The Alchemist’s Circle

The Alchemist’s Circle

by Jeff C. Stevenson

“Yes, I’m sure,” Doctor Wiseman said wearily to Sylvia. He glanced at the photos of her husband and two sons, all gone, all taken by the White Plague.

“And there’s nothing to be done for her?” Sylvia asked helplessly.

“Once Abigail begins to cough up blood, no, there is nothing I can do,” he said. Then, tired of telling so many families the same horrible news, he abruptly blurted out, “John Housewater’s family saved their daughter with a…a sacred circle…”

Alarmed, Sylvia said, “But he’s an alchemist!”

“But his daughter is alive!”

Upstairs, eight-year-old Abigail began coughing.

Hating the question, Sylvia asked, “Do you know how to create this circle?”

“I saw him cast it with salt and his daughter was in the center, but that’s—”

Abigail’s coughing fit became thick and moist and she cried out for help. Wiseman hurried up the stairs. By the time Sylvia arrived with the metal horn salt container, he had moved the child from the bed to the floor.

Abigail’s nightgown was splattered with blood and her mouth and chin were stained crimson. She coughed and gagged and vomited up thick black and red gore.

“Quickly!” Sylvia cried. Wiseman hastily circled the girl with salt.

“What now?” Sylvia asked.

“I…don’t know,” Wiseman said helplessly, watching the girl closely as she withered in pain. “That’s all I saw him do—”

Sylvia suddenly screamed and she and the doctor stared in disbelief at the circle. Beneath Abigail’s body, it had begun to shimmer and expand and transform until it had depth and dimension. The girl remained in place, at rest on the thick, murky sludge that had congealed under her.

Suddenly, a clawed and disfigured hand, more bone than flesh, reached up out of the black pit from some Other Place. It grasped Abigail by the neck. She struggled weakly but the hand only increased in size and then it abruptly snatched her from their sight and pulled her into the gloom. The muck quickly settled as if the girl had never been there.

Sylvia screamed her daughter’s name. She darted forward and reached into the salted circle where Abigail had been an instant earlier. Immediately, a synth from the Other Place sprung from the mire and sliced Sylvia in half. Another pair of skeletal hands reached up and grabbed the pieces of the woman and pulled them from Doctor Wiseman’s sight and into the darkness below.

He backed up against the wall in shock, realizing that while he had somehow managed open the sacred ring, he had no idea how to close it.

From the circle, Wiseman heard a hollow, rumbling, cawing noise that quickly grew louder and nearer. It sounded as if a herd of wild and manic animals were stampeding in terror from something larger and more dangerous than they were.

Seconds later, horrific creatures of every shape and size rapidly emerged. They spat and hissed and coiled in distress as they nervously filled the room, looking for a place to hide.

Suddenly, in great terror, they abruptly scattered as the enormous nightmare they had outrun surfaced and split the circle wider as it climbed free and bellowed in triumph.

Then it too fled in fear as the gigantic creature behind it began to surface from the depths of the pit.

◊ ◊ ◊

Jeff C. Stevenson
Jeff C. Stevenson is a professional member of Pen America and an active member of the Horror Writers Association. Steve Fischer of the Agency for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles represents film rights to all of Jeff’s nonfiction and fiction projects. Jeff’s first book FORTNEY ROAD: The True Story of Life, Death, and Deception in a Christian Cult was published by Freethought House in June 2015. Jeff has been published in Prism Magazine, Classic Rock, Freedom Fiction Journal, 9 Tales Told In The Dark, Flash Fiction Press, Urban Temples Of Cthulhu Mythos, Tales At The World’s End, Detectives Of The Fantastic, Out Of The Cave, and Hypnos Magazine. Author Profile:

“Fortney Road is a unique and compelling true story.”—Dean Koontz
“Fascinating and disturbing.”—Jonathan Kellerman
“Strongly recommended. Exceptionally well written,
organized, and presented.”—The Midwest Book Review

4 thoughts on “The Alchemist’s Circle

  1. Oh my! A ring-a-ding horror tale with a spookily open ending. Spiced with the subtle humor of an impotent and bumbling Doctor Wiseman. Two picky points: I didn’t think the child’s withering in pain worked. Maybe writhed intended? And maybe the wise doctor’s motivation for blurting out the news of the ring might be frustration rather than fatigue or both? AGB

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