grounds is lower and has retained some water in a puddle. The magic of the area where the witches were burnt is strong, and the full moon is giving the bird power to communicate with the old witch. It settles on Granny’s arm, and starts cooing. Granny listens carefully…
‘So they came this way last night… How many where there?’ The bird coos excitedly but Granny doesn’t understand.
‘Thank you, little bird… Now – fly away so I can investigate your information further.’
Missy has been watching her sister “talk” to the little bird. ‘Of course the bird picked her, not me,’ she mutters. ‘She always gets to do the fun stuff… What? The bird is leaving? No. It settles on the branch right over her head. Can you see it Miezul Nopţii? And what is she doing? She must have found something on the ground…’
Granny is on her knees scrutinizing the faint traces left in the mud by the passing zombies.
Hmm… The little pigeon was right – there are foot prints… But do they belong to the one Missy took care of tonight or the one we are now looking for?
She raises her head looking around, searching for her stubborn sister. ‘MISSY!’
‘Coming, coming…’ Missy breaks into a jog to show a little good will. Out of breath she asks, ‘What is it now!?! Did you find anything?’
‘Err… I found some footprints, look-’ Granny points to where Missy is standing, ‘-and it looks like they were headed towards the graveyard… But first, did you hear what Hekate said just before she bit me?’
Missy shakes her head. ‘She said a lot of mumbo jumbo…’
Granny concentrates. ‘If I recall it right, it was something like: “The curse cannot be stopped” and “the healing lies in the glow of the orbs…” I think I know what she was talking about.’
Missy waits impatiently for her to continue.
‘We shall need more Glow Orbs to make cure potions in case your zombies have bitten someone, of course! I have an old bottle stored away collecting dust, but I’m not sure it hasn’t expired… Anyway, it’s far from enough if we’re facing a zombie outbreak.’
‘Are you sure she said Glow Orbs? She didn’t say Porcinis? Or Chanterelles?’
Granny shakes her head and Missy bursts out, ‘But Glow Orbs are almost impossible to find! Especially at this time of the year.’
‘I know. That’s why we have to hurry while it’s still moonlight. It triggers the glow and you should be able to see them.’
‘They grow under leaves, Tara. Around midsummer.’
‘Details, Missy. Details. We’ll just have to try, don’t we? Now this is what we shall do…’
Missy tunes out her sister’s ranting as they walk briskly through the sacred grounds. Granny explains how she will throw a spell on the last zombie so they can make the elixir and then cure it, but Missy’s thoughts are elsewhere.
She has watched “The Walking Dead”, especially the first season, being extremely observant and she thinks her zombies must be like the ones on the famous TV show. They have never mentioned any potions in the series. But then again, they haven’t mentioned any witches neither.
‘We have to destroy them to be sure,’ she says. ‘We need to get them definitely dead.’
‘But that would be murder,’ Granny answers in a shocked tone.
‘It didn’t refrain you from setting one of them on fire.’ Missy stops and crosses her arms.
‘I was upset,’ Granny says prissily.
‘So being upset is an excuse for killing somebody?’ Missy asks, widening her eyes.
‘It is not the question. There is presumably only one zombie left. If you can cure him, you must try. To redeem yourself.’ Granny resumes walking.
‘Redeem myself? What about you? I think we’re even, we’ve killed one each and I’m not looking for redemption,’ Missy says, hurrying after her sister. ‘You’re not even sure what Hekate was mumbling about. It could have concerned anything…’ Missy gesticulates angrily, making Granny stop.
‘You seem to be in a terrible hurry to destroy your creations,’ Granny states primly.
Missy thinks about it. It had been rather fun being investigated by such a power and sending the zombie to Hell, but there is no way her sister would understand.
‘Well…’ she says.
‘So, it’s settled then. I’ll go in search for the last zombie and contain it while you scout the woods for some Glow Orbs.’
‘What now?’ Granny sighs.
‘What if I don’t find any mushrooms?’
‘Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,’ Granny says, heading for the entrance of the graveyard where they have stacked away their brooms.
‘Did I tell you there’s only one way to kill them? You must stake them through the head, OK? Not through the heart – the head,’ Missy rambles urgently, following her sister.
‘Right. But it won’t come to that. We’re set to heal the last living dead – not kill it.’ With that Granny points her broom upward and sets off. ‘Let’s meet in an hour or two in Parcul Râului, by the river!’
Missy watches Granny leave. What if the last zombie isn’t the last? What if it has bitten somebody? There is not much of a risk as the town has been under curfew since they discovered the zombie haze, but she can’t help but wonder. She waits for Miezul Nopţii to settle on the broomstick behind her back before taking off. She lets the cat jump off onto their roof before sweeping into the confines of the forest in search of the extremely rare mushroom. She flies low, trying to keep the moon behind her, but the ground is deceptively empty of what she’s looking for. It would have been nice to have infrared goggles or some other army gear to see through the maze of branches and underbrush. Somehow she wonders if she didn’t get the least fun task – again.
