On This Dark Night

Most teenagers have been to at least one party where they played with a ouija board, and when nothing happened, forgot about anything remotely supernatural for the rest of their lives. However, these three boys had always been curious. Ouija boards and Bloody Mary had never been enough for Cam, Mitch, and Elliot. So, when they finally had Mitch’s parents house alone for the weekend, they had broken out a summoning ritual (from the internet of course) and were going to attempt it that night.

The marred wooden table was set in the middle of the furnished basement, the dimmed yellow bulbs giving the space a welcoming light, so at odds with what was sprawled across it. Old yellow parchment covered the center of the table, with intricate symbols drawn in a dark thick paint. Various black candles sat lit across the tabletop, giving it an infernal orange glow. In the middle was a dark wooden bowl, that contained what looked to be dirt, feathers, and salt. At the head of the table was Cam, his blonde hair cut short and stormy gray eyes dancing with wicked delight. It had been Cam’s idea in the first place to try all this demonic stuff. Mitch and Elliot were willing to go along with it to please their friend and show him, for the last time, that this stuff didn’t exist, and that he needed to get his head out of comic books.

“Welcome.” He said in an ominous tone. Thunder stuck outside. “Woah! Did you guys hear that? That was like it usually is in the movies!”

“Or you just happened to speak as the same time as the thunder, dork.” Mitch responded, a sly grin plastered on his face.

Cam shot up from his spinny chair, probably about to try to tackle Mitch, because that was how he solved his problems, when Elliot intervened, “Guys, guys, there's enough of me to go around.” The three laughed and started sitting around the table.
Mitch raised an eyebrow at the concoction in the middle. “What is that, summoning soup?”

Cam got serious, which may have been the first time in his life, and replied, “It’s raven feathers, soil from an unmarked grave, and rock salt.”

“Where did you get all this?” Elliot asked incredulously.

Ebay.” Cam said in a sarcastic tone. “I collected it dumbass, where do you think I got it.” Cam started mimicking Elliot’s voice, “Maybe he got it from the neighborhood witchcraft store next to the walgreens! Come on man.”

“Sorry Cam, I’ve never summoned a goddamn demon before.”

“Well, neither has he.” Mitch pointed out.

“And I never will.” Cam replied. “Demons are scary S.O.B.s, from what I’ve read. We’re summoning this weird thing called The Raven Man. No one knows what he is, but he’s not a demon.” Thunder struck again outside.

“Okay, that time it was weird.” Mitch said.

“Seems like easy ingredients to summon an extraplanar entity.” Elliot quipped.

“The stews’ not done yet, boys. We have to add the secret ingredient.” With that, he got up, took out a rather plain looking pocket knife and sliced it across his palm, hissing as he did so. Blood slid down his hand and dripped into the bowl, the metallic scent of it filling the room.

“I guess it requires the blood of a virgin.” Mitch remarked, earning a snarl from Cam.

Elliot felt a tingle go down his spine as the blood dripped into the bowl. Drip. Drip. Drip. He didn’t know why it was so unsettling. “Guys, I don’t think we should be doing this. Shouldn't we have more respect for this stuff?”

“I thought you said you didn’t believe in hocus pocus.” Cam said with another grin, and took a Dora bandage out of his pocket and applied it to his wound. Elliot and Mitch would usually make fun of it, but after what he had just done, neither seemed inclined to do so.

After he was done bandaging the cut, he said, “Now we have to light the candles and say the incantation. It was originally written in Latin, but Latin is annoying and hard to pronounce, so I translated it to good ol’ American.”

“What is it supposed to do?” Mitch asked.

“Well, once it’s summoned, we can ask it any one question each, then it will ask something of us, usually our soul, but since we have the rock salt mixed in to keep him bound, and I have a protection charm--” he pulled out a necklace with a small bag attached that smelled faintly of rosemary -- “we should be okay. I read someone else's experience with this ritual; apparently it worked and everyone died, but the username was EmoGirlx666, so I’m a bit hesitant to believe that.”

The boys laughed. “Who even posted about it if everyone died?” Mitch asked.

“My point exactly. You guys ready?” Cam asked, glancing back and forth at his friends.

“For this not to work? Sure.” Mitch said, blowing his dark hair out of his eyes.

Elliot thought for a moment. He really didn’t think he should do this. Oh come on, it’s harmless, this stuff doesn’t work, his thoughts seemed to say. They felt… foreign to him though. It was an odd sensation. “Yea. I’m ready.”

“Alright boys, chant with me. Remember, it’s ‘On this dark night, I call the Raven Man. Appear before me here and now, and grant me your forbidden knowledge.”

“Isn’t it supposed to rhyme?” Elliot asked. It always did in the movies.

“No, you idiot.” Cam said, and took a lighter out of his pocket. He walked over to the candle farthest from his seat, and held the flame to the wick. He started saying, “On this dark night, I call the Raven Man. Appear before me here and now, and grant me your forbidden knowledge.” and the others joined in half way through. The small flame flickered rapidly back and forth, and another chill went down Elliot’s spine. He moved over to the next candle and lit it. All of their voices syncing up as they said, “On this dark night, I call the Raven Man. Appear before me here and now, and grant me your forbidden knowledge.” Their voices seemed to echo off the basement walls, and the room got considerably colder.

