“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
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
Until one woman—the president of this
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
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
“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.