I was in bed one night in late autumn, outside the circle of one of Mother’s weekly rituals, her “Black Mass.” She had always placed great emphasis on the danger of being outside the circle; the demons she summoned would get me, yet she hadn’t included me lately. I heard that bell ring in the distance. It echoed down the hallway. All the lights in the place were off except the flickering candles surrounding her. I could smell the sulfur and incense drifting through the darkened house.
My room was at the opposite end of the house so I was unable to watch the proceedings or hear the prayers. Nevertheless, the same icy cold feeling I had felt during her last mass crawled across my skin. She swore she had seen demons occasionally during these rituals. I just saw shadows on the wall. Throwing the covers over my head, I hoped they would just go away.
After ten minutes of relative quiet, the lingering smell of smoldering incense still hung in the air. Curiosity got the better of me, so I peeked out from under the covers. I was feeling brave so I climbed out of bed, and slowly pushed my bedroom door open, looking into the darkened kitchen. I snuck out of my room and turned down the hall to look for any demons. The house was pitch black, except for the shimmering candlelight at the end of the hall from within the living room. Faint echoes of chanting traveled down the long, narrow hallway, playing tricks with my perception. The sound enveloped around me, was it coming from her bedroom beside me or right behind me? The old house had forced hot air with interconnecting vents along the floor in every room, carrying sound throughout the apartment. I tried to keep this knowledge in mind, desperate to fight the growing feeling that something was creeping just behind me as I grew nearer to the living room.
My slender frame shook with a chill as my bare feet made contact with the cold wooden floor. Goosebumps formed on my arms and shoulders as a small lump formed in the pit of my throat making it difficult to swallow. I was just a few feet from the living room, the whispering and chanting grew louder. I ducked into the darkness of the room immediately behind the living room. The pair of wooden sliding doors that divided the two rooms was ajar. I could see my mother and Alice sitting inside the circle, facing one another. Long slender black candles flickered along the outer circle while each point of the pentagram had a long red candle placed upon it. The golden candlelight cast long eerie shadows of the two women on the walls, giving the illusion the room was filled with others who remained unseen. Alice’s head was bowed in reverence as my mother burned a piece of paper and said, “This is our plea for vengeance against our enemies. Bring them sickness and death.” She dropped the burning paper into a golden bowl then rang the small bell at her side. The nagging feeling that something was stalking me got the better of me, forcing me to retreat quietly back into the hall and back to bed. I tried to block the ritual out of my mind, even though part of me wanted to meet one of these demons.
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