Monday, June 23, 2014

Florence Apocalypse and the McSlaughter of Innocence: Chapter One


The bats outside the Headmistress’ Office, were rotting pungently against the cork of the notice-board. The hand-forged brass pins fastening their flesh to pliable surface, were greened with verdigris a sure sign that the acids in the drying bodies, were eating into the copper in the zinc-copper alloy.
Also outside the office, perched on a tatty black chair too small for her, in a school uniform that also was also too small for her and bulged over nacent puppy fat, Bloody Mary McSlaughter scowled.  It wasn’t being sent to see the Headmistress she disliked.  A girl with her hue of red hair, and the family pride of the notorious McSlaughter clan, expected it.  It wasn’t the bats. She took pride in her ability
to spot the real chemistry behind the greening of the fastenings, and their smell, if anything, merely reminded her of her mother.  No, it was a more existential crisis than this that was fretting her heart – she almost caught herself saying ‘soul’ but stopped herself in time even internally, that sort of language was at least fifty merits, and at the moment her House (Bathory) was Lowerarch Imprimis.  It had come over her during assembly.  Madam Malthusia was leading, and they had been singing the well known song that begins.

        “God’s will can not hold him, nor Earth restrain,
            Hell shall rise in fury, when he comes to reign,
            Clad in Fire Eternal, Satan will Arise,
            Destroying Peace and Goodness, with His Ebon Eyes”.
“Satanism,” Mary had muttered to herself, “can go swivel on it.”  One of the Lower Prefect’s familiars had caught the words as they flew past, faint as they were and hissed its indignation, in a faint spew of spittle. Being venomous, the Toad had combusted the hair of some nearby new girls, and a fight had broken out, but not even the healthy display of violence and ill-discipline (generally encouraged when not actively getting in the way of ritual) had prevented Madam Malthusia
tracking down the culprit.  Hence, now, the hunched waiting for the lecture.
Ten minutes later, she was in the Headmistress’ Office, staring up at her dark unforgiving eyes, and feeling an unusual craving for edam. 
Madam Mab, looked down from her three foot five height, at the quivering school girl.
The Headmistresses’ long standing habit of forcibly turning anyone sent to her office into a white mouse for the initial part of the 'discussion' - considerably ameliorated the effect of her substantial shortness, which even for a Black Witch of the Old Fae Blood was considerable. 
A white mouse with red hair, does not suit a tiny school girls uniform, whatever a particular group of Japanese perverts may tell you.

"Mary McSlaughter, I don't think you have the least idea of the sacrifices your father has made to get you into this school.  Why the goats for Hecate alone, must run into double figures.  Do you think it helpful to express audible doubt as to the underlying ethos of this Great Establishment. Have we not tried to drum into you hateful brats
that when you're about in the so-called real world, these sort of amusing quips can be the difference between the be-fanged and the be fanged.  Just because you're locked in a looney bin (witches have never had any truck with Politcal Correctness and Mab had only just stopped referring to such places as Mad Carnivals round about 1957) rather than burnt at the stake, won't stop you crying out to the powers below when your loose tongue has flapped your freedom to do ill to the four
cardinal winds.  And if you think a black beast will bound up out of the stone slabs and carry you away on its broad back after you've said, what was it, 'Satan can go swivel on it'  I rather think you'll have another think coming young lady!"

"Sorry, Madam Mab,"  Mary said in a dull, sulky, insolent monotone -  as she'd been taught.  "'Sides,' she added, 'It wasnae Satan - Unhallowed Be His Name - it
was Satanism. All this dressing up (by which she included the undressing) and prancing about, and whathaveyou. If you canae drink it, eat it, smoke it or fuck it, whae good is it?"

Madam Mab beamed.  "Oh you will go far, my dear.  That's quite right.  Naturally you hate all the 'community' aspects of organised..."  Her mouth puckered like a parrot shitting...."religiosity". (She'd skirted the term more successfully than her leather dress sense had her hips). "A proper bred-in-the-bone hatred will warm your icy heart through many a long night of evil doing. When you look back on your days here, I want you to say to yourself.  I suffered. Now they can!  Do you understand me?”.


"Right then, duck off (this reference to ducking stools was considered far ruder among Witchfolk than Mary's commonplace swearing) and get on to your next lesson. I think its BASIC HOODOO with Mistress Hexia, better hurry or she'll have you over her knee.  You'll grow back on the way, but you'll keep the tail for a week to remind you to keep your daft mouth closed when it's not sucking the devil's cock."  This cheerful expression, caused a quirk of happy memory to enter the Headmistresses face before it was hidden by Mary’s slamming of the door.
"Chance," Mary grumbled to herself, as she went towards the HEXING range, "would be a fine thing."  Madam Mab's was an old fashioned single sex witches school, with Black Masses for adult staff only, and about the only thing Bloody Mary (from the hair and her beating the pulp out of one of the more investigatively lesbian-tantricists in the school in week one) had in common with her twin sister Anne was a
conviction that a few boys about the place would brighten this dump up no end.

