Unbottling the Past

The following is a commission I did. It takes place in the same world as a few other stories here.

Life’s strange when you’re a witch. Life’s even worse when your family’s entire matriarchy is made of witches. 

Em was a third generation witch that had just moved out of her dinky college dorm. She was on her own. Her green eyes cast a glance around her barren studio apartment. Boxes, a bookshelf, and a few stones that she had collected took up hardly any space. She didn’t have much. She felt a small tail brush against her legs. Presto, her cat, rubbed against her legs and then scampered off to sit in the windowsill of the only portal to the outside world. 

Soft hands flattened the last empty box and Em placed it underneath her twin mattress to give the illusion of a box spring underneath it. A feeling of triumph washed over her as she smiled and beheld the small space that was now hers. She ran a finger through her dyed red curly hair that went to her shoulders. It wasn’t much but it was home, and hopefully Presto would feel that way as well. 

A sharp knock came at the door. Em was not expecting company. She crept towards the door as warm socks tried to find their grip on the wood floor. Her green eyes peered out the peephole and she saw a mess of green curly hair, and thick rimmed circular glasses over a face that looked like her mother’s but not quite. Somehow, her Aunt Sylvia had found out where she had lived despite her not giving anyone her address yet. 

She opened the door a crack and her aunt forced it open the rest of the way, “Goodness child, you are an open one. No protections, no anti scrying magicks, nothing, it took me five minutes to divine your location and then three minutes to set up the teleportation circle. Someone could find you and do something horrible, and nothing would be there to protect you.” 

Em took a step back as her aunt barged in and raised her eyebrow, “I literally started occupying this space an hour ago.”

“And what a mess it is already. Heavens, there’s already a malicious spirit occupying this place with their doom and gloom and- ah no that’s just your cat.”

Em felt a bit upset, “Don’t be rude. What are you doing here Aunt Sylvia?” 

Aunt Sylvia gave a deep laugh and set a box down as three more boxes hovered in as if being moved by an unseen force. Glass clinked on the inside, “Why, I’m coming in to help you set up protections and charms to keep you safe. Your mother was busy in the city so I came here myself to help you out.” 

Em cocked her head, “I didn’t tell mom I was moving?” 

Sylvia shook her head and started opening the boxes, as if searching for something, “Of course not dear. Like I told you, I divined your location and came here myself. We witches have to stick together.” 

Em was conflicted, on one hand her aunt was one of the most powerful witches in her family and could easily help her get set up, on the other hand, she was trying to be self sufficient, “I don’t need your help auntie.”

Sylvia scoffed and shook her head, “Nonsense dearie, nobody needs help, but I want to help anyways. Let’s see here, anti divining charms, spooky ingredient bottles for aesthetic, Regular ingredient bottles- aha! Here it is!” Her aunt pulled out a small box and then threw it in the middle of the empty floor and snapped her fingers. 

The box immediately expanded and smoke swirled around it as it became a fully formed alchemy table. Sylvia smiled, “I assume you can unpack the rest? I love you!” Her aunt walked through her doorway and the door slammed shut behind her, leaving Em with the boxes that she had just been forcibly given. 

She breathed a sigh of exasperation and opened her front door and looked around. Her aunt was nowhere to be seen. She shut the door and walked into the center of the room, pouting. 


Em looked at the last filled box before her, the words “Spooky shit”  scrawled across the side in red permanent marker. The rest of her aunts donated goods now hung from the ceiling, adorned the walls, and found their place in the kitchen. She sat back down on the floor, getting her black jeans dirty with the dust on the floor. She started picking through the box. There were bottles and spell ingredients but mostly bottles.  Some empty, some missing their lids, but the most curious one was a black bottle that was sealed tightly with the words “DO NOT OPEN” written on the side in white ink. She shook the bottle to try and see if there was anything inside it. 

“Please don’t do that.” a soft voice said. 

The bottle slipped through her hands as a startled cry escaped her lips.  The empty bottle clattered to the floor away from her as Em looked around, pulling out a knife, trying to find the source of the voice.

“Who said that! Show yourself, I’m a strong powerful woman and I am not scared!” she said as her entire body shook.

“Ow. Why’d you throw me?”

Her eyes fell to the bottle that had slipped out of her hands. A look of confusion crossed her face. She scooted on her knees a little closer to the bottle, knife clutched in both hands, “What are you?”

“Not a bottle, that’s for sure. The name’s Agnes. Yours?”

Em continued to scoot forward, “Em. What are you?” 

“You can find out if you open the bottle.”

She finally reached the bottle and placed her hands on it. She lifted it and held it close to her face. 

“Oooo, Your hands are warm.“

“You can feel things from there?”

