Mel, Riki and Ariel were sitting down at the kitchen table, the ouija board sitting in its case in the center of the table. Mel had thought to put it in the closet or even in the bedroom, just to get it away from them for a reprieve from the energy emanating from it. Mel was new, brand new, to anything occult, but she had always believed there were unseen forces at work in the world. This was the first time she had experienced proof positive however, and she could not deny that the thing felt inexplicably, well, dark. She wondered how in the world she hadn’t noticed the feeling to begin with in the shop, but figured that would be a problem for another day. Ariel had stopped her mid motion toward the closet and said, “No, Mel. Hiding it away won’t help. It feeds off of the dark, so it will only fester in it, growing worse if hidden in the shadows. Best to keep it in the light, literally and also where we can see it. I know it’s uncomfortable, but it must be watched. The întuneric has a mind of its own, and the ability to follow that mind to an extent.” She pronounced it “in-toon-air-ick” and as she said it, Mel’s heart skipped a beat and she waited for that sickening chill that had passed through her just minutes earlier. This time though, there was nothing but that uneasiness that was a byproduct of holding the thing. Ariel gestured towards the table and Mel sat it down unceremoniously, grateful to at least not be touching it any more. Really, how had she missed this?
They had taken their seats at the table around it, almost as if they were going to have an impromptu seance. Mel looked at Ariel somberly and said, “ You called it the…um ‘întuneric,’” Mel pronounced it the same way Ariel had spoken it, “ as if it is more than just a board game. But I mean, you can buy ouija boards at any superstore in the city. I realize that this is not a mass produced model or anything, I did that on purpose because it seemed, I don’t know, wrong, to try to contact Aris on something marketed to children and teenagers who want to scare themselves at sleepovers or parties You said it has a mind and can follow it to an extent, what does that mean? And for that matter, what do you mean you dreamed it all? Are you some kind of psychic?”
Ariel met Mel’s eyes directly and spoke clearly and without hesitation, “Some would say psychic, some may call me clairvoyant, an empath, et cetera. I prefer the term gifted as my talents don’t fall solely under one category. I will explain it all, I can see the questions racing across your face, in your eyes and feel them from you both.” Ariel turned to Riki, “I can feel that you are intensely loyal and protective over Mel, and I assure you my friends and I are only here to help. That is what we do. We utilize the individual gifts we have been given to help people who stumble across or accosted by the darkness. Darkness in the broad sense, mind you. Not just then întuneric”. Ariel looked back at Mel and once again answered the unspoken question, “Oh yes, there are far more evils in the world than what has been brought upon you and yours Mel. They are not just limited to one type as most people are led to believe. It is not just ‘Good and Evil,’ there are levels to this shit as the saying goes. What we deal with are the things that every day people have often never heard of, or if they have they don’t believe it to be anything more than a scary story or something that has a ‘reasonable explanation.’”
The two best friends listened intently to their visitor as she continued to explain. Mel sat both enraptured and terrified as Ariel explained to them how she had come to Mel’s doorstep. The dreams had started three days after Ariel had passed. At first, it was just shadows and pieces of words, images coming through here and there, blurry like opening her eyes underwater. But as the days passed, they grew more detailed and more frequent. Ariel asked Aris what she needed and Aris would answer with partial sentences, then show images of Mel, their home and, strangely, Mel’s father. Ariel explained that she could hear Aris as if over a shoddy cell phone connection, and she soon realized why. Normally, she said, her dreams or visions were crystal clear. They may be enigmatic as the dead, apparently, sometimes have a hard time communicating through their thought process after crossing the veil, but they were almost never this jumbled and choppy. It became apparent that there was something else riding the connection, trying to interfere. Ariel said she was surprised she hadn’t noticed it sooner, because once she did it was like a glaring dark spot, growing each time she looked away and then back at it. Once she figured this out, instead of focusing her energy on Aris, Ariel turned on that darkness and gave it all of her attention. She steeled herself against it and gathered all of her inner light, she said. She had envisioned it forming into a tight, phosphorescent white ball, hot and bright, and raised her hands to her chest, cupping that light, willing it to manifest in a tangible form. She never took her eyes off of the darkness, hearing faintly in the background that Aris was shouting words like “Careful!” and “Dangerous!”