Granny heads into town following the tracks, hoping there hasn’t been any further contamination. The prints weren’t very neat, and the exited bird wasn’t very clear about the number of passing zombies. The grey pigeon is flying ahead of her and she thinks the last monster is apparently heading towards the river. It’s all good and well Hekate took care of the zombie haze. She also said something about killing the original zombies as it makes it easier to neutralize their non-magic “offspring”. Granny wishes there was a way to recognize the last one created by Missy. If the remaining zombie they are looking for has already bitten someone, she might head straight into a nice little group of starving monsters, not having a clue about which one she should target. She doesn’t think that she’s strong enough yet to take on several beasts – especially not at the same time.
She shudders and almost falls off her broom. Really? She must land and rest a little before continuing her search.
After making sure the park is empty, she settles on a bench against the wall of the communal bathrooms. Like that she has her back covered. Just five minutes, then she’ll continue her search.
Granny is exhausted after her important blood loss and two nights without rest. She leans her head against the wall, feeling her neck ache but not enough to make her change position. She’ll just relax a little, close her eyes. To concentrate. You hear better with your eyes closed. It’s a fact, isn’t it?
It doesn’t take long before she falls asleep.
It takes longer than expected for Missy to hike around all by herself in the dark forest looking for magical mushrooms. She finally decides it is definitely not season for any mushrooms at all and steers her broom higher. Suddenly something draws her attention. Something faintly glowing in the moonlight. Three Glow Orbs are clustering right in front of her. She steers the broom in a tight nose-dive and stops so abruptly she has to put her feet down to help breaking the fast course, earth and grass flying in her wake. If a broom could screech, hers would definitely have done so. Panting she looks around her. Where are the dang mushrooms? Slowly she hikes her skirt up and looks at her feet, firmly clamped in the dirt. Only one Glow Orb has survived her panicked landing. She hopes it will be sufficient with just one. And a tiny one at that. What did her sister expect? The nights are so cold it wouldn’t surprise her to wake up and find frost or even snow… All right, they are only in September, but it is a fact that she was lucky to find this scrap of a mushroom…
‘Now where did she say we should meet up? Park, park something… Parcul Central? Parcul Fantana? Parcul lui Vlad? It can’t be normal for such a tiny town to have so many parks.’ She decides to start with the closest by the river and work her way through them all if necessary.
Missy flies just over the treetops, scanning the ground for the gravel road that will lead her to the park. She can see something moving through the undergrowth. Something that is not a deer, nor any local animal. She finds a clearing where she can land but she hardly has the time to hide her broom before the bushes thrash and a growling zombie comes stumbling. Missy quickly hides behind a large tree. Holding her breath she waits for the dangerous creature to pass.
Snarling and staring with opaque eyes, the zombie passes but a few feet from her. She can even smell it. A rotten stench she recognizes from the morgue. She doesn’t really get a good look but it seems that the staggering creature had once been a woman. She gets a little excited. That means her creations have proliferated on their own. And here’s the occasion to study a female.
Heart beating fast, she takes a step forward but quickly flattens herself against the trunk again when a second zombie follows in the wake of the female. Missy thinks fast. The second continued straight forward, but the female went towards the river. One thing is sure – neither zombie was the jogger from the park. She decides to follow the female to see where she was heading. Maybe she would get the opportunity to witness a real zombie attack on a passersby.
A sound from the dark bushes separating the park from the river awakes Granny who sits up with a start.
‘What was that? Where am I?’ She looks around her and slowly recalls the last day’s events. Her back is aching, and she’s beginning to feel the early stages of a migraine. ‘Oh, I must have fallen asleep after all…’
Laboriously she stretches her aching back, before struggling to her feet and rolling her head from side to side to loosen her muscles a little.
Missy follows the female zombie at a safe distance, hiding behind tree trunks and thorny bushes. It doesn’t take long before the darkness is lit up by electrical lights further up ahead. The zombie stops and seems to listen. Then it growls and hastens the pace towards the lights. Missy rubs her hands. The zombie must have heard a prey. She hastens after the vanishing figure but has to make a rather big detour to find a nice, safe observing post. Suddenly she stops dead in her tracks. The prey is actually her sister. Her first reaction is of satisfaction at having found the right park at first try – even if it was accidentally. Then she is overwhelmed by a rush of irritation. Out of all people in Vulturu, her test subject had to run into the only one armed to kill it.
‘I’ll better let her do this her way. In any case she’ll just say I’m getting in her way,’ she mumbles, hiding deeper in the bushes.
Crouching low, she bends aside a branch to get a better view. Enthralled she watches how Granny hardly has the time to pull out her wand before the monster attacks.
