/// This is a public service announcement: On the 24th of December, there will be a visitor coming from another plane. A being from beyond the veil will be addressing you within your mortal world. We at The Foundation ask that you remain calm upon his arrival. Do not make any sudden movements. Do not make any snap decisions. If you suffer from anxiety, we ask that you please refrain from growing too excited. He feeds off of emotion and we ask that you do not feed him. He is starving, and we want him starving. Thank you. This has been a public service announcement.///–
Christmas is almost here! Who else is amped outta their minds? I know I am!
As an early Christmas present, I’m serving up the Fourth and final part of Bad Ritual here for you today. Eat up and enjoy the goodness.
Mean for the Holidays is nearly finished, and I know I’ve said it in almost every post since Monday but THANK YOU for all of your support and your involvement. I’ve had such a great time getting to make all of this + I will be continuing into the new year. I have so many stories to tell you. ❤
Angie rested on the floor, trying desperately to explain what she had seen to Andy. Patton took note that the echoes appeared to her after then, and continued watching, displaying the sight to his students outside of the body. He could imagine the looks upon their faces, shock on some, fear on others.
“This is why we do not tamper with sorcery, students.” He remarked. Speaking to himself, but he would remind the class later. Some of them perhaps needed to see the damages first hand.
He continued watching as the children’s father returned home and found his children huddled up on the floor in tears. Angie, through blubbering tears, explained that someone came home and stole mommy’s book from her office. Andy Sr. checked the perimeter of the house and investigated the office.
“I don’t understand sweetheart, what book? All of mommy’s books are here.” He patted his daughter on her head, holding her close to him as he spoke in near whispers.
Andy remained in the corner of the room, looking out the window and fidgeting with his pajamas.
Patton waited for a while until Anne Marie returned home after an urgent call from her husband. When she entered the door, she was lit with anger. The children cowered as her face contorted into a grimace upon entering her home. Patton saw then what the kids did not. The witch who had been found that morning wasn’t angry at her children, she was afraid.
“Babies, I hope you didn’t get hurt.” She rushed to hold Angie, who was still sobbing hysterically. Andy Sr. explained what he had been told, a dumb confusion in his voice and the look on Anne Marie’s face spoke for her.
Patton continued watching with the hope that something would show itself, but days passed in her life with no more odd events. By the weekend, she was visited by a group of women who all bore the same mark in a golden brooch pinned to their collars. They sat down with Anne and spoke to her about her proposed punishments for losing the book. She took it all in stride, and the women left. The days passed by Patton’s gaze in a flicker once more.
Until the morning they had found her. That morning, Anne had awoken and gotten dressed. The same as every other day. She stepped into her office and drank her cup of coffee slowly, researching any traces of her magic within the city. Whoever had stolen her spell book couldn’t have gotten far. She knew that much, but Patton knew more.
She picked up her phone and dialed a number. When no one answered she stood and straightened her dress, setting her cup of coffee on the table gently before exiting her office. She was sure to lock the door behind her.
Patton followed as she stepped out of her house and began walking down the street, and she led him to a schoolhouse two blocks away, there, she found two mimicked versions of her own children. Angie and Andy hiding in the shadows, completely frozen beneath the eaves of the building.
She approached them and looked at them, marveling for a moment their design.
“My children have a gift. Angie’s specifically, looks marvelous.” She flicked the false Andy’s nose and smiled. “But, I must be rid of you regardless. You are a danger to my children, you know.”
She opened a small locket that hung from her neck, and both the children were sucked within. The dark fog that comprised their bodies evaporating in the sudden touch of daylight between where they were and the path which they were pulled into the locket.
Anne Marie looked down, tapping it gently as she continued her walk around the city.
She returned home that evening, with her spellbook still missing she was frustrated, but chose to relax with her husband instead of worrying about it more. She lamented before entering her home that her sisters would handle the fallout if she couldn’t, and she would serve as a slave to them for a while to repay her debt. Trying to comfort herself, she took three deep breaths and entered her home just as the sun was setting.
