The last ingredient that Andi had to track down was the blood. She had a few ideas how to go about it, but none of them particularly appealed to her. Her best options at the moment were to go to a butcher and just flat out ask if they sold blood–she thought that they might, to make certain sausages and other foods out of.
Alternatively, she could just a cut of meat and hope that enough drained out that she could get by that way. She honestly didn’t know how pure the blood would have to be. It would be a pity to go through all of this effort and not know if the summoning hadn’t worked because it couldn’t possibly work or because she hadn’t quite followed the directions. Just the same as she knew that she had to try it, she knew that if she didn’t give it her all, she wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it.
In the end though, she chickened out. She walked into the butcher’s, meaning to ask for a pint of blood, but one look at the tall man behind the counter with the full black beard and she decided on a chancing the meat. With any luck, she could make some dinner for herself and Eos on top of it. Maybe the cat would be less grumpy with her if she bribed her.
She walked out with a pair of nice juicy cuts. She only hoped that it would be enough. Neither the purity of the blood nor the source had been mentioned in the ritual that she’d read, but the amount had been most precise.
The ride home seemed longer, partially because she had to wait for a train–she wasn’t used to the midday schedule–and partially because she wanted to be done with this. She was on the downhill path now, it almost felt inevitable that something would happen.
At home again, she set everything down on the counter just in time to see Eos glaring at her from across the room. A moment later, she noticed that the book was missing.
“Eos?” she said, walking over towards the table. Did someone break in?
And take that random book? What purpose would that possibly serve?
As she got closer, she realized that the book wasn’t missing, it had just been knocked off the table. It lay face down on the floor behind it, back cover lifted slightly at an angle.
“Eos, did you do that?” She couldn’t think of another option, but she hadn’t seen the cat even getting close to the book since she’d had it. The cat just stared at her. She turned back to pick up the book.
Just as she was getting it back on the table, there was a crash from behind her. She spun just in time to see a pile of dishes falling all over her carefully acquired purchases. Behind all of… Eos.
“You… cat…” she half growled, incapable of normal speech. She launched herself across the room, trying to catch the bags still sliding before it was too late for those as well. Luckily, she didn’t think that anything she had purchased was particularly fragile, it was just hard to come by and likely to get mixed together.
Unfortunately, the book had warned her about this. She knew that she had to be precise in her efforts or things could go horribly sideways. If there was a chapter on exactly what that might actually entail she hadn’t found it yet, but it had at least mentioned the possibility enough times to make her think it was serious.
She glared at Eos, but the cat just sat there unconcerned, staring back. It was really starting to bug her just how un-catlike the cat was acting. And it all revolved around that book.
For a second, just a second, Andi had her doubts. She didn’t really think that she would take the advice of a cat above any other, but now that she was thinking about it, didn’t people often say that cats had good instincts? And Eos was act most unlike herself. She was normally completely chill–unless given a healthy dose of catnip–but here she was downright belligerent.
But the moment passed. She knew that she had to do this. It was either a great strength or an equally terrible weakness she knew she had within herself, but when something mysterious was dangled in front of her, she had to know the answer. It was one of the reasons that she’d never had a particularly good experience with her Sunday school. Sister Katherine had been many things, but good an answering the more oddball and off the wall questions Andi had been full of wasn’t one of them.
“I’m going to do it,” she said to Eos. “And nothing you can do is going to stop me.” It helped to say it aloud, reinforced Andi’s momentum. Eos didn’t say anything.
She picked the cat up–thankfully, she came peacefully enough, curling into Andi’s arms–and took her to the bedroom. She was going to have to lock her away for this. No distractions. That had been another thing the book had been perfectly clear about. She couldn’t afford to stop the processes once it had begun.
She couldn’t really imagine what might go so wrong given the variety of herbs, candles, and pretty stones she’d brought back, but the again she really couldn’t imagine that they could summon a demon either. It had to be one or the other.
When she shut the door on her, Eos let out one last plaintive mrowl, but then was silent. She must have finally given in that her human wasn’t about to be swayed. If anything, that disconcerted Andi even more, but she just ignored it.
It took perhaps an hour to clear a large enough place in the middle of the living room. The summoning that she was going to attempt was supposed to be one of the simplest, but it still wasn’t that easy. At the very least, she was going to need a good four feet across of empty space.
At least she could put down a sheet. The instructions had specified that; that you could put down a covering if you wanted to, although it suggested it even better to just perform the ritual outside. She couldn’t very well do that though. Her neighbors would have thought her absolutely mental–and she was already having enough second thoughts that she wouldn’t necessary disagree with them.
