Hands as green as sprouts sprinkled salt into the frothing broth. Fire sweltered below the cast-iron cauldron. Flames danced above dripping candles, as Estragon’s shadows leapt about the stony tower. He hummed a delighted tune with his raspy voice.
Footsteps echoed cold and deep towards him from the stairs below.
“Yak’s blood, in the soup, dum dum dum,” Estragon sang, “and an egg to make it gloop, dum dum dum…”
The footsteps resounded, loud and deep. louder, louder, louder until the door opened. Jasper stood, small, red and rat-like, his arms full of wood. Estragon smiled at him.
“Into the firepit please my boy! Into the fire! Oh what a dire pit Jaspar, where we shall fly!”
“Bad scansion. Not rhyme.” Jaspar responded.
Estragon wrinkled his nose. He looked at Jaspar’s rough purple horns and opened his mouth as if to say something. Then Estragon drank a large dollop of the cauldron-froth instead. Jaspar frowned at him.
“What doing tonight?” Jaspar enquired.
“The same thing we do every night Jaspar, create low-level human upset! What fun! What joy! To be the agents of mild maleficence!”
“But what Jaspar? You don’t feel a certain heaviness of heart do you? You don’t wince when you see a young primary-school teacher stub her toe on a table leg? You don’t want to apologise to the bearded bus driver who had a sudden fearful thought about falling off a bridge, and forgot to open the doors at the stop? You don’t-”
“Valentine’s” Jaspar frowned, carefully placing logs under the cauldron. Estragon squinted at him.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Hmmmmmmm?”
Estragon’s face seemed to be leaping and pouncing in the living light. Jaspar’s eyebrow ridges raised. (He had no eyebrows, a consequence of the two demon’s pyromaniac activities.)
“Nothing” Jaspar frowned. “Not mean nothing.”
Jaspar walked out of the door, and his footsteps echoed, loud and deep, then soft and deep, then very quiet, and then they were gone. All the while Estragon sang and mixed and pressed and chopped and sprinkled, the broth evolving with every new ingredient. As he the mixture changed, he scooped it out with various dusty bottles and jars. Eventually, with a near-empty cauldron and a whole rack of filled glass containers, Estragon stopped singing.
“What is wrong with Estragon?” He asked.
He prodded the light blue paste remaining in the cauldron with a spindly finger.
“What is the matter with Jaspar?” he pondered.
He stopped stirring and looked out of one of the holes in the tower at the sky. Dark. Blue. Speckled with white stars. Quiet Gods. Estragon took a ladder from behind one of the bookshelves and positioned it under a mirror high up upon the wall. He gathered up his bottles and began to climb.
“What is wrong with Estragon? Estragon did nothing wrong… Estragon did all things right… Estragon makes human fright… Estragon makes night delight. Estragon with magic hands, does each and all that mischief… demands…”
At the mirror, Estragon looked into his own green face, his yellow eyes, shadowy so high above the fires below. He thought of Jaspar, red and whiskery, horned and clawed, with those little useless bat wings behind. Then Jaspar was in front of him, within the mirror. At least, his back and his little useless bat wings were. Surrounded by the long oak tables and floating grey waiters of the dining room. Estragon whispered, like a saw coated with wool.
“Come on Jaspar.”
“Come on Jaspar.”
“Come on Jaspar.”
“Rats! What is the matter with you Jaspar my boy? You used to be such fun!”
“Oh Jaspar Jaspar JASPAR. You must not be so sen-ti-mental. You’re soft and round like the humans, you know Jaspar. Not a bit of humour in you. Boring and simple. You-”
“I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS JASPAR. Of all the servants in all the worlds in the great expansive universe, why oh why must I be burdened with YOU?”
Something strange was happening with Jaspar’s breathing.
For a moment, the castle was nothing for Estragon. The world was nothing. There was only darkness. A confusion. And slow and heavy breathing from Jaspar. What is the matter with Jaspar, Estragon thought. What is the matter with Jaspar?
“What is the matter with Jatter?” he whispered.
Jaspar turned. His face was damp with demon snot. He wiped his black eyes. He flinched.
“Ow. Sharp hand.” Jaspar said.
Estragon laughed. It was not a pointed laugh though. It had no blade. It was expansive and warm and welcoming. Jaspar smiled.
“Valentine’s?” Jaspar asked.
“Oh I see,” Estragon replied, half his mouth curling up in a grin, “you want to celebrate Valentine’s?”
“No. Valentine’s upset!”
Estragon grinned once more.
“Very well Jaspar” he said, “Your wish is my command.”
He began to climb down the ladder. Jaspar followed him through the mirror to the base of the cauldron in the tower. Estragon scooped out a great smouldering heap of kindling and ash with his hands. He held it into the air and began making wild and intricate gestures. The tallest stones in the tower began to melt into white space.
“We’re going to prolong some exhausting relationships tonight Jaspar. We’re going to encourage some short-term decisions.”
The walls drifted away.
“Make people bad match.”
“Yes Jaspar. Make people bad match.”
And with that, they were gone.