It was an act of desperation; Jo understood that much. In fact, she used desperation to rationalize what she was about to do. She knew that with just the flick of her hand she would commit the most abominable of crimes. Her hands shook as she held the bowl of chicken’s blood, splashing drops onto the floor which disappeared with an angry hiss. Arcane markings surrounded her, etched into the ground and walls with painstaking accuracy – a single deviation would fail to protect her from what she was about to summon.
Jo took a deep breath, exhaling out all of her frustration at her life. She was divorced, juggling a child while sitting in coffee shops scribbling on napkins because the heat had been shut off at her flat. She knew she had to do something but her book – nobody wanted to pick up Harry Potter, Boy Genius (though she couldn’t understand why a story about an orphaned genius mathematician wouldn’t sell).
“This is it, Jo,” she muttered to herself. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, she flipped the bowl over and poured the contents all over her shoes and floor.
A burst of smoke and flames shot up, scorching the ceiling of her flat. The lights browned out for a split second and the entire room filled with the scent of brimstone and burnt hair. She coughed, her body vainly trying to expel the awful smell. Finally, she realized that a large shadow loomed over her and she timidly looked up.
“WHO DARES SUMMON BEELZEBUB, PRINCE OF DARKNESS!” boomed the shadow.
Jo meekly raised her hand. “Well, I do, uh, sir.”
“WHAT DO YOU SEEK, PUNY MORTAL, THAT YOU WOULD SUMMON SATAN WITHIN THE BINDING CIRCLE?”
Jo straightened her spine, an uncommon courage filling her frame.
“I need to sell a children’s book to become rich and famous so that I can take care of my daughter!”
The shadow seemed to blink twice – even though shadows don’t blink and Jo understood that. Jo stood resolutely, daring to look the shadow in the…well, shadows don’t have eyes, but Jo assumed that inky black area would have eyes had it, well, been even slightly human.
Finally, the darkness filling her room seemed to shake, and a booming laughter echoed through her tiny living room. Jo cringed, hoping her neighbors wouldn’t be bothered enough to call the landlord. It would be most inconvenient if the stupid sod walked in on her summoning Lucifer himself.
“I ENJOY YOUR SPUNK, PUNY WOMAN. I SHALL GRANT YOU YOUR WISH. BUT FIRST, YOU MUST WRITE THE BOOK ACCORDING TO MY INSTRUCTIONS.”
Jo felt a glimmer of hope for the first time in months. Her wish just might come true! Her baby wouldn’t need to go without!
“Anything! Anything, uh, er, sir.”
“FIRST, YOU MUST CHANGE THE SUBJECT FROM MATHEMATICS TO WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY, MY TOOLS OF POWER.”
“Reasonable,” Jo responded.
“THE CHARACTER IS TOO MILQUETOAST IN YOUR CURRENT DRAFT. GIVE HIM A DOSE OF COURAGE AND BRAVADO SO THAT CHILDREN WILL ACT OUT AGAINST PARENTS AND AUTHORITY.”
“Makes sense.” Jo considered the absolute chaos residing within households everywhere as children rebelled against exasperated mothers and fathers.
“MAKE SURE THE PROTAGONIST HAS FRIENDS WHO WILL STICK WITH HIM NO MATTER WHAT BUT WHO ARE ALSO NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST HIM IF THEY THINK HE IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING WRONG.”
Jo stopped. She scratched her head. “Excuse me, your, uh, Darkness? I’m not so keen on propagating evil to support my tiny family, but how exactly does this, well, further your agenda?”
“SILENCE!” the shadow boomed. Jo threw herself on the ground in fear. She trembled against the hardwood floor, her entire body anticipating punishment. Instead, the shadow continued his directions.
“IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT AS WELL THAT THE PROTAGONIST’S MENTOR EMPHASIZES THAT LOVE CONQUERS THOSE WHO IGNORE IT AT THEIR PERIL AND CAN DEFEAT EVEN THE MOST OVERT ABUSES OF PHYSICAL POWER.”
Jo wondered if she should interrupt Satan once more, but decided to keep her mouth shut.
“MAKE SURE THE CHARACTERS EMPHASIZE LOYALTY, COURAGE, LOVE, FRIENDSHIP, TENACITY, RESOURCEFULNESS, AND A WILLINGNESS TO DEFY AUTHORITY THAT ATTEMPTS TO COMPEL THEM TO SPREAD HATE OR DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT.”
Jo caught herself sighing into the floor. She slowly picked herself up, wondering if the shadow would notice.
“BE SURE THAT THE CHARACTER DIES A NOBLE DEATH BUT RETURNS TO LIFE. THIS CONCEPT IS IMPORTANT AND MUST BE INCLUDED IN THE END.”
“WHAT!!!” the shadow roared once more. Jo winced as she heard pounding from Mr. Zuckermann underneath. Most likely he was watching his game shows again; he always became so cranky whenever she so much as made the floorboards squeak during reruns of The Weakest Link, let alone have the Enemy of All Righteousness sitting on her couch.
“It just seems, it’s just…I don’t know how to put this, but,” Jo stumbled over her words, stammering wildly. How do you tell the Lord of Flies that his ideas were, uh, well…
“SPIT IT OUT, HUMAN WOMAN.” The shadow grew thick and angry. She could barely peer into her kitchen where a pot of tea sat warming just in case her summoned visitor became, you know. Thirsty.
“Well, it just seems like you’re ripping archetypes straight from the Bible. These ideas are not necessarily evil or even original.”
The room grew deathly silent as the shadow extinguished all light. Jo felt herself falling into darkness, her stomach lurching as her body accelerated, hurtling through icy air, invisible, frozen talons clawing at her body. She tried to gasp but could barely catch enough air to breathe back in. This was it; she had opened her big, stupid mouth for the last time and now she would be thrust to Hell for her insolence and she couldn’t even provide for her daughter, oh her daughter –
Jo felt herself crash into the floor of her flat, her coffee table shattering underneath her. Mr. Zuckermann screamed in fury below, but Jo only cared slightly of his inconvenience; she was carefully, mentally reviewing the state of her battered body to make sure no shards of cheap plywood had pierced her ribcage. She wheezed and coughed as the air knocked out of her entered with great force from her lungs expanding rapidly. The shadow remained in her room, looking smug, despite the fact it possessed no identifiable body parts to even make so much as a simple facial expression.
“YOU HAVE RECEIVED ONLY A TASTE OF MY POWER, HUMAN.”
Jo decided to stay sprawled on the ground rather than try to pick herself back up again, even though she knew that trying to illicit pity from Satan himself was useless.
“Very, very powerful, sir. ”
“NOW, SHALL WE CONTINUE?”
Jo only nodded slightly.
“GOOD. NOW, ALSO REMEMBER THAT IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR REDEMPTION OF THE HUMAN SOUL NO MATTER HOW BLACK IT IS TO BE AN IMPORTANT THEME WITHIN THE SERIES. WHAT’S WITH THAT LOOK? THIS IS GOING TO BE A SERIES OF SEVEN BOOKS (WHICH HAS RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE BY THE WAY, THE NUMBER SEVEN). HEY, ARE YOU WRITING THIS DOWN?”