This story follows on from Flab and Glob and Fun With Henchmen
I woke up and tried to eat my own skin.
I had to eat something, after all. Not only that, but I hoped to eat off my tattoos. They were art, and art was what had gotten me into this mess. What was it that Oscar Wilde said about art? That was what I felt at that moment.
I painted two creatures, two white blobs with eyes and teeth and arms and legs, called Flab and Glob. They were not figments of my imagination, but actual creatures from another world, and painting them brought them into mine. Then they trapped me and Aunt Fiona in their world, their monochrome world with its inky sky and pale white plantlife.
Almost immediately after we were teleported there, we were pursued by others of Flab and Glob’s species, more large blobs with fangs and eyes. They chased us with scythes and knives and other sharp weapons, screeching and screaming incomprehensible curses.
Aunt Fiona and I spent days avoiding them, always searching for hiding places and sustaining ourselves on whatever edible things we found. Mostly we ate the fungi – or at least what resembled fungi – growing in the woods. It tasted a bit like fizzy sherbet. After days of avoiding the creatures’ scythes and knives and fangs and claws, we found somewhere which seemed safe, deep in the woods we spent days stumbling around in. A rickety abandoned wooden house, as ghostly pale as the trees surrounding it.
When we found it, it was the first time since we got here that I saw Aunt Fiona smile.
Aunt Fiona and I stuck close to each other while in this world, yet we spoke little, and not only because neither of us could find the right words to describe this place.
I kept inwardly begging whatever higher power there was that Aunt Fiona wouldn’t get hurt, and incessantly cursing myself for bringing her to the world. Every time I woke up and saw her next to me, I sighed in relief.
I couldn’t let anything happen to Aunt Fiona. Aunt Fiona, who took me in when Mum, her sister, didn’t want me (I owe my very existence to a New Year’s party). Aunt Fiona, who raised me and made sure I attended a good school and a good university. Aunt Fiona, who did so much for me, and, I said to myself every time I woke up in the monochrome world, this is how I repay her.
That’s what I said to myself when I woke up in the cellar of the rickety old house, right before my stomach gurgled and I gnawed on my arm like a trapped animal. There was a clear picture in my head of me chewing off my flesh, little bloody chunks all over the floor, with all traces of art gone from me forever. Instead, Aunt Fiona woke up and cried, ‘What are you doing?’
I told her.
‘Emily,’ she said, before embracing me in a hug, ‘I don’t blame you at all for this.’
We sat in the cellar and held each other, whispering to each other about the memories of our world. We spoke of the things we thought we would never experience again.
Then we heard creaking upstairs.
‘Stay close,’ whispered Aunt Fiona, holding me tighter, ‘and keep quiet.’
As soon as we heard the stairs creak, I pushed Aunt Fiona aside, picking up a large piece of wood off the floor and wielded it like a bat, even slapping my palm with it. All dread and fear washed out of me and all I could focus on was the mental image of me smashing a little monster’s brains in.
It was another creature like Flab and Glob; an emaciated white creature – you could see its ribs poking out – hunched over a cane. A cane with a blue throbbing light at its tip – the most colourful thing in the room other than me and Aunt Fiona.
My eyes fixed on the glowing cane, and I involuntarily dropped the wood. My hand forced itself towards the light….
…and in seconds, I was back home.
Aunt Fiona and I were back in my bedroom, my colourful bedroom with my bed and my posters and my console and my wretched, wretched artwork. I chuckled, leaping up and down on the spot. It was all a dream, I told myself, all my imagination, a sign that I should paint happier things. So I reached towards one of my monochrome paintings to tear it off the wall.
My right hand had shrivelled up into a claw. It was as pale as Flab and Glob and the other creatures, with my tattoos replaced by swirls and spirals glowing the same blue as the old creature’s cane.
My bedroom, my colourful bedroom, instantly faded away, and I faced the elderly creature, staring into his bloodshot eyes. ‘I can bring you home,’ he wheezed, as the stench of his breath made me grimace, ‘and so much more.’
I found the strength to pick up the piece of wood again. ‘Why should I trust you?’
‘Because I know why you’re here,’ said the old creature, ‘and why they are hunting you. My name is Yorb, and I was the advisor for the great Queen Galb. All of us here in Bilgarar have our own little magic, but hers was the most powerful of all, for she had found a way to Earth…’
‘Through being painted?’ I snapped.
‘Indeed. However, unlike many, she was summoned by someone who knew about Bilgarar and wished for a servant. A great wizard, with a wide knowledge of the many magics of Earth. Knowledge Galb herself picked up.
‘The wizard soon felt like he no longer had need of Galb and sent her back home, with knowledge of both Bilgarar and Earth magic making her more powerful than any Bilg. Though she left Bilgarar a peasant, she returned with enough magic to become a Queen.
‘She took over, and I was her advisor. Ah, those were glorious days. Things were much more interesting, everyone kept on their toes. A shame a revolution had to happen. A shame there was indeed strength in numbers. Thankfully…’ He tapped the tip of his cane. ‘…when she died, she transferred her power into this crystal. Since she used Earth magic more than Bilgarar magic, only a human can…’
‘Forget it!’ I spat, throwing the cane onto the floor.
‘Inheriting her power is the only way you can escape, and you will be so much more than what you are. Refuse, and eventually, another of my kind will find you and kill you, for you will still be a powerless mortal. You…’ He pointed at me. ‘…were the one who let Flab and Glob in, so you are the only one…’
I turned towards Aunt Fiona. ‘What is it?’
Aunt Fiona took a deep breath. ‘I think you should accept his offer.’
‘What? Look, we want to escape, but I don’t know if we can…’
‘Emily. They may have tricked us, but I liked having Flab and Glob around, because it did me proud to see you in a position of power. Your mother may not have cared about you, your father probably doesn’t even know you exist, but I care about you, and I want you to reach your full potential. If that means gaining the power of an evil witch, so be it.’
I sighed and picked up the cane, clutching the crystal as tight as I could.
The more I clutched it, the more it felt like my insides were being plucked out of my body. My skin lost all colour and became as chalk-white as Flab, Glob and Yorb. My hair got sucked into my skin and my teeth grew narrower and sharper. More glowing blue spirals slithered across my arms. Even my clothes grew completely black, making me look like the Grim Reaper. It was like the crystal drained me of my humanity.
I had never felt better in my life.
It felt like all the worries, all the fears of the past few days had been disintegrated. I was now a horrible, wrinkled blob like the monsters from this world were, but something about it felt truly right. I said I didn’t want anything to do with art when I first arrived in Bilgarar, but upon my transformation, my muse had returned, and I had so many ideas on what to do with my new powers.
Yes, I took the evil magic and I liked it. I’m a villain. So, what of the villainous henchmen I had, you may ask?
Well, the first thing I did upon receiving Queen Galb’s magic was of course, to send Aunt Fiona and myself back home. As soon as I did, Aunt Fiona hugged me tightly again. The next thing I did was to look for Flab and Glob, and I found them in seconds, vegging out in front of the telly.
I had to admit to myself that was probably what I would do if I were in their situation.
All I had to do was cough, and they quivered in fear.
‘You…you should be d…’
Before Glob could finish his sentence, I reduced them to piles of dust. When I did, Aunt Fiona roared with laughter. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘maybe I was wrong about your paintings…’