Summoned (Excerpt)

Check out Summoned, Anne M. Pillsworth’s debut novel, available June 24th from Tor Teen! You can also read “The Madonna of the Abattoir,” Pillsworth’s short story set in Victorian-era Arkham, here on Tor.com.

While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895. Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests applicants reply by email.

Sean’s always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology. Against his best friend Edna’s advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it’s a clever hoax, but hoping that it won’t be. The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago. To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless but useful familiar—but Sean’s ceremony takes a dark turn, and he instead accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep. The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain. But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham…

 

 

1

Every occult Web site agreed: For weird-ass books, Arkham was the center of the New England universe, and Horrocke’s Bookstore was the black hole at the center’s heart. Dad said that Sean had enough crazy stuff to read, since Uncle Gus had given him his Lovecraft collection. But Uncle Gus had also spilled that Cthulhu (aka Old Squid-Head) wasn’t just a monster Lovecraft had invented, he was a god in a totally legitimate mythology way older than the Egyptian and Greek ones. Since then, Sean had been nuts to go to Horrocke’s and get the real dope on Cthulhu, and so when Dad drove to Arkham to price a window restoration Sean and Eddy hitched a ride. Eddy insisted on sightseeing first, but once they hit the bookstore and found the weird-ass section even she had to admit the place lived up to its reputation. “Little Shoppe of Mysteries” was what TrueTomes.com called it. Hokey but accurate, because as Sean pulled a thick volume off the Cthulhu Mythos shelf a mystery ambushed him.

Like its neighbors, the book he pulled (Infinity Unimaginable) was glossy new. The book that dropped, that he just managed to catch, was old as hell; even at arm’s length, it exuded the smell of an open tomb. Not a nasty mildewy rotting-flesh kind of tomb. More like a tomb in the desert, a Pharaoh’s crib, all cloves and ginger and—what was that other spice thing, the bitter one?— yeah, myrrh.

Sean shifted Infinity Unimaginable under his arm so he could inspect the mummy-book. It was in decent shape, the black leather spine intact and the stamped gold title only a little rubbed out. The Witch Panic in Arkham by Ezekiel Greene Phillips. Sean and Eddy had probably seen the guy’s grave in the Lich Street Burial Ground, where everyone was an Ezekiel or a Hepzibah or a Zacharias or some other Puritan name with a z in it.

He got a better armpit grip on Infinity and opened The Witch Panic. Paper fluttered to the floor, but thank you, Jesus, it wasn’t a page from the book. The fallen bit was a newspaper clipping someone had used as a bookmark a hundred years ago, from the look of its brown and brittle edges. Sean parked both books and picked up the clipping. He’d been close on the hundred years. In fact, the clipping was older: At its top, he could make out ham Advertiser, March 21, 1895. “Ham” had to be Arkham. The city’s newspaper was still the Advertiser; dumb name, made you think the paper was one big classified section. Speaking of which, a couple columns of classified ads was what he lifted closer to his face, squinting at the minuscule type. One ad was circled in faded red:

Wanted, an apprentice in magic and in the service of its Masters. For particulars, apply to the Reverend Orne, [email protected]

That “apprentice in magic” part was freaky enough. It took Sean a second reading before he got the true freakiness of the ad. You were supposed to apply to the Reverend Orne by e-mail? In 1895?

“Eddy!” he said. Okay, he kind of yelled.

Her voice came from the back of the store. “What? God, tell the world.”

Sean grabbed his finds and threaded through stacks of new and used books to the locked cases that housed the really old stuff, the tomes. Eddy had been drooling over them since they’d arrived. She hadn’t run out of saliva yet, judging from the way she crouched in front of the current case, fingertips to carpet, a sprinter ready to explode out of the starting blocks and right through the protective glass.

“Look,” she said without turning to him. “This is like a wizard’s library.”

The case guarded books in Latin and German and French, in Greek and Arabic, in English rendered undecipherable by some kind of curly-swirly Gothic type, and the whole bunch of them were beat up with age. Sean would have been dripping spit, too, except what he had in his hands was even more exciting. “Eddy, check it—”

“Keep it down, will you?”

What, were they in church? He lowered his voice. “Check it out. I found this book.”

“One we can afford?” Eddy tapped a discreet price list posted on the glass, and there was nothing under a thousand dollars. She stood up, sighing.

