Thursday Thousand: Between Two Lungs

In February of 2019, I began a short project where I had to post a short story every week, on Thor’s Day, that had only one parameter: it had to be, had minimum, 1000 words long. It could be any genre, any length beyond that, and could even contain mild cliffhangers! Why? Because some of those definitely turned into novels, let’s be honest here. It was in an effort to get myself working, and, suffice to say, it worked. Two of my last posts for the project were first chapters of finished novels that Thursday Thousand helped me get back to. Around Halloween last year, I wanted to bring this project back for a special one-month adventure of spooky stories, and it was a lot of fun. And now, here I am, craving it again.

I like writing short stories not because I want them to go anywhere, or even because I’m hoping a new novel idea will sprout (though that usually happens), but because I like to dive into quick stories while I’m in the midst of writing a series of novels. When I’m deep in the middle of writing in my vast universe, it can get a little lonely, and I like to occasionally stretch my words outside of it. This is in no way saying that Thursday Thousand is back for good. Honestly, I cannot write a new short story every week, and, if I do, they’re just going to be the Greek mythos and planets stories all over again because I’ll start looking for an out and just turn to something that’s easy. But, every once in a while, I’d like to throw a short story up, maybe aim for once a month, we’ll see.

For this next installment, I actually did exactly what I just said I didn’t usually do, and I wrote this for a novel. It’s not one that I’m writing just yet, but it’s one that came to me recently, that fits really well into my bigger universe, and that definitely needs a little more time to percolate. And so, though I don’t have the space or time to write it right now, I wanted to play with the characters, get to know them, and just open my eyes a little more to the possibilities that this new idea could bring. ALL OF THIS IS JUST SUCH A LIE. That was my original plan. Write the short story so I stop dreaming about this every second, and then shift back to what I’m “supposed” to be working on. And yet, here I am, with 56k words written and the end all planned out. SIGH. Anyway, it’s taken a swift turn in a different direction from the story below, but many of the same elements are still there, so I’m still sharing it.

between two lungs

Freddie was here.  Hugo didn’t even have to see him to know this for truth.  The library was holding its breath, waiting for something to explode in a flurry of carefully preserved books and unintentional menace.  Hugo knew, rationally, that Freddie never actually meant any harm, but intention was a thing forgotten when there was shattered glass and overturned tea involved, staining everything in sight.

The librarian already on duty looked up as Hugo approached the main desk, and Hugo weathered an all-suffering sigh aimed at him.  He wasn’t sure when he had become Freddie’s keeper, but the other librarians were always quick to remove themselves from all possible responsibility the second Hugo arrived.  “Onde está ele?” Hugo asked as he set a few brown fingers against the desk.

The librarian tipped his head to the side, swinging it back lightly.  “Mitologia grega,” he said with a sour twist to his mouth.  It was more of a formality, asking where Freddie was, for he’d been haunting the Greek mythology section for weeks now.  Hugo knew that, after a straight month poring over Arabic mythology, Freddie would likely move onto a different country soon, but the Greeks had always held a lot of fascination for their resident madman.

“Obrigado,” Hugo said over his shoulder.  He paced away from the desk, passing through the dramatically ornate library.  Joanina was the kind of place that tourists came to gawk at, with its gold filigree and meticulously painted ceilings.  With cherubs floating in the high corners and a massive picture of John V hanging between two golden curtains, the wood dark and somber, and ladders required for every shelf, Biblioteca Joanina was a thing to behold.  Even after years inside its echoing rooms, Hugo still found himself mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it.

When he found Freddie, it was in a room with patterns inlaid in the stone floor, truly enormous mahogany tables detailed with gold, and locked, glass windows over the books.  One of the tables was overflowing with priceless tomes spread about, papers scribbled with Freddie’s furious script, an inkwell that looked precariously ready to tip, and that was not even to start on the fact that Freddie was currently opening one of the locked windows.  Hugo paused just over the threshold to try to regain his composure.

Whoever had given Freddie a godsdamn key was going to regret it.

The state of his dress led Hugo to believe he’d been here for hours already.  Freddie’s tweed jacket was discarded, and though it’d likely started on a chair, it was now slumped helplessly on the floor.  His pale brown sweater was pushed up to his elbows, obscuring the darker brown patches there, and one side of the white collar underneath was sticking out.  His tortoise shell glasses were shoved into his mess of red hair, and though Hugo knew, realistically, that freckles couldn’t look any different than the day previous, Freddie’s certainly had a frenzied look about them.  They dominated every bare stretch of skin, scattering across his face, his forearms, even the pale pink of his mouth.

