Faint laughter and pulsing bass spill out into the night. Multicoloured lights, hooked up on the patio roof, gleam dimly off the slick pavement, strobe in the empty tree branches. The air is heavy with the musky scent of rain and decomposing leaves.
It’s a beautiful autumn night, and Dipper’s head feels like it’s about to explode.
He only stepped out onto the porch for fresh air. The largest—and loudest, and hottest, and most claustrophobic—Halloween party in Gravity Falls is, surprisingly to no one except Dipper, because apparently that roving band of Sasquatches last week killed his brain cells alongside his pride, loud. And hot. And claustrophobic.
Also haunted, he’s pretty sure, but hey, that’s neither here nor there.
When he arrived half an hour ago, by Mabel’s side with a six pack of hard cider tucked under his arm and demon horns perched on his head in the most perfunctory of costumes, he’d done a double take at how the boards of the house hum with supernatural energy. Not that that in itself is unusual. Plenty of old houses have auras, sense-memories of their own histories, especially around Halloween—the one time a year supernatural chicanery is par for the course, and the one time a year Dipper gets to use the word chicanery without Mabel pulling a face at him. He still can’t walk through Northwest Manor without his sinuses itching like he has to sneeze. But otherwise bland, unassuming McMansions? Not so much.
Still, it’s Halloween, and Mabel hadn’t seemed bothered, so Dipper made the since-regrettable decision to suck it up.
The breeze picks up, sending dry leaves skittering down the street, and Dipper shivers and leans forward on the porch railing, shoulders hunched against the cold. There’s a reason no one’s milling around out here, even though someone’s made a valiant effort at setting up gravestones in the yard. It is, to put it simply, cold as hell. Colder. At least the Ninth Circle isn’t damp.
Something shatters inside the house, to raucous cheers. Dipper’s debating whether it’s worth braving that nauseous pounding again to grab a drink, whether being drunk will take the edge off his energy-induced headache, whether he’s devoting far too much thought to this, and whether or not he cares, when—
It’s like someone dumps a bucket of ice water over his head. A chill shoots down Dipper’s spine, and he jerks upright, reeling.
He takes it back: this is nothing like Northwest Manor. This is no mere impression. This is a deluge of power, searing across his mind and slicing along the backs of his eyes; for a disorienting heartbeat, he swears his vision actually goes negative, even though he’s not even in the house and should by all rights be outside the affected radius.
It’s the first no-brainer he’s been faced with in a while. Whatever’s in that house, it just woke up.
Dipper is shoving the door open before he realizes it—probably because he’s shoving the door open before the bright, wavering spots have stopped turning loop-de-loops in his vision. Inside, it smells like weed and sweat and whatever the plastered people clustered around the Ping-Pong table have been drinking. Dipper pays them no mind, legs carrying him past the speaker set up in the foyer and into, no, through the kitchen in a haze.
He turns off the main hallway, and winds up in a quiet, secluded stairwell. Its mahogany panelling is a stark contrast to the house’s mashed potato-coloured exterior, glistening like cherry wine or something more sinister; for the first time, Dipper feels a tug of unease. The wrought-iron chandelier makes strange shadows of the balustrade.
As he mounts the steps, he admits to himself that this is pretty much exactly how he pictured the night going. The paranormal is a full-time job, and the pay is minimum wage at the Mystery Shack.
“Hello?” Dipper calls once he reaches the top of the stairs. He glances down the hall warily: someone’s artistically draped cobwebs halfway up the newel post, at which point he can only assume they got artistically bored and went to shotgun a Coors Light. “Uh… good magical anomalies? Not-hungry-for-human-flesh anomalies?”
There’s no answer. There are, however, several doors farther down the hall.
The buzzing behind Dipper’s temples grows louder and more insistent as he approaches them. Unwilling to be a horror movie trope, he yanks the first door open quickly—and is greeted by a washroom with marble tiling.
The contents of the next door are similarly anticlimactic, as far as aggressively lemon-scented linen closets go, so it’s with a false sense of security that he pushes the third door open. And stops dead.
He squints into the room. Though there aren’t any lights on that he can see, in the odd, flickering semidarkness he can still make out faint outlines: the lump of a bed shoved into the corner, the shapes of bodies huddled together, the… oh. Oh.
Dipper flushes violently. “Sorry!” he yelps, yanking the door shut before he can see any more of anyone than he wants to. Then he pauses, hand still on the doorknob.
