A short story about four girls who are up to some witchy trouble.
Three girls huddled against the cathedral door, trying to blend in with the shadows. The night was dark and empty, not even the moon had made an appearance. The streetlights and the spotlights around the cathedral had all been snuffed. A wind swept across the lawn and into their faces.
Serena shivered. “Blast, it’s cold out here.”
“Shut it, S!” Phoebe hissed. “He’ll hear us.”
Serena blew on her hands. “I’m sure Courtney has him occupied.”
“She should be back by now,” Mac whispered. The whites of her eyes shone like mist in the darkness.
The trees rustled in the wind, their branches reaching toward the girls like skeleton fingers. Mac’s hair blew into her mouth and she spit it out.
“I said shhh!” Phoebe had her back and arms pressed against the wood door as if she was trying to melt into it. She probably could have too, with the right spell. But she wouldn’t waste the time. They had more important things to do.
“Why isn’t she back yet?” Mac asked, peering around the corner. Phoebe grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back into the huddle.
“Don’t worry about Courtney,” Serena said. “She’s never failed at the Kiss of Sleep before.”
Phoebe nodded. “That’s right. And as soon as she’s back, Serena, you’ll do the door, then Mac will—”
“We know the plan, Phoebe.” Serena rolled her eyes but her facial sarcasm was lost in the dark. “And didn’t you tell us to be quiet?”
“It doesn’t hurt to go over it,” Phoebe snapped.
“Shh,” Mac hissed.
“Not you too.” Serena shoved her hands under her arms. She really should have worn gloves like Phoebe and Mac had.
“No, I hear something.” Mac peered around the corner again.
All three girls shrieked.
Phoebe clapped her hands over Mac and Serena’s mouths. “Do you want us to get caught?”
Courtney flipped her hair over one shoulder. “The security guard is taken care of.”
“Yeah, but someone could walk by,” Phoebe said.
“It’s three in the morning. No one is going to walk by.” Courtney leaned in close. “Unless they’re up to no good, and if that’s the case, they can join the party.”
“Party?” Mac said. “Did I miss part of the plan?”
Serena tucked Mac’s long hair into her coat so she would stop eating it. “Courtney didn’t mean an actual party.”
The girls left the sanctuary of the alcove. They crept along the side of the cathedral, eyes peeled in case someone did happen to come by. As much as Courtney was always up for anything, they didn’t need unexpected trouble. Mac squeezed Serena’s hand. Out of the four girls, she was the one who always had to be coaxed into their plans. She preferred to be at home brewing potions, not casting spells in public. Or as public as an empty cathedral at three a.m. happened to be.
“Where did you stash the guy, anyway?” Serena asked.
Courtney waved her hand dismissively. “He’s resting very peaceably against a tree. If anyone sees him, they’ll think he passed out.” She looked back at Mac. “Nice work on the lights, by the way. How did you manage to get the entire block?”
Mac blushed with pleasure and Serena secretly smiled. Courtney knew just how to lessen Mac’s nerves.
“Can we talk about the lights later?” Phoebe said. She pushed past the girls and made it to the front door first. “Serena? You got this?”
Serena ran a hand over the side of her head she’d recently shaved. The other side was angled down to her ear but the shaved part was still new to her. “Of course. I’ve never met a door I couldn’t open.”
Her hand hovered in front of the round knocker. She chanted under her breath, the words unintelligible except to the three girls standing around her. In a moment, the door creaked open.
“Finally,” Phoebe muttered.
Serena flipped her off behind her back.
“I saw that,” Phoebe said, her voice pitched low.
The girls hurried inside the cathedral, Courtney closing the door quietly behind them. As soon as it clicked shut, they all whispered “lux” and balls of light appeared over each of their palms.
“Hurry,” Phoebe whispered.
“Calm down, Phoebs,” Courtney replied. But they did as Phoebe wanted, each of them feeling the urgency of what they were about to do.
“Here it is,” Mac said. She kneeled reverently in front of the long black gravestone set into the floor. Her fingers stroked the words carved into it.
