Finch stopped to admire herself in the mirror. Her new wire-style haircut was a perfect match for her conservative witch’s hat and long, angular nose—complete with wart, of course. If there was one thing that Witch Finch liked about herself, it was her adherence to tradition.
She scowled at the thought of the latest fad amongst young witches of actually trying to look beautiful. If she wanted to look pretty, she had a spell for that. In her opinion, there was no point wasting time, effort, and magic on looking good all the time.
Finch checked herself one more time in the mirror and gave a toothy smile at what she saw. The mirror cracked.
After an almost absentminded wave of her hand to repair the broken glass, she turned and headed towards what passed for a kitchen in her small, but elegantly disgusting, abode. “Aber! Where the hell have you gotten to, you miserable boy?”
She entered the kitchen and found her assistant sitting on the floor eating. “There you are. Now I’ve got a job…” Her high-pitched scratchy voice trailed off as she first smelled, and then saw, what Aber had been up to. “What the hell have you done? Is that the new delivery boy from Hun, Won & Lo?”
“Er…” Aber Zombie looked around. He crawled over to the pile of discarded clothing nearby and started searching. He found the shirt that his latest conquest had been wearing and peered at the logo. He looked up at Witch Finch and smiled. “Yes.”
Finch scowled. “Do you have any idea how much delivery boys cost? I don’t mind the fact that, given the chance, you’ll fuck anything male that moves, but do you really need to eat their brains afterwards?”
Aber looked confused, which admittedly was one of his most common expressions. “Er…brains taste better after sex.”
“Is that because you’re hungry afterwards?” Finch lost her scowl as an interesting thought crossed her mind. “Or is it because sex alters of the taste of the brains?”
“Fresh brains taste better. After-sex brains taste better. Fresh, after-sex brains taste the best!” Aber grinned at what was, for him, a long speech.
Finch’s scowl returned at the sight of delivery-boy brains stuck between Aber’s poorly preserved teeth. “They’re also hideously expensive! You’ve got a supply of frozen brains in the fridge. Why can’t you eat those, instead?”
Aber Zombie stood up. “Don’t like frozen.”
“Too bad. That’s all we can afford on a regular basis.” Finch’s gaze couldn’t help but wander down Aber’s body to his groin area. “I still don’t know if that’s rigor mortis or a side-effect of that entire cauldron of sex-appeal you drank thinking it was dishwater, but doesn’t it ever go down?”
Aber glanced down his partly decayed but otherwise trim, taut, and terrific body. “Er…no. Should it?”
Finch wrinkled her nose, making her wart vibrate. “If you weren’t the animated favourite nephew of my step-sister’s twice-resurrected, great-grandfather’s adopted daughter’s son-in-law, I’d’ve gotten rid of you years ago.” She sighed. “But you’re family, so I’m stuck with you.”
Aber Zombie smiled. “I’m family.”
“Don’t remind me.” She waved a hand. “Now clean up this mess and do something about that stench. This place smells like a male bordello. Once you’re done, I’ve got a job for you to do.” She smiled, causing the polished bottom of a nearby saucepan to crumble. “I’ve finally managed to get the second cousin of the Duke’s gardener to agree to a date. This is our chance to make a connection with nobility—our first step to a secure future—but there’s lots of work to be done.”
“Er…work.” Aber Zombie sighed.
“Yes, work. Now get this cleaned up and then meet me in the study. I need to make sure I get the next set of enchantments just right.”
* * *
Aber gave the delivery boy’s lips a final delicate kiss before taking a bite out of the boy’s tongue. He then dropped the corpse into the waste bin. Aber was fastidious, at least for a zombie. He always opened the back of the head of his meals to preserve their face for as long as possible. He liked to give them a final kiss goodbye and to take a piece of them for a snack afterwards.
After mopping up the last of the blood and other bodily fluids, Aber started one of Witch Finch’s cauldrons bubbling. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was the one with her ‘delicates’ that he had been about to wash when the delivery boy had arrived and distracted him from his task. Regardless, the foul odour that arose masked the heady scent of male-on-male sex that pervaded the kitchen. Personally, Aber preferred the smell of sex, but Finch was his boss, and she outvoted him.
