Julie had a smile that could melt lead. Really, it was quite fetching. The way her cheeks pushed up against her eyes and her brows came together in the middle. It was something to behold. Not one of those practiced, toothy, supermodel smiles, either. Just this perfect, captivating, one-of-a-kind smile. It was gorgeous.
Samantha decided she had to have it.
Samantha was sick of her own smile: toothy, lopsided, insincere. It was the only smile in the world that seemed to be laughing at its owner. She hated it. Julie’s smile, though. That would work. That would fit. That would tell the world “Hey! Look at this smile! Dig it!” Really, that’s all she wanted; she wanted Julie’s smile.
After work, Samantha dug through her uncle’s books. Uncle Zeb had been something of a magic user back in his day. Samantha didn’t know if he’d been any good at it, but he had a lot of books. One of them had to have something about stealing parts of someone else’s body and putting them on your own. Right? I mean, that was a thing, right? It had to be.
Most of Uncle Zeb’s books were tape-bound photocopies that he’d begged off other magic users over the years. The pages were yellowed and stained, the bindings were loose and the spines were blank. Only the covers indicated what was inside, usually in Zeb’s nearly unreadable scrawl. Des Vermis Mysteriis and De Occulta Philosophia and Sefer Raziel HaMalakh all stared up at her. But, these were books that she could find online. None of them had anything practical in them. Zeb was a magic user and when he’d disappeared and she’d inherited this house and all it contained, Zeb had left a note saying that “all the books in the library” were hers but to be careful of “the more potent ones” because they “contained untold powers” and could “end” the “world” as we “know it.” Or, something like that. She’d lost the note.
Finally, after knocking over stack upon stack of useless paper, Samantha hit what she believed to be the jackpot. At the bottom of a pile of manuscripts that had been printed on an old dot matrix printer, was a small chapbook bound in faded leather. On the cover was stamped the words Mae’r Llyfr A fydd Dinistrio eich Corff Ac Popeth Chi Caru. But, Samantha didn’t speak weirdo, so she opened it up.
The book was only a few pages long and contained diagrams of the human body complete with lots of arrows and pictures. Near the end, was a crude drawing of a man speaking words at another man while making a complex series of gestures. The words “cythraul o’r arallfyd / grant fy nghais druenus / newid y wraig hon yn ___ gyda fy hun” came from his mouth and it looked like the other man’s eyes were floating through the air toward the speaker.
“Got it!” Amanda said to no one.
The next day at work, she crouched behind the wall of her cube, waiting for Julie to settle in at her desk. Her hands were slick with excitement. This was it. She was going to get what she wanted!
Julie entered and sat down.
Samantha, still hiding on the floor behind the cubicle wall, pulled out the piece of paper on which she had written the words of the spell. She assumed the blank line indicated the place where she should speak the part of Julie’s body that she wanted.
Making the approximate gestures from the drawing, she read, “Cythraul o’r arallfyd,” and looked around.
“Grant fy nghais druenus,” she continued.
“Newid y wraig hon yn . . . smile . . . gyda fy hu!” she finished.
Samantha waited. She felt her mouth. Nothing seemed to be happening.
“Newid y wraig hon yn smile gyda fy hu!”she repeated.
She peeked over the wall. Julie was clacking away at her keyboard.
“Dammit,” she whispered. “Dammit.”
Well, why feel surprised? she thought. Nothing ever worked for her anyway. Why should this be any different? She put her hand on her chair and that’s when someone took it.
Samantha suppressed a squeal and looked up.
An abortion was sitting in her desk chair. Not a literal abortion, but certainly something that was frighteningly unwanted in this or any world. It was a mistake made by a mad god, and it held her hand and looked at her with no face through no eyes and spoke with an organ that should not ever have been allowed to make sound.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” it asked, “I mean, usually I just do my thing and go, but you seem like a nice lady so I thought I’d give you a chance to rethink this. Are you sure you want to go through with it?”
Samantha’s head wanted to vomit out its eyes and her tongue was begging her teeth to bite it off so it could escape, but she managed to say, “Yes. Please. Do it.”
“Well, alright,” the wrongness on the chair said with its voice that proved evil would forever triumph over good, “Your choice.” And it vanished.
Samantha was so shaken by the experience, she didn’t notice the Julie had stopped typing.
Later, on her long walk home – Samantha usually took the bus but it would probably be a while before public transit was back up and running – she thought about Uncle Zeb and how he’d never been a successful man and had died raving in a hospital. He’d always liked her, and she him, but now that she really thought about it . . . maybe he wasn’t a magic user. Maybe, he was a bad magic user.
When she opened the door of Uncle Zeb’s house, she was instantly buried under a bloody avalanche of human lips. That afternoon, everyone’s mouths had disappeared. Everyone’s. In the world. People had been going about their days and suddenly WOOP! all the mouths had been ripped away and deposited . . . here, it looked like.
Samantha lay under that pile of smiles for three days before she was discovered and arrested. Later, in jail, she would try to reverse the spell by rearranging the words or swapping out body parts or fudging the magic gestures but that only resulted in her reducing everyone to shaking piles of meat and her growing weird webs between her toes. The world stank of rotting flesh and the streets ran with blood and excrement. Buildings crumbled. She wandered the wastes, alone and half mad.
The thing from her office stopped by after she’d been at it for a while and just glared at her.
“Could you fix this?” she’d asked.
The thing gave her some sort of look and shook its body. Then it rose into the air and flew away.
Samantha looked down; in her hands was a scrap of paper with a short sentence written on it.
She read the words. She felt a tingle. She dropped the paper.
Running to the blown out remains of a store, Samantha looked in the shattered glass of a mirror. On her face, was Julie’s beautiful smile.
“I did it!” she said.