Now, with her heart breaking, her eyes shut, her hands waving languidly over the fire, she chanted the nefarious words that would bring her husband back from the dead.
Something crashed against the door, as if something or someone were throwing themselves against it. Wood splintered, but the door held. Amadeus, who had powers of his own, was fighting mad now. It was his responsibility to protect her, protect her from herself, if need be. She heard him growling at her through the door.
Open up, Mandy. Open the damn door!
“No. I told you, Amadeus, either help me or go away.”
The cat grumbled beyond the door, hissed and spat as loud as any big cat, and the battering resumed.
Amanda’s eyes flew open, widened as the apparition began to take form inside the pentagram—the outline of a man, tall, his arms thrown over his face as if in defense.
“Jake?” She moaned, staring at the thing.
It lowered its hands and a ghoulish, misty face peered out at her, a face so full of torment and fear, Amanda fell back in shock.
“Don’t do this, Mandy, I beg you! Remember me as I was. I don’t belong there anymore.”She heard the plaintive whisper, an echo on the still air. Its hands reached out to her. “Let me go. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
She couldn’t stop. The enchantment wasn’t complete. It would be better when it was. He was between two worlds now and he would be frightened. Half-formed. Between two worlds.
If she wasn’t careful, those unearthly denizens—shade demons, she called them—that haunted that dead world could escape into hers. So dangerous. What the hell was she doing opening the forbidden portals like this?
What happened if she was a moment off, a word wrong and the demons came through? If she unleashed them? A disaster.
Amanda steeled herself, wiped the fresh tears from her face with the back of her hand. “Damn it, I want you back, Jake. I’ll have you back,” she swore.
She took up where she’d left off, knowing if she stopped at this point of the spell, it could ruin everything. Everything.
The door groaned behind her under its assault (damn but that cat was strong), the wind screamed outside the windows. The candles placed around the pentagram fluttered in a strange breeze in the shadowy room.
Amanda’s heart froze. She stopped in the middle of the spell, her eyes going wide with fear, her hands half-raised before her, and her head thrown back as the flames from the fire glowed more brightly across her tense face.
What was that word? Suureerustus? Summertus? Or...
She stared at the blurry figure trying to form in the circle. It was yelling at her now...something...something...she couldn’t make out the words.
It was no longer alone.
Things writhed around its melting feet, flew about its head. Terrible things.Things from the dead world. Unholy things.Gaping mouths with sharp bloodied teeth, glittering fiendish eyes in deformed, hideous bodies. Some almost human, some insect like. Others indescribable. Some growing before her eyes to be taller than she was.
Monsters. Coming through the barrier, crossing the lines of the pentagram, into her world.
Amanda grabbed the nearest thing with which to fight them off, a broom, and started swinging at them.
She was so busy hitting and spewing out new spells to keep the shade demons from coming through that she never heard the door burst open; never felt the cool storm wind enter the cabin until something determined and furry flew by her face toward the pentagram, hissing all the way.
Then Amadeus was helping her herd the malignant spirits back from where they’d come. All claws, teeth, and unearthly glowing eyes. He snarled the word Sutterus at her in passing and Amanda quickly supplied it in the spell where it belonged.
The demons began to slowly dissolve in shrieks of rage.
Don’t send us away! Don’t send us back there! Let us out. Out!
Jake’s figure returned. A shadow with hanging head. Just one or two sentences and the incantation would be complete. Jake would be there, solid, before her.
Amanda hesitated. The thing in the circle looked so pitiful. So unnatural.
Before she could finish, soft, but strong paws clamped tightly around her neck and wouldn’t let go. Something howled like a banshee in her ear, as sharp teeth angrily nipped it. She couldn’t breathe.
“Amadeus! Get off!” She screamed, tumbling to the floor with the huge cat on top of her, still holding on like a leech, its yowling and screeching enough to wake the dead—instead, it woke her.
By the time she’d yanked the cat off, throwing him roughly against the opposite wall so that he yelped in pain, and she’d crawled back to the pentagram, Jake was gone. The enchantment broken.
Amanda gazed at the empty pentagram for a long time, suddenly horrified, disgusted at what she had almost done.
She’d almost crossed the line. Almost. Thank God for Amadeus.
She curled up on the floor next to the fire and sobbed, the last of her anguish finally releasing itself. The cat limped over to her and licked the tears from her face. He didn’t seem to be angry with her any longer. Just worried.
“I’m so sorry I hurt you, Amadeus, so sorry.” She pulled him into her arms, and hugged him like a baby until he began to purr. “Forgive me?”
“Thank you for that, Amadeus. You saved me from making the biggest mistake of my life.”
He was smart enough not to answer that one. She snuggled him, rocking on the floor. ***