Meanwhile, the wingèd Heralds, by command
Of sovran power, with awful ceremony
And trumpet’s sound throughout the host proclaim
A solemn council forthwith to be held
At Pandemonium, the high capital
Of Satan and his peers.
-John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1, Lines 752-757
The sign on the pole announced Hannah Anne’s yearly garage sale in block letters written with a magic marker. Roddy barely slowed his run, glancing at the sign. Hannah’s yearly sales were almost like a holiday event in the neighborhood, certainly it was a weekend long block party. Roddy avoided them like the plague but as he passed the sign he saw with horror that the sale started today and his run route would take him right by Hannah’s house.
Roddy expertly removed his smart phone from his arm holster and brought up a GPS map of the neighborhood. Google Maps told a stark truth: Unless he turned around, there was no way to avoid the site of the garage sale. If he turned around, his carefully planned three mile route would be wrecked and he had to do the three miles today. Steeling himself to ignore the hoopla, he turned up the volume on his music, and set a deliberate pace he wasn’t going to stop.
As he neared the site, people were already either heading over to Hannah’s or setting up their own small yard sales. A few had already set up grills and were cooking. At seven in the morning! He could see balloons floating above mailboxes, children out on bikes or running around and neighbors walking singly, in pairs or groups towards Hannah’s house. Roddy shook his head in disbelief but never slowed his run.
Hannah Anne’s house was suddenly there on the other side of the street. It had once belonged to her aunt, but she passed a number of years ago, leaving the house to Hannah. It was an old house, dating from the late 1800′s, and it had that typical Victorian charm of the period. It was easily the oldest house on the street.
Despite his conviction, Roddy slowed, watching the people mill about examining tables, Hannah seemingly everywhere at once with a kind smile and a laugh. She wasn’t pretty in the traditional sense, handsome would be a better word, with mousy-brown hair and large dark eyes.
When Hannah saw him and waved, Roddy realized he had stopped running. He was halfway across the street approaching the house before he knew it. He stopped, wondering what he was doing, but he had never taken his eyes from Hannah and she was still watching him. A horn blare made him jump. The woman in the vehicle waved him over to the side of the street where Hannah was and he obeyed, once again stopping when he reached the sidewalk.
What is this? he wondered. I need to finish my run.
Shaking his head to clear away a sudden sleepy feeling, he turned down the walk taking a few loping strides before he almost ran into Hannah.
Her large dark eyes were like midnight pools. Looking down at them, he felt serene, all thought of avoiding the garage sale fled his mind.
“Roddy Garry,” Hannah smiled. “I’m so happy you came.” She playfully wagged a finger in his face, laughing. “It’s about time!”
Roddy nodded. “Past time. I don’t think…” What don’t I think? Didn’t I have something to do? “I don’t know why I haven’t come before.” Handsome? Did I think she was handsome? She is pretty. Very pretty. Roddy felt something stirring deep inside.
With a mischievous smile, Hannah glanced between Roddy’s legs, a mere brushing of the eyes. “None of that now. There are children about.”
The feeling left Roddy, as quickly as it came. “What? Oh, yes. Yes, of course.” He wiped his brow. “What was I thinking?”
Hannah gently held Roddy by the arm, turning him to face the house and the multitude of tables set up in front of it. “I believe you were going to browse.”
“Yes,” Roddy nodded. “That’s exactly what I was going to do.”
“I’ll be around if you need me, Roddy Garry,” with that she was gone, drifting away to another customer.
Roddy approached the tables and saw much of the typical garage sale fair. Stacks of books, boxes filled with picture frames, clothes, knick-knacks, vases, candlesticks and much more. Furniture was scattered about the tables. Roddy briefly wondered how Hannah could have moved the large couch out to the lawn by herself.
There were a pair of large oil lamps, the kind with the bulbous clouded glass, that Roddy thought would look good in his office. A first edition of Dracula was on top of one of the book stacks and underneath that was an original print of JS Bach’s Weinachts Oratorium. Treasures were to be found on every table.
