Written for the WDC 'What A Character!' competition.
| The Summoning
"Come on, Shenna. You can't let us down!"
"Terri's right," Carla put in. "We've been planning this for weeks, and now you're going to bail out on us?"
"Chicken. Chicken," Terri started softly chanting, and Gina did not take long to join in.
Sheena turned from Carla to face the two girls. They stopped chanting but the expressions on their faces remained jeering. Maybe there was an element of relief now that she had to back out of the plans, but there was no way that she'd let them know that.
"Look, it's not me you should be complaining at." Sheena looked from one girl to another. "It's my Mom that's insisting I go. Believe me, I'd far rather you go talk to her, change her mind and get her to let me stay for the weekend."
Gina laughed. "Oh, yeah, I can just see how well that would go down."
"Sheena can't go away with you. We have already made plans to meet up in the graveyard." Carla nodded. "That would really convince her to let you stay."
Terri had been listening to the exchanges, becoming increasingly agitated. Didn't they know that without four of them the entire thing would be impossible. "So what are we going to do?" she finally asked Sheena. "You know as well as I do that there has to be four, one for each element. If you drop out we might as well forget it."
"Not necessarily. You could ask someone else to take my place."
"Who do you suggest, then? Mara, she won't go. Kelly is going away. Who should I ask, Sheena? You tell me!" Terri's anger was beginning to show.
"Who? You've got to be kidding me."
"Nope," Sheena said, thinking quickly. "Cassidy Jenkins. Think about it for a minute. It's not as though she really needs to do anything other than sit there. And if you tell her to be there, she's hardly going to refuse, is she! Cassidy Jenkins is perfect."
Gina and Carla looked at Terri, shrugged. They would wait for her response before committing to their own. For a moment, Terri stared at the ground, then she looked up, and the smile on her face said it all.
* * *
Cassidy was sitting alone in the cafeteria. She was always alone, mostly with her head in a book. Almost painfully shy, she had not really made any friends since her parents had decided to move half way across the country. Not that she had been super popular before that, either, but here she knew no one, and no one seemed to want to get to know her.
When Terri, Gina and Carla approached, she could only assume that they wanted the table she was sitting at. Her lunch was almost finished. She'd rather just get up and leave than have a confrontation. She was stuffing her book in to her bag when she felt Carla's hand on her shoulder.
"Where are you going, Cassidy?" she asked, putting just enough pressure on the girl's shoulder to let her know that leaving was not an option.
"We want to talk to you," Gina put in.
Terri sat in the seat opposite Cassidy, rested her elbows on the bench and cupped her chin in her hands. She stared at the girl, making the challenge clear. "You've not got any Halloween plans have you, Cassidy? Of course you've not. Who would you be hanging out with after all?"
Gina and Carla laughed but Terri silenced them with a look. "This is your lucky year, see, because there's been an unexpected... err, opportunity, and we've chosen you to join us."
Cassidy felt the urge to turn and run; it was as much as she could do not to squirm beneath the hand that was now gripping harder on her shoulder. "I don't think so," she finally forced the words out.
Terri leaned towards her. "You don't have to think. We know. Be at the cemetery at dusk on Halloween. Who knows, maybe you'll find yourself some friends." She stood, began to turn but thought twice, looked back at the girl who now looked terrified. "And don't even think of letting us down. As much as we can make good friends, we can make lethal enemies."
* * *
Cassidy didn't know what to do. She could tell her parents of the veiled threats, of her worries, but she could already hear their response. It would go along the lines of how great it was that she was finally making friends, for she knew they had been getting worried about her spending all her time alone.
She could tell them about the cemetery, but that could only lead to trouble. It had the potential to stir up a real hornet's nest of gossip, at the end of which she would be the one that would pay the price. In the end, she'd decided she had no choice but to going along with them.
She had to come up with a reason for her leaving the house. It wasn't that her parents were over-protective, but she had not been out in the evenings since they'd moved in. A Halloween party at school, that's what she'd said. The fact that school was closed didn't seem to enter their minds, and they had not bothered to question her closely.
She pulled on her jacket, pushed her feet into her boots, and yelled out a hasty goodbye. Cassidy did think of turning towards the town, trying to hide away in the pizza place until she could sneak back indoors, but fear of the consequences turned her towards the cemetery and whatever Terri had in mind.
* * *
She stood at the cemetery gates. They were late, and she couldn't help but wonder if this was some kind of set-up. As it got darker she began to feel more and more uneasy. Cassidy came to a decision, she'd head back home. Just as she began to turn away, she saw them.
