Author's Note: In a rather haunted state of mind, I couldn't get anything written until I had written this. It frightens me a little that I thought of it, but it didn't turn out particularly badly after all. Which was equally surprising, when all is said and done. In any case, just a little... sick cookie, I guess. I might expand it and add to the concept of magic within, but that's only if I have time and decide it's worth it. We'll see.

Blood Magic

She had winced as the knife first cut into her skin, even cried out a little, but now she just felt numb. She could barely feel the blade across her pale flesh. This ritual requires a lot of blood, she thought ruefully, looking down at the bloodstained stone beneath her blood-soaked tennis shoes. Or perhaps it was just her own inexperience – she was awfully sloppy. She imagined that half of the blood ended up on her clothing or on the floor and utterly useless. Maybe it would have been easier to use someone else's blood. But she could never do a thing like that.

The room seemed to fill with smoke, then, and she pinched herself to make sure that she didn't have to get help – to make sure that everything was under control, that she was the master of the situation. She felt her fingers pull at her skin, but whether she was too weak to actually pinch or too immune to the pain to feel it she couldn't tell. In any case it was fine – she wasn't losing consciousness. The smoke was real. That was, perhaps, a good sign. She coughed (another good sign?) and all the cuts on her arms ached, the crisscrossing latticework that she had been forced to cut to allow the bloodletting without being dangerous. Like lace, she thought, pink lance. My underarms are covered in pink lace. Innocent, beautiful.

The smoke materialized, solidified into something almost human, only black and monochromatic, steely and grainy, made of granite or gravel or the black smoke that is coughed out of coal-driven electrical power plants. It was female, she thought offhandedly, as she tried feebly to blink. The smoke was still everywhere in the room and it itched in her eyes.

"My child," said the thing in a voice as amorphous and billowing as the clouds it came from, as sibilant a whisper as a gas leak, "why have you called me here?"

"I want revenge," she whispered, and coughed. "And I want power."

The smoke-woman chuckled, a deep, almost smothering laugh, like the rumbling of thunder clouds or a far-off explosion. She held a hand out to the bloodied girl and whispered, "Then, my darling, you have come to the right place." The girl felt faint, and clutched at the offered hand, leaning on it heavily. It held her up. "Upon whom do you seek to avenge yourself?"

"On Tony… he cheated," she gasped, stumbling closer to the smoke creature and leaning on her bodily now. The demon wrapped the girl in billowing arms of smoke and lifted her up. "He made me miserable," she whispered.

"You would have his life for this?" asked the demon.

Something shocked the girl and she was repulsed at the idea. Tony deserves to be miserable, but not to die. "No," she said, quietly. "Not his life, I wouldn't take his life. It wasn't his fault, or, not entirely. I pushed him away."

"Then on whom do you want revenge, if not him?"

"On Cara, she… she scorned me."

"You would have her life for this?"

The girl coughed with the smoke. Her arms ached, but slowly the pain was dulling. In the cloudy arms of the smoke-woman, she tried to drift off, but found she couldn't. "No…" she responded, "no, it wasn't her fault – I scorned her first, and in return. I alienated her."

The smoke-woman shifted her arms. "Our time grows short, darling girl. Whose life shall I take?"

The girl faltered, trying to find the name of the person who had made her so miserable. "Take… take…" she whispered, her voice growing weaker as time went by. "Take…"

The smoke-lady was dissipating, but she took the time to lay the girl softly down on the ground. "I am sorry," she said to the girl.

"Don't be," the girl replied, and she sank through the woman's arms to the ground below, slowly and surely. The woman was hard to see now, growing blurry and pulling apart. She was being filtered through the air conditioning system or blown out the windows, the girl thought. And the world was dimming, fading away right with the smoke-spirit. The pain was going away. That's a good sign, the girl thought. That's a good sign.