“Wait a second,” he says.
Candles gutter when Dipper shoves the door open again. They’re arranged in a loose orange circle on the floor, little wax pumpkins with wicks for stems and the labels still attached—100% ORGANIC! 100% PUMPKIN SPICE! 50% CRUELTY-FREE!—and yet they manage to be the least confusing thing about the scene. That honour goes to the ring of girls dressed in—are those cat costumes?—clustered in deep conversation around a thick, leather-bound book. It’s as out of place as the Necronomicon in Mean Girls. There’s a twisting design chalked onto the floorboards between them, and Dipper’s heart stutters.
“Hey,” snaps the girl holding the tome—Chloe, she’s in his Latin class. Her mascaraed-on whiskers crinkle as she scowls at him. “A little privacy here?”
Actually, Dipper realizes, they’re all in his Latin class. And all staring right at him.
It crosses his mind that he should say something… wise, maybe? Thought-provoking? Something like what Ford would say. Something that’ll get them to set down the book of dark rites and not make whatever poor decision this is about to be.
“This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” he informs the room at large.
A couple girls exchange glances. Chloe’s scowl deepens, and she huffs, “I don’t remember asking for your opinion. Do I even know you?”
“Um… we sit next to each other? So yeah, I mean, probably?”
“Hi, Dipper,” a girl in the back says, dropping her hand hurriedly when Chloe shoots her a glare. Chloe heaves a melodramatic sigh and plants her free hand on her hip.
“Not that we have to explain ourselves to you, Dipper, but Latin Club’s getting extra credit. And yes, it is too late to get in on this.” She waves the book like a visual prop. “If you wanted five percent added to your last test, you should’ve read our pamphlets like everyone else. Plus, extracurriculars look great on resumes. Still think it’s dumb?”
“I’m choosing to believe that’s a rhetorical question,” says Dipper, mentally graduating from what the hell? to why the hell? and taking a step into the room, eyes fixed warily on the book. “Also, just a suggestion, but next time a teacher says they’ll give you extra credit for dying, maybe report them to the authorities instead of, you know, taking them up on it?”
Chloe rolls her eyes. “Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you actually buy this crap. Mummies? Cursed knives? The gold standard? This thing’s ancient.” She gives the book a firm slap, and Dipper feels his eye twitch—it’s like watching someone play hacky sack with a grenade. The fact that being in this room is doing for his headache what water does to a grease fire decidedly isn’t helping.
“Maybe don’t smack the occult book of dubious origin.” Dipper hesitates. Dread swarms up his spine, settles somewhere behind his sternum. “Wait, where did you get that?”
The cover of the book is weathered with age; what little of the writing he can make out gleams wetly, even in the firelight, and suspicious dark patches bloom across the page. The tome doesn’t look like one of the fresh-off-the-conveyor-belt knockoffs pawned at gift shops around town. It looks like it belongs in a locked case in Ford’s private study. It looks serious.
And the Latin Club are… wearing matching cat costumes.
“This isn’t one of your uncle’s weird roadside mysteries,” Chloe says dismissively. “Besides, it’s not like we’re sacrificing a virgin or anything. We just chant some gibberish about the illusion of reality, and boom! Free credits.”
Dipper imagines her head going boom!, mushy grey matter spelling out free credits, because all demons’ senses of humour are objectively terrible, and grimaces. “That’s really… not how it works. At all.”
“Like you know anything about this stuff.”
“I know enough to see this is a stupid idea, which is obviously more than you!”
“Oh my god, Chloe,” another girl whines. Her cat ears are purple, for diversity’s sake. “You said this would take five minutes. There’s a party going on, and we’re just standing around talking to some weirdly glittery guy—here, gimme that.”
In a deft movement, she snatches the book out of Chloe’s hands and riffles through the pages, ignoring Chloe’s indignant squawk. For a single, shining moment, Dipper comforts himself with the infinitesimal odds of her landing on something genuinely dangerous.
Then she thrusts her hand into the air and yells, “Triangulum entangulum, meteforis dominus ventium,” and Dipper remembers that the universe hates him personally.
