Set your cauldron to bubbling, and read these fifteen tales of magic, sorcery, and enchantment!
What if you could smell magic—or go to a bar and get a shot of magic to go with your cocktail? Will an aging sorcerer's last pupil ever learn anything? And what could possibly go wrong when a pair of witches enter the local chili cook-off?
"The Coffee Shop Ghost" by DeAnna Knippling
"Dreams of Saffron and Lace" by Leah R. Cutter
"A Spice Most Demanding" by Robert Jeschonek
"The Solitary Sorceress" by Debbie Mumford
"The Fixer" by Annie Reed
"A Worthwhile Sacrifice" by Rei Rosenquist
"Campbell County Cook-Off" by Alicia Cay
"No Place Like Home" by James Pyles
"Terminal Sorcery" by Grayson Towler
"Diamond Betty" by Jamie Ferguson
"Telling the Bees" by Dayle A. Dermatis
"The Final Initiation" by Thea Hutcheson
"Fight or Flight" by Leslie Claire Walker
"Witches of Cologne" by Sharon Kae Reamer
"Travis Alamo Boone – Witchhunter" by Steve Vernon
What if you could smell magic—or go to a bar and get a shot of magic to go with your cocktail? Will an aging sorcerer's last pupil ever learn anything? And what could possibly go wrong when a pair of witches enter the local chili cook-off? Set your cauldron to bubbling, and enjoy the fifteen short tales in the anthology Magicks & Enchantments! – Jamie Ferguson
Excerpt from "The Coffee Shop Ghost" by DeAnna Knippling
It was supposed to be a simple cleansing at the Red Eye Coffee and Breakfast Bar. I had planned to come in, take off my shoes, open all the doors and the windows, sweep the floor with a bristle broom, clean everything with vinegar and/or baking powder and/or decalcifers and/or salt, burn some sage, ring a bell, leave old copper pennies and pieces of selenite on the windowsills, and then get down to my real work.
Magic exists and it pervades the world. But I'm not a witch; I just pretend to be one. I dress in long, diaphanous black dresses, wear my flamingo-colored hair in a witchy bun, enchain myself with oodles of silver skull jewelry, appear in public only with a pair of killer eye-wings, and speak in a low and seductive voice.
But I don't do it because I'm a witch. I just like wearing that stuff. I'm a goth, that's all. One of the night folk.
I do have a power, though.
A cup of coffee, some swirling steam, a few choice words under my breath to focus my energy—and then I close my eyes and inhale.
And suddenly I can taste the room.
My sense of taste includes but is not limited to: ghosts; spirits; devils; demons; the fae; vampires; werewolves (but who can't taste a fucking werewolf inside an enclosed space, though?); different types of cigarette, marijuana, wood, and other smoke; a variety of goblins, ghoulies, and wee beasties that creep in the hidden spaces; enchantments; lost things; secret identities; ancient, multi-generational tragedies; psychopomps; psychopaths; drag queens (yum); a bunch of disabilities that are based on genetics; cancer; fear.
It sounds like I have a smoker's voice, but I don't smoke: it's all the spirit traces I've inhaled over the years, settled into the back of my throat.
But, in order for me to get anything useful out of my talent, first the place has gotta be cleaned. The daily detritus of chemicals, pollution, and foot traffic makes it hard to be sure what I'm picking up.
I've had good readings off hot tea, cocoa, hot toddies, Alka-Seltzer tablets in a mug of hot water, and even a "cappuccino" out of a Keurig machine in a hospital waiting room once. It just has to be hot enough to steam.
I don't do cleansings full-time. Like other practitioners of the unusual and strange, I put together a living out of a hodge-podge of activities. I also read palms and tarot cards, assist ghost hunters in a more-or-less legit capacity, sell soaps, perfumes, and tea online, and work at one of the local haunted houses every Halloween. Plus about a hundred other things. Satisfaction, or at least a job well done, guaranteed.
The Red Eye was in the Highland neighborhood in Denver. It was nice. Small boutique shops and corner stores that had been around for generations. One-story brick houses with porches and decorative wrought-iron bars over the windows, terraced yards, brick sidewalks with teeny-tiny flowers growing in the cracks—interrupted by modern two-story condos with steel-tube balconies overlooking the street.
In a few years, a decade maybe, all the charm would be gone.
The Red Eye itself was built into part of an old corner store that had been split into two separate businesses: a tavern-slash-sports-bar called The Jester's Tavern, and the Red Eye.
The interior of the Red Eye was mostly the crumbling, raw brick of the old building itself. A garage door covered half the frontage; in warm weather, the baristas would open the big door to let the fresh air in. LED lights hung off the roof supports. A narrow aisle between tables led from the front door to the humming refrigerated bakery counter in the back. The shop was narrow but long, with chipped wood tables and painted metal chairs. The coffee bar was lined with mismatched swivel stools filled with long-haired brunettes in puffer jackets and stocking caps typing away at their laptops in the winter, or middle-aged dudebros in t-shirts and backward baseball caps in the summer.
The owners were a couple of hipsters in their thirties, skinny black jeans, button-up shirts, and black-framed glasses. The guy was balding and wore a trimmed beard. The chick wore combat boots and had her hair in a sleek ponytail. They looked like siblings. Whenever one of them was talking, the other would tilt their head to the side to listen. They had handed me a cup of coffee, no cream, no sugar, in a heavy hand-thrown mug with a fingerprint at the top of the handle as we sat down. The coffee itself spoke well of their dedication.
"Hi, I'm Tiff Cordero," I said.
They blinked at me, probably expecting something like "Raven Blackcraft" or something. But I like my name, the same way I like my hair to be aggressively pink.
"What we want," said the guy, "is to have you do a cleansing."
The chick said, "It's not—we don't believe in ghosts. It's just that—"
"—Things have been going strangely here lately."
I asked, "Strangely how?"
A flicker crossed the woman's face. "I'd like to see what you can pick up on your own," she said firmly.
Which was fair.
"I won't be able to pick up much until after I've started the ritual," I warned her. "There are just too many influences, good and bad, floating around."
"I understand—" said the chick.
"—But we don't want to prejudice you with our impressions," said the guy.
They both looked at me hopefully. I was "on."
I lifted my coffee cup in front of my face, breathing in the steam for a few long seconds. I picked up Axe body spray, brand-new sneaker soles, floor wax, a few rancid coffee grounds, and something burnt and truly nasty. I held the scents in my mouth for a second, then exhaled. "I'm not sure that you're haunted," I said, "but there's something." It wasn't the first time I'd said that sentence, and it wouldn't be the last. "Not historic," I added, in case they were concerned about an old ghost haunting the place. "Something recent."
They looked at each other. "No one has died here recently, that we know of."
I shook my head. My earrings jingled. "It almost smells like plastic. Burnt plastic."
Their noses both wrinkled up, as if on cue. I couldn't have gotten a better reaction if I had planned it. Plastic. To a certain type of person, that was a dirty word.
"Should we call an electrician?" the chick asked.
A pregnant pause.
Then the chick shrugged. "I can't actually smell anything."
"Burnt plastic of the spirit," said the guy. They both chuckled.
"Can you do anything about it?" the chick asked.
"I can try," I said. Then I hefted my black leather bag with the bats onto the table, pulled out my tablet, and said, "If you would just sign here…"