A fun Halloween short from efictionmag.com
In the eleventh hour, army bag in hand, Gabe prowled the suburbs.
The streets in this patch of gentry heaven had been mostly fields not so long ago, and their names still hinted at a rural past run through a randomizer: Goldenglen Court, Glenroy Circle, Golden Fields Drive.
Glenfield Street was the worst of them, in his estimation. It crossed a line.
The streets were empty, even in April. Puffs of steam rose from Gabe’s mouth to dissipate slowly in the air. He imagined his ragged breathing as a sort of contrail that could be followed—a solid path spun of weed-smoke and Trident.
Gabe had needed to dull some inhibitions tonight to do what had to be done. He was not the sort of boy who knew where to get buddha, but some new friends had come through.
He’d tossed the roach back in a park and now felt as though something else was animating his arms and legs, puppeteering him around with attached strings or a hand up an ass clenched tight with the desperate worry that any moment somebody could look
When a call came, Gabe closed his mouth around a steam
cloud, eyes bulging. His heart thundered, and his pocket vibrated just as quickly.
A phone. Only a phone. He looked around furtively and pulled it out.
Text, from a familiar number: “hows it goin? dont worry, no1 will see u”
Gabe closed his eyes and tried to get his breathing under con- trol. Air escaped him in staccato bursts. He counted ten, fifteen breaths, each slower than the last.
The streets were empty; he’d feared they wouldn’t be, not at 11, but it was the middle of that two-week confusion between winter and spring when snow still fell at night, and the daytime was only hot enough to melt the patches of it that weren’t under shade. Gabe had passed a jogger earlier, but normal people were indoors with Conan O’Brien or sleeping.
It wasn’t snowing tonight, which made things harder because there weren’t any tracks he could follow.
“u scared me lol” he fired back, thumb unerring.
There was no immediate reply. He moved on, purposelessly, putting his faith in serendipity. A dog gave him shit from behind a tall fence, and the barking sent his heart into new paroxysms. He fought them down, sweat pooling in his scalp and running from
“Fuck this,” he said. But he wouldn’t quit. Not yet. There were
Gabe turned left and right at random, wending his way over
deserted streets, an eye on the hashtag glitter of light in apartment windows off in the distance. He checked his phone; it read 11:36. Twenty-four more minutes and he’d have to wait another month for a second chance. His instructions were very specific.
He came across his goal as randomly as he’d searched for it; he turned a corner, and there it was, leaning against the tire of a Civic parked in a gravel driveway, licking its paws. He’d have missed the cat entirely if not for the yellow eyes reflecting back streetlamps; the eyes that now fixed on his.
Gabe kneeled down, his movements exaggeratedly slow, asking idiot-noise questions about who was kyoot and widdle. The eyes stayed fixed, and the paw came down.
“Come here,” he said, reaching for the ziploc of sardines in his pocket. “I has a tweat for oo.”
The cat cocked its head, as though questioning its good fortune, then approached, slowly but with a confidence of step that Gabe envied, until it was at the midway point between the tire and the fish he offered.
“That’s it,” he said, beckoning, the canvas drawstring bag in his hand. He looked around furtively. “Come here.”
Sweat began, once again, to pool at Gabe’s temples. His fingers twitched first in one direction, then the other, moving from pocket toward cat, toward pocket, toward cat while the animal, shaken by this new uncertainty, arched its back.
Finally, Gabe broke, his hand shooting into his jacket. The cat bounded away, while Gabe’s heart rose in his throat, and his shak- ing fingers punched all the right keys.
“not much time left hurry it up”
He snarled, his thumb a blur. “almost fuckin had it then you txted”
“whyd you pick up lol”
Gabe jammed the phone back into his pocket, took three deep breaths, and looked around. Still no passers-by, but his eyes met smaller yellow ones once again, further away this time. The cat stood in the middle of the street, its little face quizzically askew, and Gabe made new entreaties.
He opened the plastic bag and laid pungent fish on the road. He took a few steps back giving the cat some space. It approached gingerly, considering the offer, until Gabe could see its individual whiskers and the black patch running across its grey back.
It nosed down among the sardines, took a small bite, and then
His confidence growing, Gabe took another step, kneeling down at a spot two arm’s lengths away, almost close enough to reach out and grab ahold of soft fur.
The cat finished the sardines, gave a soft mew, and looked up expectantly. Gabe glanced to one side and the other to ensure the street was empty, then nodded.
His voice a little wild, he said, “That’s right. I have more. C’mere, cutie. Yeah.”
The hand in his pocket sweated, fingers twisting at fabric.
The cat approached, confidently now, until it stopped within his reach, ears flattening, nose twitching.
His hand shot out clutching a rag soaked with chem lab ether and buried it in the cat’s twitching nose. His heart hammered. Bursts of hot air escaped his mouth and filled his vision with vapor. One chance at this. One only.
The cat tried to run, but it didn’t get far before its legs went out from under it. Gabe stuffed the creature into his bag, pulled the drawstring shut, and ran like hell.
When he checked his phone again, in the park under the apart- ment building, it read 11:56.
“did it,” he typed.