Granny makes a large theatrical gesture to aim at the zombie but to her surprise it doesn’t freeze in awe. Instead it lunges forward with claw like hands thrashing through the air. Gripping the wand it breaks it in two and throws it to the ground.
Still numb and sluggish after sleeping on the hard bench, Granny stares at her empty hands.
Then she looks up again at the threatening figure, a grim expression on her face. She balls her fists and holds them up in a very feminine boxing stance. Missy draws in her breath. Is her sister going to hit the snarling monster?
The zombie attacks once more but Granny sidesteps and punches it hard in the face. To Missy’s surprise, it falls in a gurgling heap at her sister’s feet. She regrets not having anything to write on. She would have loved to take down some notes. Or even better, if only she had had a camera…
‘Ha! That was close…’ Granny blows on her aching knuckles. ‘Now that I’ve dealt with the zombie problem all by myself it’s time to worry about the arrival of the Glow Orbs… Which makes me wonder – where is Missy?’ She looks around her and Missy ducks behind the bushes, scared that her sister might have spotted her.
Granny is distracted by the zombie clawing at her skirt and gurgling in its efforts to feed. She grimaces with disgust and kicks it viciously in the head, sending it rolling away a few feet.
‘I know it is not a very gentlemanly gesture,’ she mutters, picking up her broken wand. ‘But in my experience it is always judicious to make sure the enemy stays grounded.’
The head detaches from the spine, lolling on the ground still attached by rotten flesh and skin.
‘OhmyGod! What have I done?’ Granny slaps her hand in front of her mouth, the other on her heart. ‘I guess we won’t be able to repair you now…’
She falls on her knees next to the fallen zombie and raises the remnant of her wand. ‘I’m sorry we couldn’t save you.’ Grabbing it with both hands she thrusts it into the head, just leaving a few inches visible through the dark hair.
‘Now, where’s Missy? She should have been here by now – Glow Orb or no Glow Orb!’
She spins around at the loud crack of a twig breaking behind her, expecting her sister. Instead she’s almost eye to eye with another, bigger, more ferocious zombie.
‘Two? There were two of them? Please, please, don’t make there be more than two…’
She starts backing away. Her eyes dart, looking around for her broom, but it’s out of reach, lying under the bench with the fallen zombie effectively obstructing the access.
Excited, Missy recognizes her creation, the jogger in the fancy yellow sports outfit. Geez, he’s dirty now… Her first reflex is to put her hands in front of her eyes to avoid seeing her sister destroy her creation. But her curiosity is overpowering her fright and she peeks between her fingers. She has to see what will happen, especially now that her sister can’t use magic to get away.
Missy is frozen in place behind the bushes, watching the scene unfold with fascinated glee. She can’t help feeling a little elated and excited by the drama taking place in front of her. But maybe it’s for the best… Her sister won’t be all over the place with her snarky remarks anymore: “Do this!” “You shouldn’t do that!” Yeah. Call it Karma…
Granny is petrified by fright at the horrible vision of the approaching zombie. Without her wand she’s defenseless, and punching this beast in the face won’t be enough. He’ll probably just chew her fingers off. Confirming Granny’s thoughts, the zombie bares its rotten teeth, growling and drooling.
She swallows. ‘Oh.My.God…’
Scared witless, Granny shrinks back again but she stumbles on the body on the ground behind her. Waving her arms, she regains her balance only to find herself within touching distance of the beast.
That is when the monster strikes. Courageously Granny tries to fight it off, but she is old and not very fit. The un-dead are stronger than any living and Granny doesn’t stand a chance. She is held in a tight grip, kept from using her arms.
The creature bares its rotten teeth and lunges towards her face.
She realizes there’s no way out of this. The zombie will rip her throat out and she’ll become a braindead walker, too. If it doesn’t feed on her brain of course. Because then she won’t become anything but a rotting corpse…
Missy puts her hands over her ears to shut out her sister’s bloodcurdling scream of pure terror. Maybe she should just leave. There will probably be a lot more screaming and bloodshed and she doesn’t want to bear witness to it. She starts backing out of her hiding place but suddenly she stops, feeling the blood drain from her face.
‘Oh. My. God.’ A terrifying thought has just crossed her mind. ‘Oh, no… I’m sure she’ll be back to haunt me. I can’t let that happen. But if my sister can’t take those monsters down, how could I? And then again, I’m on my way to become a Zombie Master! So I can’t really eliminate all the zombies, can I? There will be nothing left to master.’ She wrings her hands, walking to and fro. ‘What shall I do?’
Granny shies away as much as she can, trying to save her face and throat. The teeth of the monster snaps in thin air but it aims again and this time bites through the grey cloth, sinking deep into the flesh of her shoulder with a sickening sound.
