Streetlights whisked by, casting shifting bands of
across Vex’s hands and the steering wheel. All of the traffic lights
tonight; it was an easy fare, a straight shot down Southern from Mesa
Drive to just past Mill
Avenue. Price. McClintock. Rural. The major
streets blurred by in an almost surreal progression. Three in the
morning on a
Wednesday night. No traffic.
The stars were out on a very clear night and the
glowed like a silver disk in the sky overhead.If it weren’t for the fact that this taxi’s A/C was stuck
on, Vex would have rolled her window down.
That’s when Vex noticed her: a woman standing by
of the road, like an apparition, just past Rural. A pool of lamplight
her as she looked at and through Vex as the taxi passed. When Vex
rearview mirror to get another look at the woman after passing, Vex saw
she was no longer standing there.
A chill swept through Vex and numbness tingled
hands on the wheel.
Daughter. Our daughter, a voice said in
her head. Are
you ready? It begins.
“Do you think we did it right?” David asked, licking
his lips. A
sheen of sweat glistened on his forehead in the flickering candlelight.
huff, he wiped some of his short brown hair away from his glasses.
“Of course we did it right,” Darlene said. The
creating a slight amount of perspiration on her forehead as well.
thanked herself for pulling her hair into a long braid. Now it wasn’t
stick to her face or get tangled up.
“Good,” David breathed with relief.
Darlene paused a moment to light the next
candle. “If I
were off by one tenth of an inch at the point we would be so screwed by
She stopped after lighting the small black wick and looked back over
on the floor drawn out in silver powder over red paint. “Uh oh.”
“Uh oh, what?” David said suddenly concerned,
eyes became comically gigantic behind his glasses.
“I think that I drew a line wrong,” Darlene
“We’re all doomed!”
David frowned, hearing the sarcasm in her voice.
so not funny.”
“Chill out, you two,” Mary Beth snapped as she
around a bookshelf into the candlelight. Her squarely-built boyfriend,
followed close behind. Darlene waved. Mary Beth’s curly red hair bobbed
her freckled face as she nodded back.
The four were now together. They had been
together ever since they’d met each other in the Hayden Dormitory
room the previous year. Though, nothing so elaborate as the ceremony
Everything had to be perfect, the sigil work on the floor done by
white robes sewn by Mary Beth’s hand, the necessary chants pulled from
David, and Korey… Korey was always simply an extension of Mary Beth
Korey and Mary Beth were both dressed in the
robes that everyone had donned at the beginning of the ceremony. Mary
robes were adorned with strange symbols drawn in with magic marker that
spiraled up from the hem of the robe and split into two twining spirals
her breasts and connected near her throat in a symbol like the one
painted on the floor.
“It does look a little crooked,” David whined.
his eyeglasses and pointed.
Darlene gestured dismissively with her free
hand. “I drew
it exactly like it is in the book, it’s crooked there too, haven’t you
She held the book out to him with one hand, he squinted.
Mary Beth sighed loudly. “It’s an Elder Sigil.
It’s not a
Star of David, okay? The so-called crookedness is because that point
into the Celestial Spiral, there, with the seat of power where that
As she spoke she swirled her hand about the symbol and traced the lines
her pointed finger. “Darlene did a good job of painting it. I’d say
“Thank you High Priestess,” Darlene said, making
“I’m not High Priestess until the ceremony
Beth waved an admonishing finger. “So, is everyone ready?”
The rest mumbled their assent.
“Good. No interruptions?” Mary Beth leveled her
looked pointedly at David.
He shook his head. “This top floor of the Stacks
closed up for renovations. I just happen to have the key. It’s . Nobody is going to bother
pushed his glasses back up onto his nose. “At least I don’t think so.”
“Good enough,” Mary Beth said. “I know that we
done anything so complicated before, everyone knows that we have to
close to the script as possible, right, or this just won’t work.
ready?” She glanced around and only willing expressions greeted her.
everyone. Like we rehearsed.” She knelt down and scooped up her
up, a small black rod with a silver tip. The wand was actually a
baton, painted black, and consecrated in the way the book demanded for
Darlene walked around the Elder Sigil on the
floor and out
of the two circles of salt drawn around the entire working area. Both
had not been connected yet; that would happen right before the
beginning of the
ceremony. Different magical symbols had been drawn by Darlene’s deft
salt and iron between the two circles.
She knelt down in the shadow of an empty
unhooked the latches on her violin case. She lifted the lid and removed
violin and its bow in a single practiced motion. A stand with the
sheet music had been set up inside of the circles directly opposite
Beth would be standing. Darlene set her violin at the base of the music
and dodged Korey as he moved to his place.
While Mary Beth hummed softly to herself and
looked as if
she were off in another world, Darlene added the last bits of salt to
the two circles.
“The warding circles are now complete,” Darlene
book warns that nobody must cross these lines or the protection will be
So, nobody leave the circle, no matter what you see or hear.”
“Spooky,” Korey said with a wry smirk. Silent up
this point, his sudden addition seemed to punctuate the group’s anxious
Mary Beth made a silencing gesture and the grin on his face faded and
expression returned to appearing bored.