His immediate chores completed, Aber plodded down toward Finch’s study. He paused along the way to scratch the back of Scalder, the witch’s familiar. He was rewarded with a loud purr and then the weight of the cat as Scalder leapt up onto his shoulder.
“She seems excited,” Scalder said as he wrapped his tail around Aber’s neck.
Aber smiled. “Pretty cat.”
“I’m not just a cat, Aber.” Scalder sighed. “I don’t know why I try to discuss anything with you. You never remember what we’re talking about, and the conversation always ends up being about sex.”
“See what I mean!” Scalder jabbed his claws into Aber’s shoulders. “Now, don’t keep the witch waiting. She’s got some big plans afoot.”
“Just go into the study.” Scalder settled himself back into place. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Aber continued on his unhurried way to Finch’s study. It was supposed to be the indoor lavatory, but Finch had nixed that idea when she moved in. As a traditionalist, an outdoor toilet was what she wanted and what she got. Not that she ever used it—one of Aber’s many chores was to take the Finch’s chamber pot and empty the contents into the pit behind the outside lavatory—but it was there for visitors, if they ever had any.
“About time.” Finch scowled, which perversely made her look nicer. “I need you to run down to Hun, Won & Lo for a few things.” Her expression hardened, causing Scalder to drop off Aber’s shoulder and scoot under the witch’s chair. “One of which is to pay them for a new delivery boy.”
Aber frowned. “Don’t run.”
“I know you don’t run. You never move faster than a…” Finch shook her head. “Why do I even bother trying to explain? Anyway, you need to go now, because you have to be back before sunset. Scalder will go with you to make sure you don’t wander off or forget.”
“Me?” The cat peeked out from his hiding place. “What did I do to deserve this?”
“Nothing, but I can’t go myself, and that means sending Aber. He can’t be trusted alone, so that means you have to go, too.” She picked at her nose while staring down it at her familiar. “Any more stupid questions, or should I turn you into a cockroach to make it easier for Aber to carry you?”
“Hmm…cockroach.” Aber smiled. “Crunchy.”
Scalder gave Aber a nervous glance before settling back onto his hindquarters and smiling up at the witch. “What do you need?”
“That’s a question, but I suppose it’s a reasonable one.” She preened her wiry hair. “While I’m making some last-minute beauty adjustments, I need you to get the last ingredients for my love potion.”
Scalder hesitated. “Love potion?” He knew those potions never worked as planned, but that hadn’t stopped witches throughout the ages from making them.
“That’s right.” She smiled, waving a hand negligently to fix the nearby mirror that cracked in response. “While my scintillating good looks have captured the attention of the Duke’s gardener’s second cousin, I need to make sure he doesn’t get away. The drinks with dinner tonight will be spiked to ensure that a good time is had by one and all. Especially this one,” she said, indicating herself.
“Your good looks. Right…” Scalder gagged for a moment and then sat back on his haunches. “A fur ball. Sorry. What do you need?”
Finch frowned but didn’t make any comment. “I’ll write you a list.”
* * *
“Well, there’s my day gone,” Scalder said from a perch on Aber’s shoulder as the zombie strolled down the country lane on the way into town. “I had it all planned. A nice little playdate with that cute mouse on the third floor and then living life on the edge with the wild minxes in the forest. Instead, I have to go shopping in yet another vain attempt by the witch to get ahead in life.”
Aber frowned. “She’s got one.”
“A head. She needs another one?”
“No, not literally. What I meant…” Scalder sighed. “It would’ve been much nicer if you’d drunk a cauldron of intelligence instead of one of sex appeal, but then again, the witch could do with that, too. The only problem is that you have to be smart to create a potion for intelligence, which rules out anyone who needs one from making one.”
Scalder glanced back the way they’d come. “You might want to move to the side. There’s a wagon coming.”
