His jersey hoodie was not meant for this weather and he could feel the rain seeping in through the fabric. His main concern was to keep the newspaper clipping dry and he was carrying it in his wallet, in his back pocket. He figured that as the downpour was coming down diagonally straight into his face, the best place for it was behind him. With his whole body leaning slightly forward, he propelled through the orange, streetlamp flooded streets as fast as he could without breaking into a run.
As soon as he went inside the front door of the bungalow the moisture in his clothes began to rise and get trapped between the layers of fabric, he felt sticky.
‘Come, come’ Nona called from one of the front rooms ‘you’re late it’s almost seven fifteen.’
‘Do I have time for a shower?’
‘No quickly sit down, show me what you have’
He guessed if anyone else lived here it would have been a dining room. In Nona’s house, it had only a small round table with one mismatched, old wooden chair either side. An old fashioned dresser with intricate patterns, dominated one wall. It was made of a dark, rich wood and that was where she kept all her artefacts. People came for everything, readings; to make contact with lost loved ones.
Tonight she had a forest green cloth on the table and a small green candle, barely 3 inches high in the centre. Two cards with a beautiful pattern that resembled the night sky on the reverse, lay face down on the side where she sat.
Her face was deeply lined, her skin was nut brown and her eyes a deep hazel colour. Her smile was full of knowing but not peaceful. Mischievousness still lingered in her expressions.
He took his wallet out of his back pocket and sat down opposite her, taken out the damp but intact job advert.
With keen eyes she scanned the location.
‘Perfect.’ She purred.
He reached out, pulled the topmost of the two cards and turned it over on his side of the table. The Magician. He could feel the power coursing through the veins in his arms, his shoulders, his chest. This was him, who could command events with the strength of his desire. She had trained him since his boyhood to be this red robed figure. Recognising some unusual strength in him, a willingness to do what was too much for other children, a persistence, a cruelty, a determination. And how he loved the strength, how he could manipulate those around him, dripping honey from his tongue into their eagerly waiting ears.
Through traditions and superstitions, rituals abided by, he learned the black arts, and lived black ways. There were forfeits to be made, but he had lived this life for so long he did not miss affection, or empathy. The sense of domination over his world was sweet and satisfying to him. With her power the entire world could lay at his feet, she was the key to all the dark mysteries of the universe.
He reached across the table and quickly turned over the second card with a snap. The High Priestess. Guarding the gate to the underworld, keeping the secrets of the divine, she was the potential, the beginning of all he could be. All he could think about was making her his.
She reached across the table and slid the delicate newspaper cutting across to her side, rummaging somewhere under her shawl she took out a paper clip and a disposable lighter. She snatched The High Priestess Card from under his fixated stare and carefully wrapped it in the job advert, placing the Magician in front of The High Priestess she fixed the three together with the paper clip and instructed him to light the candle. The flame danced erratically on the wick for a few moments and, the woman who constituted the only family he had ever known passed the little bundle of cards and news paper back and forth in front of the flame.
‘Now you show the fire what is your will.’ She said pushing the cards into his hand.
He held them steady in front of the flame and focused his energy on the chain of events that would lead to him wield the power she held within her.
Nona got up and in an uneven walk she moved to the light switch near the door.
‘Now focus until the candle dies.’ She instructed and hobbled out of the room, flicking the switch so that Septimus was alone with only the orange glow of the flame.
For hours he sat, with the cards held steadily and squarely in front of the candle, until eventually the wick was a tiny, black speck, floating aflame in a puddle of molten wax. Coughing little plumes of smoke, the candle finally died and for a split second the room was plunged into utter darkness before the clouds parted, revealing a dazzling blue crescent moon that illuminated all the surfaces in the room.
Throwing back his head, Septimus howled into the night.
Throwing the sheets off the bed as she tossed about, she dreamt of herself dressed in a long, sky blue gown, sat between two huge copper pillars. A curtain made of tiny translucent glass beads that resembled deep red pomegranate arils hung behind her, but she did not know what lay beyond that. Before her was a fire that crackled and spat, growing in size until it was higher than her, and in the teasing flames she could see the face of Sep, grinning at her. She moved forward, towards him but as she did so, his face became the snarling head of a wolf, also grinning with its lips drawn back over its teeth. Suddenly she was very afraid, this fire, this force, it wanted what was behind the curtain, and instinctively she felt an overwhelming sense of danger.
Ricky watched as she grimaced and whimpered in her sleep again.
With the adrenaline still pumping, Septimus raced along the hall into the bungalow’s crowded bathroom, stopping along the way to get a cold beer out of the fridge. He stood in the shower and sipped as he let the hot water take away the sticky, damp feeling of his skin after sitting for hours in the wet clothes.
When he returned to the ‘dining’ room in his towel, Nona was back in her chair.
‘You do know you cannot force her to be your slave?’
‘You must seduce her, make her see the shadows inside herself, make her want to give up all her powers to you.’
He nodded again. She left the room, pausing briefly where she stood to touch his face.
Sep went into the kitchen and filled a large, wooden bowl with milk, setting the beautiful heads of black lotus’ and white lilies floating in it. He went outside and placed the offering on the ground just as dawn was breaking.