I gritted my teeth and clenched and unclenched my fist rapidly. Blood flowed smoothly down my arm and pooled comfortably in the silver bowl in front of me. When it reached the line I had scratched on the inside, I rapidly wound a bandage around my elbow and forearm and suppressed a shiver. The candles flickered around me, flames trembling.
Then one blew out.
It had begun.
I stood up, the apartment was drowned in darkness, with the faint, tenuous light of the candles serving only to cast skewed shadows on the walls and floor. I stepped out of the circle and looked around, crouching in a defensive position and in that position, slowly making my way to the darkness of the kitchen.
The game was simple. Perform the ritual, summon Hewet, and ask my questions. Once I had received my answers, I had to kill it. After that, I would be granted with stronger foresight, in return for an inexorable, slow, agonizing death. That was if all went well. If I failed to kill it, it would devour me. What would happen to me after that was hazy, but very, very clearly something that I did not want.
Another candle blew itself out. According to the webpage, the book of Timbranas said that Hewet had to be subdued (as it cannot be killed) before the last candle lost its flame. The book also made it very clear, that it’s impossible to know when Hewet is going to appear. It could appear when the 9th candle has been extinguished, or right before the last one sputters out cold.
The wooden handle on the knife felt cold in my shaking hands, and from the corner of my eye I could see that a few flames were still lit. Suddenly, my blood froze, and I was filled with a paralyzing mix fright and dread.
There were some scuffing sounds from the living room area where the candles were set, and then I saw a candle go out. With grit teeth, I tightened my grip on the knife’s handle and leapt out from inside the kitchen to the edge of the living room. I was prepared to dig my knife into the skin of whatever apparition was in front of me, but instead, the apparition held its hands out.
“Solomon?” It said.
“Will you kill me so quickly? Isn’t there something you want to ask me first?”
Behind it, four out of the ten candles had gone out, and I very suddenly understood the danger I was in. Hewet was a bright being, with a saccharine, malefic stench. Its hands looked as soft as flower petals, but they were huge. One wrong move, and they could easily squeeze and crush my head.
The fifth candle went out.
“I want to know, if I will ever be free. Alive and free. Living a normal life, with my mother, my friends, and eventually my wife and children. I want to know if this was all worth it, because if it wasn’t, there’s a chance I might not even try to kill you.”
A strange look of pity crossed Hewet’s face before he said, “The answers are complicated. You don’t have much time left.”
Despite the chill in the atmosphere, I felt a hot bead of sweat trickle down my forehead. “I know.”
The sixth candle went out.
Hewet began to glow, then he withdrew a massive scroll from behind him and unrolled it. On the scroll were vivid scenes from the future. My mother dancing happily at a party. Cordelia looking down at me with tears of joy in her eyes. Me, smiling and happy, munching on pizza and chugging soda while I played video games with Sludge.
Further down the scroll, dark scenes materialized on the scratchy parchment. Me, with a man in black robes, me, in a cramped, dark booth. Me, kneeling with tears in my eyes. Me, holding a beautiful baby girl with my green eyes and someone else’s dark red hair, tears falling from my face onto hers.
The scroll snapped shut.
I stared at the space where the little moving pictures used to be, then sharply looked up at Hewet. Hewet seemed very unconcerned by the obfuscating nature of his message.
Three candles remained.
“Well.” I said, “I guess we’ve gotten to the point where I kill you.”
Hewet laughed, a deep, guttural chuckle. “So you think.”
I spun the knife in my right hand, crouched, and got ready for a fight.