Aber looked over his shoulder and smiled. He licked his lips as he listened to the expletives being yelled at the ox pulling the farm cart. There was something about a muscular, tanned, young farmer that made Aber hungry in more ways than one.
The young man glared at Aber. “Out of the way you long-dead piece of worthless shit!” A moment later, after he got a better look at Aber, his expression transformed into one of uncertainty. “You! You’re in the way.”
Aber glanced down at his feet and back at the cute farmer. “On way, not in way.”
The young man pulled back on the reins and was completely ignored by the ox as the wagon continued to roll slowly towards town. “Stop, you miserable lump of pot roast!” He licked his lips and smiled tentatively at Aber. “Hey, sexy, why don’t you climb up here and I’ll give you a ride?”
Aber smiled back. Ever since he’d drunk that cauldron, he kept meeting the nicest guys. He pulled himself onto the wooden seat next to the young man. “I’m Aber Zombie. I like you.”
“I’m Col. I…I like you, too.” He bit his lower lip for a moment and then visibly forced himself to look down the road they were travelling. “I hope you enjoy the ride.”
Aber always enjoyed a ride with cute guys. All that was needed was to find out what sort of ride Col had in mind.
It didn’t take long to find out. As they reached the edge of the forest, the young man pulled off his tunic. “Gee, it’s hot. Maybe we should rest in the shade for a bit.”
Aber grinned and took off his own top. He knew what was going to happen next. “You’re hot.”
“So are you…” Col divided his focus between directing the ox and staring at Aber’s body, with the body winning most of the attention. “Why don’t we…?”
Aber removed his shorts. It was what the guys usually wanted him to do after he’d removed his top. Col’s gaze was stuck on Aber’s groin area. “Oh, shit… I think that’s bigger than our prize bull’s.” He looked up for a moment and held up a finger in warning. “But no eating my brain, okay! I’ve heard about your sort.”
* * *
Col gave Aber another kiss. “I’ll drop you off now, and you can walk into town. I’ll be heading back later today, so if you’d like another ride, wait for me here.”
Aber grinned at the invitation. He’d had a lot of fun riding Col.
Scalder rolled his eyes. “Any reason for picking this particular copse of conifers? Could it be that it’s the last chance to drop us off before someone sees you?”
Col glared, though his face was red. “It’s not that. It’s…”
“You don’t want to be seen in the company of a zombie.”
“Fine!” Col grabbed the cat off Aber’s shoulder and tossed him off the side of the cart. “I just offered you a ride back, but you can walk for all I care.”
Aber frowned. “Col unhappy?”
“Not with you!” Col glanced around nervously. “But I have to go. I hope to see you again sometime.” He grabbed Aber for one last hug and then gently pushed him away. “Bye.”
A couple of minutes later, Aber was plodding his way towards the town. Col’s cart was almost out of sight, which made Aber sigh.
“You know, I don’t get it,” Scalder said from his usual perch on Aber’s shoulder. “Why didn’t you eat his brains afterwards, like you usually do?”
“Told me not to.”
“That’s it?” Scalder’s tone was one of disbelief. “After all this time and all those delivery boys, all that was needed was for them to ask you not to eat their brains?”
“Not nice eating brains if they don’t like it.” Aber thought for a moment, which for him lasted five minutes. “Finch says do what I’m told.”
“Hmm… That raises some interesting possibilities for the future.” Scalder peered ahead. “But that will have to wait. Look out, Aber, I think there’s trouble coming.”
A small mob, all men, was approaching. From the sounds, several, if not most of them, were drunk. As they came closer, Aber and Scalder could see that a small man in torn but bright and garish green clothing was being pushed ahead of them. His arms were chained behind him, and he had numerous cuts and abrasions. As they watched, he fell face first onto the dirt road and was immediately kicked by two of the men behind him.
Another man pointed towards Aber and Scalder. “Hey, there’s one of his friends. Let’s have a little fun!”
Scalder leapt off Aber’s shoulder. “Oh, look, a mouse! Bye, Aber,” he called out as he disappeared into the grass at the side of road.
