He checked the symbol smeared on the cellar floor against the one in the book and then checked it again. Maybe he just couldn’t see it. The only damn light down there were the tall black candles burning at the pointed arms of the macabre star within the strange symbol. He edged closer timidly to examine the streaks of blood that formed the star, the eye at it’s center, and its intricate pattern of spirals and lines. It wasn’t there. Shit. He was going to need some Tylenol.
Okay, maybe the damn thing wasn’t supposed to be there at all. He would have put it there if he’d seen it to begin with… right? Using the edge of his thumb, he scraped at the picture in the book hoping that something had just fallen on it from the ceiling. He pulled the book closer to his face to inspect it in the flickering orange glow. Nope, still there… all of it. Double shit.
He’d been so careful during the whole damn process. Waited until the proper moon phase, day, and hour. Purchased an all black goat and, oh, his wife was thrilled to have a goat in their New York townhouse. Slit the damn things throat from right to left, not left to right. Drawn the symbol with its still-warm blood. Cut the thing’s heart out and set it dead center in the circle. Lit the candles in the proper damn order. And even recited the words in the fucked up tongue-twisting language the book was written in with perfect pronunciation and tone. But, sure as shit, he’d forgotten a tiny damn line when smearing the symbol on the concrete floor.
Fuck. Sweat beaded on his throbbing brow. Anthony fumbled his bottle of headache pills from his pocket.
Everyone knew the symbol was the most important part. Sometimes it was used as a gateway for a being to come through. Sometimes the symbol was used as means of protection for the caster, keeping spirits from the outer realms of reality away during the ritual. The one smeared across his basement was meant for something else… to keep something from the outer realms in the outer realms. And he had fucked it up.
Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal. The line was really more of a squiggle inside one of the star’s points. A superfluous little mark like that had to be nothing more than a flourish, like an artist using swooping lines when signing a piece of art.
Besides, the book was probably a fake. Over the years he’d bought several versions of the dreaded Necronomicon. Ever since coming across The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft he’d known the book was real. No one could come up with that level of detail, that structured a hierarchy of deities, without having an actual religion to base it on. To date, Anthony had obtained five copies claiming to be the real deal but, only this one had this particular summoning.
Swallowing down a few pills, he found himself torn. Part of him wanted the book to be real still. But the creature he had summoned was Azathoth, a mad demon whom the book said would reveal the answers to any three questions you asked it. However, the book was also very adamant that the blind mad god NOT BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE CIRCLE! Part of him wanted the book to be real, for the idiot god to appear amid a swirl of smoke and mist, but he was afraid of what might happen if Lovecraft had lied about the book being imaginary.
He waited, watching the lifeless heart illuminated by the flickering candles at the center of his incomplete symbol. Nothing happened.
Could it be that the symbol had to be complete before he could invoke Azathoth? Maybe he could complete the symbol and then try again. No, the blood needed to be warm. Where could he find an all black goat at two in the morning on a Saturday during the waxing moon? Sonofabitch summoning demons was complicated and his damn pills weren’t working.
His headache had sprouted migraine roots that were burrowing their way into his brain. The dull throbbing evolved into a pounding and, the more he thought about how to solve his plight with the symbol, the harder his head pounded. Each flicker of the candlelight became an assault on his eyes. Nausea clenched at his stomach. He needed to lay down and get the damn pounding behind his eyes to stop.
Or was it throbbing? Throbbing didn’t form words. But each pulse, timed with the quick beating of his heart, seemed to form a word hissed from some unnaturally wretched tongue blurring his vision and urging him to vomit. He placed his hands over his eyes, blocking out the tiny bit of light in the basement, and rubbed his face.
Pulling his hands away, he looked over at the goat heaped in the corner of the basement. Its glazed eyes stared at him accusingly. Fuck, he needed to get it to stop.
Curling his fingers into talons he started scratching. The skin around his eyes turned a rude pinkish color. Then an irritated red. Then the scratching became clawing. He started ripping the skin and flesh away in chunks and hearing them slap wetly onto the concrete at his feet. Doing it hurt, but he hand to get to the whispering.
His left eye exploded, gouged by his fingernail. Anthony could feel the the warm fluid burn its way down the raw flesh of his cheek. But the whispering was gone from that side.
A moment of anguished epiphany washed over him. That was it, the secret to getting rid of the horrible whispering behind his eyes. He needed to get the other eye out.
Anthony started digging, pushing the tips of his fingers into the socket. Suddenly, the world became confused. He was falling even though he could feel himself holding still. The hard concrete was rising to meet him even though he could feel the floor under his feet. A little disoriented, Anthony slowly realized that his eye had popped out of his head and was dangling by the nerve hardwiring it to his it to his brain. He gripped the optic nerve with both hands and yanked as hard as he could. Pain shot through his entire body, a thousand knives being thrust into his head at once. His legs gave out and Anthony hit the concrete in a gnarled twist of blood-soaked limbs. The headache was still there, but the whispering had stopped.
His wife would come check on him soon and call an ambulance, he knew. For now he felt like letting the peace of unconsciousness take him for a while. Faintly, as his body retreated into sleep, he heard it. Somewhere in the cellar a heart was beating.
Author’s Note: I would like to extend a special thank you to Anthony Burdge over at Mythic Ink Books for summoning the demon in this story. Readers be sure to head over to their website and check out the fiction he co-writes with his wife.