After Hecate’s departure, Missy stomps off, grumbling about her “selfish, egotistical, stuck-up, conceited” sister. Granny starts to answer, but she is intrigued by the flutter of yellow she saw in the trees a bit further off…
‘Oups!’ Granny ducks as a goldfinch dives towards her.
It circles closer and closer around her head, then it chirps and flies off. It starts over again and again, until Granny understands it’s trying to show her something. It drives her towards the blood red coating of the sacred grounds. 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 shoulder, and starts twittering in her ear. Granny listens carefully…
‘So they came this way last night…’
‘Thank you, little bird… Now – fly away so I can investigate your information further!’
Missy has been hovering in the vicinity, 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 is she doing now?’
Granny is on her knees scrutinizing the faint traces in the earth.
Hmm… The little Goldfinch was right – there are foot prints… 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 I think I know where they were heading… But first, did you hear what Hecate said just before biting 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… the healing lies in the glow of the orbs…” I think I know what she was talking about.’
Missy is patiently waiting for her to continue.
‘We’ll need more Glow Orbs to make cure potions to the people who gets bitten, of course! I have an old bottle stored away, but 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!’
‘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, Granny. In late summer.’
‘Yes. Well. We’ll just have to try, don’t we? Now this is what we shall do…’
Missy takes off into the confines of the forest in search of Glow Orbs… 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 something army like 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 looking for Passé Park. Following the bird’s information, that’s where Missy’s creatures were heading. Granny hopes there hasn’t been any further contamination. It’s all good and well Hecate took care of the zombie haze and assured them it would be enough killing the original zombies to neutralize its “offspring”. But 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 wishes there were a way to recognize the one created by Missy. She doesn’t think that she’s strong enough to take on several beasts – especially not at the same time. She shudders. Better wait for Missy…
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. The waiting is long, and Granny is exhausted after two nights without rest. She leans her head against the wall, but her neck aches too much. She’ll just lay down a little and close her eyes. To concentrate. You listen better with your eyes closed, don’t you?
It doesn’t take long before she falls asleep.
‘Aaaarrrghhhh…’ A sound from the dark bushes starts Granny awake.
‘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 starting to feel the beginnings of a migraine. ‘Oh, I must have fallen asleep after all…’
Laboriously she sits up, stretching her aching back, before struggling to her feet, rolling her head from side to side to loosen her muscles a little.
Missy has accomplished her mission, even if it took a little longer than expected to hike around all alone in the dark forest looking for magical mushrooms. She hopes it’s sufficient with one Glow Orb. And a tiny one at that. What did her sister expect? The nights are frostbitten and the first snow will probably fall one of these days… She was lucky to find this scrap of a mushroom…
‘Now where did she say we should meet? Park, park something… Gloomy Park? Passé Park? Pitch Park? It’s not normal for such a tiny town to have so many parks! Amstramgram… Gloomy Park it is!’
When she at long last reaches the right park, she stops dead in her tracks. Her sister isfacing a zombie, but not the one they were looking for.
‘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 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.
Still numb and sluggish after sleeping on the hard bench, Granny is not fast enough. Somehow the zombie gets hold of her wand and it breaks in two. Granny sidesteps, punches the zombie in the face and it falls in a gurgling heap at her feet.
‘Ha! That was close…’ She blows on her aching knuckles. ‘Now I’ve dealt with the zombie problem, 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 are two of them! 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.
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.
Maybe it’s for the best… She won’t be all over the place with her snarky remarks anymore: “Do this!” “You shouldn’t do that!” Yeah. Call it destiny…
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. It claws at her skirt and breaking eye contact with the slowly approaching beast, Granny kicks it viciously, sending it rolling away a few feet.
That’s when the other monster strikes. Courageously Granny tries to fight it off, but 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 beast 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 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 he aims again and this time bites through the grey cloth, sinking deep into the flesh of her shoulder with a sickening sound. The other zombie is back on its feet and also coming for her. The prospect of getting eaten alive and joining the ranks of the walking dead increases as fast as the other zombie haltingly approaches…
Missy has finally decided to take action. The prospect of Granny 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 her sister.
