“The trouble with summoning demons isn’t contacting the beasts or even performing their various required rituals thereafter; the first few times you get used to all of that… No, the tricky part is actually keeping them entertained once you get them here.
Since my youth I have summoned several creatures, one in particular more times than I care to note, and I had the same issue with all of them. Demons, in my experience are all totally stricken with boredom.
This can make them irritable, cranky or, in some cases, irrationally persistent but always ravenous for a good time.”
-Seraphina, decades after the first encounter.
A scuffling drew Seraphina from sleep. It was a slow process, one that lured her mind from the fog of unconsciousness over time. The rats were scurrying again; if they really were rats.
This was not the first time she’d heard them and she suspected it wouldn’t be the last. Every trap that had been laid since she first heard the noise one week prior had sat empty and taunting when she checked every morning and now she didn’t even bother to hunt them in the night. Sighing softly and knowing she wouldn’t get back to sleep, she cracked her eyes to glance at her bedside clock.
She’d once joked to herself that the Witching Hour was her hour but it seemed that something else was staking claim. Who ever or what ever had decided to plague her evenings with the sounds of vermin and tinkling bells clearly never tired of its game.
She argued with it sometimes, though in truth it was all one sided. She sometimes shouted like an imbecile at the walls and the floor when the noises started or the furniture moved. It had all been useless and earned her nothing but migraines and chilly breezes, even when the doors and windows were all shut tight.
This had been going on for seven days and it was a far cry from the relative silence of the week before that. That space of days, her first inhabiting the home, had been spent in the blissful state of new-homeowner’s joy. That tranquility had now been replaced with long nights and phantom spooks.
She pulled her covers aside and sat up, flinging her legs over the edge of the bed. She ignored the rodent footfalls echoing through the house as her toes sought out her slippers. A loud thump sounded above her as she stood to swathe herself in her favorite robe and she grumbled at the noise as she tied the cerulean garment closed.
“Oh, come off it.” She said, totally unimpressed. “That trick is getting old.”
Seraphina was sane, mostly. As level minded as one could be while making a living as a sculptor of monsters and demons. She found it almost funny that she, who had wished her entire life to experience real magic, had found herself in such a bind; sharing her residence with an otherworldly occupant, yet completely unamused. She supposed beggars couldn’t be choosers but couldn’t she at least have encountered a Djinn or a humorous Wizard? Of course, with her luck, she’d wind up with a poltergeist who liked only to rattle bones until she was bored to death.
She flicked on her cell phone light and navigated the halls of unpacked boxes until she came to the darkened kitchen. She spared a moment to mourn the days when she’d been thrilled at the prospect of organizing her things into the new house but that joy had dwindled after arranging the master bathroom, attic studio and foodstuffs; the initial fear and then monotony of her situation robbing her of the energy to do much else.
Coffee started, she leaned against the counter to wait, yawning. When the machine beeped, signaling a fresh brew, she moved to pour herself a mug of hazelnut joe. As she did so, a new sound filtered to her that gave her pause. Footsteps deep in the house, subtle and sneaking. This was new. All the haunting thus far had just been disembodied noise; never been anything to indicate an actual person was skulking about.
The noise started from the back hall near the basement door and continued to make its languid approach toward the front of the house. She was frozen, feeling the fear from her first few days return. When she finally found the courage to move, it was to leave the kitchen and take the stairs to the upper levels once again. She had no desire to see if something solid had been about to round the corner.
Feet quick but silent, she did not stop at the landing but hurried higher still to the attic; the narrow, turquoise corridor to her studio feeling tight and claustrophobic.
She let out a breath after shutting the door and took in the space. A long portable table sat against the left wall full of clay crusted tools. Several rolling pedestals lined the right wall, showcasing various busts of grey creatures. Werewolves, ghouls, and some original beasts of her own imagining. In the center of the room, bathed in a column of moon light from the central attic window sat her current work in progress. Not a creature but a maker of beasts; not client work but a personal indulgence she’d longed to sculpt for a while. She approached, nervousness set aside for the moment and brushed tanned fingers across the partially finished jawline.
“Good morning, Howard.” She greeted him. “You’d be screaming for me to run if you could see me now.”
The works of Howard Phillip Lovecraft had long been a font of inspiration to Seraphina, and she was certain that if his clay eyes had witnessed the events of even the last twenty minutes, he would in fact be warning her; or scolding.
“Rats in the walls!” He might cry. “How can you stay in such a place when you have read the stories?”
“I know it all seems bad but I’m as stubborn as my mother was.” Seraphina crooned. “I won’t be cowed so easily.”
It was a fib. She was scared. She thought she was over it but it seemed her little ghost was stepping up its game.
The footsteps on the ground floor sounded again, as if prompted by her words and thoughts. They padded up the first stairwell and then rounded to the second, taking them slowly before stopping on the other side of the attic door. Silence descended until she could hear her own heavy breathing.
Her eyes swiveled to the tool table and the little dish of speckled marbles that sat gleaming in the moonlight. It’s was an offering. A superstitious gesture she’d picked up from her grandmother, wherein a witch could sometimes appease a spirit or faerie by leaving a gift. A token of goodwill, of peace. The sharp clay knife laying next to the trinkets seemed a more appealing method of sorting things out now, but before she could decide rather or not to dart for it, the thing started up again. A bell jingled in the silence and she flinched.
Creaking floorboards, she could have lived with. She thought she’d be able to accept that. It wasn’t as if she could move out. All of her money was sunk into the property and she had no family to speak of, no one to run to; but people waltzing around the place in the dead of night? That would not do. This was her place. She’d bought it and this thing could damned well find another place to play if it was going to be ornery.
“This is a ‘no demon zone’, you hear?” Seraphina squared her shoulders and widened her stance. “I don’t know what you are and I don’t care, but I live here now and I’m not about to just lie down and let you have the run of the place.”
Something rapped at the door, the distinct rythum of ‘Skunk in the Barnyard’ echoing into the deafening silence.
“No fracking way.” She meant to sound tough but her voice cracked on the second word, making the declaration fall flat and pathetic.
To her horror, the marbles on the table rattled, ripping a shriek from her before they rolled off the dish to the floor of their own accord, snaking in a row across the hardwood and disappearing under the crack of the door. A chuckle sounded in the darkness, deep and decidedly masculine.
The shadows around the door seemed to thicken, billowing into the room like black smoke through the gaps in the frame, creating a barrier that the moonlight from the window could not penetrate. The door bowed on its hinges moaning with the force of whatever pressed upon it.
Seraphina did move for the cutting tool then and brandished it before her. Her breath came hot and fast and fogged the air in front of her face. The temperature in the room was plummeting and she shivered, her skin pimpling with gooseflesh.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” She shouted.
As if in answer, the pressure on the door subsided and a small slip of paper shot out from under it. The smokey, black shadows retreated as that damned bell tinkled again.
All was silent once more.
“That’s it?” She shouted, scared half to death despite her words. “You chase me to the attic to pass me what, a business card and leave? Yeah, that’ll teach me! Very scary!”
One last bang shook the attic door.
“Piss off, Ghost!” And then to herself she whispered, “Christ, help me.”
She’d never had placed much faith in God or his son but she was beginning to think that maybe she should start.
Perhaps I ought to learn to pray… or maybe get a cat…