Missy is distracted by a movement on her left. Another zombie is coming to feed. It has a zinc bucket on its head, probably after falling in a gardening shed. Anyhow, she’s fairly certain it is the same zombie she saw earlier in the woods, the bucket is rather distinctive. The prospect of her sister getting eaten alive and joining the ranks of the walking dead increases with each halting step of the approaching zombie
Missy finally decides to take action. The prospect of her snotty sister haunting her for the rest of her life is too much for her to process. She snaps out of her inertia and charges in to rescue Granny. She jumps over the low branches, drawing her wand and screaming like she has seen in the movies.
The zombie turns its attention towards Missy. Baring its teeth it lets go of Granny who struggles to maintain her balance. Holding on to her mauled shoulder and with blood pumping between her fingers she staggers a few feet away.
Bleeding heavily Granny falls to the ground with a loud thud. Missy stops. She grips her wand so tight her knuckles become all white. The zombie hesitates for a brief instant, too, as if it recognizes its maker. Then it snarls and moves towards her.
Missy uses her wand to lever the punch and with a well-aimed right hand blow she neutralizes the growling monster, sending it sprawling to the ground. The other zombie stops, as if unsure what to do next, now that it is on its own.
Granny tries to drag herself up onto the heavy stone bench where she had peacefully slept a few minutes ago, but her life force is ebbing away to the rhythm of her heart pumping blood out through the gaping wound.
Missy grabs what is left of Granny’s wand and lodges it deep into the zombie’s skull. Seeing her sister slumped over the bench, her face a deadly white in contrast to the red goo on her arm, returns her stomach. She tries her best not to throw up, drying her hands on her skirt. The zombie behind her growls but she doesn’t even turn around, just holds her hand up and tells it to eff off.
She has to do something about her sister’s wound, fast. But what? She has hardly enough magic left to use her broom back home but she has to stop the blood flow somehow. When she sees the nasty gash, she is suddenly filled by an overpowering rage.
‘Oh no…’ She closes her eyes and feels the blood rushing to her head.
‘Oh nonono…’ She squeezes her hands so hard it hurts.
‘NONONO! You can’t just leave me like this! I won’t let you haunt me til’ I die! I don’t wanna take care of a little kid! And a disgusting mutt!’
The large zombie with the bucket on its head is hovering, growling at Missy. Slowly she turns around, looking coolly at it with scrunched up eyes, and surprisingly it backs off a few feet.
‘Yeah. Meet your master, creep.’ She kneels next to her sister, checking her condition. Her eyes stray to Granny’s corset.
A few moments later she ties a hard knot right between the shoulder and the bite-mark with the white silk ribbons that had served to keep Granny’s corset laced in her back.
‘At least you won’t die from blood-loss,’ she says soothingly. ‘Of course, it might not save you from turning into a living dead…’
The thought of her sister dying overcomes her again. She realizes that she is now facing a future filled with homework, picking up dog excrements, birthday parties, hairy cushions, puddles on the floor and the Goddess knows what else. And that is only the days. During the nights her sister will most certainly come back to haunt her.
If Granny’s scream had been bloodcurdling, there’s no word for Missy’s howling. Even the zombie stops growling and scratching thin air, and stares at her with bloodshot eyes.
She stops screaming as abruptly as she had started. Breathing heavily her gaze fixes on the zombie.
‘And it’s all your fault,’ she whispers.
The braindead monster decides to make a run for it. He hobbles away as fast as he can, with Missy tailing him, yelling insults.
‘Dang cold bodied biter! Lamebrain! Rotting dead creeper! You’ll wish you were really dead when I’ll catch your rotting ass! You braindead walking hunk of stale meat!’
She realizes that even though the zombie is hobbling, she won’t catch up with it, not with this long skirt. She stops and picks up a stone. Weighing it in her hand, she aims and throws. The sound of the heavy stone hitting the bucket is loud but the sound when it hits the pavement is even louder. Missy blows on her fingers like a gunfighter. Grabbing a dead branch she achieves her work and starts dragging the dead body back towards the park.
She dumps the body next to the jogger, pulling the female zombie’s body between them head-to-toe. Nice and tight. She makes sure her sister is still breathing before heading out of the park and across the street towards the old bathhouse.
Two dumpsters are aligned against the wall on the far side of the old building. She opens the first and scans it briefly, trying to see if there is an item that could prove useful to her. She has to rummage through the waste, pushing at carefully sealed plastic bags before setting eyes on a discarded, empty chlorine drum. In the second dumpster she finds some plastic tubing from a scuba dive set that will be perfect for what she has in mind.
