Trevor paused in the massive doorway of the old library. He zipped up his coat, clasped his bookbag tightly by the strap, and looked behind at his mother as she pulled out of the parking lot. She waved at him. Burvis, their brown and white Springer Spaniel, barked and displayed one of those golden expressions that dogs got when they didn't know what the hell was going on. Burvis displayed that face often... he wasn't quite a genius among dogs. Trevor waved at the dog and turned back to the imposing doors of library.
"I hope it isn't cold," the twelve year old boy mused. He stepped across the threshold. The act itself took more courage than simply walking into any other building. The heavy wooden doors swung open smoothly, but Trevor's arms felt like sandbags as he pushed the handles. Then the boy had to gather his courage and force his legs to do something they should have done naturally... walk forward.
The cold, musty air of the old library engulfed him. The heavy scent of dust, decomposing paper, and aging plastic slip-covers made his nose itch. Trevor groaned as the wooden doors closed behind him.
And there he was... in The Library.
The place looked even more imposing on the inside than it did from the street... which was saying quite a bit. The two-story building dated from the early 1800's, although at first glance the architecture seemed more fitting for Victorian England... or for the cover of some gothic horror novel. In truth, the building's design didn't belong any established style or period... it seemed to take the most unusual and obscure elements from them all and combine them into one hulking monstrosity. It stood in glaring defiance to the 'rules' of architecture, refusing to be classified or defined except as 'that bizarre thing.' Bizarre... and somewhat unsettling. Snarling stone gargoyles perched hungrily atop their ledges on the rooftop. Their striking realism was the source of many childhood nightmares... and drunken discussions by superstitious adults. The high, arched windows seemed like demonic eyes peering out at the street, watching all who dared walk past. Depending on the time of day, not very many people dared. The doorway was like a large mouth... closed for the moment, but ready to yawn open at any moment and suck down whatever souls happened to be nearby. While the Library was not the only building in town that was constructed in this dark style, it was one of the very few that remained standing... and the only one that sat in the middle of downtown October Falls. The place was steadfastly avoided by most people... as evidenced by the constant dearth of cars in the parking lot. Children and their parents usually preferred to make the 30 mile trip to the next town to make use of the college's research library. It had more books... and was much less terrifying.
But Trevor had a report due tomorrow, and his mother didn't have time to drive to Lewisville. So here he was.
This was his third visit to the Library... meaning he'd been here exactly three more times than most of his classmates. Trevor didn't have any friends at school, but if he did, being seen going in and out of the Library with uncaring abandon would've certainly impressed them... probably more so than the magic act he did last year at the school talent show. Or maybe it would make them think he was creepy. The children... and some adults... said the place was haunted. While Trevor didn't believe in ghosts, at least not in the daytime, he certainly thought that if there ever WAS a haunted place, the Library would be it. The library and the old deserted railroad tunnel at the south end of town. But so far, the only ghost he'd seen in the library was Ms. Kitsen, the library's only employee. The aging librarian wasn't dead, of course... but she LOOKED dead and that was close enough for Trevor. Her deep, permanent scowl, wispy white hair, and wrinkled, pock-marked skin was the constant butt of jokes... and ghost stories... told by those who'd ever seen her. To Trevor, she looked like the half-decomposed body he'd seen on the old horror movie that his dad had let him watch last week. Sure, she moved around and spoke... but she looked like a woman well on her way to putrescence.
And her personality fit her looks like a glove. She was always bitter and harsh. She snapped at anyone who asked her a question... and rumor had it that she despised children. She had none of her own, and had never been married. Of course, rumors also said that she LOVED children... especially with ketsup and tartar sauce. Some of the kids called her Mrs. Kitchen, after that particular tale. Adults usually called her 'that wrinkled old bitch.'
Ms. Kitsen was standing behind the front desk, which sat against the far wall to the left of the door. She could see anyone who came in, yet was far enough away so that her sudden appearance didn't generate any heart attacks. She glanced at Trevor, her beady eyes squinted at him and his bookbag. Trevor felt his skin crawl. Even at a distance, Ms. Kitsen had the uncanny ability to spot contraband... food, drinks, candy, chewing gum, and whatever else that violated her arbitrary rules. Trevor wasn't carrying anything of the sort, so he didn't have to worry about another tongue-lashing from the old hag. On his very first trip to the library, the pack of chewing gum in his pocket almost resulted in him getting tossed out on his rear. After that, he made sure he was 'clean,' before his mom dropped him off.
