Those Awful Stone Steps

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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.’

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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.