Ariel watched the darkness and though it had taken no discernable form, she felt it looking back at her, watching like a scorpion, ready to strike if she moved the wrong way. She spoke then, in the vision. “I command you to tell me your name.” She heard a series of hissing sounds emanating from the formless dark, coming out in bursts that sounded too much like laughter to be anything else. Ariel was unmoved as this was not her first time staring evil in the face, though it was the first time it had no actual face. As the thought crossed her mind, she spoke again, loud and forceful. “Show yourself, foul thing that you are. You will not hide from me. You can not hide from the light.” With that, Ariel pushed her hands out in front of her, and watched as pale white fire flew from the space between her hands and engulfed that darkness. It screamed then, a baleful and deafening sound, full of menace and the promise of pain everlasting. Ariel stood firm, “show yourself, creature, and make your name known.” With the last word, she doubled down on the energy she was pushing at the creature, visualizing it not just surrounding it and engulfing it, but penetrating it, going through the front and out the back like a spear. The shrieking changed then, from rage to pain. The creature cried out woeful and then began to whimper wordlessly, trying to play to her compassion. For this creature Ariel had none. She flexed her power, tightening it around the entity, “Your name! Now!” Ariel watched as the darkness first began to shrink, then take form inside the light. She could feel it getting smaller, folding in on itself. At last, she saw before her a little boy, made to appear six or seven and looking at her with more hatred than anyone with a soul could ever be capable of. It began to fade then, slowly, and she tightened her light around it, squeezing. “I will not let you go without a name, creature.” It snarled at her, but then said one word, voice gravelly and guttural, “Întuneric.” With that utterance it was gone. Ariel’s power flowed back into herself, light absorbing into her hands and chest. It was only then that she turned her attention back to Aris. They had been able to speak clearly, though there were still some things even Aris couldn’t explain. Contrary to popular belief, Ariel explained, death does not grant omniscience.
Ariel went on to explain the message Aris had for her. It was, well, dark. Someone had summoned this creature, a demon in the truest sense of the word. The summoning had taken place before Aris had gotten sick. This demon, Întuneric as it had named itself, fed on the darkest of energies. It revelled in fear, loss, pain and terror. It had no interest in taking souls, but instead thrived off draining the soul to a husk by terrorizing and toying with it. In darkness it moved, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally, and tied itself to things of this world to use as tools to do its bidding. Each time it was allowed to manifest made the next time easier, making it very much a snowball effect once someone got that particular ball rolling. It had been summoned by a person who had offered to do just that in return for having their wish granted. What the wish was, Aris couldn’t say and neither could Ariel. What Ariel did know from her research as well as her experience was that anything the demon promised would be tainted. Though it was trite, it was also true. Making a deal with evil would never end well, and oftentimes ended in the dealing party’s death or worse, praying for the relief death would bring.
Whatever the wish, Darkness had been summoned, and when it knocked, Mel and Riki had inadvertently opened the door, allowing it to manifest.
“But wait,” Mel said, “You mentioned it was summoned before Aris passed. We didn’t have that ouija board here then. And we didn’t have any hauntings or anything either.”
Ariel looked at Mel, compassion filling her eyes. “Mel. Aris’ illness was a haunting. It manifested to look like the virus, but what killed your wife was the darkness.”
“No. Fuck that! No!! It can’t be true! They ran tests, they verified it! I held her hand while I watched that virus take her from me! No! Ariel, no, please!!” Mel began to sob, begging Ariel to take it back. Riki tried to comfort her, but she was inconsolable. Even as she shook her head, denying with every fiber of her being that it could be the truth, Mel knew. She knew with the same intuition that told her Aris had been there, was still there, and was trying to reach her. The same space of herself that recognized, too late but still undeniable, that the ouija board was anything but benign. She knew that what Ariel was saying was true.
After the worst of the sobbing had passed, Mel excused herself to the restroom. She looked in the mirror and focused on the rise and fall of her chest, regulating her breathing the way Aris had taught her. She collected herself and went back out into the dining area where Riki and Ariel sat talking about all Ariel had shared with them so far. “Ariel, how could I have not known?” Mel asked this, expecting there wouldn’t be a real answer, but instead some pretty words, sugar coating how blind she must have been to have missed this. The damn board was like a flashing neon danger sign to her now, she should have seen it. But Ariel surprised her with an answer that was not sugar coated, but instead logical and reasonable. As reasonable as something like this could be.
