Dad yelled down the hall to me, “Get some sleep, Josie!”
Yeah, right, I thought.
My blood pumped something fierce as I indulged in my favorite secret activity. I made an effort to type softly though, and even dimmed my computer screen, then searched online for an image of my mother’s grave. It wouldn’t take Dad long to fall asleep to the white noise of a late night talk show. I turned back to my Google Earth search. I was staring at the bird’s eye view of Seattle’s oldest cemetery, Lakefront. It looked like a park from this distance, but as I clicked the plus sign, gray stones, white marble tombs and stone benches made it apparent what the land’s real purpose was, not to entertain or refresh, no. It was a place of rest.
I oriented myself by finding the caretaker’s cottage first, then right clicked until Chief Seattle’s grave came into the screen. My eyes blurred, and I was surprised to find the clock blinking, 11:11. “Make a wish,” I whispered to Shadow, who slept in a ball at the end of my bed. I pushed back the thought of joining my cat, I was so close. There were only twenty-or-so-feet between this grave and my mother’s. I fought a yawn, and clicked the right arrow, once, twice. Expecting to see the black angel holding the heart with my mother’s name, Sarah Jameson, etched across the face, the computer screen was filled with the image of a tombstone shaped like a stone chair. I zoomed in to read the epitaph. But, because this was real life, not some corny police show, I couldn’t make out the words.
A marker that some call devil’s chair
I opened a new tab and typed, “stone chair grave,” then scrolled through the top hits. My phone vibrated, and a quick glance told me that Seth was up late, too. My father’s rule was no texting after ten, but whatever. I read Seth’s message, he was researching the symbols carved into the grave I rubbed last week. In the text, he asked if the swirls in the middle of my rubbing could be an octopus. Octopus?
I started typing an answer, but two words on my computer screen stopped me cold, “devil’s chair.” I shivered at the search findings. I clicked on the ‘image’ button and stared into twenty-something versions of the tombstone I had discovered near my mother’s grave, same chair, different materials; iron, stone, wood and brick. Some were decayed to the point of falling apart. I texted Seth to ask if he’d ever heard of the devil’s chair, and my finger hesitated over the ‘send’ button. No. I didn’t need him to be involved with this. I deleted the message, then clicked a link to a story titled, “Sitting on the Devil’s Chair,” and I skimmed one man’s account.
On a Halloween night eight years ago, the man snuck into a central Florida cemetery in hopes of finding the devil’s chair. As he waited for midnight to come, he drank half the bottle of rum he planned to give the devil in exchange for a granted wish. As the witching hour approached, the man fell asleep, waking to a cloud of sulphur. Through the yellowish light, the devil, shiny black, not red, appeared, and with shaking hands, the man offered over the remains of the rum. Scared, tired and drunk, the man was going to run away, but the devil dropped back his head and laughed. And then he asked the man what he wanted most. Fighting to keep his words straight, he asked the devil to make him a famous actor, land him a role that would bring him a tidy bundle of stereotypes; money, women, fame.
Behind the computer screen, I stifled a laugh. What a loser. Out of curiosity, I scrolled to the bottom of the post and read the author’s name, Jason Danning. As in the Jason Danning, the man made famous by his portrayal of a specter on Broadway, literally overnight. No frigging way! I reread the part about his wish and shook with excitement.
My heart raced and I pushed back from my desk, paced the room, and stripped off my sweatshirt, suddenly flushed with purpose. Something like hope, and fear, and possibility burned beneath my skin. It couldn’t be true, could it?
What were the odds that a devil’s chair would be so close to my mother’s grave? That had to be more than chance. Maybe it was fate. My mind wandered to the wish I’d make, it didn’t even take a blink to find the answer. I needed to hear my mother’s voice again, spend a few minutes with her, let her hold me and tell me that I’d done okay without her. Tears streaked down my face. And as the drops dried on my skin, I decided that I must try. I would evoke the devil and ask for a favor.
At what price? The words whispered, not in my voice, but Seth’s, dear, sensible Seth. I crumpled the thought, throwing it into a dark corner of my mind and set about preparing. The clock read 11:23. I had thirty-seven minutes left.
This is the first part of the story, folks. Get in on the fun. Leave me a comment and tell me what should happen next. Share it with whoever you like and have them join the fun. And if this is the first you’ve heard of Josie, the protagonist of my first novel, Four Rubbings, well, for heaven’s sake, download it. Order it. Request it at your local library.