Graeme Brown is a Champagne Book Group author and editor who contributed a story that I made the mistake of reading for the first time at night. Worse yet, my Ouija board is stored in the basement.
“Never use a Ouija Board alone.” That’s what the student who used to babysit us said. “Put it away in the box, until the next time you come over.”
She was a university student, and thought it was a hoot when my friend and I would use the Ouija Board together and it would spell bizarre things we didn’t even understand. There was a guy who jumped off the cliff and kept spelling lewd words we sort of understood, but she understood better. He was a lot of fun, and kept us entertained for the night. It was my first time using such a thing, and the Ouija Board was mine.
We used it every time I’d come over and Gail was babysitting us. It was a secret. Except she didn’t know that I actually was using the board alone. After school, I’d take it out and wait until the glider started moving. I made a friend who called himself Marko. He spelled mostly swears, and it seemed a lot on nonsense.
“Are there any other spirits in the room?” That’s what I asked one night with my friend and Gail, after our suicide victim entertained us a bit.
The glider moved to the word “yes”.
“Who are you?”
The letters followed, spelling out “devil.”
“Okay, this is freaking me out now,” the babysitter said. The glider moved faster, forming threats. I started to get frightened.
I-M W-A-I-T-I-N-G A-T T-H-E D-O-O-R
“Stop. That’s enough for tonight.”
We did as she told us and put the Ouija Board away, but I remember when I left the next morning, looking at the shadows under the porch, feeling like something was there.
Over the next week I felt like I was being watched. The shadows under the trees seemed darker, and at night I’d stare at the hall through my open door, swearing I could hear a whisper. It got worse every night, even though I stopped using the Ouija Board alone.
Then one night I actually heard shuffling, or so I thought. The stairwell at the end of the hall looked like it was moving, and even though I was twelve I couldn’t convince myself it was just my imagination. Something was waiting there.
I rushed to my door and shut it, but even with that done I couldn’t sleep. I was terrified. I pulled the blanket up over my head and shook. Spirits can move through doors.
Somehow I did fall asleep. The next day after school I took my Ouija Board and burned the paper off it on the stove. My mom asked why I’d done it and I told her my story. Her eyes went wide with disbelief.
“Oh my God…” She clutched her chest. “I’ve been waking up over the last several weeks at night, feeling someone breathing down my neck.”
Just when I thought it was my imagination she had to say that.
I should have destroyed the Ouija Board right then and there, but unfortunately I put it in the shed. Ten years later it wreaked havoc in my life, enough for me to finally realize it belonged in a bonfire. Only when I watched it burn did I finally feel that presence leave.
THE PACT SYNOPSIS:
Tales of the outside world ruled by warring kings and creatures of nightmare have never seemed a threat, yet on the night celebrating the two hundredth year of the sacred Pact that has kept Fort Lesterall safe, a secret intrigue ripens, and in the course of a few hours Will is confronted with a choice greater than he can comprehend.
Join an unlikely hero as destiny pulls him into the middle of an ancient conflict between fallen gods and ambitious women, one that demands blood, both holy and wicked, and the power of an ancient fire bound in steel. As swords clash below a watching wood, hope and betrayal war as fiercely as fear and valor.
Whether he lives or dies, Will Lesterall will never be the same.
THE PACT EXCERPT:
Will hurried across the dark stones. The soft tap of his shoes against the cobbles echoed in the empty Square. In the middle, where the ground sloped down toward the sewer drains, the statue of Amarr the Barbarian cast a long shadow. Will passed into it and stopped. He heard voices.
Two men spoke in hushed tones, but their words carried when the wind wasn’t gusting.
“It’s that hag, I tell ya,” came one voice. “She’s roundin’ them up, preparing one of her big spells, she is. I heards there’s a sacrifice comin’, and she means to raise the dead.”
“Don’t be stupid, Roth.” Will recognized the raspy tone at once. It belonged to Mern, the whitesmith, whose half-slashed throat had never fully healed. Will squinted, but couldn’t see where the voices came from, other than realizing they drifted over from the dark, walled yard outside Hellistead’s Tavern.
