Friday flash fiction – The Mystery of the Salt Circle

“Another mystery solved! Great work, gang!”

“Right, Brett. Who’d have thought a kindly old librarian would turn out to be a deranged cult leader?”

“People sure harbour some strange secrets. Well, let’s all go to the Disco Diner for chocolate shakes and hot dogs.”

“Oh boy, oh boy!”

“None for you, Hoppy. You’re a grass-eating herbivore!”

“Oh no!”

“Ha ha ha! Say, what are you reading, Desdemona?”

“Oh, just some old book that Old Lady Woodley tried to protect with her life. I’ve never seen hieroglyphs like these before.”

“You and your musty tomes, Des. Why don’t you forget about studying for one night and come dancing with the rest of us?”

“I don’t really feel like celebrating, Fleur. You should all go and have some fun. I think I’ll turn in early.”

“Better take Hoppy with you, then. If she sees a dance floor, we’ll never drag her away.”

“Sure thing! See you later gang. Come on, Hops, you can keep me company while I research this language.”

“Oh boy.”

“Don’t be like that. This will be fun. Look at this one, for example. What does this radiating symbol look like to you?”


“Hmm, maybe. Or maybe it’s a face reflected in a pool of some kind. Judging from the ring intervals, the liquid is denser than water. Oil? Sap? Some kind of syrup? If we translate these other symbols it might give us a clue…”

“Gang, I’m worried about Desdemona. Does anyone else think she’s been a little obsessive lately?”

“Come on, Crufty, give her a break. She’s in her nerdy element, trying to figure out that old book.”

“But she hasn’t left her room for three days. And has anyone seen Hoppy?”

“You boys worry too much. She’s probably sunk her teeth into some weird linguistic mystery, that’s all. She’ll come out when she gets hungry or needs a shower – oh! Desdemona?”

“Fleur. Is something amiss?”

“You look, er, different.”

“She smells different too.”

“You can talk, Crufty! Listen, Des, are you feeling okay?”

“Yes, Fleur. I am well. I need to go.”

“Go where?”

“I must return to the circle.”

“What circle?”

“She must mean that salt circle Old Lady Woodley drew on the basement floor in the library! But why? And what’s the hurry?”

“The Hour of the Gathering is at hand, Brett. We must bear witness.”

“Gosh, if you say so. But maybe I’d better drive. You look a little tired. Come on, gang!”

“Uh, say, Desdemona? Have you seen Hoppy?”

“Hoppy is in my personal bedroom, occupying a secure position.”

“Er, okay. What’s she doing?”



“I meant to use the more reassuring word ‘resting’. Hoppy is in a fully rested state.”

“Oh, okay. Well, let’s go…”

“Brett’s right, Des. You do look a little worn out.”

“I have been hollowing in preparation.”

“Hollowing? Is that some kind of new diet?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Hey, gang, buckle up. That storm up ahead looks really rough.”

“Wow! Check out all the lightning!”

“Looks like it’s localised directly above the library!”

“It m-might be a trick of the light.”

“Yes, Crufty. The phenomenon is definitely an optical illusion and should give rise to no further concern.”

“S-s-speak for yourself, Des. If Hoppy were here, I bet her ears would be twitching!”

“As she is unavailable, we have no reliable mechanisms for detecting imminent peril. I suggest we proceed straight to the library.”

“Des is right. We’d better get inside before this storm gets any worse.”

“Couldn’t we just cross the street? It’s windless and dry over there!”

“Come on Crufty, if we listened every time you and Hoppy wanted to run away, we’d never solve any mysteries.”

“But -”

“You can stay here if you want, but we’re going inside. Right, gang?”

“W-wait, don’t leave me here…”

“Can anyone else smell that?”

“Yeah, what is it? Smells like burned calamari.”

“Oh, yuck, I hate seafood.”

“Ha! Speaking of diets, I’m on a seafood diet. I see food and -”

“Now you’re making jokes?”

“I can’t help it. I’m nervous.”

“It’s coming from in there.”

“The opening is not yet fully dilated. The Ravener probes for weaknesses, yet the membrane resists.”

“Are we…still talking about a mystery?”

“The defences hold. The Gathering may yet be averted. Behold!”

“Hey, is that circle getting bigger? And where did all this smoke come from?”

“An incredibly localised fog bank?”

“Why would a fog bank develop inside a library?”

“I don’t know! Why would smoke glow green?”

“Listen! What’s all that whispering?”

“That’s Desdemona. What’s she trying to say?”

“Beats me. I thought she was talking to you. Speak up, Des.”

IcallupontheguardianatthethresholdslipyourtethersandstandyourvigilIcallupontheguardianat –



“Where’d you come from?”

“How’d you get here?”

“How’d you get so big? Did Desdemona feed you supplements?”

“Stand back! Let the Guardian perform its anointed task!”

“What task?”

“To thwart the incursion from the Dark Crevasse of the Hunger. The Omni-Famine. The Ceaseless Maw.”

“I’ll have you know I find those nicknames very hurtful!”

“Oh my stars! Teeth! Scales! Scorched tentacle tips. Aren’t you -?”

“Hetchag the Ravener!”

“Wait, for real? He’s not a disgruntled humanities professor or a property developer in a rubber mask?”

“Your flimsy human perspective cannot hope to encompass the immensity of my being. But do I seriously look like a property developer to you?”

“Oh, snickers!”

“Hoppy! Roppy! Roo!”

“What– a threshold guardian? How in the thirteen limbos did you numbskull kids conjure a – AGH!”

“Hoppy, stop biting that man!”

“It is no man. It is a Horror of the Lightless Realms intent on destroying all existence.”

“Hoppy, don’t stop biting!”


“Gross! Is that blood purple or black?”


“Oh no! My new blouse! I’ll never get these stains out!”


“Thank you, Guardian. You and my host have served admirably. I release you both.”

“Kinkies! What happened?”

“Oh, you know, Des. Demonic invasion.”

“Universe in peril.”

“And they would have got away with it if not for us meddling kids and -”



Sometimes, I get a little goofy. This started with the image – which is too obvious not to have been done somewhere, by someone – of Velma from Scooby-Doo wandering off with a copy of the Necronomicon. After lightly filing off the serial numbers and making the odd decision to tell this story only in dialogue, I realised this was probably another Hetchag yarn, which helped slot everything together. It’s been a while since dear old Hetchag the Ravener made an appearance, and I for one have missed him.

I’m heading down to Melbourne this weekend, where I shall be preparing to put on a brave face as other people’s names are read out at the Aurealis Awards. I have no idea what will happen if my name gets read out, but in that unlikely event and if it’s even possible to comprehend my incoherent babbling through the medium of YouTube videos, I’ll be sure to post a link.

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