Then he thought: Karswell. He was here. A brief scan of the surrounding brush verified this almost beyond doubt, when Fanshawe discovered a fat cigar b.u.t.t with a Monte-Cris...o...b..nd, and- Unbelievable.
-a small, clear jar. The jar's lid lay right next to it.
Karswell must've made his own witch-water, Fanshawe deduced. New England's full of unconsecrated graves of condemned witches... It was perfectly feasible that a writer of occult history and a Christian mystic would know how to make it. He challenged himself: All right. There's only one more thing left to do...
He flicked open the tiny penknife on his key chain. He looked at the modest blade, then looked at the palm of his left hand. He winced at the initial puncture of the knife-tip into the middle of his palm. Blood welled up first as a pea-sized bead, but very quickly it formed a grim puddle in his hand. When he turned the flashlight off, the blood looked black in the moonlight.
Fanshawe spoke aloud the queer words he'd recently read on the centuries-old parchment: "Besmear ye mystickal and horrid sphere with thine own blood..."
He placed his bleeding hand on the orb, leaving a scarlet print.
"And then take into thy mouth one driblet of ye wretched and most nefarious aqua wicce..."
His slick hand wrapped around the flask's gla.s.s stopper, twisted, then he felt the ancient black wax give way. He lifted the stopper out- Fanshawe swayed in place, grimacing: he stood on solid ground like a man on a tight-rope. It was an appalling odor that issued from the flask's aperture, like rotten-meat stench blended with the smell of bas.e.m.e.nt mold. My G.o.d! I've got to DRINK this? Queasiness engulfed his stomach. But- Only a *driblet,' he reminded himself, which he a.s.sumed could only be a minuscule unit of measure.
The odor's foulness wafted before him; his eyes watered. Am I really going to..., but when a side breeze crept up and blew the reek off, Fanshawe didn't even think about it.
He s.n.a.t.c.hed in a breath, took one sip of the cryptic water, paused- Down the hatch.
He stood still in the next pause. His brows popped up at the accommodating surprise: the water was absolutely tasteless and totally inoffensive.
For about two seconds.
An impalpable impact sent Fanshawe to his knees. A taste more revolting than anything he could conceive filled his mouth, a taste that could only be described as evil. At once, he gagged, then he began to dry heave, blundering about the clearing on hands and knees. My G.o.d my G.o.d my G.o.d! His mind spun. His equilibrium reversed, all the while his stomach spasming progressively harder, such that subsequent abdominal cramps flared pain as if he'd been sledgehammered in the gut. I've poisoned myself! he somehow was able to think through the shards of
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