03 Apr A Madman’s Guide to the Unrecommended
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"A Madman's Guide to the Unrecommended"Written by
Estimated reading time — 47 minutes
First and foremost, a few matters of introduction have to be placed down. You are probably wondering who I am. What am I called? What does the barista misspell on my steaming paper cup? Well, this is my first lesson to you, and I promise we will get into much more detail soon.
Your name is a very precious thing, you see. And unless you are suicidal, a fool, or think you have what it takes to face the consequences; don’t ever give out your real name willy-nilly. I’m fairly positive you wouldn’t want to take that risk. That being said, I still must give you some way of acknowledging my existence. You may call me The Madman. Am I mad? Am I a man? Well, you will just have to wait and see, dear reader.
For your sake, I’m going to assume that you had some idea of what you were getting into when you picked up this guide. And if you didn’t? Well, by all means, keep reading; just put your back to a door, and cover every window and mirror in your room. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, now would we? Shall we begin?
YOUR BIRTH NAME
This is as good a place to start as any. It’s a vital piece of knowledge if you want to have absolutely anything to do with the supernatural world. When you are dragged out of refuse and muck, screaming and kicking into the world, you are vulnerable. Your fragile little mortal soul has only just begun its unavoidably ticking clock. Your name is essentially your shield; it is the most symbolic representation of your inner self that can exist. It carries great, great power over you. Never forget this.
Although I’ve already made it perfectly clear, I’ll say this again. Do not bandy about your birth name. If someone –or something– has access to your soul, I guarantee you won’t enjoy what happens next. In every interaction you have with the supernatural, guard your name. If you must give an answer, lie through your teeth. Don’t use anyone else’s name, either. Well, unless you really hate them. But allow me to continue…
A BASIC DESCRIPTION OF THE SUPERNATURAL
Have you ever felt like you were being watched when you are perfectly alone? As if a pair of eyes are fixated on the back of your head, yet when you turn there is nothing there. Have you ever heard your name being spoken by nobody at all? Chances are you have experienced these things, and chances are they aren’t just figments of your imagination.
Bordering the lovely world you call home is another, rather different place. Some call it Hell, and they’re not wrong. But the name isn’t important; what comes from it is. And what comes from Hell, you ask? Why, demons of course. Ghosts, phantoms, spirits, poltergeists, haunts and apparitions. These are all one and the same.
Take a moment to clear your mind of that image of a red-horned beast or a classic white ghost. It’s true that over time, demons have picked up on humans’ fears and tend to manifest themselves in such forms. However, what’s actually out there is much more sinister than these ridiculous tropes. A demon is infinitely smarter than you can ever hope to be. They want nothing more than to trick your feeble mind into allowing them to cause great harm. It’s your job as a practitioner to prevent this from happening. Good luck.
Demons can be called into this world through a summoning. Unfortunately, this isn’t very hard to do. Why would you do such a thing, you ask? Well, you shouldn’t. But I’m not your mother- do what you want. Demons can give you knowledge or carry out tasks for you. If you have a question you want answered, a demon can most likely help you with that. You just have to be sure it’s worth the risk –and it is quite a risk.
THE FIRST LESSON: THE GAME
Every budding practitioner must learn about “The Game” if they want to get anywhere. This is the most common and basic level of advanced interaction with the supernatural world. The principle is simple: you conjure up a demon and then play with it. You try to get the knowledge you seek while avoiding the traps being set out for you. But when you actually get into it, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Preparation is key: you need protection. By all means, grab your firearms and use those to fend off the evil spirits. You will end up killed in a horrible way but hey, at least you tried. Our art requires a more acquired set of tools; tools that have been proved effective throughout history. I’ve got to say, someone must have paid a very heavy price to discover just what is effective to use.
Some of these will probably sound familiar, as old folklore and urban legends often have a handle in reality.
Salt- An excellent general-purpose ‘Demon B Gone.’ A closed circle of this stuff will hold enough power to keep minor intrusions at bay. The same principle applies to large bodies of saltwater. You’ll rarely find supernatural influences around them. Demons don’t like the beach.
Iron- This simple element has a tendency to repel the supernatural. In most cases, it’s used in candlesticks or worn on the practitioner’s person. Invest in a necklace or something. You’ll thank yourself later.
Vinegar- While this doesn’t keep anything out per se, it does have a violent effect upon beings from the other world. When thrown or sprayed, it can act as a sort of weapon against a demon. However, don’t rely on it. There have been too many instances of someone attempting to save themselves with a little spray bottle of vinegar. Dear me, what a bunch.
Candles- Wax candles may appear ordinary enough, but they are very important. Any seal or circle you create to trap a demon needs candles to act as support. While the color doesn’t matter too much, it’s useful to note that red candles are the most effective. Blood-red works best.
Mistletoe- Ah mistletoe, the classic parasitic weed that symbolizes love and merriment. Keep this handy in little bunches or piles around the area in which you work.
An item of power- Everyone has something they hold dear, and this bond holds power. It is a sort of life-vest to your soul, and your soul is something you want to keep close to yourself. It could range from a picture of your mother to the knife you used to murder your first victim, any such item will do. Thus, hang onto something that you have a special connection while practicing.
Your voice- What a silly item, you may think. And you wouldn’t be wrong- the human voice has no power over any supernatural entity unless you use it in just the right way. If you think you will be able to save yourself if you mess up a summoning by shouting, you’re wrong. However, if the being is in a limited position of power, your voice can dismiss it. Just don’t wait too long if you plan to do this.
At the moment, these seven things are enough to keep you safe (relatively speaking). It’s time to get into the fun stuff. The first step of The Game is to decide what exactly you want from the experience. Do you want to know some greater knowledge? Perhaps you would like to know if your significant other is being disloyal, or how to earn a million dollars by the year’s end. Whatever it is, know what you want so you don’t make a fool of yourself and die.
Now, you can’t interact with the other world in any old place. I wouldn’t recommend using your home in any capacity, unless you want to ruin the rest of your life. No, it’s much more effective to find a place where the wall between this world and the next is worn thin. Places with some sacred value, like religious buildings or hospitals. People die in hospitals, you see, and this constant crossing from one world to the next makes it perfect for any summoning you’d want to do.
Wherever you choose to practice, make sure you are alone. It won’t do anyone any good to walk into a demonic summoning, and it may stuff up your process. Not good. I also recommend against bringing any electronics into a summoning. Not that it’s dangerous or anything, but because any device will most likely be fried by the presence of a demon. Smartphones are extremely expensive these days; don’t just throw yours away.
Now you’ve got your protection and locations set, it’s time to summon a demon. Before we go on, I’m obliged to tell you to stop right here. Don’t go on, it isn’t a very smart thing to do. But, once again, I really couldn’t care less. Shall we proceed?
Begin with a salt circle. Don’t make a square or hexagon or anything stupid like that. Circles are equal no matter where you are inside of one -it’s what makes them powerful. Lay out five to seven candles around the outside of the circle. Do not put them inside the circle. This is a one-way ticket to disaster.
Prepare any other protective measures you may have brought: place mistletoe in little piles next to the candles and prepare some iron and vinegar just in case. Keep your item of power close. I’m now going to tell you a little story about someone carrying out their very first summoning. I want you to pay close attention.
Not too long ago a young girl wanted to commune with the other world. She was rather rebellious, so she chose to practice in the church she attended every week. She broke in at night, set up her circle, and began The Game. This is how she did it:
The girl sat outside her salt circle. She put down her object of power in front of her and closed her eyes. The dark church was cold and silent. Creaks and groans permeated the blackness all around her. She took a breath and whispered “I’m ready” three times. As soon as she did so, a host of new noises came. Frightening noises: moans and cackles, squelches and shrieks. They were accompanied with sensations as well; as if there were a host of malevolent eyes on the back of her neck, and something was breathing heavily just behind her. But the girl was prepared for this. She did not turn around.
At this stage, the girl had merely gotten a demon’s attention. There was still more to be done before The Game could be played. “Stand back,” she whispered. Immediately, the noises died down. There was silence in the church once again. However, she could still feel that evil gaze burning into her neck. She ignored this and continued.