“This one about the Cthulhu Mythos.” He glanced inside Infinity Unimaginable. “It’s only twenty bucks.”

“Let’s see.”

“Wait, here’s something cooler.” He had put the newspaper clipping back in The Witch Panic for safekeeping. He eased it out. “Read that ad.”

“This is crazy old.” Eddy handled the clipping gingerly. “‘Gentleman recently graduated from Miskatonic University seeks position as tutor.’ ”

“No, the circled one.”

“‘Wanted, an apprentice in magic—’” Eddy shut up. Sean watched her eyes dart over the rest of the ad, then dart to the top of the clipping. Back to the ad. Then she turned the clipping over, but all it showed was a woman in a dress with sleeves a mile wide and waist about an inch around. Finally Eddy looked up, her forehead corrugated. “Where’d you get this?”

“When I got down the Mythos book, another book fell off the shelf. The ad was inside.”

Eddy relinquished the clipping and took The Witch Panic in Arkham. “This old book was with the new stuff?”

“Yeah. Only I didn’t see it until it fell. I guess it was stuck behind the other one.”

“Like someone hid it there?”

He shrugged. “Maybe.”

She leafed through the pages. “This was published the same year as the newspaper. Except the clipping’s got to be fake. Like a hoax. Or not even a hoax, because who’d believe in an e-mail address from 1895? Somebody made it for a joke.”

“It’s a damn good fake. It even smells old.”

“That’s because it’s been sitting in this smelly book.”

Leave it to Eddy to come up with a reasonable explanation. She had to be right, but Sean teased her a little. “I bet a time traveler went back to 1895 and put the ad in the newspaper, except he forgot how there wasn’t any Internet yet.”

Eddy kept leafing. “We better give Witch Panic to Mr. Horrocke. It probably belongs with the rare books.”

“And then the time traveler was all, ‘How come nobody’s answering my ad?’ ”

“Shove it.”

“And so he sends the ad into the future in Witch Panic, and it lands on the shelf behind Infinity just as I’m taking it down.”

“No, because if that happened, the book and the ad would be new.” Eddy had reached the index and was trailing her finger down the page. “There,” she said. “That’s what I thought.”

“What?”

“The guy in the ad, [email protected]? Redemption Orne’s mentioned in this book. He was married to Patience.”

And Patience Orne was a total rock-star witch. Sean had been reading her name on historical markers all day. Here’s where Patience Orne lived. Here’s the courthouse where Patience Orne was tried. Here’s the gallows on which Patience Orne swung. He shook his head. “But if Redemption’s from Puritan times, how come he’s advertising in 1895?”

Sean had walked into it, and Eddy pounced without mercy. “Because he’s a time traveler?” she said.

“Ouch.”

“Got another explanation?”

“No, but you do.”

“Because some crazy Redemption Orne fan boy stuck a fake clipping in the book?” Eddy handed Sean The Witch Panic. “It’s almost five. We’ve got to meet your dad. Are you buying Infinity?”

“I’m buying them both.”

“You won’t have enough money for the old one.”

Probably not, but he was going to try. When a book jumped at you from a shelf, what else could you do?

 

In the front room at Horrocke’s, where a college girl stood behind the counter and the smell of hazelnut coffee filled the air, books wouldn’t have the nerve to jump at customers. The back room was a whole different world. First off, you came in through a door with a brass plaque that read: QUISCUNQUE QUERAT, INTRA. According to Eddy, who’d just aced her sophomore year of Latin, that meant “Whoever seeks, enter” or, in plain English, “Looking for something? Get your butt in here.”

They had gotten their butts in, and they had been rewarded with row after row of enticingly labeled shelves. No self-help, general fiction, or cookbooks here. It was alchemy, astrology, cabalism, necromancy, voodoo, wicca, and more. Lots more, including the cases of tomes beyond which Mr. Horrocke sat, dwarfed by his mahogany desk, sipping espresso from a tiny white cup.

Horrocke had been sipping from the cup when they’d first ventured into the back room. For someone who put away so much caffeine, he looked amazingly sleepy. He was a skinny old guy to begin with, in a navy suit with a red silk handkerchief in the breast pocket. The handkerchief looked like the tongue of a smart-ass who’d been sucking a cherry Popsicle. Even creepier, Horrocke’s own tongue was Popsicle red. As Sean and Eddy approached, he touched it to his lower lip and set the tiny cup on a tiny saucer. Under the desk, his jittering feet clicked on the floorboards as if he wore tap shoes. Maybe after they had gone, he would dance it up around the stacks.