“I’ll not have ya callin’ me stupid. Oh no. I know what this is about an’hoo. You’re just afraids, justs protectin’ yurself. Ya know whatcha got in it, ands I don’t blame you for bitin’ your tongue.”
“Quiet, you hay-brained crofter,” Mern spat. “Tonight’s not a night to whisper about such treacheries. The Lord Ham will cut your tongue out, and the world’ll be a better place for it if he does.”
“Old Cren will put it back, if he do, but I says he’d best act quick, or he’ll be lacking for the parts as fits him proper. The night’s black, Mern, and it’s gettin’ blacker yet.”
There was a hollow clatter, then sharp hisses. The man who spoke improperly cursed in words that would have made Grandma Mae gasp then Will heard quick footsteps and a series of clunks. He looked back to the castle, to where father gathered his fighters, then the other way, to the Stablehouse. If father’s in trouble, I have to warn him. Will knew his words wouldn’t be taken seriously, though.
He began to run across the stone expanse. Fort Lesterall won’t fall. Mern’s a wicked man, and whoever that other one is, he’s got no wits. Cren’s just an old woman who lives in the woods. She probably doesn’t even exist.
The side door to the Stablehouse opened as Will arrived, revealing a long labyrinth of stalls lit by rows of hanging lanterns. Jak peeked from behind the door, and Will slipped inside. When the older boy closed it, the dangerous night seemed far away. They were alone, Jak peering at Will, a curry comb still clasped in his hand. He was broad-limbed and of average height, with tousled hair the color of wet earth and eyes like onyx. As usual, he smelled of straw and horse manure, but that only made him all the more inviting.
Jak grinned. “I thought you’d hurry over after the feast proper. Too many clouds tonight, though. I’m afraid we won’t be spying Hell’s Cap, but I’ve another surprise for you. Found it myself, last night.”
“We won’t be going to the groves, Jak.” Will lowered his voice. “The Unborns are going to attack. Alter Dun showed the Red Token. That means the Unborns have challenged us. The Pact is broken. Even as we speak, my father’s gathering an army.”
“Of course he is.” Will turned toward the metal spiral stair. Barrik, a wiry man with salt-and-pepper hair and a bushy moustache, bent his impressive height as he descended from the second floor serving quarters. “I’ve a hundred retainers to see to and that’s lots of horseshit, my little prince. A good thing they’ve taken to the barracks. I’m full, and there’s a thousand more coming, twenty companies marching under you uncle’s banner knight, Telliken. If we hold the night, then there will be others, and we’ll feed the Unborns hell like they haven’t seen in centuries. But if what I’ve heard’s true, then they have hell to feed us first, before we can draw breath.”
Will gaped at the Master of Stables then shook his head fiercely. “Fort Lesterall cannot fall.”
Barrik grunted, though it sounded like a laugh. He picked up a pail and carried it to a nearby stall. “I wish I believed that, lad, but this world’s not run on luck, I’m afraid. A man forges his own blade then learns to use it, or he gets cut by everyone around him. This world’s a fierce battlefield, a bitch with a thousand teeth.”
“We can fight with them,” Jak insisted. “I’ve practiced with the sword you gave me lots of times in the groves. I’m not bad.”
“You would be with armor on.” Barrik came out of the stall with a pail full of black dung. He looked at Will, at Jak, his expression grave. “No, you boys have another errand…
Graeme Brown is has been enchanted by the epic fantasy genre since he was a child, and consequently he started creating his own world with its stories at the age of thirteen. Influenced by writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and George R. R. Martin, he has finally brought the first of those stories to life with his debut title, a short story called The Pact—48 pages that will whisk you away to a dark, medieval fantasy world with gritty realism. When he’s not writing, he can be found exploring number theory problems or writing computer programs, training for a marathon, or unwinding in a yoga hot room. He has also explored other facets of art, both as a hobby and a profession, including vector graphics, pen and ink, classical piano, and web design. Despite being a full time student and a junior editor for Champagne Books, he makes sure to do a little writing every day.
For more about Graeme, visit his WEBSITE