Her next step was to invite the demon into her circle. Be very, very careful with this step. If you invite the demon past the circle and into your world, the demon will appear to leave. There will be no more noises or unseen eyes. After a while, you will invariably look around to see what is happening. That is when you will be dealt with in any manner the demon sees fit. There is no way to avoid this fate if you invite the demon outside the circle. Calmly the girl addressed the demon: “You may come into my salt circle,” she said. Note that her wording left no room for interpretation. The Game was ready to be played.
“Who are you?” The girl asked. It’s a good idea to start the game first. Asking any basic question will do.
“I am your final executioner,” the demon replied. Demons often enjoy a bit of melodrama. This doesn’t mean their words don’t hold true, however.
“Do you want to play?” The girl asked. The demon nodded once. It’s now that I should tell you about the appearance of demons. If you’re expecting some disgusting creature, you may be correct. It all depends on which demon you summon. Some may look like attractive young models and others may exemplify the term “hell beast.” In the girl’s case, an impossibly tall and thin creature sat in her circle. It had pale skin and enormous eyes. Its mouth stretched from ear to ear, grinning with red-stained fangs.
“What is your name?” The demon asked. The girl didn’t fall for it.
“I’m Peaches,” she lied. It was her turn. “What is the time?” She asked.
“It is half past two,” the demon replied. This was a lie, the girl knew. She had arrived at the church at 1 o’ clock in the morning and it hadn’t been more than twenty minutes. This is the foremost rule of The Game. The demon will lie to you. However, it may only lie three times. It’s up to you to figure out which responses are lies, and they won’t always be so easy to determine.
The Game is a matter of call and response. You ask the demon a question, and it asks you one in return. This will go on for exactly half an hour. After this time has elapsed, the demon will leave. You just have to last that long.
“Are you doing well in school?” The demon asked the girl innocently.
“Yes,” the girl replied, but the truth of the matter that she was lying to herself. She was struggling in school, but her ego kept her from saying so. You may lie to a demon, but there are consequences.
The girl was able to lie about her name because she was expected to. The demon didn’t actually believe she would be foolish enough to give the information up. He was simply testing the waters. But this lie was different. Lying during The Game allows the demon to do the same. Now, the demon had four chances to tell a mistruth.
“Does anybody love me?” The girl asked. The demon looked at her with those massive, malevolent eyes.
“No.” It said simply. This was surely a lie, the girl thought. Her parents loved her, at the very least. She paused in her thoughts. Or did they? You see, this is exactly what a demon will do to you. It will mess with your mind in ways that you have no defense against. The girl shook this answer off. It was the demon’s turn.
“Would you do something for me?” it asked. The girl had a moment of hesitation. She didn’t want to risk anything, but she also hasn’t gotten all the information she wanted.
“Yes,” she said quickly, confident she could counter any trick the demon played on her. It was a rather foolish mistake. The demon stood, rising to a terrifying height of nine feet. It leered down at the girl.
“Your turn,” the demon said, smiling wider than the girl would have guessed possible.
“How do achieve success in life?” The girl had nothing to toy with anymore; she desperately got to the point. The demon answered truthfully. He told her exact steps to on how to climb ladder of success in her life and thrive. But at this point, he was just playing with her. He had complete control.
“Come here,” the demon told the girl. The girl began to scoff. How ridiculous to think she’d actually break her guard and step inside the circle. But she stood against her will. Her heart dropped to her toes as she stepped towards the salt circle. The demon smiled. No amount of vinegar or iron could have prevented what happened to the girl next. For your sake, I won’t get into it. All you have to know is it was quite horrible.
The girl had given the demon power over her: the one thing you must never do. She had said she would grant the demon a favor, and he had capitalized on her offer. He had asked her to come into the circle. She had no choice but to obey.
Let’s learn from this girl’s mistakes, shall we? Never give a demon an advantage, and always choose your words very carefully. Be honest with yourself, even if it hurts you to do so. The demon seeks to harm you, and if that’s the worst it can do then you have played The Game correctly.
It is now that I have a little task for you, my reader. At this point you should have a basic grasp on the supernatural world and how to deal with its infinite dangers. Would you like to put your skills to the test?
Find a mirror. It could be large or small, round or square. It does not matter. Wait till the deepest hours of the night. Go out to a quiet place with the mirror. Let yourself be surrounded by the darkness. Observe the shadows reaching slowly towards you. Do not dare to be afraid.
I want you to place the mirror on the ground, so that it reflects the moon or stars. If the moon or stars aren’t showing, then just reflect the sky. Look into the reflection deeply. Soon you’ll notice something… off about the image. You’re looking at another world. Don’t touch the mirror. Whatever you do, do not touch the mirror.
The image will have a sort of shimmer to it, an unnatural gleam. While this is apparent, you must remain still. Eventually, the mirror will return to normal. It’ll clearly reflect the sky again. Once this happens, bury the mirror. After it is underground, say these words: “You may open the door.” Then go home, your task is done. It’s time for the next lesson.
THE SECOND LESSON: THE “GO AND FETCH” CLAUSE
Despite the title of this lesson, demons are not dogs. Although they may appear as dogs. Hairless, skinless, grinning dogs that eye you with the intensity of, well, a hungry wolf. But that’s beside the point. The Game won’t always give you what you want. Sometimes the demon simply won’t know the answer to the question you want answered.
If you want a different type of knowledge (something that’s currently happening, for example), you’ll want to use the “Go and Fetch” clause. This is quite literally a command you give that lets the demon venture out into the world and find what you’re looking for. What can go wrong?
A “Go and Fetch” clause has three parts: the instruction, the binding, and the sending. Each is as important as the other.
Instruction- Here is where you tell your furry demon friend what it has to do. I’m warning you now, prepare your speech beforehand. If you leave any loophole, it will be pounced on. Don’t make stupid mistakes.
An example is in order here. If you tell a demon to “go tell me what my friend is doing” you have just made a very large mistake. Why? You were so ambiguous that the demon can leave its circle, hang you by your ankles, grab an ice cream, and then spy on your friend. Then, it will return and tell you what your friend is doing while licking its chocolate cone. You will then be disposed of gruesomely.
Be sure to outline every step of the demon’s journey into the world, lest it strays and ends up possessing some poor child –unless, of course, that’s your goal. But that’s for another lesson.
Binding- This is the step in which you bind the demon to your instruction. This is very simple: use your voice. Act quickly, as the longer the demon is in the world, the less power your voice has.
You could make yourself look like an idiot and babble in Latin or something, but any language works fine. Chances are the demon’s knowledge of ancient language is a bit rusty, and it will appreciate you using a more up-to-date tongue. Binding can be as simple as “follow my instructions to the letter,” but it depends on your instructions. Once again, don’t leave a loophole.
Sending- Time to say au revoir to your temporary servant and pray that you didn’t mess anything up. You won’t know if you did, of course. Enjoy the wait.
I now recall a rather memorable use of the “Go and Fetch” clause. This happened a while ago, perhaps a couple hundred years or so. But that’s not important…
Somewhere in the world, in a dark and dreary city lived a man. He, like most humans, had a rather dismal life. He was full of hatred, anger, and frustration. Such a mix of emotions made for a volatile cocktail. You see, his wife had ran off with another man, leaving him alone and desperate. One night, he had had enough.
He packed his bag full of the necessary safeguards and found an old crypt to practice in. It was a most atmospheric choice of location. He laid out the salt, candles, and mistletoe. He grabbed his item of power tightly.
“I’m ready,” he whispered, closing his eyes. A dead breeze crept into the crypt.
“I’m ready,” he repeated. The breeze swirled into a tugging, hot wind that reminded the man of the breath of some great beast. He took a breath and completed the calling: “I’m ready.”
The man waited a few seconds before opening his eyes. In the circle stood a demon. It wasn’t vile or terrifying, no. It took the appearance of a handsome young man. Demons will often pull tricks like this, you see. They try to gain your trust by appearing friendly or attractive.
The man ran through his clause in his head. He had memorized it to the letter, and spent hours making sure there was no room for error. He began with the instruction. He told the demon exactly what it had to do: find his wife and her new lover and cause them harm in any way the demon saw fit. There was no room for misinterpretation.
