Aphelion Issue 246, Volume 23
December 2019 / January 2020
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

The Hexchanted Book Of Spells

by James J. Murphy III and Lisa G. Murphy

On Monday afternoon, August 6, 2012, a woman in her late thirties with dark brown hair was entering a house on Smith Street. “Hello! Susannah! Claudia! Anybody home?!”

“Mommy! Mommy!” yelled a little girl

. “Hey… there’s my little princess. What did you do today, Susannah?”

“Went online.”

“Your sister didn’t take you out?”

“She’s been in her room all day.” There was loud laughter and giggling coming from upstairs.

“I can hear her now. Claudia!!!” she shouted up the stairs. There was no response. The woman walked up to her daughter’s room and knocked heavily on the door.

“Come in!” The mother entered. “Hey Mom!”

“Hey Mrs. Macintyre!” said three other girls.

“Claudia, it’s a beautiful, bright sunny day. Why aren’t you and your friends outside, enjoying the town? You’re starting to look like a vampire.”

“Mom, vampires are in. I didn’t have the car to go cruisin’, anyway. Besides, what’s so great about Newberry, Florida? What are we most famous for? Watermelon.”

“Maybe, but at least the watermelon tastes great.” Mrs. Macintyre looked at the other three girls. “Jackie, Linda, Ashley… Why don’t you three and my daughter go to the movies?”

“We’ll go out soon, Mom.”

“What are you girls doing, anyway?” The large, dusty, faded book that her daughter was holding caught her eye. “Oh, I thought I got rid of all your dad’s belongings when he passed away.”

“Don’t worry, Mom. This wasn’t Dad’s. This was Aunt Tilda’s spell book. There’s a lot of cool things in here.”

“Your aunt was definitely the oddball in the family. Just remember, Claudia, school begins in two weeks. You won’t be having slumber parties every night like you are now. Here are the keys. Take your sister out for some ice cream. She’s been wanting it all day.”


It was August 30, 2012. Claudia and her friends had already started their sophomore year at Newton Highschool ten days prior. It was 9:23am and Claudia, Ashley, and Linda were in third period English. The girls, as well as most of the class, couldn’t care less what the English teacher was teaching. They were too busy texting back and forth and laughing at the responses

. Claudia looked at the text Jackie sent her. She had to put her hand over her face to prevent herself from laughing. She typed out a response and was about to send the message.

“Freeze!” yelled the teacher.

Claudia looked up and saw that the English teacher didn’t look very happy. “Is there a problem, Mr. Roscowitz?”

“Problem, Miss Macintyre? Why don’t you tell me?”

“I don’t see a problem.”

“Then why is it that every day since you’ve been in my class, you do nothing but text? This doesn’t just go for you, Claudia; this goes for everyone. All I want is to get this class through Death of a Salesman. After that, we can actually move on to another story.”

“Yo, Mr. Roscowitz! How many years have you been teaching classes this story?” a jock yelled out.

“Too many, Ricky. Could anyone in this class even tell me what this story is about?”

“Obviously a salesman dying. Probably because he sold someone the wrong item.”

“Wrong, Miss Macintyre. Now you get the privilege of standing and reading your text out loud so everyone could hear.” Claudia was hesitant. “Today, Miss Macintyre.”

She looked down at her cell phone. “I can’t believe I’m stuck in English. The highlight of this class is listening to Mr. Roscowitz teach us with all his wisdom.”

“Nice try. The real text.”

Claudia looked back down at her cell phone. “Did you see what Tommy Flaherty’s wearing today? Yum, Yum.”

The class cheered. One person even said: ‘Yeah, Tommy!’

“Class, I get it. English is boring. When I was in high school, we did the same thing. We never actually texted each other; we used to pass notes in class.”

“Notes?” questioned one of the students.

“It’s better to text than use paper,” said Ashley.

“Yeah,” agreed Linda, “less trees die.”

After hearing that, the English teacher said, “It was the eighties. Yes, I’m old. Let’s get back to the lesson.”


Fifth period lunch came quickly for the girls. They gathered around the table in the corner of the cafeteria that had been their usual spot since they started at Newton Highschool. They hadn’t even had a chance to sit down and discuss the text message incident when Tommy Flaherty walked past them, looking directly at Claudia, smiling and running his hand through his hair.

The girls couldn’t help but blush and giggle when he was finally off to the lunch line and out of sight.

“Oh, God, Jackie! You hadda be there!” Ashley blurted out the second she got the chance.

“What happened?! Did I miss something?” She looked at her friends, confused.

“Well… I was about to respond to the text you sent me when I was in English… and I got caught. Mr. Roscowitz made me read it in front of the entire class!”

“What?! Couldn’t you just make something up?”

“She tried,” Ashley interrupted. “He saw right through her.”

“It coulda been worse,” Claudia said. “Mrs. Greenburge takes the phone from you for the rest of the class if she sees you on it.”

“That would suck. What did you write, anyway? I never got a text back.”

“She was going on about how hot Tommy looks today -- and he was sitting three rows in front of her!!!” Ashley said excitedly.

“No…” Jackie’s jaw dropped.

“Yes! And now he keeps staring at her. Didn’t you see him checking her out when he walked by? He sooooo wants her!”

“Whatever, guys. Let’s just eat lunch.” Claudia started emptying her brown paper bag.

“Just ask him out. You don’t have much time if you want to go with him to

Homecoming. He always has girls lined up for him… and that includes half of the cheerleading squad.”

“Exactly, Ashley. So why even bother? I don’t stand a chance with a guy like him.”

“Actually, guys… I’ve been thinking about that book we found in your attic.” Jackie looked at Claudia. “You know… your aunt’s spell book.”

