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You Can Summon the Ancient One for Fifteen Dollars

Anya grew up in Singapore and moved to Melbourne to study law. After a few years of legal practice in Australia, she went back to school to study graphic design. She's now a designer in an ad agency in Melbourne, working in branding, illustration, copywriting, and digital projects. Off hours, Anya freelances and writes. She can be found on twitter at @anyasy.

As the circus packed up for the night, Elo bought T'kaarmarekch a drink. They sat near her trailer with cans of cold beer and listened wistfully to the lack of elephants.
"I know it was cruel to keep elephants in a circus," T'kaarmarekch signed, their many-petaled mouth rippling along with the movement of their jointed palms, "but I miss them."
Elo had been there when the animal rights people had come for the elephants. Seen the shackles cut away, nestled for so long against the elephants' legs that skin and flesh were growing over them. "They're happier where they are now."
"They reminded me of the savardii. Big dreams. Big thoughts. More than capable of killing you if you're not careful and disrespect them."
"Savardii fart burning sulfur." That was the main reason why Elo had switched away from using them in her booth. Impressive as a multi-headed daemonic centipede looked, replacing tents every month or so was a pain in the wallet.
"Nobody holds that against them." T'kaarmarekch drained their can in a jerk, flattened the metal into a thin sheet, and started to fold it into a flower. Elo shifted warily. T'kaarmarekch only folded flowers when they were in a weird mood. "Jrrkrr sent their regards."
"How's their clutch going?"
"Fine. They ate a few of their eggs yesterday when they were in a Mood, but it's all over now. They're getting counseling."
Elo pulled a face. "Shit. I'll buy a pack of halloumi tomorrow for you to bring over. That'll cheer them up. You guys get counseling in the Abyss?"
"Only on the fourth circle, but Jrrkrr got a day pass because of the circumstances." T'kaarmarekch looked wistful. "I could do with one myself."
"What's wrong?" T'kaarmarekch had looked like they were a little down recently, but Elo had put it up to the icy weather playing hog on their tail whips.
"It's just... all this." T'kaarmarekch waved one jointed mandible at the stall. "The last punter thought I was a man in a rubber suit. 'Really great costume! Awesome!'" It spat to a side. The viscous glob started hissing as it melted into the grass.
"Seriously, a 'man'? Gender is a mortal concept."
"It was just one guy. Everyone else was very impressed," Elo said soothingly. "Have another beer."
T'kaarmarekch set the metal flower aside and picked up another can with their third armhook. "Those people? PSSH. I miss the old days. People used to have such straightforward requests. None of these 'I want you to level the gender pay gap.'"
"The first punter had a straightforward request."
"Oh yeah. One that you said no to."
"She was six."
"She wanted some other kid to die."
"Some other six-year-old kid."
"Sounded straightforward to me. Your mother wouldn't have refunded the money. Your mother would've let me fulfill the contract. You know how much little girls' souls are worth in the Abyss? We could've been out of here. With the elephants."
"And that's why she's in state prison while I'm out here," Elo said, finishing her beer, "and yes, still summoning Ancient Ones for lunch money."
T'kaarmarekch eyed her soberly with half of their visible eyes. "Satan blames himself, you know."
"What? About what?"
"Said he shouldn't have made us all go on that company retreat. When we came back, you guys invented new definitions of evil all by yourselves. Hell, you guys are doing a fair job of destroying the world without even turning a page of the Necronomicon. We've been unable to keep up."
Elo coughed. "I doubt the retreat's the only reason the world's the way it is now."
T'kaarmarekch shrugged, rattling their spinal crest. They finished their beer. "Thanks for the drink. I'll send Jrrkrr your regards."
"See you tomorrow," Elo said, and T'kaarmarekch vanished in a puff of brimstone. She waved it away, picking up another beer. Tomorrow, she'd raise the price to sixteen dollars.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 18th, 2018

Author Comments

I've always been interested in how cultural fixtures like circuses evolve over time, and how what might appear fantastical to someone could be commonplace to someone else. I hope you enjoyed the story.

- Anya Ow
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