BENNY THE SUMMONER • by Gary Smith Jr.

Benny stood alone outside of the summoning circle that had taken him hours to make; light from the candles provided the only light in the wooded area behind his home. He had his feet firmly planted and his eyes locked on the creature in the center of the circle. He was aware that the creature was staring at his hands, and that his constant wringing was a sign of fear, but he was unable to stop.

Having seen hundreds of summoning circles, Benny had thought that making one in the clearing would be simple. He hadn’t appreciated how intricate and precise it all had to be. If one line was a centimeter off, or one point didn’t meet the outer circle at precisely the correct angle, the summoning wouldn’t work. Making a perfect summoning circle on the uneven ground had almost proven to be beyond his abilities, and Benny didn’t believe that the elders would let him try again. After enduring hours of torturous heat, Benny believed that the circle was finally perfect, and began chanting.

The summoning had worked superbly and was answered immediately. When the creature appeared in the center of the circle it looked around the clearing, large eyes filled with terrified tears. Then disorientation gave way to understanding and the creature stopped shivering and cowering. It stood tall on two legs and locked its eyes onto Benny as if committing every feature to memory, its nostrils flared, and its eyebrows pulled low.

Breaking eye contact, the creature threw itself against the warding around the circle in an attempt to escape, bouncing from one invisible wall to another, gaining speed and momentum with each bounce. The leaves lifted from the ground in a vortex and flew free from the circle, not affected by the warding. This was the first time anyone had tried summoning one of these creatures and Benny exhaled a breath of relief when the creature stopped bouncing, unable to break free. It stood in the center once again, staring at him.

He shouldn’t be scared. This type of being was believed to be harmless and docile. It should also be unable to generate the speed and power that Benny had just witnessed. As it stood staring at him, its chest heaving and sweat pouring from its body, Benny imagined that it was getting larger. He walked around the perimeter of the circle and the beast followed him with eyes that looked more predatory than before. It wasn’t his imagination. Its arms were now longer and stronger, claws nearly touching the ground, veins visible around bulging muscles. Claws? These things don’t have claws.

Benny stepped closer to make sure that he was seeing what he thought he was seeing. The creature matched him step-for-step until there was less than a foot of distance between them. He could feel the heat of each breath blowing through the invisible barrier. Its breath shouldn’t be that hot. Benny look back down at the claws, the creature’s eyes following his. It slowly lifted its hand and seemed as surprised as Benny to see the six-inch-long claws that extended from every digit.

With a blur of impossible speed, the thing’s arm swung in front of Benny, so close that he felt the wind across the bottom of his face and on his neck. He instinctively jumped back and raised his hand to his throat. This type of summoning was new. The wards untested until tonight. Benny was relieved to see the creature still within the circle, staring hate at him. Then the thing began to smile.

Benny’s hand grew warm and he pulled it away from his throat. “Just a little blood,” Benny thought, his eyes returning to the smile of the creature, a smile now larger, sharp fangs growing as he watched. The front of Benny’s shirt was becoming warm, and wet.

Benny considered himself to be intelligent and talented. Lying on the ground, watching his own blood puddle into the leaves in front of him, he was conflicted. He was excited that he was the first demon to successfully summon a human, yet he was also ashamed that he hadn’t thought about the possibility that Hell would give a human the same powers a demon gets when summoned to the world above.

Gary Smith Jr. has a passion for writing that is born from his love of reading, everything from classic literature to creative cereal boxes. He lives north of Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, children, dogs, back-yard chickens, and fish. He has had short stories digitally published at From Whispers to Roars, The Mark Literary Review, CommuterLit, Daily Science Fiction, Reedsy and other online publications.

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