Her arm gesture is as stupid-looking as it is unnecessary—unfortunately, spells don’t take optics into account. Dipper’s exasperation is buried under a low whooshing as the candles flare blue, bathing the walls in a cold light and filling the room with the scent of pumpkin spice. There’s a sucking feeling suddenly, like all the air is being drawn into the circle, like it’s taking a breath, and Dipper has to reach for his own magic to resist its pull. The door slams shut on his heels with the finality of a gavel.
“Why would you do that,” he shouts. Screw it. Yeah, wanton spellcasting is bad, but letting whatever these idiots have up their sleeves run rampant through the rest of the house is the textbook definition of so much worse. Everyone’s focused on the circle, anyway: Dipper’s halfway through looping a muffling charm around the room with vague notions about quarantining the crazy—noise means more people, and more people mean more potential victims, which is a perfectly lovely, non-serial killer thought to have—when his eyes land on a glyph, and the incredulous laughter that threatens to bubble out of his throat catches him off-guard.
All colour seeps from the floorboards, the paintings on the walls. The drone in Dipper’s ears becomes a full-out roar; this time, several girls yelp and clap their hands over the sides of their heads alongside him. He squints and shields his eyes as a single point coalesces in the circle, burning brighter even as the world dims—forming arms and legs and a person. Ozone crackles, and the chalked-on runes pulse with power, sending the girls staggering to the floor. Only Dipper’s magical anchor keeps him upright.
Laughter echoes off the rafters. The lithe silhouette in the circle straights and shakes out its arms, looking less like a silhouette every second. Last to form is a dark silk bowtie that wraps itself around the demon’s neck with a flourish like a ribbon on a present—and then Dipper’s looking into a familiar face.
Uh-oh, he thinks, in lieu of several creative curse words.
Bill cracks his neck to one side, then the other, and crows, “WHOO! I’ve always wanted to be summoned on All Hallows’ Eve. It’s on my bucket list between learning to play the harmonica and BRINGING BACK DRAWING-AND-QUARTERING. Thanks for making this dream demon’s dream a horrifying reality, guys! NO SPOILERS, but someone’s DEFINITELY getting Hereditary’d!”
The girls are frozen where they fell, staring up at Bill. The greyish tinge to their faces makes it painfully clear they weren’t kidding when they said they didn’t expect this to work. Though, Dipper supposes, a touch pettily, the painful part could just be Bill.
Bill floats gently to the floor, grinning widely. He spins a cane from out of nothing and leans on it. “But hey, where’re my manners? LEMME GET A GOOD LOOK AT ALL YOUR FACES BEFORE I MELT ’EM OFF!” Eye bright, he sweeps his gaze over their cowering forms and crooked cat ears, and arches an eyebrow. “Sheesh, what are you, some kinda FAILURE OF GENE SPLICING? I’ve heard of unethical science, but this takes the embryonic death-shaped cake!”
“Eh, cheer up!” Bill winks at her. “For every mistake of nature, there’re freaks who’re into—”
His gaze lands on Dipper, the only other person still on their feet, and his expression of unadulterated glee falters. “Pine Tree?”
“Hi, Bill,” grumbles Dipper.
“Pine Tree!” Bill’s delighted smile is back and brighter than ever. “Well well WELL well! Just when I thought this night couldn’t get any better. No one told me you’d be making an appearance.” His eye catches on the horns poking of Dipper’s hair; lingers. “And what an appearance it is.”
Dipper crosses his arms and leans back against the door, cheeks heating despite himself. He wishes he had a cap to pull over these stupid, cutesy horns. He wishes Mabel hadn’t sprinkled glitter over him before they left. He wishes he’d stayed home to watch horror movies, he wishes the Latin Club had even one brain between them, he wishes Bill didn’t always look so ridiculously put together—even entertains a fantasy of rubbing his excess glitz off onto that immaculately pressed shirt before he squashes the thought flat.
“I was about to say the same. That’s a surprisingly benign form for you, especially on Halloween. I would’ve expected… I don’t know, a horrifying cloud of autonomous blood, or something.”
“Making a note of that one for the future, JUST FOR YOU! But how’s the saying go: when in Rome, do as teenage girls’ imaginations do?” Bill smooths his hands down his shirt and flashes Dipper a coquettish grin. “You like it? C’mon, you can say you like it.”
Bill’s human form is lean and angular, golden in a sun-kissed way, and Dipper can concede that he looks. Not terrible. He has very nice… eyebrows. There’s nothing dangerous about admitting someone has nice eyebrows.
