Jeanine lined the edges of the bathroom with candles and lit them with care with the matches from the kitchen drawer Mom had said never to open. She had taken the floor pillows from her bedroom and put one against the bathtub, the other right across from it against the sink. She sat by the bathtub and waited.
The floorboards in the hallway creaked, and the bathroom door opened – it was Jeanine’s twin Emily, holding the Ouija board in her trembling hands.
“Jean, I don’t like this,” Emily said, setting the board down on the floor in the center. “I really, really don’t like this.”
“Shut up,” Jeanine said, “and close the door. Shut off the lights. Demons hate the light.”
Emily did as she was told, and the room glowed gold from the candlelight. She grabbed her hairbrush from the drawer, then sat on her designated pillow and brushed her long hair.
“If demons hate the light, then why the candles?”
“The candles, dummy, are the only light that demons do like. It’s like you never listen to a word I say,” Jeanine said, arranging the Ouija board to be exactly center between them. She smiled to herself, knowing Emily would never forget what she was about to do.
She had been planning this prank for months, saving up her allowance, convincing her twin she was buying a new board game for them to play. She conned Emily into forking up her piggy bank cash, too, just enough to purchase it from the strange shop across from their middle school.
Here it was, the yellowing heavy square with each letter painted in perfect alphabetical sequence. The room was quiet except for Emily’s panicked breathing.
“Would you stop it?” Jeanine said. “Demons aren’t real, Em.”
“But why does it have to be demons?” Emily said, catching eyes with her twin quickly before looking away. “Why can’t we just talk to Papa through it?”
“Because Ouija doesn’t reach angels.”
“I hate this already.” Emily brushed her hair faster. Jeanine wrenched the brush from Emily’s grip, throwing it against the wall. It hit the tile with a clang.
“Stop it!” Jeanine said. “Don’t you want to know if it’s real?”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a whole minute. Emily nodded.
Wordlessly, they put their fingers lightly on the planchette.
“What do we say?” Emily whispered. Jeanine’s eyes narrowed at her twin, as if to say shut up, please. The candles flickered for a moment, unnoticed.
“Is there anyone here?” Jeanine said, her voice echoing. The planchette began to move under the light touch of their fingers, hovering over YES. Emily took her fingers off and folded her arms.
“You’re messing with me,” she accused.
“Put your fingers back, now,” Jeanine said, “or I’m telling Mom you bought this with your money. Which is partly true, by the way.”
Emily hesitantly placed her fingertips back on the piece.
“Oh, Spirit,” Jeanine continued dramatically, her voice deep, her speech planned word for word, “who are you?”
The planchette moved, and Emily’s eyes widened with every letter. Jeanine spoke each aloud: “D-E-M-O-N.”
“Jean, please,” Emily whispered, her fingers shaking. “Let’s stop now, before Mom hears us from downstairs.”
Jeanine only smiled. “Oh Great Demon, what do you want from us?”
The piece, guided and steadied by Jeanine’s fingers, moved despite Emily’s trembling. This time, Emily spoke the letters aloud. “I-W-A-N-T-J-E-A-N.”
She looked up at her twin, her eyes glossy, a single tear falling from her eye. “Jeanie, it wants you.”
“No!” Jeanine gasped in fake surprise, putting on her best frightened expression which she had been practicing the last few days and it was especially good. “It can’t want…me!”
Then – the best part of the trick – Jeanine’s eyes widened, and her head hung back as she threw her arms up as she began to speak in a made-up language she had practiced with great diligence, involving a lot of lip-smacking and tongue-flailing.
Emily began to cry. “STOP IT, Jeanie, this isn’t funny! This isn’t funny! STOP! IT!”
Just then, the room began to shake, slowly at first, then violently in tremors. The candles shifted and moved across the floor as if the ground were tilting. Emily screamed in terror, grasping at the tile but finding nowhere to hold, looking about wildly. Jeanine stopped her act, too, grasping against the sides of the bathtub, trying to steady herself.
“This isn’t me!” Jeanine said, her voice cracking. “Emily, this isn’t me! I swear!”
Emily screamed louder, tears streaming down her face. She tried to stand, but the room shuddered suddenly, and she collapsed to the floor, her head hitting the tile with a crack. A few candles fell over, cracking the glass of their containers, pieces flying everywhere, dinging against the tile. The board slid across the room and crashed with a thud against the closed bathroom door, trying to escape the little hell Jeanine had created.
Then the earth was still. The earthquake had ended. The air smelled like ‘Fresh Linen’ and ‘French Vanilla’ and smoke.
Jeanine slowly brushed the glass pieces into the corner, and stood the fallen candles upright. Some were still lit, and flickered feebly. Emily laid motionless.
“Em, you don’t have to be so dramatic. Obviously I was joking, you know, about the board and all. Get up and help me clean.”
Emily laid there, silent. Jeanine rolled her eyes.
“Get up, now,” Jeanine ordered, standing up herself. She crossed the room and turned the bathroom lights on, but Emily did not stir. “Stop faking and get up!”
Emily did not move, not even to breathe. Her hands were sprawled over her face. Jeanine reached down to move her arms, but felt something cool and sticky on her fingers. She then realized that around Emily’s head, a pool of something thick was leaking out.
Jeanine screamed as she had never screamed before.
The planchette moved silently across the Ouija board, spelling out: