This is the first episode of my new serialized Gothic short story, Malefic. New episode will appear every day or two. Enjoy!



by Jeffrey Mays

I am not sure where Malefic is at this moment. It has never attacked me before, directly. Perhaps I am safe. Probably I am.

Initially, I did not know what to call it. The packaging was labeled in a foreign tongue when I picked it up at the store. Some obscure English words were mixed in, but I couldn’t understand them either. And so without the benefit of an accepted product name or description, and because of the torment it has caused me, I’ve started calling it Malefic.

If I had only spent an hour and gone to the rescue center for an old mastiff or a scottish deerhound, the whole situation could have been avoided. Although, you see, I was not in the market for a pet. I wanted something. What did I want? I’m not sure. Just something to pass some time perhaps. A hobby, nothing more.

I could have taken up watercolors again and might have even been able to sell them at the county market. I might have set up a booth next to the blind bead maker with his three-legged dog. There are other artist booths there and each one purveying their array of works of lesser quality than what I could produce. I am something of an artist if it is permitted me to say so. My pastel rendering of a Pierrot by a river, for example, was well-received.

But this time I may have aimed my sights too high. I have an eye for good art, but I am no Michelangelo. Watercolors are one thing. But like Icarus I feel I am tumbling from the sky having flown too close to the sun. Humility requires me to rephrase that – I may be more like a man who dug a hole too deep, flinging the soil up out of the hole, and now cannot get out.

Ambition got the best of me, I suppose. I am capricious like that, you know: drifting like a gadfly from one interest to the next. The same character fault has also kept me single all these years. Not satisfied with entomology or the djembe or playing farkle, I had to dabble in matters beyond my ken, so confident was I.

But it was not without some basis. My career experience in somewhat related fields, I reasoned, would make for an easy bridge to new endeavor. Indeed, I had served in the produce of modern manufacturing, of goods devised by virtual wizards with knowledge of elements and biomatter, their growth and decay, the conjuring of new creations from murky steaming vats in warehouses. I had been employed at various times in these industries that produced useful new products to populate the shelves of retail stores

As a young man I had assisted old Dr. Whitfield many a’night as he stood hunched over the table tightly wrapped in his heavy white cotton lab coat, those straps and buckles. And the goggles perpetually over his eyes, so dark with tint as to block them completely, like those bohemian rogues who wear their black sunglasses even indoors. I was there the very night when he turned a paste of composted mandrake and ethanol and a dozen other enzymes into a new plastic with unguessed properties.

And even within the past decade my professional labors had produced clever and miniaturized machines that did a small set of people tremendous benefits to mind and body. My customers would often venture out through the marshes to my laboratory at the ambergris distillery. Their gratitude was graciously received by me, and they inquired further about the little devices and the whirring mechanisms that seemed miraculously to produce their effect, for they had examined them and could not unlock the secret to their function. And there in the moment, I silently realized that I was not altogether sure how they worked either, but I suspected a commonly known phenomenon by which an object becomes greater than the sum of its parts. I described this notion so ubiquitous in the halls of science, and it served only to increase their wonder and respect for me. They went away bowing and smiling as if to pay me a kind of reverence.

But I digress. And even now I hear Malefic upstairs. It senses that I am thinking about it and it is pacing around the spare room again. Nevertheless I will continue with my tale.