14 Mar

Griselda, a craggy old witch who lived in the picturesque hamlet of Swanspottle, needed a few ingredients for a brand new spell she’d read about in the “Witchy Times”, a plush and mysterious publication from News International, which was why she was in the Funeral Parlour on this particular day.
She had read that she needed to carefully simmer a cat’s whisker, a mouse’s ear, an elephant’s toenail and three dozen ant eggs in half a bottle of best white wine in her cauldron (which was in the back yard on account of the toxic fumes it produced), but she didn’t know what to do with the other half bottle of wine.
Her intention was to produce some little blue pills for a near neighbour one Barney Bumptious, who had complained of needing his spine stiffening before he collapsed altogether whilst labouring over his lawn mower. She was pretty sure she had an answer because she’d read of the stiffening effect of little blue pills, which was why she was where she was and scratching her head.
She had the problem of surplus wine, and her arch-enemy/friend Henrietta Blackboil was due round. Henrietta was an alcoholic’s alcoholic and it had been decades since she had consumed anything that wasn’t alcoholic. Griselda was afraid for her life if she carried on imbibing like she always did, and the half bottle of wine might be one temptation too many.
“Feckin waste to pour it away!” she grumbled, and then she remembered that Scatterbrain Johnson had died through drinking an excess of white wine, though she didn’t think he could have afforded the best. But best or worst, white wine was white wine, wasn’t it, she reasoned. Maybe even in death he’d appreciate a top-up, a little aperitif to assist has stagger along the paths that led to whatever hereafter he believed in.
So here she was in the Chapel of Rest at the funeral parlour with her broomstick parked tidily outside.
She came upon a problem almost straight away. The small staff of the tiny funeral establishment were all out collecting new bodies for their collection and she had to find her own way around. She didn’t mind that until she came upon the first open coffin, and that made her stomach churn.
It was Eliza Pomfrey, and she was only in her twenties and consequently far too young, in Griselda’s opinion, to have to spend eternity lying in a wooden box. And beautiful. She was definitely beautiful, or would be if it wasn’t for the hideous scar left by some cack-handed pathologist who had delved into her insides in order to find out why she had died.
“As if it matters!” squawked Griselda to herself. “She was dead and that just soddin’ well had to be that!”
Then she thought a little bit deeper, and the start of a particularly mischievous grin started to cross her ancient, wrinkled face.
“By the devil wake up, child,” she whispered. And those of us who know of Griselda and her strange Necromantic magic will know that the body in the coffin was about to stir and yawn and open her eyes and look around her…
…And scream.
Most people would scream if they found themselves waking up, cold like ice and lying in strange surroundings in a coffin with their best frock uncomfortably on them and a dirty great scar running angrily from neck to naughty bits.
“It’s all right, child,” grizzled Griselda. “You were dead and now you ain’t! I’ve seen to that and you ought to be grateful!”
“But I wanted to die…” wailed the young woman, “I wanted to end it all, I wanted to go to Heaven and meet my Maker and Auntie Agnes!”
“Who’s Auntie Agnes?” Griselda asked.
“My tortoise, of course!” shouted the newly-risen corpse. “But she died and I wanted to go with her! I couldn’t bear the idea of one day without her, but she had to crawl into the bracken and wood pile on our back yard, and I had to set light to it without knowing, and she had to get roasted alive … and it was all my fault!”
“Poor Auntie Agnes,” muttered Griselda, “but that kind of thing is what pet tortoises do when they get fed up with living! They find somewhere snug and comfortable and wait for some thoughtless young woman to bring a box of matches to them…”
“Oh noooo!” shrieked Eliza, and she ripped open the long scar that ran, as I have described, from her neck to her naughty bits and pulled out her own heart, which as chance would have it was still beating.
“I wanna die!” she howled, and started chewing at the veins and arteries that were attached to that throbbing organ. And what a mess she made! Who would have thought that any attractive young woman could have so much blood in her. Even Griselda was shocked, and very little got past her cynical guard.
“All right, die then!” she cackled, and muttered a reversal spell, once again invoking satanic help which never let her down even when Satan might have wanted it to. Young Eliza fluttered her eyelids once or twice, the many fountains of blood paused in mid-squirt and began returning whence they had come, the scar magically reformed as soon as the heart was back where it should be, Eliza returned zombie-fashion to her last resting place and Griselda heaved a sigh of relief.
“That was messy,” she muttered to herself. “I’d best be careful what I wish for! Now let’s go and find that Scatterbrain Johnson and get out of here before I see enough blood to give me nightmares for a fortnight!”
There was only one other cold and grey figure in the Chapel of Rest and he possessed a mighty stomach that even in death wobbled to the throbbing of the refrigeration machinery that prevented him from turning to goo before he was actually interred in the Earth.
“Ha. Mr Scatterbrain, I presume,” muttered Griselda.
Now she’d been a canny old witch long enough to know that the last thing anyone should do was start presuming. Instead they should read the little label attached to a corpse’s toe, which might stand a better chance of actually reflecting accurately the name of the deceased. This one, unnoticed by Griselda (who had decided to speed things up quite considerably and get out of the funeral parlour before anything else went horribly wrong) suggested that the owner of the toe was one Reverend Philious Pugh who had passed away as a consequence of too many late nights performing unmentionable exercises with Mrs Philpot, his housekeeper. He had suddenly and almost unexpectedly suffered a gigantic heart attack whilst vertically above her and she had inherited everything he owned that didn’t belong to the church.
Griselda was about to wake him magically and ask him if he fancied a glass or two of good white wine when caution interfered and she glanced at the label on his toe and pulled herself to an amazingly adept standstill.
“The wrong stiff,” she muttered. “Sod this for a waste of time! Barney can keep his unstiffened back and do without his little blue pills! I’m away from here!”

© Peter Rogerson 14.03.16


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