The idea of Horrocke getting down almost made Sean lose it. Good thing Eddy started the talking. It sounded like she’d already made friends with the old guy, probably while he was mopping up her drool with the red handkerchief. “Hey, Mr. Horrocke. I think Sean’s found a book he wants.”

On cue, Sean put down Infinity Unimaginable.

“Ah,” Horrocke said. “An excellent choice, Edna. I always recommend Professor Marvell’s books. He’s chief archivist at the Miskatonic University Library, you know. One of the world’s foremost authorities on the Cthulhu cult. Indeed.”

Would Eddy explode at Horrocke’s use of her real name? Though, duh, if Horrocke knew her real name, she must’ve given it to him. Sean stopped holding his breath and said, “That’s great, Mr. Horrocke. There’s this other book, though. I found it behind Infinity. It kind of fell on me.”

“Indeed? I hope it didn’t hurt you.”

“Ah, no,” Sean managed. “I caught it all right. I don’t think it got hurt, either.” He put The Witch Panic down next to Infinity.

Horrocke drew the old book toward himself using a pencil hooked over its top. Before he opened it, he put on white cotton gloves. Oh man, and here Sean and Eddy had been pawing it with their grubby hands. Delicately, Horrocke turned pages. “The Greene Phillips, 1895, first edition,” he murmured.

First edition. Bad. Read: expensive.

“In good condition. Minimal foxing, sound text block.”

Better. At least Horrocke couldn’t accuse them of having foxed the crap out of the book, whatever that meant.

Horrocke had come upon the newspaper clipping and balanced it on his gloved fingertips. While he read, Sean again caught himself holding his breath. If anybody could explain the circled ad and how the clipping had been faked, it had to be Horrocke. You didn’t throw around words like foxing and text block if you didn’t know all about books and documents and forgeries.

Horrocke studied the clipping even longer than Eddy had. A couple times his Popsicle-red tongue touched his lower lip. A couple times he glanced toward the cases and the stacks, as if he expected to see someone there. Once he stared straight up at the ceiling, as if he followed the progress of something across it. Sean looked for a fly or spider. He saw nothing. Maybe the old guy had overdosed on espresso after all.

At last Horrocke gave up on the invisible bug. He tucked the clipping back into the book, closed it, and pushed it toward Sean. “Indeed,” he said.

Indeed what? Sean and Eddy waited, but Horrocke seemed lost in contemplation of his gloved hands.

“So is that newspaper ad a crazy joke or what?” Eddy asked.

Horrocke started taking off the gloves, finger by finger. “I have no opinion of the advertisement, miss. However, I can tell you that I don’t have a first edition of The Witch Panic in Arkham in stock at the moment, only modern reprints. I don’t know how the book came to be on the shelf.” He looked at Sean. “Since I don’t own it, I believe the book is yours.”

His? That easy? “That doesn’t seem right, Mr. Horrocke.”

“On the contrary, it’s exactly right. The book came to you of its own accord.” Horrocke’s laugh sounded like somebody playing a botched scale on a flute. “I imagine it’s your destiny.”

The Witch Panic in Arkham? As destinies went, that didn’t sound too hot. But who could argue with free? “Well, thanks, Mr. Horrocke, if you’re sure.”

“I’m quite sure.” Horrocke had folded his gloves. He put them back in his desk and took out a notepad and pen. On the top sheet, he wrote: “NO CHARGE FOR THE GREENE PHILLIPS, N. Horrocke.” He handed the sheet to Sean. “Give that to Miss Anglesea at the cash register when you pay for the other.”

Sean grabbed both books off the desk. “Okay, thanks. I guess we better go now. We’re supposed to meet somebody.”

Horrocke’s lips stretched in what he probably meant as a smile. “I imagine you are, Sean. Indeed. I hope you enjoy your books.”

Sean couldn’t get out of the bookstore fast enough. As soon as he and Eddy were through the door, he started laughing. It was part victory laughter—he’d scored a free first edition! Uncle Gus would flip when he heard about that.