She brings her findings over to the lonely car parked in the gloom, not far from the dumpsters. The car is old, and the gas tank opens without a key. She takes one of the tubes and feeds it into the tank and the empty chlorine drum. Then she feeds the second tube into the gas tank, too. Tearing off a part of her underskirt, she packs it tightly around both tubes to avoid air getting into the tank. Now comes the disgusting part, she thinks, drawing a deep breath. She blows into the second tube until she can see the gas arriving. Satisfied she stops blowing and watches the precious liquid flow freely into her makeshift recipient. She wonders what would happen if she used the gas mixed with the residues of chlorine to fuel a car…
As soon as the recipient is filled, she screws on the cap and rushes back to the park, not caring that the car is still emptying gas onto the ground.
Coldly Missy pours the gas onto the bodies. Fumbling around in her pocket she finds the matchbox she always carries with her. She chuckles as she lights a match and dramatically throws it onto the stinking heap. With a whoosh the gas catches fire and she has to take a step back. She watches the zombies burn with grim satisfaction. It is such a pity they are already dead, she would have liked to watch them growling and hissing try to fight off the flames.
She returns to take care of her sister. Slinging an arm over her shoulder, they stagger from the park and back to where Missy has hidden her broom.
The zombies continue burning through the night until there is nothing left apart from bones so badly charred they will never be identified.
Getting Granny home and upstairs into her room takes a fair amount of ingenuity and time. With a great effort, Missy drags her sister upstairs and heaves her onto the bed. After taking off the disgustingly dirty clothes and cleaning the wound, she helps her unconscious sister into one of her own joyous pajamas with butterflies. As she doesn’t really know what to do about the Glow Orb, she decides to carefully tuck the precious mushroom under Granny’s pillow, like a talisman. She stretches and rubs her back.
‘Time for a little diet, sister,’ she murmurs. ‘I won’t go through this again if you don’t lose a few pounds…’
Missy remains in the room, watching her comatose sister. She knows it’s probably not safe. She should get out of there, lock the door and throw away the key. But she can’t leave just yet. She has never seen the direct effects of a zombie bite, and maybe Granny won’t transform into a living dead, being a witch and all…
She turns away from the window. ‘I’d better check on her, I would hate it if she wakes up and eats you alive,’ she says to Miezul Nopţii who has taken up position on Granny’s bed.
When she approaches the still body, she can see that Granny’s skin has already taken on a sickly greyish tint. That can’t be good. She reaches out to touch her clammy forehead when she sighs and moves her head. ‘Water…’
Relieved to see that her sister has regained consciousness Missy bends over the bed, chirping away, ‘I was so worried! How are you? Do you want a glass of water? Don’t you prefer some lemonade? Err… Tara, why don’t you answer me!’
Suddenly Granny sits straight up in bed, almost head-butting Missy who staggers backwards, fumbling for her wand. Granny opens her eyes and looks around her. Slowly she fixes her dead stare on Missy, and a flicker of recognition washes briefly over her face before her eyes cloud over with a milky mist.
Missy doesn’t have the time to react. Granny lashes out at her and the wand sails through the air and lands behind the armchair.
Suddenly she is out of the bed, aiming for an easy kill.
‘Aaaaaarggghhhh… huuuungggry… brrraaaaiiiins…’
Missy is can’t move. Gasping for air, she tries to back away, but her limbs don’t want to obey.
‘Aaaarrrgh… head… huuuuuurts…’ Granny clutches her head in her hands, growling. ‘Huuurts… Aaarrgh…’
Trembling, Missy starts backing away from the beast that her sister has become, thanking her lucky stars she seems unable to attack.
Granny is swaying from side to side, clutching her head in her hands. Awful sounds are escaping her lips as she scratches, pulls and tears at the skin of her face.
Keeping her eyes on her struggling sister, Missy continues backing towards the door. She is worried that she will tear off a part of her face the way she is clawing at it, but at the same time she is relieved that Granny’s attention is diverted.
Hurriedly she escapes out into the hall, locking the heavy oak door behind her. She leans against it, wiping her brow. ‘That was close.’
A loud thud makes it tremble.
‘Ouch… better go and get her something to eat. Something else than me,’ she mutters, thinking briefly of paying their whining neighbor a visit.
She throws a glance through the open door to Taïga’s room. Tramp is standing on the threshold, looking questioningly at her and whining with his hackles raised. Fortunately her great niece seems to be asleep. She doesn’t really have the time to worry about her as well. Better lock her up, too. Maybe she should add something relaxing to her glass of water, just to be sure…
She starts down the stairs, racking her brains for something suitable to eat for her zombie sister. The dog has followed her downstairs and is now covering in the hallway. Grumbling she lets him out into the pouring rain. Gaah. She hopes the torrent won’t put out the fire…
The stupid dog heads straight for the low iron fence, surprising the neighbor’s cat which jumps down and disappears around the corner, closely followed by the dog. She can imagine the mud Tramp will bring back in. She should let him stay outside on the porch. It is a dog after all, and dogs like to sleep in the open air. It is not as if the stray had never had any experience of living outdoors. Missy starts to close the door when she can see the cat jump up onto the low roof of the chicken pen. It stops out of reach, hissing at its assailant. Tramp’s barking is followed by frantic clucking and the joyous cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster waking up and starting on its morning craw way before sunrise. Missy grins and pulls on her rubber boots…
Granny has found the Glow Orb under the pillow. She has taken a bite but it makes her stomach convulse painfully. She retches and drools, but can’t seem to be able to stop herself from tearing into the disgusting, burning mushroom, chewing and swallowing in spite of the pain it causes.
