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A Devil in the Details

This was not supposed to happen.

He was not supposed to happen.

Lucy Gimble stared slack-jawed at the circle. Her ritual circle. The complex arrangement of candles, crystals, and symbols, each aligned perfectly to a mystical point and precisely positioned on her bedroom floor, had taken her almost three hours to cast. Everything had to be perfect. According to the website, where she found the spell, even the chalk symbols surrounding the shape of the folded square of lavender paper at the center of the circle had to be “correctly angulated and clearly articulated to produce optimal results.”

So much for optimal!

The man—correction, man-shaped-thing—now sitting cross-legged in the center of her painstakingly crafted geometry exercise from Hell, wore khaki cargo shorts, a sleeveless black t-shirt with a picture of a screaming madman in the center of a blood-red pentagram, and a pair of black rubber flip-flops that looked like he’d nicked them from a Salvation Army dumpster. A pointed goatee, which matched the shock of hair on his head in both its unnatural platinum color and stiffness, made his face appear even rounder and ruddier. The chipped black nail polish on his fingers and toes also didn’t do him any favors, as it did nothing but accentuate the pudginess of said appendages.

Then, if all that wasn’t bad enough, there was his tattoo. The one that began on the left side of his neck and snaked down the length of his arm.

Snaked, because it was a snake. One whose scales gleamed in iridescent blues and greens. Lucy liked snakes and tattoos, so what it was wasn’t nearly as disturbing as what it did.

Tattoos weren’t supposed to move.

Or hiss.

She cast an anxious glance at her computer. The instructions from Wicca Wonderfall’s free spell section were still on its screen, but there was nothing in them about the sudden appearance of man-shaped things (or about them smelling like rotten eggs, either). This wasn’t the first time a Wonderfall spell had produced less than wonderful results. On the plus side, at least her conjuration produced an actual result this time.

Whatever he was.

Lucy flopped on her bed and groaned.

Demon, her inner voice chimed. Trepidation had honed its usually strident librarian tone to a jagged edge. He’s a demon.

“Technically, I’m still an imp. But hey, why split hairs? Demon’s fine by me,” the man-shaped thing said. “By the way, would you mind turning on a light? I don’t have the whole ’ember eye’ thing under control yet, so I’d like to see who’s summoned me.

An imp, and a mind-reading one, at that. Great. Lucy reached for the lamp on her nightstand. “I didn’t summon you.”

“I’m afraid you did, kiddo.” As the bedside lamp clicked to life, bathing the nightstand in a pool of soft light, the man-imp, who was still sitting cross-legged, levitated a few inches off the floor and began to rotate slowly. While he took in his new surroundings, his tattoo kept watch, flicking its tongue every so often over his shoulder at Lucy.

Unlike him, its ember eye gaze had been honed to laser perfection.

“Purple, eh? Interesting choice for a boudoir.” When his rotation reached the bedroom door, he stopped and whistled through his teeth at the drawing that covered its upper half. “Well, hello, little lady! Hey, did you do this?”

“That, and the ones on the wall behind you. They’re part of my Lost Soul series.”

“Nice graveyards! I’ve always said, there’s nothing like a good, tenacious mist to rev the gothic imagination, and I do love redheads.” Pivoting back, he winked at her. “You’ve got some real talent there, kiddo.”

“Not enough to get a summer art scholarship at the Governor’s Institute. They said my work was autobiographical and derivative. I guess, because of this.” Lucy pulled back the hood of her thin, black top. A tangle of long, auburn curls fell past her shoulders.

“Bastards! I’d want revenge, too. Good thing you summoned me.” The candle flames quivered as he spoke.

Lucy threw her hands in the air. “For the last time, I didn’t summon you.”

He scratched his head. “You cast a spell to produce a demon, Red.”

“No, I cast a spell to produce eudaimonia.”

“Say what?”

“You-day-ee-moan-ee-ah,” Lucy said sulkily, crossing her arms. “It’s supposed to produce perfect happiness, health, and prosperity, not…” She waved in his direction. “No offense.”

“None taken.”

“It should be right about…” She pointed at the circle. “Uh, I think you’re sitting on it.”

He pulled the paper out from beneath his buttock and unfolded it. “Well, here’s your first mistake, Red,” he said, flicking the page with his finger. “It’s pronounced ‘you-day-moan-ee-ah.’ You stuck an extra something you didn’t need in there.”

“Okay, so my Latin’s lousy.”

“It’s Greek.”

“Whatever.”

“Oh, man! My buddies are gonna love this!” His belly shook when he laughed.

“Figures.” Turning away, Lucy buried her face in her hands.