Aber smiled at the mob. “Fun? I like fun.” He then frowned at the man in the bright green clothes. “But he not friend.” Aber cocked his head to the side and smiled. “Not yet.”
The mob’s aggressive demeanour faded as they stared at Aber. Most of them muttered to each other, but one stout guy in a leather apron, leather trousers, and not much else, stepped forward. “He’s sick in the head. He keeps going on about how great zombies are.”
“You haven’t been listening to me!” The man on the ground rolled over and pulled himself into a sitting position. “I’m a campaigner for equal rights for the undead. Do you know how much discrimination there is—”
He was cut off when the leather-clad man kicked him in the mouth. “We don’t want to hear that rubbish around here!” He wiped his hands on his apron, glanced at the other men around him, and then looked back at Aber. “We’ll leave him with you. We don’t want to see him in town again.”
With scattered mutters that Aber couldn’t make out, the mob headed back to town, though many of the men kept glancing back over their shoulders at Aber as they left.
Aber reached down and pulled the green-clad man to his feet. “You okay?” Aber stroked the attractive young man’s arms and shoulders. “Not hurt?”
“I’ll survive.” He smiled at Aber. “Thanks for your help. You’re a shining—and incredibly good-looking—example of what I keep telling people about. Undead are people, too! Did you know that in some places, the churches refuse to allow undead to marry?” He rolled his eyes. “They claim it messes up the accounting in the afterlife if someone who isn’t alive gets married — or some such rot.” He glared in the direction of the town. “It’s discrimination, pure and simple! There’s nothing wrong with zombies, skeletons, ghosts or ghouls. Even vampires aren’t too bad if you’ve got lots of tomato juice for them to drink. Why do people hate them?” He smiled back at Aber. “I’m Kalvin, by the way. People tell me I talk too much, but I can’t help it when it’s on a subject I’m passionate about. Injustice makes my blood boil!”
Aber frowned. “Vampires like boiling blood?”
Kalvin’s brow wrinkled. “You know, I really don’t know.” He smiled and turned around. “Say, I know it’s a dreadful inconvenience, but could you get these chains off me? It’s really hard to do much with your arms stuck behind your back all the time.”
Aber stared at the chains. They were thick and held together with a large padlock. “Got key?”
“You know, that’s something they forgot to leave with me. But I’ve got an idea.” He looked over his shoulder at Aber. “If you could maybe bite off part of one of my hands, I’ll be able to slip out of the chains. Don’t worry,” he added quickly. “I’m a quick healer. It’s my secret talent; I can regrow body parts.” He chuckled. “That’s come in really useful at times, like when the captain of the Duke’s guard caught me in bed with his niece. I thought he was going to kill me, but instead he just cut off a rather important part of my body and laughed at me.” Kalvin chuckled. “The laugh’s on him, though. Three days later, I had her again. He never knew. He still thinks I’m safe around his niece. By the way, what’s your name.”
Kalvin snorted. “You’d think I’d’ve learnt by now to not talk so much. Not everyone is able to keep up with me when I’m on a roll. Those cretins in town are a good example. I was explaining calmly and patiently the injustices heaped upon those who are privileged to keep going after they’ve been killed, and they just didn’t get it. Instead of trying to appreciate the finer points of educated logic, they grabbed me, tore off my cloak, and then wrestled me into these chains. So…could you get them off me, please?”
“Er…” Aber stood there, confused.
“Just bite off parts of my hand until I tell you to stop.” Kalvin gritted his teeth. “Go!”
A few minutes later, Aber was licking his lips, enjoying the taste, while Kalvin was shaking off the chains.
“Thank you!” Kalvin stroked the side of Aber’s face with what was left of his right hand. “I’d love to stay and get to know you better, but I have things to do, places to be. I’m sure you understand. The campaign for equal rights must go on!” With a wave that threw a few droplets of blood around, Kalvin strode off back the way that Aber and Scalder had just travelled.
Aber stared after him, feeling a strange sense of disappointment. It wasn’t often Aber experienced a one-on-one situation with an attractive male that didn’t result in sex.
