“You really think this’ll work?”
Emma stared Kerri in the eye before looking back down at the small, rough figure balanced across her palm; a Gingerbread Man of clay.
“God, I hope so,” she said, voice steady as the hand holding the doll.
Image courtesy of WikiHow.com
“We followed the instructions to the letter,” said Trish, her eye to the thin line of light edging the barely open closet door. “If that book knows what it’s talking about then this should work, no problem.”
“Is she out there?” said Emma.
“Yep.” Trish peered through the crack at the ongoing party. “She’s right across from us, dressed as Snow White and flirting with Chad over by the Dunking for Apples tub.”
She glanced back over her shoulder.
“Hey, uh, didn’t you have a thing for—”
“God I hate her,” Emma said through gritted teeth, then glared at Kerri, who flinched. “Have you got it?”
“Y-yes,” said Kerri, thrusting a hand toward Emma, the pinch of hairs held between her fingers flashing golden in the flickering light of the single black candle that burned on the floor between them, in the exact center of the closet. She flinched again as Emma snatched them from her, but Emma took no notice as she held the doll to one side of the candle, the hairs to the other, and closed her eyes in concentration.
She imagined Barbara. Barbie. Barb. Older than Emma. Prettier. Smarter. Mother’s favorite, even looking like like Mother, with their golden hair and blue eyes and their flawless complexions. Emma herself was darker of hair and eye, darker both outside and in. Barb was better at school. Better with boys. Better at everything.
Barb was just better.
But not for long.
The black feelings bubbled up inside Emma, the jealousy, the hate; and rather than trying to push them down as she usually did, hiding them, ignoring them, she embraced them. Welcomed them. Let them fill her to brimming.
Let them overflow.
Trish left off watching at the door and joined the other two kneeling around the candle. The three spread their knees wide, meeting those of the neighbors to either side, six legs forming a triangle around the veve, the pattern chalked onto the hardwood floor with the candle in its center. They were careful not to block out any of the lines of the veve, not wanting to become too much a part of the ceremony, not wanting to provide a distraction for the power they were about to summon before it could be bound to its purpose.
Its dark purpose.
“Are you sure you want to —” Kerri began, sounding not at all sure herself, but Emma cut her off, her voice urgent as she thrust her hands suddenly out over the candle. Her sing-song words, words in a language not entirely of this world, were half chant, half song and half prayer (and screw the math, she thought, this is magic), and were taken up immediately by her two companions.
Though one can cast spells by one’s self, said the ancient book now buried at the bottom of Emma’s bottom drawer upstairs, the ‘Harlan’s Rare Book Emporium’ stamp still on the flyleaf, there is strength to be gained in numbers — certain numbers more than others. Three, seven, and thirteen (among others) are numbers of power, and should be sought out by those seeking true power.
The three voices merged as one, calling out through the doorway the veve represented in this world, a call directed by Emma, fueled by her rage, and her jealousy, and the call was… answered.
The candle flame flared high as a wind sprang up from nowhere, fluttering their clothing and tousling their hair as it rushed outward from the veve, carrying with it the stink of filth and rotting things; a wind from Somewhere Else.
The door is open! Emma thought, though her chanting did not falter. I have to do it now!
Keeping her hands close over the flame, ignoring the pain from scorched hands and fingers, willing the pain into the Binding as just one more Sacrifice, she wound the hairs tightly about the neck of the doll, Binding the three together in a way that had nothing to do with physical distance; the doll, the hairs, and through the hairs… their source.
The wind ceased. The candle flame guttered down to normal proportions. Their chanting died out as Kerri waved a hand before her face, wrinkling her nose at the stink.
“Did it work?”
Yes, Emma thought, but what she said was “Watch Barb. Let’s find out.”
Trish kneed her way across the floor to put her eye to the door once more as Emma brought out a iron nail, rough-cut and bound with a black ribbon. Kerri watched, wide-eyed, as Emma heated the nail in the candle flame, then held up the doll.
“Ready?” she said.
Trish nodded from the door, eyes on the revelers who remained completely unaware of the goings-on in the closet just a few feet away.
Emma pressed the red hot nail-tip to the doll’s leg, then looked up, her expression hopeful.
Trish shook her head. “Not yet.”
The nail stabbed into the doll’s knees, first one, then the other. Emma heard a commotion, but it could have just been Halloween party noise.
“Nothing,” came the reply from the door.
Emma glared at Kerri.
“Are you sure these are fresh hairs? From her hairbrush in the bathroom?”
Kerri nodded, still wide-eyed.
“I got them while you were setting up in here.”
Emma slammed the doll down in frustration, raising the nail high.
“The freshest hairs I could find,” Kerri went on, as the nail came down, piercing the doll straight through the chest. “From the blue hairbrush.”
Emma’s own eyes widened in horror.
“The blue one? But I said not to use the blue one! That’s not Barb’s! That belongs to my—”
From somewhere in the house, Emma’s mother screamed.