Truth or Tale?

Long, long ago in a faraway land, there was a 12 year old girl, named Jane, who had reached the limit of her patience with her older brother. He was making her life miserable. He simply had to go. The only problem was if she killed him, she knew the police would gloam onto her as the only person who wanted him dead and gone. What to do?

She thought long and hard about the problem. She had no ready access to weapons, unless you could classify a shovel or a hoe as a weapon. “Which,” she thought fairly, “you could, but it was not elegant.” Likely enough, he’d spot her and take the tool away from her. No, that wouldn’t do. The method should be subtle, not tie back to her, and yet, effective.

What about witchcraft? Nobody believed in witchcraft. If she could find just the right spell, they would never think of witchcraft, much less tie it to Jane…. this had promise.

Slowly, Jane came to the conclusion some research was in order and headed to the Public Library after school.

Well known to the Librarians, she stood patiently in line awaiting her turn for a consult. She lucked out. She got the Librarian who was the most fond of her. They greeted one another and the Librarian said, “Well, what are you looking for today?”

Giving the Librarian her most earnest expression,

Jane explained she was writing a paper on the Salem Witch Trials and wondered if there were any books on spells that she “could use to add verisimilitude” to her paper.

The Librarian thought for a moment. “We do have some here behind the desk, but they are special… and generally for adults only…. You wouldn’t be able to take it out of the library, you understand?” The Librarian peered over her glasses and down at Jane.

The small girl nodded and crossed her heart with her index finger. She knew she had had the Librarian with the use of “verisimilitude.”

The Librarian seemed to make up her mind at that moment and whispered, “Wait here a moment.”

She came back with four books, one the size of a family Bible. “Treat them carefully and be sure to bring them right back here.” The Librarian cautioned.

The girl beamed up at the gatekeeper-to-all-sacrosanct-knowledge, “Oh, I will.” She promised.

Jane gathered up the books, which seemed bigger and higher in her arms and made her way across the room to a book stand next to a tall window, giving enough light to read the pages.

The books had promise, each older than the next, smelling musty with age, drawings done in ink, some in color, some in black and white. She skipped past all the forwards and warnings, treatises on healings, prayers, magic, and headed directly to spells and incantations.

Nothing was quite right. Some spells were in English, some in foreign tongues, but just not quite right. There were spells for stuttering, spells for making a neighbor’s cow sick, spells for stomach cramps, boils, love potions, spells for sleeping sickness, spells for sealing a person’s lips closed…

It couldn’t be a spell where she made her brother sick. She knew who would have to wait on him hand and foot. And, it wasn’t going to be her, not this last time.

“Close, but no cigar, ” Jane thought, echoing her Uncle’s George’s favorite phrase. Jane got to the last book, the family Bible-sized one.

Jane drew the book towards her and something tingled in her fingers as she touched the spine and the back and front covers of the book. Closing her eyes, crossing her fingers, she wished with all her might that this might be the Book she needed.

Jane opened the book carefully, instinctively knowing that this book was different from the others. As she opened it, the book began to rise.

A bit spooked, Jane grabbed the book, stood on tiptoe, and using every muscle she had, leaned on the book until it rested on the stand once again, quivering underneath her fingers. Jane glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. Nobody seemed to be looking her way. She carefully turned a page with her chin, and jerked back in astonishment.

She stood transfixed for a time and then shook herself. “Get on with it,” She muttered. The letters settled back down and Jane whipped through the pages. Lots of the spells were the same style and curse format of the other books.

And then, Jane found it. “Spell for an Invisible Ring.” This one had potential. Her brother loved being the center of attention.

“What if…” Jane thought dreamily, she gave him the invisible ring…From the images, it would look like a regular ring. She knew he’d wear it and, according to the spell, it would cause the wearer to appear to disappear.

“Poetic justice,” Jane thought grimly. “Edgar will fade from view. Nobody will see him. He’ll wither from lack of attention. He’ll go insane!”

Jane got a piece of notepaper out and started writing down the ingredients.