Gina, Carla and Terri made their way towards her carrying something in a bag. There was no wave of greeting, no look of surprise that she was there waiting. They had known that she could not refuse.
"Jeez, Cassidy, you could have worn something a bit more appropriate," said Carla, as Terri opened the iron gates just enough for them to squeeze their way inside.
They were all dressed in black apart from Cassidy, who wore blue jeans, a pale blue sweater and a tan jacket. Even her boots stood out as different. Carla teetered around on a pair of heels that were way too high for the grassy paths, while Terri and Gina wore platform boots that were at least a bit more practical. Cassidy had her tan walking boots on, and unlike the others her face was make-up free.
"So where are we going?" she finally managed to ask.
"Not far now," Terri said, as the girls wove their way past gravestones that had clearly been there for a while. "Here," she said, dropping her bag down on to a grave.
Cassidy shuddered. It would have been creepy enough in the day time, but in the darkness of a Halloween night, she felt that they should at least be showing a bit of respect towards the dead.
Terri caught sight of her face and laughed. "Don't worry. This here is the grave of my great-grandmother. She's family, even though we never met. Tonight we're going to talk to her."
Cassidy watched silently as Terri pulled out an ouija board from her bag, along with four candles.
* * *
"Take up your positions," Terri said. Gina and Carla sat down, each taking a candle. "Here, take this and sit opposite me." She thrust a candle in Cassidy's direction. "Gina, you're Air, I'll be Water; Carla you're Fire, and Cassidy; you can be good old dependable Earth."
Cassidy sat down reluctantly. This was wrong, very wrong. If only she could talk them out of it, but she could see by their excited expressions that that would be impossible. Could she slip away? She might be able to escape, but they'd be waiting for her as soon as she walked into school. No, she was stuck. The best she could hope for was that they would fail to make contact.
"Light your candles," Terri said.
The strange thing was the strength of the flames. They burned steadily upward, apparently unaffected by the faint breeze.
"Fingers at the ready now, girls. It's time to wake up Great Grandmama!" Terri said in a mock whisper; "She was rumoured to be a witch, you know."
Terri began to chant. Cassidy strained to catch her words, but they were in some kind of strange language and made no sense. Over and over, she talked, her words getting faster and louder, until finally she said in a clear voice; "Is anybody here?"
* * *
The planchette slid across the board, heading straight towards the word, 'Yes'. Cassidy risked a quick glance at the others, looking for hints that one of the three was pushing the thing.
Gina and Carla looked shocked, maybe a little scared. Terri was totally engrossed. The gleam in her eyes spoke of triumph, not cheating.
"Is it you, Meredith Byers?"
The planchette moved again, this time towards the word 'No', and for the first time Cassidy caught a glimpse of fear on Terri's face. She had paled, beneath her already pale make-up; her black-ringed eyes were huge.
"Who am I talking to?" There was a definite hint of wariness in her voice.
Nothing happened for a moment and then the planchette began to move across the board at such a rapid speed it was impossible to follow the letters it pointed to. Maybe it was a fluke of timing but it couldn't have been more effective. An owl hooted, swooped up from a branch, and a cloud that Cassidy could have sworn was not there before, covered the moon and plunged them in to darkness.
"Make it go away!" howled Gina, while Carla stood up suddenly, her heels catching in the grass and sending her sprawling back to the ground.
Thunder rumbled and lightning split the sky. In that brief moment of illumination Cassidy caught sight of a tall figure, tattered, thin; and the smell that reached her nose was of total decay. A spindly hand stretched out towards Terri's throat and Terri seemed powerless to resist it.
Cassidy stood, pushed her hand into her pocket and pulled out some kind of black grains. "Be gone!" she commanded and tossed the powder straight at the figure. It did not disappear, but it's hand pulled back and it, whatever it was, hissed.
The figure recovered, began to reach towards Terri with renewed purpose. "Terri, move," Cassidy said, then stood in front of the entity and said again, "Be gone!" This time she threw a handful of the black grainy substance straight at the figure's face. It howled and collapsed to the ground before turning to no more than dust.
The moon peeped out from behind the cloud and a light rain began to fall. It did not take long for the candles to become extinguished.
"What the hell was that?" Terri said. "And what did you do? How did you get rid of it?"
Cassidy was not comfortable with having all the attention focused on her but had no choice but to answer. "Black salt. If you are going to go summoning things, it's always best to have a pocket full of it."
"Black salt? I've never heard of it."
"It's used for banishment."
"How do you know? I mean, it's not like you are in to witchcraft and that," Terri frowned.
"It's a Wicca thing," Cassidy said, and knew that she had instantly made three friends that she did not really want.