A familiar icon popped up in his Twitter feed: a cartoon devil, debonair in suit and tie, cute little horns, an immaculate goatee. Gabe’s eyes darted away from the essay he’d been struggling with and locked onto the e-babble.
Sevens grats to our newb @lord_gabe. everything’s on track. #baphomet
Another tweet, a photo this time, dyed black hair and a pert nose.
deicide_doll @Sevens @lord_gabe omg exciting... when’s the ritual? #baphomet
He’d been bored one day watching Baphomet Rising, some schlocky horror movie about demonic cults in 10-minute Youtube installments. On a whim, he had punched the #baphomet hashtag into Twitter’s search bar. To his surprise, he found himself eaves- dropping on what had seemed, at the time, to be a piece of per- formance art, a kind of guerilla marketing for some big-haired, growl-and-guitar relic of the 90s.
Gabe had gone to bed that night laughing at the implausibility of what he’d seen, at grown-ass adults hidden behind screen names bullshitting about pentacles and ram’s blood.
The next morning’s text had changed that, had changed every- thing. He’d saved the whole exchange in his phone, unnecessarily.
905-566-3212: “like what u saw last nite?”
“wtf? who is this?”
“a friend. followed u on twitter, names sevens. follow back.” “uh no thx.. howd u get this #?”
“gonna get creepier lol i hear ud like to fuck chloe? we can
make it happen”
His heart had stopped, then he continued:
“no srsly wtf is this.. ima call the cops in two”
“our master sez u wont #baphomet tonite, 9pm.. l8r” Between the space of his bus ride to school and the end of first
period bio, every possible scenario had gone through his mind. Mike and them were playing a prank. The decongestant he’d been on was fucking with his head. He was still in bed and would wake up any moment.
But how had they found him? How could anyone know what hashtag he was listening in on?
He had to report it, he decided. Had to go to the school nurse or call the police or see a shrink or...
And what? Have them commit me or put me on Ritalin or some shit?
It wasn’t until his spare period during the second lunch period that he finally made a decision one way or another. He was sit- ting at the loser table by the wall watching Chloe laugh with the
905-566-3212: “dude shes pretty hot”
“Who’s that?” Mike had asked.
“N-nothing. Just my mom.”
“Yeah, sure. My mom texts me all the time. Who you sexting
“Not now, dude. Look, I gotta go.” “Everything OK?”
“Y-yeah, it’s nothing serious. Later.”
3 New Messages. Gabe clicked the blue bar.
LukeChing @lord_gabe Hey, can you log into WoW? 10m pug could use a tank.
Sevens @deicide_doll @lord_gabe the master says houses align 4-16 #baphomet
RaHoorKhuit Just four days until the constellation, then? Praise be. #baphomet
Gabe turned to his essay, which trailed off mid-sentence, then looked back at the Twitter feed and sighed. His fingers clacked on the keyboard.
lord_gabe @LukeChing ok y not, history not getting done neway
In four days, things would change. In four days, he would be a man.
The cat had been a pain in the ass at first, but his parents were
out of town so at least he didn’t have to explain the noises. It had settled down, though, with enough food and now sidled by Gabe’s legs, purring and nuzzling.
He dropped a hand absently to the animal’s wet nose and snatched it back as though he’d touched a hot stove burner. “Sorry, kitty. This way it’ll be easier for both of us.”
Most of the preparations were complete. The chef’s knife had been buried overnight in his back yard, and he had dug it up ear- lier, at dusk, as he had been instructed. It now lay beside a bowl of holy water he’d turkey-basted out of the font at St. Andrew’s.
Gabe double-checked the confusing instructions to make sure that he had the rest of what he needed. He punched a text into his phone. Twitter seemed unsafe now. The thought of hiding in plain sight had been delicious, for a time, but even so, he’d felt compelled to check each and every tweet he sent to make sure it didn’t give away too much to his few followers.
“WTF is widdershins?”
There was a lot of it; that word popped up at least six times. “counterclockwise,” came the reply.
His phone buzzed again, moments later.
“u double-check everything?”
“kk... make sure u draw the circle perfectly; its ez, dun worry,
but just make sure” 10:35pm.
He had the knife, the sacrifice, and the words that he’d not been allowed to practice saying before the appointed time. They were strange words, in no language he could name, the sort of apostrophe salad that popped up in his fantasy novels.
“go over it again... gotta be perfect”
He read the ritual three more times and repeated the words in
his head until they were fixed there. 10:58pm.
Gabe sat cross-legged on the floor of his room and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the appointed time had come.
This was the hard part. Once he had this down, the rest of the ritual would be cake. Gabe picked up the knife and held it awk- wardly, eyeing the keen edge.
“Why am I doing this?” he asked the cat. “I mean, it’s not like
How could it? The whole idea was ridiculous. Still, Sevens had
always known too much and at all the right moments. If it was a prank, it was too elaborate by half.
And, more than anything, more even than the girl that had been promised him, Gabe wanted to know.
The cat brushed against his knee, purring. Gabe’s stomach threatened to leap out his mouth.
This is the hard part. This is the hard part.