What is happening to me?
She stares at her hands. It feels like her body belongs to someone else, and she has trouble focusing her thoughts.
Where am I?
She knows one thing though. She must eat that spongy thing…
Missy grimaces at the goo in the porcelain bowl, gluing her ear to the door. Silence. Carefully she pulls out the key and bends to check if she can see anything through the keyhole. Her sister is standing by the window, her back turned to the door. Perfect.
‘Here you are, fresh brains straight from- Well, fresh zombie food. Chicken brain “à la mode” with a touch of Xanax…’
Missy holds the plate out like a shield before her, advancing purposefully. She hopes she has added enough sleeping pills to put her conceited sister out for at least a couple of hours. Just the time for herself to get some well-deserved sleep.
Granny turns around at the sound of the familiar voice behind her. Slobbering she finishes the glow orb.
Missy tries to smile, but it’s difficult. The sight of the sickly grey creature in front of her gives her goosebumps all over her body. ‘I see you’ve eaten the Glow Orb. Ahem… I hope that’s a good thing, because there’s only one, you know.’
Missy jumps at the sudden outburst and the bowl falls to the floor, shards and food scattering everywhere. This time there’s nothing wrong with her limbs. She’s out of the room, slamming the door shut before she has the time to think.
Granny claws at the door, growling and spitting and Missy doesn’t know what to do next.
She waits, holding her breath and it doesn’t take long before Granny’s attention is drawn to the goo on the floor. Missy grimaces at the disgusting slurping sounds coming from the other side of the door.
‘I’ll find a way to help you, Tara… I promise,’ she whispers, refusing to admit that whoever her sister once was is gone forever. Checking the door is securely locked, she heads off to try to get some sleep.
Granny wolfs up the food on the floor. She scoops up the chicken brains with her hands and swallows without chewing. The effect is immediate. The room spins and she falls, falls…
Miezul Nopţii has been hiding under the bed, scared of her new growling mistress. But now, when Granny is cramping on the floor, she ventures out again.
Granny can feel the enticing smell of a living being. She reaches for the cat, drooling in anticipation, but she is already falling offer to the massive dose of Xanax when the cat comes within her reach. Miezul Nopţii cuddles up in her arms, purring peacefully and licking the claw like hand that once used to caress her.
Granny’s drug induced deep sleep is haunted by nightmarish visions of violence. She attacks her sister and devours her alive.
She tears apart the delivery man.
In her violent dreams she bites, claws, tears apart and devours every living being in sight but she doesn’t harm Taïga, even though the young girl would be an easy prey. Is it because deep down she doesn’t want to hurt her granddaughter? Or is it because she actually can’t?
Granny isn’t the only one who is haunted by bizarre dreams that night. Missy wakes up with the certainty that a raw Glow Orb can’t be enough to cure her sister. Granny had talked about using it in a potion of some sort. Maybe it is too late now, but the mushroom must still be in her sister’s system and Missy recalls Granny going on about cure potions and redemption. If only she could remember exactly what she had said… She promises to herself to listen to her sister from now on. Even when she is being boring.
If Granny has prepared a batch of cure potion it must be in the basement. She has more or less taken over Missy’s special place since she moved in, forbidden her younger sister to touch anything. But this must be considered an emergency, right?
She tightens the knot on her robe and shuffles outside in search of Granny’s torn jacket in the trash. Luckily, the garbage truck hasn’t passed yet and she digs out a tiny key from the hidden pocket in the lining. Now she has access to Granny’s potion cabinet.
She unlocks the door and steps into Granny’s sanctuary. And her own. It is her house after all.
The shelves are stocked full with bottles in different shapes containing liquids in all the colors of the rainbow, and a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Missy squints and tries to decide which one to use.
‘Hmmm… “Ad Nauseum”… “Vial of Bliss”… “Flask of Sleep”… “Invigorating Elixir”… “Jar of Discord”… and of “Friendship”… “Skill Booster”… “Vial of Bottled Genie”… “Bottled Witches’ Brew”… “Fountain of Youth Elixir” – I’ll try that one later… “Age of Instant”… “Clone Drone”… “Potent Personality Adjuster”… “Potent Invigorating Elixir”… “Procreation Elixir” – I wonder if it’s some kind of love potion. I’ll try it also. Later. … “Lean & Mean”? Wow… Now this one seems good – “Large & In Charge”! She’s always in charge. Hehehe… What’s this? “Wish Enhancing Serum”? I’m getting nowhere with the names alone. My sister has always been so artistic and creative. Too creative. Hmm… I’ll better look at the ingredients, too.’