"uhhh.... h-hi Ms. Kitsen," said Trevor. He didn't want to speak to the woman, but his mother insisted that he be polite to everyone. Even wrinkled old bitches.
Ms. Kitsen nodded and went back to what she was doing... taking magazines from a pile on the counter and placing them on a small wheeled cart. Trevor watched her frail form move back an forth. She looked like one of the sword-wielding animated skeletons from the old Sinbad movie... thin and scary, but not quite as slow and weak as she appeared. She grabbed a stack of magazines that would have given Trevor's mother pause, and placed them gingerly... and silently... onto the cart without so much as a grunt.
Trevor turned away and eyed the shelves that stretched before him. The Library's main room housed a large collection of books arranged on twelve enormous shelves. The shelves were like walls; they stretched from the floor almost to the ceiling, and every inch of space was packed with books. These books were the ones that Ms. Kitchen deemed 'safe' for normal use... encyclopedias, books on science and history, and old classics that nobody ever read anymore. And bibles, of course. They were without a doubt the dullest of the dull. They also happened to be the books that most people... especially schoolchildren... used most often. So, while the Library had no section specifically for children, parents could rest assured that anything even remotely controversial was kept far away from immature eyes... in one of about a dozen special rooms that Ms. Kitsen kept locked at all times. Only the plain old boring books were freely available without specifically asking for permission. Trevor couldn't even find any books on magic for his performance at the talent show last year. He had to go all the way to the college just to find out how to do simple card tricks. What could be so controversial about magic? Trevor wondered what kind of things 'Mrs. Kitchen' kept locked away, but from the way the librarian glared at him whenever he wandered away from the main shelves, he was probably never going to find out.
"Curiosity kills more than cats," he'd heard Ms. Kitsen say one day when she'd caught someone trying to sneak upstairs. She dragged the poor boy back down stairs by his ear and promptly escorted him out of the building. She called his parents, too... which made her a "grade-A bitch" in Trevor's book.
Trevor walked over to the card catalog... the an archaic collection of drawers filled with tiny rectangular cards.. and started to do his research. The fact that the library didn't have a computer index annoyed Trevor. He liked computers, but Ms. Kitsen considered them to be 'naughty' and refused to accept even the free PC's the state offered her. Trevor shook his head as he flipped through the cards in the "I" section, looking for books on insects... the subject of his report. Trevor had no interest in insects. He would have rather done his report on something cool, like magic or aliens or serial killers, but since his teacher had assigned the topics he had no real choice. Trevor sat his bookbag on the edge of the table... where it promptly slid off and hit the hardwood floor. The sudden noise made Trevor jump.
"Shhhh!" Ms. Kitsen hissed from behind the counter. "Quiet boy! This is a library, not a circus!"
"I'm sorry... I didn't mean-"
Trevor leaned his bookbag against the leg of the table and continued looking through the cards. He found a few books that looked promising, then grabbed his bag and started walking through the shelves. The books were arranged by subject, and indexed with some strange number system that Trevor had learned in school. He found the insect section without any problem. He leaned against the shelf and started looking at the books. No sooner than he opened the first book, Ms. Kitsen walked past the row of shelves. She was pushing her cart of newspapers and magazines toward the periodicals section. She stopped when she saw Trevor.
"You taking any books home, boy?" she hissed.
"Uhhh..." Trevor had hoped he could do his research her in the library and avoid having to come here again to return books. "Uhh...no."
"Well, if you do, you be sure to check 'em out! Don't just try and walk out with 'em!"
"And if you can't put a book back exactly where you got it from, you leave it on the front desk and I'll do it. Don't go putting things in the wrong place... that means the next person can't find it!"
Ms. Kitsen started to wheel the cart of magazines away, but she stopped just before she was out of site.
"...And don't you be wandering around in here!" she cackled. "Curiosity kills more than cats, you know!"
"Yes, ma'am," Trevor said with a sigh. It was the same speech that Ms. Kitsen gave to every visitor, even if they'd heard it a dozen times before. Check out the books. Put them back exactly where you got them. And don't wander around.
Trevor didn't like rules, and he didn't like Ms. Kitsen. And she didn't appear to like him much either. Ms. Kitsen frowned at Trevor, then continued on her way.