And off the demon went, slinking towards its destination. When it was released into the world, it had broken its guise of a handsome man and instead taken the appearance of a hairless dog-like creature that walked on its hind legs. This is where most urban legends about things that go bump in the night come from, you see. Demons out in the world often tend to frighten and kill people whenever they can.
The demon found its prey with an inhuman sense. It stood outside the apartment building in which the doomed man and woman resided. At this time, both were asleep, the demon sensed. It broke the lock easily and slunk into the building. Its enormous feet made no sound on the floorboards as it stepped slowly, slowly towards the stairs. Up it went, its thick gray tongue lolling hungrily.
The bedroom door opened silently, the demon crouched into the bedroom and to the foot of the bed where two still figures lay cocooned in a swathe of blankets. Isn’t it funny how you feel so safe when you’re under your covers?
It crept onto the bed, leaning its head right up to the headboard, so it looked down on the sleeping figures. It waited there, letting its breath cascade down like a smothering cloud of poison. Eventually, the woman opened her eyes. She didn’t react at first, but in a split second, her eyes had adjusted.
The scream –had it been allowed to make it past a horrified squeak– would have woken the block. Instead, the demon bit down on the woman’s throat. The man awoke to the sight, and was similarly dispatched. The demon had done its duty –it returned to the man in the crypt.
“Did you do as I asked?” The man queried.
“Yes,” the demon growled. The man, despite everything, felt guilty. He shook this feeling from his mind and dismissed the demon. He did this by saying “return from whence you came.” This is the most common dismissal, and it usually can’t go wrong. This, from start to finish, is an example of a successful “Go and Fetch” interaction. The poor man ended up killing himself out of guilt for what he had done, but he made his choice.
Now that you’ve got this juicy tidbit of knowledge down, it’s time to continue the practice I set out for you after the first lesson. Following your burial of the mirror, a package will appear to you. It won’t come in your mailbox, or be plopped on your doorstep by a bored and careless delivery driver. It’ll be placed somewhere you wouldn’t expect a package to appear. It could be in your bedroom, or your locker at school or work. It may even appear in your morning cereal –I really couldn’t predict the location for you.
Regardless, keep the package safe. Only open it when you know you will be alone. Inside you will find a little pendant – a black stone set into a gold chain. Don’t put it on for goodness’ sake. Take it in your hand, close your eyes, and focus. You’ll feel something like a heartbeat. Don’t panic, just keep focusing. If your mind is clear, you’ll hear a dull roar in your head. Once you hear this, say “find what you seek,” while concentrating on the noise as hard as you can. The roar will fade and the heartbeat will stop. That night, return to where you buried the mirror and dig it up. Place the pendant on the mirror, and then cover it back up. Let’s continue your instruction…
THE THIRD LESSON: POSSESSION
The possibility of having your body occupied by a demon is a very real and horrifying prospect. Don’t you worry; there are ways to avoid it. While very difficult to do, a soul may still be salvaged in certain cases. Nobody just gets up and walks away from a possession, however, so it’s best to avoid the ordeal altogether. But what happens to you when you’re possessed? Well I’m glad you asked.
When a person is possessed, their soul is consumed by a demon. A bit like a worm inside of an apple; except replace the worm with a beast of pure malevolence from Hell, and the apple with your tiny and vulnerable human soul. Have you got the image down?
Being possessed will likely cause you the greatest pain you can ever experience. Imagine your body being taken from you inch by inch in a brutal battle that you have no chance of winning. A foreign spirit will, in layman’s terms, become you. Sounds like a bad day, no?
‘Mr. Madman, how do I avoid this?’ you ask. First rule of thumb is the same as any other area of practicing: don’t be an idiot. No matter how many times I reiterate this, you bunch always find a way to make stupid mistakes. I’m not complaining, though. Some of your fates are often quite amusing.
Use your safeguards wisely; don’t let the demon into your mind (figuratively or literally). This is just what you should be doing normally. A demon will try its very hardest to get inside your defense and either kill you, possess you, or wreak havoc on anything in the vicinity.
Do not have mirrors in the room where you are summoning. Mirrors often act as little doorways to the other world. Demons will often use them to their advantage in a little phenomenon called Philocrate’s Mirror. One minute your reflection will be sitting in its normal setting, depending on where you’re practicing. Suddenly, you’ll find an altogether different world reflected in the mirror. You won’t be able to feel anything except a tiny seedling of agony and fear that will grow and grow the longer you are in this place. Unfortunately, you’re stuck there forever.
If you take your eyes off a demon and look into a mirror, it can quite literally switch places with you. While you’re sent into its dimension, it’s brought out into the real world. Barring the fact you’re in the closest approximation of Hell that exists, you just let a demon loose on the world. Shame on you.
Along with pseudo-possessions such as Philocrate’s Mirror, you can also be possessed completely during a summoning. Most notable examples of this are probably ones you’ve heard of. You know, a group of cultists calling the spirit of an evil entity into some poor girl or something ridiculous of the like. This is most likely a true story. If you were so inclined, you could trap someone in a salt circle and call a demon into their body. Next time someone cuts you in line at the grocery store, you know what to do.
It can also happen accidentally, believe it or not. Ambiguous wording can lead the demon to interpret your question or command as an invitation into your snuggly flesh. I’m afraid you can’t do much to save yourself if you mess up in this manner. Have you ever heard of Jack the Ripper?
A bloodthirsty lunatic? Sure. A master of his craft? Without a doubt. Completely human? Guess again. Jack wasn’t always a crazed psychopath, believe it or not. He was rather normal –that is, until he turned to the supernatural. He practiced here and there as many people did in the Victorian Era. Something about the depressing and dark atmosphere of the entire era gave spurt to a whole host of demonic activity.
One day Jack, as many practitioners are predisposed to do, stuffed up. As you may have guessed, he was possessed. The demon that did it felt like having a little fun, so Jack wasn’t killed on the spot. Instead, the demon went out into the world wearing Jack’s skin while the poor man was in extreme agony, conscious of every movement.
As you may recall, I told you there are worse fates than being killed or dragged to the other world by a demon. Jack’s fate was arguably among those. I want you to imagine having no control over your body as someone else pretended to be you. Jack went home that night and watched as he killed his wife and children. He went out onto the street and began his bloody legend. For your sake, I hope you don’t fall prey to a possession…
Remember that pendant I had you bury? It’s time for some more fun. If you haven’t already, allow twenty-four hours to elapse before digging up the mirror and pendant. Going over this time is fine; just do not uncover them prematurely. The pendant should be gone and there should be a little note in its place. Read it. There will be a location written on it. I can’t tell you what this is because it’ll depend on who and where you are. Go there in the dead of night when you know you won’t be disturbed. Bring something with iron in it; believe me, you’ll want it.
This time, timing does matter. You’ll want to get to the location well before half past two in the morning. I suggest visiting the place beforehand in order to determine how to get in. Unless, of course, you want to risk it and play by ear. Some people live for the thrill; whatever. Just get it done.
No doubt you’ll feel an inkling of apprehension as you enter this mysterious place I’ve brought you to, but don’t worry. Besides, I told you not to show fear, did I not? You’ll just have to trust me. Ooh, I laughed at that one: ‘trust me.’
The next bit is going to require you to understand the first three lessons, namely the “Go and Fetch” clause and how possession works. Now, don’t panic, but I’m about to ask you to summon something. Although, if you’re panicking about a simple summoning at this point, you’re really not cut out for this sort of thing. Don’t feel bad, most people are cowards too.
You don’t need a salt circle for this summoning –you’ll be safe without one. All you need is the note and some iron. Stand as close to the center of your location as possible. Tear the note in half. It doesn’t have to be perfectly in half, if you were wondering. Hell, shred the thing and make confetti. Just destroy the note and make sure you don’t waste any time. You have to get this all done before two-thirty.
Unlike a normal summoning, you aren’t going to say “I’m ready” three times. Instead, I want you to lie down on your back. If your location’s floor is muddy or covered with broken glass, I’m sorry but you’ll just have to be strong. Close your eyes. Relax. You don’t have to do anything now except wait. Don’t fall asleep. You won’t wake up.
