There are things that shouldn’t happen. There are crimes far worse than anything an author can write, or a director, film. They go on every day, all over the world. Maybe an author can write the way out, instead…
Adam’s bringing the blood.
I can’t believe I just texted that. I can’t believe it’s actually happening. I press my mobile to my forehead and take some breaths. It’s not the first time I’ve felt dizzy today. The other time wasn’t anything new, though.
The other time was the same as always. He comes in from work, I put dinner on the table, and there’s something wrong with it. Next thing I’m on the floor and I can’t feel my leg. It’s not the first time, or even the tenth.
But it’s going to be the last. My phone buzzes and I read the text.
Good. See you at 10. Love you x
Lisa loves me. Of course she does, she’s my best friend. But she still loves me, even after I asked her to help me kill my dad. How can she love me? I don’t love me. I’m not sure I ever have, even in the good times, but I really don’t now.
I’m evil. How can I be anything other than evil if I want to kill him? Although, with him for a father, it’s not really surprising. Evil’s hereditary. There’s something in our genes that breeds cruelty and hate.
I hate him. That’s what’s got me leaving the house after my curfew. That’s why there’s a bag in my cupboard with a spell book, some herbs and lots of silver string in it. That’s why my hands are shaking so bloody much.
Eating dinner’s the hardest thing in the world. His girlfriend’s over tonight, so he’s all smiles and laughter, like we’re one happy family. But he’s happy to see the back of me when I escape to my room.
I sit on my bed and listen. I listen to them laughing and joking and wonder when she’s going to see the other side of him. Cos it’s going to happen. Maybe not for a while, not until he properly relaxes in front of her. She thinks he’s relaxed now, but I know him. It’s all an act, just like when we go out together at the weekends. It’s all an act.
My teeth are grinding so hard my gums ache. I put on my black jeans and t-shirt, then throw my hoodie over the top. It’ll be cold tonight. I can’t remember the last time I was outside this late. Maybe fireworks night ages ago. We used to go to the school fireworks show, me and mum and Daniel and him. We’d drink tomato soup and make all the right noises and our neighbours would wait for the cracks to show.
They never did, though. We were all expert actors. I was good even then. Can’t have been more than seven or eight. I’ve gotten better since.
I scrub my face with the palms of my hands and take deep breaths. I haven’t been to a firework display in seven years.
I’m dressed, the bag is over my shoulder, and my window opens silently. I’ve always hated this place. I hate living in a tiny little flat. I hate living on the ground floor. Dad likes the garden, not that he does anything with it. It’s a place to sit and drink beer and pretend he’s not a washed up loser.
I hate him. I slip out of the window to the grass, sneak round the side of the flats, and out through the gate. It was that easy. Lisa’s been trying to get me to sneak out for years, just to hang out. She doesn’t get it. She says she does and she really tries, but she doesn’t get it.
Her folks broke up, but it’s amicable, if that’s actually possible with that sort of thing. They still speak and they even do birthdays together. She gets that dad’s a bit of a psycho, but to her it’s all shouting and overly dramatised throwing stuff, like on TV. She doesn’t see the bruises and I’ve gotten as good with makeup as I have with acting.
Tonight’s different, though. Tonight everything’s going to change.
I dash through the streets. As weird as it feels to be out at this time, it’s even weirder to see other people, wandering about, chatting, shopping. There’s a whole world that happens when I’m hiding in my bedroom that I’d forgotten about. Maybe I’ve just never seen it.
Lisa’s waiting right where she promised. I half expected her to not show up. But she always shows up, always. I don’t know what I’d be without her. Probably not here. Locked up somewhere, maybe, or dead. She’s the only thing that keeps me sane sometimes. Even when Adam came along, she didn’t change.
We hug and I hold on as long as possible. She’s used to that and holds on right back.
‘Come on, let’s go or he’ll get pissy.’
‘Adam doesn’t get pissy.’
‘You don’t know Adam.’ She doesn’t mean it in a nasty way, but it stings, just a little. I knew Adam before she did. I went to primary school with him and I know him just fine. He didn’t start getting pissy before they started dating. But maybe that’s just what happens when you go out with someone. They accentuate the good bits and the bad bits. I dunno.
She’s noticed my silence.
‘Hey, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, when he thinks he’s doing something for me, I have to be really grateful or he gets a bit sensitive.’
‘Yeah. It’s weird. Anyway, come on.’ She takes my hand and feeling someone hold me without trying to make it hurt brings tears to my eyes.
We race down Elm Street, through the churchyard, and into the woods out the back.
‘Ladies of the night, the time has arrived.’ A huge voice booms out and I crap myself. Lisa squeaks and nearly jumps into my arms. Then Adam appears out of the darkness, wetting himself with laughter, and we both attack him.
‘Hey, hey, take it easy, you can’t tell me that wasn’t bloody brilliant.’
He looks so affronted I can’t help laughing as well. He kisses Lisa and gives me a hug around the shoulders. It used to be a full hug, but it changed when they started dating. I don’t mind, it feels more natural somehow. I find it easier not flinch as well.