Scalder peeked out from behind a nearby bush. “They’re all gone?” He sauntered out before climbing his way up Aber’s body to his usual spot on Aber’s shoulder. “I’m amazed that your unnatural sex appeal is able to calm angry mobs, but there’s no denying the evidence. However, we’re now late, so it’s time to get our shopping trip out of the way.” He jabbed his claws into Aber, which had no effect on the placid zombie. “Let’s get moving.”
It was another twenty minutes before Aber had plodded his way through town to the majestic emporium known throughout the area as Hun, Won & Lo. As was the norm, he attracted a good deal of attention from the locals, though no one interfered or did more than stare and whisper. Several teenage males licked their lips as they watched, but Aber was used to that and thought it was normal.
As he entered the aging building, a single chime rang out. A wizened gentlemen in a long, flowing red robe approached. “Ah, Master Aber. One of our most favoured customers! It is our distinct pleasure to see you again.”
Scalder snorted. “That’s because he keeps your delivery-boy line turning over.” The cat smiled. “A word to the wise, Won; that may not continue. I have reason to believe that your delivery-boy business may be entering a quiet period.”
“Surely not! Young Master Aber will always need fresh supply of brains to keep up his robust and almost healthy vigour. What better source than our delightful and not overly bright collection of delivery boys?”
“Hmm…you’ve got a point.” Scalder looked at Aber. “How long can he go without brains before something dreadful happens?”
“Indeed, Master Scalder.” Won smiled, a flash of light beaming off his supernaturally white teeth. “One might even say that something dreadful has already happened because he’s been without brains.”
Aber sighed. “Don’t have brains. Love brains. Don’t have any.”
Scalder laughed. “Very true. Anyway, Won, I apologise for cutting short the playful banter, but Witch Finch has a shopping list that she needs filled quite urgently. Like now.”
“We will do our very best, Master Scalder, but as you know, the magic-supply business is very fickle, and we may not have everything in stock.”
“I don’t think any of these should be difficult for you. To start with, we need three pickled bull scrotums, the pubic hair of a pregnant, unmarried maiden, and a half pint of fresh virgin’s blood.”
Won, who had been nodding slowly as Scalder read out the shopping list, stiffened. “She’s making a love potion?” He visibly made himself relax. “As she is a faithful customer, I must in all honesty point out that they never work as intended. Witches around the world may keep trying, but none have managed to make a love potion that does what it’s supposed to do.”
Scalder sighed. “I know that, and you know that, but we both know that after Romeodo’s great revenge curse of ’79, no witch can be made to believe that. She wants to make a love potion, and that’s what her shopping list is for.”
“If that’s the way it is to be…” Won sighed. “Any particular type of virgin’s blood? The price varies considerably.”
“Certainly. The magic of rarity affects the price of all things. Prepubescent virgin’s blood is cheap and readily available, but it becomes more difficult to find from the late teens onwards, especially if you’re after virgin-male blood. By the time they reach their early twenties, virgin males are a scarcity. Virgin females aren’t cheap either, though not quite as rare. Now, once you get past thirty, the price goes down. The number of virgins is low, but if they’re still a virgin by then, there’s a good chance they’ll stay a virgin for the next thirty years, so if a supplier has one of those, they are guaranteed to always have virgin blood on hand.” Won coughed apologetically. “If you’re not fussy, we have a plentiful supply of vintage virgin’s blood in stock. Otherwise, I’ll have to see who’s available.”
Scalder snorted. “Vintage sounds fine, since the witch didn’t bother specifying. Exactly how vintage are we talking about?”
Won clapped his hands three times. An elderly hunchback woman with hair going white with age shuffled out. She was dressed in a formless, grey, one-piece dress that did little to hide her sagging breasts and wrinkled skin. As she approached, her shrouded white eyes indicated that she was blind. “Yes, you old fool. What do you want?”
“Madonna, dear, we have an order for fresh virgin’s blood. Can you please arrange for half a pint to be made ready?”