But it’s too late. The zombie turns its attention towards Missy, baring its teeth and letting go of Granny who struggles to maintain her balance. Holding on to her mauled shoulder and with blood pumping between her fingers she staggers away.
Bleeding heavily Granny falls to the ground with a loud thud. Missy jumps over her, drawing her wand like she’s seen in the movies and taking the zombies by surprise.
With a well-aimed burst of fire, Missy neutralizes the smaller creep first.
With satisfaction she watches the zombie growling and hissing try to fight off the flames.
‘A taste of Hell, Sweetheart!’ she grins evilly.
The larger zombie is still 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.
When she sees the nasty wound, 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 her disgusting mutt!’
If Granny’s scream was 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 started. Breathing heavily her gaze fixes on the zombie.
‘And it’s all your fault,’ she whispers.
That’s when 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 brain-dead walking hunk of stale meat!’
She catches up with him a few hundred yards away. She won’t set this one on fire, it won’t be enough to kill it. No, she will have to call for Maman Brigitte’s help and use a voodoo death spell, even though it’s dangerous for herself.
She aims her wand, calling for Maman Brigitte to possess her body and give her strength to finish the zombie once and for all. A black rooster lands with flapping wings, screeching obscenities. Missy thanks Maman Brigitte for coming and singsonging the ancient Voodoo spell, she makes the zombie fall on its knees, gurgling and growling…
Coldly she watches him suffer and expire…
With a slight smirk she looks at the ground swallowing him and the black rooster, too.
‘Thank you again, Maman Brigitte. Eliminating my creations is almost as fun as making them…’
She stomps on the hand, to make sure it’s underground, all right!
Then she returns to take care of her sister. Getting her home and upstairs into her room takes a fair amount of ingenuity and time. Crying, Missy puts her to bed. 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.
Missy lingers in the room, watching her unconscious sister. She knows it’s not safe, she should get out of there, lock the door and throw away the key. But she can’t leave Granny just yet. She has never seen the direct causes of a zombie bite, and maybe she won’t transform into a living dead…
She turns away from the window. ‘I better check on her.’
But when she approaches the still body, she can see that Granny’s skin has already taken on a sickly greenish tint.
Suddenly her sister sits straight up in bed, almost head-butting Missy who staggers backwards, fumbling for her wand. She opens her eyes and looks around her. Slowly Granny fixes her dead stare on Missy, and a flicker of recognition washes briefly over her face.
Relieved, Missy starts to ask a lot of questions. ‘I was so worried! How are you? Do you need something? Err… Tara, answer me!’
But Granny doesn’t answer. Suddenly she is out of the bed, aiming for an easy kill!
‘Aaaaaarggghhhh… huuuungggry… brrraaaaiiiins…’
Missy is can’t move. As hypnotized and gasping for air, she tries to back away, but her limbs doesn’t want to obey.
‘Aaaarrrgh… head… huuuuuurts…’ Granny clutches her head in her hands, growling. ‘Huuurts… Aaarrgh…’
Trembling, Missy starts to back away from the beast that her sister has become, thanking her lucky stars she can’t seem to attack.
Granny is swaying from side to side, clutching her head in her hands. Scratching, pulling and tearing at her skin, awful sounds are escaping her lips.
Keeping her eyes on her struggling sister, Missy continues to back towards the door. She’s both afraid that she’ll hurt herself tearing off a part of her face and happy that her attention is detoured.
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 her whining neighbor a visit.
She stops outside the door to Taïga’s room, listening. The little girl seems to be asleep. Maybe she should add something relaxing to her water supply, just to be sure… She doesn’t really have the time to worry about her great niece as well. Better lock her up, too. She starts down the stairs, racking her brains for something suitable to eat for her zombie sister. She can see Tramp covering in the hallway, and grumbling she lets him out into the pouring rain. The stupid dog heads straight for the chicken pen, barking at poor Minuit who jumps up onto the low roof, hissing at her assailant. Missy grins and pulls on her rubber boots…
‘Brains “à la mode” with a touch of Xanax… I hope I’ve added enough to put her out for at least a couple of hours.’
She 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.
