A clink of ceramic on glass marked the arrival of two large ornate bowls on the counter by the door. All of Debra’s loyal customers knew the drill: phone in one bowl, cash payment in the other. They would arrive soon. She was ready.
The small, intimate studio featured soothing murals with intricate symbols, and was lit by hundreds of candles. There were no electronics allowed inside the practice room, and no electricity in the building. It interfered with the energy of the environment and the practitioners. Yoga mats were laid out in staggered rows, each with a neatly folded towel at the front. Hers was at the front of the room, facing the opposite direction.
One by one, her students trickled in, each marvelling, as always, about the stifling heat inside the studio. Debra beamed, watching the bowls fill with phones and cash and greeting each student as they arrived. Before the class even began, everyone was sweating except Debra. She was used to the heat.
Once every mat was occupied(and her classes always sold out), the hot yoga session began. Debra was gentle but firm as she pushed her students through the 26 poses, her blond hair and fair but wrinkling skin unfazed by the heat and humidity within.
The relief was palpable when Debra brought the group out of the final pose. Her classes were well liked, but not for amateurs. She lingered, fixed-in-place smile and perky demeanour inviting questions from students...as did the plate of homemade gluten free cookies she had ready.
Despite their curiosity and enthusiasm, the stifling heat drove each to their cars outside, leaving Debra alone in broiling silence. She collected the soaking wet towels in a large wicker basket with purposeful calm, and set the bowl of cash on top. Debra carried both downstairs to the room beneath the studio. Heat distorted the air around her, hair blowing back from her face as she approached the altar.
It was a dark, foreboding thing. Wax pooled around twisted candlesticks and flickering candles. Dreadful tomes bound in tattooed human skin, ceremonial daggers with carved bone handles, and pewter goblets stained with blood littered a tabletop so black it seemed to be a silhouette cut out of reality. The pride of place was held by two items: a small cauldron, and a gold and obsidian box.
Kneeling, she set down the basket and removed the bowl of cash. One by one, she reverently wrung out each sweaty towel into the cauldron on the altar. It was already nearly full, and her latest batch of unwittingly donated sweat topped it off.
She set aside the basket of towels, and lifted the bowl of cash. This, too, she added to an already large pile of coins and wrinkled bills in the gold and obsidian box. Empty vessels set aside, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, murmuring the same chants that during the session above students assumed were Hindu or otherwise related to yoga. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Debra chanted, the hellish portal belched caustic heat that baked the whole studio. Its fiendish, filmy surface rippled and expanded, reaching out towards her.
Eyes still closed, Debra grabbed one of the bone daggers, and dragged it across her palm. Blood dripped into the cauldron, then the box of money, each drop hissing as it made contact. Setting the dagger down, Debra lifted one of the lit candles, not even flinching as the liquid wax poured down the side and over her fingertips.
She lit the box of money, which burned brightly, then slowly lowered the candle into the cauldron, setting the liquid inside to a boil. Months of collecting coins and sweat culminated in this glorious moment. As her chanting crescendoed, the portal grew, warping and twisting. Soon, the unspeakable horror trapped within would escape and consume everything. Consume the town, the people, the wildlife, and even her, chakras and all.