Short Story Saturday: Mountain of Despair

Short Story Saturday: Mountain of Despair - Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled Mountain of Despair. Please enjoy. Also, if you haven’t already checked out my FAQ on my upcoming book, Magic Once Removed, please check that out as well. Thanks again!

“Don’t tell me you’ve never done anything stupid, Dad.” Jennifer crossed her arms and shivered in a foot of snow. She couldn’t believe she was up there. “I’ve read your high school yearbook.”

“I can honestly say I’ve never summoned Satan.”

The teenager scoffed. “It’s Bogmath, Dad. One of Satan’s lieutenants, not Satan himself. Get it right. Besides, what the hell were you doing with that book, anyway?”

Her father pointed at her daughter and scowled. “Watch your language, young lady. The book was supposed to be part of a collection. The rituals were never meant to be read aloud, certainly not performed. Even then, I still can’t believe that the ritual actually worked.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes. “Well, it did. And we’re all now screwed thanks to you.”

Her father firmly shook his head. “We’re not screwed. We’re here because we’re going to solve this problem and how is this my fault? You’re the one who performed the chant.”

“You shouldn’t have left the grimoire somewhere I could find it. You should have known it was a temptation too great for me to resist.”

“You can’t keep blaming people for all of your mistakes.” Malcolm placed his bag on the ground and took off his coat. He placed it around his daughter’s shoulders. “And didn’t I say that you needed to dress more warmly?”

Jennifer looked away and huffed. “I’m fine.”

Her father flashed a half-smile. “You’re turning blue.”

“I’m not cold at all.”

“I’m too hot, then. Please carry my coat for me.”

“All right. Whatever.” She wrapped the coat tightly around her arms as the snow started to fall once again upon their heads. They continued their ascent until they reached the cavern near the top of those jagged cliffs. Despite the weather, the climb was relatively easy as was the rest of their sojourn which had been by that point mostly peaceful. It served as quite a contrast to the journey’s harrowing stakes.

With a bag full of amulets, trinkets, and other such religious artifacts as well as sacred texts of various faiths, from the mainstream and the obscure, from across the globe, Malcolm led the way into the cave. His daughter a step behind.

“Are you sure he’s here?” Jennifer asked.

The father retrieved an object from the bag. It was reminiscent of a magnifying glass with tinted red glass. Purple spikes jutted from the circular part of it. “Solomon’s Eye seems to indicate he’s here. Let’s see if I can find the trail.” He looked through the looking glass. It took a moment but he eventually discovered a line of crimson haze that led to the ceiling. “Ah, right. There he is.” Malcolm said as he pointed upward.

Above them was indeed a demon firmly gripping the rocks above. If his knuckles could change color they would have been white. His wings were curled into his back and torso. His eyes were wide and conveyed, despite the haggard expression and the fangs, the meekness of a kitten. This was mostly due to his current health and state such that the relics in the bag were enough to serve as potential danger to him and kept him at bay. Internally, he vowed to rip them apart and engulf their souls in an eternal flame as soon as his full strength returned.

They below him, whoever they were, would not be the only ones to suffer his wrath, oh no. Everyone on this planet would, from humans to animals to plants to minerals. They would all experience an eternity of agony, torture, and despair. Not even the gods would be able to stop him then.

At that moment, though, the man who had entered with his teenage daughter was more than enough to best the fiend. Assuming, of course, they knew what to do. Almost ironically, the demon prayed that they did not as he felt his powers slowly but continuously re-manifesting.

Unconcerned with the demon’s odious glare, Malcolm moved through the various objects within his bag until he retrieved from it a journal. Within it was all of the condensed knowledge he had acquired and scribed from various hallowed manuscripts as well as from holy men and women he met along his and his daughter’s tumultuous trek across the globe. He then read several of its passages before placing it directly below him at his feet. Afterward, he pulled out a thick leather-bound grimoire with large metal clasps, a newly added feature due to his daughter’s foray into the occult. He unlocked it with a key stored inside his shirt pocket.