It was also part freaked laughter. “That was insane,” Sean said.

“What, Mr. Horrocke?”

“Him and getting this book for nothing. Got the fake ad for nothing, too!”

Eddy’s cell phone rang. “Text from your dad. We’re late.”

She took off up High Lane, toward the old railroad station that had been converted into a boutiquey mall. The college-girl cashier had tucked Sean’s books into a navy-blue plastic bag, and he shot a quick look inside to make sure The Witch Panic hadn’t bailed now that it had seen him in the light of day.

 

Dad was parked outside the station Starbucks when Sean and Eddy ran up. “I was about to call you again, Sean,” he said. “No, wait. I was about to call Eddy, since you forgot your phone.”

Dad had griped about the AWOL phone the whole ride from Providence to Arkham. “We were at the bookstore,” Sean said. He showed him the bag.

“Say no more. I know how Eddy is around books. You guys want anything here, or do we go to the pizza place in Kingsport?”

“I vote pizza,” Eddy said. She and Sean piled into the backseat of the Civic. “How’d your consultation go, Mr. Wyndham? What was Ms. Arkwright like? Scary?”

The consultation must have gone well, because Dad only snorted at Eddy. “Why should Ms. Arkwright be scary?”

“Because her house is. We walked by it when we were doing the witch tour. How about that big old plaque? The Arkwright House. Anything that’s the Blankety-Blank House has to be haunted.”

“I didn’t see any ghosts,” Dad said. He had pulled out of the parking lot and turned onto Garrison Street. As they rattled over the bridge, Sean saw the tops of the ailanthus trees that choked Witch Island. “No ghosts, just plaster dust and rippedout wiring. As for Helen Arkwright, she looks like she’s about twenty years old and too nervous to say ‘boo.’ ”

“Maybe she’s nervous because of the ghosts,” Sean said.

“More likely because she’s trying to renovate that whole monster at once. She said the uncle who left her the house lived in the library and let the rest go.” Dad shook his head. He didn’t believe in letting stuff go. “That’s where the stained-glass windows are, in the library. They’re in rough shape, but they’re spectacular. You’d like them, Sean. One of the panels has the Devil in it.”

“What, like Satan?”

“Ms. Arkwright called him the Black Man. I guess that’s what the Puritans called him. He didn’t look like a devil to me, though. He was in this Egyptian getup, no horns, no hooves, no tail.”

Sean leaned in between the front seats. “So, are you going to restore the windows?”

“I think so. Big job. I’ll have to take them out and do a full refabrication, new support system, the works.”

“So you’ll have to come back to Arkham?”

Dad grinned; Sean saw it in the rearview mirror. “Which would mean you can come back to Arkham. You have that good a time?”

“It was awesome. This place owns Salem for witches. We went to the Witch Museum, and the Witch House, and the courthouse where they had the witch trials, and Witch Island—”

“We only saw the Island off the bridge,” Eddy cut in. “Sean wanted to swim out to it, but I wouldn’t let him.”

“No, I didn’t. I wanted to rent a kayak and paddle out to it.”

“Only there’s like three waterfalls between the Island and the kayak rentals. Then we hung out on the University Green for a while. I so want to apply to Miskatonic now.”

“I’m applying for sure,” Sean said. “Then we went to the bookstore.”

“I see you bought something.”

“This book about mythology, that’s all.” And it was all that he’d bought. No need to mention the Witch Panic book and the newspaper clipping. It was too complicated, and Dad had just inched into the jam of cars on Main Street. Dad hated traffic. The only way he could deal with it was by turning on the classic rock station from Boston, which he did now. “Jumping Jack Flash” blared. Dad joined in without missing a snarl.

End of the interrogation, excellent. Eddy had already snagged Infinity Unimaginable and was slumped comfortably, reading. Sean pulled out The Witch Panic and let it fall open to the clipping. “Wanted, an apprentice in magic and in the service of its Masters.” If it only said “an apprentice in magic,” that could mean it was hocus-pocus, saw-the-lady-in-half magic. Stage stuff. But it also said “and in the service of its Masters.” With a capital M. That made the whole business sound more serious. Who were the Masters of magic, anyhow? And why did the guy who’d faked the ad call himself Reverend Orne? Sean checked the index. He found a listing for “ORNE, Redemption, husband of Patience, minister at the Third Congregational Church.” The Reverend was a big enough deal to appear on a dozen pages.