The other girls knelt beside the stone, each on different sides of the square. Like Mac, the rest touched the epitaph, as if the sombre words could bleed into their skin. Their free hands still balanced flickering light.
“This doesn’t do her justice,” Serena whispered.
“Not even close,” Phoebe said.
“It’s a tragedy,” Mac said.
“Word,” Courtney chimed in.
Phoebe looked at Mac. “You ready?”
Mac took a deep breath. “Are you?”
Courtney snorted. “I’ve been ready for this since Matt Wahler.”
“That was in the sixth grade,” Serena replied.
“Would you two zip it?” Phoebe snapped, but she was still staring at Mac, who pulled out a small vial from inside her coat. She unstoppered the lid and then, without ceremony, splashed the contents over the gravestone.
The words started to melt, the letters pooling together, mixing with the black stone, until that too, began to melt and fade until nothing was left but a hole into the ground. Four heads peered at the wooden casket below.
“Ugh.” Courtney waved her hand over her nose. “It stinks.”
“Of course it does,” Phoebe said, “there’s a dead body in there.”
totally ruining the moment right now,” Serena said.
“Yeah.” Mac’s heart pounded. She’d just defaced a famous monument. It would go back to normal, but still. “Maybe she can hear us. We don’t want her mad when she wakes up.”
Courtney put her light in front of her face and made an “Oooo” noise.
“She won’t be mad,” Serena said over Courtney’s attempts to scare Mac. “She’s going to be so psyched to be alive again. Don’t you think?”
“We won’t know until we find out.” Courtney extinguished her light. With a silent pop, the other three lights went out.
The girls reached for each other, clasping hands around the grave. Gloves had been removed, cold skin touched cold skin, blood beat under grasped fingers. Their breaths, though quiet, started to come in unison.
Phoebe began to chant. Then Courtney, Serena, and finally Mac, until the voices of all four girls blended together into one. The words started slow and steady, but gradually, the pace kicked up, became frenzied. Their voices rose, not in anger, but in pleas. Pleas for help, for guidance, for life.
The stone under their knees started to shake. Though the doors of the cathedral were closed, a wind tore through the empty spaces, whipping their hair around their faces, their coats flapping against their bodies. But still the girls didn’t stop. They held onto each other tighter, all four joined in the same spell, the same wish to bring the body below back to life.
A light grew from the pit beneath them. The girls had their eyes shut tight, but the light burned behind their eyelids. As their words reached a fever pitch, their skin seemed to burn with invisible flame. Grips became tenuous, fingers struggled to hang on to the last, air was sucked from the room until everything was a burning furnace of flames.
And then it was done. The light was gone, everything went back to normal except for their last spoken word, “vitae,” echoing through the stillness.
Serena squeezed Mac’s hand. Mac squeezed Courtney’s, Courtney did the same to Phoebe. And then they all opened their eyes.
The gravestone was back in place, the words there like they’d never disappeared, the only thing marring them now a pair of slippered feet.
The girls’ gazes travelled up, past the trim figure in the old-fashioned gown, to the face they’d all imagined.
The woman held up her own hand and examined it. She flexed her fingers. She ran her hands over her hips.
“Astonishing,” she whispered. And then she noticed the four pairs of eyes watching her every move. Despite how odd the whole scene must have been, her surprise only showed in the slight lifting of her brows.
The girls slowly dropped hands and stood in front of the spectre. No, not a spectre, but flesh and blood and bone. Real and alive in front of them. No longer just words from a bookshelf.
Phoebe found her voice first. “I’m Phoebe, and this is Courtney, Serena, and Mac.” She stepped forward. “We brought you back because we need your help.”
A small smile appeared around the woman’s lips. “What could you possibly require from me?”
Serena grabbed Mac’s hand again, this time out of excitement, or maybe desperation. But it was Courtney who spoke.
“We want to find our own Mr. Darcy.”
Jane Austen laughed, a throaty sound. “Well, there are certainly not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them.” She arched a brow. “However, I will do what I can.”