It had started as a cupboard in an attic, all those years ago. Just a few silly trinkets, really. Childish adventures for children.
The evidence grew as they did. Literally. Now there was a dinosaur skull in the spare bedroom. Dash laughed, remembering how they took the door off the hinges to get it in there. Getting it up the stairs had been hard enough, but at the same time fun, as Simon screeched "PIVOT!!!" at the top of his lungs, quoting a line from a sitcom they'd watched two days earlier.
Dash's laugh faded, as did his smile. The skull was thick with dust in that funky old room and they'd lost Simon 23 years ago. He was never supposed to be the first to go, especially to something as fucking normal as angina. They'd battled old gods. They were supposed to have hearts as strong as oxen, all three of them.
A planchette squeaked as Dash trundled it along the arm of his chair. An old tartan blanket was tucked around his legs, keeping the draft from his knees. Sometimes when he picked at the wool, he found minute curls of moss and he would wonder whether it had spontaneously sprouted from within the weave, or if it was a relic from the picnic they had had one warm spring morning by the river. They'd watched kelpies, he and Marshall, as they wallowed in the loamy bank; hypnotic and magnificent and deadly. Dash had tossed one an apple and after they moved on Marshall took the plaster cast of a horseshoe that now sat above the fireplace.
It was black, the planchette. A traditional heart shape with a circular cut-out near the front. There was the ivory shape of a rabbit skull with winding antelope antlers painted on it. Dash didn't know if it had always had that design or if Marshall had painted it himself.
Two toothbrushes on the shelf in the bathroom, one red, one dark blue. A bar of soap that smells of lavender, that smells of Marshall. A pot plant that flowers once a month, the flowers always different, always somehow indicative of the kind of creatures they were likely to meet that month. Venus fly traps, orchids, roses, that massive sunflower that one time that the Egyptian God Ra tried to ride his flaming chariot down from the sky. They were terrible at remembering to water it, but at least in the bathroom the humidity kept it thriving.
Dash never liked the Ouija boards. Marshall kept them like most couples kept boring board games to bring out at parties once everyone is drunk enough to think that Twister is a good idea. A whole stack in one of the living room dressers, each with a history and an exorcism story. He never thought that Marshall was dumb enough to use them.
But then there had been a Simon shaped hole in their life. They took in his cat, his dog, his beloved lagomorph. But they weren't their owner.
He'd walked in on Marshall in the early hours one morning, when the house was quiet and he'd thought Dash was sleeping. He was hutched over the board, guilt making his spine curve in a manner that it just kept on bending in, in the following years. He looked stricken. Shadows hollowed his cheeks and eyes.
He'd wanted to talk to Simon, he had said. That was all.
The cat, the dog, even the rabbit were long gone now. All buried in the backyard. Antlers and all.
With a heavy breath, Dash pushed back the blanket. He gripped the planchette hard as he made his slow way through to his workroom. Past the newspaper clippings, framed on the wall. Past the white peacock feather ward. The edge of the pallet dug into his hand.
DVDs and recording equipment lined the back wall, outdated technology that even he barely had time for any more. Unseeing camera lenses watched as Dash sat down at this work bench and painted over the jackalope skull in a wash of black. He drummed his fingers on the bench waiting for the paint to dry.
His fingers shook as he began the line work. His hands always shook these days. Slowly and as precisely as he could, he began to paint the white shape of a key on the planchette.
It had only been three days, but he needed to talk to Marshall again.