There’s even less dangerous about changing the subject. Dipper slips his hands into his pockets and says sardonically, “Well, whatever you’re doing, don’t let me interrupt. What’s it this time? Corrupting young minds? Stealing candy? Encouraging staying out past bedtime?”
“Oh, this?” Bill waves a disinterested hand at the quaking Latin Club. “Nah, you’re not interrupting. This I can do anytime. But enough about me—how’ve you been? Good? You look good. Glittery.” If Dipper were more prone to temporary lapses of sanity, he’d call the look Bill gives him appreciative. “SPARE NO TEDIOUS, QUOTIDIAN DETAIL. I’m here all night!”
“Nope,” Dipper says. “You’re here for, like, five more minutes before I send you back to the Mindscape, so you’d better enjoy them. Get all your wordplay out now. Or, you know. Don’t.”
“There’s the Pine Tree I know and love! It feels like it’s been forever since I had that GENERAL IRRITATION TOWARD MY EXISTENCE directed at me. Here, kid, don’t be a stranger!”
In a flash of black, Bill’s cane swings out—but it reaches the edge of the circle and glances off the air in a shower of sparks. Bill frowns. He presses a palm flat against the space in front of him, and the circle flares with a blue barrier that fades away a second later. Muttering something that sounds suspiciously like, Can’t even rely on sycophants to screw up these days, he looks up, and makes hopeful grabby hands at Dipper.
Dipper snorts a laugh. “You really are dreaming.”
“That’s undignified,” Dipper informs him. “That’s—no. Stop.”
How Bill manages to resemble a kicked kitten while being six feet of demon is anyone’s guess, but a couple Latin Club members make stifled squeaking sounds, so maybe girls are into that sort of—
Oh, shit. The girls. Dipper should probably feel worse about completely forgetting they exist.
A few of them—the brains of the bunch, which is a fun oxymoron—have scooted back against the walls. More have edged forward, closer to the circle and the shine of Bill’s hair. Dipper shoots them a warning look.
“Get out of here, guys. I mean, you did very much bring this upon yourselves, and seriously, I cannot stress enough how completely moronic this idea was—”
“—but Bill’s not safe for… people like you to be around. Go play beer pong, or redraw your whiskers in the bathroom, or something, and I’ll take care of—”
Naturally, that’s when Chloe makes a break for the circle.
“Dammit,” Dipper swears. He doesn’t think: he just moves, blinking in-and-out of existence, knocking her unceremoniously back on her ass as he materializes in her path. She scrambles away from him, expression stuck somewhere between confused and alarmed. He glowers down at her and…
And realizes his sneakers are planted solidly within the glowing bounds of the circle.
Bill’s breath is warm on his neck. “Come here often?”
“Here, specifically? Or other people’s creepy attics in general?” The circle is big enough for Dipper to turn around and fix Bill with a flat look; not quite big enough for him to do it comfortably. Like this, their shoulders brush together. Bill smells like crushed leaves and candle smoke and a spicy note Dipper is momentarily tempted to lean forward to place—do demons wear cologne?
“What, Party City cat costume got your tongue?” Bill asks, amused—and then he’s idly carding a hand through Dipper’s hair, nimble fingers catching on the horns, and right, shit, Bill is touchy, yeah okay this is still totally fine. “You do look cute, you know,” he remarks, either oblivious to or savouring Dipper’s sudden stiffness. “Like looking in a Christocentric mirror!”
“You raging narcissist,” Dipper snorts. He tries to ignore how good Bill’s nails feel scratching lightly over his scalp. “You look nice, too, Bill.”
It’s a glaring statement of the obvious—as any one of the girls currently undressing Bill with their eyes can attest; seriously, where are their self-preservation instincts?—yet Bill still preens. “Aww, you flatterer, you.”
His hand drops, but in a way that his arm ends up slung around Dipper’s shoulders, his body a warm weight against Dipper’s side. Dipper should shrug him off: letting a demon dangle off you like an oversized cat is, to the general public, not done, and to relatives to Stanford Pines, utterly unheard of. If Ford walked in right now, he’d probably have a heart attack. With Dipper’s luck, it would be treated as an assassination.
He decides he’ll get around to rebuffing Bill in a minute. It has been a while.
Bill sniffs, nose crinkling. “Is that pumpkin spice? Hey, TEENAGERS IN VARIOUS STAGES OF WETTING THEMSELVES, is there a reason it smells like overpriced coffee in here?”
