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An Uninvited Guest

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“Whose bloody idea was this? I don’t like it,” Francis said. He’d been in a dark mood all evening after James has sprung the idea on him.

“Bit of a benjo,” Dundy had said.

“Aren’t we a little old for costume parties?” James asked.

“Speak for yourself! Anyway, it’s not a costume party. It’s a Halloween party. Cocktails. Candy. I think Gibson is hiring a woman to tell everyone’s fortunes.”

“Don’t invite Irving.”

“Too late. Cornelius did it just to fuck with him and Irving RSVP’ed yes out of spite.” Dundy held up his phone. “The Discord server is lit!”

“How old are you again?”

Francis did not like Hickey, who was completely unapologetic after trying to take his job, smiling and saying “can’t blame a guy for trying!” when he’d failed. But James was friends with Gibson, who was continually having to apologize for his “rat bastard husband,” and Francis and James knew most everyone else, and James had promised to do several very filthy things in exchange for Francis coming to the party with him.

“Who still wears costumes?” Francis asked.

“Not a costume party,” James countered. “But if you like, when we get back, I can put on the devil horns and nothing else.”

Francis was unusually quiet on the drive over, especially after James mentioned that someone was going to read tarot cards for the guests.

“A fortune teller?”

“Yes, why?”

Francis shook his head. “We shouldn’t be interfering with…that.”

“With what? Francis, what’s going on? Out with it.”

“You’ll think I’m mad,” was the terse reply.

“Try me.”

It took a bit more prying, but James managed to get it out. Francis’ grandmother had been “traditional.” There were a lot of dire warning about “not fucking with the faeries.” Francis emphasized that he didn’t “touch any of that,” including, but not limited to, fortune telling, seances, conjuring, and “witchy shit.”

“Half the time they don’t know what they’re doing and you don’t know what you’ll get. You could get something good…or something very bad.”

“All right. Francis, that’s fine.”

Francis harrumphed a response.

It wasn’t a costume party, but that didn’t stop Cornelius from dressing in something that seemed tasteless at best. James thought it was supposed to be Native American or First Nations, but the costume was cheap and tacky and Cornelius was definitely entirely English. Dundy showed up an hour later, wearing a very sparkly tiara and not much else.

“Is it underwear?” Francis asked.

“I think it’s a Speedo.”

They were about to leave when Gibson somehow talked James into going into the backroom for a spin at the “Luigi Board.”

“Don’t like this,” Francis said as he sat down at the table.

“You didn’t have to come, you know.”

“And leave me out there with Dundy? He’s found a golf club, who knows where, and is knighting people with it. Someone is going to lose an eye. No thank you. Besides, I…worry.”

James frowned and was going to ask more, but Cornelius had joined them, Gibson and Irving rounding out the group. When Francis had asked Irving why he’d come back with them, he’d muttered something about saving them all from Satan’s power. Then he closed his eyes and began to pray loudly.

It was a solid ten minutes of giggling and inane questions and Irving occasionally stating how this was the work of the devil, who was there, in that room with them.

“Is anyone here?” James asked. The planchette moved.

This is stupid,” Gibson said. “You’re moving the planchette.”

“Am not!” Hickey said loudly.

Y E S

“Good or bad?”

N O

“No,” Gibson said. “Who are you?”

N O

“Er. What. What are you?” James asked.

The planchette moved slowly as though choosing each letter with care. T…U…U…N…B…A…Q

“Tune-back? What the hell is a Tune-back?” That was Hickey.

Francis shifted in his seat. “I don’t like this.”

The planchette moved faster. E A T E R O F S O U L S

A candle guttered out next to James. Was it colder? He felt a chill across his back, the hair at the base of his head standing up.

“Who….eater of souls?” That was Irving, sounding slightly alarmed.

T H O S E W H O T R E S P A S S H U R T M O C K

“James, we should-”

The planchette jerked around the board. James thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He whipped his head around, seeing nothing, but feeling a breeze along his cheek. He looked over at Francis, whose shoulders were hunching up.

“Francis, do you-”

Y O U H A V E T R E S P A S S E D

“Who?”

C O R N E L I U S I S N O T Y O U R N A M E

“Fuck,” Hickey muttered. James’ hands were stuck fast to the planchette which was moving faster and faster, ricocheting from letter to letter. Irving began chanting the Lord’s prayer.

D E C E I T L I E S

The temperature had dropped. Another candle snuffed out, leaving the room lit by one tealight that was threatening to go out entirely. Shadows danced about as the candle flickered wildly. Gibson was being nearly wrenched across the table like a ragdoll, unable to let go of the planchette.

F E E D T O N I G H T F E E D O N Y O U R S O U L

“James,” Francis’ eyes were wide with fear. James’ stomach dropped. Francis was never afraid of anything. “James, we shouldn’t be here.”

“I…” James looked up. The shadows…were there things there? He thought he could see shapes. Something…dancing? Some large shape lumbered behind Hickey, who looked pale. Wind there was wind, they were indoors, how was there wind was swirling around them, catching the edges of Hickey’s loose garment and the ends of James’ hair.

“We shouldn’t be here, this is-”

Y O U R T R A N S G R E S S I O N S P A Y M E N T I S D U E

Hickey laughed hollowly. “Transgressions, that’s a mighty big word for a Tan-buck-”

With a crack, the planchette went spinning off the board, clipping Hickey on the forehead, who fell backwards with a cry, the spell broken. The shadows stopped, the candle’s flame stilled, the pressure that had been building popped like a soap bubble.

“I told you, we shouldn’t have meddled with this fuckery,” Francis said, grabbing James’ hand, pulling him up, a muted “ow” coming from the floor as Gibson nearly hopped over the table to tend to Hickey.

Irving’s face was bloodless. “It was Satan! The devil was here!”

“Yes, we’ve gathered,” James said. He let Francis drag him away from the table.

The door burst open with a bang as it hit the wall, everyone starting at the noise. Dundy stepped in, carrying a tray with paper cups. The crown was listing severely.

“You all look like you’ve just seen a ghost. Jell-o shots anyone?”