“She was witchy, yes, and in charge of a cauldron roiling with ideas and stories, but she always gave the impression that the stories, the ones she wrote and wrote so very well and so wisely, had simply happened, and that all she had done was to hold the pen.”
–Neil Gaiman on Diana Wynne Jones, in the introduction to Reflections: On the Magic of Writing
Seth heard Rachel swallow, take a breath, but something was different. Inside her purse, his attention was drawn to a marble he couldn’t quite get a hold of. He refused to believe it was leaving a slimy residue on the tips of his fingers.
“I really don’t think . . .” Rachel said, and that was it.
Seth closed his hand around the marble and instantly, as if trying to defend itself, it sent a wave of shocking cold into his hand. Seth looked up at his wife.
Rachel was convulsing, gagging, suffocating. She turned to Seth and before her eyes rolled to their whites, looked passed him and down the row, confusion and panic spreading across her face. Instinctively Seth followed his wife’s last glance. Caroline, rigid, head back, staring lifelessly at the plane’s overhead compartments, a thick white foam oozing from her mouth and nose was no longer breathing. He turned again to his wife, but she was gone.
His hand, still buried in Rachel’s purse, was now numb as the marble’s cold spread rapidly up his wrist. He tried to let go but his hand was now locked in a frozen grip. He released his nose and, like a hose relieve of its kink, warm snot gushed over his lips and chin. With his free hand now, he reached in and pulled out dead one with the marble in it. Prying open his cold and lifeless fingers, he saw in his palm not a marble at all, but an eyeball staring up at him, the tiny black pupil dilating evenly from within a green iris.
“Sir. Is that yours?”
#1 Grandma was reaching passed Rachel now toward his dead arm. He tried to recoil but it was too late. A pinching grip and he was paralyzed, a scream stuck in his throat.
#1 Grandma was shaking him. The pupil dilating in his hand overtook the eye entirely. Seth watched in horror as the black ball dissolved into his palm, crept up his fingers and spread tentacles of inky slime up through the veins in his arm. Overcome completely with panic, he closed his eyes and put all his strength into one final scream.
“mnahmneaha.” It was only a whimper really.
Seth opened his eyes. Rachel was gone. Grandma #1, who now wore a business suit was shaking him from a seat across the aisle. An alarmed stewardess rushed toward him, with a handful of towels .
“Sir? Are you back with us?”