Monday, October 13, 2008

The Crone of Westmoreland

Note: this little yarn I wrote for a recent online competition, but I thought it would also be appropriate for the Halloween season. It's about witches and blogs.

The Crone of Westmoreland

The crone of Westmoreland sat hunched over her desk and hurled a vehement oath at the item propped open before her—a silver monochrome Hewlett Packard TX1000 laptop tablet. In all the width and breadth of Westmoreland none had ever dared defy Hexenia Bladthorne. That is, nothing but the impertinent contraption in front of her. It infuriated the crone to no end. She seethed and jabbed at the keyboard with a gnarled finger.

"Bloody! Error! Messages!" screeched the witch and pounded her desk, disturbing the sleep of a fat rodent that slept, paws-up, in a small cage next to the laptop. The rat rolled over and squeaked reproachfully at the old woman. "Oh, sorry, Dante, my dear," she said and drew her baleful glare back onto the monitor. A white film had dimmed the vision of one eye, and chronic rheum blurred the other. From the old woman's head sprang festoons of hideous tangles, flagrant and indomitable, like the wild heather that overtook her bog and threatened to lay siege to her small cottage.

On the work bench, behind her, were strewn an assortment of jars and flasks. The fireplace housed a cauldron from which bubbled an unknown liquid that swathed the room in pungent, alien odors. The witch clicked and clicked at her laptop, periodically reaching back with a clawed hand to seize a certain ingredient and toss it into the cauldron. She was consulting a recipe posted on her blog by a colleague in a distant country. Though apparently—as the crone had recently been informed—online spell books were now referred to as splogs instead of blogs.

"And another wretched spam on my splog!" spat the old woman.

The first time she received a spam the crone was scandalized. The insolent miscreant mistook her for a man (when her email quite firmly established her as a female: and even deigned to suggest a certain enlargement procedure.

"The gall!" she hissed indignantly. Then, she began scrolling through her My Documents file where she now kept the entirety her library, each book scanned, indexed, and fully searchable. She found and clicked on Guillaume Libreffe's Transpositions de Corps et Esprit, which quotes vigorously from the ancient work Sortilegus Disembodia, of which both the text and author were lost to antiquity. The crone also glanced briefly through Geoffrey Darke's The Principles of Heistcraft.

So she contrived, by subtle and sinister machinations, a severe consequence for any similar intrusions to her website. The next time a spam appeared on her blog, the person responsible received an email. It bore a single sentence:

"You possess an abundance of gall and no longer require it all."

When opened, the email unleashed the spell and an automatic reply was sent to the crone. She opened the email and printed it out. The image was red and glistening and seemed to release an acrid smell. She cackled once, and then she used the printed paper to line the bottom of Dante's cage.

Occasionally the crone would read an online article (via her RSS feeds) about a sudden unexplainable death due to vanishing gallbladders. The crone would be seized by a round of wicked guffaws, then she would print out another sheet of paper to place in her pet's cage. The crone would take the old, soiled paper and cast it out the window into the turgid brine of her bog.

Thus is demonstrated another reason why none should ever go trundling unwittingly into the domain of a witch—be it bog or blog.


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