She cackled. “Ready? I’ve been ready for years. Too many years. One day soon, I’m going to find myself a nice man and quit. Until then, though…” She turned to a nearby desk, fumbled for a moment, and then pulled out a small flask. She pushed up the sleeve of her dress to reveal a small tap in the middle of her forearm. Holding the faucet over the flask, she started bleeding into the container.
Won turned back to Scalder. “While our dear Madonna is preparing the virgin’s blood, do you have anything else you need?”
“Besides a frisky minx and a witch who is competent?” Scalder sighed. “The rest of the list is…”
* * *
“About time!” Finch scowled at Aber and Scalder as they entered the kitchen. “Our guest will be here soon, and there’s still plenty to do.”
Aber sighed. “No ride.”
Scalder jumped in. “What he’s saying is that someone offered us a ride back, but then he didn’t show up. That’s why we’re late.”
“And pussycat.” Aber smiled. “Cute pussycat. Scalder had fun.”
“What’s he talking about?” Finch asked.
“Never mind,” Scalder said quickly. “Aber, unload the shopping, and let’s get dinner started.”
Finch decided to focus on the task ahead. “I’ve already made the first two courses, so you only need to cook the next four while I prepare the potion.”
Scalder stared. “You cooked?”
Finch glared at her familiar. “Yes, I cooked. I’ll have you know that when I was in school, I was a top-notch cook. Only six people have ever died from eating what I made, if you exclude the rugby team that was downwind even though they were warned ahead of time, the convent of nuns that fainted at the smell and never woke up, and the five fishermen that ate the dead fish they found in the stream after the leftovers were tossed away, but since none of them actually ate my cooking, they don’t count.”
“If that’s what you think…” Scalder turned to Aber. “Time to get to work. Let’s see what we can do to prepare something that will match the quality and glamour of what our dear witch has concocted.”
“Start cooking, Aber.” Scalder glanced up at Finch. “How much time do we have?”
“Hopefully at least half an hour, since it’ll take most of that time to get the potion made.” She gathered up the supplies, popping one of the pickled bull scrotums in her mouth.
“Don’t you need that for your spell?” Scalder asked.
Finch snorted as she headed out the door. “I only need one. The other two are for me while I’m working. I’ve always had a thing for pickled balls.”
Scalder waited until she had disappeared before he headed for his basket in the corner near the stove. “Start cooking, Aber.”
“I don’t know. Just make something up. Whatever you do, it’ll still be better than what she came up with.”
Aber moved over to the bubbling cauldrons. He used a stick to fish around in one and pulled out a pair of the witch’s knickers. “This?”
Scalder gagged. “No, I don’t think so. That might be a little too much.”
Aber frowned at the cauldron from which he’d just removed Finch’s undergarments. “Soup?”
Scalder shrugged. “Sounds good to me as long as I’m not required to taste it. Make something up, Aber. I’m going to take a nap. That frisky ginger earlier wore me out.”
It was over an hour later when a hideous cackle sounded out from the other end of the house, waking up Scalder. “Aber, go see who’s at the front door. It’s probably this gardener’s second cousin who the witch has been going on about.”
Aber plodded his way out of the kitchen, but Finch was at the door first. “Kalvin! It’s so good to see you again.”
“And you too, lady witch.” The young man, now wearing a glaring-purple cape over the top of a blood-red tunic and bright-orange waistcoat, gave her a kiss on the side of her face, making the wart on her nose jiggle.
“You’re too kind.” Finch used her much practised bashful pose of a slight-downcast-and turned-away head, while having her hands clasped in front of her body. She looked up, batted her eyelashes, and smiled. The mirror next to them shattered, glass falling around their feet.
Kalvin smiled back. “It’s not possible to be too kind.” His eyes widened as he glanced past her. “Aber! Well, this is a pleasant surprise.” He grinned and pushed past Finch on his way to Aber. He grabbed Aber’s hand and shook it vigorously. “I was hoping to see you again so I could thank you properly. If those cretins from town hadn’t ruined my outfit, I wouldn’t have rushed off the way I did, but I had to prepare for my dinner date tonight.”
