This is Newdean (III) – A Séance
It was Walpurgis Night, of course. To be honest with you, I don’t know what the mystical significance of that date is. I just know that serious magickians (please note the special ‘k’, thank you very much) do spooky crap on Walpurgis Night, and not Halloween.
It was cloudless and starry. There was no moon that night, which Gavin, the leader of our little cell of dabblers, assured us was a good sign. ‘We’re after the dark ones tonight’, he told us solemnly, and apparently the reflected solar blaze of lunar light would put off the things that go bump in the night.
Things that bump, and scratch, and crawl.
The fence around the bizarre example of art deco which was once called ‘The Newdean Palace of Self-Betterment’, but which everyone just called ‘the Centre’, was unmaintained and unwatched. Numerous gaps had been cut into it over the years, and people generally came and went as they pleased. Although people didn’t usually hang around that long.
Bump, and scratch, and crawl.
We entered through a large gap, though Gavin still had to hold it open for us to get through. The area around the Centre was overgrown, and we had to navigate carefully.
‘Here, nearly eighty years ago, the killings happened,’ intoned Gavin. His hand was firmly placed on the left arse-cheek of his girlfriend, and she gave a little squeal of excitement. I rolled my eyes. There were six of us. Gavin was in his early twenties, lanky, hair dyed black, wore a Burzum shirt religiously. His girlfriend, Sandra, was eighteen, and found Gavin to be the very epitome of masculinity and blazing intellect (her parents hated Gavin, unsurprisingly). Your humble narrator was a little younger than Gavin, but old enough to not swallow his bullshit. The other three, Jenny, Keith, and Harry, were all in their teens still, and could only get a pint because of the apathy of the barman.
And, yes, we were magick, baby. Jenny, tall, gawky and the sweetest thing you’ve ever met, swore by the Tarot, and I must admit her prescience was more than a little unnerving in its accuracy. Keith, who was the closest thing we had to a jock, was a stoner, and dug the whole Crowley-Leary-Wilson-drug thing. He said he'd been abducted by aliens once. Harry didn't say much, and was at the butt of many dead-parent jokes. He only got into this stuff because he fancied Jenny; that’s my theory at least. He was distinctly average in appearance and stature, and kind of forgettable, if I’m honest. Sandra, an archetypal Goth chick, was just along for the ride, while I, dear, beloved reader, just liked the feel of spooky shit.
Gavin was a manipulator, a charmer, and probable psychopath in my humble opinion, but he talked the talk and that’s at least 75% of what being a Magus involves. He had a way of looking at you which was, frankly, mesmerising. I hated the guy, and he hated me, but our mutual contempt had resolved itself in a weird binary orbit that neither of us were able to escape from. Not much to do in Newdean, after all.
The Centre squatted in the centre of Newdean. Its whitewashed exterior was still in remarkably good condition, though no one had ever seen maintenance work being done on it. It was art deco, all graceful streamlining and long, sumptuous curves. There was a pool, long dried up, outside, and another inside. The building also contained a café, and a dozen or so multi-purpose rooms. The plan was for the Centre to act as a people’s palace, a focal point for the burgeoning community in Newdean.
This wasn’t to be.
That night, it was 79 years since the Centre’s reputation was forever besmirched by a group of particularly gruesome murders. The Centre’s designer, owner and patron, Arnold Webbley, had attempted to create a space that utilised arcane geometry to produce a revivifying effect on swimmers in the pools (heated, indoors and outdoors). It didn’t take long for the sexually-charged circles around Crowley and his disciples to get wind of this, and the place swiftly descended into a veritable catchword for debauchery. 79 years ago, at an 'after-hours party' that brought together a prominent local occultist by name of Howard Matheson, a selection of prostitutes, and some of his closest pals, Something Terrible Happened.
It isn’t clear precisely what happened, but judging from the ritual paraphernalia they had with them, it was your classic black-magick-sex-ritual gone horribly wrong. All of them, and that’s seven in total, were most creatively butchered. The police investigation interrogated many well-known occultists, but no suspects were ever named, and the case went cold. Webbley shut the Centre, but by some quirk of fate it ended up being Listed, and still stands abandoned to this day.
That’s not the only thing that happened, though. Strange lights were seen in the sky that night, chanting in unknown tongues was heard, and the Centre was said to have glowed. Of course, these are all stories that were told only after a few years had passed, and seeing that it was by far the most interesting thing to have ever happened in Newdean, it’s little surprise that people took to embellishing and outright lying about the events that took place. Still – spooky shit, right?
And so, the five of us broke into the lonely, strange old Centre on Walpurgis Night, to hold a little séance…
‘Where did the killings happen?’ asked Sandra.
We were standing in what had been the lobby. The room was large, open, with a very high ceiling. Even in its ruined state, it had a certain elegance to it.
Gavin pointed down a hallway to the right. ‘Down there. They were using the indoor pool. They were attempting a truly powerful and dangerous ritual. There’s still a great deal of magickal energy here, in the aura. Can you feel it?’ He directed the question to all of us. Jenny, Keith, Harry and Sandra all nodded. I smirked. Gavin glared at me.
Sandra put her arms around Gavin and the two locked in a kiss. The rest of us proceeded down the corridor Gavin had indicated. The indoor pool was dry. The shallow end was nearest us as we came in, forming a kind of steep ramp down into the deep end. In the ceiling above the pool there was a large, circular window. The glass was filthy, predictably, but it was so dark we could see the stars shining through it. Gavin and Sandra were holding hands as they came and joined us.