‘Did you bring it?’ Lisa asks and he looks affronted all over again.
‘Of course I did.’ We all hold our breath as he picks his bag up and lifts out a jam jar filled with thick, dark liquid. I gasp. Lisa gives him another kiss, longer this time, and I look away. There’s something creepy about having a snog when one person’s holding a jar of blood and, since I’m the cause of it, I can’t help the twitch in the corner of my eye.
I press one of the freshest bruises on my left hip and the doubts slip away again.
‘Where’s it from?’ I have to ask.
‘Where mum works, at the stables.’
‘I thought you were getting it from the butchers.’
‘Yeah, well, turns out the movies lied. For some weird reason, butchers don’t like selling jars of blood to sixteen year olds. I don’t think they sell them to anyone.’
‘So what happened at the stables.’
He glances at the floor. ‘You won’t like it.’
‘Adam?’ Lisa reminds me of her mum. She’s got just the same tone of voice as when she wants us to tell her what we’ve been doing. It would be funny, but I get a sudden flash of her and Adam screaming at one another over the heads of their children in ten years time and my heart shrivels up in my chest.
‘There was a still-born foal. One of the horses was pregnant and her foal came out dead. I was there, so I just…’ he shrugs. Lisa rubs his arm and I obviously look as bad as I feel because he pats me on the shoulder. ‘Hey, it’s fine, don’t worry about it. It’s no biggie.’
‘But you shouldn’t have done that, not for me. You’ll be scarred for life.’
He snorts and shakes his head. ‘Hey, I’ve seen far worse at the stables, believe me. Come on.’
He swaggers into the trees. He’s pleased I was so surprised. He wanted it to be a big thing, because he wants me to know how much he cares and that’s the only way he knows how to show it. That’s what I think, anyway. Except I don’t just think it, I know it. Do other people know stuff like that? Is it just me who sees the real world behind the surface stuff?
He leads us deeper into the woods. Me and Lisa scouted it out on Saturday but in the dark it feels much further. Eventually we find the clearing. There are no clouds tonight and it’s almost as though nature knew we were going to be here. The moon is directly above us, full and round and filling the clearing with pale light.
I can see the altar. We’re calling it that, cos it sounds better than fallen tree. We sawed off the spikey bits and smoothed it out so now Adam places the jar of blood on it like there’s a congregation waiting behind him, watching his every move.
You’d never see what we’re about to do in church. I don’t know where you’d see it. I don’t even think it’s going to work.
There it is.
There’s the reason I’m doing this. Because it’s not going to work. The only thing tonight’s going to bring is a beating for me if I don’t manage to sneak home. It makes it easier, not believing.
It was her that got the spell book. Apparently, her auntie Fay does all this weird stuff and has seventeen cats. Lisa’s the only one in her family who goes to see her still. She told Fay about what was going on with me and here we are. As simple as that.
I need to do this now. I’m cold and beginning to shiver and I don’t know how long I can pretend it’s shivering instead of shaking. I tug my bag off my shoulders and pull out the book. I’ve read the spell so many times I think I could recite it from memory, but I’m not going to. I don’t know what happens if I get it wrong, but Auntie Fay was quite clear how bad an idea it was.
Adam takes the lid off the jar. He and Lisa were bantering on the way here, but they’re quiet now. Everything’s quiet. There’s no wind and the trees stand a silent sentinel around us. But I can’t hold my breath forever so I let it out in a rush and prepare to speak the first line.
‘Hang on, let me put this stuff out.’ I jump as Lisa talks in her normal voice. Why isn’t she whispering? I press my finger to my lips and she shrugs. ‘What’s up?’
Excellent question. ‘People might hear us.’
‘So they might come and stop us.’
‘How many people do you know who’d approach three angry teenagers in the woods in the middle of the night?’
I nearly say I’m not an angry teenager. But actually, I am. I don’t think of myself like that, but I totally am. I’m furious. Sometimes, I’m just disbelieving, stunned and numb. But most of the time, when it still hurts to walk too fast or bend down, I’m furious.
I nod and watch as she ties the silver string around the tree stump. Then she lays some herbs on the altar. She places them down, prods them a little, then turns to me and nods. I was about to scream at her to get on with it, so her timing’s perfect.
I take a deep breath and hold it. The forest is silent. It’s waiting. This is my last chance to back out. Except, what am I worried about? I’m about to do magic. Magic? Right, exactly, so why am I worried?
I begin to read and the strangest thing happens. I get two lines in before something else takes over. It’s still me, I can feel it, but it’s coming from a part of me I didn’t even know was there. I’m not reading the words, they’re being pulled through me faster than I can see them.
A mist forms, slipping from my mouth in a stream that flows up into the night sky. It’s like a path of white leading to the blackness. It’s incredibly creepy and a bit cool. I’m making that.
I finish the spell and something grabs hold of me. This isn’t me. This isn’t anything I want near me, but I can’t help it. I can feel hands, rough and tight, wrap around my wrists. It’s a feeling I’m far too familiar with, but it doesn’t last long.