Finch’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Aber. “What did you do?”
“What did he do? Why, he single-handedly faced down a vigilante mob before driving them away and freeing me from my bondage. He’s a hero!”
“Aber did all of that?” Finch grabbed Aber by the arm and pulled him aside. She leant over and whispered in his ear. “I want you to go straight to your room and stay there until you’re told to come out. I don’t want you around in case you mess up my plans. It’s going to be a romantic dinner for two, and you’re not invited! Understand?”
Finch dug her nails—long and black, of course— into Aber’s arm. “Go to your room and stay there until called!”
Aber sighed. He smiled and waved to Kalvin. “Bye.”
“You’re going so soon?”
Finch grabbed Kalvin by the arm. “He has things to do. I’m sure you’ll see him another day, but tonight, it’ll just be the two of us.”
Aber plodded off to his room and then sat on the floor. He was used to being sent to his room, and it didn’t bother him. After all, it wasn’t as if he’d die from boredom.
* * *
Finch was nervous. She had spiked Kalvin’s drink at the start of the dinner, but he had talked so much that he hadn’t even taken a sip.
She smiled across the table, surreptitiously waving a hand to fix the mirror on the side wall that chose that exact moment to crack. “Your work in trying to secure rights for those less fortunate than us is truly to be admired, but you must be thirsty after all that talking. Have a drink. I’ve been told that last week was an exceptionally good vintage.”
Kalvin picked up his half-filled, silver-plated cup. Finch had chosen that one specially, as gold had an unpredictable effect on certain magics. “I could talk for hours on this subject. As you can appreciate, it’s something very close to my heart. All I really need is a willing ear, though good food and good wine certainly doesn’t go astray.”
Finch lifted her gold-plated cup. “To your passion.”
As she hoped, Kalvin raised his cup in response. “To equal rights.”
To her disappointment and increasing frustration, after tapping the cups together Kalvin lowered his drink without taking a sip. “Before we continue this delightful evening, could I trouble you to point me in the direction of the commode? I won’t be long, but I need to…” he blushed, “…relieve myself.”
“Certainly. It’s just through the kitchen, out the door, and about ten paces down the path between the nightshade and mandrake. You can’t miss it.”
Kalvin raised an eyebrow. “An outdoors toilet…how quaint.” He smiled as he stood up. “I won’t be long.”
Finch was surprised and then slightly worried when, just before he left, Kalvin picked up his cup and took a large gulp. Finch knew that the next person he saw was going to trigger the love potion, and she needed to be that person.
Taking a deep breath, she made herself calm down. She was the only other person in the house, so there were no other possibilities to become Kalvin’s love interest.
She sat there for several minutes, becoming increasingly anxious. Eventually unable to restrain herself, she rang the small crystal bell at the side of the table. Scalder appeared within seconds.
“Yes?” Scalder asked as he sat down and started to wash his whiskers.
“Can you go see what’s keeping our guest? He should’ve been back by now.”
“Where did he go?”
“To the lavatory. Don’t speak to him. Just make sure he hasn’t come to any strife.”
Scalder’s whiskers twitched, and the hair on his back stood on end. “The lavatory? You want someone with my keen sense of smell to go check on an odorous male in the lavatory?”
Finch scowled. “Just do it! I want to make sure he hasn’t gotten lost or fallen down or something.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll be back soon.” Scalder sauntered out of the room.
Finch filled in time checking her wire-style hair in the mirror and making sure that her pointed witch’s hat was at just the right angle. She then started to plan the wedding, starting with the difficult problem of who would be willing to conduct the ceremony. It was only after she finally came up with a name—a renowned half-blind drunk who was chronically in debt—that she realised that neither Scalder nor Kalvin had returned. She rang the bell again.
“Yes?” Scalder asked as he poked his head into the room.
“Well, where is he? Is he okay?”
Scalder frowned. “I don’t know. I sent Aber out to check on him, as there was no way I was going near that smelly place. He should’ve been back by now.”