"Old bat," Trevor mumbled. Then he added: "Wrinkled old bitch."
Trevor froze. Had Ms. Kitsen heard him? The voice certainly didn't sound like Ms. Kitsen's shrill hiss...
"Hey, come here..." said the voice again. It sounded like a little boy, a few years younger than Trevor. The voice was coming from one of the other rows of shelves. But as far as Trevor could tell, he and Ms. Kitsen had been alone in the library. He certainly hadn't seen anyone else when he was walking past the shelves.
"Shhh! Come on... hurry! Come over here!"
Trevor walked to the end of the row and looked up and down the aisle. He didn't see anyone, nor did he see anyone on the next row, where the voice seemed to be coming from. Trevor walked down that row.
Trevor spun around and looked behind him... there was no one there. But the voice he heard...
"No, silly on the shelf!"
Trevor looked up and down the row... still no one there. He began to get angry... some elementary school kid was in here playing tricks! Trevor thought about telling Ms. Kitsen... but it might be more fun to catch the little joker and beat the shit out of him...
"You wanna have some fun? Look on the shelf!"
Trevor looked on the shelf, but at the same time he was trying to figure out where the voice was coming from. There was nothing unusual about the rows of books that surrounded him. They were just books... most had the annoying plastic slip-covers on them, and they all had the tiny white tags on the spine where the card catalog number was written.
All except one, anyway.
One book was protruding about two inches from the others on the shelf. It had no plastic covering... the thick, gnarled leather cover was exposed to the soiled hands of anyone who walked by. It had no white tag on its spine... there was nothing there at all, not even a title.
"Hmmm..." Trevor pulled the book out and flipped through it. It was much lighter than it seemed... probably because over half of the pages were missing. There was no title on the front or back cover, and the title page was torn out along with the first half of the book. The remaining pages were mostly collections of strange old drawings. Trevor looked at them...
There were dragons and bats and owls and wolves... and the people with human bodies but with heads of animals. There were big slimy things with tentacles where their heads should have been... and unicorns and centaurs, too. The unicorns had sharp teeth, however.. long and pointy like the dinosaurs on Jurassic Park. Whoever had drawn the pictures was very good... a bit too good, especially when it came to the slimy creatures. The monsters looked just as realistic as the regular animals, as if they'd been drawn from sight and not from sheer imagination. Trevor saw a picture of a snake with a man's head. The picture sent chills down his spine.
Trevor kept looking. The more pages he turned, the more elaborate and complex the pictures became. He saw a series of drawings depicting a feast.. In the first picture, a group of smiling men sat at a table while another man carved pieces of meat from what looked like a human body. The next few pictures showed the people eating. Trevor noticed that in each successive picture, the people at the table looked less human... they grew pointed ears and fangs, and some had strange growths protruding from various parts of their bodies. By the very last picture, they were all hideously disfigured... but were still smiling as gleefully as they had been in the first drawing. They all had teeth like the unicorn Trevor had seen a few pages before.
There were more collections of pictures like those one... each showing some scene where people turned into monsters, monsters turned into people, or people and monsters danced and played together as if they were at a party. Usually there was some kind of dead animal or person... or pieces of a dead person... in the background. Some of the pictures actually showed men killing the animals before the monsters arrived. In one picture a man with a hood on his head was using a long knife to slice open a woman's stomach. A few pictures later, a large bat-like flew out of the hole that the man had made. Trevor wasn't looking at the creature, however... The woman had large, realistic breasts held Trevor's attention, but he somehow managed to tear his eyes away and look at the rest of the book.
The last few pages had something else in addition to the pictures... writing. The text was in some fancy script that was hard to read, even though the words were in English. It wasn't the regular kind of English,though... it was the strange, convoluted kind like the Shakespeare book that his mother had shown him once. The script accompanied a series of pictures. The pictures on the first two pages of the section were close-up views plants and animals... the words beside each item described the item and how to prepare it for... something. The next page was of a large triangular shape with strange symbols all around it. The writing on the page told how to draw the shape and what the symbols meant. Even after reading the words several times, Trevor still couldn't understand what they were trying to say.
After that, there was a page with nothing but words. It was a set of instructions. THESE, Trevor could understand, although he wasn't quite sure what the end result was supposed to be.
The final page of the book took care of that.
