No shortcuts

Tara slid open the hidden pocket door that led to her basement. She didn’t flip the switch to light her way down. Instead, she carried a dripping black candle in an ornate silver candlestick holder. The lithe woman, dressed in black leather and silvery metals, breathed deeply, calming her nerves before proceeding down the painted stairs.

On the first step, she muttered, “Ut transire mihi protege me.” The flame of the candle flickered with the moist passing of her breath.

Tara stepped down again, onto the second step. Again, she intoned, “Ut transire mihi protege me,” before taking the third step.

“Amplecti in arma impenetrabilis,” she chanted on the third and fourth steps. Her voice grew stronger and louder with each set of two steps.

Her black leather boots hit the fifth steps as she intoned, “Da mihi tolerandi virtutem.” The sixth step passed under her feet, the incantation flowing easily from her mouth.

“Dimitte me, ut coram duce,” Tara said emphatically for the last two stair steps. At the landing, the eighth step, the tall woman paused, gathering her nerve before stepping across a mosaic pattern inlaid into the black stone floor.

As she crossed the star within the circle, Tara could feel the thick, oily barrier slide across her skin. She shuddered once through it. Her black clad fingers reached for the door handle on the ebony door in front of her. Blue eyes used to seeing the bizarre barely registered the mystical symbols engraved on the wood.

Her breath stilled, her heart slowed, and her blood chilled as she opened the door to the inky darkness inside the small room. With a snap of her fingers, dozens of black candles burst into flame, illuminating the area with fluttering light. The ebony and silver metal circles on the floor glimmered in the flickering flames.

Carefully, Tara bent over and placed the candle she carried onto the floor, in place to complete the circle of wax. Standing in the small space between the door and the large concentric circles, Tara raised her hands and closed her eyes.

“Ut transire mihi protege me. Amplecti in arma impenetrabilis. Da mihi tolerandi virtutem. Dimitte me, ut coram duce.”

She repeated the entire incantation eight times, again her voice increasing in volume and strength each time. She felt her hands shaking, her knees quaked with the effort to say each word exactly. Her brilliant blue eyes flew open and she shouted, “Mazzalezzanitgh!”

Thick, noxious green smoke filled the inner circle, nearly choking the words in Tara’s mouth. The swirling olive tendrils coiled in on themselves, hardening, coalescing into a squat, bulky, pustule covered creature. Curved horns, six in total, crowned the thing’s head. Huge black eyes peered at the woman, slicing through the smoke, unnerving Tara.

Its mouth opened, deep croaking sounds emerged, but Tara couldn’t understand what the thing intended. Once again she raised her arms and began an incantation, but the shrill screaming of her home security system interrupted.

Startled, Tara’s words slowed. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she returned to the chant. The crystalline tinkling of shattering glass broke into her concentration. Worried for herself and her family upstairs sleeping, Tara rushed from the secret room, leaving the candles burning.

The frightened woman took the time to lock the door behind her, chanting yet another phrase to ensure the door stayed firmly closed. She trotted up the stairs, ready to do battle with the intruder.

But she found no one. Tara searched the entire house, even going as far as checking in closests and under beds. Exhausted, Tara shuffled to her bed, determined to repeat the ritual in the basement, later.

As she fell asleep, Tara remembered, to her horror, that she’d forgotten the closing protection incantations. The circles wouldn’t hold the beast for long, that’s what the door and stair enchantments were for.

Her heart in her mouth, she turned, swinging her legs off the queen sized bed to return to her secret room. But the horned, big-eyed face leering at her from beside her bed paralyzed her. She didn’t even have time to scream.


					
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