BY SIMON JACOBS
This piece was originally published in 2014 by Paper Darts as part of Simon Jacobs's Masterworks series, which is about reenacting famous works of art. Read other installments here.
Samhain is drawing near. You find the photos I have hidden on the computer. "I see you're into group stuff now," you say, the disgust evident in your voice. "This is certainly…a discovery."
I don't have even a glimmer of response—sometimes, things just get rude—but you don't mention it again, and I spend a quiet forty-eight hours listening to the Suspiria soundtrack on repeat and working on my woolly bats and arcane twig constructions in my room; it's harmless spookmeister stuff, not everything needs to be canonical.
Next day, from the rubble of the burned buildings two blocks away, I unearth a single human finger. It’s a particularly mysterious find; no deaths were reported in the fires and most of the neighborhood has long been abandoned. This isn't a part of any reenactment—in fact, I don't intend to tell you a word about it. I keep it in a private place for the right time.
When I return to the apartment, you're sitting in the otherwise-empty living room with four guys who look like cartoon versions of people you experimented with in college, all arm tattoos, chokers and dramatic haircuts. You and two others are holding enormous, double-pointed conical hats painted in pastel colors.
"This is Knox, Samsa, Rafael, and Tim," you say, motioning to each in turn. They nod or tip their conical hats. The fourth one just shows his teeth, which have filed points.
"Excuse me," I say, edging off towards the hallway. "I believe I have some latticework to attend to."
“Latticework,” says one of the visitors. “What a fruitcake.”
Closed in my room, I put on my headphones and try not to dwell on the dark magic probably occurring outside. Instead, I turn the volume of the soundtrack way up and focus my attention on the branchwork, twining together pieces of the scavenged forest. There’s a delicacy to the art, a careful balance of force and resistance in how much you're able to warp each minute limber twig before it snaps. It represents the shimmering veil separating nature and humankind, our world from the next, ritual from superstition, etc. I've piled the bats into the claw-foot tub on the other end of the room; the branch sculptures are scattered around me.
By the time the soundtrack loops itself, I've created what seems to be an object of almost heartbreaking tenderness, a geometric, five-pointed star made of gnarled branches, a gap at its center like a sightless eye. I remove my headphones to appreciate the beauty of this eminently seasonal object unfettered by the filter of technology, but oddly, the theme to Suspiria continues to play, and in the same instant that I realize the music is actually coming from elsewhere in the building—that you are, in fact, using the same soundtrack for your own purposes—I intuit a presence behind me. Your voice scares the shit out of me.
"Hey. Crafty McCrafterson."
I whirl around and send various twig sculptures in all directions, except, of course, for the one I grip tightly in my hands. You can't help but laugh at my disarray.
"Your presence is requested below deck," you say.
You're wearing the largest conical hat, with matching colored fabric wrapped around your waist. The moon throws its crazy light across you in streaks. The sticks do the same on the floor, like fingers reaching towards you.
The points of the star dig into my palms. The grit gets under my skin, mingling with what's already inside. I'm still crouched on the ground.
You shift your weight impatiently; the top of the hat bobbles. "We require a sacrifice."
I climb to my feet. My human stuff dribbles from my hands to the floor in front of me. The rest of my twig constructions drag it back towards them, a reverse-trickle along the floorboards, their shadows changing just slightly.
You swallow, once. I see it travel through your entire body, top to bottom. "Ok, Crowley."
Out of the tenebristic shadows, ever so slowly, we all begin to rise into the air.