Broommates: The Future’s So Bright

Part 12 of the serial Broommates. Start from the beginning orΒ read the previous episode or click the β€œBroommates” link at the top of the page to see the full list.

* * * * *

Booker huffed and puffed into Miranda’s room to see Beatrice kneeling on the floor, facing the closet.

“Did you find the rue?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered, so softly he barely heard it.

“Where is it?”

“Closet.” Almost a whisper. “Careful.”

No, he thought. Please, no. He edged around her, staring at her head. The sight of her face in profile was a fist to his stomach.

Her eyes were gray, featureless orbs like a statue’s, her face streaked with the same gray and already ashen. His breath caught in his throat and he held it, not daring to look around for fear of making eye contact with the creature whose glance could turn a person to stone. But how else was he going to get the rue to cure Miranda, and now Beatrice?

Come on, Booker. You can do this. Slowly, eyes closed, he backed out of the room the same way he’d come in. A poorly placed ottoman almost tripped him but he recovered his balance and felt for the door, stepping outside.

“Ambrose,” he muttered. When there was no response, he shouted, “Ambrose, come here!”

The ghost drifted up through the floor. “Mister Booker, I thought you wanted me to watch Miss Miranda?”

“N-not anymore. I need you here. You know what the c-c-cockatrice looks like.”


“I need you to w-watch for it. You have to be my eyes. If it looks at me, I c-could end up like Miranda. And B-b-b–” He choked. “And Beatrice.”

The ghost paled, if that was possible. “What must I do?”

Booker closed his eyes. “S-stay next to me and let me know if you s-see it. Look all around. Warn me if I’m going to r-run into anything.”

“Yes, very well.”

The two made slow progress toward the stairs, then down to the first floor. Every sound made him cringe and stop. Shadows played on Booker’s eyelids as he moved through the hallways, becoming orange light when he stepped into the kitchen, with its cheerful window over the sink that he couldn’t see. He retrieved a pair of gardening gloves from the closet by the back door and slipped them on, hoping they would be thick enough to stop a sharp beak.

Next, he groped his way back up the stairs and into Anthony’s room. His heart was pumping so hard, it made his head throb. “Ambrose,” he said. “Do you see big black boots around here somewhere?”

“Yes, Mister Booker. Behind the door.”

His hands found the rubbery material and he slowly slid his foot inside. His toe met a warm ball of resistance that hissed and writhed. With a scream, he dropped the boot.

“Oh, dear,” Ambrose said. “You startled Houdini.”

When he could think straight again, Booker grabbed the boot and put it on. Before even attempting the other one, he tipped it upside down and shook it.

“I d-don’t suppose his uniform is in here?” he asked.

“I’m afraid not.”

The boots made each step even more awkward and difficult to judge, but Booker felt safer knowing his ankles weren’t exposed. They made another stop in Parker’s room for a hand mirror, which took some tag-team searching. Finally, there was one more thing he wanted from his own room.

With a smile, he found what he sought and slipped them on. “Let’s do this,” he told Ambrose.

“Do what, Mister Booker?”

“Never mind.”

They crept back down the hall to Miranda’s room. Booker was careful not to jostle Beatrice; he had the impression that she was concentrating on slowing the toxin.

“Ambrose, is the closet clear?” he asked.

“No, it’s full of things.”

Booker sighed. “Is the cockatrice in there?”

“Oh. I don’t see it.”

“How about the rue?”

“Over in the corner, to your left. No, right. I’m so sorry!”

That last was because Booker jammed his fingers into a large wooden dresser. Groaning, he used his other hand to feel around until he found what felt like a small pouch.

“Is this it?”

“Yes. But… oh dear…”

Booker froze, arm extended. Feathers brushed against his sleeve and he fought to keep his eyes shut. What he would give to be like Anthony and fry it with a spell, or summon a sword and cut its head off. Β Or to be like Parker and wrap himself in an illusion, trick the thing into leaving him alone. As it was, all he could do was hope it tried to look at his eyes before biting him. It warbled to itself and nudged the hand that held the rue.

Another idea surfaced. It was worth a shot…

Slowly, so as not to startle the cockatrice, he put the bag on the ground and opened it with his thumb and forefinger. Although his fingers were clumsy in the thick gloves, he managed to pinch some of the rue and lift it out, scattering it on the ground like seed. Then, he waited.

There was rustling but otherwise silence. He wondered how long it would take, if his plan was going to work at all. Maybe he should pull out the mirror and end it before it was too late.

“Are you well, Mister Booker?” Ambrose whispered.

“Yes, why?” he whispered back.

“Only you said you could end up like Miss Miranda if it looked at you–”


“It’s looking at you.”

Could it have worked? Booker pulled out the hand mirror and slowly moved it to where he thought the cockatrice was standing. He was rewarded with a clucking sound and what felt like a peck on the glass.

Taking a deep breath, he cracked an eye to see what was happening. The creature was fluffing up its black neck feathers, regarding its own reflection with what might have been curiosity.

