Apophenia

Apophenia
D. Paul Angel
881 Words

Grunting, Kristoff heaves the last stone into place. He knows full well how close he is cutting the time, but each of the five stones weigh at least 600 lbs and their wooden carriages are unwieldy at best. Sweat runs in rivulets between the well toned muscles down his bare back as he leans against the last stone. He only just catches his breath before cladding himself in a heavy, dark cloak. His full beard just emerges from underneath the hood; but his dark eyes remain hidden within its shadow. He walks around the stones three times clockwise, and once counter-clockwise as he rallies his remaining breath and energy.

He walks to a cabinet by the door, opening its intricately carved doors to reveal thick, knotty shelves. He grabs five well burned candles, their sides undulating wildly from the wax runoff of their burning, and places them in between the stones. He then grabs a sixth candle. Its sides are so smooth it requires extra concentration and dexterity just to hold. Its wax is so black that it doesn’t even catch the glare from the room’s harsh, portable work-lights. He stands between the stones, carefully judging their distance, before setting the large, final candle equidistant between them.

Returning to the cupboard, he draws out a coarse, brown sack. Ever so slowly he tips the bag to let a stream of fine, white salt pour into a steady line on the bare floor. He carefully draws a pentagram, with each vertice pointing to a stone, and with the black candle in its very center. He sets the bag of salt down and carefully positions each of the gnarled candles within each of the pentagram’s five triangles. He makes the minutest of adjustments while checking their positions before nodding in the satisfaction that comes with repeated perfection.

With the bag of salt in hand once more he lays a circle completely around the stones, leaving a foot long gap in the direction of the cabinet. Carefully walking through the gap he returns to the cabinet to bring three large mason jars back into the circle. He exits the circle again, making one final circuit, just to be sure; before setting a timer on each of the work-lights and returning to the circle. He pours the last of the salt across the gap and completes the circuit just as the work-lights click off, one after another.

He smiles to himself in the complete darkness of the room. Although he can see no difference, he still closes his eyes before inhaling deeply and beginning to chant, “Ignis, Incado, Cumbusto!” flaring the of the smaller, irregular candle closest to him to life.

Ignis, Incado, Cumbusto!” he repeats four more times until all five of the white candles are burning.

With another deep breath he begins a new chant, “Lucemeho! Lucemeho! Lucemeho! Lucemeho!” he thunders, his arms outstretched above his head, bringing the black candle to life with an audible roar of flame. Sourceless light, well beyond what the the candles can cast, floods into the circle.

His chants continue; his inflection, voice, timbre, and cadence ever changing  as he speaks arcane words feared since antediluvian times. He opens the three jars at his feet in turn, and one by one flings their powdery contents into the air.

He waits patiently  in silence.

Soon, shadows begin to stream through the ghostly light. Outlines of faces coalesce as wisps of smoke swirling through the cylinder of light bound by salt.  Faces cast in fear, in anger, in hatred; in torment.

He moves his hands as a conductor before a score of orchestras. Gestures both familiar and unfathomable flick through his hands and arms as he turns his attention to each stone in turn. Soon the shadowed shapes of smoke no longer move freely through the air, but instead race only between the five stone’s precisely hewed edges.

As his hand gestures slow, he kneels before the pots. Once more he grabs a bit from each, but instead of tossing the powder, he begins to mix them in the air between his hands. His chant grows in force as he bellows, “Scelero! Scelero! Scelero! SCELERO!!!” over and and over again. Standing as he mixes and shouts, he raises the powdered mix above his and casts it down on the black candle with all of his might roaring, “Perpetuii!!!!!” His words echo through the room as all six candles extinguish themselves simultaneously.

The reverberations fade and soon the room is dark and silent once more, save for the ragged gasps of him catching his breath. Mere moments later the work-lights come back on with a sharp click. He sags where he stands, but he doesn’t quite fall. , The floor is bare again, with all the salt simply gone.

~~~

“I wish I knew where your mine was, Kristoff, I would pay a fortune for it.  The veining in your marble is incredible. Its intricate, its fluid, Hell, sometimes its almost like you can even see faces! You sure you won’t sell? You name the price, however high.”

“I’m sorry old friend, I have paid a higher price than you can imagine to bring these stones to you. Just remember, what ever you do, don’t ever let the slab crack, eh?”

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