Enjoy another excerpt from my anthology of short stories, Aeon of Wonder. This is from ‘Newton’s Third Law of Conjuring’
It was an old house out in the middle of Nowhere, Alabama. Nick, Jonas, Kelly and Brook all gathered around the old Ouija board. The four of them were all college students, Jonas was the oldest at 24, Brook the youngest at 20. As far as they were concerned, the whole silly enterprise was just good fun. None of them believed in the nonsense of a board game that could conjure spirits. They all knew: someone among them was moving the board. In a way, they were right. Yet one of them did believe. But it wasn’t the believer moving the planchette anymore than the other three.
The old house had been abandoned years ago. It was the perfect spot for them, according to Nick. No one would hear them, no parents, no cops. Just an abandoned house with history. History that none of them knew. No one knew anymore. Like most history in the world of the college students, the past was either simply erased or rewritten. Each of them had grown up in an era where a horror movie was as common as a Facebook account. They took their cues from those movies they’d all seen a hundred times, and that was all they knew.
It was an old colonial design. Three stories, alcoves and old wood. It creaked and moaned in the wind and communicated age to them at every turn. They were too young to understand why such old houses attracted so many before, just like them, looking for a good time with a fake scare. Cobwebs littered the walls and corners and, in the Deep South of Alabama, that meant actual spiders. Brook hated spiders. She’d begged Jonas to knock all the webs down in the Great Room where they had all gathered. It had been Nick, however, who screamed out when Jonas pointed out the Black Widow spider on his arm.
“Dude,” Jonas said, in the middle of laughing, “just knock it off your arm and step on it! Better do it quick before it bites you, little girl.”
Nick flipped Jonas off and flicked his forearm and the spider fell to the ground. Nick stepped on it and they all heard a satisfying pop sound as the arachnid was crushed under his foot.
“Gross,” Kelly said.
“Totally,” Jonas mocked.
“Shutup, asshole,” Brook said.
After the cobwebs had been cleared and subsequent spiders massacred, the four college students broke out the goods.
“So who are we calling up,” Brook asked.
“No clue,” Jonas said. “Let’s get high and ponder that!” He pulled out his pipe, packed it, lit it and passed it around, cheers all around from each person. They all took turns hitting the pipe until Kelly fell down on her side laughing.
“Dude, enough for her,” Nick said.
After they’d downed a couple of beers apiece, the game began in earnest.
“Let’s call up Alexander Bell,” Nick said. Everyone’s speech was slurred slightly from imbibing. Nick let out a little chuckle, thinking of his sudden cleverness.
“Who?” Jonas asked.
“Ya, never heard of him,” Brook said. “Who’s he?”
“You idiots,” Nick said, “he made the phone. God, really?”
“I wanna talk to Rosa Parks,” Kelly said. “I want to know where she got those balls on that bus!”
“No way!” Brook said. “I wanna talk to my grandma. I miss her so bad, you guys.”
Jonas merely rolled his eyes, took out some papers and rolled himself a joint. “Look, guys,” he said, “we gotta like make this better than that! This shit isn’t real anyway,” he said.
Kelly watched his hands as he deftly rolled the papers. “So if we’re gonna do this, let’s like really up the ante.”
No one said a word for a moment. The wind outside picked up and the old house creaked. Brook started when lightning flashed outside. Jonas lit the joint and dragged deep. Through strained breaths he mumbled, “Like, you know, a demon. An old god. Something totally cool like that.”
They all looked at one another. None of them openly believed in any such thing, save one of them, but deep down, like most any sane human, they had suspicions that such a thing shouldn’t be toyed with. But their college educations and the THC and alcohol rendered their judgments fairly weak.
“Yeah,” Nick finally said.
“Ok!” Kelly said, eyes bright suddenly beneath the THC.
“I don’t know, guys,” Brook said. “Couldn’t that, like, be dangerous?”
“Isn’t that the damn point,” Jonas asked.
Each of them set down their beers and Kelly grabbed the planchette and set it back down onto the board. They all put a hand on the planchette and Nick and Jonas both stifled laughter.
“Shutup, assholes,” Brook said. Then she laughed, too.
“Ok, ok,” Kelly said, “here we go: is there anyone here with us at the moment?” The planchette immediately moved over to the word, “No.”
“Dude,” Nick said, “cut that shit out. Seriously.”
Jonas just laughed and rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said. “Let’s do this!”
So the four of them began to question the board, still uncertain as to whom they were going to call up. They were all testing one another without saying such. At that moment, the game was still merely a game. And then Kelly had a revelation.
