Chapter 1:

Chapter One — A New Acolyte

Serving the Dark Lord? I Didn’t Sign up for This!

“Gwa ha ha ha ha ha!” The man began. “The spirits… They’ve shown me the answer!”Bookmark here

There he was. The man who would change my life. His medium length hair was swaying, his eyes were striking. His skin was fair, and his lab coat was clean. The setting: a first year level university economics class. Why was he even wearing a lab coat? This isn’t a science class. He’s not even a chemistry student. Bookmark here

When I say he changed my life, I mean he completely derailed it, of course. This isn’t a romance novel.Bookmark here

Our first midterm exam was today, and for some reason he also brought a Ouija board into the class with him. He would put on a big show of asking the souls of old economists each question, moving the planchette between each number on the board, and then acting as if he was gifted the answer—as if he possessed some strange spiritual powers. What’s worse, the professor allowed this. But I know the truth. If you looked closely, you could see him crunching the numbers on his calculator in his lap beforehand, then he’d use the board and pretend that it was all due to the spirits just so he could spook—or awe—the other students. He even kept his name a secret, calling himself Azazel.Bookmark here

The next exam was a similar story. Except this time, he brought a bible. Right before the exam was about to begin, he stood up at his seat, opened the bible and recited an incantation out loud.Bookmark here

“I am the bone of my function. Operators are my body and numbers are my blood. I have solved over a thousand equations. Unaware of failing. Nor aware of graduation. Withstood pain to solve problems, waiting for one’s arrival. I have no regrets. This is the only path. My whole life was Unlimited Equation Works.”Bookmark here

Whoever was sitting next to me probably heard the sound of my jaw dropping. Has he no shame? What is compelling him to do this? The worst part is he keeps scoring the highest in the class. He can’t keep getting away with it. I need to prank him before the semester ends. Such thoughts ran through my mind. The worst part was that he always got perfect scores. We were both fourth year students in a first year class, so it wasn’t the most challenging class for us, but some of the newer students actually believed he was using magic. In fact, I noticed a few trying to use a Ouija board this time, just like he had done last time, but it did not seem to be going so well for them.Bookmark here

“This thing belongs in the trash,” one student threw his Ouija board out in a fit of frustration after the exam ended.Bookmark here

“Gwahaha. Not all are blessed with the spiritual power necessary to call out to spirits from the astral plane.” Azazel laughed.Bookmark here

I stood up from my table and walked to the front of the lecture theater, right up to Azazel.Bookmark here

“You have to be kidding me. Magic powers? What are you, a middle schooler?” I spoke my mind.Bookmark here

“Tsk tsk tsk,” Azazel wiggled his pointer finger and put an irritating grin on his face before continuing. “You’re jealous, aren’t you? You know what they say, Claire. Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”Bookmark here

I worked hard my entire life to get into this university, trying to meet the heavy expectations placed on me by my parents. You might think it’s easy being born to a mother who’s a lawyer and a father who’s a doctor, but it’s not quite what you’d expect. Sure, we had enough money to live comfortably, but it wasn’t me who enjoyed that. Weekly Sunday school, Piano lessons on Monday, swimming lessons on Tuesdays, and additional homeschooling after escaping class on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Friday, my parents would leave the house to go on a date, leaving me behind with a babysitter who I didn’t like. The only real day off I had was on Saturday. My parents always thought of themselves as superior to those around us, and wanted me to live up to the family name. I didn’t buy into what they said, but I wasn’t able to go against them. They always said it was for my own good, and I knew they were right. University was supposed to be special—the climax to everything I’ve worked for—and this guy is here making a joke out of it. I would likely never see him again once this class came to an end next month. I had to do something. Think, think. Ah, that’s right. He’s a physics student, isn’t he? He probably shows up to the physics lab regularly. I have just the prank for him. And so, I began a stakeout.Bookmark here

Each day, I would purposely alter my route to each of my classes such that I would pass by the physics lab. When I didn’t have classes, I would sit at the tables outside the lab meant for students to relax or study. Conveniently, it was next to a small coffee shop, so I would look natural. In fact, it was when I was sipping my coffee at one of those tables that I spotted my target. It was 10:00am on a Friday when he arrived. Alright. I’ll get some ominous looking occult object, then next week, right before he arrives, I’ll slide it under the door and attach a note saying something vaguely threatening like “I’m watching you.” That’ll get him.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

What am I doing with my life? I spent my entire Friday evening looking around the mall for something suitable, but I couldn’t find anything. Something simple like a severed doll head would be ideal, but that won’t fit underneath the door to the lab. Also, I wouldn’t want to be left with just the body of a doll. I’d end up more creeped out than him, having that lying around in my room. At this point, all the shops had closed. The only reason the mall was even still open was because of the movie theater inside. Well, I gave it a try. Not like it matters anyway. I suppose I might as well watch a movie while I’m at it so that the night doesn’t end up being a complete waste.Bookmark here

By the time I left the mall to go home, it was 1:00 am. The street was dark, with barely any street lights or cars driving by. In the sky was a full moon, with an unusual bluish tint. Sporadically it would be covered by the clouds, then shine down again onto the earth. I walked along gazing up at it for a while, and when I looked down again, I saw a light coming from a small building I hadn’t noticed on my way here. There was a sign in the window that said “Op n” in neon letters. The ‘e’ had gone out, and the ‘n’ was flickering. There was a black curtain behind the sign so I couldn’t see inside the store. I cast my phone’s flashlight above the doorway and the words “Antique Shop” revealed itself. Well, it gives off a sense of foreboding, but that’s what I originally set out for. In I go.Bookmark here