‘Down there’, he said, pointing towards the pool. He and Sandra lead the way, and we descended into the deep end, where the floor levelled out. Gavin had a rucksack with him, where he kept a large sheet he’d sketched a pentagram onto, robes, and, yes, his honest-to-God magick wand. (Oh how he’d loved explaining to Sandra that it was a phallic symbol.) He lay the sheet on the floor, and the rest of us stripped down to our underwear and put on the robes; me, Keith and Harry all made sure to turn our backs to Jenny as she changed, while Gavin grinned at Sandra as she undressed. Gavin was the last to change. He was covered with tattoos, including what looked like a recent addition – a seven pointed star.
‘This isn’t going to be a traditional séance,’ Gavin explained.
‘We’re going to be using high magick techniques to energise the aether.’ Everyone except me nodded. I was keeping Gavin’s gaze, neither of us blinking.
‘Thus, we’ll be able to recreate the atmosphere of this place all those years ago, when those terrible crimes happened. We’re going to try and call up the echoes of that night.’
‘We going to banish first?’ I asked.
‘No, that might disrupt the energy-patterns,’ said Gavin, in a matter-of-fact tone.
‘So, we gonna do it now then?’ asked Keith. He was nervous. I looked at him, then Jenny, then Harry. They all looked tense. I noticed that Jenny and Harry were standing very close together, and I smiled slightly. They’d suit each other, I thought. Something like this might be enough to push them together. I hoped so, anyway.
‘No time like the present,’ Gavin replied.
He had placed the sheet directly under the window in the ceiling.
‘Everyone, stand inside the pentagram. No matter what happens, don’t step out of the pentagram. It’s possible that the malefic energy will manifest visibly. If it does, just stay where you are. I’ll be able to banish anything that gets too intense.’
‘Wanker,’ I muttered.
We stood on the sheet. Gavin told us all to face in the same direction. We were looking at the far end of the pool. It was about ten feet high, and formed an imposing barrier. Gavin raised his arms, and began to hum. His eyes were closed, and he was swaying very slightly. The hum turned into a kind of droning sound, a deep resonance from his throat. The drone became a chant I didn’t recognise. His swaying became more pronounced, like a kind of drunken dance.
The chant had a strong rhythm to it. He was moving in time with it. Sandra had closed her eyes to, and all the others did as well, though I kept mine open. To be honest with you, I didn’t think anything was going to happen, or if it did, it would be some trick pulled off by Gavin. I was half-expecting some of his mates to suddenly run out of the shadows dressed in white sheets.
That isn’t what happened.
The air started to vibrate like a heat-haze, but the room was getting colder. I looked up, and saw that, incredibly, the stars were burning brighter than before. Then I realised that a kind of diffuse, mauve glow had started to spread around us. There were shadowy figures moving along the floor around the pool, above us. Gavin opened his eyes, and didn’t halt his chanting. The expression on his face was one of surprise, which swiftly mutated into gleeful triumph. He touched Sandra’s hand and she opened her eyes too.
‘Oh my God,’ she whispered. The others all opened their eyes too, and we looked about us. The mauve glow faded, as did the faux heat-haze. Instead, the air started to ripple more slowly. It was getting dense, like…
… like water.
The figures above us were distorted, precisely as if you were looking up at someone from the bottom of a pool of water. We could hear muted cries from them.
‘This… this isn’t…’ Harry started to speak, and then stopped. He and Jenny were holding hands now. Keith’s jaw had dropped open, and Sandra was nuzzling close to Gavin, looking around her with childlike wonder, and trepidation. I don’t know what expression my face was pulling, but I can guarantee that it wasn’t one of cool composure.
The figures above us were moving with purpose, executing precise movements and gestures, closely synchronised with one another. I could count at least five of them. I couldn’t tell what they were doing, but, if my guess was right, they were engaging in whatever act of magick it was that triggered the horrendous deaths here 79 years ago.
They started to dance around each other. I think most of them were naked. One of them, a man judging from his height, seemed to be dressed in a robe. His arms where raised, and I could hear a muffled chant coming from him. Then, quite suddenly, there was a painfully bright flash of pink light above them. This faded into a deep and persistent mauve, like the one that had surrounded us earlier. They stopped dancing and chanting and started screaming.
Some… things seemed to drop out from the mauve light. I couldn’t see them clearly, but they looked altogether too thin, too sharp to be human. The ghostly water that enveloped us began to turn a distinct shade of red.
‘Gavin…’ whispered Sandra.
One of the inhuman shapes above us turned towards the pool, and looked straight down at us. It leapt up into the air, seemed to hover for a moment, and then plunged down into the water.
We all let out a cry. Gavin stopped his chanting as he screamed, grabbed Sandra, and flung her out of the pentagram towards the shape that was speeding towards us. But it was already gone. The pool was empty again, the figures were gone, and we were back in the here-and-now. I think there was still a faint heat-haze around us, and the light still have a ghost of mauve to it. But, for now, it was over. His chanting and concentration seemed to have been what formed a bridge between now and then, and the connection had vanished when he’d lost control.
Sandra stared at Gavin, who had fallen to the ground. She walked over to him. I was expecting her to scream at him, or punch him, but she just spat on his face.
We changed back into our clothes, which we’d left outside the pentagram. They were slightly damp. Jenny and Harry were talking to each other softly, and I heard her laugh quietly. Keith had brought some beers with him, and the two of us started drinking. I handed one to Sandra, who was standing away from us with her back turned.
‘Hey,’ I whispered.
‘Hey,’ she replied.
Gavin was sat on the floor. He still had his robe on, and he was holding his wand limply.
Sandra squeezed my hand. Keith came over to us, followed by Harry and Jenny. I looked over at Gavin. He looked deflated, somehow. The authority he’d held was completely dispelled, his glamour gone with it.
‘What should we do now?’ asked Keith.
I didn’t say anything. We left the way we came, leaving Gavin, and the things that bump, scratch, and crawl, behind.