The Coven of the Unholy

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            Kelpie picked his way through the tables, leading her towards a group that seemed to be waiting for them. “This is Sara,” he announced.
           There were three of them at the table, a man and two women. The man stood up at once. He was short with straight, slicked back hair and dark horn-rimmed glasses. “Willi,” he said, bowing his head and clicking his heels. “And this is Charlotte.” He was motioning to a woman sitting opposite him. Charlotte was slim and well into her forties, though, with the aid of cosmetics, desperately trying to keep that fact at bay. Her hair was dyed red, almost scarlet, and the wide lips of her large mouth were painted to match.
           “How do you do, Sara?” She smiled broadly and exposed teeth that were long and yellow. “Why you are a pretty little thing. Welcome to the coven.”
           “How do you do,” replied Sara, taking the woman’s hand and trying to hide the acute discomfort she felt at being introduced to such strange company.
           “Come and sit down, child.” Charlotte patted the vacant seat next to her. “Tell us something about yourself.”
           “Thank you.” Sara sat down and Willi returned to his seat.
           “I have business to attend to, lassie.” Kelpie turned from them and started back the way they had come. “I’ll be back for you in a little while.”
           “Oh,” said Sara, but Kelpie was already out of hearing.
           “Don’t worry, Sara. We won’t eat you,” this from the other woman, who sat next to Willi and opposite Sara. She was rather plump and looked to be somewhat older than Charlotte. Her jet-black hair embodied a silver streak and hung to her shoulder, obviously the work of an expensive coiffeur. She wore a black dress, designed to hide her ample figure.
          Sara smiled nervously. “I don’t think I got your name.”
           “You may call me Madonna.” The woman’s eyes seemed to sparkle as she spoke; they were dark with an unnatural fluidity about them.
           “The Madonna will prepare you for your initiation and guide you through your time as a neophyte,” said Charlotte. She was excited and eager to be friends with the new comer, too eager. “She is the mother of our coven.”
           “It is sometimes a difficult time,” this from Willi, who had not taken his eyes off Sara since she had sat down. “We heard of your coming. Tell us about your psychic ability.”
           Sara was embarrassed. “I don’t think I have any special ability.”
           “If you are being modest, child, there is no room for that nonsense here.” The Madonna spoke sternly, obviously a woman used to being obeyed.
           “I have no special power. If you think I have, then my presence here is probably due to a misunderstanding.”
Charlotte placed her hand on Sara’s leg and squeezed her thigh. “No, my child, don’t get upset. We are interested in all our new members.”
           “What about when you were a child?” said Willi. “Did you ever experience any strange phenomenon, see a ghost perhaps?”
           Sara moved her hand under the table and brushed Charlotte’s probing fingers from her leg. “Nothing,” she said. “Nothing at all.”
           “Then, my dear,” said Willi, “Perhaps you will help us. We believe you have a certain power, and we would like to see how strong that power is. I would like to conduct a simple experiment. Would you mind?”
           “Of course she won’t mind.” The Madonna looked down her nose as she spoke. “You have the aura, child. You must have the power.”
           “What do you want me to do?” Sara glanced quickly over her shoulder to see if Kelpie was in the room.
           “It is nothing,” said Willi, getting up from his chair. “Stay. I will not be long.” He walked towards the games room and disappeared through the opening.
           “How do you like the bridal suite?” asked Charlotte. “It’s such a lovely house, isn’t it?”
           “I suppose it is,” replied Sara nervously.
           “You must let me show you around. I know we can be such good friends.”
           Sara thought the woman was about to grab her knee again and placed her hand ready to fend her off; but instead, the woman grasped Sara’s hand, as if that had been the only reason for it being there.
           Willi returned to the group carrying a sealed envelope. “There,” he said, lifting it and showing it to Sara. “In this envelope there is a playing card. I want you to tell me which one it is.”
           “How will I do that?” asked Sara, pulling her hand from Charlotte’s bony fingers.
           “Concentrate on the envelope and see it in your mind.”
           Sara was sceptical. She stared blankly at the envelope and conjured a vision of a pack of cards. She ran through them and stopped at one at random. “The six of hearts,” she said.
           “No! No! You’re not concentrating. This takes work, Sara. Try doing it with me.” He paused, as if pulling together his mental faculties. Many of the Satanists were gathering round to watch.
           He held up the envelope. “See the envelope, Sara. Concentrate on it with all your mind. See nothing else but the envelope. Now, Sara, look beyond the paper. Let the envelope dissolve and see only what is inside.”
          Staring hard at the envelope and listening to Willi’s hypnotic voice was enough to slip Sara into a trance like condition. She could no longer see the audience, but only the blurred white rectangle of paper in front of her.
          “Can you see the outline of the card, Sara?”
           “Yes,” she whispered, without moving her eyes.
           “See the outline of the card. See the spots. Count the spots. How many spots, Sara?”
           “There are no spots. No spots,” cried Sara, becoming very agitated. “There is a figure.”
           “Do they have colour? Can you see colour? Are they becoming clearer? Are they red or are they black, Sara?”
           “Black,” said Sara. “A black figure.”
           “Are they round or pointed, Sara. Round or pointed. Clubs or Spades.”
           “No,” cried Sara, now very agitated indeed. “It is death. The figure of death.”
           There was a sudden buzz of conversation around the table. Willi smiled enough to split his face. Sara gradually came out of it, but she felt sick and wanted to vomit. Willi tossed the envelope on the table and said, “Open it.”
           Sara made no move to pick it up, for she needed no proof of what she had seen. Charlotte, on the other hand, could barely contain herself. She snatched the envelope from the table and tore off the top. “A Tarot card,” she said. “The death card.” She held it up for all to see: a picture of a robed skeleton clutching a scythe. All around the table they clapped and cheered.
          “Even if they have the power, it takes some people weeks to do that,” said Willi.
           “You have the power all right, lassie. There canna’ be a doubt about it.” Kelpie’s deep voice boomed from the back of the crowd.