Tabitha awoke with a start. Turning her head quickly from left to right, she scanned her dark bedroom. The little girl had never been afraid of the dark, in fact, she rather preferred this time of day. However, tonight felt different. Maybe the unsettling feeling she had was from the disorientation that comes from awakening so suddenly. Perhaps she was not fully awake, but still asleep and dreaming right this moment. She smiled and quickly dismissed this theory as the lingering remnants of sleep lifted from her mind. In its place confusion emerged for the parts of her brain that were alert and active while she slumbered had heard something. It was fuzzy and already fading from her memory, but she thought she could recall something out of place; something strange. Had she heard someone giggling in the darkness?
Slowly sitting up in bed, she intently listened to the night. The ever curious eight-year old was in wonderment upon the realization of how loud the silence could be. She heard the long groan from the foundation travel through the walls of the old house. The light tapping of a tree branch in the breeze caught her attention. She could even make out the monotonous Tick-tock, tick-tock from an ancient grandfather clock that sat proudly downstairs. More and more sounds soon revealed themselves to Tabitha, but none were out of the ordinary nor did any cause her fear or alarm.
Satisfied that all was calm, the girl allowed herself to relax and lowered her head to her pillow. She froze in place when creaking floorboards from steps on the other side of her closed bedroom door cut through the silence. The steps were slow and profound as it grew closer and closer. Upon reaching her bedroom door, it paused. Tabitha could hear the slight scraping of fingertips rubbing against the grain of the wooden door. Absolute silence settled over the room and remained unbroken until a soft, high-pitched giggle emerged, sending shivers down the girl’s spine. She could not tell if it came from a boy or girl, but it sounded muffled as if the giggler was trying their hardest to hold in a flood sniggers and laughter. There was also a sadness to the chuckles, and for a moment Tabitha thought she might have mistaken it for weeping or sobbing.
Cautiously, she climbed out of bed and placed her small feet on the cold floor. She made her way silently to her bedroom door and slowly turned the old brass knob. She was a brave little girl and prepared herself to face whatever monster stood on the other side. With a loud squeal from hinges neglected over the years, Tabitha slowly opened the door and was greeted to a crimson balloon bobbing in the air at eye level. She cocked her head curiously and thought, “What an odd thing to find.”
The balloon was big and shiny. Its red color was vibrant, and its silver ribbon sparkled brilliantly. There was nothing out of the ordinary or cause for alarm except for the clump of gray mud that plastered the end of the ribbon to the ground and held it in place.
Tabitha turned towards the giggling, now coming from downstairs. She slowly walked to the edge of the stairs and once again saw a balloon, this time blue of color, tied with a silver ribbon, and floating at the bottom of the steps.
Fascinated by the object, she neglected to see the foot and handprints along the walls and ceilings as she descended the stairs. The prints were from the same mud that was used to hold the balloons in place and spiraled the side of the walls to the ceiling as if up or down had no meaning for the owner of those clawed hands and feet.
She plucked the ribbon’s end from the clump of mud that anchored the pleasant thing in place and proudly looked upon her two fantastic prizes she had gained tonight.
“Teeheehee tee hee hee!”
From behind the girl, the snickering giggles rang out with even more failing restraint. It was as if any moment, a frenzy of uncontrollable laughter would erupt from its owner. At the end of the hall, she stood in front of the open door that led to the backyard. Obscured in shadows, hand prints at the top of the door frame peppered the wall from where it entered. She approached the opening, and in the night, a shining light revealed the most amazing balloon of them all. It was in the shape of the letter “T,” for Tabitha she surmised. Like its ribbon, it too was silver, but it sparkled so brilliantly in the darkness. The twinkling light reminded the little girl of pixie dust from the many fairy tales told to her at bedtime.
As she approached the balloon, the giggles became more persistent. Its intensity rose as the ability to restrain the laughs grew ever more challenging. Closer and closer, Tabitha approached her final prize. Without realizing it, she had stepped over and past the boundaries of the door frame and was now outside the protective walls of her homestead.
