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by Haikasoru

“Great lord of the Underworld, by the Pact I call upon thee. Winged kin of darkness and the dead, by the promise of blood, black and ancient, I summon…”

Suddenly, the flashlight in Kenji’s hand went out.

“Whoa! Wh-what the…?!”

Kenji staggered back, his shadow wavering on the tarp behind him.

His shadow. Even though the flashlight had gone out, it was strangely bright inside the tarps. He could see everyone’s faces even more clearly than before.

Mitsuru’s voice continued in a rhythmic chant. The words were clear, crystalline.

His voice–it’s beautiful.

“To those who oppose me grant the eternal sleep of death, and in ice unmelting bind them. Sacuroz, helgis, metos, helgitos! Come, Balbylone, Daughter of Darkness!” he was saying. The words were like a spell, and when he was finished, Wataru realized why it was so bright. The ground surrounded by the boys was shining white, casting a pale glow on the space inside the haunted building.

What’s going on?!

The glowing area was a circle, a little smaller than a manhole. As he watched, it seemed to rise, swelling. It was almost like something was being born from the ground.

That’s impossible.

The otherwise firm-packed dirt looked, in that one shining circle, to be as malleable as clay. And there he saw a head–a person’s head–emerging. First the top of the head, and the neck, then shoulders, and the chest with two arms folded across it. It was a slender body, lined in graceful curves.

A woman.

It was a female mannequin made of the darkest, blackest clay.

Kenji and the two others stood with their mouths open, trembling. The dark figure emerging from the ground spread her arms. She was facing Mitsuru. Her breasts were bared for them to see, yet they too were as dark as night.

Then, two eyes split the smooth featureless face–eyes of gold, without a trace of white. The only sign of pupils were thin, jet black lines running through their middle. Like the eyes of a panther.

“Welcome, Balbylone,” Mitsuru sang, his face bright. He lifted his head as high as he could from where he lay upon the ground. “I bring sacrifices…sacrifices to your beauty.”

Hands still spread, the dark mannequin turned to face Kenji and his gang. They crouched stupidly, unable to scream or even run.

From the tips of the mannequin’s fingers, long sharp claws began to grow. At the same time, two black wings, darker still than her body, spread from her back.

Wataru turned his head to stare at the unbelievable sight before his eyes. He wasn’t sure whether to be terrified or overjoyed, but before he knew it, he was smiling. He said nothing, and grinned so wide he looked nothing so much like the Cheshire cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The strange dark woman that Mitsuru called Balbylone walked on long slender legs, advancing toward Kenji and his friends step by step. Her wings had spread to their full span of more than six feet. The claws on her hands were hooked, and they made a clicking noise as she swung them gracefully through the air.

Kenji’s group backed up until they hit the far wall of the building. No place left to run, they clung to one another and, like Wataru, stared at the otherworldly creature. They were all pale, their faces bone white, eyes open wide, jaws hanging slack. They looked stricken with fear, and yet at the same time, they seemed strangely happy.

Wataru was looking at the back of Balbylone, while everyone else was staring at her face. Kenji was transfixed as he gazed upon her face–his mouth opening and closing without a sound. But in reality, he was saying something that nobody could hear. His voice was too low, and besides, Balbylone’s claws were going…

Snick. Snick.

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