Summoning DemonsThe chants rose slowly, shaping sounds not part of any human language. The acrid smoke of incense swirled as the air in the closed chamber started to move. Only when the candle flames changed from their natural colour to a dim midnight blue the glow of the diagram drawn on the floor with unsavoury substances became apparent. It brightened, spitting sparks as the chants crescendoed. A flash of light and a thunder strike, then silence, broken by genteel coughing.A strange figure stood in the summoning circle, short, and with a fringe of hair framing its properly bald head."William Aloysius Coltrane.""Yes?""You have been summoned and bound to our service.""What?" The man in the circle straightened his glasses and peered up at the speaker. His opposite was about nine foot tall. The horns and goat's legs and all seemed to be way too realistic for a mask used in a prank."You will serve as our accountant for a year and a day."A glance at the even more disturbing other figures around th
Magic Running in the FamilyNora had not seen her grandmother in over a decade. Her parents had moved so far away visits were inconvenient, and were postponed to "next year", until it was too late.The conversation with and between the rest of the family was awkward, punctuated by sobs and too-long hugs. She turned her attention to the knicknacks around the room, and the memories the familiar one awoke. A box-frame holding a single feather caught her eye.The phoenix feather. I remember. It was magic. Now she recognised it for a simple red feather with glued-on glitter.After some careful negotiation with her father and his sisters, she took it to the funeral, to place it in her grandmother's coffin.A year later, and in the second trimester, she stood in a crafts shop, in one hand goose feathers, dyed, in the other a small jar of duo-colour metallic paint, red and gold, contemplating magic in children's eyes.
Skin ProblemsJoan liked the feeling of insects crawling over her skin. It meant they were not stuck under it anymore.For a short while during puberty she had thought everyone who got zits had to squeeze little bugs from them occasionally. The reactions to her mentioning it taught her differently. The reactions to her demonstrating so people would stop calling her a liar taught her to keep it secret.She told herself that it wasn't so bad. It was normal for her, like his red-green-blindness was normal for her father. And anyway it was just one or two at a time, and it wasn't that much worse than popping another fat zit. And acne would fade away after puberty.Ony for Joan it didn't.Living in a new town on her own, no-one who knew asked how she was doing. It made it easier to pretend to be normal, which made up for the few insect zits that grew on her back, where she couldn't reach them. They would grow hard and painful, until the small bug inside was ready to crawl out.Gradually, things grew wors