“Yeah. let me out.”

“The bottle says not to open you.”

“The bottle is a bitch-ass liar. Let me out.” 

Em took a look at the bottle. She could call her aunt if she wanted, and that would solve everything. Or she could figure it out herself, “Who put you in this bottle?”

She heard a groan, “What is this? Twenty questions. Open. The. Bottle.”

Em pouted, “I’m not opening the bottle if you’re going to be rude.”

A sigh, then, “Okay fine. A witch trapped me in here and said she was going to bind me to a doll or something. I’m guessing she forgot because I’ve been here for a while. 

Em looked at the bottle and nodded, there was nothing she could do to see inside it. The black part was in the inside, not out.

“So are you going to open it or what?”

Em placed her hands on the lid. The voice grew excited, “yes! Yes! Yes! YES!”

Em tried to pull off the top, but her weak grip couldn’t seem to get a good grasp. The tried to pull the cork out but no matter what it wouldn’t budge. 

“It’s stuck!” 

“Then smash the bottle or something. You sound like a smart. cute, girl. figure something out.”

Em blushed and slammed the bottle against the floor. It bounced a couple times but no cracks formed. 

“First off: ow. Second off: why am I not free?”

Em wondered if a magical seal preventing it from breaking. Em dug around the kitchen cabinets and pulled out a hammer, “Brace yourself or something.”

She slammed the hammer down against the bottle. The hammer bounced off. 

“Seriously. What are you doing out there?”

Em sat on the ground defeated, “It won’t open!”

The voice groaned again, “Are you kidding me? What kind of sealing magicks did she put on here. Do you got any magical blood in your body Em?”

Em nodded.

“Well do you? I can’t see anything outside of this bottle.”

“Oh. yeah!” Em picked up the bottle and sat it down on a reading table her aunt had given her. She stepped over to her bookshelf and pulled out a small book about trapping spirits. 

She flipped through pages and settled on a page. On the page was a white circle with a few runes on each side. She flipped the bottle upside down and the same circle was on the bottom. She turned back to the book, “to remove the circle you need… Lemon juice? That’s a strange ingredient. I don’t think I have any.” 

“Then go get some and let me out.”

Em held the bottle in one hand and then walked to her small fridge and opened it, “Yeah I don’t have lemon juice.” 

“Then  go. Get. Some.”

She nervously looked towards the door. The voice spoke up, “Okay seriously. I can feel your pulse rising. What’s up?”

“I don’t like going out in public.” 

“Oh heavens. Then order a postmates or something. Or whatever you have.”

“A what?”

“You know one of those door delivery services.”

“What year are you from?”

“I don’t know. Late 2017 I think.”

Em gasped and nearly dropped the bottle. 


“You’re like. A hundred years old.”


Em shook her head, “Nothing. I just. I was shocked is all.”

“And how old are you?”

Em shrugged and put on her black traveling cloak, “I’m twenty-four.”

“Cool. You cute?”

Em walked over to the bathroom and put on a small black knit beanie, “I like to think so.”

“Nice.” Agnes said. 

Em opened her front door, bottle in coat pocket and walked outside.


“Are we there yet?”

A few faces stared at em on the in town subway, “shh.” 

“I’m bored come on. This bottle doesn’t even have wi-fi”

She shushed the bottle again, “People can hear you. Shush.”

She got up from her seat and pushed the button for the next stop. The faces continued to stare. She pulled her beanie down further and looked down.

“What’s happening? Your heart rate is increasing?”

Em took a deep breath and muttered a short mantra under her breath and traced her fingers in a circle around the bottle. 

The train door opened and she hastily walked outside, letting her held breath out. 

“You okay?” Agnes said, with a bit of concern in her voice. 

Em nodded, “Yeah. I just get anxious around crowds. It’s why I don’t like going out.”

“Oh shit. I’m sorry Em. that was a little rude of me to force you out here. 

She shook her head and her red curls bounced over her face, “No it’s fine. I need to get out more anyways. I need to do scary things.” 

She walked out of the subway and up into the city. Bright neon lights filled her view and she squinted against it., “Ugh. Why does Eden always have to be so bright?”

“Eden? That’s a strange name for a city.”

“You’re telling me. It’s a bunch of religious nuts that all got together and became ‘one’ or something. My family grew up here because it’s the easiest place to get rare ingredients like fruits, and herbs that can’t grow outside anymore. That and they get shipments of stone from the north.”

“I don’t care about any of this.” Agnes said.

“Don’t be rude. You asked.”

“What? I’m just telling the truth.”

Em frowned.  The twin doors of the grocery store opened automatically and she walked in. 

“I’m sorry. That was really rude.”

