Relishing the time spent on someone’s studies but her own, Josie had been eager to help the stranger find and take notes on occult rituals. Emmeline was a trifle odd – jumpy, vague on exactly what she studied or with whom – but she was far from the oddest student here and given the things she and Ronald got up to, Josie wasn’t about to judge. In fact, given the subject matter she could help all the better, she only hoped she didn’t give away the fact that these were not wholly new things to her.
By the time the library closed, Emmeline seemed to be satisfied, and Josie left, smiling to herself in pleasure at being able to help. She ignored a stab of unease at some of the rituals they had found— Emmeline couldn’t possibly know they worked, it was just for an essay. And besides, the creature the group of them had summoned had done no harm to them when they called it up and asked it to stop the fellow that kept following her around asking for a date—they hadn’t seen him since and nothing else had happened.
Tote bag swinging against her leg, humming softly to herself, Josie rounded the corner by her dorm and stopped, a cry strangling in her throat as she saw the glistening remains of…well, something she didn’t want to piece together.
Her eyes focussed atop the remains and saw a hooded creature with feral eyes looking at her, and she took a step back, crashing into the wall, bag dropping to the floor.
The creature rose from the chaos it had wrought, giving Josie a much clearer view of the disassembled human before her, though identifying it was going to take rather more than a simple glance. Josie fought back the urge to add vomit to the stinking pile and looked up at the hooded thing.
“You asked,” it told her, “I delivered. You did not think to tell me not to play with him first. I have had fun, thank you. But now you see him, proof I have fulfilled your request. He will not bother you again, and your firstborn will belong to me. Make me a strong one.”
It floated away, and Josie began to scream.
Later, in her dorm, having answered seemingly endless questions over and over again at the police station, having shivered in Ronald’s arms as he stroked her hair and spoke comforting nothings into her ear, having finally found the strength to speak, she had called the rest of the circle of friends who had summoned the thing.
In her dorm room they made a circle again and followed the banishing ritual. To their relief, the creature didn’t appear, and the ritual seemed to work – at least, Josie felt the weight of the thing’s presence lift from her shoulders. She thanked them for their help, and allowed Ronald to help her to bed. Their relationship until then had been casual, but the horror of knowing what they had done bound them unhappily together.
They completed their studies and wed, bought a house, worked hard at their jobs, never discussing having children. Their sex life was limited – the risk of certain acts too great. They moved around each other, at opposite ends of whatever room they were in, their precariously balanced relationship unable to cope with anything beyond a surface glance. They had forgotten how to love, held together by the knowledge of what they had done—and what they must never do.
Their status quo held until the night Josie found a news piece about the mysterious and gruesome death of Emmeline, and the child she left behind. Showing it to Ronald, they both wept, in sadness, shame, fear, and the knowledge of what they had lost in their rashness and arrogance. They came together for a single night, and it was enough, some dark magic worked inside them to ensure the child would be conceived, and so it was: Tamara Egerton entered the world.
After the first child, Josie and Ronald hoped that a second would give them something else to hold onto, and a son, Jasper, joined the family.
On the night before young Egs’ 5th birthday, the whole family sat up until midnight, waiting, hoping the creature would not come.
The creature did come. Emerging from shadow, it spoke each of their names in a hiss and reached out for Egs.
Josie and Ronald stood in the way as Egs and Jasper backed off, scared, holding hands.
The parents had done their research over the years, and each held a vial in their hands and a banishing spell in their heads. Doubling up for good measure, they threw and chanted at the same time.
The hooded creature laughed in their faces as its shadow began to pull apart. The spells were working, but not fast enough, as it flowed forwards and tendrils laced themselves around Josie and Ronald, snapping their necks and dropping them to the floor.
The creature howled as it was forced to leave empty-handed, but its eyes glowed at Egs, “I will have you!” it screamed as the shadows took it, then cleared, now empty.
Egs and Jasper dropped hands and ran to their parents, but they were already dead.
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