Tonight we’re featuring a really fun story by Josh Reynolds (who lives wherever it suits him at the moment, originally Gadsden South Carolina and currently Sheffield, UK, as we understand.) It is from his ”Royal Occultist” series, from which we hope to provide additional thrilling tales in the future.
The jug hit the wall of the cottage kitchen and shattered, splattering the two people huddling behind the overturned table with milk that had gone sour in mid-air. “Possibly a boggart,” Charles St. Cyprian said, shaking milk from his hand. “And a nasty one, at that,” he added.
“Really,” Ebe Gallowglass said, peering over the edge of the table. “And here I thought it was a particularly short and offensive chimney sweep.”
“You should trust me on these matters, you know. It is part of my job as Royal Occultist, after all, to know what a boggart looks like,” St. Cyprian sniffed.
Formed during the reign of Elizabeth the First, the office of Royal Occultist had started with the diligent amateur Dr. John Dee, and passed through a succession of hands, culminating, for the moment, in the Year of Our Lord 1924, with one Charles St. Cyprian and his erstwhile assistant, Ebe Gallowglass.The latter took aim with the heavy Webley-Fosberry revolver in her hand. Before she could fire, however, a butter dish sailed towards her, and she ducked back down with a curse.
“I told you to be careful,” St. Cyprian said. “Owd Hob over there has the arm of a champion bowler.” The boggart gave a shriek and sprang from the table to the walk-in cupboard, its cloven hooves gouging the wood and its claws tearing at the panelling as it slithered up over the uppermost edge of the door like a weasel. It was squat and hairy, with arms as long as tacklepoles, and bandy legs that belonged on a goat. It had no neck to speak of and a head shaped like a wedge that was split almost in two by its gaping maw. Piggy eyes that burned like hot coals glared at them from beneath a thatch of greasy hair as it disappeared into the cupboard.
“He won’t have any arms at all when I’m done with him,” Gallowglass snapped. More crockery flew, and shards spattered over them as the boggart began to empty the cupboard with Maxim gun like regularity.
“I think he heard you,” St. Cyprian said, covering his head with his hands.
“I should bloody well hope so!” Gallowglass said. She tilted her head back and yelled, “You’re going to run out of crockery soon enough you little monster, and when you do it’s two in the noggin and a swift burial at the crossroads!”
“Please don’t threaten the whatever-it-is. He’s still got a cupboard full of tinned vegetables to throw,” St. Cyprian said.
“You just said it was a boggart!”
“It’s possible that it could be a brownie or a tommyknocker,” St. Cyprian snapped. “This isn’t an exact science, you know! It’s not like there’s a field-guide to fairies flittering about.” He caught sight of the cottage’s human residents cowering in the hall just beyond the kitchen door. The MP for the Suffolk borough of Dunny-on-the-Wold looked pale. The cottage was a residence-for-propriety’s-sake, and was normally inhabited only by mice and a visiting caretaker. All of which likely explained why the boggart was so upset by what it probably perceived as intrusive invasion of its home. If the man hadn’t been a Member of Parliament, St. Cyprian would have happily advised him to learn to love the sound of smashed crockery, or perhaps invest in a milk cow. As it was, his only option now was to see to the boggart, post-haste. Such was the lot of the Royal Occultist, honour-bound to defend even the rottenest of boroughs of the British Empire from rampaging redcaps and bullish boggarts.
“Soon have it sorted, Mr. Bolsom,” he called out, waving confidently. He hunched forward as a butcher knife thudded into the table, rocking it. He looked at Gallowglass. “I do believe he’s found the cutlery.”
“Where did the little bastard even come from?” Gallowglass said.
“Ask them,” St. Cyprian said, gesturing at the Honourable Member and his family. “It’s their cottage. I assume the little bugger came with it, like rising damp.” He peered around the table. “That’s how it usually happens. They probably forgot to leave milk out or some rubbish. Cover me,” he said, shooting to his feet. He lunged for the walk-in cupboard, and crashed against it, slamming the door shut. The boggart realized its plight immediately and began to batter the door with its hairy fists. St. Cyprian pressed his back against it, trying to hold the rattling door shut. “Find some salt!” he yelped. “If it’s a boggart, we need salt!”
“It’s probably in the cupboard!” Gallowglass snarled back.
“Then find me a horseshoe!”
“Do you really think this is the right time for party games?”
“Find me something iron!” he cried. The door shuddered in its frame and he was almost knocked sprawling. Gallowglass looked towards the cowering residents.
“You heard him! Find something iron…” She trailed off as she caught sight of the pot-bellied stove that occupied the corner of the kitchen, and the fry-pan hanging on a wall-board nearby. She grinned wolfishly. She stood, holstered her Webley, and plucked the pan down and kicked open the stove. “Let the little bleeder out,” she shouted.
“What?” St. Cyprian said.
“You heard me!” She hefted the pan in both hands and took a stance.
St. Cyprian’s objection became moot as the door caromed off of its hinges, knocking him flat. The boggart bounded free, long arms flailing. It saw Gallowglass and leapt, jaws gaping. The fry-pan connected with a solid kerrang, and the boggart struck the open door of the stove and tumbled in. Gallowglass kicked the stove shut and stepped back, even as the stove began to rattle and the boggart’s screams turned to whines and then whimpers, and then, a sound like steam escaping a radiator. Then, finally, silence, accompanied by a noisome odour.
“Cast-iron pan,” St. Cyprian asked.
“Cast-iron pan,” Gallowglass said, leaning the pan across her shoulder.
“Tah for that,” St. Cyprian said and peered into the stove. He made a face as the smell hit him and plucked his handkerchief out of his pocket to press against his nose and mouth. “I was right,” he said, “Definitely a boggart.”
Josh Reynolds is a freelance writer of moderate skill and
exceptional confidence. He has written a bit, and some of it was even published. For money. By real people. His work has appeared in anthologies such as Miskatonic River Press’ Horror for the Holidays, and in periodicals such as Innsmouth Magazine and Lovecraft eZine.Feel free to stop by his blog, to check up on him or to tell him he’s wrong about whatever it is you disagree with him about.