It had one large drawing. There was a small deer laying on the ground. A man, again wearing a hood, had slit the deer's belly open and stuck his arms inside the thing. He was pulling something out... a bird. It was a large bird... huge! Far larger than should have been able to fit inside the deer. Its talons were like sharp butcher knives, and its beak was long and pointed, like a spike. The man smiled and held the bird in his hands while it ripped and tore at the deer's entrails. In the background, a group of people.. some of whom didn't look quite like people... were applauding and pointing.
It must have been some kind of magic trick!
"Wow..." Trevor said.
"She's coming! Put the book back! Hurry!"
Trevor jumped... he'd almost forgotten about the whispering voice that had lead him to the book.
"Who are you?"
Trevor slid the book back into place, then grabbed a book at random and started looking through it. Ms. Kitsen pushed her cart past the row again. The cart was empty now, and Trevor wondered how she'd put all those magazines away so fast. She stopped to look at what Trevor was doing.
She didn't say anything for a few seconds. She just frowned and stared. Trevor noticed that her steely gaze had shifted from him to the book in his hands, and then to a spot in the air just to his right. Trevor looked, but didn't see anything there.
"You make sure that book gets back where it belongs," said Ms. Kitsen. Trevor assumed she was speaking to him, but she was still looking at whatever she had seen beside him. "We can't have books in the wrong place. Not in MY library!"
"Yes ma'am," said Trevor.
Ms. Kitsen walked away. She was mumbling something that Trevor didn't hear... but her voice sounded the same way his mother's did whenever she fussed at him.
Trevor put his randomly selected book back and grabbed the other one... the one with the pictures. He stuffed it into his bookbag and quickly left the library.
"Hiya Mr. LeGrand!" Trevor announced as he entered the old shop. Mr. LeGrand was an old black man, but not nearly as old as Ms. Kitsen. He ran a small magic shop on south side of the city... the part of town where Trevor wasn't supposed to go. But Trevor never paid any attention to such arbitrary rules. Just as he walked out of the library with the magic book yesterday, he walked away from the bus stop this morning just minutes after his mom had dropped him off. He had more important things to do than school.
"Morning Trevor," said Mr. LeGrand. "No school today?"
"No, it's one of those special teacher-days."
"Yeah?" said LeGrand. "Well what can I do for ya?"
"I need some stuff."
"Doin' another magic show?"
"Good, good. Always like boys who have a healthy interest in magic. So whatcha need... some trick cards? More flash powder?"
"Uhhh... no. Here-" Trevor retrieved a folded sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to the storekeeper. "You got any of that stuff?"
LeGrand put on his bifocals and squinted at the list. His left eyebrow crept up towards his forehead... and the more he read, the further it crept.
"Ohhhhh...." he said after a while. "You want THAT kinda stuff, eh? What you know about this stuff, son?"
"This is for a school project."
"Really now? Mandrake root? Powdered monkey bone? Sulphur candles? Belladonna? What kinda project is that?"
"Chemistry," said Trevor. He wasn't quite sure what 'chemistry' was, but he knew it was something that the older kids learned in school... and it was something that used lots of funky ingredients.
"Well... said LeGrand. If you got the money, I got yer monkey bone."
"And the other stuff?"
"Yeah, I got all that, too. Except for the Mandrake."
Trevor's face registered his disappointment.
"Oh," he said.
"I know where you can get some, though. For free."
"There's a big patch of it grows out by the old railroad tunnel. You know where that is, don't ya?"
"Yeah..." Trevor shivered. The tunnel was another place that not many people wanted to visit. It was supposed to be cursed.
"Now, you'd wanna pick that stuff during the full moon," said LeGrand, "otherwise it's useless."
"Yeah. And you're in luck, 'cause the full moon is tomorrow night. You just go out there and dig yourself up some."
"Lemme get this other stuff for ya."
LeGrand walked through the curtain of hanging beads that separated the magic store from the back room, where he kept his REAL magic supplies. Dozens of bottles, jars and pouches sat in a rows of tiny shelves on the wall. LeGrand grabbed some empty bottles and began filling them from this strange collection. He went down Trevor's list and prepared everything on it... except for the Mandrake. And the Belladonna.
"Heh, Belladonna..." LeGrand grunted. "That boy's a fool if he think's I'm givin him Belladonna... that stuff's dangerous."
