“Jane, come quick!”
Jane knew that tone of voice. It always meant one of two things. Either Darcy had found some new favorite show that she absolutely had to spend twelve hours binging, or something was about to blow up. She had no idea which one it was this time, but she put on her flak jacket just in case.
“What is it, Darcy?” Jane walked into the lab, glancing around first to make sure nothing was on fire.
Darcy was at her desk, pouring over a large, rather old-looking book. She shifted through pages so fast, it was amazing she didn’t rip any of them. She waved Jane over. “Look at this! It’s so awesome.”
“Look at what?” Jane asked.
The book was open to a page full of archaic, yet legible writing. As Jane scanned the words, they quickly took on a new shape, shifting from a dead language to plain English before her eyes. As her eyes widened, Darcy grinned.
“Isn’t it cool? I think it changes depending on who’s reading it.” She turned the page, eyes shining like she’d just found a treasure chest full of gold. “Yes! Here it is. The spell that will solve all our problems.”
“Darcy, where did you get this?”
“You stole from Dr. Strange!”
“No, what do you take me for? He left it in the library.”
“So you just took it?”
“It’s a library. You’re supposed to take books.”
Jane facepalmed, running her hand over her eyes until they hurt. “Okay. Why did you take it?”
“Eh, I was bored. But here’s the cool thing. These are super simple spells for beginners. That means anyone can do it. Including us! Come on, haven’t you ever wanted to be Sorceress for a day?”
“No, I have not.”
“Liar.” Darcy ran her finger down the page. “Okay… for this spell, all we need are photos of the targets and to chant the incantation. Easy enough.”
She opened her drawer and pulled out a folder. Inside were hundreds of photos she’d printed over the years for one reason or another. Digging through group shots and vacation photos, she finally found a picture of Steve and Bucky from a party several months ago.
“What are you doing?” Jane demanded.
“I, my dear friend, am getting us supersoldier boyfriends!” Darcy wiggled her fingers like she expected sparks to fly out.
“You’re putting a love spell on them?”
“Uh, no. What do you think I am, some kind of creepy stalker? Gross. It’s for removing inhibitions. You ever really wanted to do something but you were too afraid to try? This spell gets rid of those fears so you can do what needs to be done! You can’t tell me you haven’t been making eyes at Bucky for weeks. Don’t you want to know if he’s making eyes back?”
“I have not been ‘making eyes’ at him,” Jane snapped, her cheeks heating up. “Besides, what if they don’t actually like us?”
“Then nothing will happen and we’ll all go on with our lives,” Darcy replied. “Now quiet down while I read this. Let’s see… erm-mobi- dammit, I knew I should’ve taken Latin.”
“That’s Latin?” Jane asked, reading over her shoulder.
“No idea. Anyway… yam eht rewop fo siht lleps teg em dial. Specibacarba!”
The book glowed gold and levitated off the table. It floated in midair for a moment, then sunk back down as the light faded. Jane stared at it in shock while Darcy whooped.
“That was awesome! We are definitely getting some phone calls.”
Darcy took out her phone and waited for it to ring. Five minutes later, it still hadn’t.
“Any minute now.”
Another five minutes. Still no calls.
“I’m sure they’re just thinking about what to say.”
Another five minutes. Then another.
Finally, Darcy shrugged. “Oh well, least I have tinder.”
In an effort to hide her disappointment, Jane folded her arms. “All right, you’ve had your fun. Now let’s please take this back before we get in trouble.”
“Are you kidding? The fun’s only just begun.” Darcy opened the book to a random page. “Spell for cleaning your living space. Love it.”
“Our apartment is clean,” Jane muttered.
“This lab isn’t.” Darcy tried to sweep her arm across to demonstrate, but it slammed into a stack of old boxes Jane kept forgetting to recycle. “Let’s Marie Kondo this shit. Evas em morf ym hsibbols syaw ho cigam!”
For a moment, nothing happened. Then the book began to shake and heave as if taking a deep breath. It expelled white light that ricocheted off the ceiling and landed on the floor. From a shapeless blob, it took the form of a humanoid figure very much like a child’s first attempt at drawing. It had no face, no human skin tone. Nothing but two arms and legs as it pranced into the mess.