The girls are still trembling on the floor, but one of them, short and heavily freckled, wobbles to her feet. “Um,” she says, swallowing hard. She keeps cutting her eyes between Dipper and Bill with a look like disbelief. “Demon guy. Hi. Yeah. They—Starbucks, I mean—were having a two-for-one sale on, um, candles, and Madison and I were like, wow, this is perfect, haha, so we… we. Uh.”
Dipper can’t see the kind of look Bill is giving her, but her voice trails off, the way Mabel’s did that one time the guy she asked out told her that he’d love to see a movie with her, but shucks, he had a migraine scheduled for that night. “We bought the candles,” she finishes, feebly.
“Tell him he has a nice ass,” another girl whispers, and a giggle goes up from the crowd.
Dipper bristles. He doesn’t try to; he’s not usually one for bristling. He just… he maybe levels the girl that spoke with a look, and she maybe goes white and averts her eyes—which is a perfectly fine and normal thing to do, because she shouldn’t be staring at Bill’s ass. She’s in serious danger. Bill is seriously dangerous.
And yeah, he does have a nice ass. So what? No one asked her to look.
Bill chuckles. “Wow. PAINFUL PUBLIC HONESTLY, and I didn’t even have to fish for it! That’s a good quality in a NAÏVE, IMPRESSIONABLE MIND. Say, this barrier’s hard to chat through, and I get the feeling you’ve got lots to say—why not hop on over?”
“Absolutely do not do that,” Dipper says.
“Hey!” Despite his affronted tone, Bill sets his chin placidly on Dipper’s shoulder. “I resent that.”
“Yeah, and I’ll resent having to explain the simultaneous mysterious disappearances of my classmates. We all have to do things we don’t like, man.”
Chloe, who is either the bravest or stupidest but definitely the most annoying person Dipper’s ever had the misfortune of meeting, starts forward. Dipper squints at her. “Do you actually want to die, Chloe? Don’t step inside the circle.”
“Why not?” she challenges, jerking her chin at him. “You’re in the circle, and you’re fine.”
“Yeah, but me and PT go way back,” says Bill cheerfully. His arm is still wrapped comfortably around Dipper’s shoulders, and he leans on him as he tosses her a conspiratorial wink. “You, I wouldn’t think twice about eviscerating, Rum Tum Tugger. That said, why don’t you come on in here? We’ll make it FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY! Which reminds me: you might wanna talk dear ol’ dad into a more thorough checkup with the doctor. Can’t spell remission without MISS!”
She blanches, shrinking back, and Dipper whacks Bill’s arm—more lightly than he’d care to admit. “You don’t need to be an asshole about it.”
“Hey, it’s more effective than whatever you were doing. Trust me, I know mortals: when one of you gives a cryptic warning, the others ‘ooh, I’m special!’ their way into the belly of the beast. Look, I’d love if she came into the circle. That’d be great for me.”
Dipper, who’s still in the circle, being used as an armrest by the demon, raises an eyebrow. “Am I going to regret this?”
“Course not,” says Bill as though it should be obvious. “You are special.”
“Gee, way to give me the warm fuzzies, man,” Dipper says wryly, to cover how it does sort of make a stupid corner of his chest glow the same sunny yellow as Bill. He tilts his head back, the closest his dignity will let him get to basking in the sunlamp of Bill’s magic across his skin, then sighs. “So, are you going to wipe their memories, or am I?”
“Wait, what?” a girl says.
“Ehh, it should probably be you. Flesh brains are so finicky, and you’ve got a lighter touch. We don’t wanna obliterate the part of their brains that controls breathing.” Bill pauses hopefully. “Or maybe we do?”
“Tempting as it might be,” Dipper says, “we definitely don’t.”
“Hold on, huh?” Chloe’s still shaken: her face is pale when she stares at them. “What are you talking about? Magic… isn’t real. And—and even if it were, don’t you need the book? Aren’t those the rules? The magic rules? Those are a thing, right? God, I knew I should’ve read Harry Potter.”
“Shut up,” Bill suggests, toying absently with Dipper’s hair.
“You have to tell us what’s going on. Like, legally, probably. This is—this is insane! You’re insane!”
