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Archive for March 13th, 2011

This story is unusual in that it’s a rewrite of one I first penned around 1989, which was lost when the paper copy vanished and the floppy disc on which it was kept was somehow damaged.  I’ve never forgotten it, though, and a few weeks ago I realized it would be perfect for this month’s fictional interlude so I simply rewrote it (IMHO somewhat better than before).  It’s also unusual in another way:  Up to now the whores in these tales, whether protagonist or antagonist, have largely been on the side of the angels; but as you will soon see this one is definitely an exception!  If you’re a new reader and like this story you might also enjoy the others linked here.

Demons are moody, treacherous beings; the spells designed to summon them are full of complex instructions and peculiar requirements, and violation of any of these may break the magical constraints placed upon the entity and allow it to exact a horrible vengeance upon the mortal foolish enough to drag it from its own plane of existence in an attempt to force it into servitude.  And given his comparative inexperience at black magic, Howard wasn’t about to risk any of the more complicated rituals; he was too squeamish for blood sacrifice, too shaky-handed to inscribe intricate cabalistic diagrams, and too poor at math to trust his calculation of precise astrological conditions, and he wasn’t knowledgeable enough to be sure what the various archaic names for certain herbs and powders might actually refer to in modern terminology.  But the grimoire he had stolen from an estate he was cataloging for the bank was large and very complete, and his thorough study of it eventually turned up half a dozen spells in which even a novice like himself could feel a reasonable degree of confidence.

He read the descriptions of the specific demons conjured by these more accessible invocations and quickly settled upon the one which appealed most to him:  Nahemah, the Princess of Succubae, fallen angel of prostitution and harlot of Hell, who conferred upon he who could command her the gifts of divination and sexual power over any mortal.  Considering Howard’s meager assets and dismal track record with the opposite sex, this was the demon for him; with divination he could pick winning stocks or horses, and with power over women he could enslave the proud whores who were only interested in him for as long as he could keep paying.  He would show them, and other women too; in fact everyone who had ever crossed him would rue the day they had done so once Nahemah was his to command!  Best of all, her spell wasn’t even difficult; the only critical stipulation was that the final word be pronounced exactly at midnight.

The next day he paid no mind to the lovely spring weather as he drove around town collecting everything he needed for the procedure, and for the rest of the afternoon he devoted himself to laying out his supplies and moving all the furniture to the sides of his living room, then carefully inscribing the protective pentacle on the floor in chalk.  He made sure he measured every dimension carefully and precisely copied the arcane words of protection around its rim, then studied the ritual again and practiced pronouncing those Latin words of its text with which he was unfamiliar.  He confined his dog in the garage so as to preclude any possibility of her smudging the lines of the diagram and then tested the amount of time it would take him to perform the whole summoning, determining after several trial runs that he should start at 11:30 and pace himself with frequent pauses at junctures where they seemed to be allowed so as to be ready to complete the last phrase as his hall-clock was striking twelve.  He then checked that clock and his others against the official time announcement, then prepared a generous supper and after eating allowed himself the rare indulgence of a cigar.  “I’ll be able to afford these whenever I like once I strike my bargain with Nahemah,” he thought, “and a different girl fixing my dinner every night!”  His thoughts soon wandered to other pleasures he would enjoy with those women, but he dismissed such fantasies as distracting to his concentration; there would be plenty of time for that later, only it wouldn’t be mere fantasy then!

By 11 PM his nerves were thoroughly frazzled and he had a glass of wine to calm them.  He only allowed himself the one; after all this work and preparation he wasn’t about to risk his success on slurred speech.  In over four decades he had never succeeded at anything worthwhile, and he certainly wasn’t going to do anything to risk failure tonight!  So he composed himself as best he could, and when he heard the half-hour chime he checked his clocks again, then lit the candles and began the ritual.

Howard’s spirits began to rise as he realized that this time he had done everything right; he neither stumbled over the words nor fumbled over the gestures, and the pacing was exactly as he had practiced. Some fifteen minutes into the ceremony his dog began to howl mournfully from the garage; perhaps her keen senses had detected some disturbance in the environment caused by the spell’s beginning to work. Then as if in imitation of the dog, the wind outside also began to howl, but he ignored both it and the animal; with his victory so close he could not admit even the slightest distraction.  He paused momentarily in his incantation while gesturing and burning a piece of rune-marked parchment, then stole a glance at his watch and began the final phrases of the conjuration, ending just as his clock began to strike twelve.

He did not have long to wait after that; a column of multicolored smoke erupted within the summoning diagram inscribed on the floor and the room was filled with a sweet, complex odor with earthy undertones.  Within the vapor a shadowy form appeared, and as the cloud began to dissipate the shape was revealed as that of a hauntingly beautiful woman whose unearthly nature was only betrayed by the fact that her eyes were lightless orbs like two enormous black pearls.  The dog’s howling was frantic now, and the wind had risen to a gale, and as Nahemah looked upon him with a terrible smile he somehow knew deep in his gut that something was very, very wrong.

“I will never understand mortals,” she purred in a voice as sweet as honey and as cold as the void between worlds.  “I enjoy coming to your plane so much that I placed as few restrictions on my summoning as possible, yet you blithely ignored my simple requirement and called me hither a full hour before the permitted time.  ‘Tis a pity; it would have been far more entertaining to trick you into betraying yourself.”  And with that she stepped forward out of the circle, its power broken by the miscast spell, and her would-be master’s scream was abruptly silenced as the two of them vanished like a nightmare on wakening.  Poor, incompetent Howard; though he had done his very best to get everything right, it never occurred to him than no mortal government has the power to compel a demon to observe Daylight Savings Time.

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