Finally, she was ready.
First step, the candles. She needed five of them. Apparently, the colors mattered, but the sizes did not. Some of the rules like that just didn’t seem to make any sense, but she did it anyways. White, red, green, blue, yellow, just like that. They even had to be specific tones, the green and red deep and rich while the blue and yellow were almost in pastels. If there was that much detail, than why could they be any size?
After that–and leaving the candles unlit–she had to spread a series of herbs between differing pairs. The combinations were specified down to the exact amount for each color, but not how they were supposed to be spread. She assumed that she should get them as evenly as she could, but what if there was supposed to be more towards the candles?
If she ever met the one who wrote that book, she was going to have to give them a piece of her mind. One, for putting her through all of this–although that couldn’t be said to have been strictly their fault–and two for making the directions so frustratingly uneven.
The stones came next, several pretty varieties that she could have had the names for had she looked them up again in the book. There were pictures though, so that made it easy enough. The strangest part here was that the book explicitly stated that there had to be no sharp edges on any of the stones. Once again, the exact problem that would cause was left vague.
She thought that she was starting to feel a bit of a tingle in the air, perhaps a build up of static electricity? Of course that could just as easily have been in her mind, she could feel the tension radiating out from her just as well and that was purely internal.
The final part was the one she had most been dreading. The blood.
She had taken the meat out of it’s packaging and set it in a bowl on the counter after the incident with Eos. She saw now that the two pieces were sitting in a nice–if small–puddle of red fluid. She had to hope that it was both blood and enough for what she was about to do.
Carefully taking the bowl, she pulled as much of the blood as she could into a baster. She thought she was going to have to get another one–how could you baste a turkey knowing that it had once been full of blood–but that was a problem for another day. It just about filled it. That had to be enough.
Then, walking carefully in a circle clockwise around the entire arrangement, she dropped the blood, one drop at a time. The drops had to be evenly spaced the book had said. The exact allowance had been left vague, but she thought that it couldn’t possibly be on a subatomic level or anything.
She had considered taking the drop sheet ahead of time and drawing the circle out on it. Then she could have made svn marks on the outside ahead of time and just dropped blood onto each of those. Hindsight being twenty twenty as it was, she really should have done that. Too late now.
She would just have to do the best that she could.
There was no mistaking it now. There really was a feel of energy in the air. And… was that a hum? It was low pitched, just below what she could easily hear, but she could almost feel it vibrating her entire body.
She just about stopped right there, the warnings in the book be damned. If this was all going to work… She hadn’t really counted on that. She had been so convinced all along that it was all a colossal joke of some sort. She couldn’t say who was playing it on her or why, but it had to be a joke…
But now things were happening; they were happening faster now.
There was a sudden screech of sound behind her. She turned just in time to see one of the barstools that until a moment before had been sitting peacefully at the bar tipping onto only one of it’s four legs, dance a few inches across the floor and then fall over.
That was too much. She tried to stop, but she found that she couldn’t. Her legs betrayed her, her arms moved of their own volition.
Only a few more and it would be done. She would no for certain.
She wasn’t so sure any longer that she wanted to know…
There was an absolute stillness one rarely ever heard in a big city. For just one moment, there was no sound of neighbors, no particularly large trucks rushing by, no planes coming in to land at the airport.
Andi stood frozen. She probably could have moved now, but she couldn’t even be sure. After losing control so completely just moments before, she was afraid to try. Wasn’t it better not to know than to know what control you had than to know for certain that you had none?
A moment more and the feeling had passed.
Andi dropped her arms. Someone dropped the toilet lid upstairs with a loud clacking noise. A semi rumbled past to destinations unknown.
And a tiny shimmering form had taken shape in the very center of the circle.
It had worked.
Without a doubt in the world it had worked.
That shimmering form was almost certainly a demon. She had no other name for it; it didn’t resemble anything else that Andi had seen in her life.
What was it though?
There was barely any form to it; little more than a vaguely humanoid shaped puff of light, motes of energy slowly swirling from end to end.
In a way, it vaguely resembled the book that she’d used to bring it here in the first place. It had the same shimmering quality, the same hint that it was catching the light without actually seeming to have any effect from where the actual lights in the room were.
Andi stared at the demon–for want of a better word, that’s what she was going to call it. She imagined that it was staring back at her, although she couldn’t have said why. Or for that matter how. It didn’t have eyes or any other sort of facial features.
It took a few long moments, but she was starting to realize that she had a problem. She’d summoned a demon. She’d done the impossible. But now what exactly was she supposed to do with it?