“Who gave you a key?” Hugo asked instead of a proper greeting.

Freddie, always ready for a lecture at any given second, whipped around in such a fluid moment that Hugo wanted to stab him with his own pen.  For all the disarray that followed Freddie like a plague, the researcher himself was a graceful, carefully controlled man.  His glasses flew out of his hair with one hand, and the other brandished at the table.  The glass window banged shut behind him.  Hugo winced, but Freddie was already on the move, babbling, “The blood is misleading.  Why does every single text speak so highly of it, if not to divert attention?  It’s a purposeful goose hunt.  If we’re so fixated on blood as a sacrifice, we might not look at anything else.  Hugo, venha aqui.”

Hugo bit his tongue over the words that wanted to spit out—saying it in Portuguese won’t make me obey you any quicker—and stepped into the room, crossing over to where Freddie was pointing excitedly at a book.  Hugo steadied the inkwell before he deigned to follow Freddie’s freckled finger.  He intended to just humor Freddie, to give him a small amount of attention so that he might be distracted into lecturing about why blood sacrifices weren’t a good idea again, and while he was pacing and gesturing wildly, Hugo would steal back the key, lock up the windows, and patiently wait for Freddie to finish.

But intentions are a thing forgotten sometimes, and Hugo went still, frowning, as he got distracted reading what Freddie was pointing at.  “Exactly,” Freddie said emphatically as Hugo took a step closer.

“Mas—”

“Everything that talks about blood sacrifices doesn’t actually talk about a successful summoning,” Freddie said, his voice gone quiet so that it rang only between the two of them, “They just discuss the immoral qualities of a blood sacrifice and how such a thing might lead to a demonic appearance.  But this—”

“But mugwort is just a—a—” Hugo shook his head, looking away from the book and over at Freddie, who was already waiting for him to look up.  There was a quiet sort of excitement in his brown eyes that Hugo hadn’t seen there before, something that spoke of possibility and actually attempting this thing Freddie had been researching for years.  “It’s a wildflower,” Hugo said softly, mirroring Freddie’s quiet.

“Exactly,” Freddie said.  Hugo knew he wanted to say more, too, but Freddie held himself still, waiting.  Hugo’s intentions went out the window, and after a slow exhale, he nodded.  Freddie, given the rare permission of Hugo’s undivided attention, quickly walked away, trusting that Hugo would follow.  They stopped at the other end of the table, a book slipping off the edge that Hugo saved, carefully repositioning on a stand nearby.  He’d barely gotten it situated on the stand when Freddie rifled through its pages, flinging back several chapters.  “This one discusses blood sacrifices, so I intended to ignore it at first,” he said as he stopped on a gruesome image of a goat with its throat cut, “But goats go too well in hand with the devil, so it seemed too on the nose, sim?  So I kept reading, and—” he flung back to the chapter he’d had open, and though he was handling the book in a brusque, Freddie-specific manner, he was gentle with the pages.

Truthfully, though there had been Freddie-related explosions over the years, no books had ever come to harm except one, and Freddie’s employer had donated such an extraordinary amount of money to the library in response that the other librarians mostly forgot about the destroyed book.  He was careful with the books, despite the fact that he occasionally dropped them or nearly spilled tea on them.

Freddie tapped the new page firmly.

Hugo’s frown got a little deeper.  “Wormwood?” he repeated the text.

“Every single text discussing blood sacrifice is written by a man.  But those that discuss something vastly different are written by women under a man’s pseudonym, or are even quoted in a man’s text to signify the evil that pervades women.”  Hugo didn’t bother asking if Freddie had confirmed these texts were actually written by women; he wouldn’t have shown Hugo his findings if he hadn’t already picked them apart several times over.

“Tudo bem,” Hugo said, taking a step back to put space between Freddie and his chaos.  “E?”

And,” Freddie said as he, too, took a step back, “I want to try it.”

For six years, Freddie had haunted Joanina’s glorious halls with his research into all things demonic.  When he’d first shown up in Portugal, he was barely twenty, but so far from green and naïve that none of the librarians knew what to do with him.  He’d spent his entire youth surrounded by books, and he was not timid about asking for massive stacks, about charming the librarians into slipping him the key to cases so he could research with more ease, about bringing tea and scones and all manner of elicit items in with him.  Hugo hadn’t been the one to finally call for Freddie’s background, but he had stood by the librarian who did.  They wanted Freddie out if he didn’t belong here, and they were determined to discover that he didn’t.

