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Summoning Game

I. Let me apologize for my brutality—and for the blood on the floor, ceiling, and walls. Generally, when I answer the door, I am a model of good breeding, even in the middle of February. And generally, I keep a clean house. But recent circumstances caused me to resort to uncharacteristic savagery last night. So here you are, Mr. Taylor, slightly beaten up and tied to a wooden chair in a cabin in central Idaho.

I assume you heard the screams last night. Isn’t that what brought you here this afternoon? (Just nod your head, Mr. Taylor. I can’t understand you with duct tape over your mouth.) The screams came from the woman whose bloodied body dangles before you. Behold her, and as you do, please understand: I am not a killer at heart. Killing’s not something I dream about like, say, having sex with a mature woman or playing defense on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just think of the summers I spent up in these mountains playing with your daughter Cindy when she and I were in grade school.

No, sir, I am not a killer at heart. Taking the life of another human, while sometimes necessary, is an abomination. This may be hard to believe as you stare at the corpse, stretched in the shape of an x, wrists and ankles bound by ropes attached to the rafter and floor. But what can I say? Last night, my friends and I lost control. Confined to this cabin, we became pawns in a supernatural game.

Let me explain. For nearly two years, Rachel, Lewis and I had immersed ourselves in a game called “Summoning.” With the enthusiasm of schoolchildren, we’d played it out, time and again, always in a different place: in southern Utah, in northern Colorado, in Southern California, and finally in the Northwest. And it’s here that we ran the final game, Rachel agreeing to submit to a punishment that should have stopped short of death.

The rules are simple. At night, before they begin, participants light and surround themselves with thirty or forty candles. Next, each player throws three dice to see which one the spirit is going to speak through; highest number wins. Then, naked and dabbled with blood, they join hands and, over and over, utter a profanely joyous chant derived from an ancient Sumerian text. Once the spirit speaks, each participant must obey. Failure to do so can result in terrible hallucinations, involuntary discharge of bodily fluids, blindness, stuttering, and things too awful to think about. Eventually, the game possesses you.

II. Get comfortable, Mr. Taylor. I have a lot to tell. I can move the duct tape a bit lower if you’re having trouble breathing. Not that it matters.

Anyway, about three years ago, during fall semester, Rachel, Lewis and I met in an evening Art Appreciation class at the college. From day one, I couldn’t take my eyes off Rachel: tall, thin, with long raven hair and full red lips, she was a knockout. Rachel and I began spending time together, seeing each other on the weekends, when I would go to church with her. We had sex before and after class. It was only toward the semester’s end that she took an interest in Lewis, the tall, acne-faced failed theology student with a slight stutter and (as Rachel often hinted) a huge cock.

After our final exam, we all went out to dinner at Rocky’s Diner on Sahara where we feasted on honey-cured ribs. After that, we ended up at my apartment in North Las Vegas where we watched a horror film and polished off a bottle and a half of Jack. Of course, my designs went beyond movies and whiskey. After a bit of coaxing, Rachel agreed to take both Lewis and me on at once: I took the back, Lewis took the front, and vice versa. You get the picture, I’m sure.

By Christmas, we three had become inseparable. We went to the same restaurants, the same movies, and the same church. We read the same books, watched the same TV shows and enjoyed crossword puzzles. When I introduced the other two to “Summoning” at the end of the following spring semester, it was as if we had all thought of it simultaneously.

To play the game, we generally gathered at Rachel’s apartment, which sat just west of the city and overlooked the Las Vegas Strip. There we invoked the spirit and asked what he—or it--would have us do. Rachel and Lewis thought that the game was imaginary but played anyway.

One time, we were told to go to a certain park along a river in southern Utah, get naked, smear each other with pig’s blood, and have sex. With howling glee, in front of a large family reunion, we tore into each other with passion. Children watched while the adults screamed and cried. No one called the police. Another time, we were directed to an old farm house south of Nampa, Idaho; there, in the master bedroom, we fucked each other like weasels as flames danced around us, dogs barking in the locked storage area in the back. That incident occasioned bad dreams for Rachel and Lewis.

One of the most memorable moments occurred on a foggy mountain road in central Oregon during Thanksgiving break. Weather reports that night had told everyone to stay off the mountain; fog and ice were promised. But the spirit had spoken through Rachel the night before in a motel room in Bend, and we began to drive up the mountain around nine. While the pine trees were covered with last week’s snow, the roads were clear. We had almost reached the top when, through thickening fog, my headlights shone on a figure walking down the mountain on our side of the road. Recognizing our target, I veered to the right and with a dull KERTHUNK ran over him.