Soon, the same dull roar as before will return. You’ll hear it faintly at first, but it’ll get stronger. Just as fast, the noise will stop. At this point, you can sit up and open your eyes. There is now an entity with you. This part varies from person to person. Some people see the entity, some don’t. In any case, it won’t be trying to terrorize you so don’t worry –you’re perfectly safe.
“Did you find what you sought after?” You will ask. The entity will give one of two responses: “yes” or “no.” The voice it uses will most likely unsettle you. It won’t sound human in the least bit (well, what did you expect?). It’ll sound as if some animal is attempting to speak, barely choking the words out. This is good, do not worry.
If you received the negative response, then say “find what you seek” again and allow the entity to leave. Go home and return the following night. Do this until you get an affirmative response.
If you got a “yes” from the demon, then you may proceed. Open your arms as if you’re about to give a big old hug and say “come in.” It’s important to note that you may not like this next part, but it will be fine. Well, how to put this lightly… The entity will go into you. But it won’t hurt, or have any negative side effects whatsoever. In fact, you’ll be in complete control… mostly.
You’ll have control over your body and mind, and the only way you’ll know you’re hosting a demon is by a little urging sensation in your gut. Follow the urge out into the world. Take this time to enjoy yourself. It isn’t every day you get to be a demon’s personal chauffeur. I’m sure you will be rewarded with a very pleasant sense of euphoria. It’s like taking copious amounts of drugs minus the health risks.
Don’t interact with anybody you come across, just let your body do the walking. You will complete a set of simple tasks: delivering a package from one place to another, writing something in strange runes on a wall somewhere, buying a bag of chips at the gas station, whatever the urge tells you to do. When your little adventure is done, you will return to the location and lie down. After a nice second of shut-eye, the entity will be gone. Go home now.
THE FOURTH LESSON: IMBUING
The first three lessons have been mostly concerning human-spirit interactions. This lesson is a little different in the sense that, while you are still summoning a demon, it isn’t going to be doing much interacting. As far as you know, at least.
There are countless stories of various relics and items that apparently exhibit extraordinary powers: charms that bring luck, dice that always land fortunately, teapots that always brew a perfect cup of tea. I’m not saying every old lucky penny off the street is magical (in fact, they can be rather unsanitary– I suggest avoiding picking them up), but it is possible to imbue an item with a demon’s soul.
To carry out such an imbuing is a particularly tricky task. It tends to be dangerous, as most supernatural affairs are. You will need a few things beforehand.
The usual summoning safeguards- Self-explanatory. Refer back to Lesson One for a refresher.
Your item- This can be almost anything you can think of. There is a sort of tradition surrounding what you can enchant with supernatural power. For example, the amulet I had you meddle with. Just try not to do something stupid, like shove a demon into a used sock. It’s rude.
A release- This is a piece of paper with a written dismissal on it. To release a demon from an item, you destroy the release.
The process for an enchantment summoning is a little different than usual. Begin with the usual sacred location, at the usual ungodly hour of the night. Create your salt circle and lay out the candles and other items. Place the item you want to imbue in the center of the circle. If you haven’t already, create your release. Write the words “go back to where you belong” on a piece of paper and keep it handy.
Let me interject here to crush your dreams. You can’t control an imbuing –you don’t know what exactly your item will do. There are as many stories of cursed items as there are about lucky ones. But there is a glimmer of hope. There is a higher chance of a good enchantment if you are careful about your summoning. If you’re crazy enough to do this sort of thing, then you may as well do it right.
With your setup complete, it’s time to begin. Focus on the item in your salt circle. Attempt to clear your mind of anything else. Call the demon into the circle, but this time don’t use the usual “I’m ready” method. The demons that can be used in an imbuing are of a particular sort. The sort you really do not want to meddle with.
Close your eyes and wipe every trace of fear from your mind. Ask if there is anybody listening. More likely than not, you will get a response. This could be a breeze or a noise –whispering or something. If you don’t get any response, repeat the question or leave and try again another time. If you get a response, ask the entity to enter the item in the circle. Here comes the tricky part.
You will have to convince the demon to get into your item. This isn’t dissimilar to “The Game” in that you will barter back and forth with the demon. It will ask you why you want it to go into the object, and you must give it a good reply. Demons will often willingly place themselves in items for the sole purpose of causing mischief, so it usually isn’t hard to get one to agree. This in itself should be a solemn warning to you.
It’s impossible to give you a walkthrough of exactly what to say, as it isn’t a ritual. You must be ready to think on your toes and not do something of utmost stupidity, like possess yourself. Believe me, I’ve seen this done. But, as I said, imbuing is extremely dangerous. Allow me to tell you a story about enchantment and what happens thereafter.
There is a little house in a quaint town somewhere. A more peaceful and pleasant place you’d be hard pressed to find. The people are friendly, the birds love to sing. As in all things, you should never judge a book by its cover.
Long ago in the town’s ancient history, someone desired a prize that was beyond this world. They wanted an object that would bring good luck and health to the people. You see, they weren’t doing too well. A new sickness had come and already many families were caring for bedridden loved ones. The fields grew sallow and overgrown with a lack of care. A quiet, sickly pallor lay over the entire place.
An individual –a young man– decided he had to take matters into his own hands. His mother and sister were growing weaker by the day with the illness, and he couldn’t stand seeing his town decay. He delved into the religious texts stored in the church, and, when he found nothing that could help, he searched deeper. In the church cellar was an altogether different collection of literature. Texts depicting the supernatural world and how to handle the entities found wherein (although I can guarantee that they were nowhere near as interesting as this guide).
The youth found a possible solution in one of these texts: enchantment. With fervor, he collected as many books as he could and brought them home. There, he spent long nights poring over the words under a sputtering candle. Coughs and moans from his mother and sister permeated his concentration. This spurred his determination.
He soon had accrued the knowledge he needed to enchant an item with a so-called “healing power” that the texts had promised. One night, when the moon was new and a thick fog lay over the land, the young man went out into the woods until he found a forlorn clearing. He laid out his circle and placed a gilded candlestick from the church in the center. He prayed for a quick second before proceeding.
“Are you listening to me?” The youth asked. An unnatural giggle sounded from the woods behind him. An icy grip clutched his heart, but memories of his ailing family gave him new strength. “Come into the candlestick,” the youth said loudly.
“Why?” The demon replied in an insane approximation of a little girl’s voice. It remained unseen.
“I am summoning you, I am your master. You will do as I say,” the youth attempted a tone of authority. The demon giggled again, sending shivers down the young man’s spine.
“Your candlestick is awfully shiny. Did you steal it?” The boy blanched. Honestly, he had stolen it. But he knew it was for a good cause. He did not back down.
“Come into the candlestick,” he repeated. “Do you not want to? Look how pretty it is.” The boy dared not move. There was a moment of silence, and then a chill breeze swept past the boy and into the circle. The candlestick rattled with a faint giggle. The air was still once more.
Keen readers will note that the youth was missing something. Would you like to guess? No? Oh, alright. He didn’t make a release. There was no way to release the demon, and I’m fairly sure the demon knew it. Why else would it comply so quickly?
The young man dared not dwell on what he had just done. He brought the candlestick home and set it in the bedroom where his sister and mother lay. There was nothing more to be done, so he waited.
Days passed before the candlestick showed any sign of power. In a moment of desperation, the boy had thrust the gilded item into the clammy hands of his mother. Immediately, her breathing eased and a rush of color returned to his face. Ecstatic, he did the same with his sister with similar results. He couldn’t believe it: he had saved his town.
Without hesitation the young man went from house to house, healing the townspeople. Cries of joy rang out, banishing the evil atmosphere that had plagued the air. Cries of “healer!” and “bless you!” followed the boy as he touched each sick person with the candlestick. Soon, he was stopped. The town reverend apprehended the boy in disbelief.
“How are you doing this?” he asked. The boy raised the candlestick in joy.