“Aw, c’mon, I didn’t mean it.” He heaved himself up and started across the circle for her, but balked when the air shimmered and buckled slightly beneath his touch. Goggle-eyed, he dropped the paper and stared at the crying girl. Finally, he said, “Please don’t do that, I hate it when you humans leak.”

Lucy’s sniffle ended in a snort. “Leak?” She turned back to him, wiping her eyes.

“That’s better. You know, I don’t understand why a pretty little thing like you is messing with this cockamamie spell crap at all. Because it is crap. Health, wealth, happiness: you don’t need a frigging spell for that. What’s your name, Red?”

“Lucy.” She wiped her nose on her shirtsleeve. “Lucy Gimble.”

“Lucy. That’s a lovely name, one of my favorites, in fact. Mine’s Josh.” His dark eyes glinted.

“Josh?” Now it was her turn to laugh.

He shrugged. “That’s the closest thing to it in English. It doesn’t translate well, and even if it did, we both know pronunciation isn’t exactly your strong suit. No matter. Where’d you get the spell, Lucy?

“Here.” She reached for the laptop on her desk. “It was free. Now I know why.” As she angled it so he could see, the feathery script on its screen flickered. “Sorry, my internet connection’s lousy. I’m surprised the website’s still up at all.”

“No problem. Wow, that’s quite a prep list,” he said, gazing from the instructions to the cluttered ritual space. Then his face clouded. “But this says to cast only one circle, a ring of flame. Why’d you make these?” he asked, indicating two smaller, concentric rings.

“Well, since eudaimonia’s really three things, I thought…” Sighing, she pulled a green, googly-eyed, plush object that looked like a large pillow with stunted tentacles on her lap. “After all, a spell’s just like a recipe, right?”

“No. It’s not.” 

“Damn.” She hugged her toy.

“Well, look on the bright side, Lucy. As ritual circles go, this one’s a Cadillac— a Lexus, even! You added salt for containment and protection, and didn’t skimp on it, either, I see.” He nodded at the mounded clumps in the middle arc. “Then, over here, you’ve got… glitter? Oh, Lucy, please tell me that’s not glitter.”

“It’s Magick Dust. It bought it here.” She indicated an advertisement in a sidebar on the computer screen.

Josh pulled at his goatee, as he studied it. “Hunh. I didn’t know magic ended in a k.”

“They sell it for…” Her face fell.

“What?”

“Luck.”

“Well, you are lucky, Lucy. Lucky I was standing by Hell’s Spell-Tracker when you cast yours into the wind; lucky it was me who answered your call and not one of my buddies. Especially not him.” He jabbed a stubby thumb at Lucy’s toy. “He’s not so cuddly in person. No one ever says his name right and it really pisses him off. By the way, his genitals are much longer in real life.”

“Ew!” Lucy threw the Cthulhu plushie in her laundry hamper, prompting another eye blaze and warning hiss from Josh’s tattoo.

“These are nice.” He pointed to the outermost circle of nine candles of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. “Virgin, yes?”

“What?” Lucy’s cheeks flushed. “Well, technically, I guess, not that it’s any of your business. I’m only sixteen, so…” One hand began worrying a leather cord around her neck. She pulled something out of her shirt.

“Not you, silly, the candles.” But when he saw the silver talisman that dangled at the end of the cord, Josh’s chuckle quickly turned into a cough and his snake retreated to a safe spot inside his t-shirt.

“Damn! I couldn’t even get that right.” Bedsprings squeaked, then floorboards creaked, as she stomped to the edge of the candlelit ring. The largest candle, a stout pillar-type with three wicks, was within kicking distance. Lucy flexed her foot but then decided against adding a second-degree burn and possible house fire to her Stupid Things I Did Today list. Instead, she clasped the pendant between her hands and looked up at Josh. “What should I do?”

“Well, call me an old softie, but as long as I’m here, I might as well help you out. ‘Do you a solid,’ as you kids say. So, what’ll it be?”

She shrugged and began rubbing one point of her pendant against her lower lip.

Josh winced as it flashed in the light. “Everyone wants something, Lucy. I can give you anything you want and without all this hocus-pocus hoop-dee-doo. If you want revenge on those jerks at school, I can bury ’em in an avalanche; if it’s boyfriend trouble, I can turn your ‘defriend’ button on Facebook into a weapon. A lethal weapon, if you get my drift. Bastard’ll never know what hit him.”

“Kind of extreme, don’t you think? Anyway, I… don’t have one.” She looked away, letting the pendant dangle between her breasts.

