I sat at my computer as I did every morning, replying to emails. It was, what, ten or so, and one more pinged through, a request from Alex:
I need a bit of help. Can I come over?
I liked the kid and her enthusiasm, and I was always happy to help her out:
Of course. I’ll be at the house all day. Swing by whenever is best for you.
From what I gathered, she was a student at some fancy uni. She was working with this other kid, Callum, studying cultural attitudes to death. And that inevitably led her to my door – the one perk of being one of the only occultism experts in the country, I suppose.
My phone vibrated next to me – that was Callum now.
I picked it up, and he was shouting at me:
“We fucked up, Simon, we fucked up bad. And now I don’t know what to do, and I’m so scared.”
I could hear the tears in his voice, and I was worried:
“What’s happened, Callum?”
“We were looking into the stuff you gave us, and we found an incantation – how to run a séance, and to summon the spirits of the dead. We didn’t believe it, we didn’t, and Alex said it would be good to give it a go. You know, see how ancient cultures used to talk to the dead, so we could incorporate it into the research.
“So, Alex sets up a séance. We’re at a table, joining hands, and she reads the incantation and asks if there’s anyone there. Well, the room went cold, Simon, and I could hear footsteps. I looked at Alex, but she’d all zoned out. I swear I saw someone standing behind her, but there was no-one there – we were all alone.
“And then, she started speaking. But, like, it wasn’t her – it was like someone was talking through her, through her mouth.
“It asked us what we wanted.”
“You didn’t answer it, did you?” I asked, panicked.
“We just said we wanted to speak to the dead.”
“I told you, Callum,” I couldn’t believe it. “Remember, rule number one – never answer a message from the dead. I
“I know,” his voice sounded horrified, “we thought you were being dramatic, taking the piss out of two gullible kids. We never thought that this stuff was actually real.”
I could feel my eyes going wide with worry.
“What happened, Callum?”
“It asked us for help, and we said we would help it. And it hasn’t left us alone, Simon. It keeps talking to me, telling me to hurt myself, and it keeps attacking me. It throws things across the room, and it screams – howls, Simon, coming from everywhere and nowhere. I’m exhausted and I’m terrified, and I need help. Please, Simon, help me.”
“What about Alex, Callum? Is she okay?”
His voice sounded tearful again:
“She’s gone, Simon – I’m on my own here. What – no, no, please leave me, no more…”
He started sobbing.
“Callum, whatever it’s saying, don’t listen to it,” I ordered.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just can’t do this anymore, I just –”
The phone went dead.
I sat in silence, staring at it and thinking. And then –
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” I said, forcing the words out as my soul warned against them. I had to know if it was her, I just had to.
The handle twisted slowly, the door fell open.
She was standing there. Alex, her head slumped forward as if there was no life in her. She was in her pyjamas, stained down the front with blood and vomit. She had nothing on her feet – they were bloodied, coated in dirt.
What could I say? “Are you okay, Alex?”
She lifted her head, and she groaned.
“Me and Callum, we just wanted to have some fun. But it was real, it was all real.”
She lurched forward, as if staggering in pain.
“I was so scared, I drank and drank to drown out the voices. I was so drunk, I couldn’t do anything when I threw up, when I started to choke on the sick… when I died in the night…”
She was in front of me now. She raised her head, staring with vacant eyes, chilling my blood. Her energy was all gone – there was something else there now, and it wasn’t good.
She grabbed my arms with her hands – they were cold, cold as the grave.
Cold as the grave…
Oh shit, rule number one…
“Thank you for replying to my email, Simon. Please help me…”
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