“God’s will saved us!” The reverend, who had tried everything in his power to aid his town, was skeptical. How could this boy brandish a metal ornament and claim a miracle? But the reverend soon forgot about it. God worked in mysterious ways, and besides, the people were indeed saved.
A year passed and the town flourished. The fields were brought back to their usual healthy productivity and all was well. The candlestick had been set in the young man’s home, and people often stopped by to give thanks and pray over it. And then things went wrong.
There was barely any change at first. The sun seemed to dim one day, and clouds hung over the sky menacingly. However, it was mid-autumn, so this wasn’t anything unusual. Then the flowers began to die. Every flower in the town wilted overnight. The crops followed soon after. Children began to go missing a few days later, and a figure was seen skipping through the trees bordering the town. Upon closer inspection, the figure turned out to be a little girl. Her laugh haunted the village at night.
Immediately, the young man knew what was happening. The demon in the candlestick was haunting his town. He tried desperately to reverse the enchantment, but he couldn’t. Eventually, the missing children were found in the woods. They were malnourished and terrified, but relatively unharmed. As they were led back to the town, the demon’s giggle bounced among the trees.
To this day, the demon haunts the town. It is permanently bound to the little gilded candlestick in the little house. The people of the town attempt to hide their dark secret under a façade of happiness, but every night the giggle comes. Sometimes, children go missing. Sometimes, they are found again. Often, they vanish forever. But the important thing is that the boy cured the sickness… right?
These four lessons are the very basics of what you can do with entities from another world. I hope you read the stories tied to each one carefully, and learned what you could from them. Now I’m going to ask you to continue the tasks you have been doing in between each lesson.
The next step after your little possession will come to you. It may take as little as a day or it may take a few weeks. However long, you’ll know when to proceed. The urge will return to you, and when it does you’ll follow it. I do hope it’s at a convenient time.
You’ll return to the location that was written in the note and sit down. Your eyes will close and you’ll fall asleep. When you wake up, you won’t be in the same place. In fact, you won’t even be in your world. Think of it as a field trip.
Look around you, take it in. You’re not in danger yet, so do take a good look. It’s not every day that you get to be in between worlds. The imagery around you may be unsettling. All around you will be an interminable field of what can best be described as shadows. They will meld and shift and flash with a myriad of dull colors.
Eventually, a figure will appear. It will appraise you, but you won’t be able to make out its features, no matter how hard you try. This is the entity you’ve been communicating with throughout your instruction. It will greet you.
“Hello,” it will say, addressing you by name in a friendly yet unsettling manner. “I have just a few more tasks for you,” it will continue. “Thank you for helping me so far, you have been simply wonderful.” It will then beckon and walk away. Follow the figure until the world around you calms and brightens into an almost pure-white color.
Soon, you’ll be able to make out shapes that will harden in definition until you will realize that they’re normal objects: houses, trees, rocks, and people. They’ll have a ghostly, translucent quality. A hushed whisper will sound all around you. The figure will lead you through this world until you reach a little old house with an overgrown lawn and an ancient willow tree. You will enter the house and enter a room with a large painting hung on the far wall.
The painting will depict a man sitting in an ornate chair in a well-decorated and comfortable room. The man will be very handsome, with piercing eyes and a devilish grin. The figure will stop and turn to you.
“Touch the painting,” it will tell you. Do so. As your fingers brush the canvas, you will feel yourself waking up. Before you return to consciousness, you will see the figure looking at you with a devilish grin. “Thank you,” I will say, stepping through the painting as you slip away.
Hello again, my friend. If you find yourself asking ‘why is this strange person calling me a friend?’ then you’re obviously a bit out of touch… Hello, I’m The Madman and I’m back for round two. I’ll admit that I left you in a rather awkward place, and I must apologize. But there’s something extremely important that I need your help with. It’s in your best interests, if that sweetens the pot.
Last time we met, you were in a different world and I was, well, escaping from it. I hope you woke up and found your way home alright, and if you feel deceived I apologize for the inconvenience. But it was what had to be done, you see. At the very least, my advice and guidance on the supernatural world was no joke or tomfoolery. I knew (and still know) what I was talking about, and I trust you made it through any demonic encounters safely.
I also hope you enjoyed the little treat I put with this book –dark chocolate truffles are your favorite, aren’t they? Look, I know finding a strange manuscript with a baggie of rather expensive Belgian candies in your home wasn’t how you expected your day to go. But as I said; this is very important.
Oh, alright. I guess it’s time to cut to the chase. You released me from a prison of sorts, but something else got out as well. Something very dangerous. If I were to call it something, I’d call it ‘The Devil.’ Don’t laugh. I’m being very serious.
Quincy had indeed found himself smirking in disbelief. He caught himself at The Madman’s words and looked around apprehensively. The Madman knew him a little too well. He shook off his unwarranted paranoia and glanced back at the parchment in his hands.
It’s the best name to give it, honestly. It embodies things you can’t even comprehend –which can be quite a bit many things, but this is just… evil. That’s quite a nice word that has been unfortunately turned to cliché: evil. Look, this thing that you –we– let out isn’t something unique. But it is something dangerous. I know this is all quite sudden, but you don’t have much of a choice. It might even be a bit of fun.
Quincy ate another truffle, beginning to feel a little uneasy. If The Madman was worried about something, that thing was something to be terrified about –but why did The Madman need him specifically?
I need you because you’re the one who was in my… prison with me. Not to get overly technical here, but it has to be you my friend. Please don’t worry; it won’t be very painful–comparatively. Besides, I’ll be with you every step of the way.
Quincy was beginning to feel thoroughly uncomfortable now. He hadn’t signed up for saving the world. In fact, he had resolved to take a break from demons and summoning and the lot. The whole affair had taken a toll that he needed a rest from.
Quincy left the book on his desk and went downstairs for a cup of coffee. The stuff helped him calm down, and a little calm was something that he most definitely needed right now. He went through the actions mechanically: put the filter in the machine, pour in several scoops of ground beans, pour in the water, close it, turn it on. As the machine bubbled and steamed, Quincy’s thoughts did the same. He knew that he didn’t want to get back in any mischief with The Madman, but he didn’t think he had a choice. He was also shocked at the intimacy with which The Madman had been addressing him. The taste of the delicious truffles was now sour and unpleasant. He had been in Quincy’s room. His innermost sanctuary had been invaded. Understandably, Quincy was quite shook up.
The final drops of coffee made their way into the pot. The machine gurgled happily, proud of a job well down. Quincy emptied the liquid into a mug and gulped it down black. The bitterness brought him back to his senses.
Of course he shouldn’t help The Madman. He should burn the book and forget any of it ever happened. He even considered taking out his arsenal of protective items from their hiding place. Maybe if a cold shoulder wasn’t enough to keep The Madman at bay, a sackful of salt was. Quincy set his empty mug down and trudged upstairs, dreading having to face the looming issue above him. He picked up the book, and, in a fit of frustration, threw it across the room. It bounced sadly off the wall and tumbled to land on Quincy’s unmade bed.
“Leave me alone!” Quincy shouted at nobody in particular. Over the next week, Quincy did his best to forget any of it ever happened. He hid the book under a pile of refuse in his closet and tried to remove the word “supernatural” from his vocabulary. The Madman would just have to find somebody else, he told himself.
But The Madman wouldn’t find somebody else. One dreary morning, exactly a week after Quincy had first found the book, The Madman returned. This time, it wasn’t anything as gentle as a note in a book. Quincy woke at the usual time of much-too-early o’clock and fumbled to silence his screeching alarm clock. The early morning glow filtered in through the window. Birds chirped dully outside.
“Hello!” Quincy jumped and fell out of bed at the sudden voice. He scrambled to his feet and backed hastily away from the bed. Looming over the bed was a man. He was tall and handsome, with piercing eyes and a devilish smile. He had a very sharp, handsome jaw line and flawlessly styled hair. “Hope I didn’t startle you,” The Madman said, his smile spreading into a grin. Quincy’s heart dropped to his toes.
“W-wha-” he stammered.
“You look startled –did I startle you?”
“It’s you! The Madman! It really is you!” Quincy managed to stop his stammering and fumbled for his phone. The Madman patted himself in mock surprise.
