“Go on, I dare you!”
My best friend, Tim, and I had just exited our favorite after school hangout, a pizza joint after finishing up our last day of 6th grade. Giant cups of soda and our backpacks in tow we were walking down the main street in town towards our houses. As usual we cut through the parking lot of what used to be the local hardware store. It had been forced out of business by a big chain and we were eagerly awaiting to see what would replace it.
A large sign above the front window simply said ‘Books’ but it was the smaller signs in the window that caught our eye. Signs saying “Occult”, “Black Magic”, “Potions & Spells” and the like surrounded a large pentagram made out of white and red Christmas lights. I wondered what the reverend back at school would say about that. Probably something about blasphemy and hell and how the folks inside were evil Satanists.
In any case Tim and I found ourselves at the storefront ogling all the crazy shit that was put there and he had just dared me to go inside. Never one to back down on a dare I tossed my now empty cup into the nearby trash and strutted right inside. Tim didn’t follow. The inside of the shop wasn’t at all what I expected. Sure there were the crystals and crucibles, but it was bright and friendly, inviting even. Behind the counter was a girl who couldn’t be much older than my brother who was in the 12th grade. She was pretty, with long blond hair, and showed me a perfectly straight and white smile.
“Hi. Welcome to our shop. Can I help you find anything today?” She said this in the cheeriest of voices, bubbly with a hint of valley girl.
All I could muster was, “Uh. No, thanks. I’m just browsing.”
She smiled again, “Ok then. Let me know if you need any help.” She turned back to the magazine she was reading.
I wandered around the store a bit and glanced at some books. Most seemed ridiculous. With titles like “Love Potions for Dummies” and “DIY Voodoo Doll” I wasn’t very impressed. I wondered if this store was a joke or something. But then a book caught my eye as I passed by it. It was in a corner in a section labeled “Dark Magic.” Unlike the other books around it it was jet black. No titles or marking of any kind on the spine so I pulled it out and examined the cover.
Much like the spine the cover was wordless, embossed with an upside down pentagram covered with gold leaf. I ran my fingers across it and flipped open the pages. The words inside were unreadable, written in some language unknown to me.
“Find anything interesting?” The girl was glancing at me over her magazine.
“How much is this book,” I said holding it up in the air for her to see.
“Oh, everything in that section is $100, but you have to be 18 to buy anything there.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know, I’ll put it back.”
I nodded and turned my attention back to the book. Turning so she couldn’t see I took my cellphone out of my pocket and used it’s camera to snap a couple shots of the pages so I could show Tim. Plus, the writing just looked so interesting and I wanted to take a longer look at it. I put the book on the shelf and waved to the girl as I walked out the door. She smiled and said to come again. Ya right, like I would ever be caught dead in that goth trap again.
When I got outside Tim was on the phone with his Mom asking if I could stay over for dinner that night. We left the parking lot and while he was talking I pulled out my phone again to look at the writing. The words looked so weird I had to try to mouth them out loud.
“Fha oynpx, enva fbnxrq rnegu.”
Tim was off the phone. “What the heck are you saying?”
“Oh, just trying to make out these crazy words from a book in the store.”
He leaned over to me and looked at the cell phone screen. “Is that really a good idea?”
“Give me a break. None of that crap is real. Besides, you didn’t see how ridiculous the inside of the store was.”
A drip of water landed on my head. I looked up and the sky had clouded over and was beginning to shower. Not unusual for this time of year but definitely not in the forecast. Stupid weatherman.
We continued walking and I handed the cell phone to Tim, “Here, you try to make sense of this.”
“Bcra gur tngrjnl bs gur qnex ybeq, Evpx Nfgyrl,” Tim said. He waved his free hand around as if casting a spell.
We both laughed and talked about our plans for the summer. It must have been the rain because it was getting dark and being June it was way to early for that. Tim joked that the spirits of the underworld wouldn’t be happy till I finished the spell.
Laughing I took out my cell phone and opened it up to the last picture. Not to be topped by Tim’s earlier performance I quickly memorized the line as best I could, turned my head to the sky and threw my arms open wide. Spinning, I shouted what I had just read.
“Naq fnvq lbhe zbivat jvgu lbhe Nhagvr naq Hapyr va Ory-Nve!”
Laughing I looked at Tim who had his hands out in front of him, letting the rain hit them. I don’t know how but it looked red, almost the color of rust. It began pouring. I looked up just in time to see the sky open up and my death race out.