When I saw in my rearview mirror the man struggle to sit up, I put the car in reverse and gunned it. I must have dragged him half a mile. When we stopped and got out, we found the body tangled under the machinery; it was grotesquely contorted. Finally dragging him out by his ankles, I knelt and put my ear next to his mouth. “Dead as a doornail,” I told Lewis and Rachel, both shivering in the mountain air. The kill, the prospect of disposing the body and of never being found out, provided a rush, and I thought we had finally touched some deep Jungian core when Lewis commented that we had done something bad.

“This is one hell of a time to bring that up,” I said, rising to face Lewis. At 5’ 8” and one hundred and ninety pounds, I was half a foot shorter than Lewis.

“I-I just think w-we’re going too f-far, Ray,” said Lewis.

“Too f-f-f-far?” I asked.

Rachel stepped between Lewis and me. “Ray!” she exclaimed, her face inches from mine, “Control yourself. Jesus, we’ve just killed a man.” Rachel knew that I possessed the strength of ten men. I could snap Lewis like a twig.

Then she turned to Lewis. “Listen, honey, we can’t back out. We have to finish this.” She spoke in a gentle voice, almost as if she were addressing a child.

Lewis hung his head. “Still get a b-bad feeling about th-this one, R-Rachel,” he said, “but all right. Let’s f-finish it.” At that moment, as Rachel wrapped her arms around Lewis and he began to cry, it started to snow.

“Let’s hurry so we can get off the fucking mountain,” I snarled, grinding my teeth and walking over to the body. Detesting weakness, I grabbed the ankles and dragged it to the side of the road. Together, we dumped the body over the edge into a deep ravine.

III. How are we doing, Mr. Taylor? Getting hungry? You know, I could remove that tape and shove one of Lewis’ fingers down your throat. That’d take care of it.

Anyway, one night, three months later, we again convened at Rachel’s apartment. This time, when we rolled the dice, I won; the spirit spoke through me, directing us to my great uncle’s cabin in central Idaho. There we would receive final instructions. As a child, I had come to the cabin with my parents and sister to camp, fish and hike. Now, I was going with two friends to play out the ritual that had become our beating heart.

We spent the first night in Boise, where I bought snow chains. Then, excited, we made the drive over the mountain and down the windy, slick road to the familiar spot at the end of a meadow. By the time I parked in front of the cabin, the sun had already disappeared behind the mountains, leaving the snow-covered area in a frozen haze.

For two nights, we slept, fucked, ate, watched movies, and drank. On our third night, which was last night, the Arctic winds began whistling through the cracks in the cabin, and temperatures rapidly dropped with coming night. Dark things prowled in the snow around the cabin, occasionally brushing loudly against the walls. Inside, I lit a fire in the fireplace.

“Ray,” Rachel began as we sat down for dinner, “I don’t much like it here.”

“I d-don’t either, Ray,” muttered Lewis.

“What’s not to like?” I asked, opening the wine bottle.

“It’s creepy, Ray, creepy,” Rachel said. “We’re not the only things here.”

She was right, but I didn’t want to pursue this.

“We’re staying,” I said. “That’s final.”

So we sat in silence, eating the steak and potatoes. After dinner, we watched an adult movie starring Amber Lynn and finished off two or three bottles of wine. Then, Lewis and I undressed Rachel and took turns with her on the floor in front of the roaring fireplace. I had purchased some sex toys in Las Vegas the day before we left, and these items increased our pleasure. We really worked Rachel, but her cries of delight told me she enjoyed it. Two or three hours later, with Rachel exhausted, I announced that it was time to begin the game. As I placed and lit the candles on the floor, I looked at my friends on the couch, where Rachel tiredly but happily fondled Lewis in a way she’d never played with me.

“Let’s begin,” I snapped, draining wine from a bottle. Rachel let go of Lewis, and both reluctantly got up and came over to me. We sat naked on the green throw rug in front of the fire and, after smearing our faces with blood, rolled the die. Again, I had the highest number. “Begin the chant low and light and delicate,” I said, “and build to a thunderous crescendo.”

We chanted for an hour, the fire burning brightly.

Then, I felt it: the icy, killing chill flowing into the room. Glancing up, I noted that Rachel and Lewis had stopped chanting. I could see our breath hanging in frozen clouds. The flames in the fireplace danced erratically and grew low.

“R-Rachel?” Lewis whimpered.

“I’m here, sweet,” she responded. “It’s going to be fine.”

Then, as icy darkness wrapped its arms about us, I told the others to close their eyes.

