Unfamiliar by Haley Newsome
On a dark and stormy night, in a suburban house, a witch casts a spell… flesh of the fruit… milk of the beast… herbs of the earth… POOF! The spell has worked and the witch, Planchette, has made the perfect pizza. Her familiar Winston, a cute white rabbit, however insists Planchette stop messing around and start packing, indicating the big MOVING DAY circled in red on her calendar. It’s fine! She’s got magic on her side… sort of… as she smashes a bottle from the shelf in a very unsuccessful display of talent. Fine. Picking up armfuls of stuff, Planchette dumps it into her trunk and she’s good to go. Phew!
After a broomstick flight, Planchette and Winston arrive at their new home which is shaped like a skull. It’s perfect…ly haunted is what it is. Planchette insists it is antique, not haunted, as she and Winston look around. But then the portraits start looking back, their heads turning. Then a clown doll falls on her. And the coat rack has hands. WHY DOES THE COAT RACK HAVE HANDS? Nope! Planchette and Winston make a quick exit and sit outside the house, wondering what to do.
Planchette is worried, she’s only a Kitchen Witch, so how is she going to deal with ghosts? Well, never one to let a situation get the better of her, Planchette grabs her broom with plans to fly into the town, introduce herself to the local witches, find someone who knows about the house, and make a new best friend. Only, nobody is there. Eventually Planchette and Winston come across a girl called Pinyon with a bird, Ari, on her head. Pinyon looks dripping wet, but the story behind it, Pinyon explains, is long and boring, so Planchette asks for help with an exorcism instead. Pinyon agrees and together they go back to the haunted house.
Quietly Pinyon psychs herself up, she can do this and not be a total disappointment, and then she and Planchette enter the house. There are spirits EVERYWHERE. Pinyon stands straight and, in a commanding voice, which Planchette is in awe of, demands, as a daughter of the coven of wings, the ghosts leave this place. POOF! It doesn’t work, but the ghosts got a kick out of it. Outside Pinyon uses her phone to search WITCHYHOW and finds a ten-step method of exorcizing your home. It's perfectly normal to look on the internet for help. They’ll need supplies though.
Together Planchette and Pinyon head to Hex-Mart where the shop girl has her eyeball in her ponytail, a smile full of sharp teeth and amazing blunt bangs. Planchette and Pinyon find everything they need and are quickly back at the haunted house. Together they start spraying holy water, which two little girl spirits splash in, and throwing bulbs of garlic around, which a ghost roasts in the kitchen. Hang on a minute. Pinyon is as bad at magic as Planchette is! With precise apologies, Pinyon declares it's time she shares her story.
At the edge of town is a mansion on chicken legs. It is home to a family of powerful witches, well, all except Pinyon. Earlier that day, Pinyon visited the Witch Doctor to find out why her magic is so weak. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, there are no hexes, curses, or ailments affecting Pinyon. She is simply a dud and, to make matters worse, by now she should have found her animal familiar or at least spoken to animals. Feeling sorry for herself, Pinyon heads to Hex-Mart for chocolate and the shop girl has just the thing for her mood and sells her an umbrella.
Walking along, Pinyon opens the umbrella and it starts to rain on her from under the canopy, perfectly matching her mood. Suddenly she hears a SKWA of distress. A fire fox is attacking a bird. The fox claims it’s the circle of life, but the bird sees it as murder. Today, Pinyon is in no mood for the weak to be beaten by the strong and saves the bird by putting her raining umbrella on the fire fox and scaring it away. The bird doesn’t look great, it’s got little Xs over its eyes and is rather singed. The bird asks Pinyon if she is okay since she looks so sad. Pinyon explains about her visit to the Witch Doctor when the bird points out she’s talking to an animal right now. !!!!!!!
Pinyon explains to Planchette that she was destined to meet Ari sooner, only he got distracted by breadcrumbs and predators, and they ran into Planchette and Winston a few moments later. Planchette commiserates with Pinyon and reassures her she feels the same way. Taking the now slightly melted chocolate Pinyon bought from the Hex-Mart, Planchette casts a spell making the chocolate solid with the message, “Cheer up Pinyon” and a bird picture in the segments. Pinyon loves it.
Planchette explains she’s pretty good at food magic, but anything else less so. While Planchette and Pinyon have been bonding, the ghost in the kitchen has picked up Winston and Ari and is about to put them into her pot with the bulb of garlic. Planchette grabs the familiars and the ghost turns her head toward Planchette, her neck snapping at an odd angle as she picks up the cleaver from the bench. Screaming, Planchette and Pinyon flee the haunted house to the Hex-Mart where the shop girl is about to close up after a long day and is in no mood for more customers and refuses to help. Planchette pleads with the shop girl, it’s a life or death situation, but she’s not interested as she’s too exhausted to perform any exorcisms. As the shop girl locks the Hex-Mart doors, a pretty pink girl with a kitten ear bow in her hair comes by. She apologizes and offers to come back later. Shop girl is stunned.
