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Rated: E · Serial · Supernatural · #1614480
Ouija boards, cemeteries, out of town guests, and things that go bump.
The sun had already dipped down below the hori­zon as the boys breached the gates to the Love & War ceme­tery. The night was still and calm; only a gen­tle breeze rus­tled through what was left of the grass that had once car­peted the grave­yard. The ceme­tery was as old as Love & War itself, and although the ceme­tery had seen a few recent arrivals, the grounds were not main­tained as well as they once were. A few graves sported tacky, faded, plas­tic flow­ers, but most were bare. Sunbleached and wind-weathered stones dot­ted now-crooked grave rows amidst a sea of dead grass.

Silence descended upon the boys as they made their way through the ceme­tery, eyes search­ing tomb­stones for the name “Minerva Auckland”. Although they didn’t say so, both Marco and Alejandro, being only eight and hav­ing only mas­tered the art of read­ing the year before, were a lit­tle con­cerned that they wouldn’t rec­og­nize the name even if they saw it, because although “Minerva” sounded like it was prob­a­bly easy to spell, nei­ther boy had any idea how to spell “Auckland”.

They needn’t have wor­ried, how­ever, for it was Cheehawk who made the dis­cov­ery. “It’s here,” he said, call­ing from the far back cor­ner of the ceme­tery. Cheehawk crouched down low, run­ning his fin­gers along the the carved stone as he read. “‘Minerva Katherine Auckland, 1818 – 1853. Bear me no grief, shed me no tear. For as I fore­see it, you’ll too soon be here.’” Cheehawk shud­dered, shak­ing his hand as though to shake off the poem. “That’s creepy,” he said.

Marco and Alejandro gulped and exchanged looks. Actually stand­ing at the witch’s grave amid the crum­bling walls and dead grass, the whole idea of mak­ing con­tact with her started to seem… less than good. Marco, swal­low­ing hard and clench­ing his fists, cast a side­ways glance at his brother, hop­ing against hope that his brother would call off the event.

But his hopes were dashed as soon as Alejandro plopped on the ground and said, “Aw, well, let’s get started.” Marco felt his stom­ach lurch as he set­tled down next to his bother and across from Cheehawk, who also was begin­ning to look a lit­tle green around the gills. Cheeawk placed the game on the ground and gin­gerly removed the lid, reveal­ing a water-stained board and a chipped, plas­tic planchette.

Cheehawk lifted the board and planchette, flick­ing the box aside. “We all have to sit as close together as we can,” he instructed. “You guys bet­ter not have lice,” he said with a sneer.

“We don’t,” the twins chimed. They came together into a small hud­dle, sit­ting Indian style, their knees touch­ing. Cheehawk placed the board on the ground between them and put the planchette in posi­tion. Following the older boy’s lead, the twins placed two fin­gers from each hand gen­tly on the planchette.

“Now what?” Marco asked.

“Be quiet,” Cheehawk instructed. “I’ll take it from here. Just keep your fin­gers lightly on the thingie. And what­ever you do, don’t let go!” He gave the boys a stern stare, and they nod­ded silently.

The rit­ual began.

“We wanna talk to Minerva Auckland,” Cheehawk said, his voice low and monot­one, his eyes closed tight. “Minerva Auckland, if you’re out there, we’re here to…say happy birth­day.” He hadn’t rehearsed what he was going to say, or even given it much thought. Marco looked askance at his friend, think­ing maybe Cheehawk had fibbed a bit when he said he knew what he was doing.

Nothing hap­pened.

“Minerva Auckland,” Cheehawk said again, this time his voice a lit­tle louder. “We want to speak with Minerva Auckland, the witch who burned up in her house in Love & War.”

Nothing hap­pened.

Cheehawk cursed under his breath, and while he cast about for some­thing more invit­ing to say, Marco had an idea. “Probably gotta ask it a ques­tion,” Marco said, his voice only slightly more than a whis­per. He closed his eyes, drew in a breath, and said, “Minerva Auckland, Minerva Auckland, can you hear us? Are you here?”

A beat. Two. The boys were so still they dared not even breathe. Then, with­out fan­fare, the planchette wob­bled, a slight jerk, before it began glid­ing across the board, lurch­ing to a stop when it reached the top left cor­ner of the board, which read, “Yes”.

“You’re push­ing it,” Alejandro hissed, his voice less steady as he would have liked. But both Marco and Cheehaw shook their heads, their eyes wide with fright and wonder.

“Hush! Marco, ask it another question.”

Biting his lip, Marco con­cen­trated and asked, “Ah, Minerva Auckland, how many boys are sit­ting at your grave tonight?”

The planchette jerked, stopped, and then glided down the board to the row of num­bers, stop­ping when the clear plas­tic of the planchette hov­ered over the 3.

“Oh man, this is freak­ing me out,” Alejandro said, his voice break­ing. He almost sounded on the verge of tears. “You guys sure you’re not push­ing it?”

Neither boy answered as Marco pre­pared his next ques­tion. “Minerva, can you tell us any­thing about the future?”

The planchette moved smoothly across the board, stopped deci­sively at “Yes”.

Marco looked up from the board, eyes search­ing. “What should we ask it?”

Cheehawk thought for a moment. Then he said, “Ask her if she knows what the win­ning lotto num­bers are.”

Marco made a face. “Are you sure I should ask her that?”

Cheehawk nod­ded furi­ously. “Do you know how many video games we could buy if we won the lot­tery? I bet I could even get Ma to buy me my foot­ball uniform.”

