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He straightened his respirator and picked up his wide-brimmed hat, yet did not move further, remaining still instead, weighing the hat in his gloved hands, rubbing a blotch of tissue from its great, gold buckle. It was difficult to see clearly with the blood drying on his goggles; he took off a glove and wiped them clean, noticing as he did so that his hand was shaking—worse, that his entire body had begun to tremble. He looked around the corridor in a daze, first at the headless witch who was now an inanimate corpse, then through the door from which he’d exited, where blood and brains had begun to dry on the wallpaper, which was beginning to warp and to catch fire. That’s when he noticed something else, a crude sign on the fallen door—a sign which, when he moved forward to examine it, turned out to be a simple plea: ‘Please don’t kill the bird.’Her name was Miriam, and the bird was her only friend. And during her life she was ostracized by everyone, because she was like me, neither fully witch nor fully woman. When the High Sisters came with their judgements and their sentences, it was she who spoke in my defense—only she who would still speak the truth as she saw it.The birdcage came into view as he rounded the corner to the kitchenette, for he had been moving through the flaming apartment without being consciously aware of it. “Six minutes until dust-off,” squawked his headset. “Doctors Oceanus and Damaris KIA. Mind your thoughts … there is a Whisperer at work.”
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The Complete Witch-Doctor | The Collected Stories
Wayne Kyle Spitzer
Published by Hobb's End Books, 2018.
The Complete Witch-Doctor | The Collected Stories
I | Enter the Witch-Doctor
II | The Dagger and the Chalice
III | The Shadow, the Siren, and the Sage
Copyright © 2018 Wayne Kyle Spitzer. All Rights Reserved. Published by Hobb’s End Books, a division of ACME Sprockets & Visions. Cover designs Copyright © 2018 Wayne Kyle Spitzer. Please direct all inquiries to: HobbsEndBooks@yahoo.com
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this book is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
They were the kind of musical notes men and woman once swayed to—even worshiped to—or so Jasper had told him, ground from an instrument called an “organ”—which had once been common, or so he’d said, but had vanished from the face of the world. So, too, were there cymbals, which echoed throughout the crew compartment of the War Wagon like tinsel—if tinsel could be said to have a sound—and mingled with the steely whispers of their muskets and tanks and other gear as the truck rocked and their harnesses held them fast.
“When a maaan loves a woman,” sang a hearty and soulful voice both inside and outside the compartment, and Jeremiah knew they were close, else the driver wouldn’t have cued the music, and when he scanned the other Witch Doctors, strapped in six to a bench in the wagon’s cramped confines, he knew that they knew it too. What was more, he knew that, however fearsome they looked in their black jumpsuits and white flame-retardant vests, their goggled respirators, their buckled hats—they were frightened, too.
But then the wagon ground to a halt and there was no time to be feel anything, much less fear, as Jeremiah unbuckled and piled out with the others. And yet, as he paused momentarily to take in the building—a ramshackle six-story brownstone which looked as though it had been built before the Betrayal, much less the Pogrom—a strange thing happened. He thought he heard a voice; not from without but entirely from within—a woman’s voice, a witch’s voice. And it said to him, as faintly as the cymbals at the start of the music, Why have you come for us, Witch-Doctor? And he found himself scanning the illuminated windows of the brownstone as if someone had perhaps shouted to him (rather than reaching directly into his mind), and saw behind one of the uppermost panes a figure so small and motionless that he might have thought it a piece of furniture, a lamp, perhaps, had it not slid to one side and vanished.
Then he was activating his musket, which was connected to the tank on his back and shot not just explosive balls but streams of incinerating fire, and charging into the foyer—where a handful of witches already lay, writhing and smoldering. Fifteen minutes. That’s what they had before the Flyer lowered from the vespertine gloom and received them on the roof. He rushed into the first corridor, finding it already busy with Witch Doctors and choked in smoke, and instead of joining in located the door to the stairwell—whose steps he gained quickly, bypassing the second floor entirely (which he knew would be already under siege), and exiting onto the third level, where he was greeted by a gaggle of witches dressed in little more than rags, their white eyes focused solely upon him, their hands already joined, at which instant he raised his musket and fired, holding its trigger down as he swung his arm back and forth so that the women were consumed in flames instants before they were able to cast their spell.
How did it come to this, Witch Doctor? This war between Doctor and witch, man and woman, you and I?
The voice again, slightly louder this time, but still little more than a whisper, still difficult to hear through all the noise and screaming, as well as his own muffled breathing. He willed it away as he approached the first door and triggered his musket, which spat its ball and orange fire, punching out the knob and igniting the wood like dry tinder, causing the occupant of the room to scream so that it seemed the door itself screamed, blackening and shedding its paint which peeled away like rinds of burnt skin. He kicked it open and it fell with a crash, but had hardly levelled his pistol when the witch in the middle of the room launched herself against the ceiling—which she laid upon as though the world itself had flipped upside down—and, opening her mouth wide, vomited a stream of black liquid—which splattered against the floor as he dropped and rolled, tank clanking. The spot hissed as the bile melted through it and he hastened to warn any Witch Doctor below by shouting, “Black bile!”—even as he completed his roll and torched the witch while still on the floor. She danced wildly against the cracked plaster of the ceiling and a flailing hand smashed out the overhead light, yet still she did not fall, and he squeezed the trigger again. At last she dropped to the floor, arms and legs whipping about in a frenzy, then rolled in an effort to extinguish the flames and fell screeching into the flat below.
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