The pretty girl is Babs, she’s come to ask for help from shop girl, Sun (as we finally find out her name), who she went to school with. Sun doesn’t know what help she can be and is staggered that anyone remembers her. Planchette wonders who this girl is…the panels change to Babs in a kitty onesie and she’s playing a Nintendo DS. Marlow, her one eyed cat (it’s one giant eye) reminds her that it’s her birthday and says they should celebrate with more than just ordering pizza and watching movies as they always do that, and instead they should go out. Babs is anxious about going outside and being around other people, it frankly sounds awful. Marlow indicates Bab’s yearbook and Sun’s picture and says they can go out and find her because she might be able to fix Babs. Babs remembers Sun having an aura that kept others away while she was hounded and crowded, and Babs was always jealous of that. Okay, they’ll go.
Back to now, Babs doesn’t want to be a bother for Sun especially since she is so tired. Planchette offers a mutually beneficial solution, a help train! Planchette, Pinyon and Babs head off, walking and talking, and Sun follows reluctantly. Pinyon went to private school but has heard of Babs, she is known as the “half siren schoolgirl” which Planchette finds amazing. Soon they arrive at Planchette’s haunted house which is screaming. Pinyon stays outside while Planchette and Babs venture forth. The ghosts are everywhere! There's a Japanese-style twisted spirit crawling along the ceiling, twins standing at the top of the stairs, and bedsheet ghosts popping up left, right and center. The ceiling ghost drops down to terrify the two witches, but Babs looks it straight on, her eyes going all wibbly-wobbly and tells the ghost to stop. Babs then ties the ghost's hair back from her eyes with her own ribbon and it transforms the spirit, who thanks Babs before POOFing away, leaving only the ribbon behind. Planchette is in awe and demands to know Babs' ways. Babs explains that ghosts get stuck because they are unhappy, so now Planchette has a plan. She's going to help the ghosts with the power of love, and she will work through the night then really move in… but Planchette falls asleep instead.
Planchette wakes up in bed with Winston asleep on her chest. Babs has left a note explaining that she and Pinyon put her to bed and helped her unpack a little. Refreshed and revitalized, Planchette is ready to bring peace to some ghosts. But first, breakfast. The ghosts are everywhere still so Planchette loudly tells them that if she can grab something to eat, she will help them after. The only provisions Planchette has is a bulb of garlic, even the water from the tap is a ghost, so she has no choice but to head to a diner. A quick broomstick flight later, Planchette is in an adorable diner and her waitress is Sun. She works everywhere, all the time, because she’s saving up for something. After placing her order for a short stack of pancakes, Babs comes in and Planchette calls her over to her booth.
Babs explains her problem to Planchette and how she thinks Sun and her aura may help her. Sun is always so busy and Babs doesn’t know how to approach her, so Planchette offers to help but her plate of pancakes arrives and she’s lost to the delicious, soft, sweet, short-stack, so Babs explains to Sun that she wants to learn how to be left alone. Sun thinks Babs is making fun of her and is unsympathetic to Babs’ plight. Sun explains she was ignored because of a curse that has ruined her life and that she has problems Babs couldn’t understand. Suddenly Planchette shouts “EVERYBODY STOP FEELING BAD!” and sets the record straight, empathizing with Sun being lonely and Babs feeling inadequate, and explains that maybe they can all be friends. As Sun is about to agree, she is dragged into the kitchen by an animal skull headed creature with long black tentacles screeching “no small talk!!!” A tentacle slaps Planchette’s check on the table along with a note for Babs saying “sorry I yelled, I’ll help."
Planchette heads home, ready to help the ghosts achieve eternal peace. She moves some furniture and creates a cozy, if potentially fire hazardous, space to chat with the ghosts. The first to wander by is the ghost who tried to eat Winston and this time she’s dressed to the nines like a 20s flapper. The spirit introduces herself as Lucy, and says she was murdered. Her death isn’t why she’s stuck in the haunted house, though, it was something she did. In 1924 she was at her best friend's birthday party. Some dandy asked her to dance and she promised her best friend, Alice, that she would be right back for the next song but she never returned. Lucy would do anything to dance with Alice again. Planchette says she is going to track Alice down and knows just who to ask: Pinyon.
Planchette with Lucy flies up to Pinyon in her chicken legged mansion. Once inside, Planchette explains what happened to Lucy and what she needs. Unfortunately Pinyon’s family are away on Coven business, but Pinyon suggests they look Alice up on the internet.
