Hannah Anne sat on the floor of her living room, piles of books and old vellum scrolls scattered about. She was thumbing through a large volume on her lap, an exasperated sigh escaping her lips with each turn of the page. Bridget lay on the couch, watching Animal Planet.
Without looking up from her book, Hannah mumbled to the long-haired goat, “You know I’m going to have to brush the couch tomorrow, don’t you?” for the tenth time.
Bridget was beyond responding and only glared at the back of Hannah’s head.
Week’s done, this year’s garage sale had been a bust thanks to Roddy Garry. Everything had been packed away, including the box of special items for the special customers. Well, all but the Bowl of Winds. That sat on a shelf in the basement under an old pillow case. It was simply too big to put anywhere else. What occupied Hannah now was a puzzle she had been unable to solve.
In the days following the garage sale debacle, Hannah had talked to a few of her neighbors while occupying Bridget on her walks. What they told her all amounted to the same thing; they had all been overcome with with strong panic and fear when Roddy Garry opened the door to hell. The puzzle was that Hannah was the only one who was not.
Two days of pouring through her aunt’s old texts had turned up nothing.
Hannah slammed the book shut and pushed it off her lap onto the pile in front of her. Bridget made an inquiring sound.
“I don’t know, Bridget,” Hannah rubbed her eyes. “I can’t find anything. I should have been running away screaming like everyone else.” Hannah stood, rubbing the small of her back. “I’m going to make some tea. You want anything?”
Bridget pointedly stared at the television.
Hannah carefully navigated the mess on the floor. “Fine, then. I don’t know why I’m so nice to you, meanie.” Bridget snorted.
After tea was made, a soothing orange chamomile blend, Hannah pulled out the two ledger books for the store. Hannah inherited The Seven of Cups: Herbs and Sundry from her aunt as well. Business wasn’t exactly booming, but she could see that she needed to restock sage for smudging. Mrs. Johannson had purchased all she had in stock, convinced that she could get rid of the negativity in her house. Hannah was sure that Mrs. Johannson would be best served by telling her twenty-two year old son to move out of the basement or to at least find a job.
Hannah began making two lists of items she needed for the store: those she had to order and those she could provide from her own garden.
Deep in her work, her puzzle temporarily forgotten, Hannah jumped out of her chair when the kitchen door banged open. She just glimpsed Bridget’s behind as the nanny let herself out.
“Bridget! What’s the matter with you?” Hannah stood in the doorway watching the goat walk deeper into the yard. Hannah shivered. The air held a misty chill. “Ugh, you could have at least closed the door.” As Hannah pushed the door shut, she caught the sounds of Meerkat Manor coming from the living room. “And turned off the television!”
Once again navigating the living room mess, Hannah turned off the television and jumped a second time when someone banged on her front door.
“Hannah! Hannah!” The banging continued. “Hannah! I’m coming in!”
The door burst open and a figure stumbled in, mist tendriling in around them.
“Deborah?” Hannah caught her sister before she fell down. “What’s going on?”
Deborah righted herself, broke free of Hannah’s grasp, slammed the door shut and began beating at her body and legs swiping off mist that clung to her.
“Deb!” Hannah grabbed her sister’s shoulders and tried to stop her. “Deb, what’s happening?”
Deborah stopped and stared at Hannah, her eyes wild, long blonde hair a tangled mess. Pushing her glasses back up her nose with one finger, a gesture Hannah knew as a show of nervousness in her sister, Deborah whispered with strain, “I didn’t think anything would happen.”
“By the Three, what did you do?”
“I’m…,” Deborah hesitated. “I’m not sure. Johnathan and I…”
“Johnathan!” Hannah stepped back. “I thought you were done with that jerk.”
“Nevermind that!” Deborah screamed. “They took him!”
“What? Who took him?”
“I don’t know!” Deborah fell against the wall and slid down on her haunches. “The things in the mist.” She shrugged. “Maybe it was the mist.”
Hannah glared down at her sister. There was a reason that Aunt June had left everything to Hannah and not both sisters or even just Deborah. Deborah had no affinity for magic and no desire to learn.
Hannah spoke slowly. “Deborah, what did you do?”
Deborah’s shoulders were shaking with quiet tears. “I found one of Auntie’s old books when I was here last and took it home.”
Hannah made an exasperated sound. “You stole from me?”
“Borrowed!” Deborah looked up Hannah. “Borrowed. I was going to give it back.”
Hannah growled, “What did you do with it, Deb?”
“Johnathan found it and started looking through it, wanting to know if this was the kind of thing that my ‘weirdo sister’ believed in,” Deborah shook her head. “I tried to tell him it was real, but he started reading from it.”
Hannah looked ready to chew nails. “What book and what did he read?”
“Oh god, don’t hurt him, Hannah. I know that look.”
“What flipping book and what did he read?” Hannah shouted.
Deborah sagged. “Peadric’s Incantium. I don’t know what spell it was, but I remember what he said.”
Remembering the mist and now knowing the book, Hannah knew very well what Johnathan had read:
People of the mist
I summon thee!
“You have to help me, Hannah,” Deborah pleaded. “I think we’re in trouble.”
“You have no idea,” Hannah’s voice was far away.
I gave Tara Roberts this prompt: Memento Mori