“More! More! I need more!”
“Oh, you are delightful! There’s more coming, o Hungry One!”
Willi steps back into the kitchen to find it far more of a mess than it was before. Pots and pans and spills and glass and sludge and crumbs are absolutely everywhere. Once she and her house get back home to her parents, she’ll have a lot of explaining to do.
She watches as Strange Cook takes a big pasta pot off the stove and hands it over to Hungry Grandma, who sits on the kitchen counter. She greedily takes the pot and slonks its contents, a watery purple liquid going down her chin. Once done, she tosses the pot across the room with a loud clatter.
“More!” she cries.
“Most absolutely!” Strange Cook laughs as they go to the fridge and start digging out ingredients that Willi doesn’t even remotely recognize.
She looks around for Little Mushroom Man, concerned that he has not called out to her immediately. She’ll never forgive herself if she had allowed him to be eaten.
Fortunately, she spots him, cowering in a dark corner of the kitchen behind the trash can that is just a bit taller than he is. He hasn’t seemed to have noticed Willi yet, keeping his eyes on Hungry Grandma.
Willi walks over and sits next to him.
“Hello, Little Mushroom Man,” she says in a soft voice in order not to startle him. Nonetheless, he still jumps, but grins as soon as he sees Willi.
“Willi!” Little Mushroom Man tosses himself onto her, hugging her tightly. “Willi, I’m so glad you’re here! This big lady came in! She’s really mean and demanding! She says you told her to come here! But I don’t believe her! She keeps looking at me like I’m food! And I told her that I would make her sick! But she doesn’t seem to care! I don’t know why it never works! Why do things want to eat me when I’ll just kill them!”
“Sh, it’s okay,” Willi says, rubbing the flat top of Little Mushroom Man’s head. His black goo sticks to her fingers, which is bothersome, but right now, she won’t mind. “I did tell her to come here, but I specifically told her she is not to eat anyone. She’s only to eat food. She’s very hungry, you see.”
“I’m not food.”
“No,” Willi agrees.
“Not anymore, at least,” Little Mushroom Man continues. “There was a time when I was very delicious! But I’m old and rotten now! I make things sick! But no one seems to understand.”
Willi doesn’t say anything to this. It’s funny to her, thinking of Little Mushroom Man as an old, rotten man when he is as juvenile and spry as he is. But she won’t pretend she understands mushroom creature biology.
“Did you learn a magic trick from Bossy?” Little Mushroom Man asks.
“Oh, yes!” she tells him. “I’ve learned to poison Time for a bit. But I need ingredients. Thyme and…” She thinks, trying to remember the last foreign ingredient. “Something black or white. Heller or hayer or—”
“Hayor?” Little Mushroom Man perks up. “Chef uses that in their meals a lot!”
“Oh, wonderful!” Willi says, glad for something to be simple for once. “I will ask them for some.”
“Willi stands and Little Mushroom Man stands with her, clutching on to the back of her dress and keeping just behind her as she walks over to Strange Cook.
“Hello, Strange Cook,” she greets. “Do you have any heyor I can borrow?”
“LITTLE HUMAN!” Hungry Grandma roars, making both, Willi and Little Mushroom Man, squeak with fright. “Do not bother them! They are making food for me! Ask your silly questions somewhere else!”
“Ohoho, so eager! Ah!” Strange Cook giggles as they fry up some silverware in a pan. To Willi, they say: “I’m afraid I’m a touch busy right now, but I do usually keep some in the corner over there, with my other seasonings!”
They nod their head and Willi follows it, before frowning deeply. Willi had expected the corner to be a mess, towered with little glass and plastic containers. Or perhaps not even towered, perhaps piled moreso, in a chaotic messy manner that would have fit Strange Cook perfectly.
She could only hope to be so lucky. Instead, there are no containers at all. All of the seasoning is loose, mixed in with each other, looking like a colorful pile of ashes.
Willi turns back to Strange Cook in order to ask how on Earth she’s supposed to find heyor in there, but Cook is back to flipping the silverware in the pan while checking on something baking in the oven. If Willi were to pull them away again, Hungry Grandma would be sure to yell.
