I turned my bicycle around as quickly as I could and high tailed it back the way I’d come, hoping there might be someone around to save me, or at least to divert the beast’s attention, but the dark streets were deserted.
I pedalled as hard and fast as I could, but deep down I knew I might as well not have bothered. There was no way I’d escape. It wasn’t even beginning to exert itself, but even so, it was fast catching up on me.
There was a stench of hot tar, foetid flesh, sulphur; and then dark smoke descended from the sky, enveloping me. I was forced to stop because it stung my eyes and I couldn’t see the road ahead. Those awful beating wings came ever closer, and I knew the worst was still to come.
The Gryphon touched down with a gentle crunching on the tarmac road. The smoke cleared sufficiently for me to see it clearly. It must have been ten feet tall to the shoulder, and perhaps as long as a bus.
It was so solid, so real, I was convinced it was no hallucination and tried to back away, but my legs wouldn’t move; they were paralysed with fear.
“Oh my God,” I said. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”
The gryphon advanced with its huge muscles rippling beneath the surface of its grey skin. I felt the heat from its body and smelled its vile breath. It had the torso of a lion and the wings of a vulture. Its head could only be described as the head of a fiend. It was covered in scales which gleamed when what little light there was caught them at an angle. The strange mist it brought with it swirled eerily around the both of us.
It stopped in front of me, raised its foreleg, and unsheathed a claw which was like that of a cat, but far bigger. It put the point of the claw under my chin and pushed up. I raised my head so as to avoid having the flesh of my throat punctured.
“Oh my God,” I repeated.
“There’s no point in calling for Him,” said the gryphon. “He won’t help you, child.”
I said nothing. I seemed to have lost the power of speech.
“What’s the matter?” It asked. “Cat got your tongue?”
I shook my head with extreme caution, as any careless movement on my part could have resulted in its claw penetrating the flesh beneath my jaw and impaling my tongue. I was all too aware of the risk.
After taking a moment to compose myself I managed to stammer a few words.
“N—n-n-n-no. I’ve just n-n-n-never met anything – anyone – like you before. It’s been a bit of a shock. I’m f-f-f-frightened.”
“There’s a lesson for you there, child. Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it all.”
Although I was shaking with apprehension I managed to continue our conversation without any further stammering.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m here for a reason. You requested an audience with me. You got it. Why did you summon me? What do you want?”
My mind was in turmoil. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t remember the events that had taken place five minutes previously, let alone ten or more hours ago.
“Summoned you? When? How?”
“Have you forgotten already? You performed an ancient magical rite yesterday evening with a pentacle. By performing that rite, you cast a spell to summon a Demon. It worked. I’m here.”
In spite of my confusion, the truth began to dawn.
“You mean, you’re the Demon I summoned?”
“Congratulations. You’ve got there at last.”
As the Demon spoke, its saliva, which was extremely viscous, formed gleaming strands between its teeth. There was so much of it that it dribbled freely from the corners of its mouth, dripping onto the surface of the road.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Moloch. Now answer my question: what do you want me for? It had better be good.”
It pressed harder with its claw. I had to stick my chin up as far as I could to avoid injury.
“Please, will you take your claw from my throat?” I asked.
“That depends,” it said. “If I like what you say, I will remove my claw from your miserable throat. If I don’t like what you say, I’ll rip your head off with it. Now I’m asking you for the last time: what do you want me for? Let me tell you a cautionary tale before you reply. There was a man called Aleister Crowley. You may have heard of him. He was famous in his day. Or infamous, depending on which way you look at it. Anyway, he took it upon himself to summon up the great god Pan, but he got me instead. When I found out I’d been summoned for no good reason to this appalling pit that humanity calls the planet earth, I went into his mind and drove him insane. If you are wasting my time you won’t get off half as lightly as he did. Why did you bring me here?”
I didn’t doubt that the beast was more than capable of ripping off my head with that claw of his. The thought sent me into paroxysms of fear. My mind raced. What could I say that would persuade him to spare my life? What sort of things would a Demon want to hear? Bad things, presumably.
“I want to raise someone from the dead,” I said, “and I need your advice.”
Moloch made tiny circular motions with the claw that was pressing into my throat. One false move on my part and my head would roll. That was the message it was giving me.
“I’ve heard I have to kill three people to bring someone back from the dead. That is, I need to commit three murders. I want to know if it’s true.”
Moloch released a little of the pressure on the claw. My discomfort eased a fraction.
“Bravo,” it said. “Murder, that’s the sort of thing I like to hear. Yes, it is true. If you want to raise a person from the dead, you must indeed kill three people. It’s to do with energy and entropy.”
I felt that the situation might be going my way, but I knew I couldn’t afford to relax.
“So, if I were to murder three people and gather their Life Force, and if I were to get the spell right, I could definitely bring someone back from the dead?”
The gryphon smiled and thrust its face up close to mine. I smelled its foul breath and did my best not to show my revulsion.
“What if that person had been dead for a while? Would the magic still work? Could I still resurrect him?”
Moloch lowered its claw. I felt safer, but not yet out of the woods.
“It’s even better when the dead person has been dead for a while. The results are all the more…spectacular.”
I wondered if I could safely terminate the conversation at that point, and get Moloch to leave me.
I thought I’d give it a try.
“Okay, you’ve been a big help. That’s all I needed to know.”
“Is that all? What about advice on killing? I could assist with that.”
“No, I don’t need any advice about killing. I think I know how it’s done. Most people do, you know.”
“True, but so few do it well.”
“In that case, farewell, young Kali; we will meet again, you and I, child.”
“When will that be?”
“When is not important. What matters is where.”
“Where, then, will we meet?”
With those words Moloch was gone, leaving behind only a vile smell and some traces of mist and saliva to show that he’d been there at all. I looked at the pub and saw that it’d returned to its original form: a stone statue.
With trembling fingers I adjusted my helmet and pedalled home, barely able to control my bicycle because of the adrenaline coursing through my system.
Back at the bungalow as I locked the bicycle away in the garage I wondered whether my encounter with Moloch had really happened. Then I noticed the tyres. They had deposits on them, some sort of dark slime which smelled like the beast. It was his saliva. It revolted me, and convinced me I hadn’t been imagining things.
Thanks to Moloch, I was now a believer in magic and all things supernatural.
It took me quite a while to calm down. When I did, I became aware that the skin underneath my chin was hurting. I looked in the mirror, and, raising my head, examined the area where the Gryphon had stuck its claw into my skin. There was a small wound close to the underside of my jawbone. That wound has never properly healed. I bear the mark of it to this day.
I turned in but slept badly. When I woke up, I couldn’t help but think about resurrection.
If the spell for summoning up a Demon had worked, that must mean the spell for resurrection would also work, I reasoned.
The Encyclopaedia Infernal wasn’t just mumbo-jumbo after all. Magic was for real. So perhaps I should reconsider raising Dave Carrion from the dead.
But I’d have to square that with my conscience. It required the murder of three people to re-animate him.
I couldn’t think of three people I could murder without compunction.
I could probably think of one, though.
Raising Dave is © Copyright 2017 by Jack Strange. Permission to publish this story has been granted by the author.
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