“Hey, Eddy.”

She kept reading. “This book is wicked. Can I borrow it?”

“Sure. But listen. Maybe I’ll write to this Reverend dude.”

That made Eddy look at him over the top of Infinity. “Why?”

“I don’t know. He must be pretty cool, coming up with this ad and getting it to look so real. And I can ask him what the hell he’s talking about, apprentices and Masters of magic and all.”

“Yeah,” Eddy said. She bugged her eyes out and got sarcasticbreathless. “You better do that right away. You know what Mr. Horrocke said. He said, ‘It’s your destiny, Luke.’ ”

Of course she did the Darth Vader imitation just as the Stones segued into a discount furniture ad and Dad dumped the radio volume. “What’s whose destiny?” he asked.

Eddy knew better, but she was on a roll. “It’s Sean’s destiny to be an e-mail wizard’s apprentice. See, he found this ad at the bookstore—”

She’d propped her feet up on the back of the passenger seat, so Sean couldn’t kick her. Shut up shut up shut up, he willed in her direction.

Either his telepathy worked or Eddy came back to her senses. She knew how paranoid Dad was, especially about Internet freaks. Like they were after geek-boys, not the girls hanging their boobs out on Facebook.

“What ad?” Dad prompted. The traffic was so tight, the Civic might as well have been parked; Dad was able to turn around and look at them. Sean hustled the clipping into the book, the book into the map pocket on his door.

“This dumb joke ad,” Eddy said. She’d switched voices from breathless to bored. “Apply to be a magic apprentice. Nothing much.”

Dad’s eyebrows vanished into the shock of hair that fell over his forehead. “You didn’t really think about answering an ad like that, Sean.”

“God, Dad. I was just kidding Eddy. I can’t believe she took it seriously.”

Eddy put her feet down and gave Sean a kick to the ankle, as if he were the one who deserved kicking. He stifled a yell.

“Because that would be stupid,” Dad said. “You know how many scammers and predators there are on the Internet. I don’t have to tell you.”

Not more than ten times a day. “I know, Dad.”

The cars ahead started moving. The cars behind started honking. Even so, Dad gazed at Sean for what felt like a whole minute before he faced forward and drove. “I would hope you know by now.”

Sean had signed up for an online ghost-hunting course (with Dad’s Visa) four years back, when he was twelve, a kid. Dad might forgive, but he never forgot. “I do know,” Sean said. “Besides, I don’t even have the ad. It’s back at the bookstore.”

He got his feet up before Eddy could kick him again. He kept them up until she glared, shrugged, and went back to reading her book.

Once off Main, the Civic cruised unimpeded toward Orange Point. Tour buses at the Hanging Ground Memorial slowed them down again. They’d checked out the Memorial that morning, or Sean would have asked to stop. The sun had dropped low enough to spill pale gold over the ocean and the cliff-top grasses and the tombstones of hanged witches. It looked like a movie scene the special-effects crew had colorized to make everything pop. Sean craned around to see the path that led to Patience Orne’s grave. She’d been such a bad-ass witch that they’d planted her away from everyone else, in a little clearing surrounded by scrub blueberries and dune roses. The edge of the cliff was a few steps from her splintered stone. Sean pictured the stone new, and Redemption standing over it. Maybe he’d gotten so worked up mourning, he’d thrown himself over that convenient edge. Except he couldn’t have. He’d lived long enough to put an ad in the 1895 Advertiser.

Sean laughed.

“What’s up?” Dad asked.

“Nothing. Except I was thinking we should get double anchovies on the pizza. And pineapple.”

Dad and Eddy went into bouts of bogus retching. As they began the descent into Kingsport, Sean slipped The Witch Panic from the map pocket and hid it under Dad’s seat, where it and the newspaper clipping could stay safe until he got a chance to do something about them.

 

 

2

Stupefied by his pizza binge, Sean slept through the trip from Arkham to Providence. He woke up when they stopped at Eddy’s house, but he was too late to keep her from jumping out with his Mythos book. It was after nine, and traffic was light; Dad made it home in five minutes and went straight over to his studio. His eagerness to get to work on the new commission was good luck for Sean—he recovered The Witch Panic in Arkham unseen and, after checking his recharged phone for messages, flopped on the back-porch glider. The scent of cloves and ginger and myrrh wafted off the pages as he flipped through them. Nice but weird. Most old books were sneezy with dust and mold. Maybe the last owner of this one had burned incense all the time, some kind of special preservative, the Crypt Freshener of the Pharaohs.

