Sidewalk Sorcery

Image courtesy of Sam Haddad on Unsplash

“Stop it, TJ, you’re doin’ it wrong!”

“Shut up, Alex, I am not.” Chalk staining his fingers, TJ drew a double inverted arrow, piercing the center of the circle.

“Are, too!” Alex crouched beside his brother, careful not to smudge the lines. “That’s not the way Mom showed us — ”

“Is so.”

“Not! You’re not mirroring it right. Here.” Alex pointed at the inverted arrows. “Need the opposites over here.” He twisted, sneakers digging into the small bits of gravel that littered the sidewalk, pointing again. “You got the same, not opposite.”

TJ paused, frowning at the second set of sigils that were scrawled across the sidewalk some five feet away. He scratched his nose, leaving a smudge of chalk. “Um, yeah, okay,” he conceded.

Alex snorted at him.

“Watch the house, wouldja?” TJ crawled over. He used the heel of his hand to wipe away the arrows and redraw them. He pressed down hard with the chalk, making the lines as thick and heavy as possible. He glanced up the driveway towards the car, double-checking to make sure that the sigils lined up with the tires. Satisfied, he began to draw the closing triangle and circle around each set of sigils.

“Hey! I wanted to do that!”

“Next time, Alex, okay? Watch the house. We need to fini — ”

The front door squeaked and popped open. Alex inhaled sharply. TJ’s head snapped up as a voice echoed across the front yard and driveway.

“Hey! Hey, you kids. What — what — you doin’?” Face blotchy, eyes rimmed red, Mr. Stephens staggered out onto the porch. He held a rumpled jacket and keys in one hand. He waved a briefcase at the boys with the other. “Go ‘way. Shoo! Get off — get off my lawn!”

TJ ground the chalk hard, completing the circle. He stood, holding out his hand. “Come on.”

Alex hopped over and around the sigils, ducked to grab the box of chalk, and took his brother’s hand. Together, they dashed across the street and down the far sidewalk, past oak and birch trees, only stopping when they found a small stand of shrubs and flowering bushes three blocks away. Panting, TJ dragged his brother around behind the foliage, crouching low.

Alex poked him in the shoulder. “I can’t see! Move!”

“Okay, okay, fine.” TJ shifted to the side, allowing Alex to squeeze under his arm.

An engine coughed, then rumbled to life. Brakes unlocked. Mr. Stephens’ car came into view, taillights bright red. The tires rolled over the sigils. The chalk circles and lines and arrows clung to the rubber, a brilliant white against the black. The car turned and stopped, it’s shiny new bumper and clean headlights facing them.

There was a pause.

The chalk marks rippled.

The car lurched forward. The engine roared. The car swerved left, then right, accelerating. Another swerve. They could see Mr. Stephens inside, screaming. All four tires exploded, bits of rubber spinning, burning. The car plowed into an oak tree. Metal screeched, wood cracked, glass shattered. A horn blared once, then cut off.


Doors opened up and down the street: a woman with a baby on her hip, a middle-aged man in his bathrobe, an older woman with a phone pressed to her ear. They took a few tentative steps down their respective sidewalks, mouths hanging open. The woman shifted the baby on her hip and ran back inside. Robe flapping, the middle-aged man jogged down the sidewalk towards the car. The woman with the phone followed him more slowly.

“Come on.” TJ straightened and held out his hand.

“But we gotta make sure.”

“I’m sure.” TJ waggled his fingers. “Come on. We need to go tell Mom.”

Alex scowled. He took his brother’s hand, then paused and held up the box of chalk. “But I’m the one who finally found him, when no one else could. Not you, not the police. You got to draw the hex sigils, so when we get to the cemetery, I get to draw the summoning sigil for Mom. ’Cause I’ll do it right the first time.”

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]