Frederick Hanscomb Wright III was the son of an insanely wealthy man who had publicly disowned his only son on accusations of supernatural possession, horrifying personal conduct, and a wasteful nature.  Freddie was newly eighteen when he came home to find the doors locked, his father refusing to speak with him, and all of London looking down their noses at him.  And though society expected him to fall into disarray and darkness, Freddie merely snuck onto a train, got booted out several stops later, and found a job on a farm.  He worked steadily for a year on the farm before a letter came for him, promising all the money he needed to continue his research, as long as said research was conducted in Portugal.

None of them had been able to uncover the name of Freddie’s anonymous employer, and though Hugo was fairly certain Freddie knew who it was, he refused to speak of it in anything beyond simple statements of gratitude.  A letter had even arrived at the Joanina a few days after their inquiry began confirming that Freddie was, indeed, welcome in Portugal at the behest of the royal family.

The royal family,” Hugo remembered the words echoing loudly around the library.  The second those words were read, the second it became clear that not only was Freddie’s research funded, but accepted by the very ancestor that lay framed beneath golden curtains in the Joanina, they simply washed their hands of his idiosyncrasies and let Freddie do as he pleased.

That’d been near on five years ago, and, in that time, though Freddie had been kind to each of them in turn, he always seemed more apt to share his research with Hugo, and so, Hugo became his keeper.

He had never expected such a responsibility to translate into trying to stop Freddie from attempting to summon a demon.  “You want to—try it?” Hugo repeated, going very still as he watched Freddie, who was already beginning to pace, his leather boots thudding against the patterned stone floor between his table and another.

“It’s bits and pieces, yes, but it’s the right bits and pieces, Hugo.  All the information that I need is there for a successful and safe summoning.  I want to try it.”

“And why, exactly, are you telling me this?”

Freddie pivoted when he reached the other table, but didn’t continue pacing.  He stopped there, hands jumping back to rest against the table, his spine going straight as he leaned back, like he needed support.  There was so much space yawning between them that Hugo almost thought he should have expected what came next.  “I don’t want to do it alone.”  He let the words linger there for a second, and just when he started to speak again, Hugo shook his head and walked away.  “It’s stupid to do it alone,” Freddie continued in a rush, lunging away from the table.  He was in front of Hugo in a few quick strides, his hands held up in supplication.  “Something could go wrong, and I might be stuck, unable to save myself.  All it would take is someone dragging me out of the circle, and nothing more.  I’m not asking you to perform it with me, just to keep watch.  Por favor, Hugo.  I’m going to try it, but I don’t want to do it alone.”

“Ask one of your friends,” Hugo said calmly, stepping around Freddie.  He knew it was a wretched thing to say, given the fact that Freddie didn’t have any friends, but perhaps the blow would be low enough that Freddie would get stuck trying to swallow his pride and just allow Hugo to leave.

“You know bloody well that I don’t have any friends,” Freddie said, though there was no bite to his words, just simple fact, “And I’m not going to ask Florence.  She would say yes, and then the universe would twist it all so that she would get hurt in the process, or my father would never allow her back into the house, or—”

“But it’s alright for me to be there?” Hugo asked, spinning on his heel so Freddie could see the absurd disbelief on his face.  “Your sister is safe from this madness, but I’m not?  You think so little of me?”

Freddie frowned, confusion writ across his brow.  Hugo had seen it there countless times before, Freddie’s overwhelming passion for his research clouding all else, like simple human emotion.  “What?” he said, less of an actual word than just his exhale turning into a misunderstood sound.  “I don’t—Hugo, no.  You were the first person I thought of, and the most capable.”

“Senhor Wright—”

“No, don’t start that,” Freddie said, frustration flickering at the edge of his confusion, “Don’t treat me like some everyday person.  I apologize if I’ve offended you.  That was not my intention, and I’d like to remedy how this got misconstrued.  Florence loves me dearly, and a demon might see that, might see what ways it could play on her emotions.  It might strike out at her to get to me, or in reverse so that she would be more likely to do something rash to save me.  But you have distance, Hugo, and a clear, intelligent mind.  A demon could not trick you.  If it did anything untoward, you’d likely just frown at it and tell it to sod off.  I am asking you because you would not falter.”

Hugo stood there, immobilized by Freddie’s convoluted compliment.  Freddie took his silence as continued anger, though, and nodded quickly.  “Alright, then.  I apologize for being so forward, Senhor Santiago.”  He sketched a small bow and turned back to his work.  “I’ll just clean up and be on my way.”

