My parents told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Then, when I tried to conjure a demon, they were mad about it.
They were also wrong. I couldn’t do it.
I’m not an idiot. I realize what can go sour when summoning some hell beast. It wasn’t that I wanted to use him or have his great powers. I wasn’t planning on freeing him, I wasn’t planning vengeance against the girl next door who turned me down. I was looking for the leftovers from summoning: the residue, the aftereffect.
I want to be a sorcerer. There’s a problem, because there’s no magic in this world. I don’t think that will make it any harder than wanting to be a great artist or president or whatever, I mean, getting those things to happen takes the same amount of ambition and straight luck than what I’m doing. I’m just not allowed to tell anyone about it.
Anyway, some might say that a summoning process is magic, but I say it is in the same manner that so is curing cancer is or a phone call. It’s science. I’m just getting the demon to come. He’s the one doing all of the magic. And see, there’s the trick: he comes, splits a portal into my room, and then I have a new untapped pool of mana sitting in there.
And I was careful about it. I had the silver cross and the holy water and a fire extinguisher and I did the instructions exactly, which I never do—that probably explains why my pancakes turn out the way they do—and I waited until my parents had left and had the cops on speed dial, but still it didn’t work.
Months of preparation, hours of chanting and 45 dollars of obscure purchases all down the drain.
As I sat there, legs crossed, arms cramping, nothing happening, I wondered if I was doing it wrong. But the book said that it would look like that at first, so I kept going, obediently.
Then once the ground started shaking I knew that it had started.
The room quaked like a tremor had struck. I felt myself shake. My pictures, my books, my computer stayed where they were, but I was thrown about like a rag doll. I kept chanting and chanting. I tossed the last ingredients in the jar sitting atop the hotplate, the rest having simmered for a time. It boiled and popped.
I opened my eyes to watch the sky go red.
The strangest thing happened. The fluffy clouds gliding across the sky morphed. Their edges turned hard, their tones changed to black. My hand snapped out to clutch the leg of a desk. I jiggled. The rumbling in the floor grew harder. I felt my spine threaten to shatter. The earth shook me up and down.
Then the house began to crack.
A loud, moaning snap. My carpet started to tear. A hole ripped open in the floor.
The rocking grew worse as tendrils of smoke smolder up. The air grew hot and heavy. I started to chock. And then, the deafening screech as the head of a skinless skull began to rise.
Black beetles crawled from its eyes, tendons still stuck to his jaw. A long black robe flowed from the aging corpse, the smell of decay wrapped around it.
“I did it!” I screamed, jumping the floor. “I did it!”
“No,” the voice said.
Then I froze, unable to reach for the book to send the monster back where it came.
“Louis Taylor, I am the grim reaper. You must come with me.”
A long skeletal finger turned and pointed to the batch before him.
“Bleach and ammonia,” it said.
I paused. “Whoops.”
That hadn’t occurred to me.
The beast held a hand. He walked me down into the crater and down I went, walking into the abyss that I had tried to summon, dying of good old natural stupidity.
Charley Daveler is an American author and playwright. Her short stories have been published in several magazines including 365 Tomorrows, Smashed Cat, and The Fringe. Her plays have premiered from Wyoming to California in various venues and her short films have won several awards, including The Best of L.A. in the 48-hour film festival.