–Turning in the doorway, she yelled at the crypt, “You stay in there until you behave!”
–It had been years since Awa was genuinely terrified, but she fell back into it easily enough.
–For an instant he considered going back for his charcoal and planks but then the monster begged for help with the voice of a little girl and he advanced with his weapon.
–“Morality, eh? The shakiest fuckin word I ever ‘eard.”
–The shriveled cadaver jammed her blackened digits into her mouth and began to chew, faint whines slipping between the sharp teeth and wet meat and crackling bones as she ate her own fingers.
–“Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” said the ugly little man as he bowed. “But you may call me Doctor Paracelsus.”
–Fuck. Paracelsus? Fuck.
–“If you mean to ask why I sleep inside a giant, monstrous beast instructed to rend apart anyone who might disturb my rest I would ask what happened to your previously acceptable wits.”
–The rays of sunlight punching through the smoke cloud would have formed the shapes of skulls to the artist if the vapors had not blinded his eyes, and the mud squeezing up between his fingers as he climbed the earthen wall would have looked like worms. Instead everything looked like a blur, and he thought veil of tears with a giggle.
–She reached the wall of the cemetery, and the girl’s song abruptly ended just before Awa’s hoof crunched down into the snow.
–Getting the corpses fitted with hat and draped with cloth was easier than having them hold the instruments properly, but a cadaver that had somehow kept its mustache in the grave while losing its lower jaw seemed more adroit than its fellows, so Manuel gave him both the flute and the drum.
–“He was slinging chicken bones, trying to pass them off as old popes!”
–She was surprised to see the man’s spirit had not drifted away to wherever they went, nor had it stayed in its skull, but had somehow come loose and settled in the wet lump of muscle Awa held in her hand.
–“Bruja, warlock, wizard, sorcerer, witch, necromancer, diabolist, all the same—I can raise the dead, Niklaus Manuel Deutsch of Berne, and I can command them to do my will. I can parlay with spirits, with demons, and I can kill any man that lives with only my touch.”
“Fuck,” Manuel squeaked.
–The circles of blood were bubbling, burning, the stink like scorched hair only sweeter, sharper, and a column of smoke rose from the puddle of blood in the second, empty circle. The shape was indistinct, swirling, and the voice was a strange warble, closer to an insect’s than a person’s, yet Awa was sure she had succeeded, and the pleasure at this victory was only surpassed by the pleasure of seeing her mother again, no matter how dimly.
–There was the problem, a thick mold clogging the poor girl’s mouth.
–“So your house is on top of a warren of bloodthirsty monsters, your summer home is next-door to a warlock, and to top it all off you’ve been letting your undead witch girlfriend call the shots. You’re a credit to your profession.”
–The hammer came down again, a beatific grin on her face as the tool struck home, the handle gripped in both hands. The shrouded body underneath her was convulsing now, and the hammer went up a third time.
–“Vivisection. A lovely word, don’t you agree?”
–…and there, in that cold, miserable cave, their nightmare began in earnest.
(Texter by Marc Laidlaw, based on The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington: Orbit, March 2011.)