Those Awful Stone Steps


Picking up her long skirts, Matilda climbed the stone steps, alternately cursing her aching knees and muttering unseemly criticisms of her husband. Why he couldn’t be like other men and have his workplace on the ground floor instead of eight storeys up, she couldn’t imagine. And just because he was a wizard didn’t mean she should wait on him hand and foot. Forty-five years she’d had of this, and enough was enough. Had the man no consideration for her age? She’d give him a piece of her mind once she got up there.

‘What can I do for you, my dear?’ Mordo said, frowning as she entered his domain.

Matilda glared at him. ‘You sent for me, remember?’

Mordo still looked perplexed. ‘Then, since you’re here, a small favour, if you will.’

‘Make it quick, I’ve an errand to run. And while I’m at it, we need to get a servant to run up and down those st–’

‘This is my latest potion, my dear,’ Mordo said, cutting her off as he held up a small vial of purple liquid. ‘Anyone who imbibes will look and feel at least fifteen years younger. I tried it on the oldest of my cats and there she is now…’

Matilda gasped at the sight of the small black kitten playing with a ball of red wool. ‘That’s surely not old Nightshade…?’ she said, bending to pick up the tiny creature. ‘She’s nineteen years old, and could hardly walk when I saw her this morning.’

‘The very reason I used her in my experiment, dear wife. Her legs had given up and she was at Death’s door, if truth be told. Now look at her.’

Matilda was duly impressed. ‘I don’t suppose your potion would work on humans, would it…?’

‘I don’t see why not. In fact, that’s exactly why I created it. I’m about to try it on myself and wanted you to observe the transformation – just in case anyone who sees me after today should think me an impostor and not Mordo at all.’

‘You mean you’re about to make yourself look younger and leave me in this rickety state. Not blinkin’ likely!’  Matilda’s drooping bosoms heaved as her indignation soared. ‘If you drink it, then so do I!’

‘Very well. Would you like to be first, or shall I? Or shall we drink together and witness each other regaining at least a smattering of youthfulness?’

Matilda considered the question. If he went first there was the possibility of him not leaving any for her. ‘Divide it into two and we’ll drink together.’

Mordo did as bidden and handed her a glass. ‘Here’s to renewed youth and vigour and the start of an exciting life!’ he yelled, raising his glass and tipping back his head.’

Matilda swallowed her potion down in one and swept her sleeve across her wet lips. ‘Ooh, I don’t like the taste of that! Could do with more sugar, if you ask me and…’

‘You were saying, dearest…?’  Mordo said, as his wife’s glass smashed on the stone floor and he placed his own untouched potion on the table. He congratulated himself as his wife began to shrink, and thought he’d die from laughing as she sprouted black feathers and an orange beak.’

‘There, there, now, my ugly little bird’, he cooed, as he grabbed the squawking crow. ‘My tower is no place for a creature like you. I’ll soon have a prettier songbird installed in your stead…

‘And you, dear Matilda,’ he said as he approached the high tower’s open window, ‘can nest in a place where your voice will be appreciated. I believe there’s a murder of crows nesting in the old oak at the edge of the meadow. And just think, my dear,’ he added as he thrust her out, ‘you’ll never have to climb those awful stone steps again.’



I starting writing this story for a prompt on FFfAW a few months ago. The prompt was provided by Joy Pixley and showed a wooden staircase. Before I’d written more than a few sentences, I realised I needed more than 175 words to make this particular tale work. So I abandoned it and wrote something else, which can be viewed here. Recently, I decided to finish this one off, and as I haven’t had time to write a flash fiction for this week, I’m posting this instead. It weighs in at 646 words.

29 thoughts on “Those Awful Stone Steps

  1. Ha, what a twist! I suppose in one sense, he did solve her problem — no more walking up stairs, or anywhere else! But what a nasty thing to do to your own wife, no matter how much complaining she did. Mordo is clearly in the “evil genius” category. How fitting that he has his ‘lab” high up in a tower; appropriately spooky. I hope Matilda is able to make his life miserable, maybe scare away his next wife/victim before she falls into his trap. I can picture it now, his tower being constantly bombarded by a flock of angry crows!

    1. Thanks, Joy. As you can see, this was never going to be a 175 word story! I loved your prompt, and enjoyed writing the story I actually did, but I also enjoyed writing this one. It was doing my Warwick posts last week that inspired me to finish this piece off. Mordo is definitely a scheming so-and-so and yes, it would serve him right if angry crows plagued his life from now on.

      1. Two stories for the price (or at least, prompt) of one! And the angry crow punishment sounds good to me. I’ve been writing a lot of morality tales / fables lately, so apparently I really want to see Fate make sure that the bad guy suffers in the end. 😉

      2. I’m sure we all feel the bad guy should suffer at the end – or at least, be made to face up to what he/she has done. Perhaps it makes us feel that things have come full circle and the story has played itself out. A bad guy getting away with things doesn’t always seem like a true ending. Yet there are stories in which the bad guy somehow has readers rooting for him to get away. If readers can see some good in a character, he/she can’t have been totally evil.
        I’m now talking myself into knots so I’ll shut up! 🙂

      3. Yes, so much seems to depend on whose perspective the story is told from. I think about it in terms of couples’ breakups — no matter how nasty they are, each partner and their friends are convinced that it’s the other partner who was wrong, and vice versa. Same with story characters. If you start off relating to one character, they can get away with a *lot* more than the person they dislike can get away with.

  2. THAT was a delightful story! I loved it! You have a gift for great stories! I must admit I was hooked as soon as I started reading. Bravo! I loved the twist at the end. 🙂

    1. Thank you for that great comment! I think we all like a bit of fantasy now and then, and wizards and magicians tend to capture the imagination (well, mine anyway! 🙂 ) Mordo wasn’t the best husband in the world! 🙂

    1. Matilda’s probably planning her revenge as we speak and I’m sure she’ll have a lot of help from her newfound feathered friends. With her attitude, I’m sure Matilda will soon be ‘ruling the roost’ in that particular murder of crows. Thank you for reading and liking my story, Shivangi. Much appreciated. 😀

  3. Ooh, that sneaky Mordo. At least no more stairs for Matilda. And she can always get together with her crow mates, come back with them and peck his eyeballs out 🙂

    1. Yes, having his eyeballs pecked out would be just punishment for Mordo. There’d be no more potion-making for him then. But who knows, Matilda might just enjoy having no more stairs to climb – although she may well be complaining of aching wings next. (Love the term ‘crow mates’! 😀 )

    1. Thanks, Jo! Men indeed…! I like to write the odd silly little story now and then. It makes a nice change, and gives me a little break from my historical fiction. 🙂

  4. What a nasty old man! 🙂 Hope Matilda enjoys herself with her new friends. She might talk them into revenge. There is a lot of things that a big flock of birds can do to a man 😉

  5. Being a young crow may well suit Matilda. Such freedom – no housework and no stairs to climb. No Mordo to wait on hand and foot. I quite fancy that life myself, for an odd day – just to try it out. 😀

    1. Now I can see the story with a different view. If Matilda feels free and enjoys her new life and new friends , I think it was a nice thing to happen. But I don’t like Mordo anyways, because he betrayed trust.

      It was very picturesque writing Millie! Loved reading it! 🙂

  6. I love this, what a twist. Such a terrible man! That new prettier songbird will have to be weary as the years pass. She might end up just like his wife. Great story Millie!

  7. Oh that one is nota good Hubby… and he even claims a younger bird will be joinining him very soon …. No way! 😉 Love the funny twists and the unexpected metamorphoses here… very original dear Millie… Sending love & best wishes 😀

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