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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/1005576-Spencers-Gift
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by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2183311
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#1005576 added March 2, 2021 at 12:00pm
Restrictions: None
Spencer's Gift
Previously: "Spencer Explains

The world seems to tilt and shift, and you have to lean to one side to keep your balance.

To all appearances it is Justin Roth you are talking to, in one of the dark, smelly portables in back of the school. That would be weird enough—you don't even know Roth save by face and name and reputation.

But it isn't even really Roth. It's Spencer Osbourne, another scruffy bottom-feeder who you hardly know. He's used some kind of magical doohickey to turn himself into an exact duplicate of the other guy.

And he's showing you this stuff, and he's asking if you want to play too.

"Easy there, man," the guy-who-looks-like-Roth says, and he grabs you by the bicep and supports you before you can topple to the floor.

Maybe it was that gesture of physical support that decides it for you. You don't know anything about this magic, and you don't know Spencer, and you don't much like what you do know about him. But he did grab you to keep you from fainting, and he's holding you upright now, when he could have let you fall, and laughed over you.

"Yeah," you croak. "Yeah, I'll—"

"Cool," he says. "You'll like it. You okay now?" You nod, a little uncertainly, and he hesitates before releasing you. "You'll do fine." He pats you on the shoulder. "I know this seems freaky now, but wait'll—"

He jerks his head around to stare at the door. Those voices you heard earlier are growing louder. With a surprising lightness, he leaps to the door and quietly twists a lock in the knob. Then he presses himself up against it, and motions you to get on the floor behind the tottering pile of desks in the middle of the room.

You hunch there as the voices sound on the other side of the portable wall, and you hear the sound of a knob being twisted. A muffled voice sounds through the wall—"get into only like a couple of them"—before it sinks beneath the babble of other voices. You peep through a lattice work of chair legs and desks, and see the shadow of a bobbing head appear at one of the windows. A face, shielded by hands, peers in briefly, then drops. The voices move on.

"Okay, I better get out of this," says Spencer. "There's a trick to it, and I might need your help."

* * * * *

The "trick" was that someone needed to grab the top of his face, between the nose and temple, with fingers and thumb, and pull while chanting some kind of phrase. Spencer couldn't seem to get his hand in the right position, so you had to do it for him. It almost made you throw up when, on your third try, something came away in your hand. At first you thought it was the front of his skull, for it was bony and hard, and it had the shape of a face, but it turned out only to be that mask. Something thumped against the floor beneath you, and when you threw the mask aside you found it was Spencer, again, unconscious. You shook him awake.

Together, you snuck out of the portables and hightailed it across to the Music Annex without being seen, and you hid back there through fourth period and lunch. Spencer only had time to tell you a little about how he made the masks—it was a stinky process, but the really tedious part was polishing them with a car buffer—before being interrupted as some of his friends found you and him. One of them, a dark-haired kid in a backward-flipped baseball cap—recognized you from earlier, but didn't make a big deal of it. You heart beats hard through the rest of your double-length lunch period, waiting for someone to say something about Justin Roth, but the subject never comes up.

Maybe Spencer was waiting nervously for the same thing, for he breathes an audible sigh of relief after the end-of-lunch bell has broken up the gang. "That was pretty intense," he says with a wide, terrified grin when it's just you and him. "I kept waiting for Roth to show up."

"So when are we getting together?" you ask him.

"After school. I'll tell my sister she has to ride the bus home." He pulls at his nose. "Meet me by the tennis courts after final bell."

* * * * *

It's four o'clock, and Caleb's cusses are still ringing in your ears as you stalk down the big school corridor toward the east exit. You'd totally forgotten about your promise to help him break into Walberg's desk to make the time capsule exchange, and when he reminded you right after the final bell, you hesitated hard before giving in and keeping your promise.