Instead, Willi steps away, heading to the mess of a corner with Little Mushroom Man clutched behind her.
She looks hopelessly at the different corners of packed red and black and gray and green and brown, not sure where to start. Even if she knew what heyor looked like, so many of the seasonings look like one another. She’s not even sure she can pick thyme from here.
Still, she must try. She searches for thyme first and examines the different green parts of the pile, before choosing to pinch from one that seems to her the most likely.
Next is heyor. Which she has no idea what it looks like.
“Are you able to describe heyor to me?” Willi asks to Little Mushroom Man.
“Black or white?”
Hum, that is a question. Willi remembers The Attic Antiquarian warning her about the shades of heyor, but she was so caught up in thinking about their nonchalance for safety that she forgot to actually remember.
“White,” Willi guesses. White is usually shown as good in movies and shows and the Bible, so that should be the safe choice, yes?
“It’s a really light purple, I think,” Little Mushroom Man says.
A light purple. That helps plenty. Willi spots a large pale purple spot at the bottom of the pile and picks from it.
There we are. Thyme and heyor.
Willi goes to the door of the basement with both ingredients clasped tightly in her hands. The door is dark and doesn’t move or make a sound. She, very lightly, nudges her foot against it, causing it to wiggle.
“ruuuuuuuuuuuuuude…” says Darkness. “kicking me is ruuuuuuuuude…”
“I needed to get your attention,” Willi explains. “I have a magic trick to show you.”
“ohhhhh…?” Darkness wiggles and wobbles excitedly and WIlli assumes they are watching.
“I am going to crush these herbs together,” Willi says, crushing the thyme and heyor in her hands. It hurts, as they are spikey and poke at her skin, but she pushes through until they seem to be well grounded to her.
“Now, I will hold out my hand,” she says, completing the action as she does so. “I will call Time to me, and it will eat. Once it does, it will fall asleep and Time will stop for me for five seconds.”
Willi stands there, her hand outstretched, waiting for Time to eat out of her palm.
She waits. Little Mushroom Man waits. Darkness waits. They all wait for an amount of time that Willi can’t say because she didn’t think to look at the clock before starting the spell, but it feels like it has been a while.
But nothing happens. The seasoning is still in her hand, not moving or disappearing at all, and there’s no indication that Time is anywhere around.
Willi frowns. She must have grabbed the wrong ingredients after all. She stirs the seasoning with her finger, wondering if she should try picking them out again, when there’s a CLATTER!
Willi jumps, looking behind her. Strange Cook has dropped a pot. Not accidentally. They pick it up and drop it again. It seems to be a part of their recipe, though Willi can’t fathom what it will add.
She turns back and gasps. Most of the seasoning in her hand has poofed out of it from the force of her jump, much of it in the direction of Darkness. Darkness wibbles and wobbles.
“ohhhhhh myyyyyyy…” they say. “you liiiiiiiiiiiiied, which is ruuuuuuuuuuuude. but what a maaaaaaaaaagical lie it isssssssssss…”
With that, they slither down, Darkness slipping from the door to darkening the tile kitchen floor.
Willi steps back. This is not at all what she had meant to do and she feels a twinge of guilt. But the door is free now, so she can finally get the snow shovel and get House Thief off of her walls so she can go home.
Carefully, to not wake them, Willi steps over Darkness and opens the basement door. Little Mushroom Man also hops over them, keeping right behind her as they tread down the stairs.
So guess what? Currently, as I am scheduling this, I have completed the first act of Stolen House!
I have to take some time to work on the next act, because I want it to be even zanier and wilder than this one, but in the meantime, I’m trying to decide if I should publish the first act as a physical book? I very much want to be able to hold a physical version of my story, even if it’s just to show myself I can do it. But a part of me is saying “No, it’s too soon, wait until the story is fully complete.”
I dunno. I’m leaning towards publishing it as is because I’m super impatient, but it’s also because of that that I’m feeling such a strong resistance to it. Hopefully, I’ll have decided by the time this posts!
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