Previous: Lessons From The Water Spright
The quiet hill of Sagrada Monte, robed in charcoal colored rocks, stood like a large sleeping black beast against the flamingo sky. Because the west window was open, Noella could see the colors of sunset from Sebastian's bedroom. She was kneeling down, wearing a black velvety dress. Twenty-one tall silver candles set to form a ring with an arrow, surounded her. On the floor in front of her was a small mocha marble tub containing a light mixture of cinnamon powder, dried chopped wormwood, anise seeds, sugar cubes, and rhum extract. In her right hand was Sebastian's wooden spatula, her gift to him on his tenth birthday. In her left hand, she held a recipe card. Apparently, it was a recipe to conjure the love of a brother.At the back of the card were scribbled notes that wrote:
- Engrave applicable name on a piece of wood.
- This card can only be used once.
With pensive eyes she looked fixedly at the spatula. She dropped the card and picked up a blunt glinting athame. It had a black hilt and had magical symbols on its blade. Using her touch of fire, she heated the tip of the ritual knife while mumbling some words, then she laid it over the spatula. I can't etch into this, it's his. But I need to go through it. Noella's mind was torn. She decided to cast the spell anyway, leaving the spatula as it was.
She was ready. Using a glass wand, she stirred the mixture and took a deep breath. This is it, she thought to herself. If this does not work, it's over. I'll have to forget you, Sebastian. Wish me luck, brother dear! She began to read the words on the face of the recipe card.
"A Brother to have, a brother to keep,
To guard me in daylight, to watch while I sleep
Let him whose name I mark on wood
Love me as a brother should"
The solution bubbled and released one or two shiny mojos into the air. Then nothing else happened. Noella was unsure about the ritual. It had been the fourth she tried this week, and the first three failed. Now she could nearly feel another failure coming up. Nevertheless she gave it a chance and waited by the tub for half an hour.
But her patience faded and gave way to hunger. When Noella thought she heard her stomach croak, she knew she had to eat dinner. Noella yawned before standing up. "Oh dear, this silly hocus-pocus must have tired me too. Now what was I thinking? That I could really talk to Sebastian using a magical recipe from the mysterious box?" She laughed while she jumped over the candlesticks.
When Noella learned that she was a kitchen witch, she did not know how to react. A part of her became filled with hope, because it somehow gave her a sense of control, and maybe perhaps she could unveil the mystery of her brother's death even faster. Yet another part of her was terrified, because it meant her touch of fire was all too real, and that she was potentially dangerous. Still, another part of her despaired, thinking: kitchen witch or not, she could do nothing. The struggle of emotions inside her confused Noella.
"I hope I'll remember to clean this up later." She sighed and went to the kitchen. Had she stayed a little longer, she would have seen the recipe card burn to dust.
No matter how long her day was, Noella always felt energized whenever she worked in the kitchen. Earlier, before she performed the ritual, she felt like eating taco salad. To her dismay, the recipe box only provided her a blank card. Noella actually knew how to make taco salad, but she was expecting to find something better in the box. When she didn't, she knew she had to make one.
"THE RECIPE SHOULD BE FOUND OR ELSE IT MUST BE MADE"
Those were the words inscribed on the lid of the black recipe box. Until the taco salad, she found every recipe she wanted from the box. The thought of adding her contribution to the heirloom sent tingling sensations all over Noella's body.
While Noella busily attempted to create taco salad downstairs, something dark lurked in Sebastian's room. Like a black smoke, it came out of the shadows and lingered in the candlelight. It scanned the room quietly and listened, making sure it was alone.
Before she took the box to Sebastian's room, she left the empty card on the kitchen table and promised herself she'd get back at it after the ritual. Now, Noella held a pen and wrote down her first entry.
NOELLA'S TACO SALAD
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 head lettuce shredded
- 1 white onion sliced
- 1 large bowl plain tortilla chips
- 2 cups salsa
- 2 cups cubed colby cheese
- 3 red tomatoes, chopped
Add the lettuce, sliced onion, and tomatoes into the bowl full of tortillas. Make a dressing of the salsa and mayonnaise and pour over the tortillas and vegetables. Top with cheese. Optional: serve with chopped olives or tobasco sauce.