But you had to rush off to find Spencer first, to tell him you'd be late meeting him, and Caleb was fuming when you caught up to him and Keith outside Mr. Walberg's room some ten minutes later. The teacher had just returned from an errand, and Caleb was angry that he'd missed a chance to get into the desk, and his frustration boiled higher and higher the longer the three of you lurked. Finally, after fifteen minutes, you told Caleb that you had to keep another appointment, and that you'd help him try again tomorrow. He didn't take it well.

Spencer is leaning against the back wall of the Gym Annex, hands in the pockets of his windbreaker, and watching the tennis team practice with a dreamy expression on his face. He jerks his chin at you as you draw up, then goes back to watching the tennis players. "It's a beautiful sight, isn't it?" he says.

Kelsey Blankenship, looking very crisp and fit in tennis whites, is playing against Brooke Galloway, who is wearing neon colors. Both girls look good, but Kelsey, with her tan and her sculpted legs, is delectable. It's too bad she's one of the snootiest cunts in the school.

"Sorry I'm late," you tell Spencer. "I had to help—"

"That's okay," he says. "I ain't in no hurry." The back and the forth of the tennis ball seems to mesmerize him, and his jaw hangs open in a silly grin under his glassy stare. You settle back against to watch along with him. You flinch a little when Kelsey, readying a serve, glances over to give you a quick, nasty glare.

Time passes. Then, with a spasm, Spencer lurches into motion. "C'mon," he says, and slaps you in the chest. Head forward, in a half-hunch, he hurries around the tennis courts toward the baseball field. You trot along behind, and when you catch up, Spencer breaks into a run. Together you sprint all the way to the other side of the school grounds, circling around the back of the Agricultural Annex and coming up on the portables—which Spencer approaches slowly in the manner of a stalking tiger—from behind. When he judges the coast clear, he slaps you again in the chest and leads you in between them, trying doors until he finds one that's open.

This one is completely bare of any furniture, and there's a dark hole in one corner where the floor has caved in. You flinch at the sight of it, for you have a sudden, frightening vision of a giant snake, or a cockroach the size of a sofa, crawling out of it from beneath the portable, but Spencer seems not to notice.

"So I scored a mask for you," he says as he crouches on the floor and opens his backpack. "We'll have to go shopping, find some good clothes to go with it." He looks you up and down. "You need a better sense of style, man."

So do you, you want to retort. His body swims inside the cheap, oversized, black polyester windbreaker he is wrapped in, and his bare legs show very whitely between his red shorts and his black Converse sneakers.

Maybe he feels the same way, for he adds, "I gotta pick some clothes up for myself too. We'll hit a thrift store when we leave here."

"I'll have to stop at my house and pick up some money."

"I'll cover you, you can pay me back." He digs out a mask and holds it out to you. "Here."

"Who is it?" you ask as you take it.

"Take a look."

You turn the mask this way and that, straining to recognize the face inside it. There's a great mass of hair, it looks like, and your heart skips when it occurs to you that maybe Spencer has copied a girl. But the there is something bold and masculine about the face. After a lengthy silence, though, you have to give up. "I don't recognize 'em," you confess.

"Jesus. It's Semple."

At first you think he said "simple," and you're about to make a sharp retort, before you make the connection. Adrian Semple, that's who he copied into the mask. That's another one of the stoners that hangs out behind the school. He was with you at lunch—a grinning maroon who talked in broken sentences that began nowhere and ended nowhere—so you don't know why you didn't place him right away. Maybe you were hoping for someone better looking. Semple has a giant nose, an impudent mouth, and masses of hair that hangs in filthy pseudo-dreadlocks, like a dirty, unwashed mop.

"Come on, try it out," Spencer says. "It's all ready to go for you."

You shoot him a skeptical look, and you tremble all over, now that the moment has come.

And it occurs to you only now, once the moment is on top of you, that you don't actually have to go through with it. You can work with Spencer on whatever this magic stuff is, but that doesn't mean you have to use it.

It doesn't mean you actually have to pull someone else's skin over your own.

Next: "Old Clothes for New Looks

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