The day came lilac and hazy. Trees whispered sluggish, cotton greetings. A crow, from its high cedar perch, blasted a call to its mate three trees down.
I sat on the porch and watched the birds fly over — smudges reflected in my black morning mug.
Crows in my coffee. Not the best of signs.
The coming night promised a full moon and a total lunar eclipse. The mumbling morning newsman said to look to the east. I turned off the radio.
Then she came walking down the street.
I knew she needed help, even before she came through the fog. She made straight for me, like she knew I was sitting there all along.
I met her at the gate, and let her in without a word exchanged.
Her hair and clothes were laced with dew.
Inside the house, as she shook, she told me about the Horror following her. On its way for me.
“But why?” I asked. I led her to the couch. I put down my coffee.
“I knew it.” A falling sensation. “So they’re real now.”
“As real as I,” she answered.
I took her hands. “You’re the Banshee.”
“I will be, though I wish it wasn’t so.”
“What do we do?”
She slumped on the couch. I noticed blood in the corner of her mouth. “I just die. My job was to warn you.”
I glanced out the window. “What do I do?”
The Horror tore through the house behind me. I heard the Banshee shriek. Strobes of white and golden light beat across my back, snapshots of the yard filled my eyes as she gave her life for mine — soul fire. I flew over the flashing fence.
My ankle snapped as I landed, my house exploded, and I took a crunching stagger into my neighbor’s pool. The water saved me.
Fire seared the air. The fence blew over the pool — shrapnel from my house buried in its blasted boards. The Horror rode the shockwave of the explosion, screaming its rage at having lost me, trailing tattered black webs of rotted fear from its shriveling form.
I stayed under until I was sure I’d drown. I surfaced as scorched paper rained down upon the pool.
Crows in my coffee.
I gathered every charred page.
I found the spine and back cover of the tome, and two blank pages, mostly unburned. I’ve written this account on the pages, here under the eclipsing moon. The night is red around me, and the wail of the Banshee echoes in my head.
I’ll set this all to flame as the moon comes out, to finish this awful story. And I’ll not write poems in the backs of magic books again, especially in those with specific warnings against doing so, no matter how romantic and heroic I think myself on that day.
Kevin Shamel has never been one to scribble notes in the margins, but he has used the blank pages at the ends of books for various reasons. Never magic books.