Marcia Williams and the Philosopher’s Stone

The funeral is hot and boring and takes too long. Marcia’s forced to grab a shovel when it comes time to dump the dirt on the coffin, and she rubs her hands along her dress after, feeling dirty. She’s sick of sitting through these, but when you slaughter your whole family and get away with it, it’s hard to avoid. She managed to fake crying the last two times, but by now she’s so tired of it she’s just going to hope they think she’s gone into shock.

People she doesn’t even recognize offer their condolences, eyes red and puffy, and she thanks them with a gravity she doesn’t feel. Can they just be done with this already?

The funerals are over by the end of the week, and after the wills are read she counts up the finances on one sheet and writes down the next names on the other. Her whole family fortune’s going to be a pain to get a hold of, and she’s going to have to start currying favors now if she wants to squeeze a drop out of Great-Aunt Gertie, but one way or another she’s going to get all the pieces.

It was her Grandpa Joe who left the map, and it was that grotesque old bag he married who divvied it all up. Grandpa Joe was the stupidest man in the world, giving up immortality so he could die with his wife, and no way in hell is Marcia going the way he went. She’ll kiss up and grasp and slaughter all she has to to get that damn map and find that damn stone, and if she has to rot in jail for a hundred years when she’s done, that’ll be just fine. She’ll have the time. And she’ll have the money to buy her way out, too. The Philosopher’s Stone is special.

Uncle Frank and his Chevy meet a nasty fate involving a bridge and alligators, while Aunt Roberta’s pearl necklace gets caught on something in her sleep, strangling her to death. Cousin Dillon falls down a flight of stairs, while Cousin Karen, Cousin Will, and their vile little twins suffer a gas leak in their home. Soon enough everyone on her list is gone, and their heirs are too far removed to begrudge sweet little Marcia that old scrap of paper that’d been left to them. All but one.

Great Aunt Gertrude is a stubborn old bag, and every try Marcia’s made at killing her has gone sour somehow. She didn’t show up for dinner the night Marcia’d been planning to poison her soup. She sold her car for parts the day after Marcia cut the brakes. And asking, well. Every time Marcia so much as mentions that little scrap of parchment, Gertie gives her a sniff and a glare and offers her a scone. Evil woman, she is.

She’ll have to do it directly. Even if she doesn’t get the map piece in the will, the old bag’s heir won’t know what it is, and she can grab it.

An axe would be the best way. She gets a small one, not a big one, so she can lift and swing it easy, and she sharpens it up as sharp as it’ll go.

She sets up a tarp on her living room floor and invites Gertie over for dinner, and she doesn’t stop insisting until the old bag comes inside. She’d been going to wait until Gertrude is facing away, but the old biddy watches her like a hawk.

“What’s that axe for?” Gertie demands in a croak.

Marcia slams the axe down in a spatter of blood and shards of bone, over and over until the old bitch has to be dead.

Aunt Gertrude stands up and brushes herself off, dress stained but otherwise good as new.

Marcia knows it then. “You have the stone.”

Gertie nods. “I do.”

“Give it to me,” Marcia demands.

“Certainly.”

And Marcia is surprised.

—§—

No one ever sees Marcia again. But from time to time, Gertrude’s neighbors say they hear sounds coming from the sweet old lady’s house. From her basement.

Sounds of screams, some say. And a voice.

A voice that asks to die.

Ω

Ashley N Armstrong is a self-contradictory oddity currently living in Florida, where she disguises herself as a normal person by day and writes fantastically cynical yet humorous works of fiction by night. She is currently working on an urban fantasy series that can best be described as “Werewolves, vampires, and faeries - oh, my!” Ms. Armstrong has previously been published in the e-zine On the Premises. “Marcia Williams and the Philosopher’s Stone” is her third published work.