Ashes

I open my eyes.

The floor is icy; that’s the first thing I notice. The flagstones are freezing, a leaching cold, and I can feel the warmth of my body seeping into the granite underneath me, though the temperature of the surface itself doesn’t seem to change.

The quiet encroaches on my mind. My breath rasps in my ears, seconded only by the thud of my heartbeat. I’d performed the summoning ritual perfectly. Whatever I’d called out of the void should still be bound here, waiting my command, breathing, gibbering, something audible. Silence is never a good sign.

I try to push myself up. Can I? The stone under my back is a gravity well pulling at my skin, but I strain, getting my shoulders off the floor. The air smells of ash and smoke from burning flesh, my stomach twists. Pressure rises in my throat. I drop back, turn my head to the side, and open my jaw to let out the flow. I spit when I’m empty and sit up fully at last, weak but moving. A final trickle slides from my lips down my shirtfront.

I spare the liquid staining my shirt a glance. It’s black. I keep my eyes on the blotch for a second before I finally look down at my forearms, at the markings there. The glyphs should have faded before I was awake; they’ve always faded before when I’ve tinkered in the void, but now they cover my skin in neat perfect rows, as if they’ve been painted on. I rub my left thumb over my right forearm, but the marks don’t smear. I’m not imagining them, and the realization makes my gut wrench again. This is new. A message? A warning? I can’t read them this time. The knot tightens, rises toward my throat.

I stand unsteadily, wishing I had someone to prop me up. Nothing happens, yet the thought alone should have been enough to bring the creature I’d called forth to my side. I take a few tottery steps out of the quartered and rune inscribed glyph I’d long ago etched into the basement floor. I turn back to see the smeared summoning circle, the scattered ash and salt, for the first time.

It isn’t just broken; it’s empty. I don’t know what I’ve pulled from the void—I never know until I see it—but it’s gone. It’s loose.

I limp up the basement steps, lay my hand on the knob. It rattles in my grasp, the door bowing outward. On the other side, something growls.

∼ Scarlett R. Algee

© Copyright Scarlett R. Algee. All Rights Reserved.

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About Scarlett R. Algee

Scarlett R. Algee lives in the wilds of Tennessee with a Hound of Tindalos cleverly disguised as a beagle. She discovered steampunk, H. P. Lovecraft, and Lovecraftian steampunk in a previous incarnation as a librarian, and hasn’t looked back since. When not writing horror or fulfilling her duties as an avatar of Nyarlathotep, Scarlett makes steampunk jewelry at her Etsy shop, Copperwalk Designs (copperwalkdesigns.etsy.com).

8 responses to “Ashes”

  1. Lydia Prime says :

    Oooh! Love the creep factor!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. afstewart says :

    Delightfully dark and ominous.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lee Andrew Forman says :

    Damn awesome story, Scarlett! Great ending!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark Steinwachs says :

    Had me hooked from the start and strong as hell ending. Bookend it!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. jonolsonauthor says :

    Reblogged this on Jon Olson and commented:
    This week from Pen of the Damned comes ASHES by Scarlett R. Algee

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Reblogged this on Spreading the Writer's Word and commented:

    ‘Ashes’by Scarlett R. Algee. A piece that tells of a summoning gone wrong. Who’s up for a little damnation from one of our newest members of Pen of the Damned?

    Like

  7. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Love the piece, Scarlett – particularly the open ending… Wickedly done! 😉

    Like

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A little more damnation… – (a dark adapted eye) - May 9, 2018

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