'Potency' by Chris Bissette
"As potent as a curse," the label read. Penelope smiled grimly at the words and replaced the bottle on the shelf. She had tried curses; they hadn't worked. She would need something stronger than this, it seemed.
The shop was musty and close, as these kinds of places are wont to be, and the shelves were cluttered with tight clusters of bottles and vials. Each promised different things, advertised in tight spider-script across their labels. Some were eloquent and mystic: Withe the strengthe of an ox ye wille move mountains, or, Vital and virulent, go forth and multiply. Others were brutal simplicity: Hemlock, said one. Death, one dose, another read.
Others still gave no hint as to their purpose, and the mute lady who oversaw the place would give no hint to their use. Juliet's tearswas one – Essence of Arachne's web, flax and gold dust was another.
She searched, pushing bottles aside almost as quickly as she could read the labels. Finally she settled on one that seemed it would do the job. She didn't find it hidden at the back of a crowded shelf, its label obscured by dust and decades of cobwebs, though that would have been fitting. Instead it was perched at the front, the label crisp and new, only just written.
She turned to look at the woman behind the counter, who nodded knowingly, then plucked it from the shelf. This one would do, she knew – nothing could be more fitting, given the circumstances.
Love, the label read – and, really, what else could it have said?