“Well, how about money? Prosperity was one of the wishes on your eudaimonia list.”

Lucy paced between her bed and the door. “You say it’s a favor now, Josh, but later, you’ll want my first-born son or my soul or something.”

“I have no use for babies or souls.” Josh’s flip-flops slip-slapped against the floorboards as he followed her from inside the circle. “It’s true, a human soul used to be worth something, but these days, people will leap from temptation to damnation faster than you can say, Kardashian.” He waved at the computer screen. “Sure, it’s fun to watch, but hey, if a trade would make you feel better, we could do that.”

“If it’ll make me forget this ever happened, then a trade’s fine with me.” Lucy made a sweeping gesture with one arm. “What’s mine is yours, Josh. Take whatever you want.”

“Gotcha.” He winked. “It can’t be just anything, though. I need…” He turned to the drawing on Lucy’s bedroom door. “Nope, too big…” Still slowly turning, now with his back to her, he regarded a group of gemstones that had been placed beside one of the larger candles. “Bloodstone, jasper, hematite… nope, too small, too small, all too small,” he said, stretching each syllable into singsong infinity until his revolution brought them face to face once again. His bead-black eyes flicked to the computer screen. “Hmm…”

“Uh, Josh, no, I don’t think my mom would,” Lucy began, wondering how she’d explain the disappearance of her brand-new laptop.

“No worries. It wouldn’t have withstood the compression produced by the interdimensional time shift, anyway. Electronics from this planet never do. Ah, I’ve got it!” Josh snapped his fingers. “All I need is something you’re not using.”

“Does this count? I definitely won’t be using it anymore.” She removed the necklace and dangled it between them.

“A triquetra?” Bug-eyed, he backed away. “Whoa, Red! Not really a fan of His.”

“His? Don’t you mean Hers?” She scowled. “It came with the Magick Dust from Wicca Wonderfall.”

“Did it? Well, either way, demonic manifestation, remember?”

“Right. Sorry.” As she tossed it on the bed, sheet lightning flared on the computer screen.

“Don’t worry, it’ll come to you.” The corners of his mouth curved up, revealing two rows of small square teeth.

“I don’t know, Josh. I can’t think of anything that I have that would remotely interest you.” Lucy crossed her arms and stared dejectedly at the window. Outlined in wavering candlelight, the ghost of her reflection peered back, Josh’s grin hovering just above her shoulder like a disembodied crescent moon. She shuddered. “Couldn’t you just… leave?”

“You brought me here—”

“By accident! How many times do I have to tell you?” She stamped her foot. Behind her, something rattled on the desk.

“So only you can—”

“I’m sorry, okay?” She stared at the window again. Was it just her imagination or was that feral grin of his getting bigger?

“—release me.”

Her reflection disappeared. Hands, hot and heavy, squeezed her shoulders. Lucy gasped.

“Now, about that thing you’re not using,” his voice purred in her ear, but his leathery fingers, as they traced the line of her face to her jaw, left judders of cold fear in their wake.

She whirled about. “H-h-how did you—”

Calloused palms, cupping her face, forced her to gaze into the obsidian wells of his eyes. “It’s such a little thing, Lucy.”

Her tongue felt like a stone in the dry well of her mouth. She could barely say her next word, “What?”

Strong hands wrenched Lucy’s head to one side. Snapping her neck with a sickening crack, Josh tore her head off with a meaty pop. Blood arced from the stump of Lucy’s neck and surged over the candles, salt, and symbols in dark waves. What was left of her body crumpled to the floor.

Josh lifted Lucy’s lifeless head to eye level by a fistful of bloody hair and sneered. “See?  told you it’d come to you.”

“Cut! That’s a wrap, Josh.”

On the computer screen, two, horned, yellow-eyed, bat-winged creatures clapped and cheered.

“A brilliant performance, as always,” said one, whose scales had the same iridescent shimmer as Josh’s tattoo.

“Well, your idea of using the Wicca site as a lure was pure genius, brother,” he said. “I can’t wait for this episode to hit YouTube.”

“Best reality show in this dimension,” said the smaller and more reptilian of the two in a reedy voice, “For a moment though, I thought she had you with that amulet.”

“Yeah, about that, Pops. Exactly when did you start dealing in holy artifacts?”

“I thought slipping a little something into her shipment of Magick Dust might give her a fighting chance. Almost did, too. The look on your face was priceless!” He slapped his scaly thigh with an open claw and cackled.

Josh glowered at him.

“Oh, don’t be such a sorehead, boy. You won, didn’t you? And like you said earlier, it sure was fun to watch!”

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Young Adult (YA)

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