The paranormal was something that the three of us felt we were beyond. We all liked to think of ourselves as educated, and when we got into arguments we felt near invincible. But, when Martin insisted we fuck around with his fat older brother’s laptop full of occult pictures and docs (and when he promised to involve some of his best weed), the three of us decided to meet up in Jon’s basement, hallowed smoking ground.
After a couple bowls the three of us stared into the glow of the HP screen, clicking through folders labeled “Demons”, “Rituals-life”, “Rituals-strength”, “Hexes”, “Phasing”, “Lucid Dreaming”. Every folder was full of sketchy Polaroid pictures of pale figures with twisted triangular faces and fingers like twigs, long pieces of text containing foreign languages and symbols, and intricate diagrams for sigils and sacrifices. It was some mind-bending shit for stoned 17-year-olds.
We found a project in a folder labeled “Summoning”; it contained tons of pictures and diagrams for calling things to this world- from hell, from other dimensions, from something that one image referred to as “the else”- and we picked one at random to mess around with and laugh through.
The diagram called for little prep. We needed only light some incense and say some incantations, all in some language that none of us had heard of. The entity that the diagram described lived in some place referred to as “over the wall” and tons of red text littered the picture. It all warned of dealing with the entity, of its numerous powers, and it included short accounts of the lives it had ruined (including a pretty sick one about a woman whose guts it had removed and played with, and a few more involving figures without eyes found wandering the scene of the summoning). The thing was a curious being, but impatient. it liked stalking us humans, watching, observing, before it grew more malicious, started taking us, experimenting on us, driving us to do things for it, seeing what made us squeal or cry or bleed.
We got everything set up and Jon volunteered to read off of the screen. Let me tell you, watching Jon fumble through that booga-booga language was the highlight of the night. We laughed through the whole thing, Jon tripping over words and destroying some through his own chuckles. Even when Martin put up hands to settle us down, the snickers would get through and flare back into laughs. I decided to pull out my camera then. It had become tradition to film these basement sessions, and it seemed Jon was going for an Academy Award.
We sort of gave up with the laptop after the camera came out; we were getting bored and Jon ran out of words to read. Eventually we all started passing the camera around and speaking into it directly, kind of doing the That 70s Show round table thing. We’d say something “intelligent”, “revelatory”, or “funny” and then pass the camera on. It was a way of documenting some indispensible hilarity to look back on the next day.
The night passed quick. I remember turning on the TV, and at some point Martin and I packed up the laptop and walked back to his house so Jon could pass out on his couch, but events leaked in and out of memory after the night in question.
The next morning I woke up to find my phone full of unread texts and missed calls, all from Jon. The gist of the messages was “get your ass over here,” and the voice delivering the voicemails wasn’t that of the easy stoner I was used to dealing with. He spoke in unconnected, short clips, a lopsided train of thought: “found it downstairs…for fun, you know…supposed to…just thought I’d…I found it, in the camera…to see…you need to see…supposed to be fun. Just over here, get over here please.” Jon sounded completely stern, almost lifeless, something that set a million little alarm bells off in my head. I went to find Martin, who had also gotten a phone-full of messages, and we returned to Jon’s house.
We found him upstairs in the TV room. He’d hooked up my camera left over from last night and was watching the new stuff we’d recorded, pausing and fast-forwarding, stopping every now and then to watch. Martin and I crept into the room and took places quietly on the couch. We didn’t want to interrupt.
The footage played on about as I’d remembered it happening, and I watched as the Jon onscreen recited the incantations. Coming from his mouth they sounded entirely made up, yet rhythmic, like poems from some other country. In the video, we’d been cracking up, and the sound of chocked laughs and giggles bounced around the room, but watching it again made me feel weird, like I was seeing and hearing something I shouldn’t be, almost like snuff. I looked at Martin and then to Jon. Jon’s stone face, Martin’s mouth, slightly agape, and the feeling that I was watching something forbidden made me feel like it had been a mistake to record last night.
I finally asked Jon what was up, why he called us, why he seemed so somber, and he gave a cold answer, a knowing answer: “keep watching”. So we did.
The night on the tape played out, filing in memory gaps here and there as it played. It ran to the point where we started talking into the camera and passing it around. Jon looked as though he’d snap on either of us at any moment, so I didn’t dare ask what we were looking for. Finally, in the video, I passed off the camera and Jon hit pause.
“See? See? Well?” Jon alternated a stare, almost accusingly, between where Martin and I were watching and the TV screen itself. I glanced at Martin and he shook his head. On the screen we were all sitting together on Jon’s couch throwing up rock-n-roll devil horns with our hands, stoned out of our minds. I stared at the image for a few fruitless seconds, but then it hit me like a train. I saw what Jon called us over to see, and it made me feel nauseous. Jon said it before I could: “Who the fuck is holding the camera?”