Winning the lot­tery could buy a lot of video games, and though Marco wasn’t a big a fan as his brother or Cheehawk, even he could see the ben­e­fit of hav­ing his choice of any game securely locked behind the glass doors at the Walmart in Placerita. And besides, what else was he going to ask? Returning his atten­tion to the board, Marco asked, “Minerva, can you tell us what the win­ning lotto num­bers will be?”

The planchette was still. The boys glanced at each other appre­hen­sively, then back down at the unmov­ing board. Finally, the planchette began to stir. It moved around the board in rapid fig­ure eight pat­terns, its speed steady, its move­ment fluid. Then the planchette stopped. After a moment it began to spell some­thing out. “U-M-U-S-T-I-N-V-I-T-E-M-E.”

Alejandro spoke the words as he read them. “Um ustin vite me?” The con­fu­sion on his face was mir­rored in Cheehawk’s expression.

But the mes­sage was clear to Marco. “You must invite me,” he whis­pered. “She wants…” He shook his head, con­cen­trated hard on the board. “Invite you where?”

The planchette began to move again. This time, it did not hes­i­tate. It spelled out, “T-H-E-L-I-V-I-N-G-W-O-R-L-D.”

There was no mis­tak­ing what the board spelled out this time, and all the boys instinc­tively snatched their hands away from the planchette as they started at each other in hor­ror. “What should we do?” Marco asked the others.

“What does she mean, invite her? Can she get out? I mean…she’s dead, right? Can the ouija board bring her here?” Cheehawk’s words spilled out of him like candy out of a piñata. His eyes darted between Marco and Alejandro, search­ing. “I mean, vam­pires can’t go in your house unless you invite them. So maybe she can’t get here unless we invite her.” He shook his head, wav­ing his hands in front of his face. “Noooo way. She can just stay right there!” Then a thought struck him. “Is she gonna get mad if we don’t invite her? Is she gonna hex us or — ” His voice was ris­ing steadily higher as his panic reached a cli­max. His pudgy face was red and beads of sweat were pop­ping out on his fore­head. “What do we do?” he squealed.

“Didn’t you say you’d done this before?” Alejandro asked. “Shouldn’t you know if ghosts can come through the ouija board?”

Cheehawk’s mouth opened and closed like a fish, but no words came out. He’d been caught in a lie, and there was no use try­ing to deny it. Instead, he slumped down, shoul­ders droop­ing, and put his head in his hands, try­ing not to cry.

They sat in silence a moment, and then Alejandro made a deci­sion. “Can we hang up on her by mov­ing the thingie over the ‘Good Bye’ at the bot­tom if it gets too scary?”

Cheehawk shrugged his shoul­ders with­out look­ing up. “I don’t know,” he admit­ted. “Maybe. I think so.”

Marco was shak­ing his head slowly, tears of fear welling up in his eyes. He didn’t care if his brother saw him cry. He didn’t care if they called him names. He didn’t want to go any fur­ther. He wanted to leave the ceme­tery. The tiny hairs at the back of his neck were stand­ing up, and he was begin­ning to get a Very Bad Feeling. He knew with all his heart that they should put the ouija board away and go home, change into paja­mas and watch some­thing funny on tele­vi­sion until the bad feel­ing went away. He could prac­ti­cally hear a voice whis­per­ing in his ear, say­ing, “Cut it out, Marco. Cut it out right now.”

But he couldn’t. Sitting there, perched on the brink of cer­tain, inevitable dis­as­ter, Marco became a pawn in some­one else’s game of chess — merely an object to be moved around, a means to some­one else’s end. Even as his insides reared up and his con­scious mind threat­ened him with every weapon in its arse­nal, Marco felt the invis­i­ble pup­peteer pulling his mar­i­onette strings. He felt (though who could say if it were true) locked into a sin­gle course of action, pre­de­ter­mined, one his entire life — all eight years of it — had led up to. Propelled for­ward by forces unseen, Marco moved through his next motions unwill­ingly, fear­fully, and know­ing with a soul-deep dread that he couldn’t do any­thing about any of it.

He couldn’t.

And that was why, though every fiber of his being railed against it, he took a breath and put his fin­gers back on the planchette. After a moment, the other boys fol­lowed suit.

“Minerva Auckland,” Marco whis­pered, his voice shak­ing as he blinked back his tears. “We invite you to the world of the liv­ing. We — ”

But before he could fin­ish his thought, the planchette began to spin under their fin­gers and then shot off the edge of the board, land­ing in a patch of brown grass and elic­it­ing a screech from each of the boys. Officially scared out of their wits, they scram­bled to their feet, still scream­ing, and as they ran for the ceme­tery gates they could swear they heard a peal of deranged, high-pitched laugh­ter that was cer­tainly, def­i­nitely, com­ing from Minerva Auckland’s headstone.

They didn’t stop to see what was hap­pen­ing. Pumping their arms and legs as hard as they could, the boys fled the ceme­tery like bats out of hell. They didn’t stop run­ning until they’d made it back to the Flores place, their hearts thump­ing so hard they feared they might explode. Marco was cry­ing freely now, scared and angry at him­self. Angry at Cheehawk and Alejandro. And sud­denly, so, so tired.

But even in his wild fear, he real­ized, too late, they never said ‘Good Bye’.


See all the stories from Love & War, Texas at http://www.loveandwartx.com
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