“Guys, I really don’t think we should-” Elliot began, but Cam moved onto the third candle. As the flame touched the wick, a giant crack of thunder shook the house. “On this dark night, I call the Raven Man. Appear before me here and now, and grant me your forbidden knowledge.” Elliot still chanted along with the others, oddly feeling compelled to do so. His voice felt hoarse.

He lit the fourth candle, the boys said the incantation, and another lightning crack rocked the house as the room was plunged into darkness, the only light the flickering of the four candles.

It’s just the storm… His thoughts seemed to say, caressing Elliot’s mind into an even calm. “It’s just the storm,” the three boys said in unison. None of them seemed to notice.

Cam sat down at his chair. The final candle sat there in front of him. Elliot wanted him to light it.

He lit it.

“On this dark night, I call the Raven Man. Appear before me here and now, and grant me your forbidden knowledge.” They all whispered.

Taking the candle in his hand, he held it over the bowl in the middle, and said in a voice that sounded strange, ‘The flame is my beacon, the blood is my sacrifice. I call you, Raven Man.” He lit the bowl’s contents on fire.

The bowl was immediately engulfed in fire, the flame reaching unnaturally high, nearly singing the ceiling. Cam was thrown back into his chair, and sat ramrod stiff. Elliot’s own back straightened and his face was schooled in neutrality, his hands resting politely on the table. He tried to get out of his chair and run away, run anywhere, just to get away from that horrible place, but he couldn’t. He was trying to tell his body to move but it wasn’t listening.

“It is impolite to leave a guest unattended.” A cold, drawling voice echoed throughout the room or in his head. By the panic in the other boy's eyes, they had heard it too. The candle flames rose up in the air, brightening up the room and causing the shadows to dance and flicker on the walls so that they seemed alive. The flame in the middle turned a dark purple, and the feathers shot out of it, circling the room. More and more poured out of the gout of fire, so many that it looked like the boys weren’t just encircled in feathers, but in a murder of ravens. Then everything stopped. The candles flickered gently, setting the room back to a low dimness. The feathers landed on the table, forming a neat pile ringed in a perfect salt circle.

The pile started moving. The feathers began to climb on top of each other, forming a dark figure… a person. There was a flash of darkness as the candles were extinguished, and then lit again all at once. Standing in the middle of the table was a man, dressed in a fine suit, the cloth so black it was hard to look at. On his lapel was a small raven skull. He had his hands in his pockets, posed in a casual way, as if he had not just come from a pile of raven feathers after three teenagers had summoned him. His tan skin was leathery with age, and his nose was hooked like… a beak. He had jet black hair with specks of gray here and there, and his lips were thin, the skin chapped. The scariest part were his eyes. Black colorless pits where his eyes should have been gazed upon the three boys.

“Which one of you is Cam Maskus?” The man asked, his voice cold and raspy. After no one spoke, he said, “Oh, my apologies. Where are my manners? I forgot to introduce myself. I am The Raven Man.” Lightning cracked outside. “How dramatic.” The man said, looking up. Still, no one spoke.

“Speak.” The Raven Man commanded.

No one spoke.

He chuckled, a dark, humorless laugh. “Oh my. I forgot, I paralyzed you all. You may speak.”

All three of the boys screamed as their vocal cords worked again.

The man rolled his dark black eyes. “How dreadful. Stop.” The man said. They immediately stopped screaming.

“Now, I will ask once more. Who is Cam Maskus.”

Cam gulped, and choked out, “Me.” A single tear rolled down his cheek.

“You are the one who summoned me?” The Raven Man asked.

“Yes.”

The man looked down at the circle of salt. “Tell me, Cam Maskus.” He began. “Did you use purified rock salt?”

“N-no.” Cam said, his voice breaking.

“A pity.” The Raven Man crooned, as he brushed some of the salt away with his shoe. He walked towards the side of the table and floated to the ground, hands still in the pockets of his suit. He turned to the boys, and smiled a wolfish grin. His teeth were decayed yellow stumps in his mouth. “Since you summoned me, I’ll let you go first.” The Raven Man drawled as he walked towards Cam’s seat. He bent down and whispered next to Cam’s ear. “Tell me, mortal. What is it you want to know most in this world?” His voice slithered over them all, sending shivers down their spines.  

Cam’s lips quivered. “A-are you g-going to take my soul?” He stammered, another tear sliding down his cheek. The Raven Man took a hand out of his pocket. It was not a human hand. It was withered and off-white, it's fingers long and decrepit, and on each finger were dark, razor-sharp talons. He put one talon down towards Cam’s neck, and pulled the necklace- the protection charm, away from him. It was sliced easily by his claws.

“No…” The Raven Man whispered, “I’m not going to take your soul. What do I need your soul for?” Cam sighed in relief.

“No…” He continued, and placed his talons on the boy’s chin and head, and positioned his face to look at his eyes. “I’m going to take your life.”