“The same way the doctors didn’t know, Mel. They thought it was the virus because it disguised itself as such. It is a crafty thing. It presented with the symptoms most likely to hide it and was able to cause her test results to be as they were. It presented itself to you as a tool to help you when it saw that Aris was getting through to you. It fed off both of you while she lived, and still does so now. Your grief, her fear for you. It gave you hope and then fed heartily when that hope was crushed by the terror of the events during and following your seance. Aris has been able to come to me in my dreams, but she grows more and more faint each night. It is draining both of you, Mel, and has now latched on to Riki..” Mel looked at Riki, drawing breath to apologize, though she couldn’t think of what apology could possibly be enough for what she had inadvertently done to her best friend. “Don’t even say it, Mel. You are my sister, blood be damned, and I would not let you go through this alone given a choice. Besides, Ariel here said she and her friends can help. It can’t be all bad news, right?” She looked at Ariel when she said this last. Ariel shook her head solemnly, “No, it isn’t all bad news, but we may as well get all the bad out first.”
“Oh, God. There’s more?” Mel didn’t think she could take any more bad news just at that moment.
“I told you earlier that neither Aris nor I know the wish that was made in the summoning of the Darkness. But she did know one thing. The person who summoned this darkness, she was unflinchingly certain.” Ariel was quiet for a beat and looked at Mel intently. “The summoner is your father.”
Mel felt an ice cold pit in her stomach. At the very same time her face grew hot and flushed. She didn’t have time to respond, just got up and ran for the restroom. As she vomited all the bile that was left in her, she repeated one thought over and over in her mind. There was no doubt that Ariel was telling the truth. And of one other thing Mel was certain. Her father was going to pay.
After Mel and Riki both consented, Ariel had placed a call to her friends. They arrived not twenty minutes later and were introduced as Sam, Rita, Cassie and Jimmy. They brought with them a big black duffel bag, which the one named Sam carried in. Mel could see immediately that Sam was Ariel’s other half, just from the way they looked at one another. She was struck by a pang of sadness, and jealousy, though she would never have admitted that second out loud. It hurt her heart that Aris was gone. But it was even worse to know that though Mel had thought her suffering had ended, it had only gotten worse after she passed. As soon as she thought it, she smelled sandalwood on the air. Sandalwood with a hint of vanilla.. “Does…does anyone else smell that?” She asked aloud. The one called Jimmy was looking at her intently. No, not at her. Just to the left of her. She turned that way, seeing nothing, then looked back to him with questioning eyes. Jimmy, frustratingly enough, looked to Ariel instead of answering. Ariel said to all of them, not just Jimmy, “Mel and Riki have experienced enough in the last two days that we will not have to convince them what they are experiencing is real. Don’t hold back guys. They need to know it all if we are going to beat this thing.” It was only then that Jimmy looked back at Mel and said, “The smell is meant for you. To hurt. The Darkness sensed something about your thoughts it wanted to feed on. To prod at. And so it chose a smell that would mean something. That would make it hurt. I saw it, well, drinking from you. From your aura.” Rage. Pure rage boiled in her blood from the tips of her toes to the top of her head. That this thing, this fucking thing, would have the audacity to smell like her. To use her love to hurt her, to make her more, what? Delicious to consume? “She looked at the group of people who had come to help her and let the rage burn out any trace of pain or grief. She let it consume her fear, feelings of betrayal, heartache, loneliness and any shadows of doubt or flagellation. She would have time for those feelings later. For now, the flames of that righteous rage swallowed everything else, and suddenly there was ice in her veins. A resolve that was unshakeable. Riki said quietly, “Um, Mel? Are you okay?” She looked at her best friend and nodded briefly. Riki didn’t look convinced, but in that moment Mel didn’t care. She looked back at Jimmy. “How do I kill it?”
Rita answered from behind Jimmy, “You don’t. Technically it cannot be killed. But what we, all of us together, can do is banish it from this plane of existence, damning it to starve eternally in the pits of the darkness that birthed it. Close enough for you?” Mel smiled, but not like she was happy. If she had to describe it, she would say it felt predatory. “Oh, yeah. Good enough.”
Ariel and her friends took turns explaining how this all was going to work. It sounded pretty simple. They were going to form what they called a circle of power. They were going to draw on a force they called The Kenning. When Riki asked what that was, Cassie had told them to think of it as their own personal spiritual power network, like a chain linked together, growing stronger with each link added, and then electrified, conducting the energies between the lot of them and feeding off of one another, growing exponentially. She said that was the simplest way to put it. Mel didn’t really care what they called it, as long as it worked.