She hadn’t read that far in the book yet. So far, all she knew was a bit of the theory behind what a demon was and what made them different from people or other supernatural beings–which were hinted at, but never quite expanded upon–and how to summon one. But nothing yet on what to do with them…
This might be a problem.
“Hello?” she said, feeling a bit foolish.
The blob of energy didn’t say anything. It sort of pulsed, but that was it.
Andi stared at the blob for a moment. Proof… and this wall she had to show for it?
“You’re pretty boring,” she said after a moment, “can you even do anything?”
“Yes.” The being had a strangely neutral voice. It sounded vaguely computer generated, but she couldn’t put a gender or ethnicity to it. And that was all it said, just that one word.
Andi waited for a little while, but when the being didn’t say anything more, she asked it “so what can you do?”
Nothing more than random pulses of light. She knew that the thing had answered her, that much wasn’t in question any longer. But why?
“You did answer me, didn’t you?”
That was something at least. Perhaps it could only answer yes or no questions?
“Are you a demon?”
Could it say no? “Can you say anything besides yes or no?”
She thought that there was a slight hesitation this time, but it answered in exactly the same tone as always before. “No.”
“Did you hesitate just now?”
Another hesitation, a little more obviously. “No.”
“I know that you hesitated this time.”
No response this time. Andi supposed that it wasn’t a question at least. Plus, she didn’t have much of an idea what exactly the capabilities of the demon were. The first chapter had some information about demons. There were hints that they could do all sorts of things, from enhancing natural abilities to binding to a wide variety of more esoteric possibilities–guardians, watchers, and servants among those.
One thing that it had mentioned specifically though was that demons didn’t particularly have bodies of their own. The demon here–that she had summoned; that still felt strange to think–was going to fade unless she did something with it.
“What am I to do with you?” she asked.
The demon of course said nothing. It wasn’t a yes or no question.
Was it a little fainter now? The book had said that it would do that eventually, but she hadn’t expected it quite so quickly.
“What if I don’t do anything?” she said. It wasn’t a question to the demon so much as thinking out loud.
Running out of options, she turned back to the book. Lifting it up and feeling a little strange, she said, “Tell me my options. What can I do with a newly summoned demon?”
This time she was expecting it, but it was still strange to she the shifting lights on those silver threads in the table of contents. It wasn’t that the threads themselves were actually moving, but more that the way they reflected light was. Within a few moments, a third chapter heading was visible.
Table of Contents
On the history of the demons
On the summoning of demons
On the encoding of demonic characteristics
Well that was interesting. Encoding wasn’t a word that she would have chosen. For that matter, she would have thought that characteristics would mean things like scales or horns. She didn’t want to make the demon look different, she wanted it to act different.
Then again, the book seemed to know best. She flipped through the pages again. She already knew that she couldn’t skip right to the third chapter, but at least her first jump took her partway through the second chapter. It only took a minute more to get to the third.
As she reached the new chapter, Andi looked up at her demon. It hadn’t moved a muscle–assuming it had some equivalent to muscles–and was still turned right towards her just as it had been before. It was fainter now as well, there was no doubt about it. She thought she could faintly see the outline of the plant matter on the far side right through one of it’s “arms.”
Time was running out. She was going to have to skim through the chapter.
It was strange. She wasn’t entirely sure what she had been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t quite so technical. It felt almost like a hardware manual. Even crazier, there actually were instructions for scales and horns, just as she had expected. Those were relatively straight forward. The craziest part though was that there were encodings for behaviors as well. You could–and had to–literally program in the ability for a demon to be a guardian just as easily as you could give it a menacing form. After that, it would take on some semblance of life, but it was a strange sort of life.
“So what can I do with this demon?” Andi said half to herself. It was quite obviously transparent now, although it still hadn’t moved. She wondered if it knew that it was dying? Was it dying?
That gave her a moment of pause. Had she brought the demon into being just to kill it?
That didn’t seem a particularly good idea.
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to improvise.”
The book didn’t have much to say in the way of improvisation. With all of the other warnings though, it didn’t seem advisable. But she was going to have to risk it. Perhaps if she gave the demon a task, it wouldn’t fade away?
She flipped through the pages, waiting for inspiration to strike. The biggest problem was that she didn’t have much left in the way of supplies. It seemed that a lot of the so called enhancements took both a verbal component–she would have called them spells had she really thought about it, but it sounded mad so verbal components it was–and various related supplies.
For example, she could imbue a demon with an aspect of fire–which could be built upon in a wide variety of exciting ways–by burning a candle while reciting a paragraph of what looked much like gibberish to her. At least it appeared to be in Latin lettering.
She had a candle.