Dipper raises his hands, placating. “Okay, yeah. I guess it’s only fair that you guys get the truth now. Look, I can explain everything if you just listen.” He makes his voice soft, as soothing as he knows how, and unconsciously, the girls lean in to hear better—as he twists his fingers and says, “Cognitio vacui capitis.”
Their faces go blank. None of them collapse, which is a relief—people have a tendency to when their minds are being scrubbed—but one does sway slightly, body unsure how to respond as Dipper’s magic methodically dissolves the last hour into white noise.
“You’re at a party,” he tells their slack, relaxed forms. “There’s punch downstairs. You must be pretty thirsty. Why don’t you go get some?”
Bill watches the Latin Club file out of the room in dazed lockstep with satisfaction. “HAH! That never gets old.”
“Yeah, well, let’s not make a habit out of it.” Dipper shakes the cramps out of his hands. “Most of the citizens of this town are brain-damaged enough without our help.”
“Speaking of brain damage, how’s that uncle of yours?”
“Pine Tree,” Bill mimics, playfully bumping Dipper’s hip with his own. Dipper can’t bring himself to be annoyed. The air is thick with incense, one of Bill’s hands is brushing absent little circles into the skin above his hip, and if he’s honest, his concentration is going a bit hazy around the edges. The room is empty save for the two of them, and shadows are gathering in the corners as the candles burn down to orange stubs: soon they’ll die completely, and the summoning will pass.
Dipper finds himself wishing the Latin Club were less terrible at magic, or at least had the foresight to buy actual candles. This is hardly any time at all.
“Y’know, Yule’s practically right around the corner,” Bill says casually.
Dipper sighs, equal parts resigned and fond. “I sense a sales pitch coming on.”
“Hey, you know you love it! And I know that your sister’s been trying to reverse-engineer the recipe for those pareidolia shortbread cookies all year. Did she ever manage to crack the secret ingredient on her own? ’Cause I’d be MORE THAN HAPPY to tell her. In the flesh.”
Mabel does love those cookies. “If the secret ingredient is human meat, I’m turning you in for plagiarism and letting the NBC have their way with you,” Dipper warns, but there’s no heat behind it.
“Are you insinuating I’d rip off an M.O.? Yeowch, right in the ego.”
“Not like it’s a small target. Bruising your ego is a step above hitting the side of a barn.”
“Sheesh, kid, you sure you don’t just wanna get out the sticks and stones? CALL ME CRAZY, but I’m starting to suspect you’re not actually enamoured with the thrills of chilling shortbread dough twice. I sure hope you’re not with me for my body, because it tends to come and—”
Dipper rolls his eyes and turns in the hold, cutting Bill off with a kiss. He pulls back, resting their foreheads together, fingers easily rumpling Bill’s collar. “I’ll see you over the holidays, you big triangular baby,” he murmurs.
Bill gives him a glowing grin. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’d say I’ll see you too, but we both know I’m always watc— oh, are you kidding me? Right in the middle of my sentence? RUDE.”
That last part is in response to the last of the candles finally guttering out. Almost immediately, a wave of smoky nothingness begins to billow up from Bill’s shoes: his skin goes cloudy and immaterial, and his hands on Dipper’s shoulders suddenly feel like they’re a long way off.
Dipper’s seen demon summonings end plenty of times—he’s even dismissed a few himself. Somehow, though, it always feels different when it’s Bill.
“Ha,” Dipper says, over the disappointed tightness in his throat. “Looks like you’ve discovered the downside of speaking in supervillain monologues all the time.”
Bill makes a face at him. His lips move in something undoubtably caustic, but Dipper can no longer hear him. He barely manages to give Dipper’s forehead a lighthearted flick before he fades away like an old photograph, and Dipper’s left standing alone in the unlit circle, feeling cold everywhere they’d been touching.
Dipper lets out a breath, then glances at the materials still strewn around him. He bends down.
The wax has already hardened into the cracks between the floorboards, because of course it has. It’s still Halloween, it’s still a party, and Dipper has his work cut out for him cleaning up the evidence of supernatural activity—but as he gingerly gathers up the book, smears chalk sigils into unrecognizable oblivion, he realizes there’s a small smile lingering on his lips.
He tells himself it’s because he’ll be spared Stan’s charred, coagulated brick of a fruitcake this winter.
The burnt-leaves scent hanging amidst the pumpkin spice isn’t too bad, either, he supposes.