Hugo sighed, loud enough that Freddie paused.  He knew he was going to regret this, but Freddie’s beloved universe had staggered their paths together for a reason, and if that reason was making sure the Joanina’s most obnoxious researcher didn’t end up eviscerated in the midst of a demonic summoning, then so be it.  “Quando?” Hugo asked, and Freddie’s smile was like a sun swallowed whole.

*

It seemed impossible that Hugo would actually show up, but Freddie wasn’t going to be empty-handed just in case he did.  It was absolutely baffling to him that he’d managed to secure Hugo’s help, and in the week following, Freddie kept waiting for him to come up with some kind of excuse.  And yet, here they were, the agreed upon date arrived and nothing but a final confirmation from Hugo the previous day.  Freddie hadn’t gone to the library today, both out of fear that Hugo would suddenly back out and because he hadn’t done the shopping in far too many days.

He’d set a pot of beans to soak overnight, and he was just adding them to a sizzling pan of oil, chorizo, onion, carrot, potato, celery, and tomato paste when there was a quick, controlled knock on the front door.  Freddie lived in a small house that his employer owned outright, and though it was nothing more than four rooms, Freddie cherished the space.  Though he’d grown up in a gargantuan house, he’d always felt small and unwelcome in its grand rooms.  But this small house, overflowing with books, candles, and drying herbs was more of a home than his father’s place ever had been.

Freddie dried off his hands on the towel slung over his shoulder and went to answer the door.  And though it could only be Hugo with the way he’d knocked, Freddie was still surprised to see his librarian on the other side.  “You came,” Freddie said.

Hugo, halfway into offering a small bundle of flowers, asked, “Are you cooking?”

“Figured it’d be better to work on a full stomach,” Freddie said before he stepped aside, allowing Hugo room to enter.  He looked much the same as he did at the Joanina—dark plaid trousers with faded lines, a crisp, pale grey shirt tucked beneath a charcoal waistcoat, and a smart tweed coat over a checkered navy jacket.  His brown hair was neatly trimmed along the edges, buoyant curls draped over the top.  The line of his jaw was something Freddie often got lost staring at when Hugo was distracted cleaning up the mess Freddie left behind, and it was hard not to stare at it now as a muscle clenched at the back of his jaw.

“You’re always asking for flowers,” he said as he brandished the bouquet.  It was a strange thing to bring, but Freddie liked to surround himself with them while he was working, and it made sense to him.

“Obrigado,” Freddie said, smiling.  He took the flowers, briefly holding them to his nose to inhale.

Hugo did the same, and something caught at the edge of his mouth as he turned to regard Freddie.  “Is that chorizo?”

“Come in,” Freddie said, lifting his head from the flowers, “You can put your coat wherever there’s space.  I’ve got feijoada on.”

Hugo let out a disbelieving sound as Freddie turned away, heading back toward the kitchen.  He set the flowers on the small table, intending to put them in water after he saved the feijoada from burning as he splashed some broth into the pan.  He was just throwing handfuls of spinach in and setting it to simmer with a bay leaf, thyme, and some cracked pepper when Hugo appeared at his elbow, a vase in hand.  He filled it at the sink, sunk the flowers inside, and carefully rearranged them.

“Tea?” Freddie asked.

“Always.”  He started to point out the kettle, but Hugo was already reaching for it, and Freddie was momentarily frozen by the prospect of more of this, Hugo at his side in the kitchen and years of research finally coming to fruition.  He gave himself a shake when Hugo set the kettle over a burner on the stove before reaching up to the cabinet overhead.  They moved about in an easy silence, Hugo setting the table and Freddie finishing up the feijoada.  When it was done, he filled a bowl with fluffy white rice, spooned the hearty bean soup into a second one, and carried both over to the table.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Hugo said as they sat.

“There’s an elderly woman that comes to check on me once a week,” Freddie admitted, “She refuses to leave until she’s made some food.  She doesn’t think I’m capable of eating on my own.”

“If only she could see your scone crumbs all over the library.”

“At least I make them myself,” Freddie said as he scooped rice into his bowl.

“You—que?” Hugo asked, his face falling open with shock.

“I like to bake,” Freddie said, and though that, like the flowers, was an odd thing, he refused to shy away from it.

Hugo’s shock shifted into a small smile.  “Do you know that the other librarians have a betting pool on where the scones are from?”