Walls of shelves covered the floor, filled with golden plates, vases, and terracotta figures. The room was dimly lit, and as if that didn’t make it hard enough to see, a layer smoke sat at the ceiling. At the back of the shop was a counter, and behind it, an old Asian man smoking from a long pipe. His hair was long and white, his beard was wispy, and he wore what looked like a long gray robe.Bookmark here

“Welcome. It’s not often we get visitors,” he greeted me.Bookmark here

“I almost missed your store myself. I didn’t notice it earlier,” I repliedBookmark here

“That’s no surprise. We’re only open late in the night, after all. Kikikiki” he laughed eerily.Bookmark here

Huh? What kind of business model is that? How does he manage to keep the store running? I shook my head, clearing the thoughts distracting my mind. I came here for a reason.Bookmark here

“I’m looking for something. I was hoping you could help me,” I told the shopkeeper.Bookmark here

“And what would that be, my dear?” he stroked his beard.Bookmark here

“Something… mystical. Something that looks like it would place a curse on you if you touched it. Something paranormal,” I gulped.Bookmark here

The man’s hand stopped mid-stroke as he looked at me for a moment. Then, he spoke.Bookmark here

“What kind of shop do you take this for? You think all late night antique shops are haunted or something?”Bookmark here

“No, I just thought--”Bookmark here

“Is it because I’m an old Chinese man? Get outta here, ya racist.”Bookmark here

Mission failed. I had no choice at this point but to walk out with my head down in shame. If I were a petty woman, I would report his store for violation of fire safety. Who am I kidding? I am petty, going out of my way for a prank like this. At this time of night, regular girls would be out partying, or studying, or, you know, maybe sleeping. Forget buying something. I’ll just have to take matters into my own hands.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

From this point on, I’m putting in minimal effort. He doesn’t deserve any more than that. The next week, I visited the university’s department of fine arts and got myself a plain, square wood board, thin enough to slide underneath any regular door. Next, let’s draw a magic circle for him. Knowing him, he’s probably familiar with real ones. So let’s draw an original. Whish, my paint brush flew across the board. On it was now a large circle, with a smaller circle inside it. Next, I haphazardly drew a shape in the very middle. It looked almost like a four pointed star, with a spiral in the middle. Heh. Hopefully he spends plenty of time trying to look this fake magic circle up online. For good measure, I’ll throw a random Hebrew letters in between the two circles. And, done. On the backside, I wrote “You know too much.” Hehehe. Maybe I’m going too far. Oh well, he shouldn’t have distracted the whole class with his antics. All that’s left to do now is wait until Friday and slide it under the door. Then I can sit at the table outside the lab and watch his reaction.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

It’s go time. I slid the magic circle underneath the door a few minutes before Azazel would arrive and sat at the usual table outside the lab. Any minute now, he should be coming around the corner. Oh, there he is! He’s coming! I was extremely excited, but I pretended to read the book I brought with me. Can’t look suspicious, after all. He unlocked the door and went in, closing it behind him. Then… Nothing. Not a sound. Well, what did I expect? Of course it would be asking too much to hear him scream or come running out the door or something like that. But it almost sounded too quiet. Not a sound came from the room, even though he should be setting up lab equipment or something. Bookmark here

After a few minutes, I got up, and pressed my ear against the door. Still nothing. Did he pass out in fear? I hope he didn’t hit his head on anything. I just wanted to prank him, not hurt him. Out of concern, I opened the door to make sure he was alright. The lights were all on. All sorts of gadgets lined the shelves in the back, from oscilloscopes to magnetic coils, and the rest of the room was filled with tables long enough go from one end of the room to the other. I did not see Azazel in the room. There was a small backroom as well, filled with even more equipment, but I did not see him there either. He was completely gone. However, on one of the tables in the backroom was the wood board, with the “You know too much” side facing up. It was not laid down neatly, but rather seemed as if it had been dropped. I picked it up and flipped it over to the magic circle side. I looked at it, and suddenly, it looked as if the magic circle had grown bigger, and bigger, and bigger, but I realized. It wasn’t that it was growing. I was being sucked into it. The spiral in the middle began spinning, and began to give off the illusion that it had depth. Except it was not an illusion. Where there was once just a two dimensional spiral, was not a proper extra-dimensional space. I was pulled inside, and the black from the spiral turned to the void of space, while the white turned to stars. I was in outer space, though luckily I could still breathe. Then, I began to accelerate, although I did not feel the sensation of motion. The stars began to shooting past me, becoming nothing but blurry lines. I felt completely weightless, almost like I was floating in place while the universe moved around me. The experience only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like minutes. I began to slow down, and a portion of space in front of me began twisting into a spiral. I was sucked through again, except this time I fell into a dimly lit space. The spiral opening closed behind me, and I suddenly felt gravity again as I was plopped painfully on my butt. Bookmark here

I took a second to regain my composure. I was in what appeared to be the dungeon of a castle. The walls were stone, and the only lighting came from torches attached to the wall glowing an eerie blue. That much alone was strange, but it got stranger. On the floor underneath me was a magic circle. It was exactly the same as the one I had designed. Secondly, there were two people in front of me. One was Azazel, kneeling down in front of the second person. It was a tall man with long black hair and a matching black robe with purple accents. He had horns coming out of his shoulders, one of which was cracked. His red eyes darted away from Azazel and pointed at me.Bookmark here

“Welcome to the realm of darkness, my new acolyte,” his deep voice rumbled.Bookmark here

Eehhhhhhhhhhh!??Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.