“You seem to be that way a lot.”

“Hey you try being trapped in a bottle for thirty years and then tell me how you maintain your sense of love and kindness for everyone. “

“Working on it.”

She walked down the juice aisle and finally found what she was looking for. Lemon juice. 

“Ugh. fifty credits. I only have thirty for the rest of the month.”


“It’s fifty credits.”

“That’s outrageous. Steal it.”

“Shhhh. Not so loud.”

She quickly scanned the aisle but nobody seemed to have heard her.

“I can’t steal it. That’s wrong.”

“So is capitalism. But yet here we are.”

“There’s cameras.”

“You’re a witch. Do a witchy thing.”

She shook her head, “It’s not that simple. I’m still learning.”

“How much do you need?”

“Just a little.”

“Then steal a little. 

Em took a step back. Do the unsealing? Here? In this grocery store?

She grabbed the small bottle of lemon juice.  She peeled off the plastic and popped the lid. She looked up and down the aisle one more time before she placed a few drops on the bottom of the bottle. She rubbed it and the white circle began to dissolve. 

“Oh that feels tingly! Woo. That feels strange. I like this. I like you. Open the bottle and let’s go.”

“Not yet. Not here.”


Em closed her apartment door behind her and pulled the bottle out of her jacket. 

“We home yet?”


“Pop open that top and let’s go baby.”

Em clasped her hand around the lid and felt no resistance this time. A small gust of wind swirled around her. Her cat looked at her from the windowsill. The cork came out of the bottle and the winds blew her cloak up causing her to let out a startled yelp. 

Presto ran into a corner. 

The lid popped off and a translucent form flew out and spun around. 

“Hell yeah! I’m finally free!”

The form that Em assumed was Agnes poured out and they immediately bolted from the window only to be pulled back by some invisible force. 

“Are you kidding me?”

The spectral form turned around and darted the other way, only to be pulled back by something again. “Oh COME ON.”

Em cocked her head, “What’s the matter?”

Agnes got closer and tried to handle the bottle, only to have their hands pass through it completely. She finally got a closer look at the spirit. It had long blue hair and perfect blue eyes. Em blushed and turned her face away.

Agnes seemed to not notice as she managed to finally pick up the bottle and look into it.

“Nothing. I don’t know what’s going on. Care to explain?”

Agnes’ fierce blue eyes pierced her soul, “I don’t know. Like I said, I’m just a beginning witch.”

“Then call someone and figure out what’s going on.”

“I guess I could call my aunt?”

“Don’t guess. Do.”

Em looked away and tapped her ear as a screen appeared in front of her. She punched in a number. It rang. 

“Emilia darling! How is the new place treating you?”

“Hi Aunt Sylvia, A few questions. There was a black bottle inside one of your boxes and-”

“You didn’t open it did you?”

“Yes, but-”

“Oh Emilia. Sweet Emilia. I shouldn’t have given that to you.”

“It’s Em. What happens?”

“The spirit inside is bound to your body. Forever now. I said not to open it!”

“Then why did you give it to me?”

“To test your will!”

Em hung up. 

Agnes looked at her, tapping her foot. She suddenly thought about having this ghost around forever. This cute ghost. This gorgeous spirit. This astonishing appar-

Agnes interrupted her musings, “Can you stop blushing like a schoolgirl and tell me what’s going on? And stop looking like a deer in headlights.”

Em looked down sheepishly, “She said you were bound to my body forever now.”

Agnes froze in place and frowned. 

Em looked back, “Is something wrong? I thought you would be mad.”

Agnes shook her head, “It’s not that. I guess I’m upset. But I guess 30 years in that bottle. What’s like seventy to eighty more. Plus you’re cute I guess.”

Em’s face went red like a tomato.

Agnes’s frown turned into a small smile, “Though I suppose it won’t be too bad. You seem like you could use my help. You’re a mess sweetheart, and so is your house.”

“I- okay.” 

Agnes snapped a finger and before her eyes, Em saw everything around her start to shift. Shelves changed slightly and all of her possessions seemed to arrange themselves in a way that lent for more space.

“What did you do?” Em asked. 

“Ghost stuff. Don’t worry about it.”

Em felt Presto leap up onto her shoulder and look Agnes dead in the eyes. He meowed softly.

“He… Likes you? Presto likes nobody. What are you?”

“For starters, a trapped spirit bonded eternally to a fair maiden. And secondly, it sounds like I’m your cat’s new best friend.

Presto leaped into the air to land on Agnes’ shoulders, but flew straight through her and crashed onto the floor. Presto rolled over and shook himself, and then looked around like nothing had happened. 

Agnes and Em shared a look and then burst into laughter.