Tabitha lifted her small hand to take hold of the fantastic balloon but froze when she saw that its ribbon was not held in place by the slimy mud this time. It was a dirty hand that held the balloon’s ribbon. The hand slowly rose and offered its gift to her.
Tabitha took a step back and gasped. The thin hand once again gestured for the girl to take the thin ribbon from its grasp. The hand was attached to a gnarly arm that disappeared into the shadows. Both the little girl and the hand remained frozen, neither making the first offerings of greetings towards one another.
The Giggling Man’s broad grin slowly emerged from the shadows. Deep and sad eyes appeared next. The creature was horrifying, but its wide eyes and a broad smile from red lips were disarming. Hunched on all fours, the beast contorted its limbs in ways not intended by nature. The thin and naked body, completely covered in the mud, gave off a stench of sulfur that made Tabith think or rotten eggs.
Immediately, the good-hearted girl felt pity for the poor creature entangled before her. The painful grin tore and stretched into its face, and its mournful eyes touched her soul. The Giggling Man turned, and effortless bent over backward and upside down with a hand still outstretched, offering its gift. Tabitha could not help herself, and let out a tiny giggle of her own.
The Giggling Man continued to let out hysterical and nervous giggles as he stood still in his backward arch and waving its free hand in the air to an unheard melody. The desperation in its eye intensified as it continued to snicker and offer its balloon from its hand. Tabitha looked deeply into those sad eyes and finally convinced herself that no ill intent existed there. She smiled. Taking a step forward, the girl reached for the balloon.
Having awoken from a strange and sudden sleep, Tabitha’s mother knew something was amiss. Fear gripped her heart upon seeing the girl’s empty bedroom and muddy prints along the walls. Racing downstairs, she arrived at the open door just in time to see the girl take the object from the Yo’Gitja Demon that stood before her.
The moment the girl took hold of the ribbon, the sound of shattering glass rang loud from the collapse of every protection spell cast upon the house. The powerful spells meant to conceal and prevent detection, deflect hexes, and counter curses from any manner of beast and demon had fallen and were no more. Now nothing stood between them and the darkness that approached.
The Giggling Man quickly turned upright and faced the little girl. It towered over her at its full height. The sad eyes were gone and replaced with milky red orbs that showed absolute delight upon seeing the defenseless little girl. The grin etched on its face widened and stretched its white flesh. Blood flowed from the corners of its mouth and teeth, thin as needles, tore through the skin.
As if all was calm, Tabitha turned her back to the creature and looked toward her mother. She raised her small hand to show off her new balloons and waved with the other. She smiled a radiant smile only a daughter could produce for her mother. It was a smile of love. A smile unaware of the danger and malicious intent looming behind her.
The creature lowered itself and prepared to lunge at the little girl. It trembled with lust from the anticipation of tearing into the young flesh and gorging on the little girl’s blood. It let out a loud squeal of giggles at the thought of smearing that hot liquid over its dried and desiccated body. With the girl facing away, it failed to notice the change occurring in Tabitha’s eyes. Gone were the hazel green and the white corners of her eyes. In their place, orbs of the blackest night stared out into the evening sky; orbs of sight that saw everything.
The Giggling man pounced, fully prepared to devour the child that dared show her back to it. To its surprise, the demon found itself suspended and frozen in place. In mid-air, Tabitha took hold of the creature’s essence in an unbreakable grip. With invisible hands, she explored the creature’s body in both the physical and spiritual plains. Once curiosity no longer held the child’s attention, she began to play.
Unseen fingers took hold of the demon and twisted and tore at the creature’s flesh. The skin from the creatures back was peeled from muscle; the bone was bent until they split and shattered. Every organ within its torso was squeezed and eviscerated until yellow juices soaked the ground below its suspended body. Never once did the tormented beast cease it’s high pitched. Through insane giggling, gurgling blood and vomit poured out of its contorted mouth. And all the while, Tabitha laughed and giggled at the sight.