Upstairs, the sinister black smoke condensed into an obscure figure with indistinct features. It filled the room with its whispers. It saw the recipe box in the corner and approached it, but when it was about to touch the the recipe box with its makeshift hand, the box's lid shut by itself and could not be opened. The shadowy figure emitted a low moan and muttered curses. "I'll own you someday, just wait." It whispered again, then moved close to the tub and passed its temporary hand over it. The solution bubbled and made gurgling sounds. In its hand, the dark figure made a lump of salt dough materialize, then dropped it into the mixture. Things like dark brown moths and black butterflies fluttered from the viscous liquid and rose up. Their flight somehow sounded like the whispers that the dark figure made. Then, the fluttering things coalesced and morphed into a standing man, complete with hair, eyes and fingers, and all other details, but it was still featureless.
The dark figure approached the Salt Dough Man and on its white forehead, wrote Sebastian's name backwards. Suddenly, a veil of dark fog cloaked the Salt Dough Man, and when the fog disappeared, the Salt Dough Man was already an eerie copy of Sebastian. "Kill the witch." The dark figure growled. The Salt Dough Man blinked and gave the dark figure a quick nod.
Pleased with its work, the dark figure returned to a black smog and receded into the shadows.
The Salt Dough Man pulled a blanket from one of the drawers and used it to cover his body. He walked out of the room and looked for Noella.
She was washing the dishes outside when she heard a loud thud from the kitchen. Alarmed, Noella ran inside with a charged hand, ready to hurl a fireball at any threat. But nothing could prepare Noella for what she was about to discover.
It was a long legged man in his mid twenties, with an athletic body and caramel skin, wrapped in a long white cotton blanket, curled lifeless between the dining room and the kitchen. Noella knelt beside him to take a closer look, and she still could not believe what she saw. His fair hair, deeply set eyes, and sunk cheeks, were more than just familiar. Noella froze. Could this be? She touched his broken nose bridge and felt that his skin was warm. She felt chills, but that didn't matter. She had to know if he was who she thought he was. A tear fell from her right eye, but she ignored it. Noella carefully slid her left hand under his right cheek, and moved his head to his left. Then she saw it, the faint white scar on his right temple that passed through his brow to his forehead. No doubt, the man at her lap was her brother, Sebastian. And he's alive.
She managed to move him to the kitchen and prop his head with a throw pillow. "Sebastian, Sebastian. Can you hear me?" She called to him but he remained motionless, eyes shut. Noella tried gently patting his cheek but it was useless. She had so many things in mind, so many questions to ask, and so many things to tell. But those things seemed of less significance now. What was more important was Sebastian was with her, alive.
Noella took a vial containing drops of sandalwood and coffee flower oil diluted in ammonia, and held it close to the Salt Dough Man's nostrils. He coughed and he opened his eyes. When he saw her, a faint smile lit his face and brought life back to his dull blue gray eyes. He blinked and looked at her with so much joy. Noella was still filed with disbelief.
She was still stupefied. A month earlier she travelled back to Tierra Laruja in anguish, because her brother died. An hour ago she nearly skipped dinner to perform a ritual, to call upon her dead brother. But now, defying logic and reason, Sebastian was alive, in front of her. She dared not move, afraid it was just an illusion, and he could vanish any moment. But he was real, and he remained there, near her.
She could not hold back the tears when he lifted his arm to caress her cheek with the back of his hand, a loving gesture from a delighted brother. "Noella." he whispered, then returned to his quiescence.
"Where have you been? You look so tired. Ah, my poor brother! I'll make you a brew that will return your strength. Wait here." Noella stood from her crouching position and took some herbs from the shelves.
She returned to him and used ammonia to revive him again. He coughed, and groaned, but he still smiled when he saw her. "Noella, I feel weak." he uttered very softly.
"Take this" she offered him a small bottle containing a greenish liquid. "It's a light syrup with extracts of ginseng, ephedra, guarana and kola nut. It will make you stronger." She smiled to encourage him to drink the liquid, and he did. He blinked again, then sighed. His breath smelled like baking soda.