“All right then,” she said. “Fire aspect it is.”
She reached over to her supplies. A candle, a match. She placed it on the edge of the circle right in front of the demon. Following the instructions, she drew another, much smaller circle around it in chili powder and dripped a few small drops of blood around.
There was another crackle of static a brief flash. The powder seemed to solidify, perfecting the circle.
She didn’t think she’d ever get used to that.
Reaching in, she lit the candle. It lit easily–too easily. The flame seemed flatly eager.
Then it was a matter of the verbal component.
Might as well call a spade a spade…
“orchee fleung neamk nouv…”
The flame grew as she spoke, higher and higher, reaching further above the candle than the candle itself was tall.
The words themselves came easily. More easily than they should have, especially considering that they didn’t actually mean anything. Well, at least nothing that she understood. The candle seemed to understand perfectly well.
“arok saack fleung naCHAM”
There hadn’t been any indication that the last few words needed quite that volume, but she was actually starting to get into this in spite of herself.
At the last syllable, the flame flared briefly to even greater heights, to the pointer where for a moment she was even afraid for her ceiling. Then it jumped, detaching from the candle–what was left of it–entirely, arching across the two feet of empty air between candle and demon.
And then it was gone. The demon stood there, seeming somewhat larger and a bit more solid. At the very least, it wasn’t quite so transparent now. It seemed to be glowing.
Was glowing a good thing?
“Did that even do anything?” she asked, half to herself.
“Yes,” the demon said. It sounded the same.
Could it be lying?
“No,” the demon said.
Andi blinked. The demon stared eyelessly back at her.
“Did you…” She couldn’t put it into words. Without a completely question, the demon said nothing. “Did you read my mind?”
A slight hesitation, then “Yes.”
Without a complete encoding, the demon began to fade almost immediately. If anything, it seemed to fade more quickly than before. When she tried this again–she surprised herself when she realized that it wasn’t an if, it was already a when–she was going to have to plan ahead and collect the additional supplies ahead of time. So that was why the book didn’t recommend improvisation.
If she was going to prevent this demon from fading away, she needed to finish the encoding. She needed to give it a purpose.
In the end, it was a combination of time and supplies that determined purposes. She just didn’t have many of the more esoteric supplies–she was going to have to fix that–and many of the incantations were just too long. Each enhancement made the demon just a bit brighter, but only for a moment. Then it began to fade, more quickly each time. She really was going to have to plan ahead.
Given all of those constraints, the final demon wasn’t bad.
She’d bound it into a physical form. That part was critical, without that a demon couldn’t last in our world. Even better, it turned out that the exact physical form wasn’t as important as the way the demon would interact with it.
So she bound it into her stove. Specifically one of the smaller burners.
It was ridiculous, but she had to come up with something that worked with fire, and she had to do it quickly.
Binding the two together had been the last step of the process. As the incantation took hold, the demon’s physical form–intangible as it had been–had faded and the burner had glowed red hot. For a moment, she thought that it would be too much for it, that she’d managed to melt the entire thing down. But then it had cooled, returning to almost it’s original form.
Almost, because when she looked carefully there were thin silver threads running all throughout the metal. It caught the light just like the book, glittering faintly as she shifted it from side to side. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you likely wouldn’t even notice it.
In the process of the summoning, she’d made sure to put in a control word. She wouldn’t have thought about it, but while she was looking desperately for a the pieces of an enchantment she actually could add there had been a note, almost as an aside. She didn’t know what it would have done had she not put it in, but it seemed to help.
She put the burner back into the stove and uttered the single word command.
The German she had taken in college came in handy. It was unlikely that she’d use it accidentally while working about the house, but she could still remember the meaning if she ever needed it.
The coils heated immediately, first with a dull red glow then lightening to a bright cherry. She held her hand out, inches above the surface and could feel the heat. But the burner was still off. The energy was coming from the demon.f
The glow slowly faded. It took about twice as long as heating, but it faded nevertheless.
The entire situation was weird, there was no doubt about that. She couldn’t quite believe that it was all real. But she’d done it. She’d proven to herself–against all odds–that the book was telling the truth.
After cleaning up the sheet–which consisted entirely of bundling it up and throwing it out–she let Eos out of her room. Surprisingly, the cat seemed entirely fine with his confinement. She hadn’t been locked up quite long enough to be angry, but even her previous antagonism with the book seemed to have faded.
She did make a beeline for the kitchen and looked up at the stove–which was admittedly strange–but she didn’t hiss or make any particular notice of it beyond that. Instead, she back over to a nice corner and curled up, promptly going to sleep.
Andi shook her head.