She takes down each and every flask and squinting reads Granny’s tiny handwriting on the etiquettes.
‘I should have taken my glasses, but there’s not time for that now. Granny might wake up any minute now, and I’m out of chicken brains…’
She holds up a blue bottle to the light.
‘Potent Cure Elixir: Wolfsbane Flower, Glow Orbs… Yes! This could be the one… I’ll just mix in a little of that “Large & In Charge” thing, and some “Potent Personality Adjuster” to get rid of the blood thirst… And some “Bliss” will surely make her happy and less nagging!’
Armed with a bottle of bubbling liquid, she hurries back to Granny’s room. She listens at the door first, it won’t do to run straight into those iron claws now… Carefully she opens the door and steps into the room. She had counted on calmly pouring the liquid into a sleeping Granny’s mouth but the bed is empty. She shouldn’t be so surprised, zombies probably don’t sleep in beds anyway. If they sleep at all. Well, the Xanax should have taken care of that. Her sister has probably passed out in the bathroom…
‘Tara?’ she croaks tentatively, approaching the closed bathroom door. ‘Ahem… Tara?’
A ferocious growl from behind her almost makes her heart stop. Granny has been hiding behind the door, and now Missy is trapped in the room. Her sister is coming at her, drooling and growling. If she wants to get out from there alive, she has to succeed in instantly curing the Granny-monster – or killing her. Looking around for a weapon, she instinctively throws the bottle at her sister to stall her a moment to permit her own escape.
The flask slams into Granny’s face, breaking and drenching her in the bubbling liquid. She had never thought that throwing the flask at the growling creature would work, but to her surprise, her sister bends stuttering over and seems incapable of moving. Missy starts edging around the immobilized zombie towards the door, but stops.
Forgetting about escaping she lingers, staring at her sister. ‘Oh, my God. I never meant to set you on fire!’
The potion has started to glow and a blinding purple light envelopes Granny. It intensifies, making it impossible to keep the eyes open. Missy covers her face and takes a step back, sitting heavily on a red painted chest. The blinding light finally diminishes, leaving the rather large, scorched silhouette of her sister crouching on the floor surrounded by shards.
Granny rocks back and forth, wailing softly.
Missy scrutinizes the figure. Is her sister still a zombie or not? The scorched skin doesn’t give away any clues. Maybe she should get out of here after all.
Granny raises her head and looks around her in wonder. The opaque layer is gone from her eyes and have given place to their usual, piercing grey.
‘What happened?’ she says, a little groggily. She sits up and touches her shoulder. ‘What happened? It hurts.’
‘It worked!’ Missy breathes out with relief. Then she blinks. Maybe it worked a little too well considering that her sister seems to be swelling somewhat. Granny must now be a size 3XL. ‘Oups… So that was the meaning of “Large & In charge”…’
Granny squints at her sister as if discovering her for the first time. ‘What?’
‘Err… I was so scared, Tara.’
Granny frowns, then her face lights up by a huge smile. ‘I was scared too, Missy! But now everything’s all right! I feel wonderful! So happy, almost euphoric…’ The smile dies away, and she looks around her suspiciously. ‘But we must keep this a secret, huh? Nobody can find out, there are people plotting everywhere.’
‘Uh-oh… Maybe I should have left out that personality adjuster thingy as well…’
‘I beg your pardon?’
Granny scrambles to her feet, clapping her hands. ‘I’m so happy! Life seems wonderful! Let’s have breakfast in the garden. I love eating in the garden!’
Suddenly cautious, Missy ventures a quick glance through the window. It is still raining, and from the look of the sky it will probably not end sometime soon. ‘Sure,’ she says. Better humor Granny until the potion wears off. If it wears off…
‘I knew you would say yes! Give me a hug!’ Granny throws her arms open wide and reaches for her sister, but this is where Missy draws the line. She backs away, mumbling an excuse. She is all right about bonding but being held tight by her stinking sister is out of the question.
‘But…’ Disappointed, Granny lets her arms dangle and takes a step back. She does a double-take at her reflection in the mirror.
‘What have you done?’ she whispers. She approaches the mirror and then backs away again, as if her imposing figure would seem smaller with a little distance. ‘Oh my. I must weigh at least 300 lbs (136 kg)!’
‘I think it looks more like 400,’ Missy says without thinking.
‘What!?!’ Granny barks.
‘Err…’ Missy backs away from her very large and in charge, and oh, so furious sister…
‘Don’t say anything… I’ll take it from here. The key!’ Imperiously Granny holds out her hand. ‘The key!’
