Maribelle and Brian find some sort of building at one end of the burial ground. Though it’s agonizing, Brian follows the lines of the invisible structure so that they know how large it is. It’s the single worst thing he’s ever done. Even getting gored by Mr. D. wasn’t as bad as this. He tells the group that it’s a mausoleum, not even sure how he knows that.
“Why’s it hidden?” Jordan asked.
“Why not?” Sweet responded, walking up next to them.
“Would you want to have a creepy thing like that in your backyard?” Louisa asked.
“We’ve hung out here hundreds of times,” Marissa said. “Why haven’t we felt it or any of the flat-out spooky that hangs over it?”
“Cliff Finley was extremely adept at wards,” Miles said. “He had this under control—until something happened.”
“What?” Marissa asked.
“We woke it up,” Brian said. “When we summoned the Peddler.”
“Why wouldn’t Cliff warn us?” Heath asked.
“Because I don’t think he knew it was there,” Miles replied. “He knew about the witches, but they’d never caused trouble before. They were warded, protected, well contained.”
“We did this?” Jordan said, turning pale. “Did we get Cliff killed?” Her voice held an edge.
Brian put his arms around her. “No. Whatever killed Cliff, it wasn’t us.”
Miles and Heath put salt and cumin around the edge of the grave, paying special attention to the building. No one felt like disturbing it.
The last members arrived. Marissa had gathered three others to sing with her. Her father would sing bass, Louisa handled alto and Andre sang tenor. They were just about to begin when another car pulled up. Chase hopped out, his father’s sister with him.
“I know I don’t have the skills,” she said. “But I felt like someone needed to be here from the blood, besides Chase. It feels important.”
“She’s right,” Maribelle said. “Thank you, Cynthia.”
“Cliff would want me to do anything I can to help.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. She stood between Miles and Maribelle.
Chase took his place in the circle, standing between Brian and Marissa. Jackie, Sweet and Meru had fashioned a small altar opposite the invisible mausoleum. The singers gathered around them as they prepared the ingredients. At a nod from Jackie, they started to sing. Their voices rose in close knit harmony as Jackie and the others completed the intricate pattern of the spell.
The earth rumbled. Stones danced across the shattered ground. A low hum accompanied the music, creating loud, discordant notes. The singers didn’t falter, never lost pitch. Holding hands, they moved closer to the Casters, singing louder. With each note, the earth shook more, opening into a giant pit. Those standing on the edges couldn’t help stepping back as the dirt crumbled away. Only Brian stayed in place, willing the ground to support him. He wasn’t afraid of falling in. He was more concerned with what might come out.
Crossing in front of the mausoleum earlier, he’d been more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. Even battling Deidrich last year hadn’t scared him as much as that excruciating walk. Whatever dwelt inside was more evil than Mr. D. He didn’t know what it was yet, but he hoped he could vanquish it before it had a chance to destroy them all.
The earth drifted away like a giant sieve. Bits of metal and bone caught the light. Cynthia Finley gasped, clutching her shirt. She didn’t speak, but the expression on her face was enough. She’d had no idea that all this lurked beneath the yard of her childhood home.
Chase’s face was calmly resolute. Only the working of his jaw attested to his emotional state. Whatever lay beneath the ground had killed his father. He wanted revenge, but more than that, he wanted to keep anyone else from getting killed. As a football player, he knew that the best defense was sometimes a good offense. Boldly, he met Brian’s eye, nodding.
The song ended and the rumbling stopped. Jackie put out the smoldering flame of the altar fire and waited in silence. All eyes went to Brian. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do next, but he felt a warm glow on his right shoulder. Images flashed through his mind. Closing his eyes, he followed the movements he saw himself making.
Gasps of surprise made him open his eyes once more. Bits and pieces of bone, glass and metal rose from the pit, swirling above the broken ground. A layer of thick ash whirled just beneath it. This went on for several minutes. Everyone watched in silence until the last shimmering metallic piece rose from the dirt.
Brian closed the hole in the ground. Andre and Sweet rolled out a tarp. Slowly, gently, the artifacts dropped on top of it, landing in a neat pile. Brian nodded at Jackie. She brought the small metal bowl to the edge of the circle. Brian took it from her. He stepped over the line, expecting to feel the jolt he had before. Nothing happened. Taking another cautious step, he moved toward the heap. With little puffs of air, he moved the detritus into a smaller pile. Approaching cautiously, he poured the contents of the bowel evenly over the remains. Using more wind, he blended the potion into the ash, making a thick, lumpy glob. With care, he gathered all the dust with his mind, adding it to the ball. When he was done, he moved away, encouraging the others to do so.
The group took hands, chanting. The voices of the singers rose once more, supported by the chanting. Five minutes passed, six, seven. As the clock neared the eight minute mark, they saw a flicker of blue flame in the center of the ball of goo. It bubbled and fizzled, giving off a thick, oily black smoke, rising in a steady, unwavering column. The smell of burning tar filled the air.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
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