He then retrieved a white powder and drew a pentagram in the middle of the cave floor. On each of its points, he placed a candle. He lit the first one with his pocket lighter, and then lit the rest with it in the exact order as indicated in the grimoire still in his hand. After collecting one last item from the bag, a ruby amulet, and placing it in the middle of the unholy shape he had drawn, he lit the powder which set it aflame.

He turned to a specific part of the grimoire. “Here,” he said offering the open item to his daughter. “Read these passages verbatim and do not stop.” She did as he directed.

A vortex formed in the middle of the pentagram. Its power increased with every syllable she read.

Long claw marks formed on the rocks that the demon gripped. He exhaled feral, thunderous squeals as the swirling wind dragged him toward the ground. Its large, scaly red wings flapped ferociously. Each motion caused an increasing amount of noise and debris. Several stalactites narrowly avoided the father and his daughter as they broke and descended to the cavern floor.

Both father and daughter did their best to ignore these hazards. They attempted to remain steadfast and as faithfully as possible adhere to the ritual. It seemed the father was having an easier go at it than his daughter, however.

As this occurred, the demon’s talons were suddenly ripped apart and blood from his bloody stumps filled the atmosphere. He had started succumbing to the pentagram’s vacuum-like force which he announced by exhaling a terrorized shriek.

It was so loud Jennifer reflexively covered her ears and winced in pain. In doing so, the grimoire slipped from his fingers and fell to her feet. Her father was quick to reprimand her loudly in a panicked yet surprisingly clean and expletive-free yell. Normally the teenager would have balked at such a command but the sternness of her father’s face and the intensity in his eyes compelled her to obey. Jennifer picked up the book and resumed. They got much further in the ritual until they heard another sudden crash against the cavern floor.

It was a quick descent. This time, Jennifer did her best to ignore the noise. She had steeled herself for the inevitability and knew there was hardly time to panic. Such that, when the demon hit the jagged floor with a sickening smack and sounds of cracking noises filled the air, his body was now a crumpled mass of shattered bones with the joints of his wings completely separated, and the teenager hardly flinched. Initially. However, after a few moments, curiosity gripped her again.

“Is he dead?” Jennifer asked, ceasing the chant once again.

“Keep reading,” her father demanded. “You cannot kill a demon. You can only send it back from whence it came. He may look brittle and broken but as long as he remains here on Earth, in the human plane, his power will increase until he has enough to engulf the world in flames.”

His daughter nodded once in acknowledgment and continued her task.

It was silent for a while. Nothing was heard but Jennifer’s voice and the swirling vortex. Even the natural wind and the mountain creatures seemed to have stopped. Perhaps they were holding their collective breaths with terrified anticipation. What happened next was unfathomable.

Large, crimson, withered, hirsute hands emerged from the floor. The demon, once lifeless, began to panic. He did his best to move his broken body away but the flames of the pentagram prevented further movement. The hands gripped the creature’s limbs so tightly that he was no longer able to crawl. He attempted to shake himself free but to no avail. Eventually, he realized the futility of such action and surrendered to the horrific fate that awaited.

Razor-sharp nails tore the demon’s flesh asunder exposing the organs underneath. The demon’s ear-piercing screeches echoed throughout the entire mountain range. He was in a perpetual state of pain unable to die.

Jennifer gasped. She wanted to stop reading and scream. Every instinct in her body told her to run out of the cavern, consequences be damned.

A single glace stopped her.

It was of her father. The grizzled middle-aged stood stoic and resolute. He displayed not an iota of fear as he gazed at the infernal sight. His outward appearance betrayed how he truly felt. Internally a torrent of emotions had flooded him. He was full of consternation, terror, and dread, not necessarily for himself but for the potential risk to his only child.

Only, he never showed it. Malcolm had to remain strong for his daughter.

Something within told her all of this. Not necessarily her conscious mind but somewhere deeper, in her core, in her essence, from somewhere inside her soul. Thus, she chose to stay and finish what she had started.

When the reading concluded, Jennifer performed the hand motions as her father had taught her months ago and forced her to practice daily. Her hands and arms gyrated in the air with expert precision. She did it better than she had ever done before, even better than she did when she rehearsed it with her father, one last time, just a night prior when there were no stakes. It was as if she had practiced her entire life. Once she finished, there was only one more thing to do. She reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a sky-blue vial. It contained a mystical chemical compound whose ingredients have been lost to time.