A small desk sat in the corner of the room. LeGrand opened up the desk drawer and grabbed the large bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol that was inside. He dumped a few of the tablets onto the table and crushed them into a powder with handle of his letter-opener. Then he poured the powder into a tiny bottle, grabbed the other ingredients, and walked back out to the counter.
"Fifty bucks even," he said.
"Fifty bucks! GEEZ!"
"Hey, son... I'm doin' you a favor here. You got the Extra Strength Belladonna here... the good stuff. This little bottle by itself is worth $47.95. I'm givin you a discount 'cause I likes ya. Now, you sure you don't need no playing cards or-"
"All I got is fifty," said Trevor. He handed LeGrand the fifty dollar bill he'd stolen out of his mother's pocketbook the night before. LeGrand took the money and stuffed it into the old cash register without even bothering to ring up the purchase. Then he dumped the boy's supplies into a paper bag and handed it to Trevor.
"Here ya go. You be careful with that stuff... don't you go hurtin' nobody or blowin' up nothin!"
Trevor left the store and walked down to the streetlight where he'd chained his bike. He stopped and slipped the bookbag from his shoulder. He stuffed his purchase inside, and then removed the book he'd taken from the library. He turned to the back, to the section with the magic trick. He double-checked to make sure he had everything... he did. All he needed was a fresh mandrake root. And a few drops of blood... and a sacrifice.
"Hmmm..." he mused. He had no idea what he was going to use for the sacrifice. It couldn't be anything small like a bird or a squirrel... it had to be bigger, like a cat or... "AHA!"
Trevor unchained his bike and peddled like a madman all the way home. His parents were at work, and he had the house all to himself. He brought his bike into the house so that no nosey neighbors would see it and tell his parents. Burvis barked at the bike as Trevor rolled it down the hallway... he knew it didn't belong inside. Trevor kicked the dog on its rear... Burvis yelped and ran away.
"I'm sorry, Burvis!" Trevor said with mock concern. "Hey... lemme make it up to you. You wanna help me with my magic trick?"
Burvis's head tilted to one side and the typical look of canine bewilderment settled onto his face.
"Cool!" said Trevor.
Mandrake was a strange root. It was hard and woody... with a bizarre shape that looked to Trevor like a miniature human body, with two arms and two legs branching off of a thick torso.
It was eleven pm, long after Trevor's bedtime. His parents were asleep, and he'd snuck out of the house in plenty of time to dig up the root and perform the magic before midnight. He had Burvis with him, of course. The dog slowed him down considerably... he had to stop and piss on every tree, bush, and fire hydrant they passed on the long trek across town.
Mr. LeGrand had been right... there was a large patch of mandrake growing just outside the old railroad tunnel. Trevor didn't recognize it at first; he had to refer to the drawings in the book in order to figure out which of the hundreds of kinds of weeds was mandrake. Lots of strange plants grew by the railroad tracks, and Trevor had heard stories of how sometimes the bigger plants yanked themselves up out of the ground and walked around at night. Of course, those were just stories. Nobody really believed them.
Well, maybe Trevor believed them a little.
Then there was the tunnel, where the train wreck had happened years and years and years ago. It was a head-on collision... lots of people died, and some of the kids said that there were still bodies in the tunnel after all these years. And sometimes the bodies weren't as dead as people thought.
Trevor didn't even believe that a little bit. If he did, he wouldn't have chosen the tunnel to practice his magic trick. It was well away from other people, and nobody would ever come down there to disturb him. Not on a full moon. Plus, the mandrake plant grew right outside the tunnel... all Trevor had to do was pluck one of the strange roots and continue on inside.
He carried his father's oil lantern... the one he wasn't supposed to play with. The flickering flame cast strange shadows on the ancient stone walls. Some of the shadows reminded Trevor of the things he'd seen in the book he'd taken from the library. And not the nice pictures either...
Fortunately, the shadows settled down once Trevor sat the lamp on a rock and left it alone. He tied Burvis's leash to a rusty section of railroad track that was sticking up in the air. The dog sat down and watched Trevor with rapt canine attention.
Trevor read the book by lamp-light, making sure he had all the instructions memorized. Then he started the magic trick.
The ingredients he'd purchased were for mixing the ink. He poured them together in one big bowl, and added water from his father's old army canteen to create a thick foul-smelling mixture. He crushed the mandrake with a rock and squeezed as much juice as he could into the bowl. Then he took the knife out of his back pocket.