Finch was horrified, though it was impossible to realise that from her face, since that was always horrific. “Aber? You stupid, imbecilic, flea-bitten, mangy fur ball! I’ve got half a mind to turn you into a cockroach. Kalvin had taken a drink of the potion just before he went outside. If he saw Aber…”
Not waiting for a response, she leapt to her feet and rushed into the kitchen. Ignoring the delicious scent of six-month-old rotting herrings and overly mouldy cheese that was supposed to be the next course, she headed outside.
It didn’t take long for her to find Aber and Kalvin, both naked and obviously just finished getting to know each other intimately. Aber had both hands on the back of Kalvin’s head and his muscles were starting to bulge.
“Aber, no! Get away from there at once, and whatever you do, don’t eat his brains!”
Aber frowned. “But after-sex brains taste good.”
“I said, no!” Finch stepped forward as Aber reluctantly rolled away. She was unable to resist taking in the delightful, if soiled, view of her would-be husband. She tried to smile, hoping that it was Aber’s magical sex appeal that had seduced her date and not the love potion, but her heart wasn’t in it. “I do apologise, my dear Kalvin. Aber doesn’t always know what he’s not allowed to do.”
“Nonsense! Aber, come back here.” Kalvin sat up and smiled at Aber. “My darling boy, I would be honoured if you want to eat my brains. Nothing is too good for one such as you. I really didn’t know what my life was missing until you came along.”
Aber grinned and returned to Kalvin’s side. He gave the young man a big sloppy kiss before returning his hands to the back of Kalvin’s head.
Finch turned away. “Well, that’s a fine night wasted.” She trudged back into the house. “All my plans ruined.”
Stopping in the kitchen, she started grazing on the herrings and cheese. Her mind was on autopilot as she struggled to work out what to do next. Before she knew it, a smiling, visibly erect, and still nude Aber, his mouth dripping with blood and brains, plodded inside. “Tasty.”
“That ‘tasty’ snack means that I’m no longer going to be married to the second cousin of the Duke’s gardener! How are we to get ahead in life if you keep eating the opportunities?”
“Not eat opporthings. Eat brains!” Aber licked his lips. “After-sex brains!”
Finch grunted and helped herself to another herring. “What am I going to do now that I can’t marry into almost-nobility?”
The door opened and Kalvin staggered in. He rested his bloody head against the doorframe. “Help me marry Aber, instead.”
Finch blinked. Aber smiled, stepped forward, and pulled Kalvin into an embrace. He nibbled on Kalvin’s ear. “Tasty.”
“How…?” Finch stared
“I’m a fast healer, and I think I’ve just proven that men don’t really use the brain that’s inside their skull.” He kissed Aber’s cheek. “It was agony at first, but after a while the pain disappeared. Now, my fight for undead rights is personal. I’m not going to give up until I win the right to marry you, my dear boy. And you can eat my brains whenever you like if that’s what tickles your fancy.”
“After-sex brains?” Aber asked before licking some of the aforementioned body part that was stuck in the hair above Kalvin’s ear.
“If that’s what you want.” Kalvin grinned. “It’ll certainly be fun preparing them.”
Finch clapped her hands in a vain attempt to become the centre of attention. “Right, we’ve got a wedding to plan!” She caught Kalvin’s eye, which was a particularly difficult thing to do since Aber was fondling his bare buttocks and keeping Kalvin very distracted. “Just so you know, Aber is the animated favourite nephew of my step-sister’s, twice-resurrected, great-grandfather’s adopted-daughter’s son-in-law, so he’s family. If you marry him, I’m going to be family, too.”
Kalvin shrugged. “If that’s the price I have to pay, Aber’s worth it.” He kissed his zombie lover. “Now, all that activity has made me hungry. How about some dessert? If you’re good, you might even get brains for supper.” Kalvin winked.
Aber grinned. “I like brains.”
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Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank C James and MikeL for the advice they gave on early versions, rec for editing this story for me, and ricky for that final essential review.