At a table somewhat removed from the others, a number of objects lay. Roddy could not figure out why Hannah would have had them. A small figurine of a fat man, almost a buddha, but he held a sword across his knees. A plain golden ring. A foot-tall statue of a man holding a crystal orb above his head. A large black sword, the blade covered in red runes. A second ring of untarnished silver, or perhaps white gold. A lump of cloth that seemed to shift colors in a sickening way. An antique Colt revolver. An intricately folded piece of parchment that was blank. A deck of Tarot cards with an unusual design for the Major Arcana. Three blue gems, a darker hue than any sapphire he had ever seen.
Among the many more objects on the table, one kept catching Roddy’s eye. It was an unassuming wand, about a foot and a half long made from what appeared to be black cherry. Roddy picked it up and it felt - right. As if it was made for him. Turning it around, he saw letters inlaid along the wand. They might have been Greek, but Roddy wasn’t sure.
This will look great on my desk. He turned to look for Hannah, to ask how much she wanted for it, and found her at his elbow.
“Roddy Garry,” Roddy fell into those dark eyes, wondering if she was single, “What have you got there?”
“Huh?” Roddy pried his gaze away and looked at the wand. “Oh, this. Yeah, um, I thought it would look good on my desk. Y’know, on a little stand?” He held the wand out before him horizontally to demonstrate. “How much?”
“Oh, Roddy,” Hannah Anne frowned. “These items aren’t for sale.” She reached for the wand. “They are for a few special customers.”
Roddy jerked the wand to his chest. “Special customers?” He eyed her, growing suspicious. “Why put them out here then?” He waved the wand in front of her face. “I want to buy this.”
A look of horror fell on Hannah’s face. Reaching for the wand, she spoke briskly, “Stop waving that around!”
“No!” Roddy was nearly shouting. “I want it! It feels right!”
“You were more susceptible to the charm than I thought,” Hannah said through clenched teeth while she reached for the wand again. “I only wanted you to buy something, but not from this table. I had it warded.” Hannah successfully grabbed his wrist. “Stop waving it!”
Roddy scoffed. “Why? Am I going to cast a spell?”
“By the Three, yes! Now, give it to me!”
“No! If you won’t sell it, I’m taking it,” Roddy yanked his wrist free and began waving the wand above his head out of Hannah’s reach. The other neighborhood people had stopped their browsing and were watching Hannah and Roddy with mild interest. “Let’s see what kind of spell I can cast,” he said clearly not expecting anything to happen.
Hannah dropped her arms, deflating. “Oh, Roddy. I’m so sorry.”
Roddy stopped. “Sorry? Look! Nothing happened!”
Hannah looked around wildly. “Yes, something did.” She turned in a circle, her skirts billowing out. “There!” She pointed towards the street.
Barely discernible, a pencil-thin shaft of light rose from the street and stopped when it was about twelve feet high. The shaft turned as if Hannah and Roddy were viewing a window along it’s edge, slowing turning to the flat side. When it stopped, a square revealed an opening to otherwhere. Darkness and flame, hate and rage, heat and cold all poured from the opening.
Terror grabbed the neighbors and they ran. Roddy clutched the wand in his hand, sweat threatening to loosen his grasp. “What is it?” he breathed.
Hannah, swallowed, took a breath. “The inscription, Roddy. It’s Greek.” A something began to fill the opening. A creature of hate and fire. “Roughly translated, it means All the Demons.” Smoke and fire licked the edges of the opening. “It says, Pandæmonium.” A fiery hand thrust from the opening, grasping the edge. “You just opened a gateway directly to the capital city of Hell.”
This is in response the the Studio30 Plus writing prompt of “Pandemonium.” I decided to go with the original meaning of the word rather than the modern definition. I was inadvertently helped in this by Jessie of Jester Queen in the comments section of her blog post “Queen Bitch” where she wrote, “Everyone came to Hannah Anne’s garage sales. She often sold enchanted trinkets from her aunt’s basement, and one year, Roddy Garry had acquired a magic wand of some strength.” Thanks, Jessie!
Now a challenge for those of you brave enough to take it. On the table of items for the “special customers” are described magic items that appear in published books. Can you name the items and the books they came from?