“It is? Oh, would you look at that! It is me! Good detective work, Quincy. Oh what are you doing?” Quincy had dialed 911 and put the phone to his ear.
“I need the police at-” Quincy didn’t even finish the sentence before the line was cut dead. Static filled Quincy’s ear as he dropped his phone and faced The Madman’s bemused expression.
“What did you do that for?” The Madman asked.
“I told you to leave me alone! I don’t want any part of it!”
“I didn’t want any part of being stuck in an interdimensional prison for six-thousand years, but it happened. Sometimes, things are unfortunately out of your control. This is one of those things.”
“I won’t do it!”
“Don’t be so selfish –this isn’t all about you, you know.”
“Why do you care so much, anyways? You never even told me what I have to do, or exactly what happened.”
“I thought I made it pretty clear!” The Madman carried a note of genuine indignation in his voice.
“‘The Devil’ followed you out of Hell? Clear as day, excuse my ignorance.”
“Yes, it is clear as day!” The Madman seemed genuinely confused.
“Well, not to me.” Quincy said, crossing his arms.
“You saw what demons can do,” The Madman said.
“Firsthand –you taught me how.”
“Yes, well, it’s not pretty, is it?”
“No,” Quincy replied, shuddering involuntarily.
“Well imagine something a thousand times worse. Something you really don’t want to mess with.”
“You’ve said it a hundred times. Why should I care?”
“Do you like living, Quincy?”
“Yes, I like living.”
“Then you should care. Because nobody will be doing much living if you don’t help me.” Quincy was about to reply when The Madman cut him off. “Oh, and it is sort of your fault.”
“What?” Quincy was outraged.
“Well, you know, you were the one who let me out.”
“Don’t you dare blame me! You tricked me! You’re the nasty, manipulative, conniving demon here!”
“Ouch. Harsh. But then again, fair point.” There was a long and awkward silence. “So. Are you in?”
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“Can I at least get out of my pajamas?”
“As long as you get into something else,” The Madman said distastefully. “Besides, I have to do a little hunting. Be back soon!” Before Quincy could react, The Madman was gone with all the noise of a snowflake falling onto a feather pillow.
Quincy wanted to believe it was all a dream –just a fantastic, ludicrous dream– but he knew it wasn’t. With a sense of great and dawning responsibility, Quincy dressed himself appropriately for saving the world. Two old sneakers, one pair of jeans with holes in both knees, and a college football jersey later, he was ready.
The next step was to retrieve his protective items. Quincy opened his closet and withdrew the gimmicky wooden chest in which he had stuffed all the materials he needed for summoning. He laid them out carefully: a large Ziploc gallon-bag of sea salt, an assortment of red wax candles, and collection of heirlooms that served as items of power. Like a hunter choosing the perfect arrow, Quincy selected his item. It was a plain gold ring on a plain gold chain. A relatively unremarkable trinket to look at, but it had belonged to Quincy’s grandmother, and had been in the family for generations.
“Is that a Ziploc bag?” The now familiar voice cut through Quincy’s remembrance.
“You have to stop doing that! Learn to knock!” Quincy turned as he retorted to see The Madman looking down at him with amusement.
“Your salt. It’s in a big old plastic baggie.”
“Oh, nothing. It’s just a little sketchy, is all.”
“It’s all I had!”
“If you say so. Ah good, your item of power. That’s a strong one –I can feel it from here.”
“Are you sure it isn’t sketchy?” Quincy said bitterly.
“What’s with all the attitude? I found us a lead, by the way.”
“That was fast.”
“Don’t insult me. Did you hear about any disasters lately? Any huge, extremely destructive, fatal disasters?”
“There was a fire in some shopping mall that was on the news. Lots of people died –why?”
“Well, that wasn’t coincidence. Up for a little field trip?” And with that, The Madman strode out of the room with Quincy jogging to keep up.
“I didn’t pack the salt!” Quincy complained as they bounced down the stairs.
“Do you really think a thirty cent bag of cooking salt will save you from the Devil himself?”
“It would have made me feel better!”
“Sorry. I don’t care about your feelings that much. Do you have a car?”
The drive to the burnt-out mall was a long, awkward one. It was extremely strange to see The Madman sitting in an old 2002 Toyota Camry, fiddling with the window. He didn’t seem to belong.
“Could you stop doing that, please?” Quincy asked in irritation after The Madman had rolled the window up and down for the hundredth time.
“Oh, is it bothering you?” Quincy gripped the steering wheel harder. “I’ll take that as a yes,” The Madman continued, rolling the window up pointedly.
“I can’t go any farther, there’s a police line.” Quincy stopped the car several feet away from the hefty fortification of yellow tape and white wooden barricades. There were several police cars parked with their flashing sirens spinning silently. Officers stood stolidly, barking at pedestrians and news crews to stand back. Beyond laid a scene of utter carnage: the old mall’s parking lot had been turned into a dead border between the charred and melted carcass of the building and the healthy land beyond.
Quincy had seen the mall on the news, but in person it was much more terrible. He couldn’t shake the knowledge that over a dozen people had been burned alive in the fire, their ashes mingling with the rubble of their tomb. ‘Faulty wiring,’ the news report had said.
The Madman stepped out of the car confidently and began to approach the police line. Quincy leaned out of his window and called after him.
“Where are you going?”
“Come on, we’re going to take a look.”
“But there’re cops-” The Madman ignored Quincy and continued walking. Reluctantly, Quincy followed.
“I don’t think I can even park there,” Quincy complained. Once again, he was ignored.
“Hello, officer.” The Madman had grabbed the attention of the nearest police officer.
“I’ll have to ask you to stand back, sir. The area’s not safe.” The officer’s tone made it clear that he didn’t want to be dealing with the Madman at that moment. He eyed up the strange man in front of him.
“Yes, of course. Just one thing, if I may.” The Madman put a hand on the officer’s shoulder. Quincy jumped in his seat and scrambled out of the car.
“Hey! What are-” Before Quincy could complete his sentence, the policeman was smiling at the Madman jovially.
“You take as much as time as you need sir,” he said, docking his cap. “Your friend too,” he continued, glancing over the Madman’s shoulder at Quincy.
“I wouldn’t say he’s my friend, but thank you anyway! Come on, Quincy.” The Madman swept past the officer and ducked under the caution tape. Quincy jogged to keep up. As he passed the cop, he noticed a dopey smile on the man’s face. His eyes were glazed over and skated over Quincy as if he wasn’t there.
“What did you do to that cop?” Quincy asked as he caught up to the Madman, who was gazing at the ruined mall pensively.
“You did something to him, he’s all loopy now.”
“I did do something, you’re right. I don’t know how you’re always so observant Quincy.” The Madman’s voice was loaded with enough sarcasm to floor an elephant. Quincy gritted his teeth and glanced back at the officer.
“Will he be okay?” Quincy asked.
“Who cares? Look at those burn marks…”
“Will he be okay?” Quincy said again, in a more slow and pointed manner.
“Yes, he’ll be fine. You should be more worried about yourself. Have you seen that shopping mall?” Quincy turned his full attention to the destruction in front of him. Up close, it was an even more gruesome sight.
“Body parts, yes. Ooh, look, somebody dropped something.” The Madman bent over and picked something up from a pile of shattered concrete and held it up. Quincy almost vomited –it was a human finger with a diamond wedding ring perched below the second knuckle.
“Put that down! God, show some respect.” Quincy turned his attention away from the Madman and attempted to find something to distract himself. “What are we even looking for?”
“Clues. We’re looking for clues.”
“Isn’t that what cops are for?” Quincy looked back at the officer, who was now loading and unloading his gun while giggling, as if he were a fascinated child. “Are you sure that guy will be okay?”
“Yes. And I dare you to go and ask a detective if he has any leads on the evil demon. I’m not stopping you.”
“Point taken. Have you seen anything?”
“Not yet. But almost…”
“You haven’t even moved, and I think we’re attracting attention.”