It was just a butter-knife... Trevor's mom had locked all the sharp knives away after the time Trevor stole one and took it to school. But she must've forgotten that Trevor knew how to use his father's knife sharpener. Yesterday, when his parents weren't home, Trevor had taken an ordinarily butter knife and put a razor-sharp edge on it. He made a sheath out of tinfoil so the blade wouldn't cut him when he carried it in his pocket. Trevor removed foil covering and placed the sharp edge against his left thumb.
He closed his eyes and winced as he cut himself. A small dollop of blood oozed from the wound and dropped into the inky mixture. Trevor put a Band-Aid on his thumb and started stirring.
One hundred strokes with a wooden spoon. That was what the book said, and that was what Trevor did. He stirred the ink one hundred times with his mother's wooden cooking spoon. Then it was ready.
The symbol had to be drawn by hand, so Trevor dipped his right index finger into the foul mixture and began to draw on the ground. He crawled on his hands and knees, tracing out the large triangle first, and then going back to add the symbols all around it. Then he lit three candles and sat them at the points of the triangle. The candles produced thick clouds of black stench that reminded Trevor of rotten eggs. The smell actually became pleasant after a while. Burvis coughed and sneezed loudly.
"Okay, Burvis," said Trevor. "Your turn."
Trevor picked the dog up and placed him inside the large triangle. Burvis immediately decided that he didn't WANT to be in the triangle... so he started to walk away.
"No! Bad dog... stay!" said Trevor. He put the dog back in place... and Burvis got up and walked away again. This time his paws smeared the wet ink of the magic triangle.
Trevor tied the dog to the rail again and repaired the damage to the triangle. Then he tried a third time...
He sat Burvis down in the center of the triangle.
Burvis stayed for perhaps five seconds... then he got up and started to walk away
"DAMMIT, DOG!" Trevor picked up a large rock and hit the dog in the head. Burvis yelped and collapsed. Blood poured from a gash in the top of the dog's head... but the dog was still alive. "Finally..."
Now came the words. Trevor hadn't memorized that part, so he had to read them from the book. He stood up, held the sharpened butter knife in his hand, and spoke the words into the knife as if it were a microphone...
"Zelajud schysqyqu gotug Liyafuq. Woziruiest bryqitsyp Keonal . Woisue plelo! Woisue Plelo!"
Trevor wasn't sure, but he thought the knife had begun to vibrate in his grasp. Or maybe it was the sudden chill that had descended on the area making him shiver. Whichever it was, Trevor liked it!
He lowered the knife and spoke the next passage at Burvis's twitching body:
"Keonal fifeh yquar! Ohov gruyiq, Luvivox sibbyh meltheep! Woziruiest bryqitsyp Keonal!"
Burvis whined... but didn't move.
Trevor spoke the final passage. As he did, he walked around the triangle and pointed the knife at each of the symbols as passed them:
"Squahtarv trebeh kuomaeo struehtuie! Tveazhua siquyzar reetsyrr quiantreauv! Woisue plelo! Woisue Plelo! Woisue plelo!"
The symbols began to hiss and sizzle... burning into the ground as if they'd been drawn with acid.
The triangle pulsed white...then red... then it returned to normal. A low vibration filled the air... like humming that rattled Trevor's bones.
He stepped into the magic triangle, being extra careful not to smear the lines.
Burvis continued to whine and tremble while Trevor rolled the dog over onto its back. Then, without hesitation, he placed his knife to the dog's throat and slit the animal open from gullet to groin.
The smell was horrible... even worse than the candles. Blood splattered everywhere. Burvis convulsed... urine and feces sprayed out of the dog as it died. Trevor wiped his face on his sleeve... then he rolled his sleeve up and stuck his hand into the dog's exposed gut. The intestines made a sickening wet noise as he shoved them aside... it was like reaching into a warm pot of spaghetti and meat sauce. Trevor was both disgused and amused...
...and disappointed. He searched and searched, but he found nothing inside the dog but warm entrails. There was no giant bird. No nothing. The trick didn't work.
"Damnit Burvis! You screwed up my trick!"
Trevor yanked his arm out of the animal and shook the blood off. Trevor sighed and picked up the book. He re-read the instructions... he'd followed them exactly. He studied the magic words. He'd spoken them precisely as they were written. Maybe his pronunciation was off... or maybe Burvis just wasn't big enough to produce a giant bird from his guts.