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…
‘Here you are, fresh brains straight from… well, fresh zombie food.’
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 green 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 on 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, Granny… 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, scooping up the brains with her hands she swallows without chewing. The effect is immediate. Granny falls, falls…
Minuit sneaked in with Missy but has been hiding under the bed, scared of her new growling mistress. But now, when Granny reaches for her, she ventures out and curls up, licking the claw like hand that once used to stroke her.
Granny cuddles up with Midnight in her arms, soon lulled to sleep by the cat’s peaceful purring.
And the massive dose of Xanax…
Her sleep is haunted by nightmarish visions of violence. She attacks her sister – and eats her.
The delivery man gets teared apart.
But even in her dreams, she doesn’t harm Taïga.
Is it because deep down she doesn’t want to hurt her? Or is it because she really 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 isn’t enough to cure her sister. Maybe Granny had intended to use it in a potion of some sorts. It’s too late now, but the mushroom is still in her sister’s system and Missy recalled her sister said she had prepared cure potions in case something bad happened…
She tightens the knot on her robe and shuffles outside in search of Granny’s torn jacket in the trash. Luckily, the garbage men 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.
The cabinet is stocked full with bottles in different shapes containing liquids in all the colors of the rainbow. Missy lines them up 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 and Mean? Wow… Now this one seems good – Large and In Charge! She’s always in charge. Hehehe… What’s that? Wish Enhancing Serum? I get 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 any minute now, and I’m out of 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 and 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 doesn’t sleep in a bed anyway. If they sleep at all. Well, the Xanax should have taken care of that. Her sister probably passed out in the bathroom…
‘Granny?’ she calls out tentatively, approaching the closed bathroom door. ‘Ahem… Tara?’
‘Aaaaarrrgh!’ 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. She has to succeed in curing the Granny-monster, or she won’t get out from here alive. Looking around for a weapon, she instinctively throws the bottle at her sister…
The flask slams into Granny’s face, breaking and drenching her sister in a fiery glow. She had never thought that throwing the flask at the growling monster would work, she just wanted to stall her sister a moment to permit her own escape. She edges around the immobilized zombie towards the door.
‘Oh, my God. I didn’t mean to set you on fire!’ With her hand on the handle she stares at her sister who is now glowing fiercely, forgetting about escaping.
The light diminishes, leaving the large silhouette of her sister. Granny looks at her hands, opening and closing them in wonder.
‘What happened?’ she says, a little groggily. She touches her shoulder. ‘Didn’t I get bitten?’
‘It worked!’ Maybe a little too well considering Granny is now a size XXXL… ‘Oh, Granny! I was so scared!’
Granny squints at her sister as if discovering her for the first time. 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…’
‘What did you say?’
‘But…’ Granny catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. ‘What have you done? I must weigh at least 300 pounds! (136 kg)’
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. She just hands over the key to the potion cabinet.
‘Get dressed! We have zombies to kill! And a cloud to annihilate!’
‘But don’t you remember?’
‘Hecate? She took care of the zombie mist. And there are no more zombies to kill. Err… You were the last one.’
‘Me? Don’t be stupid. Now go and get dressed. You shouldn’t spend so much time in your sleepwear anyway. You know that, don’t you?’
Missy turns on her heels. Maybe she shouldn’t have mixed in so much Large and in Charge… She gulps. She has created a new kind of monster! The Potent Cure Elixir was probably enough…
Granny waits for Missy to close the door behind her, before she sneaks out and heads over to the walk-in closet that houses the elixir cabinet. She hesitates before opening it, listening for footsteps.
Nobody’s watching…I have a feeling I’m being followed… But no, nobody’s watching…
She gasps at the disorder on the shelves.
‘Missy has touched everything!’ she grumbles. ‘Might even have taken some of the potions herself, God knows she needs it…’
Granny fiddles around with the bottles until she finds what she is looking for.
‘Right! This will do the trick!’ She gulps down a whole glass of “Lean and Mean”.
‘But!?! It doesn’t work! Gaah! I should have known it didn’t work on magic weight gain…’ She tightens the belt of her robe. ‘I guess I’ll just have to exercise a little…’
Part I – End of Chapter 23