Howling in rage, Zephaniah Twinkle hurled his wand at the crumbling, leather-bound Trollpuddle’s Compendium of Arcane Spells and Ritual. Sparks flew as burnished oak bounced off faded pages of vellum.
Zephaniah wrinkled his nose, inhaling the sickly stench of rotting compost. I sense jinxed witchcraft. Something bad will happen.
He cursed Dame Trollpuddle’s twisted incantations. Black hieroglyphics scrawled by her withered hand danced before his eyes.
“Trollpuddle’s spell has backfired,” muttered Zephaniah. Madness lurks in the shadows. What evil has crawled into London? Into my house?
Breaking his magic circle, Zephaniah stumbled towards black curtains, flinging them wide apart. Moonlight swept in past long French windows, sculpting ancestral portraits in spectral grey.
Exhausted, Zephaniah collapsed on his pink satin chaise longue, trailing over the side.
Snuffling, grunting noises came from near his feet.
He looked down. A young aardvark the size of a pet cat rubbed against his ankles. Another appeared, and another, and another…
Zephaniah watched in fascinated dread as swarms of spooky, supernatural aardvarks crawled from the ether.
Countless numbers clambered over each other, scampering across Persian rugs, crawling under mahogany tables, sniffing at Zephaniah’s monogrammed velvet slippers. Spilling out the door, they scrambled down the spiral stairs.
A horrible crash echoed up from rooms below.
More aardvarks arrived, grunting with delight.
Guided by some ghostly force, they raced downstairs. Zephaniah stumbled after them, tripping over his long, black, wizard’s robe. Tumbling down the stairs, he collapsed in a heap at the bottom. Dazed and dizzy, he witnessed hordes of aardvarks gathering in his large kitchen.
Squinting in faint light, Zephaniah watched the African mammals feasting together, guzzling and slurping like a million starving piglets. Aardvarks only eat ants, but these are magical creatures. I hope they don’t eat me…
Zephaniah crept across his polished wooden floor, peering to see what they devoured.
“No,” he screamed. “Not my pink champagne truffles!”
Zephaniah sold hundreds of these in his online chocolate shop. Skilled wizardry swirled together cream, sugar, chocolate, and pink champagne into tiny, mouth-watering baubles deftly marketed as Twinkle’s Tasty Treats.
Riotous, ravenous, rampaging aardvarks munched on the magical morsels.
Growing fatter and fatter, their stomachs stretched outwards, obese and distended as if inflated with sugary helium. Wildly out of proportion, the demonic aardvarks swelled out sideways into wriggling, writhing, waddling, wheezing, fur-covered little hot air balloons waiting to burst.
Twelve of the greediest aardvarks actually floated up to the ceiling.
Terrified, they squirmed and squealed through the air, belching, snorting and grunting in a hideous aardvark orchestra of airborne horror. Ungainly and wretched, they pawed at picture rails, scratched at cornices, bumped into the chandelier.
Zephaniah knew not what to do.
Knees shaking and hands trembling, he opted for the last resort.
He rang Delphinium Doombladder.
“Please,” he begged. “You’ve got to help me!”
“It’s a full moon, darling,” she replied. “I’m sacrificing a virgin…”
“Oh, Delphinium,” he yelled. “I’ll do anything!”
“I’ll give you a thousand pounds!”
“A million pounds!”
“A billion pounds!”
“Listen, Zephaniah,” she said, “I already own three private banks in a tax haven. I don’t need money.”
“Well, what do you want?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there.”
Witch Queen of the Bleeding Pentagram, Delphinium materialised before Zephaniah in seconds. Tall and regal, her auburn curls gleamed like copper bewitched with pearls and stardust. She saw the fattened aardvarks and laughed. “Which spell,” she giggled, “were you trying to do?”
Zephaniah blushed. “Trollpuddle’s Restoration of Lost Youth.”
Delphinium sniggered, her topaz eyes blazing like devil’s fire. “That never works,” she declared. “Zeus has punished you!”
Zephaniah groaned. “But why aardvarks, of all things?”
Delphinium shrugged. “What self-respecting aardvark eats termites in Africa if he can scoff truffles in an elegant, white-stuccoed terrace house in Pimlico?”
“Can you get rid of them?”
“Of course,” she said, her amber cloak glittering like cloth of gold. “But you must agree to the following…”
“ALL witches are superior to ALL warlocks at ALL times.”
Zephaniah frowned. “But that’s not true.”
Delphinium folded her arms across her chest. “Oh yes it is…”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Listen, Twinks,” said Delphinium, glaring at him. “Do you want me to fix the little critters, or not?”
Zephaniah stared up at the ceiling. The largest aardvark was now the size of a baby elephant. “Sure,” he muttered. “Please remove these bloated horrors.”
Delphinium paused. “I’ll want it in writing.”
“Whatever you say.”
Delphinium clicked her fingers. A flying scroll unfurled itself in mid-air before Zephaniah’s eyes, a quill pen poised beside it.
He signed. All witches were now superior to all warlocks.
Delphinium smiled, and the scroll vanished. “Zephaniah Twinkle,” she said, “I have the solution to your problem!” From thin air, she conjured a crystal flagon radiating silvery light. At her command, it poured white, bubbling liquid onto the floor.
Casting her spell, Delphinium chanted ancient words of power in a foreign tongue.
Magically, as if bound by her will, the aardvarks abandoned their pink champagne truffles to slurp up the paranormal potion. Even the airborne aardvarks deflated enough to sip the shimmering fluid.
United as one, they all burped together in a gigantic, spectacular, supernatural belch.
And then they vanished.
And so had all the truffles.
A few smelly aardvark droppings remained, scattered across the floor.
Zephaniah collapsed on the kitchen table, breathing a massive sigh of relief. “Thank you Delphinium!” he declared. “You are the greatest witch that ever lived!”
She fluttered her eyelashes at him. “It was nothing…”
Zephaniah just stared at her in awe. “So what did you give them? Wolvesbane?”
Zephaniah scratched his head, puzzled. “What, then?”
Delphinium smiled at him. “Bicarbonate of Soda.”
Stephen Duffin lives in a tiny garret flat which he shares with a theatrical mouse that likes to dance along the skirting boards. When not reading books, Stephen either watches films or eats extra-hot curries.