Everything it touched disappeared into thin air. All the old boxes were soon gone. The trash cans emptied and the floors swept. It started on Jane’s books, sliding them into the shelves at lightning speed.
“Hey, careful how you organize those!” Jane shouted.
“What’s wrong with alphabetical?” Darcy asked.
“Nothing, I just… I don’t know, I have my own special way.”
“Your own special way no one can understand. I don’t think even you do.”
The cleaner finished with the books and started washing the windows. While it worked, Darcy consulted the spellbook. Flipping the pages, she muttered different spells to herself, scoffing at the lame ones and writing down several more for later. Jane couldn’t resist reading along with her, even as she tried to keep an eye on the cleaner so it wouldn’t throw away any of her carburetors.
“What are you going to do with a flooding spell?” Jane asked, dreading the answer.
“Make a pool, duh.”
“We already have three pools.”
“Not for the tower, silly. For my parents. They’ve been talking about putting one in since I was ten.”
Well, at least she was thinking ahead. Darcy stopped on a new page to write something else down. Jane skimmed it and hummed. “Spell for creating food. Sounds useful.”
“Oooh, we have to try that next.” Darcy read the instructions. “Okay, we need something to transform into the food we want. Preferably something edible. Jane, do you still have any of those oatmeal cookies I made this weekend?”
“I thought you said something edible,” Jane said, pulling a bag of stale cookies out the bottom drawer.
“Haha, funny,” Darcy said. “After this, we won’t need any dumb recipes ever again. Now back up and give me some room.”
“This’ll be good,” Jane said to herself.
Rolling up her sleeves, Darcy stood like she was some kind of magical warrior. “Gnirg em lla eht eci maerc i nac tae!”
The book turned blue, pages turning of their own volition. The light seeped into the cookie bag, disintegrating the plastic and reforming the cookies into a bowl of chocolate ice cream. It was roughly the size of a human head, way more than one person could eat. Still, Darcy cheered.
“Whoo-hoo! I’m thinking ice cream party. We just need some chocolate syrup.”
Jane picked up a spoon that had conveniently appeared next to the bowl and took a bite. “Mmm… not bad. I guess magic is good for some things.”
“Hey, that one’s mine,” Darcy pulled the ice cream away from her. “Get your own!”
Another bowl of ice cream popped into existence without warning. Jane and Darcy stared at it, but after several seconds, it didn’t sprout fangs or growl at them.
“Huh, what do you know?” Darcy said. She dug into her ice cream without care, clearly expecting Jane to do the same.
Much as Jane wanted to share in her carefree attitude, she couldn’t shake the trepidation growing in her stomach. “Are you sure this is okay?”
“It’s just ice cream, Jane,” Darcy said. “What could go wrong?”
Another bowl of ice cream appeared. This time on top of the bookshelf. The cleaner danced around waxing the floor, phasing through the fourth bowl that appeared directly in its path.
“I’d just like to know where my chocolate syrup is. Do I need another spell?”
Three more bowls appeared. That’s when Jane noticed they were getting bigger.
“Hang on, Jane, I need to re-read this spell. Ahem. I yllaer ekil etalocohc purys!”
Another ten bowls.
“What? Do you not want this to work?”
“I want you to stop and look!”
Darcy did. At least, she tried to. The entire floor was now covered in ceramic ice cream bowls. There was no room to take even one step. The sizes varied from miniature to as big as a car. The cleaner, having finished removing all non-magical messes, stood silently as if it didn’t know what to do next.
Attempting to stand, Darcy knocked over three bowls, cracking the porcelain. Six more appeared to take their place. “Huh… well, that was unexpected.”
The wind picked up out of nowhere, the lights dimming as smoke coated the bulbs in darkness. As it slowly took shape, Jane realized it was a cloud. A brown cloud. The sweet scent of cocoa filled her nose, so intense she could’ve choked on it. From the distance, a rumble of thunder came, and then the clouds grew heavy and rain began to fall.
“What. The. Fuck.”
Darcy had put into words everything Jane had been thinking for the last half hour. Now, chocolate rained down on them, staining her hair and shirt. For whatever reason, each droplet was like ice and she shivered in the biting chill. The cleaner finally sprung into action, wiping the floor as fast as it could. Every few seconds, it would double back to clean a new mess. The futility of the situation didn’t seem to occur to it.