“I’m not looking with my eyes.” The Madman could sense Quincy’s question coming. “Don’t worry about it. Look, just keep everyone away. I’m almost done.” Quincy glanced nervously at the police line. A couple reporters were talking to the befuddled police officer, who had dropped his gun and was now chewing on his badge. At least they’re focused on him, Quincy thought. At least they had made a good news story. Quincy could imagine the next day’s headlines: “Police Officer Gone Insane at Mall Massacre.”
“Got it!” The Madman turned to face Quincy. He did not look very happy.
“You know where it is?”
“What? Wasn’t that the goal? To find out where it went?”
“Yes, but it’s here.”
“Here?! What do we do?”
“Hold on! I’m trying to think. It must be in the wreckage, but why has it stayed?”
“Are you really asking me?”
“Of course not! Just shut up for a second, there’s more.” The Madman dashed closer to the ruined building, stretching his hand out searchingly. Quincy, shocked, remained rooted to the spot. His attention had been drawn by a scuffle over by his car. The officer who The Madman had touched was being brought to the ground by two of his fellows. They hauled him up and dragged him to a newly-arrived ambulance. He kicked and giggled loudly as he was thrown into the car. Three more officers came over, and attempted to disperse the agitated press. One of the cops glanced over towards the building. As he did, he spotted The Madman and Quincy.
“Hey!” the officer yelled loudly. He pulled his radio to his mouth and said something into it. The other two officers turned, startled by the cry. They saw Quincy and set off towards him, shouting at him to halt. Quincy swallowed hard and began running towards The Madman.
“Company!” The Madman saw the approaching men and cursed loudly.
“Now I have to kill them!”
“What? No! Let’s just go!” Quincy grabbed The Madman’s arm and pulled him towards the building. The Madman reluctantly broke into a run that matched Quincy’s.
“I don’t think you want to go in there,” The Madman said darkly.
“Better than being arrested,” Quincy replied, They reached the looming husk of charred metal that was once a pizza restaurant and entered. The building had collapsed in such a way that the interior of the shop was almost cave-like in nature. The outside light, though mere feet away, didn’t seem to penetrate very far into the inky gloom ahead. Suddenly, the sound of grating metal and cracking plaster came as the doorway collapsed. Unseen bits of dust and pebbles of concrete dribbled onto Quincy’s head. Instinctively, he reached out to feel for The Madman.
“Hey!” Quincy’s hand had connected with The Madman’s back. “Oh, it’s just you.”
“Did I scare you?” Quincy teased, trying to ward off a growing sense of terror. The Madman ignored him and instead muttered something under his breath. A spark flashed in the dark. It caught and exploded into a crackling orange flame, flooding the room with a warm light. Quincy could see that The Madman held the fire in his naked palm like a torch.
“You really got us into a mess here,” The Madman said drily. “Can you feel it?” Quincy swallowed hard and nodded. There was an overpowering sense of dread in the air. It was unnatural and off-putting. Quincy felt as if he was on the brink of bursting into shivers, or fleeing for any possible exit. Ahead lay only blackness; a darkness laden with an unseen horror.
“I feel it,” Quincy whispered.
“Stay close. Don’t trust anything you see in there, Quincy. Nothing.” The Madman raised the fire. They could see the door to the main mall space, which had been spared the fire’s wrath. Past the soot-covered entrance, however, nothing but silky black could be revealed.
“We’re going in there?”
“We can’t go back. It’s not letting us.”
“Why did you let me go in here if you knew this would happen?”
“Right, blame me if it makes you feel better.” Quincy didn’t reply. He was seized by another wave of anxiety and panic that he had to fight to control.
“Let’s just go,” Quincy said through gritted teeth. “Let’s just get out of here,” he continued, more quietly this time. The Madman took the lead, stepping one hesitant foot into the pool of ink ahead. The safe glow from his palm was almost useless; it was as if the tendrils of darkness were snuffing the flame like so many reaching, clawing fingers.
“Follow the light, and follow it close.” With that final vocation, The Madman disappeared into the void. The light, which Quincy had been looking at eagerly, was suddenly gone. Quincy’s heart dropped to his shoes. He took several steps after The Madman, reaching his hands out in a vain attempt to make contact.
“Hey! Wait up!” Quincy’s voice sounded faded and muffled. It was almost like he was surrounded by a thick curtain. He couldn’t see anything. “Come back!” Quincy’s voice broke. The cry was more of a plea –Quincy was beginning to panic. His resolve failed, and he decided to get back to the pizza restaurant. He had only taken a few steps into the mall, after all.
Quincy turned, took a step, and promptly ran into a hard obstacle. His forehead collided with a slab of concrete –a wall. A sob escaped him. That wall wasn’t there before, there was supposed to be a doorway. Had he gotten lost in the dark? He spun, hands grasping at the dark, hoping to find something –anything– that would bring him to salvation.
My phone! The revelation came like bolt of lightning. Quincy fumbled at his jeans, trying to fish his cell phone from his pockets. He grasped it, turned on its flashlight, and swung it up. As he did so, an unseen hand grabbed the phone and jerked it into the dark with inhuman speed. The light, like The Madman’s fire, was extinguished. Quincy’s heart stopped. He fell to the floor, breathing so hard and fast he thought his lungs would burst. What was that? What… what was..oh, God, what- His thoughts raced at an impossible tempo, leaving him incapable of rational thought. He remained there for what seemed like an eternity; hyperventilating on the cold floor, trying desperately to see what could not be seen through the shroud that covered his every sense.
Quincy had never experienced true terror. He was no stranger to fear, but what gripped his heart now was different than fear. He could feel it, taste it, smell it; a festering, ancient sense of utter dread. He was alone, oh so alone. A pattering of footsteps sounded from behind Quincy. They clicked and scuttled, thudded and squelched. It was almost as if each step belonged to a different creature. Quincy’s imagined what could be making the noises and began to shake violently. Cold sweat covered his entire body. The steps came again. They tapped closer and closer until they stopped just in front of Quincy. He whimpered involuntarily, trying fruitlessly to see what was in front of him.
Tap. The thing was coming. Tap. With each slow footstep, Quincy felt his sanity slip farther and farther away. He wanted to run, to stand, to kick out and yell, but he couldn’t move so much as a finger. Tap tap. It was right on top of him. Quincy squeezed his eyes shut instinctively, waiting for the moment of impact.
“Hey!” Quincy opened his eyes. He was met with a painful orange blaze. He shut his eyes again and put his hand up in front of his face.
“I told you to stay close, what are you doing on the floor?” The Madman glared down at Quincy critically. Quincy fought down the urge to let out a sob of relief. He stood and dusted himself off shakily.
“I felt tired, wanted to take a nap,” he said, trying to distract himself from the shock of what had just happened.
“Get up, and don’t make jokes. This place isn’t very funny,” The Madman dragged Quincy up by the arm. Quincy was surprised at The Madman’s seriousness.
“Do you know where we’re going?”
“Sort of, just follow me and don’t lose me this time. Hold my shirt if you have to.” The Madman began walking again, barely giving Quincy enough time to grab his shoulder and follow. They continued in silence, skirting any obstacles that they came to. Quincy felt much safer in the company of The Madman, yet he still felt the underlying unease that seemed to infest the entire building.
They walked for what seemed like an eternity. Each minute that passed felt like an hour. Quincy’s nerves were still rubbed raw, yet nothing else happened. The ruined mall was completely silent. Suddenly, The Madman stopped moving. Quincy bumped into him roughly and staggered back.
“Ow. What’s going on?” The Madman gave no response. “Hey, did you find something?” Quincy asked, louder this time. Again, there was nothing but eerie silence. Quincy began to feel scared.
“Quincy, isn’t it?” The Madman’s voice sounded bored, disinterested.
“Your name, it’s Quincy. Or am I wrong?”
“No –are you crazy? What’s gotten into you?”
“Is that why they call me The Madman? Am I crazy?” Suddenly, The Madman whirled onto Quincy. He held the ball of flame out threateningly, illuminating his face from the bottom. Quincy stepped back in shock –The Madman’s face was contorted evilly, his usually handsome jawline was tightened and twisted into a leering snarl.
“Wha-” Quincy tried to speak, but fear closed his throat.
“Am I crazy?” The Madman repeated slowly, putting a dangerous emphasis on each word.
