Side Effects

31 October, eh?  That sounds like a perfect excuse for a certain sort of story ….


“Eye of newt and spleen of rat … ”

The old crone cackled demonically as she added yet more selections from the anatomy of the local wildlife to the foul-smelling liquid simmering away in her cauldron.

The face of the much younger woman sitting before her bore an expression of great agitation.

“How much longer is this going to take?”

“Just a few minutes, dearie,” replied the witch. “That’s all the ingredients done. Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to have a quick word with His Nibs.”

At this, the old woman shut her eyes and threw her head back, raising her spindly arms to the heavens.

“Lord of damnation, I summon you to this place and command you to infuse this elixir with your elemental power.”

She began to shudder and foam at the mouth, and for no apparent reason it suddenly got darker and random flashes of lightning could be seen in the distance. Although the witch – now writhing and uttering low moans – was no longer stirring the cauldron, its contents began to bubble and seethe so violently that some of the liquid spilled out and fell, hissing, onto the fire.

Then, all of a sudden, the sky became light again and the liquid returned to normal. The old woman opened her eyes and, taking a brass ladle, decanted some of the cauldron’s purple contents into a small glass bottle.

“There you go, dearie. Old Mother Black’s constipation remedy. Also effective for colds and flu. Half a teaspoonful twice daily. That’ll be three and six, please.”

The younger woman thrust some coins into her hand. “Now give it here, I’m desperate!”

“Just a minute. I need to give you the safety instructions. Do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding. Should not be taken with alcohol, invisibility potions or human blood. May cause drowsiness. Also, the potion …”

“Enough!” The young woman was adamant. Without another word, she snatched the bottle, and immediately downed the entire contents.

The witch simply composed herself and resumed speaking.

“ … may cause explosions if taken in large doses. You know what, dearie? My work here is done. I’ll be seeing you. Put the fire out when you go.” At this, she mounted the broomstick that was parked nearby and took to the air.

Not a moment too soon. As Old Mother Black reached 500 feet, the sky lit up for an instant and there was a very loud boom.

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