“Oh, they have several pools for me,” Freddie said, “But don’t tell them I’m one of the betters in half of them, it’ll ruin their odds.”

Hugo laughed, and it was a sudden thing, as though startled out of him.  It completely transformed his face, the normal stern façade dropping for one of easy joy.  He was always so in control that it was wonderful to see him open.  “You’re a nuisance,” Hugo said, and Freddie just nodded in agreement.

They enjoyed dinner in companionable conversation, never straying toward the focus of tonight.  Instead, Freddie asked questions about Hugo’s home life.  He knew that Hugo had a few siblings, but not much else, and it was lovely to hear the warm way he talked about his two brothers and sister, like they were the light of his life.  In turn, Hugo pointedly did not ask about his employer or his father, but instead asked after what field of study had caught Florence’s attention at the moment.  They lingered in the conversation long after the feijoada was gone, cups of tea going lukewarm in their hands until, finally, the late hour and the settling quiet meant they couldn’t avoid it any longer.

“You’re certain about this?” Hugo asked.  When Freddie nodded, he sighed, set his cup down on the table, and said, “Obrigado pelo jantar.  Even if it does feel like a last meal.”

“It’s not,” Freddie said firmly, “Either we succeed and everything goes according to plan, or the summoning doesn’t work.  There is no other possibility.”

“I envy your optimism,” Hugo said before he stood.

Freddie followed his lead, and after they’d cleaned up the kitchen—Hugo said it made no sense to wait until after, when they would likely be exhausted—Freddie led them into the sitting room across the hall, where he’d already shoved the sofa and armchairs against the wall.  Hugo immediately balked as the massive pentagram was revealed, drawing up short and swinging his attention to Freddie, who powered through the disbelief and beginning reaches of horror creeping across Hugo’s expression.  “Everything I read says that the demon has to be trapped,” Freddie said as he crossed the room to the mantle above the fireplace, where he’d laid out all his supplies.  “Pentagrams have been in occult literature since the dawn of time, and—”

“Jesus Cristo, você está falando sério,” Hugo said faintly.

“Of course I’m serious,” Freddie said, looking over his shoulder with a frown.  The look on Hugo’s face made him turn fully, though, and Freddie felt something like dread unfold in his ribs.

Hugo gestured a hand at the pentagram wildly.  “The other librarians humor you.  They think you’re eccentric.  They know your employer is wealthy.  But you actually believe demons exist.”

“Yes,” Freddie said.  He stood there, astonished, for a moment before he shook his head and started to unfold his sleeves, intending to roll them again so that they would stay in place.  “Unbelievable,” he muttered, “If you think I’m mad, you can see yourself out.  I asked you here because—”

“Meu Deus, é por isso.”  Hugo lifted a hand to pinch at the bridge of his nose, took a long, steadying breath, and looked back over at Freddie.  “Tudo bem,” he said before he shucked off his jacket, stepping over to drape it against the back of the sofa against the wall.  “I never understood why they made me responsible for you,” he continued as he started to undo the buttons on his charcoal waistcoat, “But it all makes sense now.”

Freddie was paused, watching Hugo undress in bewilderment.  When the waistcoat joined the jacket and Hugo undid the cufflinks on his shirt, Freddie raised a hand.  “My house is haunted,” Hugo said in answer to Freddie’s hand, “By several ghosts, and though minha irmã believes them to be of the same family, I am not convinced.  There is one, in particular, that seems to bear far more ill will toward us than the others.”

Freddie did his level best to absorb this information without gawking like a dying fish, but he failed miserably.  He’d known that Hugo had been tasked with keeping him in line, even if he’d never been told outright.  Even to hear that the other librarians thought he was an eccentric madman that they only abided by because of his wealthy employer was nothing new.  But for Hugo to admit to not just his belief of the supernatural, but claim to be haunted by a family of ghosts was just—Freddie didn’t have words.

“Are you yanking my chain right now?” Freddie asked softly.

With his sleeves rolled up and suspenders tight over his shoulders, Hugo gestured to the mantle.  “Tell me what we’re doing.”

“Hugo.”

“They think I’m a loon,” Hugo said, “I made the mistake of telling one of them, and it spread like wildfire, and even though that was years ago, I’ve been paying for it all this time.  They put me with you because they thought we could—eu não sei—mutually send each other to an asylum or something, but you actually believe that demons exist.  You’re not just mad.”

“No,” Freddie said slowly because he’d thought that’d been obvious a long time ago, “Demons are real.”