The newspaper clipping fell out on Sean’s chest. He set it on the wicker table by the glider, well away from his sweating Coke can, and looked at the page it had marked. In ghost stories, people were always reading the future by picking a Bible passage at random. The passage in front of him was in an appendix of short biographies, and it was titled “The Unfortunate History of the Reverend Redemption Orne.” Damn. Eddy would never believe it. She’d say Sean had marked that page on purpose, but he hadn’t. The last time he’d shoved the clipping into the book had been in the car, when Dad was getting nosy and Sean was trying to get it out of sight quick. In an emergency like that, how could he have picked any particular page? Random, baby.

Sean started reading:

Redemption Orne was born in Cambridgeshire, England, in 1669, the only surviving child of nonconformist minister Jonathan Orne and his wife, Susan Cooke. In 1681, the Ornes emigrated to Boston. There Redemption attended the Boston Latin School and Harvard College and earned a reputation for scholarship, eloquence and piety that attracted the notice of such influential figures as John Eliot, in whose Algonquin Bible Redemption took much interest.

In 1690, Redemption graduated from Harvard and published several well-received tracts. His uncle Richard Orne, an early settler in Arkham and one of its most prosperous merchants, invited him to become teacher at the new Third Congregational Church. Redemption accepted and soon won the approbation of pastor Nicholas Brattle and the congregation.

Redemption also took on the spiritual guidance of a village of Christianized Nipmucs near Dunwich, where he boarded at the house of Enoch Bishop and his daughter Patience. From the Sachem, Peter Kokokoho, he learned the topography, flora and fauna of the wild interior. Of the Nipmucs, Redemption would privately write: “While during the day the Indians pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, at night, when the hills speak, I fear they turn to other gods.”

Patience, too, knew other gods. Dunwich believed Enoch Bishop to be a wizard, but that lonely town knew better than to oppose him. Under Enoch, Patience had studied witchcraft since she’d been old enough to dance upon the stone-crowned hills. Though she used the craft to cure, hers remained a dark power.

It appears that Redemption was too smitten with Patience to perceive her true nature. In 1691, he married her. In 1692, following the sudden deaths of Richard Orne and his wife (deaths later ascribed to Patience’s magic), Redemption became sole heir to his uncle’s estate. During this prosperous period, Redemption’s fame spread through the colonies, and he wrote his natural and spiritual history, The New Wildernesse. Soon after, their daughter, Constance, was born.

As the Witch Panic intensified and spread to Arkham, suspicion fell on Patience. As noted in trial records, the Black Man had favored her with a monstrous familiar and it had devoured many domestic beasts and several people. Many testified to seeing this daemon kill soldiers sent to arrest its mistress. Patience was hanged on Orange Point.

Redemption fell under suspicion when his secret journal revealed he had known of Patience’s witchcraft. He was imprisoned but disappeared before trial. Some speculated that the Black Man had spirited him away. Others less fanciful believed he had escaped into the woods and there met some unknown but natural fate.

Much of Orne’s printed work was destroyed after his fall from public grace. A few volumes and tracts may be found in the collection of seventeenth-century literature at the Arkham Historical Society, while Orne’s journals have recently been removed to the Archives of Miskatonic University.

By the time Sean finished the mini-bio, the back of his neck was prickling, and not from heat rash. He had gotten the same prickle from H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, the ones so loaded with details that they’d momentarily convinced Sean that in his fiction Lovecraft was telling truths the government didn’t want told. The government couldn’t let people know about Elder Things and transdimensional monsters and giant blobs of protoplasm. Everyone would start jumping out windows. Well, Sean wouldn’t jump out a window—he’d be cool with it. But that wasn’t the point.

The point was, why should he get prickles from the Orne bio? It didn’t give any details. Like, how did Patience kill old Richard and his wife? What did Patience’s familiar look like? Did it swallow cows and passersby whole, or did it leave little bits behind, covered with slime to show how it wasn’t wolves or bears that had done it? To be fair, that stuff was probably in the actual book. The bio was only an appendix.

