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Miss Eloise's Acid and Apothecary 
A.L. Davidson

Witch's Hat

Something had started haunting Miss Eloise’s Acid and Apothecary down on the corner of Main Street, and it did not bode well for business.  The quaint two-story building was, historically, bustling.  The earthen-hued awning would shelter academics from the rain and the posies on the windowsill would wave at wandering souls going to and fro in the mornings. 

Young witches, with their lace collars and chunky heeled boots, would traipse in with tattered hardbound books under their arms.  They’d happily order the chamomile special and get to their studies, tarot cards splayed out over their tables and cat hair poking out from the seams of their clothes. 

The local ghost hunting group, all clad in black with baseball caps and eager expressions, would discuss the next decrepit building to search for specters around coffee cake and espressos.  Their camera equipment would be strewn about and laughter would echo out into the night air. 

And the professors, oh the professors! With their murder mystery plans that onlookers were unable to discern fact from fiction, would sit quietly in the corner with their pipes and get lost in the thrill of bloodlust and revenge. 

Miss Eloise took great pride in her shop.  The acid, of course, came from the coffee.  Coffee made from beans she plucked herself in the backyard.  The apothecary, however, was the shining star of the little corner store.  Potions and doodads, crystals and balms, any ailment or need you could conjure could be cured at Miss Eloise’s.  The wall of mushrooms and the dangling charms that twisted in the sunlight drowned the space in a calming aura.  Everyone in the sleepy town loved Miss Eloise’s shop. 

Or, they did until something moved into the attic. 

It started with a thump late into the evening as Miss Eloise spoke to the charming Professor Pyle about the new class project he aimed to unleash upon his unsuspecting students come Monday morning.  A thump so loud it caused his steady hand to tremble and the chamomile tea, with its wisps of yellow steam, rocked enough to spill over the side of the chipped teacup.

 

“Well, now, how uncouth,” the professor said, aghast at the sudden disturbance. 

Even Miss Eloise’s poor bullfrogs, Wick and Willow, slunk down in the water of their case from the resounding noise above.  After that day, the thump-thump-thump kept on coming at all hours, without warning, and the patrons began to dwindle.  The place of peace no longer offered sanctuary from the bustle of the idyllic college town and Miss Eloise grew frustrated. 

Late one rainy October evening, she simply had enough. 

“Fiddlesticks!  Broomsticks, candlesticks, and stick bugs!” she shouted. 

“Miss Eloise, language!” Professor Pyle reminded. 

Miss Eloise plopped down in the nearby armchair with a sigh, “I can’t take that cursed thumping anymore.” 

“Why not get rid of it?  Be it dead or alive, it shouldn’t be a challenge for a well-rounded woman like yourself.” 

“My dear Professor, don’t you think I’ve tried?  Every time I open that darn attic door the house shifts and the room is wrong.  I can’t seem to pinpoint which of my many spaces it’s hiding in. My intuition isn’t sharp nowadays since I can’t get a lick of sleep with that incessant noise!  I’ve tried crystals, summoning circles, pendulums, even my dowsing rods, and I simply can’t find it.  I dove headfirst into my literature and even asked the paintings on the walls for help, but no one can find the darn thing.  It feels like a horrible, horrible prank.” 

Professor Pyle set his hardback novel down and took long strides toward the staircase, “Then, let us fix it!  The night is young, Miss Eloise, and the hunt is on!” 

Miss Eloise followed with a heavy sigh. 

The duo ascended the creaky staircase up to the living quarters.  The teetering stacks of books that lined the hall let out puffs of dust as they walked by.  The grandfather clock chimed that midnight arrived.  Moonlight cascaded in through the round window, the long shadow of the nearby tree that so rudely decided to grow in front of the shop crept across the floor.  The shadow reached up like a hand and pointed to the attic hatch.  It seemed the twisted old oak was also tired of the thumping. 

Professor Pyle picked up his cane and hooked it into the handle.  The ladder slid down and with it came a tumbling pile of freshly washed sheets.  They danced over the railing down to the cafe below like freed spirits. 

“Laundry room,” Miss Eloise sighed. 

They listened but heard no thump. 

The professor closed the hatch, waited for the spell to activate, and pulled once again. 

Apples and oranges and pears rained down onto the second floor. 

Miss Eloise picked up a shiny apple, “Fruit pantry.” 

Still no thump. 

