Friday, August 7, 2015

Of Pink Cats and Dead Girls

     The day started with a soft paw patting my face, my cat Cleopatra trying to wake me up, as usual. But not as usual, I was lying on the floor, trying sleepily to remember what I'd been doing the previous night. I cracked my eyes open to a shocking sight: instead of her normal glossy, black fur, my cat looked oddly bedraggled, her fur bright pink and sticking straight out in all directions. Great. Wonderful. Lovely. I peeled myself slowly off the floor and onto my feet, looking at the carnage in my living room. Not only was one of my cats pink, but the ceiling and walls had been splattered with a pink substance. My latest spell, as I should have predicted, had gone horribly wrong. 
     You see, I'm a witch. And I taught myself everything I know, which means I've tried to perform magic which had unexpected results, usually not harmful, but sometimes nearly disastrous. Like the time I tried to summon a spirit and accidentally summoned a fire sprite and almost burned down my old neighborhood. That incident got my screw-up, college-dropout, godless-heathen butt kicked out of my parent's house, which I had honestly been anticipating for a while. So I went to Collingwood. My aunt lives here, which is nice, considering what an heap of excrement this place is. I found a job at a bookstore called Devil's Gate, a quarter-mile from my apartment building. Working Devil's Gate, living in apartment number 666, a witch named Salem. What could possibly have gone wrong?
     The time was 8:30 AM, and I was already trying to clean up the magical mess. Now let me make one thing very clear: Magic is the hardest thing to clean up. Worse than eggs, worse than ink, worse than cat vomit. I know whereof I speak. Quite simply, you need magic of some sort to clean magic. I didn't trust my own spells before I'd had my coffee, so after going after my walls and Cleo with rags and cleaning fluid, I decided to leave it until after work. Cleo had decided to mope in the company of my other cats, Simba and Freija. I scratched the poor thing behind her ears before getting ready for work. 
     I was running late. Raina, my boss, didn't especially care if I was a few minutes late, but I did. I dashed up Stanley Rd. Suddenly, I stopped. Down Baker Street, by the lake into which the road mysteriously led, I saw yellow police tape. I decided to take a detour: Raina could wait. I could be more curious than my cats. As I approached the lake, I saw a police officer standing sternly, with a few curious neighbors around. "What happened?" I asked, my heart pounding and my mind flipping through worst case scenarios. The cop answered me. "Some person found a dead girl in the lake. They think she might be a relative of Stanley's." The way she said "Stanley" instantly gave away who she meant. She was talking about Stanley Collingwood, the founder of our city and the namesake of my apartment building. "Shit," I said, shocked, "Do they know how long she was in there?" The police officer, whose name badge read Jennifer Hartwood, lowered her sunglasses to glare at me. "No" she said. I knew I'd gone too far. "Oh," I said, sweating nervously, my introvert nerves telling me to run. I swallowed, turned, and sprinted all the way to work. 
     It was a quiet day at Devil's Gate, so I took some time to sneak into the back room. Nobody went in there but me, partly because all the books were old and about witchcraft and exorcisms and the like, but mostly it was just really creepy and rumored to be haunted. So on some days, like today, I was pretty much getting paid barely a living wage to read books on talking to the dead. It was a good deal. Suddenly, as I had just started formulating a list of what I would need to converse with the ghost of a drowned girl, Raina peeked her head around the door. "I thought I'd find you here," she said, her voice still husky from a bad stint of laryngitis she'd had the week before, "You know, if you like this stuff, I'd be glad to give it to you." She winked. Raina knew full well that I was a witch, and she also knew I'd refused her offers of these books many times. But this time, I decided to take her up on it. "Okay, Raina," I said "I'll take home some books." Raina beamed, probably just glad to be rid of some of the ancient tomes. "Pick the ones you want and put them in that box, okay?" She pointed to a cardboard box. "And hurry. It's almost rush time." I sighed. My peaceful reading day was over. Rush time meant about a score of nerds from the middle and high schools about half a mile after Stanley Road became Mormon Road came storming into our store. I thanked whoever I had to thank that Quitting Time was at 5:30. Two hours to go.
       That evening, I paced in my apartment. I had finally cleaned the pink warzone that had been my living room. A book on communing with spirits, which, course, had been one of Raina's, lay open on my tiny coffee table. But I had bigger problems than drowned girls. Bigger problems than pink magical explosions. I was running out of money. My rent had gone up to fund the renovations upstairs, and my book-keeping job wasn't going to cut it. Stanley's granddaughter, or whoever she was, could wait.