The best thing about it being October is that means I can indulge in as much horror writing as I want, and nobody can complain! *evil laughter*
Ellen opened her orange flowered backpack and pulled out a small journal, as long as her hand, bound in ancient red leather. It looked very old, the corners worn thin.
“This is it,” she said, passing the book to me as we sat together on the edge of the bed. “My grandmother passed this down to me. She said one of my ancestors, who was put on trial by Puritans in the 1600’s, wrote it.”
I touched the cover with my fingertips reverently, then opened it.
Handwritten Latin script, nearly faded. Some pages were written in rusty brown. Blood as ink? There were diagrams of spells, recipes. Charms to get well. Curses and hexes. The writing was hurried in places, missing information in others; clearly the author had not intended for this to be seen. It smelled like old, old paper. Gorgeous. I couldn’t believe any spellbooks from this period had survived.
“Here’s the one you were talking about,” I said, pausing my perusal and translating as best as I could. “’Malit Bond. To conjure a demon to do your bidding.’ Oh wow, does it say it needs blood?”
“Human blood,” she said, nodding. She was always better than me in Latin class.
“Have you tried any of these?”
She shook her head. “Too scary to try alone,” she said with a weak chuckle.
“We have to try it together then,” I said. “This is too cool.”
“Yeah… but… what if it’s real?”
“Yeah!” I said. “What if it is!”
She squeezed her hands between her knees, a nervous gesture I knew well. “Doesn’t that spell require a bat? Aren’t they endangered or something?”
I grinned at her. “You’ve been over and over this book, you even know the ingredients of the spells, and you’re acting like you don’t want to try it? It’ll be fun. Like Bloody Mary, or a seance. Maybe we’ll meet a demon!”
“It would be fun to be a witch,” she said, a little spark coming into her eye. “I could hex Britney with hepatitis, or make Zach fall in love with me.”
“I’ll get the bat,” I said. “You get the easy stuff.”
The circle was drawn. Ellen had pricked both of our forearms with a paring knife and mixed our blood to use as ink. She was really getting caught up in it; I’m not sure how she had gleaned so many little details about the ceremony out of that difficult text. Around the circle five were candles lit, in the middle was a sixth unlit one of black wax, a pillar candle she’d stolen from her mom’s Halloween decorations. I’d laughed when she told me that.
Holding hands, we said the last line together: “Malit, we conjure you! Aid us! We will meet your desires as you meet ours.”
Just as I had expected. Well, it had been a fun experiment. I was about to make a joke to Ellen about it, when the candle in the middle of the circle lit itself.
“Um, your book… doesn’t say what to do next?” I managed.
Ellen shook her head mutely.
The flame of the candle grew, grew. The wax ran, then caught fire as the flame swelled. It stretched so tall, Ellen and I had to step back from the heat.
The flame took shape, hardened, and there it was. A demon. Red, goat legs and horns, hairy, wild staring eyes. Just as the Puritans had drawn him. Although the flame was gone, scorching heat still radiated from his body.
It looked at us, then down at the circle in which it stood.
“We… would like to form a contract,” I croaked.
Malit irritably rubbed out a character in the summoning circle with one hoofed foot. “Amateurs,” he said. His voice was low, with a goatlike tremble. “I am displeased to be here, and summoned by children no less. Do you ask for a bond? Speak quickly.”
I was unprepared for this turn of events. It was a larger commitment than I’d expected to make. My hands were shaking. “I…”
“Yes,” Ellen piped up. Her voice was clear and confident, unlike mine. She wasn’t trembling. Her cheeks were flushed.
She had caught Malit’s attention. He appraised her at length. “You have witch blood in you,” he said. “I would take you as my consort, but there is a cost. To make a bond you must break a bond.”
“I am prepared,” Ellen said.
“Consort?” I said. “Wait. Ellen. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!”
Ellen still held my hand. She squeezed my fingers. “I really do,” she said. “I’m sorry, Kate. You’ve been a good friend to me. But this is my heritage.”
She touched me lightly behind the neck, leaned in close, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Ellen,” I said smally. “What does it mean, you have to break a bond?”
I caught a flash of metal out of the corner of my eye. Deep, deep pain blossomed in my neck.
“I’ll try to do this quick,” she said. She really did look sorry.