The HEXING range was a twisted grove of trees at the end of the playing field, stunted and gnarled and torn part from the ground by the whizzing discharge of sheer focused hormonal disgruntlement and boiling-over teenage pashes. Madam Hexia was in mid rant, when Mary walked up hands thrust into her belted skirt, head held high in an effort to look cool and tail-free.
"And that's for the man who dumped me when I was fourteen," Hexia snarled - vapourising a small wax target crucified upside down halfway up a warty oak.  A minature wax penis flew past demonstrating that as usual the targets were anatomically accurate, if not actually – as some girls said they were - modelled on real people who had offended the ancient teacher in her long turbulent love life. It was certainly true that a human pop-singer, in his 70s but still sporting leopard skin tights, had recently mysteriously spontaneously combusted precisely at the moment when the her ADVANCED HOODOO class had been competing for the MADAM MIM MEMORIAL Award for Precision Cursing, but despite everything the mystic and satanic insist on stressing, there is such a thing as co-incidence.
Mary's sister Anne waved from the group of girls queuing up to have a go, the silver axe, from which she got her nickname still clutched in her left hand.  She'd basically vowed not to put it down until the next time Undersecretary Borogrove paid a visit to the school after which it was widely expected he'd be taking it away with him, possibly as a token of their on-off, off-on romance, possibly buried in his hied.  Axe-head Anne, and the Undersecretary had a running disagreement about how friendly teen-witches and demons were going to get, and how, and where, and with what equipment.
“What did the ol’ Besom, want?” Anne asked, as Mary slid into the queue beside her, jostling some shivering first years further back.  Mary shrugged, and tried to put a swagger on it, “told her Satan could go swivel, didn’t I.  All this stuff is soft.”  She managed a relatively precise mimicry of Mab’s tone: “ 'Do you think you’ll be rescued from the stake by a black beast with that attitude'.  Like I’m going to be daft enough to get done for witchcraft.”   One of the junior students, was listening rather too closely to this, and Anne buffeted her round the head with her axe, for earwigging, before she could do much more than open her mouth, but the sentiment she had been about to express – modulated suddenly into pain as it was – still managed to get halfway heard. “So whatcha here for thenaaargh”.
            “I’m glad y's asked me that, Paxo,”  Mary said, standing over the downed first year. “As soon as we’re independent, I’m outa here.  I’ve got enough o’ the theory to set up my own business, and there’s going to be a grand set of opportunities come the New Scotland for our kind.”   “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” Anne added helpfully. “Our father’s the McSlaughter you know, Laird Chief of the Clan McSlaughter, and Grand Preceptor of the Islands of Innocence, Widdeshins, Morcarty, and Fielf.  He’s going to be right in there, come the day.” 
“Some inheritance”, the first year spat, levering herself upright and tipping Mary over.  “The dregs of the shipping forecast.  I’m surprised you don’t mention Summerisle and Ul.”  This was fighting talk.  The McSlaughter’s didn’t lay claim to Summerisle, which was still a sore-point since her father had lost it in a poker game in 1955, but Ul, which had sunk at the same time Surtesy had risen in the sixties, and concerning which long bat-mail letters were still flying back and forth between her father and the Sorcerors of Iceland, was still technically theirs if rather too underwater for normal residence.  
            “Now girls!”  Madam Hexia, waddled over and interposed her bulk between the combatents.  “Mary, say ‘curse you’ and let it be.  S’mantha, spit on your hand and give Anne a wallop and lets get on.”
There was considerable political feeling loose in the School that term. The vote on whether or not Scotland should or should not revert to an independent country with all the ramifications thereon, including the effect on the Netherworld, and whether or nor witches would still be facing the Church of England as well as the Church of Scotland, and who exactly would be running the Ministry of Damnation, was enough to split families as well as lips.  Mary saw it as a great opportunity, Anne couldn’t care less unless it got Borogove more power (she liked power. She liked to see it grovel).  Others like S’mantha – upandcoming challenger from the newbugs - were pressing to cut out their own niches in the argument, and then there were those who like Mary and Anne’s other sister probably simply hadn’t noticed it was happening at all.
The thirs sister commonly called “AYUG” which stood for ‘As Yet Un-named Girl” was the youngest of the three, and ought technically to have been a first year like S’mantha, four entire forms below Mary and Anne, but she had stowed away on the boat from McSlaughter Hall on Innocence Isle, with her sisters, and no one had managed to dislodge her from any of their classes.  There was considerable doubt as to whether she was actually learning anything, because she never spoke anything except what was either a rare form of gaelic, or a mixture of animal impressions. Even her sisters made no pretence to understand her talk, though they did manage to communicate with her through a series of gestures. Un-named, and never Un-babtised owing to an incident when her Devilmother had almost been throttled after her attempt to immerse AYUB in Unholy Water, she was at this point in her scholastic career halfway between a student and a school mascot. 

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