“Let’s call up Cain.”
“Cain,” Nick said, “you mean that guy headed to Japan next year from economics?”
“No, you idiot! I mean the guy from the Bible. The dude who killed his brother.”
“You’ve read the Bible?” It was Jonas, incredulous. “I didn’t know sluts read the Good Book, Kelly.”
Brook, sitting closer to him than Kelly, slapped Jonas on the back of the head, a little too hard she realized. The look on his face for a moment frightened her, then he started to laugh.
“Why would you want to talk to him,” Nick asked.
“Dude killed his brother for like no reason,” Kelly said. “I wanna know why. What went through his head.”
“It’s fiction, Kelly.”
“It’s myth, Brook. There’s a difference.”
“Dude, no there isn’t!”
“Yes there is, Jonas,” Kelly said. The volume of her voice was rising quickly. Lightning flashed outside and Brook screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Jesus, Brook! What the hell?”
“I… there was someone at the window! When the lighning struck! I saw it!”
“My God,” Jonas said. “Here, looks like you need this.” He handed her the half-smoked joint after re-lighting it. Brook took it and inhaled deeply. “You’re just freaking out. It’s the old place. You know, we came here to be scared, you know?”
“I know,” Brook said. “Shutup. I just got freaked. Thought I totally saw someone.”
“Well, let’s get back to it.”
They all put their hand on the planchette and Kelly spoke the words, surprising all of them.
“I conjure thee, O Cain, as you can never have peace until you be freed. From the sun where thou art impri…”
All four of them jumped to their feet as there was a horrendous knocking on the door, so loud that their hearts all sped up at once, united in absolute terror. They were all sober in a flash. The house echoed with the sound of the knocking, as it continued over and again. Jonas put his hand over Brook’s mouth to stop her screaming. She didn’t stop him but held onto his arm until she nearly broke the skin. “It’s ok,” he whispered. But he didn’t think that was the truth.
Then, the knocking stopped. They watched the window, seeing if anyone appeared. They were only greeted with the light show of the approaching storm. As the moment died down, Nick was the first to move. He walked to the window and looked out. No one was standing at the door.
“Ok,” he said, “nobody there.”
“Oh God,” Kelly said. “Oh God. That scared the shit out of me!”
“Me, too,” Jonas said. He looked at her in the eyes and said, “But, where the hell did you come up with that creepy-ass little poem you were saying?”
“Yeah,” Brook said. “Dude, that like sounded it was so not made up on the spot. Where’d you get that shit?”
Kelly just shrugged.
Brook was still taken aback by the entire moment, the poem, the Ouija and the door knocks. The knocks were, well, not human sounding to her.
They all sat again, trying to regain the fun. Trying to not let their weekend that they’d planned for a week to simply shrivel up and disappear in fear. So they all put their hands back onto the planchette and Kelly began her poem.
This time, when Nick looked up, there was someone standing at the window. The silhouette was blacked out in shadow. Nick let out a howl and jumped to his feet. The figure moved away from the window and the knocking started again, but this time, one final blow sent the door flying open so hard that the doorknob stuck into the old wall and the door stood wide open.
“Who the fuck?!”
Then the figure spoke in a baritone voice, loud enough to get everyone’s attention.
“My God,” the figure said, “Are you all really this damned stupid?”
“Robert!” Kelly said.
“Oh my God, Jesus,” Brook said.
“Dude,” Jonas said. “I oughtta kick your ass, man!” He made toward Robert who didn’t move. As soon as Jonas drew back his arm and threw a punch, Robert ducked, moved slightly, punched Jonas in the stomach, pulled his head back by his hair and then slapped him.
“Little boy, do not be any stupider than you already are.” He let Jonas go and the young man rolled on the floor, trying to catch his breath.
“Oh my God, Robert!” It was Brook. “You are such an asshole! Wait till I tell dad!”
“Good Lord, no” Robert said. “What do you figure he’ll do to your forty year old brother? Ground me? You’d do better calling the cops. But I wouldn’t recommend that, considering the weed and alcohol, trespassing on abandoned but still private property, and damaging said property.”
“You damaged the house, dickhead,” Nick said.
“Do tell. But don’t tell me, tell the cops. You want me to call them?”
“Oh, fuck off asshole.”
Robert slapped Nick, just as he had Jonas. “Boy, you don’t have the stones to be using that kind of language. Shut it up in front of my sister.”
“I don’t need you to protect me, Bobby!”
“You do. Now, go get in my truck before I slap you, too, and then drag you to it.”
Brook looked white hot with rage but she merely put her head down and walked out the door.