As your story ends the flames grow dimmer. Ow! Fuck! There is fire yet to spin our tales.
Olivia, can you pass me another beer and some ice? That damn bee sure did a number on my arm. Thanks.
Chill out Jen, witches had brews too. And a couple of beers aren't going to impair my ability to contribute. Ahhhhh... The sting already feels better. Alcohol and ice, the remedies to all problems.
No Olivia, I don't think anyone messed with your chair. It's that little root there, see it? You must have knocked the foot of the chair onto it when you got up. Just move it a bit. Yeah, see? All better.
Alright, my story. I was going to go with something tamer, like the man with a hook for a hand, but since we're getting lewd with it I just so happen to remember a saucy one a friend told me.
Let my words mingle with the sauntering... What's the phrase again?
No Jen, I would have forgot it even without the beer. Do you want me to say it or not? That's what I thought.
Let my words mingle with the suspiring smoke and silver moonlight as I begin our fourth story.
Barbara Knox was about to make a choice with no right answer, one that she'd regret either way.
Wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.
Barbara was a vice president at tri-state regional credit union and managed to live a good, well-to-do life in a large house in the suburbs. She had her skeletons in the closet, of course, but her position and money went a long way towards keeping her indiscretions under wraps. Between bribes, networking, and preferential investment vehicles; she kept up the outward appearance of a perfect angel.
Alcohol, ice, and money; the remedies to all problems. Well... most problems.
Hazel was a witch. She claimed to be over one hundred and fifty years old, but there's no way to confirm that. She looked about forty, her hair just starting to show strands of silver-white peeking through. She was dating a friend of a friend of mine at the time, someone who was in the same middle-management brunch club as Barbara. When Barbara's thirtieth birthday party rolled around, Hazel seemed really excited to go. She insisted that she'd buy the present for both of them.
They go to the party and there's cake and alcohol and a local band that does covers of country songs and all that jazz. After everyone is appropriately sloshed and has gorged themselves on food and cake, Barbara starts opening presents. She gets a bunch of tech gadgets, some jewelery, some gag gifts; and from Hazel she gets a cute, little homemade candle. She says a word of perfunctory thanks and the party rolls on into the night and people start leaving. Hazel waltzes up to Barbara and starts talking to her about the candle.
She claims that its made from a special type of wax that has an energizing effect on whoever lights it, making them feel a euphoric high while also keeping them focused and alert on whatever they want. Barb of course brushes it off as silly pseudo-science, but Hazel won't let up about how great it is. So eventually to humor her Barb lights the candle and it's like a jolt through her system. All the giddiness from the booze is still there but amplified a hundred fold. Her thoughts are crystal clear, even more than when she's sober, and she's certain that she could walk a straight line just fine. Hell, she's certain she could drive a car even better than she normally could. She asks how long the effect lasts and Hazel tells her it persists until the flame is extinguished.
Hazel rounds up her girlfriend and leaves soon after while Barb is challenging some of the remaining guests to a drinking challenge. She wins handily, not feeling any of the ill effects of the alcohol. The night rolls on and she goes to extinguish the candle, a quick blow to scatter the flame. As soon as it's out a cloud of black smoke hits her right in the face, causing her to hack and cough. Suddenly she feels like she's been hit with a ton of bricks: everything is sore, she's got a terrible headache, and she's drop-dead tired. She assumes it's just the alcohol catching up to her now that the candle is out and throws herself into her bed. She sleeps terribly.
The next day she wakes up, still feeling like shit. Once again, she's sure it's just the drinking and partying taking its toll on her and stumbles down to her kitchen to start brewing some coffee and toasting some bread. She looks on her island counter and sees the candle Hazel sent her. It occurs to her that if it really did work like she remembered, if that wasn't all just smoke and mirrors and the alcohol haze, then it would make a great hangover cure. She lights the candle again and just like that she feels like a million bucks. She exercises, showers, cleans up around the house; does all the chores she was dreading to do that day in half the time she'd thought they take. She's just about to leave to go to the mall and return a few of the gifts when she sees the candle still burning. Not wanting her house to burn down, she goes to put it out again. It's burnt down about a quarter of the way by now, and when she puffs out the flickering flame another cloud of sooty smoke rushes towards her.
Instantly she feels her body sag downwards. She's sore from head-to-toe and absolutely exhausted. She drags herself over to the phone and calls Hazel's girlfriend, asking about the gift. She says she doesn't know a lot about it, but that she'll ask Hazel and call back. Barbara crashes on the couch, trying to find a position that will be even the slightest bit comfortable and failing every time. Her head is splitting when the phone rings; she has to grope and paw around to find it because it hurts to open her eyes. It's Hazel asking what's wrong. Barb tells her that every time she extinguishes the candle she feels like utter shit. Hazel says she'll be over in a few minutes.