“He’s here,” I said. “He’s really here this time. He’s really here.”

Trembling, sweating, I knew the spirit had something truly diabolical planned, for he had never made such an entrance. Usually, the person selected just spoke in his own voice, and we assumed that the words came from beyond. This would be different, I knew.

Closing my eyes, I took long and deep breaths, and relaxed. Next, pushing my thoughts into my soul-sanctuary, I flew through inner darkness and, days later it seemed, found myself floating above a swirling smoky abyss. I had never gone this far inside before. As I gazed through smoke, my heart skipped several beats, and I realized that I was staring at the thing that would possess me: completely black, it reminded me of a large bear, only this beast had no head, a small red eye in the middle of its body, and a savagery tangible as molten lava. Refusing to look directly into its eye, I glimpsed the landscape behind it: a dark and treeless plain littered with broken things and creeping beasts, a huge and solitary eye in the sky behind it.

Sickened, frightened, I forced myself to withdraw. Doing so took incredible, almost Herculean effort, and at first I couldn’t budge. Then, exerting my will, I slowly turned in the dark world and moved away. As I heavily flew to the surface of my consciousness, I began chanting. The chanting slowly re-anchored me to the world of the senses.

Once I was certain that I was back, I opened my eyes and saw Lewis and Rachel staring at me. I tried to speak but could not, darkness pouring like thick mud into every fiber of my being. Trembling, I knew the thing had ripped the veil and stepped into my soul. My body went numb.

I studied Lewis and Rachel. Lewis sat stupidly, mouth agape. Rachel was expressionless, her nipples erect.

“This is beautiful, Ray,” Rachel said, unexpectedly. “I’ve never felt this.”

Out of my mind, I tried to smile. She hadn’t talked to me like this for months. I almost pitied her.

“Ray?” Lewis whispered. “What’s going on?” The spirit had apparently touched Rachel in a different way than he had touched Lewis.

Unable to open my mouth, I looked at Lewis. Behind him towered an angel in black, sword drawn. Glancing about the room, I saw a dark angel standing in every corner. Chills forked through me like lightning. Hell had taken up residence in the cabin.

“Hey, Ray,” Rachel said. “Speak to us.” She reached over and put a warm hand on my shoulder. She seemed miles away.

I struggled to respond. If I spoke, it would not be me. In my heart, I asked the spirit to provide words and strength.

Slowly, amazingly, words not my own floated to the top of my brain. I felt my mouth forced open and the message tumbled out in guttural bursts. This was not my voice.

“You three, my children, have not shown sufficient love and adoration. I have been with you and will be with you,” the thing said through me, “but your hearts have been far, far from me. When you do not pray to me, you no longer think of me. You have grieved me greatly.”

Silence followed, then Rachel spoke, voice trembling. “Have we grieved you so much?”

The room grew colder. Candles flickered. Something large brushed against the side of the house, and through fierce wind outside I heard the great beast that lurks just beyond light land on the roof. Dark laughter informed the response from my mouth: “Oh, you have grieved me beyond words, Rachel, Lewis and Ray. Oh, my, yes, yes, and fucking yes.”

Quickly, my mouth was snapped shut.

Darkness stuck to us like glue.

Then, Lewis whined: “What m-must we do?”

The answer to Lewis’ question poured out of my pried-open mouth: “I demand total obedience and sacrifice. This alone will keep you from fires, floods, disease, the inevitably insanity that strikes all who transgress against me. This will keep you from eating each other’s flesh. It is sacrifice that pleases me, and it is sacrifice that I want. One of you must bear the punishment for all; one must be the living sacrifice; or all will be punished.”

We paused, soaking the words in.

“Who is to bear the punishment?” Rachel asked.

Something pounded against the wall from the outside; it sounded as if someone huge was hitting the side of the cabin with fists of stone. In my mind’s eye, I saw the enormous hissing bat-thing perched on the roof; I wondered if this beast was identical with the one inside of me. Then, the words came: “It is you, Rachel, that must bear the afflictions. Affliction begins with pain but will move to intense pleasure. It will feel like fucking, only better. You will live.”

In the leaden silence, I felt the darkness ooze out of me, and I was slowly returned to myself. Simultaneously, the flames in the fireplace jumped to life, and the temperature rose. Praying that Lewis would be seized by rage, I listened to the shrieking winds. I felt energized and knew I could speak again.

As we three stood, with difficulty, I asked Rachel if she were afraid.

She smiled coyly, remarking, “I’m ready, Ray.” With her right hand, she brushed my cock.

