Setup: The main character Dev, and his best friend Cam, have just returned from buying a summoning board. Tucked away in Dev’s room, they are about to use it for the first time.
“Honestly, I don’t get what you see in all this stuff.” Cam waved his hand through the air, a flippant gesture meant to dismiss Dev’s impressive occult collection.
Of course, Cam was referring to the contents of Dev’s room. The occult was Dev’s jam. Crystals, runes, tarot decks—you name it, Dev had it. The occult. He had read, studied, and practiced everything from card readings to spirit summoning. But despite his keen interest, admirable level of knowledge, and dedicated study, Dev hadn’t had a single otherworldly encounter or brush with psychic phenomenon.
That killed Dev.
“Shush. You be nice. Otherwise my demons will get you.” Dev chuckled, knowing full well Cam’s interest level focused more on his latest pair of shoes. Dev made a mental note to check for holes in the floorboards.
Dev, on the other hand, would have done anything to be a witch, sorcerer, or seer of the hidden. A pastime his Indian-born mother did not appreciate.
“Devid, why? This is all bad. You need to find a nice girl, get married, have children. I want to be a grandmother.” Dev pictured his mother’s face as her lips mouthed words. He would sit in a state of catatonia while she spouted off such sentiments. Like this morning, at breakfast.
Cam snapped Dev out of his mental wanderings. “Dev, the moment you actually manage to harness a demon and have it do your bidding, I’ll concede to wearing discount clothing.” Cam cocked an eyebrow at Dev, who met his gaze. They both smirked. In no world, anywhere, would Cam ever resort to wearing anything so common.
This was the nature of their relationship. Cam was eternally bitchy, and Dev was perpetually spooky. The dynamic was weird, but the friendship worked for them.
“Come on,” Dev said, pulling Cam’s attention to the task at hand. “Do this with me.”
“What? Bitch, no.”
“Why not? What the hell have you got to lose?”
“Just, you know, for some crazy-ass reason you manage to pull off some kind of beast wrangling, I don’t want to be dragged into the depths of the pit by some shrieking harpy demon. Especially in this outfit. I’m not ready to go to hell looking like this.”
“That’s not a thing, Cam.” Dev shook his head at Cam with a ‘god, you don’t know anything!’ kind of look.
“How the hell would you know?”
“I know. Now get down here.”
“Ugh, all right fine. It’s not like any of this has ever worked before.” Cam slid off the bed and sat opposite Dev on the floor, cross-legged. “What exactly is this thing?”
“A summoning board.”
“Yeah, you’ve said that. What is it, though? Like, what’s it supposed to do?” Cam asked, “And what are all those squiggly things?” Cam pointed toward the script patterning the outside of the board, his finger getting far too close to the board for Dev’s comfort.
“Shh. It’s nothing.” Dev slapped his hand away. “It’s only there to make the board look all gothic and shit.”
“Mmmhmm. K. So…what am I supposed to do? Run around the thing three times and chant ‘Bloody Mary’?” Cam asked.
“Oh my god, you’re such an idiot. It’s for summoning your greatest desires,” Dev instructed.
“Really? So, like, a big monster boyfriend?” Cam winked, cupped his own crotch, gave the bulge a couple of squeezes.
“I just…I can’t with you right now. Is that all you think about?”
“Nope. Bastard better be good-looking too. And rich. It takes money to keep me looking this good.” Cam ran his hands over his designer-clad torso and overpriced jeans.
“I swear to god, I don’t know why I bother with you.”
“Because you love me.”
“Sadly, yes. I do. Why? I have no idea.” Dev got up and rummaged around his room.
“Okay, so what the hell are you doing now?”
“We need things.”
“This is getting complicated.”
Dev rushed around his room, gathering the trinkets they needed to do their first summons. And as fast as a desperate person would sell their soul to the devil, he returned, handing Cam a marker and three post-it notes.
“Write down three wishes.”
“Damn, are we summoning a genie?”
“It’s called a Djinn, and no, we are not…at least, I don’t think. Why do you make everything a challenge? Write something down.” Dev prodded Cam with the end of his marker.
“Good lord, all right. Fine.”
Cam got busy scratching stuff down.
Dev on the other hand had already planned exactly what he was going to wish for.
This was it.
The last straw.
The last time any of this hocus pocus would be attempted.
Dev had promised himself if this didn’t work, he would give all of it up, for good. Dev believed in magic. He would have staked his soul on a bargain with the devil.
So, this was it. And with all the heart-wrenching, utter loneliness and consuming desire for the Shadow Realm to be real, he wrote down his three wishes:
I want to have a supernatural power.
I want to see the Shadow Realm and be part of it.
I want my friends and family to respect me for my knowledge of the occult.
Dev folded the tiny notes in half and tossed them into the copper cauldron he had placed in the center of the board. The instructions on the back of the box were specific. All wishes were to be written on paper, personalized with blood, and placed into the inner ring. Finally, the paper had to be burnt in order to release the energy.
Cam gave Dev his pieces of paper.
“No! Not like that, geez.” Dev tossed them back at Cam.
Cam threw his hands up in the air. “What the hell?”
“Fold them in half like I did and put them in the copper bowl.”
“Fine.” Cam did as instructed. “There, happy?”
“Not quite. Give me your hand.”
“For the love of…” Dev grabbed Cam’s hand and deftly managed to stab a finger with a thumbtack.
“What the ever-loving fuck, dude?” Cam ripped his hand away and grabbed his finger. A small pinprick of blood welled up to the skin’s surface. He brought the finger up to his mouth.
“Don’t you dare!” Dev pointed at Cam.
Cam stopped and glared at Dev.
“Squeeze your finger so the blood drips onto your papers, but get it in the bowl, don’t get blood on my floor.” Dev pricked his own finger and held his digit over the bowl.
Three drops of blood fell into the copper cauldron. Followed thereafter by three of Cam’s.
Dev lit a match and pitched the flaming splinter into the bowl, pushing the post-it notes around so they caught fire.
“Go open the window,” Dev instructed Cam.
“Your mother will kill you if you burn the house down.”
“Okay, now come read this with me.” Dev gestured for Cam to sit beside him.
“I swear if anything happens…” Cam warned while he rearranged himself next to Dev, inspecting his finger and sucking at the miniscule wound.
“It will. I know it will.”
“You always say that.” Cam rolled his eyes and sighed with exasperation.
“Come on, read this.”
And together, they read the incantation off of the instruction sheet that came with the board.
“With passion of heart, I seek to find, those Desires I want. Wishes to be mine.”
“That’s it?” Cam’s head tilted to one side in disbelief.
“That’s it.” Dev shrugged.
They waited for a few heartbeats. Loud ones that thudded against the inside of Dev’s chest.
“Okay, I’m bored now. And my finger hurts. You owe me a macchiato.” Cam grabbed his designer boots and slid them on. “You coming?”
Dev gazed into the cauldron as the last of the papers charred and blackened and tiny wisps of smoke curled up toward him and dissipated.
Nothing had happened.
“Come on,” Dev flinched as Cam threw an arm around his shoulder and squeezed him in a one armed bro hug. “I’ll buy.”
“Yeah, all right.”
As the two left the room, Dev eased the door closed using both hands on the doorknob while silently praying to any god or being who happened to be listening.
“Please hear me,” he whispered.
Inside the empty room, behind the closed door, the summoning board’s squiggly writing around the outside edges that was ‘only there to make the board look all gothic and shit’ shifted. As if the doodles and lines were dancing or marching.
The entire border rotated, widdershins, and the inner ring of the board spun in the opposite directions, changing the symbols.
The wind blew in through the open window and the curtain fluttered in the breeze.