(with apologies to Macbeth)
When the moon is befogged and the wolf howls on a moonless night, beware, my friends. Somewhere in the night evil is at work and play.
In the dense forest a small cottage of black stone stood in a clearing. Gray, dead wood, in the shape of mushrooms, clung tenaciously to the structure’s sides.
A night mist hovered above the ground and encircled the cottage with an almost careful tenderness. The wails of forest creatures echoed from tree to tree.
Suddenly, the forest became silent as a young man entered the clearing at midnight. With trepidation he knocked on the iron door of the cottage.
Slowly, the door opened with mournful tones. An aged woman, with long, snarled hair, a toothless grin and dressed in a black silk dress with woven red silkworms on the sleeves, appeared at the entrance.
Stuttering, the young man uttered, “I was told to come to you…”
In a penetrating glance she leered at him. Instantly, a hideous smile inflamed her horrid face.
“So you are the one- the one who wants it?”
“Do you have my remuneration for my work, mortal?”
He handed her a leather bag of gold coins with trembling hands. “One hundred gold pieces, newly minted,” he stated hoarsely.
“Wonderful,” she laughed, as she tucked the bag in her left sleeve. “Come into my humble abode and sit by the ingle. We must get the night chills out of your bones…”
He obeyed without hesitation. The door closed silently by itself.
A member of the feline family rested on the mantle. Her emerald eyes beamed rays of treachery at the young man.
“Graymalkin, he is our guest,” she cajoled with a smile.
The cat meowed in response and closed her eyes in light sleep. Below her an iron caldron hung in the fire with its ethereal contents boiling.
“How long will it take,” he asked nervously.
“How long are the light of the moon and the shadow of the day?” She laughed balefully.
The old woman took a pekoe box, inlaid with a scarlet hexagram, from the mantle. Bending down to the pot, she lifted the lid and began a magic chant:
“When the moon is befogged and the wolf howls on a moonless night, beware, my friends. Somewhere in the night evil is at work and play.
“The blood of mortal runs like icy wind through veins of now and been and shall, yet only one can be. Wolfs bane hangs like liquid ether upon the mortal breast. An eye of paddock and a tail of dog form the pattern of shape that wasn’t but now is.
“A drop of mercury cures all and kills all. Foxglove takes shape and responds to command yet coltsfoot leads but never commands. Thrice and twice make haste to finish the formula. Let levin be!”
A flash of vermilion lightning jetted across the midnight sky. “Let there be thunder in the heavens.” The roar of thunder exploded above the cottage. “Levin and thunder combine to form energy. Let the sweet maple fall and burn to ashes…”
Thunder clashed. Lightning struck lightning.
“Around and around and around make thrice and thrice and thrice make nine.” Nine peals of thunder and nine flashes of vermilion lightning occurred simultaneously.
“Dandelion and monkshood added to the brew produces human dew.” Smoke leaped from the caldron.
She took a brass dipper and scooped out enough liquid to fill a bottle of jade. Rising, she walked into an adjacent room and returned without the vial.
“Is there much more to this ritual?” He implored.
“How many grains of sand and how many moons are there?” She grinned. Looking at the close door of the adjacent room, she began another incantation:
“Let the elements join and let ire begone. Forms and shapes materialize in one body void of bellicose inclinations. When mortal blood runs hot and the air is cool, then the raven says, ‘Never-more’. The crow flies, and east is east and west is west. The twain shall never be, so states the poet. Form of beauty, form of night and form of life come to me now. Your mortal waits…”
A crashing sound filled the adjacent room. The young man sprung to his feet.
“Is it done yet?” He exclaimed.
“Aye, my mortal deary, she is done…”
Going to the door, he pulled it open. Horror filled his face as he turned and plunged through the window with screams of madness.
“What could I have done wrong? All the ingredients for a damsel of love did put I into my brew…”
Graymalkin meowed with a grin.
“Aye, I did forget dust for dust, soil of earth…foolish of me to forget dust for the skin…”
Graymalkin meowed solemnly.
G. D. Williams © 2010