Black Petals Issue #99, Spring, 2022

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Are You Full? Fiction by James Kompany
Bunker-Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Buy Here, Pay Here-Fiction by Kim Bonner
The Church of the Coyotes Who Would be Wolves-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Elm Mills-Fiction by Mack Severns
Hearts in the Gutter-Fiction by Lamont Turner
Midnight Espresso-Fiction by David Starobin
Spider Bite-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Test Tube Babies-Fiction by Kilmo
Witches' Jubilee-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Biter: A Love Story-Flash Fiction by Harris Coverley
New Mail-Flash Fiction by Eddie D. Moore
Reasons Not to Wake Up a Sleeping Beggar in the Morning-Flash Fiction by Marcelo Medone
While I was Frozen-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
Woodshop for Werewolves-Flash Fiction by Mark Jabaut
Bruja-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
First Light-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Soul Music-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Stalker-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Zombies in Space-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Bleeding Senses-Poem by Jess Boaden
I'd Like to Speak to the Manager-Poem by Carl E. Reed
The Woods (Behind My House)-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Nocturnal Mode-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When I Find You-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Ethereal-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Fall-Poem by Mike Edele
Death-Poem by Mike Edele
Where Will You Be-Poem by Mike Edele
Giant Cockroach-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Allegewi-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Tokoloshe-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Ghoul-Poem by Richard Stevenson

Hillary Lyon: Witches' Jubilee

bp_99_witches_jubilee_swiseman.jpg
Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2022

Witches’ Jubilee

 

Hillary Lyon

 

 

“C’mon man, this is lame,” Dalton scoffed. “I thought we were gonna see a real pagan ceremony, complete with uninhibited nubiles—not some performance art stunt with women’s studies majors.”

“Stick with me, bro,” Cole countered. “I promise this will destroy you, it’s so mind- blowing!”

Dalton crumpled his mouth in disgust. His fraternity brother was always exaggerating; everything the kid recommended had to be the most awesome thing ever—whether movies, pop songs, restaurants, or girls. Now this: a “mind-blowing” ritual by a coven of local self-proclaimed witches.

In the car on the way over, Cole described these as women “black magic babes,” wearing nothing under their robes, doing stripper-moves in a circle dance around a cauldron in the backyard of the nearby vacant Episcopal church rectory.

A cauldron. Black magic babes. After all these years, Dalton wondered why he was still so gullible when it came to his frat brother’s tall tales. Maybe because Cole was a natural-born salesman; he did seem able to talk anyone into just about anything. Like magic.

Now here he was, wasting a Saturday night chasing some trashy Hollywood B-movie fantasy of Cole’s. True, the women were in long black robes here in the backyard of the rectory, but they were all just standing around an absurdly large cauldron, drinking wine out of red plastic cups. There was rhythmic chanting over drums softly playing on an old boom box. So corny, Dalton thought. The women were talking intensely to each other, occasionally laughing, but mostly ignoring the two men. It felt like a sorority rush party to Dalton.

Until one woman—the president of this artsy sorority?—sauntered over and nodded to Cole. She held two cups in her hands, both filled with something dark and fragrant with spices. Cold mulled wine? That’s weak, Dalton mentally criticized. He was more in the mood for a beer;  nevertheless, he wouldn’t turn down a free drink.

The young woman was not especially to Dalton’s taste—she was a skinny, bug-eyed brunette—but maybe after a few drinks . . . he put his faith in the beer-goggles phenomenon. She handed Cole and Dalton the cups.

“Good to see you again, Cole.” She smiled, and Dalton had to admit she was pretty when she did that. But just a little.

“Promised I’d be back,” Cole murmured as he raised the cup to his lips.

“And you brought your friend.” Here she looked Dalton up and down. She licked her lips. “Drink up, boys.” She winked at Cole. “We’re about to begin.” She turned and rejoined the other women.

“Well, she’s different,” Dalton snorted. He was accustomed to women throwing themselves at him. After all, he thought of himself as a catch: star of the college baseball team, business major honor student, vice-president of his fraternity, Calvin Klein model handsome. Maybe she was playing hard to get, maybe she . . . Dalton took a long drink from his red cup and the light dawned. . . . preferred other women. Well now, Dalton said to himself, I always did like a challenge.

One of the black-clad women knelt before the huge iron cauldron and clicked on a lighter. A flame whooshed under the cauldron. The president—that’s how he now thought of the thin brunette—raised her hands up to the night sky, and everyone in the backyard fell silent, right on cue.

“Vestal Progeny of the Abyss, are gathered here tonight to celebrate . . .” Dalton took another swig of his spicy drink, and her voice faded. Or maybe the growing buzz in his head drowned her out. He looked into his cup and saw a swirl of tiny skulls and slithering worms swimming in the red wine. He’d been dosed! Wouldn’t be the first time some one slipped him a trip. What the Hell. He giggled and drank more of the potion. Dalton leaned over to tell Cole what was happening to him, but his friend had vanished. 

He scanned the silent group for Cole, and as he did, the women dropped their robes, one by one. They were naked underneath, but they weren’t human. Some had lizard bodies, some were birds, some were cats, some were—trees. And there was Cole, moving into the center of the circle, next to the cauldron, which was now full of some boiling, steaming, stinking liquid.

He was wearing a black robe, too. Would he drop his as well, and like the women, be something totally freaky underneath? Maybe he’d be a car, or a baseball bat, or a shoe. Dalton laughed out loud at that thought. The witches’ president was a tree, a willow, and she swayed and swished towards him. She wrapped her weedy limbs around Dalton, and led him to the center of the circle, to the cauldron.

With surprising strength, she lifted him over her head. “Children of the Void,” she intoned, “This night we welcome into our family—” here she dropped Dalton into the scalding bath—“Brother Cole, a neophyte warlock of truly unlimited potential. One who has proven himself by gifting us this prized offering, this sacrifice to our Lord and Master.”

Dalton’s screams were quickly drowned out by the sound of the group’s almost deafening chanting, playing out over rhythmic drumming. Cole approached the cauldron, and with an ancient, ornate ladle, began dipping into the bubbling brew, ceremoniously filling the mouths of all present, one by one.

 

Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared lately in 365tomorrows, Yellow Mama, Sirens Call, Pandemic: Unleashed anthology, Whodunit crime anthology, Legends of Night drabble series anthology, and Revelations drabble series anthology. She’s also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines.
https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

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