Fiction: Names

This is something I was tinkering with, maybe to go on /NoSleep. There’s a second half, still being fiddled with it, but I guess I’m looking for some input. Interesting? Not? Want more, or had enough? Ah well. Comments, critiques and flames welcome. Here we go.

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Things haven’t been going so well lately, and I’m starting to think I understand the reason. I’m at my wits end, here – you have to be pretty desperate to finally turn to internet groups for help, I think – so I’m hoping someone here has some suggestions.

 

It started about a year ago. The woman I was involved with at the time – Sarah – and a friend of hers – Donnie – were very big on claiming they were witches and had magic powers. Of course, they backpedalled pretty quickly if you pressed them on the issue, didn’t want to actually discuss it or prove anything. This annoyed the hell out of me, as while I like to think of myself as a logical person, I’m also a curious one and willing to contemplate ideas that are a little outside the boundaries of normal, if folks are willing and able to talk about it rationally.

 

I’m not so curious, now.

 

Anyway, after about a week of trying to get them to explain themselves, one night they relented. They said we were all going to go across the street and do a little ritual. “Just a minor one,” they said. “Open the doors, free your mind.”

 

At the time we were living in a dingy little apartment that had the benefit of not needing a lease agreement or a credit check. Part of the reason for the lack of more stringent tenant policies was the location; on one side was an abandoned office complex that hadn’t been able to keep a business running within for more than six months at a stretch. On the other was the local boneyard.

 

I’ve always thought graveyards being haunted was kind of a silly idea. I mean, think about it, if you assume ghosts are real and they’re sentient enough to haunt people, why would they lurk in a graveyard? They could be haunting Katy Perry’s shower or the CIA offices or something. Why sit around a bunch of stones listening to people cry and stupid teenagers screwing around? So the graveyard never bothered me. But my lady and her friend decided it was the best place to do this, because they were sure there were spirits there who would be up for a chat.

 

So off we went, dashing across the street just before midnight, climbing the hill that ran alongside the graveyard’s northern edge, slipping through the broken part of chickenwire fence that I’d found years ago. We didn’t have much with us; a sprig of mint and one of sage, a handful of old pennies, a bit of sea salt twisted into a piece of wax paper, and a small hunk of bread for each of us.

 

They explained the items to me; the mint and sage were meant to keep spirits from getting too close. The smells bothered them, my friends claimed. The pennies were for luck, and because copper – or so they claimed – was an excellent conductor for spirit energy. The salt was in case things went south; throw it at a spook or make a circle around yourself. The bread was to be eaten before the ritual began, grounding us in the physical and keeping us from “drifting away,” so to speak.

 

I let them take the lead, and we wandered around for a bit before Donnie said “This is the spot.” He sat down, indian-style, and we did so as well. He spent a minute fussing, making us shift about until he decided our positions were right, then told us to eat the bread.

 

At this point I was honestly kind of bored. I was half expecting one of our other friends to be hiding behind something, ready to jump out and scare us or something similar. That didn’t happen. Donnie just bowed his head once the bread had been eaten, and started… Praying, I guess? I was raised Catholic, so I know the rhythms and styles, but this wasn’t one I knew. Something about the Goddess and all her attendants watching us, throwing wide the gates. He was mumbling a lot, and I have ear problems, so I didn’t catch all of it. Still thought it was mostly mumbo jumbo, him and Sarah trying to freak me out or have a laugh at my expense, but I went along with it. Bowed my head, clasped my hands, tried to put myself “in the mood,” so to speak.

 

That was all fine and well until Donnie started calling names. I recognized a few – Gabriel, Astarte and Azmodan come to mind – but the litany was pretty long and not all of them seemed made to be pronounced properly. When he started doing that, it started to feel like spiders were crawling all over the back of my neck, and like the temperature had dropped about ten degrees.

 

Color me spooked. Also color me no longer curious. I’d had enough. But when I tried to get up, it seemed like something pressed down on my shoulders, holding me in place. I swear I heard someone whisper in my ear. “Just wait. The best part’s coming.” I didn’t recognize the voice.

 

Starting to get a little freaked out, I stopped trying to get up. Donnie stopped in his recitation of names and prayers. He was grinning ear to ear as he asked Sarah and I to close our eyes.

 

“There. Inside, in the dark. The farthest corner of yourself, locked away from everyone and everything else, that’s where he resides.”

 

I was really not digging this. The feeling of hands resting on my shoulders was getting stronger, and I swore someone – or something – was breathing, almost panting, in my ear.

 

“Who?” the pants seemed to be saying.

 

“Baphomet,” Donnie said, as though replying to them. “And if you really want to understand anything, you’ll let him out to play. All you have to do is say yes.”

 

Sarah was already saying “Yes,” saying it over and over in a breathy voice that almost didn’t sound like her at all. The voices in my ear seemed to be chanting it as well. My tongue seemed heavy and thick in my mouth, and my lips wanted to part, let loose the air that felt locked in my lungs, let it loose in a single exultant affirmative cry.

 

Being asthmatic saved me from that. Saved me from whatever would have happened if I agreed to… Whatever it was. My lungs locked completely, and I started to wheeze and choke. My eyes popped open, and I saw my “friends” looking at me the way a little kid with a magnifying glass looks at a fresh ant colony. Sarah seemed to have at least a little worry in her expression, but Donnie was showing nothing but malevolent glee.

 

I started patting down my pockets, fumbling for my aspirator, and finally got it socketed in my mouth. Pulling the trigger, I tasted the godawful slimy copper taste, and felt my heart rate jump up another two notches, but at least my lungs let go so I could breathe. Watching me whoop and gasp, Donnie shrugged and stood up, declaring the ritual over.

 

 

If I’d been paying attention and applying anything I learned from a thousand bad horror movies, I’d have pointed out that he didn’t close the circle, didn’t tell the things he’d called to leave, that we were done. But I was a little more worried about breathing, at least until we got home.

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