The Worst Kind of Magic
Matzusha slid out from behind a tree. The samurai, wearing a flowing white robe, padded slowly through dead leaves and squatted down beside the corpse. He took the pistol and aimed it at the body’s head.
And that was the end of Mad Dog Steve. Bang. You’re dead.
PORT SALUT, HAITI
APRIL 14, 1937
“This potion,” said the black man wearing a teal suit, “Is not a good potion. It’s a...”
Mad Dog Steve extinguished his cigar on the polished oak desk he sat behind.
“It’s a curse, whatever. I get it. You spiritual types are all the god-damned same.” He produced a handful of sliver coins and slid them towards the black man. “Just give it to me.”
A vial filled with purple liquid was produced from a pocket in the black man’s coat. He stood up, walked slowly around to Mad Dog Steve, and laid it in front of him.
“May you live until the very last breath has been squeezed from your blood-soaked lungs,” he said softly. “And then, may you live some more.”
Matzusha turned his back,
But the air took up its slack,
On the old Dog’s gangly limbs,
As he rose with rushing wind.
And lightning broke the sky,
And Mad Dog floated high,
And the world echoed the cry:
“I’m still alive! I cannot die!”
Matzusha drew his sword quickly. He turned and deflected a blow from a ghostly fist which charged towards him. Mad Dog’s upright corpse darted over the water and stalled, a white effigy that hovered inches above the rippling surface. Matzusha’s eyes followed, but his body remained crouched, one hand tight on his blade’s handle, the other still fingering the silver pistol’s trigger.
Voodoo magic! The worst kind of magic.
Mad Dog’s head jerked to face the sky and he laughed a hollow laugh. Then his head, as if released, flopped back down. Blood began to drip from the corner of his mouth, drip drip, dripping onto the water. The drips dripped faster until they became a continuous stream of blood, pouring into the lake. Mad Dog’s head jerked up again and the stream began to waterfall over his jaw and down his dead white chest.
Matzusha closed his eyes, and counted inside his head. One. Two. Three.
Before the gunfire was heard, four bullets plummeted into Mad Dog’s soft flesh. A spiritual tether was severed by a fifth bullet, and the floating body fell slack and splashed into the lake’s dark waters.
Matzusha shed his weapons and dived in. By the time he reached Mad Dog, the magic had left the reanimated fiend. The underwater battle was all fingers and knees. The two grappled and twisted in weightless silence, until the surface had settled, like glass, above them.
And the lake was still,
And the moon was still,
And all was still, until,
Softly, by the sandy shore,
Mad Dog’s corpse emerged,
Where it would lie forevermore.
And like a beast awaking,
From watery depths Matzusha surged,
Staggering, soaked and choking.
Matzusha caught his breath.
Mad Dog, you fool.
He smiled, and picked up the silver pistol which lay in the sand at his feet. He walked over to the corpse and, ankle-deep in water, crouched down beside it. He dropped the gun, which released a few bubbles as it sank.
You were a gifted warrior, but you didn’t know a fucking thing about potions.
Then Matzusha slipped behind a tree and disappeared.