*Wordcount: 1917 words.
The candle flickered, casting writhing shadows around the small, dark room. Things were arranged around the candle, things which were hard to identify but that glistened wetly in the light. The floor, walls, and ceiling were stone, and bare save for painted markings.
The paint was black, and had barely dried. The most notable markings were on the floor, strange symbols arranged seemingly without thought in a circle. Smaller circles dotted the outer line of the large circle, and the glistening objects were placed inside of these. An identical circle lay in the same place on the ceiling, lining up perfectly. Hooks hung from the small circles on the ceiling, but were bare and shone in the dim light, clearly new.
All of this had taken weeks of planning and research, and hours to make sure it was flawless. It had to be flawless, she only had one chance.
One chance for the ritual of a lifetime.
Julia had painstakingly combed through every detail, and her laborious lucubration had paid off. At least, it looked like it had, and everything seemed perfect. She harvested the organs from a sheep she had killed herself, and this location was more than ideal.
She had found the old wine cellar a few weeks before, on the outskirts of town under a mostly ruined house. Aside from having enough space and being out of the way and private, it also had great atmosphere she felt.
Like she was a real witch or something!
Of course, she wasn’t. She was a wannabe, an amateur at best. Considering this was her first real ritual, she didn’t quite know what she was yet. Her opinion of herself would depend on how this went.
She had practiced many times before, but tonight was the real deal.
The ritual itself was vague at best, but she knew it was powerful. It was ancient, and seemed to be some sort of summoning. Summoning what, she didn’t know. And Julia didn’t much care for the warnings against it.
She was strong enough to withstand it, and she had a few tricks up her sleeves if something went wrong. Although Julia doubted she would need more than one.
All that was left was to complete the ritual.
Which needed one more sacrifice.
Johnathan was one of the boys from her school, and from what she’d heard he had a crush on her. He seemed sweet, if a bit shy, but not at all her type.
Luckily, he would come in handy.
She had invited him out here, and was waiting outside the ruined house.
The sun was setting, and pink streaked the sky.
She was holding two Tupperware containers.
When Johnathan arrived, they ate the salad she’d packed and talked, watching the sunset. It was almost nice, and despite herself Julia felt doubt trickle through her thoughts. It was too late for that though, she’d invested too much.
And Johnathan had already eaten the salad.
The sun had set, and night surrounded them. Johnathan had fallen quiet.
“Hey, wanna see something I found in the house?” Julia piped.
“I-In the ruined, abandoned house behind us?”
“Even though it’s probably haunted?” Johnathan chuckled, but Julia could hear the nervousness in his voice.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts silly!” Julia chuckled at this, she knew better of course. “C’mon, I think you’ll like it.”
Johnathan sighed. “Fine, it better be good!”
Johnathan was stumbling a bit, clearly trying to hide it. Julia was pleased to see this, the earlier doubt completely pushed out of her mind. She took him around the house, watching how he moved.
Eventually, she led him towards the cellar. As they got there, Johnathan seemed to give in.
“Hey, Julia, I’m not feeling so good, would you mind if we called it here?”
“Aw, already? What’s wrong?” She knew.
“Just some aches, and I’m feeling a little weak. Temporary, I’m sure, but you deserve me at my best.” He flashed her a forced smile.
What a trooper.
When she pushed him down the stairs he fell heavily, as if his muscles just gave out under the force. Which was possible, considering the hemlock salad he had eaten.
Julia herself had had a caesar salad, and thought it was alright.
The gradual weakening of muscles took some time, so she had kept him busy. The degradation also hurt, she knew, and he had hid it well for a little while. But it comes to hurt a lot, she also knew.
But he wouldn’t die, not for several hours. By then, she would have what she needed.
The push down the stairs hadn’t killed him, which she had been worried about, but he seemed to slip out of consciousness.
She would need to act quick, the hemlock should keep him from interfering but doing it before he gained consciousness seemed best.
She pulled up a chair, and lowered the hooks.
When Johnathan awoke, everything was pain. His muscles ached worse than he had ever felt, and he felt woozy. He was looking up at, well, he wasn’t sure what.
He looked side to side, and tried to raise his hand. He heard the clinking of metal, and pain shot through his hand, making him jerk. That sent pain shooting through his other hand and his feet, and his muscles felt like they were tearing and then those tears were themselves tearing. He cried, the tears unbidden, confused and hurt.
Julia spoke up.
“Come now Johnathan, show some dignity.”
He looked up, no, down, at her. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
Julia walked towards him, looking up at him. She had pulled the chains up, suspending him just above her head.
It had been hard work, he was heavy.
“Wh… What happened?” His words were punctuated by groans and sobs.
“You were actually useful to me! Shocker, I know.”