Her father bought it at an auction as a lark. Perhaps a “Mad Greek” did find the fluid in the ruins of an ancient church in the German hills. Maybe the druids residing nearby really did believe it was a supernatural essence of sorts. The fact that they were being sold by the dozen did make the story less credible. Yet, that did not necessarily mean it couldn’t have happened the way the shopkeeper was described.

It was certainly possible, not likely but possible, that Alesimarchus Aetius also found the grimoire he dubbed the Magia Liber Convoca Mihi Omnes Diaboli in that region as well. The druids may have as the shopkeeper proclaimed discovered it in Greece and took it with them to their homeland. There were certainly stranger things in the world than a discovered book being a distant ancestor of the Grand Grimoire as it was also claimed.

Malcolm, though, initially believed the items were little more than an inert mixture and an interesting read, should he ever figure out what language the grimoire was written in. He did not think for a second that his little girl would one day not only find the items but use them in conjunction with reading the passages, which seemed indecipherable, to summon a demon. Jennifer performed the ritual merely to kill an afternoon, something to talk to her friends about after a Friday night in which her father did not allow her to go to Keith Mitchell’s wild party. She certainly did not think that the spell would work.

Though she may have caused the mishap, she did not have any desire to scour the globe with her father. While he endeavored to find a diverse group of holy men to discover the secrets of demons, their true nature, their goals, and how to defeat them, Jennifer acted as his reluctant tag-along. A very vocal reluctant tag-along. It seemed that getting her to take responsibility for her actions would be a greater feat than defeating one of Satan’s own.

Soon this would be over, she thought. The demon, the globetrotting, all of it would be but a memory. A single toss is all it would take. It would need to be accurate and thrown with a high enough arc to clear the growing flames and land in the middle. She kissed the vial for good luck, as was her habit. The young girl did the same to softballs when she’d first take the mound. Her arm then cocked back and she made a windmill-like underhand throw. It flew in the air with a beautiful curve and landed dead center of the pentagram just to the left of the screaming demon. She could not have placed it better had she set it down from inches above.

Nothing happened.

The blaze continued its ascent. The hideous hands continued their torture. The vortex continued to swirl. Yet a portal did not open.

Confused, Jennifer walked toward the flames. “What’s going on, Dad?” she asked as she leaned forward. “The demon just kind of flew out the last time I did this. Of course, he was a lot smaller than he is now. But wasn’t it supposed to open up again like last time?”

“Get away from there!” Malcolm screamed. He, in a mad panic, dashed over to her nearly tripping over his own feet as he ran. Before she could react, Jennifer felt something shoved into her arms and chest before flying through the air.

She landed on the ground hard. Her entire left side was bruised upon impact as were parts of her back and posterior. The teenager now lay a good several yards from the ring of fire. Jennifer was not so much pushed as she was tossed.

Jennifer immediately leaped to her feet full of rage. It wasn’t just the suddenness of her father’s action of the violence. It was also because it contrasted so much with the austere poise that her father exhibited only moments ago. For a moment, she had admired him and now admonished herself for doing so. She was ready to unleash verbal hellfire.

Suddenly, she froze. Something within told her it was not the time. A really bad thing was about to happen.

Malcolm stood at the edge of the flames. He turned his head and looked back at his daughter. A forced smile spread across his lips.

“What’s going on, Dad?” Jennifer murmured.

Malcom didn’t answer. Instead, after one last look, he silently entered the flames.

“What are you doing, Dad?” Jennifer screamed. She dashed toward the fire. A force pushed her back. It was as if an invisible barrier was erected.

Jennifer moved her hands frantically in a vain attempt to find a means of entry. Tears streamed down her eyes. She begged the powers above for a way to save her Dad. Her prayers went unanswered. She crumbled to the ground. Tears cascaded down her cheeks as she bawled inconsolably on her knees. All the while, her father was engulfed in the blaze.

“Don’t worry!” Malcolm shouted as loudly as he could. “It’ll all be fine! Read my journal!”