“No, I wouldn’t say so,” Quincy said nervously, taking another step back.
“It’s very scary in here, isn’t it?”
“If this is your idea of a joke, I want to remind you we have more important things to be doing,” Quincy finally found the resolve to feel angry.
“More important things…” The Madman repeated the words, musing over them thoughtfully. “Like hunting the Devil?” In an instant, The Madman was gone. In his place was an impossibly black silhouette. Quincy’s heart stopped. There was no way he should be able to see whatever it was that had taken The Madman’s place. The fire had been extinguished and there was absolutely no light, yet the thing before him was darker than the blackness that surrounded it. It was like a void, creating a stark contrast with the very fabric of reality.
“You’re not The Madman,” Quincy whispered hoarsely. He was at a complete and terrified loss for words.
“Did you figure that out yourself, Quincy?” The creature bent forward, lowering its ragged head to look Quincy in the eyes.
“Where is he?” Quincy said in an even meeker tone. He could sense an overwhelming power emanating from whatever was before him. He didn’t have to be told that he was completely powerless to protect himself.
“That is a good question. Why are you here, Quincy? What did he say to you to convince you to come here with him?”
“He said I had to, to save to world.” Quincy answered without thinking, like he was forced to speak.
“The entire world? He thinks rather highly of me… Do you think I could destroy the world, Quincy?”
“I don’t know,” Quincy replied truthfully, if not against his will. “What are you?” As soon as the words left Quincy’s mouth, everything changed to sudden brightness. The darkness that had so greedily clung to every available space was, in an instant, gone. Quincy found that he was standing in the middle of the destroyed mall. Large beams of sunlight spilled down from the ruined roof above. They gloomily illuminated the sad, charred, and empty skeletons of shops, fountains, and planters. Quincy automatically looked around for any of the horrors his mind had created earlier, but there was nothing to be seen.
“What am I?” The question drew Quincy’s attention back to the creature. To his surprise, the looming dark monster was gone. In his place sat a child, raven-haired and pale-faced. The boy looked up at Quincy and smiled hollowly. “Surely, The Madman told you what I am,” the child stood, smiling thinly at Quincy. As Quincy watched, the boy changed grotesquely, his spine arching rapidly and his short black hair growing and graying at an alarming rate. His face, once youthful, chiseled with age. Canyons of wrinkles now sprouted from the corner of his eyes and crept down his face to loose, thin jowls that hung off his tight lips.
“The Devil,” Quincy whispered, his voice muted with terror.
“No,” the creature crooned, its youthful voice now a wizened croak, “I’m your worst nightmare.” It took a step forward, smiling wide, wide, until half of its decrepit face was swallowed up in that evil smile.
“Cliché, boring –overall a 3/10.” The creature paused its charge. Quincy recognized the voice, but he dared not look away from that smile. The Madman stepped into view behind the creature, chin up, shoulders squared, and a look of refined smugness on his face. The creature’s eyes never left Quincy’s.
“I was about to have some fun,” it said with the tone of a child made to go to bed early. The change in voice was so sudden that Quincy nearly looked around for the newcomer. In an instant, the creature was a young boy again. “I was about to have so much fun!” It said furiously, whirling on The Madman.
“It’s time to go home.” The Madman said coolly.
“It’s time to go home,” the boy mocked. “Maybe it is time. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t!” The boy screeched like a banshee and leapt at The Madman like a crazed wolf. They fell to the ground together, writhing and twisting like a knot of snakes. Quincy watched, dumbfounded. He wanted desperately to run, but something kept him transfixed. He watched the bizarre fight: boy against man.
With a heave, The Madman threw the boy off, sending him skidding across the ruined tiles. The Madman reached into his jacket a pulled something out. It caught the light, Quincy gasped. It was the mirror which he had buried when he had read The Madman’s guide.
“Quincy, take this!” The Madman tossed the mirror to Quincy, who caught it with a fumble.
“What? Why?” Quincy glanced over at the boy, who was starting to get up. He was changing, growing taller and thinner as he peeled himself off the ground.
“No time for stupid questions! When I say so, break that mirror!” The boy was now fully standing, but he was a boy no longer. It was as if some great hand had stretched his pale limbs like taffy. His hands, attached to boneless wrists, coiled on the floor. His neck teetered under his head, which was now several feet higher in the air.
The monstrosity flailed its arms towards The Madman and screeched as it broke into a loping, uneven charge. The Madman met the beast at a full sprint. Once again they clashed, but this time The Madman was engulfed in a tangle of tentacle-like limbs. A series of cracks sounded, and The Madman yelled out in pain: “Now, Quincy! Break it now!”
Quincy brought the mirror down on the ground with all the force he could muster. It shattered into a million shards and threw them in every direction. Quincy looked up, only to see that the ruins of the mall were empty. The Madman and his assailant were nowhere to be seen.
A sudden flash of white-hot pain flashed behind Quincy’s eyes. He fell to the floor, clutching his temples and groaning. From somewhere floated an echo of a voice. Quincy looked around, trying to figure out who was speaking, but seeing nobody. The pain came again, this time greater in intensity. Quincy screamed out loud, scrabbling uselessly against his own skull.
“Dismiss me!” the voice came again, more clearly. It was The Madman, but it seemed to come from within Quincy’s throbbing head. “Say the words! Quick, Quincy, now!” The frantic urgency in The Madman’s voice goaded Quincy to his feet. The world around him spun, but he fought to keep his balance.
“I will you to leave this place! Go from whence you came!” Quincy yelled out into the ruined mall. Silence followed. It was a pure silence, like the calm that comes when the final raindrop has fallen, when the last bolt of lightning has been cast. Quincy dropped to his knees. “Madman?” he said weakly. There was no reply, and no more pain. Mercifully, Quincy fell into unconsciousness.
. . .
Quincy woke in his own bed. He thought about the strange nightmare he had just had. The memories trickled in slowly, still shrouded in obscurity. His heart began to hammer. None of it was a nightmare; he had been in that mall.
“Calm down, kid.” Quincy then noticed the figure in the corner of the room. It was The Madman, leaning against the wall nonchalantly. “You’re fine. It’s over.”
“The Devil, you fought it, you disappeared-”
“Yes.” The Madman was very matter-of-fact.
“That’s all you have to say? What the hell happened? Where is it?”
“It’s back where it was.” The Madman’s voice adopted a tone of sadness. “And, as it seems, so am I. You’re dreaming, Quincy. But you’ll wake up soon enough.”
“Why did you tell me to break that mirror? Are you going to tell me what really happened?”
“No, that’d take far too long and I don’t think you’d understand it. I’ll give you the quick version, though. When you read my guide and freed me from that painting, I became tied to you. It wasn’t that different from a normal summoning, really. The mirror was a part of the ritual; it was my anchor to your world. But the thing that followed me out, it was also tied to you –to the mirror.”
“Breaking the mirror broke the summons.” Quincy said, understanding. “That’s why I could dismiss you –both of you.”
“But you’re stuck again, with that thing?”
“Well way to waste my time! I went through all sorts of hell to get you out, and then went through some more just to put you back!”
“Go ahead, throw a pity party. You’re alive, at least.”
“Aren’t you upset? You know, being a prisoner again and all.”
“I shouldn’t have ever left. I have to be here. You wouldn’t understand why.”
“To keep an eye on whatever followed you out?”
“Yes, something like that.” The Madman crossed to Quincy and put out a hand. “We aren’t going to see each other again. I want you to burn my guide and forget this demon business. I have no idea how you’ve survived this long, but it would be a shame to see you die. You’ve been so very entertaining.” Quincy took The Madman’s hand and shook it.
“It’s certainly been something. Bye, Madman.” Quincy didn’t want to dawdle with pleasantries. He wanted to be home safe as fast as possible.
“Goodbye, Quincy.” With that, Quincy woke. He was still on the floor of the ruined mall, alone. Two police officers stood over him, shining their flashlights into his face.
“Kid, what the hell are you doing in here?” one of the officers asked.
“Long story,” Quincy muttered, vowing never to so much as say the word “demon” ever again.
Credit: Daniel Zaturensky
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