They tried again.  And again.  And again, until the stairwell was full of papers and pasta, pillows and poppies, and Mrs. Penwick’s startled cat Pantyhose.  Finally, they found the attic.  A puff of dust was expelled as the room took a breath, it had been much too long since it was last opened.  Thump.  Thump.  Thump.  The unwelcome guest walked across the wood floor with heavy footsteps, but it remained hidden in the darkness. 

An uneasy chill - a haunting one - seeped down into the Acid and Apothecary.  It covered the quiet, peaceful home in darkness.  Saturated the wood and blanketed the floorboards with ill-intent.  Something wicked had woven itself into the shop. 

The old friends looked at each other before Miss Eloise hoisted up her skirt and began climbing the ladder.  She poked her head up into the space that housed many unused mannequins purchased when she fancied the idea of sewing.  The hobby never came to fruition, so they stayed in the darkness under sheets for some unknown reason she now regretted.  It was all too eerie and quite the waste of funds. 

One of the sheets moved.  The edge flipped up and returned to its resting place.  Miss Eloise gasped and ducked down a bit.  She kept her eyes on the attic and its shadows.  With her darkly painted fingernails, she waved her companion up and entered the space.  The duo crouched down and, hushing each other, crept forward. 

Thump!  Thump!  Thump! 

Miss Eloise turned her eyes to the back corner and pursed her lips.  Each irritating thump was met with the click of her heels as she wandered through the maze of crates and covered mannequin bodies.  Twisting in and out of the convoluted labyrinth of her own design, they followed the quick-paced thumping.  Footprints appeared across the dusty floor with a poof as each footfall made contact with the wooden panels.  They were inhuman, cloven, and powerful. 

The witch and the professor weaved in and out of objects, tumbled around teetering boxes, and chased the apparition through the darkness.  Even the moonlight that crept through the dust-laden windows could not illuminate the frame of this intruder.  Miss Eloise did not appreciate the ill-intent and cold breeze it brought to her home. 

It tossed items this way and that, giggling with a wicked tone that showcased an intelligent haunting.  This otherworldly oddity was bound and determine to make her life a living hell and she would suffer through it no more. 

As she skidded around a corner, she hoisted up the hemline of her ruffled skirt and stomped her heeled boot down onto the ground.  The spell sewn into the side of her boot illuminated and the room came to a sudden halt.  Gravity was torn from the space and every object became ripped from the ground.  Mannequins twisted with weightlessness, the sheets warbled and waved as they hung in the moonlight.  Boxes shot upward, chests burst open, and loose papers flittered about for the briefest of moments. 

In the darkness, two deep eyes appeared, surrounded by a wave of dark energy.  It rotated slowly, caught in the spell, but never let its eyes drift from the witch across the way.  It held a wicked, Cheshire smile and a cane in its hands that was - most assuredly - the source of the incessant thump.  Professor Pyle, lagging behind, veered around the corner and gasped at the ghastly sight.  Miss Eloise set her hands on her hips and exhaled with a huff of agitation. 

“That’s an unsightly beast if I’ve ever seen one,” Professor Pyle acknowledged. 

“It’s one of those mischievous midsummer pranksters, probably got in through an open window during the solstice,” Miss Eloise groaned. “Blast that Shakespeare and his conjuring of these monstrosities!” 

“People do love the trickster archetype.  I’ve never seen one in person.” 

The prankster laughed, giggled with such intensity that its head bobbled even with the pull of time and gravity being halted from its frame. 

“They love to wiggle their way into homes and cause problems for the sake of being problematic because they find it funny!  ” Miss Eloise clapped her hands. “Begone, you!” 

With a puff, the prankster was whisked away to elsewhere, anywhere else but her shop.  She did not care where, so long as it wasn’t here.  The floating objects slowly returned to their resting state and the attic was, finally, draped in silence.  With exhausted steps, Miss Eloise approached the open window across the way and closed it to ensure no more problematic poltergeists or wandering will-o-wisps would find their way inside her home. 

“It would seem your intuition was right, it was all just a horrible prank,” Professor Pyle said with a grin. 

“And I would be remiss if I did not shout it to the heavens that I do not appreciate this kind of humor!” Miss Eloise chided, fist waved angrily at the skies above. 

“And I would be remiss if I did not indulge in another cup of your chamomile special.  Would you care to join me before this place once again becomes overwhelmed with chatter and patrons?” 

Miss Eloise looked over her shoulder and grinned, “I would love nothing more.” 

A witch and a man having lunch.

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