Mariska stood on top of the library stairs, cradling her find in her arms. Above, the sun’s last orange rays streaked through the sky. A warm summer breeze wafted through the air.
She got home and put the heavy leather-bound book on the dining room table. Bending down, she picked up Pixie, her stray, scratching him under the chin. She walked into the kitchen and put him down, picking up his bowl.
“Hey Pixie, dinner is ready. Where are you?” she called.
“Strange.” she thought, putting down his bowl. “He would normally stay with me in the kitchen until I feed him.”
She filled the kettle, switched it on and waited for the water to boil. Pixie’s low-pitched war growl startled her from her reverie. She walked to the dining room and found him, bushy tailed, sniffing the book.
“Hey. What are you doing silly? It’s just a book.” She said and walked up to him. He drew his body into an upside U and let out a louder, high-pitched growl. She tried to pick him up, but he avoided her and skittered off the table. She followed him to the kitchen. Pixie ignored his food and disappeared through the pet door.
“That’s odd? I wonder what got into him?” She asked the empty room.
She made herself a cup of tea and buttered a scone. Back in the dining room, she sat down at the table and reached for the book. She traced the old gold title stenciled on the cover – Arbatel De Magia Veterums. Her stomach gurgled, and she gave it a rub. She opened the book. Its spine cracked, releasing a stale breath of papery air.
She held the stiff page down with her left hand and ran her right index finger down the first page of contents. She turned the page, halfway down the second page she stopped at Magical Spells from 6000 BC and its sub-contents. She reached for her cup without taking her eyes off the page. The cup clattered in the saucer as she bumped against it and spilt half its contents.
Mariska pushed the book to the middle of the table. She sighed and took a tissue from her skirt’s pocket. She dabbed the wet spot, the tissue soaking up most of the puddle.
“This time I got the right book.” She thought to herself. She walked to the kitchen and dumped the leftover tea down the drain. She picked up a dish cloth and opened the tap. Scalding water splashed into the wash-up.
“Ouch.” Mariska jumped back and dropped the cloth. She grabbed a drying cloth and wiped her red hands. The afterburn raised goosebumps on her arms. Mariska looked at the running water, steam curling in its wake.
“I could have sworn I opened the cold water tap.” She thought to herself and covered the hot water tap with the drying cloth. She closed it. She opened the cold water tap and allowed it to run until the steam dissipated. She prodded the limp dish cloth lying in the wash-up before she wrung it dry.
Mariska wiped the sticky spot on the dining room table.
“At least the book did not get damaged. Ms. Jenkins would have my hide for it if it did.” She thought, and relief massaged the tension in her shoulders.
Back in the kitchen, Mariska glanced at Pixie’s untouched dinner bowl. She opened the backdoor and called for him. He came to the bottom step and sat, his tailing swishing from side to side.
Mariska crouched down and held out her hand. He bared his teeth, hissed at her, and took off into the darkening garden.
“Well, suit yourself then. You know where the food is when you get hungry.” She shouted after him and banged the door shut.
“Bloody moody cat.” She mumbled under her breath.
“Well, now that I know this time I got the right book, I would need to double check the inscriptions match those on the Figurine.” She mumbled to herself, walking down the passage to her bedroom.
Mariska stood a moment, then changed into a comfortable sweatpants and tank top. She walked into her on-suite bathroom and thoroughly washed her hands. Back in the room, she studied her reflection in the dressing table’s mirror.
“Here goes….” She whispered and took the silver jewelry box she inherited from Grandma from its hiding place at the back of the dressing table’s middle drawer.
Mariska carried the jewelry box to the dining room. Half way down the semi-dark passage, a floorboard behind her creaked. A whisper of doom licked up her spine. Her back hollowed.
“Nonsense with you.” She thought to herself and hastened towards the light in the dining room.
Mariska placed the jewelry box on the table, pulled out a chair and wiggled into a comfortable position before pulling the book closer. She opened the lid of the jewelry box and lifted the false bottom. Below the dining room window Pixie let out a series of fierce yowls, shredding the silence. Mariska’s stomach married itself to her spine.
She got up and walked to the window on rubbery legs. Mariska opened the window and leaned out. Pixie was nowhere to be seen.
“That darned cat’s antics tonight is totally out of character.” She thought, walking back to the table.
Mariska sat down, leaned her elbows on the table and pinched her brow. The tremors in her body quieted to a slight tremor. She laid her left hand on the book’s cover and reached with her right for the black velvet pouch and set it down next to the book.
Mariska double checked the list of contents and paged to page 444, checked the depiction of a figurine and read the contents.
“It seems to be the same.” She thought and fumbled with the thin drawstring of the black velvet pouch.
Mariska held the ancient female Figurine in her palm and rubbed her thumb over the inscriptions on its wide stomach. She laid it down next to the picture.
The air shimmered. The words on the page twisted and curled, changing their meaning in front of her eyes. The Figurine rolled off the book, landing upright next to the book. The book’s pages started turning under its own power.
Mariska tried to shut the book. A spark shot from the Figurine and zapped her wrist. The book snapped itself open, turned its own pages and stopped on page 444. The Figurine started pulsing and released crazed yellow, red and orange streaks, filling the air.
In the lounge, Mariska’s transistor radio came alive. At full volume it blasted tribal drum beats accompanied by ululating voices, interspersed a woman’s desperate cries.
Mariska scrambled up, pushed her chair back and tripped. She grabbed at the back of the chair, missed it and tumbled to the floor. Stunned, she closed her eyes. Coloured orbs, in tune with the throbbing pain in her left ankle, burst behind her eyelids.
She pressed her fingers to her temples. The noise from the radio turned into static. The stench of a large wooden bonfire stole the oxygen from the air. She gagged and opened her eyes. Mariska could see fire, nor could she detect a smoke haze.
She righted the fallen chair. Using the seat of the chair, she gritted her teeth and raised herself onto her knees. Her sweat soak tank top clung to her. She sniffed, wiped her nose and pulled the tank top away from her back. She patted her sweaty palms on her pants and gripped the edge of the table. Mariska levered herself into an upright one-legged wobbly stance.
Mariska looked at the menacing face of the Figurine. It had turned back to black, but has grown in size. The malevolent eyes stared unblinking at Mariska. The temperature in the air dropped to solid ice. Mariska gasped and put a hand on her chest. Her fingers found her necklace and closed over the silver cross. She lifted it from her tank top and held it dangling in front of her open mouth.
The Figurine levitated into the air. Mariska ducked just in time. The Figurine shot over her head with millimeters to spare. Behind Mariska, the dining room window shattered.