Johnathan looked at her, stupidly.
“Look, I appreciate your role in this. Couldn’t do it without you. But I’m afraid I have to ask you to keep quiet, I need to focus for the rest.”
“What? Please, Julia, h-help me down…”
“I said, shut up. I thought hemlock was supposed to leave the mind clear. Unless you’re just that stupid, but you didn’t seem it earlier.”
For the first time since he awoke, it seemed like Johnathan heard Julia. He looked at her, unsure.
“Y-You? Hemlock? That’s… Poison. Did you…?”
“Poison you? No shit Sherlock. Don’t exert yourself now, I need you alive.”
“Seriously, too much talking. Focus on how you’re going to lose your vision instead, eh?”
Julia was right, and Johnathan’s vision started failing. He didn’t notice it at first, it just seemed blurry. Then the edges started darkening, and before he knew it he couldn’t see. He stopped talking, and just wept.
Better than nothing, thought Julia.
Besides, it was time.
The incantation took about an hour, and the added symbols took another half hour. The strange words and unnatural tongue-twisters fell out of her mouth with practiced ease, and it seemed like almost no time had passed to her.
Time flies when you’re having fun, she supposed.
She walked to the centre of the circle, and stood above the candle and below Johnathan. He had mostly stopped crying, and he hung limply.
She gave him a solid poke, and he recoiled away and shuddered from the resulting everywhere-pain.
She lifted her sharp, small knife, and jammed it into Johnathan’s stomach, below the ribs.
She then cut, quickly, down towards his groin.
Gore spilled out, drenching her and extinguishing the candle.
The room was plunged to darkness while Johnathan screamed.
Julia wiped gore from her eyes, enjoying the silence now that Johnathan had died. She stood in the dark, her eyes closed.
And she listened.
For a while, she heard nothing.
Then, nothing still.
Something, no, wait, nothing.
A deep growl filled the room. It came from everywhere at once, and Julia felt her very bones vibrating. She grinned, wide and toothy in the darkness.
The growl turned to a chuckle, and Julia felt breath on her shoulder.
“You summoned me?”
Again, the growling chuckle. “Foolish. You mortals get younger and younger each time this happens. The follies of youth, I suppose.”
“I brought you into this world, and you will obey me.”
The darkness burst out in a rage-filled roar. “Obey you? You ignorant little bitch. Do you know what you’ve summoned?”
“As it happens,” Julia said, not breaking stride. “No. A name would be helpful.”
“You’re brave, but very stupid. Know that you have summoned me; that should be enough. Are you ready to die, little thing?”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“You’re almost as stupid as my sacrifice.”
“You dare to insult me? Your death will be slow; I will strip the skin from your flesh bit by bit, you’ll be begging fo-”
“Sorry to interrupt, but I thought you’d want to know.”
The darkness roared, and Julia felt something sharp run down her arm, but lightly.
“I’ll indulge you, since I owe you for unleashing me upon this world. You thought I’d want to know what?”
Julia smiled. “That you’re trapped here.”
Julia had chosen the cellar for one other reason: its shape.
It was circular, which allowed her to conduct some witchcraft 101.
A sealing circle, or however you call it, is an ancient tool with many names. The purpose is the same, though, and that purpose is containing demons and spirits and the like within it. It renders them powerless, at least in any meaningful way, and prevents them from leaving the circle.
She had had more than enough time to set one up, and had added numerous warding symbols and symbols of protection. Some of them were bunk, she figured, but not all of them.
This was a powerful seal, and she was proud of it.
She would be a moron if she had gone into this unprepared, after all.
Julia felt whatever she summoned suddenly understand, and the air of danger the smothered her dissipated.
Julia chuckled. “No more language like that. Until I say so, you’re a glorified pet.”
The darkness seethed with rage, but stayed quiet.
“Good boy. I have other matters to attend to, but I have plans for you. What’s your name?”
“I may be stuck here, but I do not have to cooperate. Better witches than you could not contain me, it is only a matter of time.”
“Thanks for the tip, I’ll just have to work faster then.” Julia winked into the darkness, sure that it could see her.
“This is no venial sin you commit, girl. Ruin and desolation will follow your rash actions. I will witness your damnation first hand, and you will wish you had let me kill you.”
“I’ll call you Jeff in the meantime!”
The darkness did not respond.
Julia made her way out of her circle, being careful not to slip in the gore that coated the floor. She peered into the darkness, her eyes now adjusted, but still saw nothing. No matter, she would bring a light down later. For now, she needed to clean herself and get home, her parents would want to know how her date went.
“Jeff, while I’m gone feel free to help yourself to the sacrifice. Oh, and anyone who might wonder down here. You’ll be my little secret!”