ACKNOWLEDGMENTS • by Austin Gilmore

First, I’d like to thank my agent, Suzann Semmel. Without you, I’d still be sitting at a table at that soul-crushing Burbank Starbucks where you found me, typing away on my laptop, rudderless and angry with the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You changed my life.

You changed all of our lives.

I remember that fateful day like it was yesterday. I whispered a fairly innocent Conversation Spell after you ordered your Cold Brew, with no real intentions except my need to practice the spell. Within minutes, you were tapping me on my shoulder, asking what I was writing. “Hexes and curses, hidden within the ramblings of a madman,” I answered, and you laughed but I didn’t. And the rest is the end of history.

To my Editor, Keith Baird. You shaped this book from an abstract clump of clay to the thing that it is today. Of course, we had our tug-of-wars along the way. We had our squabbles and even a few knock-down-drag-outs, but the book came out stronger for it. And so did I. I wish I could say the same about you. I’m so sorry for your recent health problems. Please know you will always be in my thoughts. Whether you take that sincerely or as a threat, it is entirely up to you.

To everyone at Hammer Press Publishing. Your tireless work on this book, pledging you’d “get this in front of as many eyes as possible,” filled my rage-filled soul with a soothing calm and vengeful hope — something I’d truly never felt before.

To the team at Netflix, who optioned the book without even reading it, after a one-line pitch by Keith and Suzanne. “Hexes and curses, hidden within the ramblings of a madman… but bingeable!” Everyone laughed, now even me, realizing the new scope. The new scale. The possibility of my reach. My homicidal goal was always modest, as I think it should be. But thanks to you, I finally saw what was possible with my simple collection of cursed words.

To my beta readers. Justin, Price, and Michael. We began this journey together. You read every word, every page, every chapter, every hex. You watched as characters evolved, disappeared, and sometimes, got cut out entirely. Kinda like you! To Justin’s family, know that he sacrificed his life for this book. Same with Price. Obviously, no life is worth the success of a book, but this isn’t just some book. So here we are. Here I am. And Michael, wherever you are, wherever you go, please remember that you’ve already read my words. The combination is set. The poison has been ingested.

Now it’s only a matter of time.

To those very few friends and family members who supported me through all of this, I dedicate this book to you and I’m sorry for what’s to come. To all the others, to the vast majority who I excitedly sent versions of this to through the years only to be completely ignored, please know you may have temporarily saved your lives through your own apathy, but these final hexes are only as deadly as they are because of how you treated me. Because you ignored me. Because you didn’t care.

Your apathy, God willing, will kill millions.

And finally, to my readers. If you’ve read this far, gotten through every story, noticed a few obvious typos sprinkled throughout these pages, I’m sorry to say it’s too late. What comes next all depends on how you absorbed my words. Did you buy an actual copy of this book? Are you holding it in your hands now, licking your fingertips to turn each page? If so, thank you so very much. Your support means the world to me. Also, your finger and tongue will be the first to go, like salt on a snail. But don’t worry, it will then spread to the rest of your body. If you read this on a screen, growing black splotches will slowly fill your vision, blocking out your world. Again, don’t worry, that won’t last long. It will then spread to your brain and that will be that. If you listened to the audio version of my book, please go outside, and listen to the chirping of birds, the breeze moving through trees, or the distant sound of thunder before it’s too late.

But really, no matter what state you’re in, it’s already too late.

Please know, this was going to happen one way or another. I just never thought it would be on this epic of a scale. I was angry but content with the idea that I’d pick you all off one by one, mailing you hexed-bills, guilting you into signing hexed-petitions outside Whole Foods, or leaving unwanted, hexed-Yellow Pages outside your homes. Anything to read my words and take you out one by one.

Like I said, my homicidal goal was always modest, as I think it should be. It’s better to have a healthy, realistic goal in mind. I always thought I’d start small and build a respectable yet horrific number along the way, but then Suzann ordered a Cold Brew and asked me what I was writing and, just like that, the world will now end.

Austin Gilmore is an Art Director and Gallery Artist based in Kansas City. For almost a decade, he co-ran Kevin Costner’s production company, Treehouse Films. His work has been featured in Mystery Tribune, Esoterica Magazine, The Bluebird Word, Tangled Locks Journal, and Fauxmoir Literary Magazine. He is passionate about donuts.

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