NYCMidnight is on top of things this year. Confirmation at 9:00 AM on Tuesday? YES!!!
For those interested, you can read my inspiration for this story right here. Otherwise, onto the good stuff!
Curiosity Kills the Cat
It’s all fun and games until a familiar death. Then it’s just fun.
Spartacus bumped the tiny opening between the boards of Siobhan’s Apothecary with his nose, exploring for energy. He’d once made the mistake of walking through a witch’s ward. The singed whiskers had dulled his senses for weeks.
He slipped through his private entrance and allowed himself a brief Cheshire grin, but then focused on the mission objective – take note of the surroundings, gather intelligence and get out.
As Spartacus crossed the threshold, he felt the familiar twitch behind his eyes. He knew Luna was with him, seeing through him. He padded in silence across the wooden floor and leapt with feline grace onto a long, marble table.
Rows of glass bottles holding herbs and potions lined plank shelves along the walls. The table held mortars of varying sizes, the largest of which tempted him as a perfect napping location. Pestles rested askew in each. Leftover bits of herbs assaulted his sensitive nostrils. Nothing different from the last time he’d spied on Siobhan, and thankfully no sign of her or her familiar.
So why did Coven Thirteen Ops want us on this so bad?
A lone book caught Spartacus’s attention. He slinked through the mortars, giving a lingering body-rub to the largest. Using Luna’s knowledge of reading, he took in the cover: The Oxford Dictionary. It rested astride a cauldron that bubbled over a hot plate on the floor, presumably conducting an overnight curing of some remedy.
He sat and licked his paws, pondering why this mundane book existed among such a fantastic array of Siobhan’s medicinal finery.
Perhaps Siobhan wants to communicate better with her customers.
Luna’s voice responded in his mind, “Maybe she realized she’s a dullard, and decided to take some night classes.”
Spartacus laughed a chortling meow at his companion’s jab, and immediately regretted making noise. He froze at the sound of a guttural growl.
Below him on the floor, the stocky chocolate lab barked his alarm and focused thought-words at Spartacus. I thought I smelled insignificance. This time, you’re not leaving alive.
You have to catch me first! Spartacus pushed off the table, using the dictionary as added leverage, leaping to a high shelf. The book teetered and fell into the cauldron with a splash.
You clumsy idiot! Grumblegus barked. You have no idea what you’ve just destroyed!
The dog lumbered onto the table, knocking mortars to the ground and sending their pestles skittering across the room.
Spartacus sat just out of the dog’s reach and pushed a glass jar containing green herbs to the floor. You call me clumsy? Look at what you just did. Bad dog!
Grumblegus lunged for Spartacus, who leapt away and landed deftly on an adjacent shelf. He toppled jars and bottles as he ran. The floor became a hazard of shattered glass, herbs and viscous syrups. A jar containing a thick, golden liquid rolled across the table and splashed into the cauldron.
Chartreuse smoke rose from the bubbling vat, and the smell of rotting flowers filled the air. Spartacus froze mid-run, and Grumblegus ceased his barking. They both snapped to attention toward the sound of buzzing arising from the cauldron.
Grumblegus dove under the table.
“Spartacus!” Luna’s voice sounded in his mind. “Abort the mission! Run!”
Spartacus felt the desperation in his companion’s plea, but curiosity overtook him. He jumped back to the table and trotted toward the cauldron, but stopped short. His ears laid back and a reflexive hiss emanated from between his bared teeth. A bumblebee, larger than Spartacus, rose from the cauldron on waxy wings.
The witch Siobhan flung open the door to her apothecary, her mouth falling agape. Her eyes swept the destroyed room, and she ran a bony hand through disheveled gray hair.
“Luna!” Siobhan shouted. “Do you see what that infernal cat of yours did?”
Spartacus backed away from the encroaching bee. His tail puffed out and his hackles rose. His claws extended on instinct.
Grumblegus flanked Siobhan, snarling and ready for battle, but she motioned for him to stay. Her mouth set in a satisfied grin. She swirled a finger in the cauldron and touched it to her tongue. “Let’s see; my eternal life formula, a dab of honey,” her eyebrow arched, “and a dictionary. Oh my! Quite by accident, Luna, your meddling little spy crafted his own destruction – an immortal spelling bee!”
The bee reared up and twitched its front legs. Its buzzing intensified as it cast a spell, conjuring a directed stream of molten, yellow liquid. Spartacus barely dodged the blast. The charge left a smoldering scorch mark on the wall beside him. He lashed out at the bee but it backed out of range, sending Spartacus toppling to the floor.
He tried to move, but his front paw betrayed him and he went down in a heap. The second blast from the bee caught him hard in the flank. Blistering heat seared across his flesh, burning down to bone. He yowled his last breath through a chorus of gleeful laughter and victorious barking.
Luna’s bond slipped from Spartacus’s mind as he felt his tendrils of life fade. In the swirling mist and faltering light, he sensed a familiar energy shift. The number seven crossed his mind. He grinned inwardly. He wasn’t done yet.
Life rushed back into his feeble body, and he sprang to his feet, ignoring the pain. Darting as best he could with a limp, he skittered through his secret opening. Grumblegus’s slavering jaws snapped at the hole, but Spartacus was away.
Seven lives down, two to go.
He sat in the shadows and licked his aching flank. Siobhan had an eternal life formula, but she also had a mess to clean and a deadly bee to deal with.
Spartacus would bring it in to Ops. It was time to act. Siobhan could never wield the power of immortality. He’d risk his remaining lives to make certain she failed.