They sat immobile, watching the ethereal form creep slowly toward them. Though small in stature, the dark entity had a presence that filled the room. Its eyes were golden; they glowed—like a fire had been lit within their center. As it cocked its head slightly to the right, those eyes looked directly at Mark. It began to gain density and move deliberately. Its stride was effortless. It appeared to float toward the couple. The room was eerily silent.
The intercom buzzed. Irritated at the interruption, Mark punched the reply button, and snapped, “What is it?”
“Sorry to bother you, Mark,” his secretary replied, “Erin is on the line. She said it’s important. Shall I put her through?”
“Thank you, Marion.” He answered. “I didn’t mean to bark at you.”
He could sense her smile when Marion said, “No problem. Here’s Erin.”
Now it was Mark’s turn to smile. Erin had that effect on him.
“Hey, what’s up? Is there any chance you’d be able to get out of the office early? I have a big surprise and if I need to wait until this evening, I’ll explode,” Erin blurted out in a rush.
Laughing, Mark replied, “That sounds intriguing. I can finish this project in about an hour. Will that work?”
“That will be perfect. I have a surprise you won’t believe,” Erin told him.
“I’ll head for home as soon as I can.” Mark hung up the phone. He shook his head and smiled as he wondered what she had up her sleeve. Erin loved surprises and frequently amazed Mark with her revelations.
Mark turned his attention back to the document. With no interruption, he’d be on his way home within an hour.
Erin had spent the afternoon at the auction house where she found something totally unexpected. She’d won the bid for an antique Ouija board. Someone had made it from solid wood and had a patent date of 1891 etched on the reverse. It was over one-hundred-twenty years old. Erin believed the age of the board would make it a receptive and powerful tool. A heart shaped wooden planchette was included in her purchase. The overall condition of her prize was remarkable. Erin couldn’t wait to show Mark and was even more excited about using the talking board later that night.
“Ouija board?” Mark laughed. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“Mark, it’s a real antique. Age makes it powerful,” Erin explained.
“You truly believe this wooden tray will allow you to talk to dead people?” he asked.
“Yes,” she retorted. “The Ouija board is a channeling device. It will allow us to contact spirits. When someone touches the planchette, it will concentrate that person’s energy in one place. That energy gives the spirits an invitation to respond, by guiding the planchette to spell out words and answer questions.”
Mark was unconvinced, but Erin’s enthusiasm was not to be dampened, and so he agreed. “Okay, my mystical spouse.” He chuckled. “Get the candles and champagne and I’ll get the card table. I’ll meet you in the living room.”
Mark set up the card table. Erin placed the Ouija board on the table and placed the planchette on its center. She lit three candles, set them on the table, and turned off the lights.
“So, what do we do now?” Mark asked.
Erin said, “Put your fingers on the edge of the planchette, then ask if any spirits are present. Invite them to come.”
Feeling a bit more comfortable with the Ouija board, Mark said, “If any spirits are here, I invite you to join us.” They waited, but nothing happened.
“This is a safe place for you to enter,” Erin whispered. “You are welcome in our home.”
The planchette shifted, ever so slightly. Mark looked at Erin. Her wide eyes and stiff posture let him know she, too, was startled by the movement.
“We welcome you, spirit,” Mark said. “Come to me.”
Slowly and steadily, the planchette moved to the letters C O M I N G N O W.
Then it stopped. Erin glanced up from the table. Mark was watching her skeptically.
“Did you do that?” he asked her.
“No,” she stammered. The flames from the candles flickered as a mild breeze swept through the room. For a split second, the card table vibrated, and one flame was extinguished.
Erin was frightened. She pulled her fingers from the planchette, reached across the table and clasped Mark’s hand as the entity materialized at the far end of the room.
What have we done? Mark thought. He hesitated, then greeted the apparition, “Hello.”
Erin slid from her chair and stood behind Mark.
The entity was a magnificent lioness, with glowing emerald green eyes, and a thick golden coat that glistened. With a soft growl, she said, “You summoned me.”
Startled at the sound of its voice, Mark sputtered, “I can hear you.”
“Our spirits are connected. My thoughts become words. I speak only to you,” the apparition chanted.
Erin commanded, “Leave now. You are not welcome here.”
The cat’s attention was on Mark. As if Erin had not spoken, the spirit moved to Mark’s side and rubbed its head against his shoulder. The soft fur on the tip of its ears brushed Mark’s chin as the weight of the cat threw him off balance. He stood as his chair fell backward.
Erin moved toward the door, but the lioness pounced, knocking her to the floor. Front feet on the woman’s shoulders, the cat snarled, then licked Erin’s cheek, its rough tongue scraping her skin.
As quickly as it struck her, the sleek beast turned from Erin to Mark. The cat grabbed Mark’s head with her front feet and sank her glistening teeth into his throat. The lioness dissolved.
Erin screamed when Mark dropped to the floor. A translucent black panther sprang from his chest and leaped toward Erin.
“You summoned me,” were the last words Erin heard.