The Raven Man twisted his neck to a terrible degree, the sound of it snapping reverberating through the room, through the house, through their souls. Cam’s body slumped to the table, his eyes still open.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

He grinned at the two remaining boys. “Oh, you two look horrid. You really ought to smile.”

Their faces contorted into a large, beaming grin. They smiled so wide it hurt.

“Much better. It's polite to act happy when you invite a guest into your home. Now, who is next?”

His dark eyes slid to Mitch. “Tell me boy. What is it you want to know most in the world?”

Mitch gasped out, “Please! P-please don’t kill me! I’ll do anythin-”

“That is not a question, boy.”

Silver tears gleamed in Mitch’s eyes as he asked, “Is there anything after death?”

The Raven Man sighed, “You mortals and your concern with the afterlife. Why does it matter? Yes, there is something after death, of a sort. That was an uncreative question. You disappoint me.”

He walked over to Cam, each step resounding through the room.

“Only the first boy gave his blood to me.” He drawled. “Perhaps if you had all given me something, I would have treated you a bit better. But not many are willing to spill a little blood for the poor old Raven Man.”

He raked a talon down Mitch’s cheek. Blood spilled down his face, and onto his chest. Drip. Drip. Drip.

The Raven Man inhaled deeply, in something like ecstasy. “How I love the scent of mortal blood. Shall we make more of it?” In a flash, his hand was out, slicing across Mitch’s throat. Blood sprayed onto the table, and his head lulled back. There was a faint gurgling as the blood cascaded down his neck. Something fundamental in Elliot broke at the sight of his two best friends sprawled dead. He didn’t think it could be fixed.

The Raven Man turned to the final boy. “Ah… Elliot. The one who had a feeling this would work, and that it would be terrible for you. You almost stopped the boys from summoning me. But you failed, didn’t you?”

He paced over, and put his hand on the table and tapped it impatiently, the talons clicking rhythmically. “Do tell me, Elliot. What is it you want to know most in this world. Think carefully.” He smiled.

Come on. ELLIOT, THINK.

Elliot’s eyes widened. He whispered in an even voice despite all that had happened, or perhaps because he felt detached from the world around him, “Tell me, Raven Man. How do I get out of this alive?”

The Raven Man kept grinning. “How interesting….”

“You’re different, Elliot.” The Raven Man began, his swirling black eyes narrowing on the young boy. “You are the first person to summon me that has asked a question that was actually intriguing. What was the exact wording? ‘How do I get out of this alive?’ Hmmmmmm.”

“I suppose you’d get out of this alive by doing exactly what you did.” He continued. “Entertaining me... However, that is far too easy. How about a little test, hm?” He chuckled, another one of his dark mirthless laughs.

“A test?” Elliot growled. He was so tired. The shock of the events were wearing off, and now all the adrenaline was replaced with… nothingness. He felt numb.“You killed my friends, and now you want me to pass a test for your amusement? You can screw off, I’ve been through enough. Just kill me already.”

“Oh, little mortal,” The Raven Man drawled, placing his talons on Elliot’s shoulders. “Your trials are just beginning.”

He dug his talons into Elliot, and where the razor sharp claws pierced his skin, it felt like fire spread under his skin. He screamed, and the Raven Man laughed once more, and when the pain finally stopped racking his body, he slumped in his chair, panting. He was vaguely aware that the supernatural bindings that kept him in the chair were lifted, but he was too tired to get up. He wanted to just let the oblivion of sleep overtake him. Maybe forever.

“You have been marked, little mortal.” Said the Raven Man. “Survive a week, and you pass the test. I’ll be watching.”

Elliot looked up at this creature. The light of the candles reflected in his black eyes. The bastard was still smiling. That thing that had broken inside Elliot pieced itself back together, into something new, into something fiery and cold all at once. He was angry… No. It was more than that. It was utter hatred for this thing in front of him.

“I’m going to pass your damn test,” Elliot spat, curling his lip, “And I’m going to kill you. I’m going to snap your neck and rip out your throat and make you feel all the things you made them feel.” He nodded to his friends.

The Raven Man cocked his head in an avian gesture, and for once, stopped smiling. “You are so very interesting Elliot. I look forward to seeing your corpse at the end of the test.” And with that, The Raven Man vanished, and the basement lights flickered back on. The ritual materials, candles, and the parchment with the summoning sigils on it all vanished with him, leaving only the bodies. Where he stood not even a second ago was a black feather, that floated peacefully to the ground. Elliot picked it up in his shaking hands, and held on to it for dear life, crushing it in the process. He looked at the remains of his best friends.

“I’m going to kill him for this.” He whispered, tears flowing down both cheeks. “I’m going to avenge you. Cam. Mitch.Whatever I have to do. I’m going to fucking end his miserable existence.”

 Nicholas Philhower is a 17-year-old writer of many stories, reader of many books, and lover of life who lives in Egg Harbor City, NJ. He enjoys adventuring to unseen places with friends, talking about the universe, and sleeping when he can -- usually in that order.