Grabbing a blanket, Jane threw it over her head as Darcy hid under the desk with the book.
“Okay, not sure why this thing thought I wanted a ten-year-old internet meme, but I guess it could be worse.”
“Don’t say that,” Jane yelled through chattering teeth. “You say that and suddenly, everything will get worse.”
“Calm down, I can fix it.” Darcy flipped through the book. “Nair nair og yawa emoc niaga emos rehto yad.”
The rain grew thicker, even colder droplets pounding down until a layer of chocolate syrup covered the floor up to their ankles.
Jane glared at Darcy. The blanket was now soaked through like the rest of her clothes. “I rest my case.”
“Well, if you think you’re so great, let’s see you do it!” Darcy shoved the book in Jane’s hands.
“Fine, I will. I’ll stop this rain and get this place back to normal with one spell.”
“Yeah, right.” Darcy started to sit in a chair, but it was covered in chocolate and had three ice creams on it. She shivered and stood back up.
Jane turned to the first page. There was no table of contents or glossary of any kind. After the title page, there were only pages and pages of spells, none of which looked particularly helpful. Jane quickened her search. Any chocolate that landed on the book slid off and left no residue. Her eyes, however, were full of it.
“Okay, here’s one. Uoy evah a tol fo emit no ruoy sdnah!”
At first, nothing happened. The chocolate was now up to their knees. It was thick as glue and impossible to walk through. Jane’s fingers were stuck together and she was never getting this stuff out of her hair.
Just as she was worrying that the magic hadn’t worked, the rain began to let up. The downpour became a drizzle which became a light mist before fully dissipating. The clouds vanished, bringing light to the chocolate ocean and the two women wading through it.
“Woah, that was great!” Darcy exclaimed. “I should not have doubted you, Jane.”
“I know,” Jane said. “Now let’s get this cleaned up. There must be something in here that’ll do it.”
After a good fifty pages, she finally landed on something.
“Vanishing spell,” Darcy read, shrugging. “Worth a shot.”
Jane cleared her throat. “Siht lliw ton dne llew!”
The chocolate syrup and ice cream were sucked into the middle of the room, pulled as if by magnetic force. Jane sat on top of her desk just in case she got swept up in the wave. Darcy joined her as they watched in awe. Soon the floor was clean save for a thin layer of chocolate. The cleaner was on it immediately.
“So now what? It all just disappears into itself?” Darcy asked.
“I don’t know.” Jane consulted the book. As she turned the page, only the bottom two-thirds gave way. The top of the page was stuck, and it was only after Jane scratched her nails over it that she realized. “The page was ripped.”
“So?” Darcy asked.
“This isn’t the vanishing spell.”
They looked at each other, faces draining of color.
“Then what is it?”
The ice cream pile suddenly sprouted arms and legs. Claws formed as a gaping hole in the center grew sharp, jagged teeth. Hellish red eyes poked out of the creamy, syrupy mess. It let out a roar, not unlike an early twentieth-century kaiju. The lab shook from the force and while Jane was pretty sure she and Darcy were both screaming, it was nearly impossible to tell.
The ice cream monster destroyed everything in its path, taking entire computer modules out in its chocolatey fury. One of Jane’s favorite telescopes fell victim to its wrath, but before she could think about trying to save it, Darcy was dragging her to the closet. They bolted the door and huddled under the bottom shelf, uncaring of the intense floor cleaner smell. The lights flickered as the onslaught continued. If the monster wanted to find them, it was only a matter of time.
“You know, maybe you were right about the whole ‘not messing with magic’ thing,” Darcy said.
“I’d punch you in the face right now if I wasn’t so terrified.”
“Should we call for help?” Darcy asked, eyeing the panic button in the corner.
That would be the smart thing to do. In many ways, it was their only option. The thought of getting in trouble was a distant memory. Frankly, they could find enough of it on their own. Which might’ve been why Jane’s brow knitted in determination.
“No,” she said. “We made this mess, we can clean it up ourselves.”
Darcy gawked. “Uh, no offense, Jane, but all we’re doing is making things worse. There’s no way we can fix this.”
“Yes, there is.”