Still restraining the beast in her mind’s eye, the powerful little witch smiled at her new-found toy, but like so many others before it, she grew bored. Although it was fun to play with those who dared attempts at deceiving her, it quickly lost its element of pleasure. She released it, and the unrecognizable clump of flesh hit the ground with a sickening squish. A small and almost inaudible giggle was still coming from the entanglement of bones, innards, limbs, and intestines.
Tabitha’s mother ran to the girl and scooped her up in her arms. While embracing the child, she looked nervously around. With the protection spells broken, they were defenseless and no longer hidden to the world. She took out her wand and held it in a defensive pose. Its tip glowed like hot coals, and it emitted a soft hum like the wings of wasps ready to strike. It was widely known that Yo’Gitja Demons are summoned in threes. It was wise to assume the other two would not be far behind their fallen brother. It was also common knowledge to summon Yo’Gitja Demons required immense power rooted in ancient and forbidden witchcraft or allegiance to a demon of the highest order to bind these dark creatures to their will.
The broken and battered creature still stirred on the ground, still letting out weak bursts of laughter. Tabitha’s mother lifted her foot and brought her heel down hard into the demon’s skull until no more sound came from the mangled corpse. Backing out of the night air and into the house, she scanned the darkness for any sound or movement. Closing the door, she began the incantations and spells to build a temporary boundary of protection for the house. What she had conjured could barely be considered adequate. It was more of a distraction to anything that would challenge it, but it would be enough to give them time to escape if the need arose.
Tabitha’s mother sat and rested once her tasks were finished. She looked at the sleeping little girl with love and pride. They would need to leave this place immediately. Ever since girl’s birth, they had been on the run. Ever since her existence was made known, it was becoming harder to stay hidden for any length of time. Tabitha’s mother had done everything possible to keep her safe. She knew the child was incredibly powerful. Possibly more powerful than any witch to have ever walked the Earth. However, she was still a child. There were limits to her endurance and control over her gifts. Alone, she was vulnerable and could easily be overwhelmed. It was her mother’s mandate to keep the child safe until she came of age.
As she quickly gathered any belongings of importance, Tabitha’s mother thoughts wandered back to the day she was given this secret mission by the elder mother of the Great Coven.
“Corruption infects all, and no one can be trusted. Even here in these great walls does it suppurate. Go! Move quickly and do not look back. The days grow shorter, heralding the approach of cosmic Equinox. Forthwith, concealment will be beyond our ability, and the Heavens and Stars will take notice of this secret we hide. True, they reveal omens and premonitions to those who know what to seek. However, they are nothing more than idle chit-chat and gossip amongst the bored and dull celestial beings. They have nothing better to do than spy on the goings-on of Man. When that day of revelation comes to pass, the news of this child will trickle down to farthest depths of hell They will come for you—Entities from when the world was formless and void and accolades of man with souls sold to the Deep Ones for power and wealth. They will be relentless. They will stalk you. They will hunt you. They will not rest, and they will not stop until they find you. They will show no pity and offer no mercy. They will tear through flesh and bone to possess the energies that will course through this child’s soul. With the arrival of this blessed gift bestowed upon you, so comes the horror that follows”
The words lingered in her mind as she woke the little girl, telling her it was time to go. The girl nodded, knowing they would need to run and hide once again. Pride swelled in the young mother’s heart. Her thoughts returned once more to the prophecy, and its words gave her hope of a new day when their enemies learn the true nature of the prey they hunt. Within this child rests unimaginable power capable of feats never thought possible. In time, Hell will tremble upon her approach.
“Listen, my daughters and listen well. The day grows near when the Eye of Bishagor will open, and shadow will consume the Sons of Adam. When the Morning Star makes war with Son of Suns, the Four Towers of the North, South, East, and West will fall. On that day, look up to the sky and behold the First Mountains fall from the heavens and scorch the sky. When the sky turns red, and the sun shines no more, a child will be born. This child will possess power like no other before. She will be the avenger of the Daughters of Endor. She will return the stolen birth right of magic to the Daughters of Eve and end their enslavement to that ancient God of lies. With curses of vengeance and spells of furious rage, the Mad God of Old will fall, and his kingdom will be no more.”