Ariel let them know that once they became a part of The Kenning, it may be temporary or it may leave them linked for longer, even permanently. The extent to which they would be connected was outside of anyone’s control or influence. It seemed, Ariel said, to depend on what fate had in store for each of them and if they would be drawn together again. What she could tell them was during the ritual, they would experience a sort of out of body feeling. They may get pieces of thoughts and feelings that weren’t their own, they may even see themselves from the outside looking down. It could be very jarring and would require that they steel themselves against moving out of the circle or panicking. They would be seated in a circle, around the board, though it would remain in its case. There were also chains with strange symbols on them which they would use to bind the box shut. This would all start at 11:11PM exactly. Ariel said though that part wasn’t necessary, it would definitely help. Sam had added they would take all the help they could get, that this thing was quite a nasty beast. And so, they prepared to fight, filling Riki and Mel in on any need to know and may need to know information. The raging fire inside Mel had slowed, but only slightly. She was able to be cognizant of the gravity of the situation. Ariel pulled her aside and said, “Mel, I know you want vengeance. And you have a right to it. We are going to do everything we can tonight to give it to you. Just remember to keep your balance. The rage I feel in you is mighty. But so is the love you have for Aris. And for Riki. Use that love as a life raft if the rage starts to win out. Anger can be a great tool when utilized properly. Just make sure it’s not running the show.” She didn’t wait for a response, just patted Mel on the back and walked away. Mel sat with what Ariel just said and searched inside herself. Love? Of course. She loved Aris, that big love that even the best poets could hardly put into words. And though it was a completely different kind of love, she loved Riki deeply as well. Like family. Family. Like her father was supposed to have loved her. But instead he had damned her. And not just her, but the love of her life and, albeit vicariously, her best friend. How could he have done that? And there it was, that rage. She wrapped it around her like armor. It was an impenetrable, razor sharp forcefield between her and the circumstances she found herself in. Mel wasn’t worried about moving from the circle out of fear. She wasn’t worried about panic. No. It was The Darkness that should panic. Her rage burned hot and bright, and everyone knows, Mel thought to herself, that darkness cannot survive in the light.
It was two minutes until the time. Mel and Riki had practiced the chant they would all begin saying as Sam bound the board in the chains with the markings on them. Riki had asked about the markings and Ariel had said they were Angel Touched, whatever that meant. Mel was too focused on the goal to be curious. Maybe one day she would ask, but not this day. The time struck the designated minute and they all took their seats, Sam moving to the center. As he began to wrap the board, they all began to chant, “Darkness you are bound, in body and in spirit. Move no more within this realm. We banish you Întuneric.” A simple chant, but as they began Mel’s ears began to pop as if from the pressure of ascending or descending by great distance. She felt a tension growing in the room. Sam moved steadily, wrapping the board in its box, trapping it inside.
“Darkness you are bound, in body and in spirit. Move no more within this realm. We banish you Întuneric.”
They said it with a growing volume, more forcible at each turn. The board began to rattle in it’s box, first slightly, then loudly. It started to shake in earnest as they went on, Sam’s fingers going paler at the tips as he squeezed, muscles bulging as he wound the chain around and around. They were told not to close their eyes as Întuneric would move within that darkness in their mind’s eye and so they watched. They saw the white candles start to flicker, then go near dark, then spring back to life. Mel looked at Sam. She loved him so much…wait, no that wasn’t right. She had only just met him. She loved Aris. She looked at Ariel and the look on her face was pure focus. And love. Ah, so The Kenning had begun. She looked around at the faces of all of them, feeling bits and pieces of fear, faith, love, hope and determination. She looked at her own face then, outside and above herself and she felt that rage.
It was as if noticing it stoked that fire. It went from a flame to an inferno. She watched as her body became engulfed in a bright red glow, then looked around the circle to see the others glowing in their own light. Ariel was a bright white, Cassie a spring green, Sam a bright orange that was almost too bright to look at. Rita was a steady, glowing silver and Riki was pale pink. The red around her own body began to darken, she felt the rage of it all bubbling up. It wasn’t enough that the bastard had emotionally abused and manipulated her through her whole childhood. Not enough for him to make everything about himself, to never once have expressed empathy or understanding, even when her mother died. It wasn’t enough for him to refuse to accept his daughter as a lesbian or acknowledge her marriage as legitimate. No. He had ruined her life! And for what? Some wish to be granted?