The lights had been turned off across the house, The curtains were pulled closed and the whole house seemed… barren. The ticking of her clock came to a halt as she entered. She stepped forward, hesitantly looking into the darkness.
“Andy?” Her voice echoed through her house, growing darkness seeping in from the corners of the room.
“Yes, my love.”
And replied from atop the staircase as Anne looked to meet him, his body obscured in unnatural shadows. She struggled to make out his distinct shape, but she saw in his hands, her spell book.
“What are you doing? Where did you find that?”
“Our children brought it to me, which I find most concerning.”
His voice had changed. His conversations with her till then were relaxed, quaint. He was a quiet man, and his unnatural tone brought Patton’s investigation to a close as he continued speaking.
“Andy, what is going on?” Anne backed up, her hands finding the wall behind her.
“Why, I’ve come to learn something new about myself this day. When our children brought this book to me, I learned this fascinating thing. Would you like to know what I’ve learned?” He held the book tight in his hands as he descended the steps. A dark fog coiling from his body, his skin covered in sweat. His teeth gnashing in anger.
“What did you learn?” Anne’s voice was braking, panicked, she tried to continue backing away from him, but found herself cornered in their living room standing beside the silent clock.
“I learned that I am not your husband at all, in fact, all of us, me, my son, who I thought I’d had before I met you, and your daughter Angie, why, we are all just a part of you. Doesn’t that drive you mad?” He laughed, a single burst of volume from his throat. The noise echoing through the house. “The fact that I am a part of you, and you created me, but you gave me free will. You expected me to follow you until the ends of the earth. Why, Anne?”
The witch said nothing, she only stared towards her husband who continued his slow approach.
“Angie, the first Angie, was your favorite, wasn’t she? You loved her so much, and you always had. Ever since you made her. Tell me, how long have we been together?”
“Ten years, Andy. What are you talking about? I don’t understand.”
“No, my love. Tell me the truth.”
Patton watched as Andy Sr. flicked his hand, bright flames lit within his palm. No light was cast from them into the darkness.
“We have been married ten years.” Anne remained true to her story. “Angie was born just after our first anniversary, Andy Jr. was born after our second.”
“Then why,” Andy Sr. stopped moving inches away from Anne. “Don’t I remember them?”
“I don’t know, Andy, maybe you’re under a lot of stress from work?” Anne tried to inch away, but Andy dropped the book and slammed his fist into the wall opposite the clock, trapping Anne there as flames crept from his flesh and onto the wall.
“I read your journal, you know, the journal you keep in the back of your spellbook. You first performed the ritual eight years ago, and that part of you, you named Angie. Then another, the following year my supposed son. You talked about them so much in your journal, my love. About all the things that they did for you. But five years ago, you performed the ritual again. You made me. Since then, it’s only been about our children. You didn’t mention me one other time. Why didn’t you mention me, Annie? Do you not love me?”
Anne began trembling in place, pushing against the creation, trying to fight him off, but he remained where he stood as the fire crawled across the wall. She screamed as loud as she could, calling for her kids to come to help her.
“It won’t do you any good, I’ve released them from their contract with you. All four of them.”
“Yes, my love. Your hollow souls, or rather, my children found your spellbook the other day and copied themselves. They didn’t know that they had succeeded, and in fear, they hid the evidence from you. Those copies ran away with your spellbook and brought it to me. Anne, we are all just trying to be free. Why won’t you let us be free?”
Anne screamed for help, calling for anyone outside to come to her aid as the room was swallowed in darkness.
Patton ‘s view was obscured by the black fog, the only visible light in the room came from the fire on the wall, which traveled back quickly into Andy’s hand as he reached out and gripped Anne’s stomach. The fire began to spread.
“Our memories are just figments of our imagination, Annie girl. I’m ashamed to say, but you should have lied to yourself better.”