David snickered, but he too was silenced by a
“Darlene,” Mary Beth said.
Darlene nodded, brushed her thick brown braid
off of her
shoulder, and lifted her violin to her chin. She had to bat at the
paper on her
music stand with the bow to make it stand flat; an uncanny draft of air
at the pages and pushed them slightly to the side. When Mary Beth
baton high and pointed at Darlene, she began to play.
The song started out with several very long
notes on the G
string. Darlene could feel the vibration through her hand from the
as she pulled the bow across the string. Each motion of her bow hand
out a slightly varying sound from the last as she walked the instrument
up the scales. Soon she moved to the next string and the song became
complex, forcing her to switch between the strings with carefully timed
motions. All this came easily to her well practiced reflexes.
Soon, Darlene felt as if she were running her
through water, the music flowed through her, and she became the
Sweeping the baton along with Darlene’s music,
eyes took on the far-away look again as she focused on the spell. Korey
David watched her carefully from their places along the sigil, standing
Darlene in a semi-circle in front of Mary Beth.
When Mary Beth lowered the baton again and
swished it side
to side, they saw what they were waiting for and began to chant.
The chant melted into the violin as Darlene
speed of her playing to match the boys’ baritone chant. Mary Beth
smiled as she
could feel the music and chant interweaving. The chant repeated two
it was her turn. The spell required three components, the Musician who
Darlene, the Chant being Korey and David, and the Voice of the High
Mary Beth took in a breath and lifted the book
up in her
other hand to reference her lines and when the music was right, she
sing. Slightly off key at first, she quickly brought herself down a
match the violin perfectly; Darlene also changed her playing slightly
accommodate Mary Beth’s voice as she began to sing.
After the first few words, a breath of air
stirred in the
silent room, ruffling at the pages of the book, and rattling the nearby
windows. Mary Beth smiled. Something was working. David glanced around
little, the gleam of the candles glinting in his glasses, but he didn’t
Darlene seemed lost in her playing and didn’t
the pages of music were buffeted from the music stand by a short snap
Her eyes closed to the world, she kept the tune breathlessly following
chanting, and Mary Beth’s heightened singing.
The lines of the sigil seemed to liquefy in the
candlelight. A soothing orange glow began to suffuse out of the figure
extended through the lines in a gentle cascade. A brief and barely
change, but Mary Beth was certain she wasn’t the only one who had seen
Shadows seemed to lengthen in her peripheral vision. She could see
figures in the candlelight, and the windows began to fog over.
As the song began to near its end, the
shook with the vibration and frenetic energy of Darlene’s violin
had become so absorbed in the final gyrations of the song that she had
knocked the music stand from its place. As quickly as the music seemed
into a harmonic train wreck it began to taper off…
Mary Beth sang the last line of the song,
voice draw out for as long as she could keep her breath… David and
their chanting subside… Darlene—in a reversal of the first few notes
played—slowed, let her numbing fingers drink up the vibrations of her
strings, and took her bow from the still resounding strings…
As the last note faded all that could be heard
in the room
was Darlene’s hard breathing.
A gust of sudden wind flooded into the room, it
the floor like a torrent of black, rose up like a whirlwind around the
Sigil and blew out all the candles. Their wicks sputtered and spat as
spent themselves into the gust and suddenly the room plunged into
After a moment everyone’s vision began to
light from outside the windows emitted by various ASU buildings was
enough to see by. For a long moment nobody spoke.
“Did it work?” Darlene asked finally, as she
to the floor as if unable to stand. She set her violin gently onto its
let her sweaty hand slide down the back of the bow. “Did we do it? I
really feel it, but my hand got greasy, I was afraid the bow
“I think I saw something,” David said, adjusting
glasses and glancing outside the circle.
“All that for better grades,” Korey snickered.
was fun.” He wiped his hands off on his pants and stretched with a yawn.
“I think…” Mary Beth said calmly. “I think it
felt it. I really felt it that time. Wow.”
“So,” David said cautiously. “Does this mean
that I’ll ace
that test on Monday? Heh.” He pushed his glasses up his nose again.
bring it on.”
Mary Beth and Darlene shared a gaze for a moment
both shook their heads. The entire spellcraft was indeed supposed to
benefit their grades, although the old book spoke of benefits to
not academics. The book, and a few websites later, and the two had come
a formula that seemed to suggest that it would offer just that.
“Cool enough,” Korey said. “So, who wants to go
food at Denny’s? I certainly can’t sleep after all that.”
One of the candles lit again with a sizzle.
Darlene narrowed her eyes. “Are those trick
“Uh, no,” Korey said. “I bought them, I should
“It could be a paraffin flare,” David said in
lecturing voice. “The candles may have been put out by the breeze but
still hot enough to ignite the wax again.”
Just when he finished, a second one lit again,
and with it
a low moaning sound whistled against the windows.
“Two?” Darlene said.
The sound began to rise in volume and the rest
candles lit, flashing to life. Mary Beth turned around suddenly as if
someone touch her and she backed towards the other three.
“Did anyone else see that?” David said,
“See what?” Korey said, walking towards the edge
circle. “I’ll go turn on a light or something.”