Mel jumped as she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked down and was in her own body once more. She noticed the light around her had gone almost completely black. She turned to the hand on her shoulder and met Ariel’s gaze. “Balance.” The voice rang through her mind, out loud they were all continuing the chant. Mel took a deep breath through her nose and smelled sandalwood again. Stronger than ever. She watched as that blackness began to seep from her light into the others. The cabinets and drawers all flew open, the contents spilling out onto the floor. The windows rattled in their casings, hard enough Mel thought they’d shatter. But it was all so far away now. So blissfully far. That rage was all that mattered. It kept her safe from the pain, safe from the sorrow, safe from the guilt and the loss. Mel was outside herself again, watching as the auras around her began to darken, spreading like a fog. She began to feel tired. So tired. She could sleep. She could sleep now, wrapped in her cocoon of righteous fury. And never have to wake up. She noticed as her eyes began to flutter that there was a wisp of purple. As she watched it, it began to grow. Larger and brighter it grew. It drew her back into herself and she forced her eyes to stay wide open. She blinked and there sitting in front of her was Aris. Aris, shrouded in purple and smiling. She didn’t speak, but instead lifted a hand and placed it over Mel’s heart.
“I love you, Mel.” Aris spoke in her mind, and it thrummed through her to her very soul. “Aris, I’m sorry.” Saying the words out loud and looking into her love’s eyes broke that rage. It snapped like a twig and she was left with pain. So much pain. The darkness grew around them, all but Aris. She gripped Mel’s face in her hands, and though she knew it should be impossible, she felt those hands, solid and real against her skin. Aris spoke out loud this time, “This was not your fault. Do you hear me? I love you and this is not your fault!” Mel looked into those eyes, eyes she had stared into over and over, and never thought to see again in this lifetime. “Don’t let this thing win, baby. I got you. Don’t let him win.” Aris said this and a tear slid down her face. Mel felt a hot tear slide down her own cheek, mirroring it exactly. She wrapped her arms around Aris and held her tight. “I love you, Aris. You got me, I got you.” Mel said this in her mind and outloud. She reached one hand out to Riki and found her best friend’s hand waiting, gripping her own firmly. She held on to Aris and then, with the rhythm of the group, shouted at the top of her lungs, “Hear me, you bastard! Darkness you are bound, in body and in spirit. Move no more within this realm. We banish you Întuneric!”
A blinding purple light exploded in the center of the circle, and there was a clatter of chains falling to the floor. The blackness was just gone, no ebbing, not creeping away, but instantly gone as if burned away by the light. There was no other sound, the chant had stopped, and Mel could still feel Aris against her and Riki’s hand in her own. Mel wasn’t sure how long this went on, but it felt like forever. The light gradually started to fade, until all that was left glowing was Aris. Mel pulled back to look at her. “I am so glad I got to hold you one more time. Thank you Aris. You saved me.” Aris looked at her smiling, “You saved me, too, love. No more tears. Unless they are happy ones. I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.” Aris kissed Mel gently, and Mel smiled a real smile. “I’ll always miss you, but no more tears.” She wiped her cheeks and said, “After these ones.” Aris laughed and began to fade. “I’ll hold you to it.” With that, she was gone. Mel looked around the room and realized everyone was smiling. In the center of the circle were the chains in a pile, nothing but a bit of smoldering ash between them. Rita broke the silence first, “Now that’s how you banish a motherfucker!” She said cheerfully, laughing.
Ariel’s group stayed that night in the house, cleansing and helping clean up the mess. Mel joked that it was time to start cleaning out some stuff anyways, and she sort of meant it. She had been holding on to things, material things. When it came down to it, the things only made her sad anyways. And she had made a promise to Aris she intended to keep.
Mel got a call the next day as the group was packing up to head out. The local police were calling. They were sorry to inform her that her father had been found dead. His house had caught fire. All they could tell her was they were still investigating the circumstances of his death. A week later she found out he had not left a will, and so as his only surviving heir she inherited everything. She didn’t think there was much left to inherit, but as it turned out he had a bank account with enough money in it to change her life.She donated his body to science and took a large chunk of the money, donating it to different charities. She offered to pay Ariel and her group, but Ariel declined, saying they wouldn’t feel right accepting it, but to thank them by paying it forward. Mel and Riki moved into a house with two wings, one for Riki and one for herself, and Mel couldn’t have been happier. There were days and nights where she and Riki both had thoughts and feelings they knew weren’t their own. The Kenning had bound them to the group it seemed, at least for now. Mel missed Aris, every day. But she also reminded herself of her promise, and when she got sad that Aris was gone, she honored that feeling and then remembered embracing her swathed in brilliant purple light, and every time she remembered that moment, Mel smiled.