Ghastly hands emerged and grabbed him by his limbs, pulling him to the ground.

“Dad! No! God, no! This can’t be happening! Tell me this is a dream! Dear God! No!” Jennifer screamed those words perpetually like a mantra. They did little to deter her father’s fate.

Malcolm wanted nothing more than to scream, to yell, to sob, to curse his fate. Pain consumed him. His very being, his very soul was in agony. Yet he did not. Doing so would only hurt his daughter more. He remained smiling even as he was being ripped apart. Besides, there’d be plenty of time for all of that later, he thought to himself. A whole eternity’s worth of time.

The ground glowed from beneath the two tortured entities. It was dim at first but soon it filled the cavern.

Jennifer moved her arms and hands impulsively and covered her face. When the light disappeared and she could see again, both her father and the demon were gone.

There was a sudden peace, a mocking peace. Compared to the loud reverberations of before, it was tranquil. The sounds of the mountain creatures resumed. A light breeze blew through the cave.

None of this provided any comfort to the poor girl. She hugged her knees and could do little more than cry.

“Why, Dad? Why? Why? Why?” Jennifer repeated this over and over again as she rocked back and forth in place.

She suddenly had an epiphany. Her father’s last words. “Read my journal.”

Jennifer never took any real interest in that boring little thing. It was just so dry and academic. Sure, deep down, she knew everything her father had written was important but often wondered whether it needed to be so dull. She then remembered that he had written in it late the previous night. Not that it seemed odd, of course. It was only natural that he’d be writing on the eve of the most important day of their lives.

The young girl frantically searched for the item, ripping through her father’s bag and his coat, everywhere, but she could not find it anywhere. Panic filled her breast and she wanted to scream. Then, when hope seemed lost, to her eternal joy, Jennifer found it.

It was at the spot she had been lying, where her father had thrown her.

The young girl hastily sprinted to it. Somewhere inside must be an explanation and a solution to this plight, a spell that could bring her father back.

That is what her father was writing the night before, of course! It explained why he went into the flames calmly despite what awaited him. He must have discovered a way to be brought back and knew his daughter would be smart enough to figure it out.

Jennifer turned the pages rapidly. She ignored the drawings and the scrawling text until she reached the end, the entry with the previous day’s date written on the top.

It was addressed to her.

This was it. It just had to be.

“Hey, kid. I’m not going to do the whole cliché ‘if you’re reading this, then I’m already dead’ shtick because, yeah, you kind of were there and already know that. Sorry to do this to you. I know you’re dealing with a lot right now because of me.

If there was another way, I mean, any other way, believe me, I would have done it instead. Unfortunately, I had no other choice.

There was something I wasn’t telling you. While I did say that you’d have to perform the same ritual as before to send the demon back to Hell, there was one other crucial element.

The final step is for the conjurer to sacrifice herself.

Or to sacrifice a blood relative.

It is supposed to be a sadistic choice.

I’ve loved you from the second you were born. No, I’ve loved you since the moment you were conceived. I will continue to love you for eternity.

There was no way in hell was I to let you be the sacrifice. I did not even want it to cross your mind.

I promised you and your mother that I’d do anything to protect you.

Even if it means being dragged to Hell.

So don’t feel guilty, it was my decision. I would make the same choice a hundred times out of a hundred. I do not regret it for a second.

I just have one favor to ask you. I know it’s not fair to make a request all things considered but I think this one is reasonable.

Forget about me and just live the best life possible. Find true love. Get married. Have kids. Be prosperous. Grow old.

And when you see your mother, and hopefully that will be a long time from now, please tell her what happened and how much I love her. Tell her how much we love her. I’d tell her myself but there’s no way she’s where I’m headed.

Goodbye, Jennifer, and thank you. I love you so much.”

The journal fell from the girl’s hands. Jennifer let out an anguished moan as she crumbled to the floor. “I’m sorry, Dad!” she shrieked. Her wails echoed across the mountain.

“It’s all my fault,” the poor girl repeated between sobs. “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault…”

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here Magic Once Removed will be available soon, so please check out the FAQ. Thank you for reading my story.


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