Jesus Christ, why’s my head pounding? I groan and shift to try and massage my head, but I can’t move. Everything feels heavy and I immediately know something’s wrong. My eyes won’t open as much as I try. My body feels like it’s full of lead, weighing me down onto the cool surface I’m lying on. Dread courses through my numb body, and anxiety clouds my thoughts entirely. I can’t move, I can’t see, and I don’t know where I am. What am I even supposed to do? Call for help in my useless state?
The air is cold enough to make me shiver, bringing a ray of hope forward. To my dismay, however, I still can’t feel my limbs. Suddenly, I see a dim glow fill the area from behind my eyelids, letting me know that someone has to be nearby to light them. Hushed voices approach me, accompanied by the footsteps of several people. Again, I try to move and finally my eyes manage to flutter open. I hear a man’s voice acknowledge this and the room falls silent.
Staring at what seems to be a stone ceiling, footsteps approach me. A distinct click of heeled boots tells me that whoever is coming is calm. Which, naturally, freaks me the fuck out; I’m lying on some stony surface, trapped in my own body, and some stranger is coming over to me after a few other people were murmuring to themselves. I can tell that they’re close to me, hearing the footsteps stop and feeling them nearby.
A hooded face pops in just over me, half covered by a black cloth. Stark green eyes meet my own, analyzing my face in silence. I stare, not knowing what’s going to happen next, but figuring out that I’m on some type of elevated stone. The person turns to face the others and says, “This isn’t a major setback, my friends. I will simply restrain her and the ritual will proceed as planned.” My eyes widen in horror. I’m sorry, the fucking what?!
Last thing I remember, I was at some hole-in-the wall spot my friends suggested we check out. Now, I’m on what I’m guessing is an altar in some dungeon place with some strangers talking about some ritual going as planned. Despite being slightly foggy, my brain’s fight or flight instinct is kicking in and screaming at me to get the hell out of wherever I am. Thankfully, this seems to be doing me some good because I’m feeling pins and needles in my toes and fingers.
Unfortunately, this also causes me to feel the mystery person strapping me down to the altar-thing with leather straps, securing me in place. They do this at my ankles, my thighs, my wrists and over my chest. The adrenaline continues to work its magic, at last letting me squirm slightly. I hear myself groan as I try to struggle my way to freedom. Unfazed, Green Eyes appears in my line of sight once more. “I see that your body is rejecting the sedative,” they point out, as if I hadn’t realized it. “How are you feeling?”
“Just peachy, thanks for asking!” I say, as exasperation coats my words. “How the hell do you think? I’m terrified and confused all at once, for fuck’s sake! You people roofied and kidnapped me, and now you want to use me for some ritual. So no, I am most definitely not okay, Green Eyes.” I hear them exhale a chuckle, barely audible. “What’s so funny, huh?” I ask, anger coursing through my veins.
They raise an eyebrow and I know they’re smirking under the cloth on their face. “Creative nickname, Miss Barnett,” Green Eyes says, stepping away and leaving me even more confused than I was before.
“Hey! How do you know that?!” I ask, alarmed.
They ignore me and address the rest of the people in the room. “My friends, the time we have been working for has finally come.” I turn my head, scared, but wanting to know what’s happening. I’m met with the sight of Green Eyes with their hood lowered, arms outstretched and speaking in a confident voice to about 30 people who kneel before them.
“Exactly 329 years ago today, Elias BarnettーAinsley Barnett’s ancestorーsentenced my own ancestor, Caroline Black, to be burned at the stake for witchcraft. She was said to have been dabbling in the Dark Arts since she was young, having shown great talent for them. However, what finally convinced them to kill her was that she had been communicating with a force too great for them to understand. She was planning to help the demoness Azaiavel take on a human host and take this world as her own. Now, with Miss Barnett’s assistance, we will finally be able to carry out her wish.”
The small crowd cheers and my stomach drops. “W-what do you people want me for?” I ask, my voice shaking uncontrollably. Green Eyes turns back to me, eyes wild yet focused.
“As I said,” they start, carding their right hand through a mess of dark curls revealed by the lack of a hood. “The Demoness needs a host for her unholy spirit to walk the Earth. However, the host must die for her to inhabit them. She demands a sacrifice, Ainsley.” With that, Green Eyes walks away from me and the rest of the group forms a circle around what I now realize is a sacrificial altar.
The cloaked people begin chanting in a strange language, their voices bouncing off the stone walls and ringing in my ears. This cannot be happening. I’m gonna die… I’m gonna be sacrificed so some demon lady can conquer the world… This can’t be real. I have to be dreaming. But I feel an energy create itself in the room, flowing around all of us. This is very real and I’m in deep shit now.
Like those around them, Green Eyes also chants. But the words they speak are different from the collective; they are far less, but each time one is said, I feel a jab in my stomach. I now realize that the light from earlier was just from the candles placed along the walls, but their glow is no longer warm. It feels like they are there because they have some magic-enhancing component that’s gonna usher in my demise.
The room grows ever colder and my body begins to weaken once more. Pulling against the restraints feels like I’m trying to move a mountain. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that Green Eyes has left their spot and has retrieved something from somewhere close to the altar. Again, they hover over my face, but they do not speak. I swallow nervously, feeling far more scared now that they’re completely silent rather than make some remark about my situation. “Hey, Green Eyes, where’d the sass go? I’m starting to miss it…”
They look at me intently but don’t answer me. Instead, they hold out their left fist, which holds an intricate dagger and they say, “Azaiavel, Great Demoness, I greet you.” The room’s temperature drops further and the candles’ flame grows. “I, Kieryn Wilson, humbly offer you this girl as a tribute. She is the descendant of the one who wronged you, the one who prevented you from taking over this world. I believe she is a wonderful candidate to be your host, seeing the irony it would mean for her bloodline to end this way.”
Tears fill my eyes as I see Kieryn raise their knife-wielding hand. Anxiety seizes my heart and my whole body shakes, making the tears spill down my cheeks. “Please,” I beg, just above a whisper. “Please don’t do this, Kieryn.” They wait a beat and hope flashes ever so briefly in my mind that I almost don’t notice when they plunge the knife into my chest. I gasp at the foreign intrusion before letting out a blood-curdling scream. A rush of energy bursts through my body, telling me that the demoness accepted Kieryn’s proposal and is going to possess my body as soon as it dies. And all it took was a few centuries of planning and a sacrifice…