“I did it,” Booker whispered incredulously. Then, shouting, “I did it!”

The cockatrice squawked and bit his hand, flapping its way to another corner of the closet and settling into what looked like the beginnings of a nest. The pain was nothing compared to his relief. But it wasn’t over yet.

“Come on, Ambrose,” he said. “Let’s go make some tea.”

* * * * *

It has to work, he thought as the water boiled. Half of Miranda’s chest had gone hard and gray and it was spreading up her neck. Beatrice could no longer move her half-open mouth but the poison’s progress in her system was much slower. Ambrose stood behind him, wringing his translucent hands.

The kettle whistled. He carefully measured out just under what the herbology book said would be a poisonous dose, hoping the women weren’t too thin or too sickly to tolerate that much. Hoping it would be enough to get them back to normal. It seemed to take an eternity for the leaves to steep but it was exactly four minutes.

As much as he wanted to rush to Beatrice, he knew that Miranda needed the treatment first. He carried the teacup over to the sofa, hands shaking, and carefully tipped some of the hot liquid into Miranda’s mouth.

Nothing happened. He gave her more and waited. Still nothing.

“Please,” he whispered. “Come on, work.”

Little by little the cup emptied until only the dregs were left, and she still looked terrible.

Ambrose put an icy hand on Booker’s shoulder. “Maybe you should try it on Miss Beatrice?”

He shrugged and turned away, blinking back tears. At least he had tried. He started to move back to the kitchen. Maybe when the others got home, they could think of something, do some kind of magic…

Miranda groaned. “Why does my mouth taste like old coffee?” Her eyes fluttered open.

Booker froze and looked back at her on the sofa.

“Terrible old coffee,” she mumbled. “And why can’t I move my arm? Oh gods, where’s the cockatrice?”

Booker laughed. “Ambrose, you explain while I help Beatrice!” He retrieved the second cup of tea and raced upstairs as fast as he could without spilling anything.

* * * * *

While Miranda was quickly up and grumbling with a stiff arm and neck, Beatrice was completely blind and mute for a few hours. Booker led her to her room and sat with her until she could speak, then until she could see.

“Booker?” she asked as the last dark flecks faded from her vision.

“Y-yes? I’m h-here.” He edged closer.

“Why are you wearing sunglasses indoors?”

He had completely forgotten he was wearing them. He grinned and gave her a thumbs-up. “When you’re cool, the sun shines on you 24 hours a day.”

“Booker?” Miranda shrieked from another room.


“Why is there a cockatrice nesting in my closet?!”

* * * * *

Part 13: Hedgehog’s Dilemma

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15 Responses to “Broommates: The Future’s So Bright”

  1. Another installment…and I really can’t wait for the next.

  2. peggy says:

    I’m glad they foiled the cockatrice, but I’m not up on mythical creatures. Why did the mirror neutralize the stone-making power?

    I love your characters–special powers but still acting like any other young adult. Great story/serial.

  3. Valerie says:

    Thanks for reading, you guys. Peggy, it was the rue that did it, not the mirror. If its ability hadn’t been neutralized, the mirror would have turned the cockatrice to stone. And while the literature says they’re carnivores, given their chicken-y nature I thought I’d wiggle that a bit for my own purposes.

  4. ganymeder says:

    I love this world and the characters you created. Already waiting for the next installment. πŸ™‚

  5. Gracie says:

    Delightful as always, Valerie. I was a bit anxious there, waiting for the tea to take effect. Tension? Check, and well done.

    Loved it. πŸ™‚

  6. @lil_monmon says:

    “no, it’s full of things,” (BWAHAHAHHA!!!) XD

    Well done. This made me shudder too. When I was a kid (thanks to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) I thought nothing was more terrifying than turning to stone.

    Another masterful stroke, m’dear!

  7. T.S. Bazelli says:

    I always admire the way you mix the magical, mythological, and possibly creepy, with the everyday. The ending had me snorting my tea in a giggle. Well done!

  8. Another excellent installment! Glad the cockatrice was neutralized, and I enjoyed what Ambrose brought to the story. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

  9. Sam says:

    OK, so they’ve fettled the beastie and made rue tea…but how are they going to get a nesting cockatrice out of Miranda’s closet? I can’t wait to find out! πŸ™‚

  10. Lena S. says:

    I’ve just breezed through all twelve installments and can’t wait for the next one. Loved seeing the timid Booker have his time in the spotlight!

  11. Valerie says:

    Thanks so much, all. Glad you enjoyed it, and glad to give Ambrose and Booker some face time. Welcome, Lena, and thanks for reading!

  12. Laura Eno says:

    …he’s gotta wear shades! Excellent tension!

  13. Wow! Fantastic, and gripping! I’ve not read any of this before and I was enthralled. I’m going to have to make time to go to the beginning and find out why there’s a cockatrice in someone’s closet and everything.

    Excellent tale!

  14. Dad says:

    I’d feel the same way if I saw a cockroach in my closet…

  15. Xanto says:

    I like Booker a little be more now! And who wouldn’t want a pet cockatrice?

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