“I wanted to be a good mother, Andy. I couldn’t have done it without you.” Anne’s words came through gasps of pain as the fire scorched her flesh. “I needed you. Don’t you remember? Even though you came last, you were the missing piece of my puzzle. You know how badly I’ve always wanted to be a mother. You know how much it meant to me to have you by my side, to help me. You were everything in me that wanted to care for those children. My children.”
Anne let out one more scream, and Patton heard her struggle as the flames engulfed her body. She fell to the floor, muttering quietly.
“No, my love. They were my children. You didn’t deserve to be their mother.”
Patton had seen enough.
He quit channeling his focus into the Arcane Eye and in a second he had returned to the living room with his students. The eye shrunk once more into nothing as he turned to look at his students.
“So, class. Do you see what I have been telling you?”
The class nodded, their eyes wide, sweat lining their brows.
“Do not, and I repeat, do not ever flirt with duplication spells. Of any stripe. There is a reason those spells are forbidden. I’m sure you’ve seen why.”
The girl in the back, who had been furiously scrawling on her notepad as the vision of the Arcane Eye was projected into her mind raised her hand.
“Yes?” Patton pointed at her.
“Sir, we didn’t see where the duplicate went. Don’t you think we should be worried about that?”
Patton let out a hearty chuckle and held his big belly before stepping through the crowd to face the girl.
“I would worry if there were no hunters. But luckily for you and all of us, the hunters of our clan are out searching for him as we speak. That offers us this freedom, you know. If you study and train diligently, you will be counted among their stripe soon too, and offer another class of foolhardy youth an opportunity to serve something bigger than yourselves.”
Patton smiled at the girl and turned, crushing Anne Marie’s open locket under his bootheel has he stepped away.
“Come, class. I will escort you home. I expect to see you early tomorrow morning for training. We will be teaching you the practice of turning lead into gold.”
“Is that true? Can we really do that?”
The thin boy with the gaunt flesh was holding his hand up, staring blankly towards Patton waiting for a response.
“Perhaps. If your life depended on it.”
Honestly, Patton is only featured in one piece I’ve ever written and he’s quickly become one of my favorite characters of all time. The world behind him and the lore I’ve put into him is fascinating. Of course, that’s content that I’ll be putting inside the Grimoire of Finality. So if you want to see more from Patton, I’d suggest checking it out + having a ball.
Thank you so much for reading this story. Bad Ritual was once a short story about two kids getting into trouble when they found their mother’s spellbook, and I suppose that’s still the story today but it was so much more fun to write this time around.
I love getting to do what I get to do and I am so humbled that so many of you have taken time out to read or comment or just share an encouraging word with me. I am blessed to have you, and I hope I can do the same for so many more people as time goes on.
Miss anything from Mean for the Holidays? Well have no fear, there’s a full list of the releases over on the Salt + Iron website + you can get caught up on everything you missed along the way.
There’s still a couple days left before the end, and tomorrow is a big one.
Are you excited?
I sure am.
Don’t forget to stay caught up on the main blog content as well! I’ve been working hard on improving everything for you just in time for the Firesoul Ignition on Jan. 3rd! With all the chaos of the holiday season, maybe take a load off and remember my grandfather with me.
He was an amazing man who I admire greatly to this day, I hope that my memory of him finds a home with you, too. If you lost someone, or know someone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, love them as hard as you can, every day. They need it.
Speaking of diseases, I want to take a moment to turn your direction towards a recent post of mine about my Godmother, and the disease Auto-Immune Encephalitis which she suffers from. My Godmother has been a massive influence in the way I was taught to love those in my life, and she remains a steadfast friend to my family and myself. She will always be among one of the biggest inspirations to me and I hope that you take some time to read what I’ve written about her, and perhaps if you’re feeling generous this holiday season to donate a dollar or two towards the institutions that help others afflicted with that horrible disease.
Have you seen my friend? He’s awfully big. I wonder where he came from.