They find Alice and she is AWESOME!! Alice Hemlock is a world renowned homicide detective and part-time necromancer who fortunately moved back to town recently. Together they head to Alice’s home. At Alice’s front door, magic hands grab at Planchette and Pinyon as Alice kicks the door open shouting INTERLOPERS!! Alice is short and old and is wearing a traditional witch hat, an eyepatch and a monocle, and in her hand, she’s holding her wand. Alice pauses when she sees Lucy’s ghost and a tear falls from her monocled eye.
In Alice’s house over tea, Alice explains she became a homicide and missing persons detective to solve Lucy’s case, but hers is the only one she never solved. Alice feels like she failed Lucy but Lucy doesn’t agree, their friendship was the greatest thing she had in her life. Alice brings Lucy back to life for a song and they finally have their dance. Lucy drifts off happily and Alice has renewed vigor for Lucy’s case.
Meanwhile, back at the adorable diner, Sun is finally getting off shift. Babs has waited outside for Sun all day. Babs thinks that Sun can repel glamors when in fact, Sun says people avoid her because her curse turned her ugly. Babs disputes this. Sun is not ugly! With no other argument, Sun agrees to look into repels but not right now, her shift at the Hex-Mart is about to start. What?! She’s just finished her long shift in the adorable diner! Sun has seven jobs and each one pays terribly but she needs the money and every shift she can get. Marlow suggests that Babs cover Sun’s shift so she can rest.
Babs is terrible at being a shop girl and hates every second of the twenty minutes she’s there. When she collapses (hides?) behind the counter after a particularly mean customer leaves, Babs wonders aloud how and why Sun does this. A snarky voice offers to tell her, it’s Edgar, Sun’s half-taxidermied lizard familiar and he’s not happy “that cow” left him here all night so he’s going to betray her trust in revenge. Sun is saving up to get her face fixed by the Witch Doctor. What?! Babs needs to talk to Sun immediately but the scary monster manager has other ideas about Babs finishing her shift, oh and she isn’t dressed appropriately and has too much individualism. Babs’ siren magic explodes in a heart filled mushroom cloud causing the literal monster manager to fall back with hearts in their eyes. Babs demands today’s pay and a raise for Sun before leaving.
Sun is wide awake in Babs’ bed worried about helping the most popular girl in school find a repel. She can’t focus on the laptop and instead she must snoop around in all Babs’ /stuff/. Babs bursts in, hands Sun her money from the shift and confesses she used her siren powers to get off early. Babs then confronts Sun about why she is saving up and not asking her parents for help. Sun can’t, they’d disown her for trying to break the curse this way because they were the ones who put the curse on her in the first place. Breaking the curse is tradition in her family to “prove she is ready.” Ever since Sun saw the Witch Doctor she has been saving up and has about 2% banked. Babs offers to see if the Witch Doctor will lower the price, but Marlow shouts up that it would be illegal and shares that her dad misused his siren powers and is in jail for it. The only other option is for Babs to talk to her sisters.
Babs’ sisters are models and they have that twin thing where they speak at the same time. They refuse to let Babs model because she looks down on the family, claiming she's a half-siren because she’s ashamed of their dad, and now she comes asking for help? Sun calls Babs’ sisters jerks and offers to be her photographer instead.
Meanwhile, back at the haunted house, Planchette is performing a spell to make a PB&J for the twin little girl ghosts, however it doesn’t send them on nor do the other things Planchette has tried. By the shifty look in their ghostly eyes, they’ve been messing with Planchette. At their request for more creepy dolls, Planchette finally catches on. The twins don’t want to pass on, they’re having too much fun. Planchette takes the PB&J outside where Winston finds her having a pity party. She doesn’t know how to make the twins move on, she doesn’t know enough to search the internet, and she can’t have friends over because of the ghosts. Winston tells her she just needs to give up and move back. No, she belongs here and would rather live with ghosts than move back to a place that rejected her. If only a solution would fall from the sky…
A solution falls from the sky. Well, a newspaper, complete with an obituary section, falls from delivery witch flying through the sky. Heading back into the haunted house, Planchette asks the twins what year they died, you know, out of pure innocent curiosity with no ulterior motive at all. The twins do not believe her one bit. Planchette heads to Alice’s house and sees Alice through her window working on Lucy’s murder - she has a murder wall and everything! Planchette asks Alice if she knows the twins whose picture she managed to take. They are Dottie and Lottie Shelley, who, 200 years ago, just vanished. Everyone thought they had run away because their father was a nasty piece of work. The rumor is he had a factory boy killed for making friends with the twins, who he kept locked up and controlled. Crying at their sad tale, Planchette leaves, now knowing what she must do.
At the haunted house, Planchette calls for Dottie and Lottie, she’s got them something from the Hex-Mart: confetti, and toys and books. These items won’t make them pass on but they will let them have fun in their afterlife. Planchette tells them they are welcome to stay for as long as they want, and Winston says they’d better start paying rent.
To be continued…