In Sebastian's room, the Salt Dough Man sat on a small chair still draped with a blanket, while Noella fixed the sheets and arranged the pillows. "Que pasa?" she casually asked while tucking the covers. The Salt Dough Man stared blankly at the floor. "I don't understand what is happening, Sebastian. Everyone in town believes you're dead, and although I did not attend your funeral, I saw your grave." He did not respond. "Hay tiempo! Don't mind me. There is time. Rest now." She smiled and walked to the door. Before pressing the switch, Noella took one last look at the man she thought was her brother. I'm having another strange day! she wanted run back to him, cry at his feet, and shake him for leaving her. But instead she said, "Good night, brother!"
That night, Noella dreamed a man without a face had entered her room and attacked her with a knife. When she woke up from her sleep, she shrieked. Her bedroom door was open and at the doorway was the silhouette of a tall man. Noella switched the lampshade on, and she felt relief. "Sebastian, you scared me."
He was wearing pajamas under his bathrobe. There, by the door, he stood like a statue. His hands were concealed behind his back. "Yes, Sebastian?" Noella asked. They looked at each other in uneasy silence. Just then, something fell from his hand to the floor. And Noella was surprised when she saw it. It was the ritual knife.
He saw it too, and it seemed to have shaken him out of his daze. He gulped, blinked, and coughed a bit before coming up with "I couldn't find a knife to cut cheese."
Noella gave him a perplexed look.
"I wanted some cheese, Noella. I'm hungry. Can you join me for midnight snack?" Noella's expression changed from frightened to doubtful to secured. She laughed upon hearing his reason and soon, he joined her laughter. "I'll just get my bedroom slippers." Noella said.
I love you Noella, the Salt Dough Man thought, but I know you'll destroy me when you find out I'm not your real brother. I only want good memories of you. So now, I must destroy you, before you destroy me! While Noella groped by the bed to find her slippers, the Salt Dough Man picked the athame up and threw it at her.
The Salt Dough Man missed and the athame landed on the floor near Noella's ankles. It was a giveaway. "Sebastian! What has gotten into you?" she shouted.
"I have to do this. Before you kill me." he walked towards her.
She jumped to the other side of the bed. "What are you talking about? Sebastian, what's going on?"
He picked up the athame and looked at Noella. His face conveyed sincere sadness. "Why do you have to kill me, Noella? I am your brother!"
"I know that, Sebastian. And I don't want to kill you. Are you out of your mind?" She was panicking.
"Liar." His face darkened and his eyes sunk. Then, with a burst of speed, he sprang at Noella. She was quick enough to dodge him, but he was able to grab her heel and stab her calf. She screamed before kicking his face, temporarily stunning him. When she found her chance, she to the bathroom adjacent her bedroom and locked the door.
He was banging at the door. "Noella, let me in! Noella!" He was growling like a monster, scratching and kicking the door. "Noella!"
Inside the bathroom, Noella tried to unlatch the window, it was stuck. She was bleeding, but her whole body was numb and she could not feel the pain. While she figured out a way to escape she noticed her attacker was silent. She stopped pulling the shutter and listened. Then with a boom, the door swung open and right there stood the deformed figure of her brother. "I'll kill you!"
She threw toothpaste tubes, shampoo bottles and toiletries at him but that did not keep him from moving closer. His hand gripped the athame. He was ready to swing it at her. "Die, witch!"
It was not Sebastian's voice.
Only then did Noella realize that her assailant was not her brother. Sebastian was dead and this thing in front of her could not be her brother. She raised her hand and stretched her fingers out. A bright red ball of fire appeared in her hand, it was as large as her fist. "Who sent you?"
"You can't do this to me, I'm your brother." The Salt Dough Man snarled.
"Watch me." the fireball grew to size of a large watermelon while Noella raised her an eye brow.
"Die!" he charged her like a mad bull.
Noella released the ball of burning gases, and it was over soon. All that remained of the imposter was a burnt lump of salt dough. When she finally felt the effects of the shock, Noella burst into tears.
Next: Long Live The Kitchen Warlock!