Stumbling away from the portal, I bent and grabbed a handful of sod and dirt and hurled it at the crater, shouting what I hoped would work as a sealing chant. I circled, staring at the ragged edge of the crater, pushing the nightmare shadows out of my mind with images of closing doors, healing wounds, windows blocked shut with nails and boards.
The longer I stayed near the portal, the more afraid I was that I would trip and fall inside, that it would grow and swallow me up. And I was desperately afraid I was too weak to get it closed. An icepick of pain lanced behind my eyes; I was burning through so much magic energy that my blood sugar was getting low. If the spell didn't start working soon, I was going to pass out.
I chanted the words for "close" in every language my mind could bring forth, all the while casting handfuls of good, fresh dirt into the vile portal like antibiotics into an infection.
Finally, finally, it was working. I felt the earth start to move under my feet, and the sides of the crater started to pull together. Yard-wide jagged cracks opened in the park's lawn as the crater's edges sealed, a puckered scar in the earth.
I took a step back, breathing hard, pressing against my temples to try to ease my throbbing skull. You did it. You actually did it.
A metallic scream dispelled my sense of relief. I turned, dreading what I might see. Smoky was still thrashing. His body was stretching and growing; I could hear his bones crackling. Bladelike reptilian spines erupted from his back. He was fairly steaming with the bad magic I'd felt from the portal.
I backed away. I'd never even heard of anything like this happening to a familiar. Definitely time to call for help.
I pulled my cell phone out of my pants pocket and called up Mother Karen's number. I pressed the phone to my ear.
"Jessica, is that you?" Mother Karen didn't sound like herself. "Jessica? It's so dark, it's hard to hear you."
It wasn't Karen. I felt my knees buckle as I recognized the voice. "Aunt Vicky?" I stammered.
"Jessica, I've been waiting so long for you. When will you come visit me? It's so cold in here, and the snakes won't leave me alone--"
I shut off the phone, and stared at it, shivering. My Aunt Victoria had been dead for over five years; she'd murdered her philandering husband Bill with rat poison, then killed herself with a bottle of sleeping pills and a fifth of gin as she cried over his body.
I found the corpses four days later after I got worried because nobody was answering the phone; flies had found them much sooner. It was a memory I'd tried hard to purge from my mind.
I turned the phone on again. The menu was no longer in English; the characters resembled Cooper's tattoos: sigils that came from no known human language; symbols he'd described seeing in his dreams.
"Oh fuck," I whispered.
>> Go on to Spellbent: Chapter One, Part 12