Barb can barely drag herself over to answer the door when the doorbell rings, but somehow manages. Hazel steps inside, grinning wickedly. She tells Barb that she made the candle specially for her; snatching a few hairs and a bloody band-aid from the couple of brunches she'd been to and using them as a magical base for the candle. Now that Barb had lit it willingly, every time she extinguished it the curse would drain all of her energy away. She'd feel terrible so long as the candle was out and energetic when it was lit, but that was only the first part of the curse. When it burned all the way down it would release a spirit she had bound to it, one that would sap the last of Barbara's will away. She'd be made into Hazel's mindless thrall for the rest of her life.
Barb of course asks her why: why is she doing this to her? Hazel responds with two words. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly what they are. What I do know is that it was the name of some relation of hers, a great-niece or a granddaughter, who Barbara had crashed into five or six years before while drunk as a skunk. By the time the police leave the scene, Barb is let off with a warning and the girl gets slapped with a DUI and negligent driving. I think she also broke her collarbone; really sad shit. Hazel had been plotting her revenge for years.
Hazel tells her she's got about a day-and-a-half left in the candle and to make her final hours count. Then she leaves. Barb is stuck with a choice before her now: live the rest of her life feeling like absolute shit or use the candle and become Hazel's zombie servant. Whichever she chooses, she knows she'll regret it. A choice where the only right answer is not to have to make one. She tries for a while to not use the candle, to cope with the pain and lethargy using alcohol, painkillers, and stimulants; but nothing really works. Her coworkers and superiors start noticing that she's missing deadlines and upsetting clients; they give her a warning to shape up or ship out. A terribly tricky choice.
She manages to stretch things on for another two or three months. From what I heard, Hazel was quite surprised with her tenacity. She rations the use of the candle, using it only right before important meetings and calls. Towards the end, when there's only a quarter of it left, she's blowing it out and relighting it in the middle of phone calls. She'd just sit there on mute, wracked with pain, and then light it just before unmuting an pretend like everything was fine. She did all of this just to squeeze a few more seconds out of the damn thing, to avoid the inevitable so she could do another day of corporate finance work without getting sacked. Maybe she thought Hazel would let her go if she held on long enough, or maybe she thought that the solution to her problem would drop itself in her lap. In the end though she was stuck with an hour left on the cursed candle.
It seems like something finally clicked in her head that maybe she was wasting her remaining enjoyable moments as a thinking being on approving credit swaps and talking through bar charts. She couldn't really find somebody else to spend that final hour with, so she settled in for a top-tier masturbation session. We're talking two wireless dildos, vibrating nipple clamps, some sort of scalp massager amped up to eleven, a spreader bar between her ankles, gag in the mouth, and probably twenty other things. Every bit of stimulation with every one of her fetishes, all going full blast for one hour. She lit the candle and went to town.
She bucked, she moaned, she screamed, and she writhed for an hour; the candle making every sensation feel better they ever had before. She came over and over again, her eyes rolling and toes curling, the time between each orgasm getting shorter and shorter until it must have seemed like time stood still as she experienced one eternal twinge of pleasure. With the candle burning she could take what certainly would have been overstimulation to the point of pain without it and enjoy it as mind-shattering bliss. By the end of it she probably didn't even worry about the candle going out, I doubt she even realized when it did. From one mindless state to another, the only difference being that instead of servicing herself she'd soon be serving her new mistress.
The candle snuffed itself out at the end of the wick, its feeble plume of black smoke exploding into a dark cloud of malevolent vapor as soon as it left the candle jar. I'm only guessing at all of this, putting together pieces from how Hazel explained it to my friend's friend, but a six-legged hellhound of black fumes floats in the air for a moment and then just charges at the oversexed woman. As its ethereal body reaches hers it just phases right into her, her body still jerking this way and that from all the sex toys still going full blast. She writhes around a little more as the last of the smokey mutt disappears into her and then she just stops, still as stone. All the devices she's inserted into herself or clamped to herself are still buzzing away, but the part inside of her that can experience it or react to it has been taken away.
Hazel finds her like that twenty or thirty minutes later, I guess she had some sort of way of knowing when the candle finally burnt out. Supposedly she took some pictures of Barbara's setup because of just how exuberant it all was; enough to surprise a witch. After she maybe takes some pictures, she cleans Barbara up and starts making her settle all her affairs.
Within a few days the house and all her assets are in Hazel's name and Barb quits with the official reason given as studying meditation in Nepal. Hazel and the friend's friend broke up a few years later for unrelated reasons, amicably or so I heard. I can't say what happened to Barb after that, but as far as my information goes she was treated pretty decently all things considered. Hazel treated her like something between a pet, assistant, sex toy, maid, and bed warmer; keeping her healthy and presumably as happy as a mindless thrall can be. Trusted with little menial tasks and not much else, the shell of a body without a mind, candle smoke after the light's snuffed out.