It was only after the necessary animal parts had been procured from a sullen butcher, the windows taped over with aluminum foil and black plastic, and the room cleared of furniture that Anna finally asked, “Are you sure this is safe?”
Bethany laughed. “You’re so blonde. Do you really believe he’s going to summon a demon?”
They were in her bedroom changing into the white tunics Baron wanted them to wear.
“You believe in that stuff? You have to take your socks off, too. Nothing but the tunic.”
“Fine. If you don’t believe it why are you wearing what he tells you?”
“Well,” said Bethany, sweeping her black hair free of the tunic’s collar, “I don’t want him making any excuses when it doesn’t work and I laugh in his face. And what else am I going to do today? If I watch any more Netflix I am going to bleed from the eyes.”
Baron was waiting for them at the entrance to the den, dressed in a black robe with a deep hood that obscured his face, and holding a fat white altar candle that was already lit and its flame dancing.
“Exthellent, ladieth. Let the thatanic ritual c-c-commenthe.”
Bethany looked at Anna and giggled.
They rolled their eyes at each other and followed Baron into the blacked-out den to kneel in front of the fireplace, wherein purple organs glistened in the candlelight upon a pile of wood and tinder.
Dipping the candle amongst the tinder, Baron started the fire then placed the candle on the bricks in front of it.
Anne wondered if he would let her go and grab a cushion for her knees, but he had already started chanting. Maybe there would be an intermission where they could stand up, stretch their legs. Then she’d get a pillow.
The fire caught quickly and was soon blazing, the wood all alight, the tops of the flames racing away up the chimney. Bethany’s face almost hurt from the radiated heat and she could feel it on the skin of her stomach and chest through the thin tunic. In the middle of the fire the organs still glistened. They were pretty moist, being meat and all. They’d probably start cooking soon.
Baron’s hand shot out towards the fire and the blade of the knife it held reflected the golden light of the flames. Both girls jumped and for a moment they were afraid. The knife slashed down across the palm of Baron’s other hand, which was a relief for the girls, but still unsettling and gross.
“Ewww,” said Anna.
“Thhhh!” hissed Baron.
He made a fist with the cut hand and squeezed so the blood dripped from it upon the candle, flowing and collecting in the well around the wick, floating upon the pool of molten wax there, sizzling in the heat of the flame and releasing a sharp metallic scent into the air.
Bethany’s face was suddenly cold. The heat of the fire vanished. The flames that raced up the chimney curled downward, inward, around the organs, spinning like a glowing whirlpool. Baron’s chanting changed to a single word, a name, repeated endlessly.
Within the heart of the cold fire a darkness blossomed. As Baron continued chanting the darkness took shape. Limbs separated. A shadow head lifted. It stepped out of the fire and stood behind the candle.
Anna peed a little. Bethany realised she was whimpering but couldn’t stop.
The shadow evaporated, revealing a small man-like thing, barely taller than the candle. Its skin was red and cracked. Its face held tiny black eyes over a slit of a nose and a wide mouth without teeth.
Baron pressed his head to the floor.
“Oh, mighty d-demon. I g-give to thee thethe two women…”
“Hey!” said Bethany. Anna wasn’t believing her eyes or ears but was struggling to come up with a coherent explanation for what was happening. She wanted to put all her money on it being a dream, but she wasn’t quite sure.
“…in exth-change for the earthly p-powerth only you c-can bethtow.”
The creature held up a hand.
“Stop right there,” it said in a rasping voice, like a large snake talking through laryngitis. “First, I’m not into chicks. And did you even ask them if they wanted to be sacrificed? There’s gotta be consent. It’s how we keep the numbers down.”
Baron sat up and pulled back the hood.
“Oh. I d-didn’t know that. Tho, what do I need to give you to get earthly powerth?”
The demon shook his head and sighed.
“I don’t do earthly powers. For earthly powers you want the big guy, Beelzebub. I’m B-b-beel-thuh-b-bub. I do hiccups, incontinence, tripping, palsy, Parkinsons—that kind of stuff.”
Baron groaned. Bethany leaned back and caught Anna’s attention. They shrugged, rolled eyes and grimaced at each other.
“I d-don’t want any of that,” said Baron.
“Fair enough,” said the demon. “So, I guess you’re done with me? I can go now?”
“Yeah, you c-can g-go,” said Baron, defeated.
“Ok. Come along,” said the demon, beckoning to Baron with his little red hand.
“What? I have to go with you?”
“That’s how it works. You wasted my time, you have to come back with me.”
“We call it home. It’s more of a miserable plane than a bunch of lava filled caverns.”
“I d-don’t want to g-go!”
“Then, bright boy, you have to choose one of the gifts I can bestow. Come on. Clock’s ticking.”
Baron looked at Anna. She shrugged. He turned to Bethany.
“Incontinence,” she said. “Go with that.”
“Hic-c-cups it is,” said the demon. “Done.” He waved, and as he waved he evaporated into black smoke that rose upward and disappeared.
The heat of the fire returned, now warming and restoring. Bethany unclenched her fists and stretched her fingers. She hadn’t even noticed she was digging her nails into her palms. They almost drew blood.
Anna shifted. Her legs had gone to sleep and the pins and needles were agony. Once sensation returned and she got out of the tunic she was going to have to reconsider all of her major beliefs.
Baron put his head back and looked up at the ceiling.
“Fu-fu-hick-uck,” he said.
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