“As are ghosts, sim?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent.  If I help you summon this demon, will you help me banish the ghosts haunting our home?”

“Holy shit,” Freddie whispered.

“Unholy, I thought,” Hugo said, and that same thing twitched at the corner of his mouth again.  This time, the laugh was well-formed, for Freddie started laughing first.  He’d always been told that he had an obnoxious laugh, one that boomed too loudly before dissolving into a breathless wheeze, but he let it loose, utterly unmoored by this turn of events.  Hugo laughed with him, the sound like church bells rung at midnight, and Freddie wanted to bottle it up to save for later enjoyment.

When they were through, Freddie wiped at his eyes, gave Hugo a grateful smile, and started explaining what was on the mantle.  There were an assortment of herbs—fluffy white angelica for summoning strength, scrapes of birch bark for psychic protection, dried stalks of mugwort for divination, yellow dandelion petals and tough green strands of wormwood for calling in spirits, and a single orange calendula blossom the size of Freddie’s fist for honoring the dead.  Some, like the mugwort and wormwood, he’d found in his research.  Others, like the dandelions and calendula, he’d been steered toward while buying supplies.  And the rest had meanings attached to them that felt right.

He handed the calendula blossom to Hugo.  “Stand opposite me,” Freddie said, “I’ve got rocks and a pile of grave dirt on the other cardinal points to act as grounding weights.”

“Meu Deus,” Hugo said, crossing himself before he left with the calendula.  Once he was situated at the northern point, Freddie opened his jar of combined herbs, took a steadying breath, and threw them into the fire.  He immediately stepped into the southern point, opened his hands to the pentagram, and started to recite a passage in Latin that he’d found in the Malleus Maleficarum.  He wondered, idly, if Kramer knew how useful his text for destroying witches was for those interested in witchcraft.

Freddie had barely started an echo of the verse, though, when he realized there was something in the middle of the pentagram.  It was as though he’d blinked too long—the thing appeared between one breath and the next.  There was no smoke pouring out around them, no shocking explosions of fire, no roaring of the underworld rushing up to meet them.  There was just a pentagram, the fire merrily devouring the herbs, Hugo holding his blossom so hard the petals were beginning to tremble, and Freddie spouting some Latin gibberish that he wasn’t even sure was going to work, and then there was a demon.

Hugo yelped and hoisted the calendula up in front of his face like it would save him.  Freddie’s words trampled straight to a stop, his eyes going wide.

“Oh,” the demon said as it narrowed its eyes, “Were you hoping for more of a show?”

Freddie,” Hugo hissed.

“It worked,” Freddie said, every inch of him singing with disbelief, “But it was so simple.”

“Your intention was pretty damn strong, kid,” the demon said.  It was lounging in the middle of the pentagram, legs folded and hands dropped behind it.  It looked like them, just a young man in trousers, the shirt a bit wrinkled, and suspenders.  Its boots were scuffed as though it’d been out walking for a while, it had a mop of riotous brown curls, and it was—not a man.  The demon smiled as she saw the realization dawn across Freddie’s face, and he quickly looked over at Hugo, who brandished the calendula at him.

“Get rid of it,” he said, his voice high and tight, “You’ve proven your point.  That was the point of all this, right?”

It had never actually occurred to Freddie to also learn how to banish a demon once it was summoned, and this lack of knowledge unfolded clearly over his face if Hugo’s wide-eyed response was any indication.  “I hate you,” Hugo said before he threw the calendula clear across the pentagram at him.

“Don’t leave!” Freddie yelled as Hugo turned.

“Give me one good reason!” Hugo shouted as his hands curled into fists at his sides.

“You’ll disrupt the balance of the pentagram and set me loose,” the demon offered.  Hugo didn’t even pause.  He rooted himself back in place, though he looked murderous.

“Um,” Freddie began.

“Look, if you can’t banish me, you’ve got to strike a deal with me.  Minimum is one month,” the demon said as she unfolded from her seat and stuck out a hand, “How long did it take you to figure out how to summon me?”

“Can I reinstate the contract at the end of the month?” Freddie asked.

“Sure, but you’ve also got to figure out how to do that.”

“Great, welcome to Coimbra, you’ll be here for half a year.”

Hugo let out an undignified squawk, and Freddie nearly swallowed his tongue when the demon shook hands with him.  He’d been researching how to summon a demon for six years, and he’d just promised to banish one in six months.  This was going to be interesting.

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she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

4 thoughts on “Thursday Thousand: Between Two Lungs

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