I wrench my hands free and it releases me willingly enough. I throw my hands to the sky and my mouth opens wide. The white mist pours forth like I’m spraying milkshake all over the place. It coalesces around the jar and I stare in wonder as the blood begins to boil.
Soon bubbles are racing up the sides of the jar and popping into the night. The magic is flowing through me, tearing through me and emptying out everything that lies within. I struggle to breathe as I wonder what will be left, but only for a moment. I know, without knowing how, that everything will be left. I’m not giving myself, I’m giving my anger to the magic.
So much of me is anger it feels like my whole being is being stolen away, but it’s not. Nothing like.
The blood vanishes. One moment it’s boiling like mad, the next it’s gone. The mist goes with it and I drop to my knees on the damp soil. I scrabble up quickly. I can’t get stains cos dad will notice them and ask where they came from. I’m halfway to my feet when a voice penetrates the night.
‘Your father tastes good. Plenty of bitter to go with the sweet flesh.’
‘Who are you?’
‘You summoned me, shouldn’t you know that yourself?’
‘You can’t be a demon.’
‘And why is that?’
‘Because demons don’t exist.’ I feel stupid saying it. The voice is somewhere between Darth Vader and someone far larger and scarier and there’s no way it’s made by a human. But I have to say it, just to keep my head in one piece. Where’s Adam? This is him pissing around again. I catch sight of him across the clearing. Lisa’s clinging to him and they’re looking around like they’re expecting someone to leap out with an axe at any moment.
‘Are you sure?’ the voice asks.
‘No.’ I sound so small.
‘Wise answer. What do you want?’
I open my mouth to speak and the words stick in my throat. I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, but I never believed it would happen. Can I do it? Can I ask for it without condemning myself? I snort and stare into the darkness. I’m already condemned. I’m condemned to hate myself and everything about my life forever, so why not add something to the top of the pile?
‘I want you to kill my dad.’
‘To kill him? That’s very final. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather something a little more subtle.’ He sounds like he’s trying to sell me a TV.
‘I could take his spirit away, leave him a bumbling idiot for the rest of his life.’
I shake my head so hard my hair whips in my eyes. Killing him’s evil enough, doing that to him would be even worse. Way worse.
‘No, thank you.’
‘I could cripple him, put him in a wheelchair if you like.’
‘No, no, please, just, kill him.’
‘You do understand there’s no refunds on this, right? Once he’s dead, he’s dead, I can’t take it back.’
The voice sighs, like the non-existent wind racing through the trees. ‘It saddens me to see someone so young damning themselves so completely.’
‘He’s already damned me.’ It’s out before I think it, but I don’t want to take it back. I don’t sound small anymore. ‘Every time he hits me he takes a bit more of me away. He’s been stealing pieces of my soul for the last fifteen years and I’ve had enough.’
‘Well said, young lady. I could disfigure him. I could make him so hideous people would turn away and—’
‘Just kill him. Do it now and do it so I never have to see him again.’
‘As you wish. It’s done.’
‘What, just like that?’
The voice chuckles, like an avalanche in a far away valley. ‘I did it the moment I materialised in this reality. That’s how the spell works. I just wanted to see how far you’d go. I must confess, I’m disappointed.’
‘You did know that, right? I mean, you summoned me, you must have known I wasn’t exactly the holy spirit.’
My mouth flaps a while and I stare at my feet. Of course I knew that, I just didn’t expect it to be so… talkative. ‘So it’s done, I can go home?’
‘It’s done. Your father is no more.’
‘Don’t thank me, I’ve done you no favours. The spell compels me.’
I creep around the altar and throw myself into Lisa’s arms. She holds on until I stop blubbing. When I raise my head, she gives me a tentative smile. I smile right back and there’s nothing tentative about it.
I want to dance, but I also want to go home and have a long bath.
‘Come on, I’ve got a free house.’ I say. Adam and Lisa both stare at me, wide eyed. Then he laughs, takes my arm with one of his and Lisa’s with the other, and nods. ‘Sounds good, let’s go.’
We wander across the clearing. Just as we reach the tree line the voice returns. ‘Don’t forget your jar.’
I turn back and see it on top of the altar. There’s something inside it, but I can’t make out what. I disentangle myself from the others and nip back to the broken tree. The jar’s filled with a sickly green mist that moves and twists as though the wind’s trapped in there with it.
‘What is it?’ I mutter. I’m talking to myself, but the voice answers.
‘I had to put him somewhere.’
‘Your father’s body is gone, but his soul had to go somewhere and they weren’t interested up in Heaven.’
‘He deserves to go to hell.’
‘Damn right he does. But where do you think you live? Now, take good care of him and remember, never take the lid off. There’s no telling what would happen if he escaped.’
The voice is gone and, though I couldn’t see it, I know the demon’s gone as well. I’m alone. A wind, as soft as skin before it’s been bruised and cracked too many times, whispers through the clearing. I hold the jar in both hands and keep my eyes on the ground.