“Me, too,” I said, putting an arm around her and a hand on her ass. “Let’s proceed, Lewis.”

And so we bound her wrists and ankles, ropes connected to large hooks set into the rafters and the floor, and strung her up. Then I went out to the car and get the sticks, which I had packed before we left. When I re-entered the cabin, Lewis was sucking one of Rachel’s nipples and had his hand between her legs. Rachel was moaning in pleasure.

“This won’t be so bad, Rachel,” I said, smiling and handing Lewis a stick. The sticks were made of ash and would not break easily. “We’ll do this until we know we are to stop. Then, you can fuck Rachel unconscious.”

For a moment, I stood in front of Rachel, admiring her beauty. At that moment, I loved her tits, her mouth, and her pussy and wanted these items for myself. Yet, daunted by the commands that had come from my own mouth, I knew Lewis and I must carry through. Angered that Rachel preferred Lewis, I had to find the will to do it.

Forcing myself to ponder Lewis and Rachel’s past transgressions, I awaited my own rage when, surprising me, Lewis approached and struck Rachel across the stomach. Rachel laughed without feeling. Stepping forward, I gave her breasts a glancing blow that left a slight red mark. Again, Rachel laughed. After brief hesitation, Lewis walked around behind her and struck her ass, and I hit her between the legs. We continued to whip Rachel, almost gently, for about fifteen minutes.

Then, I lashed out in fury, striking her several times on the right arm and drawing blood. Rachel screamed. Blood and sound sent Lewis into the frenzy I had prayed for, and howling we struck Rachel again and again. As the beating intensified, Rachel cried out like a wounded mountain lion as blood flowed in rivulets down her arms, face, breasts, stomach, and legs. Her blood splattered the ceiling, floor, and walls in wild, crisscrossing patterns that seemed a kind of supernatural alphabet.

Enamored of violence, drunk from the sight of blood, we could not stop when Rachel shrieked. As she lost strength, the shrieking diminished; then she moaned, jerked spasmodically, and whimpered. In the final stage, her soul nearly gone out of her, she weakly cried for mercy. Rachel begged mercy for a long time, making sounds that I had heard only from a dying seagull. But Lewis and I could no more stop ourselves than I can command my heart to cease beating.

Just as I reached a point of total exhaustion, Rachel took her final breath with a ghastly rattle, dropped her head onto her chest, and sagged. It was over.

Spattered with blood, Lewis and I stopped as one. At that moment, as I gazed at Rachel and at the ceiling, walls, and floors dabbled in crimson, I felt euphoric. Beyond time, we stood, eyes on the beautiful corpse. Then, for no reason that I can comprehend, Lewis dropped to his knees and, heaving in short rasping wheezes, folded his hands together and began to pray: “Our Father who art in Heaven….”

Lewis’ response was a desecration of all that is dark and beautiful and a sure culmination of his weakness. Rage filled me as the things lurking outside pounded the walls, demanding action, and so I crept behind Lewis, now weeping for forgiveness. Not wishing to go through with this abomination, I nonetheless wrapped my muscular arms around his head, squeezed as tightly as I could, and then, with a sudden jerk, snapped this tall man’s skinny neck. There was nothing to it. Lewis never resisted, crumpling to the floor like a sack of potatoes.

Stepping back to examine my work, I sensed that the dark angels, now fading, were immensely pleased by my performance.

IV. So there you have it, Mr. Taylor, a saga for any homeowner’s magazine.

As I look at Rachel, over twelve hours later, I am still overcome by her beauty. And while I did what I had to do with Lewis, I wish that I could have Rachel back. Early this morning, before it was light, I knelt and prayed, asking the only powers I now know that Rachel might come to life and be my bride. “We could have children together,” I remember muttering. Then, done praying, I opened my eyes, moved toward her and licked the blood off special small parts of her body.

An hour or so before you knocked, I took Lewis out to the shed in back, where I began to cut him in bits and pieces. That would explain the blood on my trousers. After a half hour or so, I decided I should finish the task tomorrow, came back to the cabin and showered. Then you came.

So, now you know what caused the screams. Before you depart this life, please understand that Rachel, Lewis, and I were held by something whose power we had underestimated. We were bound by an oath whose sacred nature seemed a divine guarantee that, regardless of what happened, all would turn out for the best. I guess sometimes things don’t turn out like you want.

Now, Mr. Taylor, it’s time for a final abomination, something I feel reluctant yet commanded to do. As I move behind the chair and wrap my arms around your graying head, please behold the beautiful thing swaying bloodily before you, take a deep breath and remember to say hello to God for me.

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