Suddenly, Burvis twitched. The dog's arms and legs spasmed... and then went still. The dog's mouth hung open, and a thick, bloody drool oozed out onto the rocks.
Burvis spasmed again.
Not knowing what exactly was normal behavior for a gutted animal, Trevor simply watched with morbid fascination as the dog jerked, convulsed, trembled, shook, and finally... ...exploded.
The dog's chest and midsection burst open like something out of a science fiction movie Trevor had seen.
And, just like in the movie, something living erupted out of the bloody mess.
The huge demonic bird... with claws like daggers and a beak like a giant fang, flew out of Burvis's body. Blood and bits of flesh splattered everywhere as the thing flapped its oily black wings for the first time.
"YES! I DID IT!" said Trevor. "WHOOHOOO!"
The bird sat atop Burvis' ruined corpse and eyed Trevor with tiny, red eyes.
Trevor cleared his throat and spoke to the bird.
"You are my familiar," he said. "And I name you... uhh.... Kitchen! I name you after that wrinkled old bitch, Mrs. Kitchen!"
"SQUAAWWWWK!!!" the bird replied.
"You will do as I command! Right?"
Suddenly, the bird took to the air and flew towards Trevor. It passed right through the magic triangle that was meant to contain it... and sank its dagger-like claws deep into Trevor's face.
"AIIEIEEEEE!!! AAAAA HELLLLP!" Trevor screamed. The impact of the bird knocked him back. He hit his head on a rock even as the bird's talons dug deep furrows down his face and throat. "ARRRRR! NO! STOP! STOP! I COMMAND YOU TO STO-" The rest of the 'command' became muffled screaming as the giant bird sliced into the flesh of Trevor's cheeks. Trevor pissed his clothes as bits of torn flesh... both lips and a portion of his tongue... slid down the bird's throat. Trevor's eyes widened with pain and terror... the bird saw the boys blue orbs...
They looked delicious.
The beak descended-
The shout came from the tunnel's entrance. Trevor looked... and saw Ms. Kitsen strolling towards him. She held a light in her left hand... not a lantern or a flashlight... but a large round ball of light. With her right hand, she pointed at the giant bird that was perched atop Trevor's chest.
"Zinsib Oquaet Rottasi!" she shouted. A crackling bolt of electricity leapt from her slender, wrinkled finger.... it knocked the bird off of Trevor and burned the foul thing to ashes before it could open its beak to cry out. The smell of smoke and burnt feathers added to the stench from the candles and the dog's corpse.
Ashes and bits of gore rained down on Trevor.
He blinked his eyes and tried to breath... but it was so hard. His heart felt as if it were going to leap out of his mouth!
Ms. Kitsen walked over to the magic triangle and looked down at Burvis' body. Then she knelt down and ran her finger through the ink. She smelled it and frowned.
"If you'd used Belladonna he would've been weak enough for you to control," she said. "Not that he wouldn't have killed you eventually anyway. They always do."
Trevor shook his head... his whole body was shaking.
Ms. Kitsen grabbed the book from where Trevor had dropped it. She flipped through the pages...
"Oh, THIS thing... I was wondering where it went. Damned kids... always putting things where they don't belong..." She tucked the book under her arm and looked at Trevor. "Oh, stop shaking and get up!" she spat.
Trevor finally got control of himself. He sat up... then he stood. Ms. Kitsen walked towards him...
"You... you saved me," Trevor said.
"Did I, now?" She pointed to the ground were Trevor's body still lay. The bird had ripped off his entire face and torn out most of his throat. One of his eyes was staring up at him... the other was nowhere to be seen.
"You're dead, boy... suck it up and come on."
"I always said that curiosity kills more than cats... like you, for instance. Oh, well... it isn't like you were ever going to amount to anything anyway. So come on-"
Trevor found himself following Ms. Kitsen as she left the tunnel. He didn't WANT to follow... but he couldn't stop himself. His legs... or whatever it was that ghosts had... refused to follow his commands. They were following Ms. Kitsen's instead.
"...come on, boy!" She hissed. "Don't dawdle.. we've got work to do!"
"Yes... shelving the books and cleaning the shelves and washing the floors! You don't honestly think I run that library all by MYSELF to you? Come on.. .you've got to meet the other nosey little brats and then I'll show you where you'll be spending eternity... I think I'll put you in the reference section with Paul...."
copyright 2000 by Marc Washington (Dark Icon)