For once Missy doesn’t know what to say. How did her sister know she had taken the key? Reluctantly she hands it over.
‘Go get dressed! We have zombies to kill! And a voodoo shimmer to annihilate!’
‘Now?’ Missy can’t hide her surprise.
‘Yes. Now!’ Granny says imperiously.
‘But don’t you remember?’ Missy tries.
‘Remember what?’ Suddenly Granny looks lost.
Granny frowns, then she shakes her head.
‘She took care of the voodoo shimmer. And there are no more zombies to kill.’ Missy crosses her fingers behind her back, hoping there is some truth to what she just said. ‘Err… I guess you were the last one.’
‘Me? Don’t be stupid.’ Granny has recovered her spirits and looks down her nose at her sister. ‘Now go and get dressed. You shouldn’t spend so much time in your sleepwear anyway. You know that, don’t you?’ She snorts. ‘And don’t you dare roll your eyes at me!’ she adds when she sees Missy’s expression. Exasperated she firmly ushers her younger sister out the door and slams it shut.
‘That was not necessary!’ Missy protests, addressing the closed door. ‘No need to manhandle me out the door. I would have left anyway. And may I suggest you’d take a bath. And brush your teeth while you’re at it!’
She tries to calm down a little. Granny has always been snotty and dominating, but her behavior now is mostly due to the potion. Her potion. Maybe she shouldn’t have mixed in so much “Large and in Charge”, the “Potent Cure Elixir” had probably been enough… She gulps. She has created a new kind of Granny monster.
But Granny has not lingered around to listen to her negative sister’s council. After slamming the door shut, she dances into her adjoining bathroom, humming happily to herself. A second later she is screaming at the top of her lungs at the sight of her hair in the mirror. She knows she won’t be able to fix it this time. She just knows she won’t…
She runs a bath, generously adding foam.
‘I love foam baths,’ she gushes, singing as she slides into the tub. She scrubs off the dirt, singing a happy tune. Then suddenly she stops. What if Missy did this on purpose? What if her sister is part of some secret conspiracy? What if she has hidden her special hair products? Or changed the shampoo for something homebrewed that will destroy her hair?
Quickly she finishes her bath, grabbing a towel that barely fits her frame. She slides on the cold floor in her haste, grabbing the sink to stabilize herself.
She wipes off the mist from the mirror and admires her full cheeks. She looks really healthy and it seems she is less wrinkled than before… Before… Whatever!
She smiles at her reflection in the mirror. ‘Oh my God. I don’t think my usual toothpaste will come to terms with this.’ She wonders if her teeth are loose, not only incredibly dirty, but she doesn’t want to touch the horrible things with her tongue. Tentatively she touches her front teeth with her finger. They seem to be as firmly stuck as before… Before… Before what?
She rummages through the cabinet for some “Savon de Marseille”. Brushing your teeth with soap is disgusting, but the old French formula comes to term with most dental afflictions. But after having scrubbed her teeth until her gums bleed, all the while checking for hidden cameras, she has to give up. She will need a stronger remedy than some old French soap…
Her eyes stray to the key on the sink. Maybe there is something useful in the basement.
Granny waits to be sure Missy is not around before she sneaks out and heads downstairs to the basement. She hesitates before opening the door to their secret study, listening for footsteps.
Nobody’s watching… I have a feeling I’m being followed… She walks back and peeks around the corner but the long corridor is dark and empty.
She quickly closes the door behind her, taking stock of the room. She heads over to the cupboard, throwing the double doors wide open before stepping inside. She gasps at the disorder on the shelves, instantly blaming her sister.
‘Missy has touched everything!’ she grumbles. ‘Might even have taken some of the potions herself, I’m sure. Only the Goddess knows what she might have been up to…’
She needs two specific potions – one to get rid of her bad teeth condition and another to lose a few pounds. She fiddles around with the bottles until she finds what she is looking for.
‘Right. I have to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth first.’
She adds some peppermint to a clear potion in a small glass vial and empties it into her mouth, throwing her head back and gurgling for almost three minutes. She stands with her cheeks filled like a hamster, looking for somewhere to spit it out. She finally opts for Missy’s cauldron. ‘She doesn’t use it anyway,’ she reasons.
Then she picks up the bottle of “Lean & Mean”, fills a whole glass with the fitness beverage and gulps it down.
‘This will do the trick!’ She rubs her hands and waits for the effect to kick in.
‘But!?! It doesn’t work! Gaah! I should have known it doesn’t work on magic weight gain.’ She pulls at the towel and refastens it. ‘I guess I’ll just have to exercise a little… I love doing sports!’
Part I – End of Chapter 26
Special thanks to Jessesue, for your smashing fight poses. Without you Granny would have been eaten alive!