“No, there- seriously? I thought you were the one lecturing me. We are completely outmatched here. What could you possibly find in that book that’s going to stop that thing?”
Jane stared at her in total silence, then pointed to the open page. “We have the real vanishing spell right here.”
Darcy blinked. Outside, the ice cream monster roared again. She smacked herself on the head. “Oh, right. Duh.”
Bursting out of the closet like a pair of superheroes, Jane and Darcy faced the monster head-on, chanting the spell with all their strength.
“Fi ev’uoy nekat eht emit ot daer lla siht I etaicerppa ruoy noitacided!”
The next time the beast roared, it was a howl of pain. Its body shivered and shook, coming apart at the seams. First went the arms, then the legs. The head melted into the chocolate lava with a final pathetic screech.
“We did it!” Jane cried, pumping a fist. “I knew we could-”
A chocolate tsunami slammed into them, knocking them off their feet. It was like being trapped in a snowbank. They couldn’t move until the chocolate finally evaporated, disappearing into thin air like it had been little more than a forbidden dream.
They lay on their backs as the cleaner tidied them up. The spellbook, ever undamaged, rested between them.
Darcy laughed nervously. “Well, at least we got out of that unscathed.”
Darcy sneezed three times and grabbed an entire wad of tissues, leaving Jane to feel around an empty cardboard container while struggling to inhale through her plugged nose. The unpleasant honking sound was only the second-worst thing she’d heard today. Number one was that stupid tongue clicking Dr. Strange kept doing.
“101,” he said after taking her temperature. “Yup, you two are housebound for a while.”
“Who would’ve thought that much ice cream could make you so sick,” Darcy croaked.
“Yeah, shocker,” Jane mumbled.
Dr. Strange folded his arms. “I just hope you’ve both learned a valuable lesson from all this.”
“Magic is stupid?” Darcy guessed.
“Magic is dangerous, ” Dr. Strange said, smiling casually. “Next time, leave it to the experts.”
He left after prescribing them some cold medicine. The women sat on the couch, staring at the TV. Something mindless was on and Jane was having trouble focusing. That might’ve just been the headache though.
“At least we have our housekeeper,” Darcy said.
The cleaner wandered by with the vacuum, momentarily blocking their view. It finished in the living room and then started on the bedrooms.
When Jane didn’t respond, Darcy frowned. “You’re not mad at me, are you?”
Jane looked at her, making her jump. Despite this, there was no anger to be found in her expression. “It’s kind of my fault, too. And I did like that ice cream.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Darcy scootched closer. “I knew you loved me.”
“You’re all right,” Jane said, sharing Darcy’s giggles until they both descended into coughing fits.
“I just wish something good could’ve come out of this,” Darcy said.
There was a knock on the door. Jane and Darcy looked at each other. Had Dr. Strange forgotten something? As the strongest on her feet currently, Jane took on the heavy burden of walking across the room and opening the door.
Her jaw fell.
“Bucky?” she gasped.
“Hey,” he said, with that smile that always made her knees weak. “Heard you guys were sick and we thought we’d come down.”
“If that’s okay,” said Steve, whom Jane had only just noticed was right behind him.
“Oh… yeah, of course,” she said.
She opened the door all the way to let them inside. She would’ve offered them something to drink, but her head was swimming and she could barely stay upright.
“Woah, I gotcha,” Bucky said, sweeping her into his arms just before she fainted. He carried her to the couch and rested her gently next to Darcy. Steve was already hovering over her.
“Do you need anything?” he asked. “Whatever we can do to help.”
“Hey, just you being here is helping,” Darcy said, blushing furiously. “But uh… what brought this on?”
The two men looked at each other and nodded.
“The truth is, we’ve been wanting to talk to you gals for a while,” said Steve.
“We tried to call yesterday,” Bucky went on, “but we were on our way back from a mission. The reception is shit at that altitude.”
Jane took his hand. “Well, I guess we’ll have to make up for lost time.”
“I guess so,” Bucky said.
After making sure their pillows were sufficiently fluffed, the two men went to the kitchen to make them something to eat. While they were gone, Jane and Darcy exchanged face-splitting grins.
“Magic is okay,” Darcy whispered.
“You bet it is.”