He shut his eyes pressing so hard his eyelids hurt and stuck. A horrible noise, a wet heat on his leg, and tiny claws scraping feebly against his jeans. Gabe opened his eyes now brimming with tears and saw the animal twitching, a ragged wound in its throat.
I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m –
His phone buzzed. He wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t continue. It was too much. It was—
Gabe snatched the phone from his desk while the cat bled out onto his carpet.
“get a hold of urself”
How did he know? How did he always know?
Another buzz. “the master is watching make him proud and
ull have EVERYTHING”
Gabe nodded, blinking away the tears. He snatched up the bowl
of holy water and allowed the cat to bleed into it. The red dissipated
Gabe dipped his knife into the bloody water and drew a sum- moning circle on the carpeted floor. A triangle, first, then three small circles at its tips, and one last circle just large enough to sur- round the whole diagram. He wrote the words, the strange words, one phrase in each of the smaller circles:
He looked at the circle of blood, walked around it, looked
at it again. It had to be perfect, from every angle. It was his only protection, his only guarantee that whatever came through would spare him.
His phone buzzed. Gabe snatched it up without thinking. He was done thinking. “its perfect” read the text.
He turned to the east wall, to the peeling posters of bands he’d not listened to in years. He stood on one leg, arms outspread. “Therion!”
Gabe turned southward toward his computer. There were 17 new messages on Twitter, then 21, then 30, all in the space of a few seconds. #baphomet was busy.
West now toward the window and beside it a to-do list on a whiteboard, pentacles doodled all over. He did not remember putting them there. A strange hum began to rise from behind his back, but the ritual had not told him to turn around. He leaned rightward, left arm curved at his waist, right held straight out from his side. “Babalon!”
Finally, he faced north. A closed door led to the hallway out- side. Cat’s blood had already spread that far, soaking the carpet. It looked as though something had dragged itself, bleeding, through that thin crack lit with the outside world. The hum was everywhere now. Gabe looked at the door, suddenly unsteady on his feet, but it was too late. He had come too far. He squatted again, arms flat against his sides. “Babalon!”
He began to turn, widdershins. Exultations he had not writ- ten leapt off the whiteboard. 42 new messages on Twitter, 59, 84. Yellowing posters of Slash and James Hetfield animated, mouths opening and closing, hands strumming guitars. The hum grew louder, and he recognized words in it, words he had never heard before a whim led him to #baphomet.
“Abrasax,” Axl Rose chanted.
“P’an P’an Vir,” Dave Mustaine harmonized.
He spun faster now, widdershins still, stomach churning. It was
Gabe shouted the rest of the ritual as he spun faster and faster.
He shouted about blood and sinew and fire, about sacred suns and united planes. When he finished, the room spun while he stood in place, a finger pointing to the ceiling, another to the floor.
His posters united, all singing, “Baphomet, Baphomet.”
For a moment, nothing happened. When a mist began to pool in the circle of cat’s blood and holy water, Gabe became suddenly aware of how dizzy he was.
“You are bound to me,” he said, stumbling over to his desk. His phone lay there. He did not remember putting it down. One new text message. He had not heard it buzzing.
The ritual had not asked him to answer any phones, but the ritual was done now. What was the harm in reading a few congratulations?
For a moment, Gabe stood there, uncomprehending. He turned the phone on its side, as though the message would come through more clearly.
Then Slash began to laugh and James and the rest of his post- ers, mechanically, all in sync. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha.
“You are bound to me,” Gabe repeated, his voice cracking with adolescence. Mist continued to billow in the center of his room, no longer silver, but red and orange and green. It hurt his eyes to
174 new messages on Twitter. Gabe’s hand shook. The cur-
sor jerked and twitched across the screen while he pushed at his sweat-slicked mouse. He clicked the blue bar, shaking his head, tears streaming down his face.
#baphomet had exploded. A hundred new names and icons, one repeating message. He recognized the last two posters, and in the time it took to read their tweets, 18 new ones hit the queue, waiting for the click of a button.
deicide_doll @lord_gabe YOU HAVE BEEN TROLLED. #baphomet
RaHoorKhuit @lord_gabe YOU HAVE BEEN TROLLED. #baphomet
“You are bound to me!” Gabe shrieked, and his posters laughed even louder wild and horrible, no longer in sync. Slash had col- lapsed against a wall. He clutched at his stomach and shook, eyes wide below the brim of his top hat.
“I am not,” a voice that seemed everywhere around him, an- drogynous, musical. It was quieter than he had expected. Slash fell silent. He kneeled and then kowtowed, face pressed against the ground.
“Deeply amusing. I do so love that ritual. The little teapot is always a hit.”
Gabe’s every muscle was painfully rigid. “Therion! Babalon!”
The posters were laughing again. Gabe’s phone buzzed. Ha ha ha. Bzz bzz bzz.
Gabe turned to his left, his breath now coming in short gasps.
The mist had taken shape. Seven eyes caught his. Seven mouths opened in laughter. Seven legs crossed the useless circle he had drawn in cat’s blood.
“It is so nice,” said Baphomet, “to finally meet face to face.”