Sean skimmed it again. Some lines popped out at him. Dunwich was afraid to mess with Enoch Bishop, a wizard. Patience knew other gods and used her magic to heal people, but it was still a dark power. All that sounded like the writer believed in witchcraft. But in the end, he poked fun at the people who thought Redemption was grabbed by the Black Man. The writer said the “less fanciful” believed that Redemption escaped and died of natural causes.

It sounded like they never found Redemption’s body. What if it was because he didn’t die? He was alive in 1895. He was alive right now, because he had an e-mail address. And a time machine, for traveling back to 1895.

Man, Sean was giving himself a headache, trying to come up with a logical explanation. Good thing it was fun. He glanced at the clipping, which trembled in the breeze from the ceiling fan. Then he glanced across the backyard to the carriage house. All the second-floor windows were lit up, so Dad was still hard at it.

He carried book and clipping to the family-room computer and pulled up the e-mail account he used for online gaming. It would be safe to e-mail the Reverend from that, and, come on, it wasn’t any lamer to go by Lord Grayfalcon than it was to go by Redemption Orne. Sean clicked for a new message. He read the circled ad once more. He typed: Hey Rev, I found your want ad that says you’re looking for an apprentice in magic. Me and my friend think it’s way cool how you faked the old newspaper clipping. How did you do it anyway? The old guy at Horrockes didn’t seem to know and if you can stump a guy like him you’re good. So you’re really into this Orne guy. I’m reading about him in the book where the ad was. Looks like he rocks.

Sean paused. It was always tricky to joke on the Internet, especially if you didn’t know the person. But he couldn’t chicken out now. He typed again: Anyhow I was wondering if you’re still looking for an apprentice. I think I’d rock as one. Do you have to be out of high school or what? Lord G.

No use typing more when the message would probably bounce anyway. Sean added a blind cc to Eddy and hit send.

Five minutes later, when he was deep in the latest flame war on his Warcraft forum (Orcpwner versus U_All_Sukk), he got an e-mail alert. That would be from Eddy, chewing him a new one. Except it wasn’t. It was from “Reverend Orne,” and the subject was “The apprentice position.”

The prickles hit Sean’s neck again, big-time. He stared at the new e-mail. Okay, here was what was going to happen: He was going to open it, and it was going to be a picture of some gross sex act (apprentice position, ha-ha), and under that would be a giant LMAO noob, you fell for it. Which would be fine; he could deal with that.

He opened the e-mail. There was no picture. There was one scant paragraph: Thank you for your interest in the position of apprentice in magic. I would enjoy discussing it with you. If you remain interested, chat with me tomorrow at four o’clock p.m. My ID is rorne. Cordially, Redemption Orne.

While Sean was still cranking his jaw off the keyboard, Eddy texted him: hey lord g get on NOW

Sean texted back: u got my cc huh?

i cant believe u did that ur so DEAD if ur dad finds out

omg he already answered

????

orne

shut UP

rly—he said ty 4 yr interest, chat tomorrow 4 pm.

u going to???

hell yeah

idk i still think ur crazy can i sit in?

sure ill come over yr house after work

good bc mom is making strwbry pies gag >_<

Sean would get to eat Eddy’s share, since she had a freakish hatred of strawberries. He was about to type no problem when the porch door opened, then smacked shut. A quick gtg was all he could get in. Eddy would understand. Luckily, Dad made a stop at the refrigerator—bottles rattled in the door. That gave Sean time to pocket his phone and tuck The Witch Panic and the clipping under a couch cushion.

A bottle gasped open in the kitchen. “Sean? You’re not on the computer, are you?”

Sean shut it down. “No. Except to check my e-mail.”

“That sounds more like a ‘yes.’ ”

“I’m off now.”

“It’s almost eleven. Joe-Jack’s picking you up for work at six, right?”

“Right,” Sean said. Maybe it would rain. Hard. Joe-Jack couldn’t rebuild a porch in a downpour. That would give Sean a chance to hang out at Eddy’s and prep for his interview with the Reverend by reading the book she’d cruised with.

“Sean? Bed.”

“Right, Dad.” Before Dad could come into the family room, Sean retrieved The Witch Panic and hit the stairs running.

 


Summoned © Anne M. Pillsworth, 2014

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