“…A bat’s wing,
a gull’s feather,
a newt’s eyeball,
twine,
lizard’s gizzard (1/2 tsp.),
three crushed balls of cobalt,
India ink,
3 tablespoons of lemon juice.”

“…Uh oh,” Jane thought in dismay. It got tougher.

“The shell of a quail hen’s egg,
a quadrant of opal powder,
3 strands of hair of the ring wearer, root and all,
six legs of an 8 legged spider,
five eyelashes from the spell caster,
one ounce of a turtle’s foot …”

Jane paused. She was getting this twitching, hair crawling sensation at the back of her neck. Her hair was rising… She glanced down again.

Under a new moon, take the ingredients and go out into the garden. Dig a small, but deep hole. Touching each ingredient, chant the ring wearer’s name. Cover the hole and wait for the moon to be full two times hence. Retrieve the items, placing them in a silver meshed bowl. Walk until the cock crows, salute the rising sun and turn counter-clockwise 17 times. Rub the ingredients along the sides of a tree, meshing with the bark, scrape until a small ball is formed into the bowl. Take the ring to be given and, chanting the wearer’s name, gently rest the ring inside the small ball, in the bowl. Bury the ring by the tree until the new moon rises again…

“Well,” Jane sighed in thought, “the ingredients are tough to come by, and creepy, but I could maybe do it. The garden is going to be a problem.” She thought of their house and their backyard, covered mostly in brick with an avocado tree, and some waist high planters…

Jane.”

Jane jumped guiltily and looked around and behind her. No one was looking at her. No one was even close. Brushing her hair back out of her eyes, Jane turned back to the book.

Jane.”

This time, Jane lifted only her eyes to glance in every direction. Still nobody. But the voice was very near. She could hear it clearly and distinctly. It sounded… It sounded just like Father Cadfael.

“Don’t be stupid, Jane.” She chided herself. “It’s just that old movie we watched. You’re just scaring yourself silly with this thing. Keep going.”

Jane. Stop. This book is too strong for you right now. Listen to Me, Jane.

Jane could feel each hair on her forearms and the back of her neck, all rising simultaneously.

You are right to be scared, Jane.” Jane heard the voice inside her head. Soft, but firm, very, very firm. “Think it through, Jane. What do you suppose Edgar will do once he figures out the ring, Jane?

A bubble of silence, while the Voice waited. Jane thought about Edgar, his initial panic subsiding. His thinking back to when it had all begun. He’d figure it out. And then, he would use it against me, popping in and out whenever he liked. Oh, that would not be good. Jane shuddered.

That’s right, Jane. Walk away from these books. They are too dangerous for you right now, Jane. Patience. Edgar will go to college soon.”

Jane bit her lip, glancing at the book, at the ingredients carefully written down. Those crazy directions… She could sense the Voice patiently waiting on her decision. Jane thought of Edgar’s glee when he figured the ring out and began to use it on purpose. It would be a very bad thing.

Jane nodded and surrendered, tearing the notepaper into pieces, smaller and smaller and throwing them away. She carefully closed the Book of Secrets, gathered up the rest of the stack and took them back to her friend, the Librarian.

“All set, Jane? I would love to read your paper when it’s all done.” The Librarian smiled warmly at her and Jane realized that she would now have to write a wholly unnecessary paper on the Salem Witch Trials.

Written for Daily Prompt: Now You See Me.

Wait for it… you know it’s coming….

16 thoughts on “Truth or Tale?

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    • Dylan, thank you. I’m making it a point to follow your thrown down gauntlet of posting Every Damn Day December (EvDaDaDec) – and your posts are taking me by surprise. I underestimated what you’ve been working on. Well done! Best ~ HuntMode

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  4. Hunt, I had to go look up verisimilitude, so Jane would had me too. It was a very good story, and her brother is a very lucky young man. We have all had to make those hard decisions, and we had to talk council with those inner voices. Sometimes the right voice is the one we actually listen too. I know I have tried, and I know I have failed sometimes. Still Jane could be my hero. Take care, Bill

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