“Oooh, great idea, Jackie!” Ashley said. “We can see if the book has a love spell!”

“I don’t know, guys…” Claudia said. “That seems like serious stuff. Aunt Tilda probably knew what she was doing.”

“It’ll be fun, Claudie. Plus, I was curious and did some research. I saw that your aunt’s book was called ‘The Hexchanted Book of Spells.’ Turns out her book is actually kinda popular for witchcraft and spells and stuff… and there aren’t many copies in existence.”

Claudia saw how excited her friends were. “I’m still not sure if we know exactly what we’re getting into.”

“Pleeease! Come on, Claudie!” Ashley begged.

“Maybe. But we should start out with something small first.”

“Like levitation,” Jackie suggested.

“You have this all thought out, don’t you? Or maybe we’ve been having too many horror movie marathons at our slumber parties.”

“You know we’ll never get enough of those!” Jackie told Claudia. “So, you up for it?”

“I am, one hundred percent!” Ashley volunteered.

“I’ll try it,” Claudia said.

“Good. I’ll tell Linda everything -- We have Gym together seventh period.” Jackie was digging in to the lunch she’d brought from home.

“I’d better go grab something to eat if I plan on actually having lunch today. We only have fifteen minutes left.” Ashley got up and headed to the lunch line.


On Friday night, September 14, 2012, the girls were having a slumber party over at Claudia’s house. They were louder than usual. “Did Tommy Flaherty ask you out yet?” asked Jackie.

“No. And I doubt he ever will,” said Claudia. “You know those pretty boy types.”

“Don’t we all…” agreed Linda.

“‘Oh, look at me. I’m Tommy Flaherty. I can get any girl I want. I’m so cool,’” mimicked Ashley. The girls laughed.

Claudia’s door opened. “Mommy said you have to baby-sit me tomorrow night.”

“Fine, Sue. Tonight’s Friday. It’s girls’ night. Get out!”

“I’m a girl.”

“No; you’re a kid.”

“It’s getting loud up there! Keep it down!” yelled Mrs. Macintyre from downstairs. “Some of us have work in the morning.”

“Sorry, Mom!” yelled back Claudia.

“Sorry, Mrs. Macintyre!” the other girls shouted.

“Let’s get ice cream. Come with me, Jackie,” said Claudia. “I’ll get you some, too, Sue.” The kid sister smiled. Claudia, Jackie, and Susannah went to the kitchen for dessert.

“So, Linda, whatcha think of doing a love spell?!”

“On me?”

“No, for Claudia.”

“I don’t know, Ashley. You know Claudia’s not gonna go for that. Besides, in every movie we’ve seen, love spells go wrong.”

“I just want to see Claudia end up with Tommy.”

“I do, too.”

Coming through the door, Jackie said, “Here’s the ice cream. What did we miss?”

“We were thinking of doing a love spell for Claudia and Tommy to be together,” said Ashley.

“No, guys,” said Claudia. “If Tommy actually likes me, I want it to be natural. No magic. Tonight’s magic includes levitating only. I’ll get The Hexchanted Book of Spells.” The girls waited patiently and then started giggling. “What’s so funny?”

“Mr. Roscowitz,” responded Jackie. “Could you picture him in 1988?”

“Could you picture 1988?” Ashley laughed.

“My mom actually has a ringtone from back then,” Linda told them. “Plus, I recently saw a high school photo in her yearbook. She had the puffiest hair.”

“Speaking of the 1980s… I heard the mullet’s coming back,” said Claudia.

“What’s a mullet?” asked Jackie.

“Some eighties hairstyle. Ask Mr. Roscowitz!” They all laughed, putting their empty bowls of ice cream aside.

At last, the girls started getting serious about the levitating spell. Claudia opened The Hexchanted Book of Spells to page 123. The four of them sat in the center of Claudia’s room in a circle, holding hands. “Are you sure we all hold hands, Claudia?” asked Linda.

“My mistake. You three hold hands, but we all have to say the chant in order for it to work. Remember… don’t get distracted. Who knows what might happen?” They all studied the verses of the spell and started chanting:

“Rise above like a dove,
Fly high in the sky.
Build your might,
You are becoming light
Close your eyes and then let go,
Let your mind take you where you want to go.”

Claudia was floating. The girls were impressed with what a great job they did.

Out of nowhere, there was an interruption: a heavy knock on Claudia’s door. The girls lost focus. Jackie, Linda, and Ashley noticed something. Claudia had disappeared.

“Is this some type of joke?” asked Jackie.

“Come out of the closet, Claudia!” demanded Ashley, opening it widely.

Linda looked out the bedroom window. “Claudia!” she yelled in a whispering voice.

There was another knock at the door. “Remember, Claudia… I’ll be out tomorrow night. You’ll have to baby-sit Susannah. Please don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do.” The three friends looked at each other, puzzled.

Jackie took it upon herself to imitate Claudia. “Okay, Mom.”

“Goodnight, Mrs. Macintyre,” the other girls said.

The girls waited until they were in the clear. They heard Mrs. Macintyre shut her bedroom door.

“Oh my God!” Linda exclaimed. “Where’d she go?”

“I have no idea!” said Jackie, double-checking the closet and looking out the window and even under the bed.

“We’re gonna be in such big trouble. Mrs. Macintyre’s gonna kill us. Claudia has to baby-sit tomorrow. She has to be in school on Monday! What are we gonna do?”

“She’s not here,” Jackie stated after searching the room several times.

“Where can she be? We have to find her!” Ashley insisted.

“Let’s not panic. We’ll think of something,” Linda said, trying to calm her friend down. The girls were quiet for a moment.

“We have to check The Hexchanted. Magic took her somewhere, so we need magic to bring her back. The answer should be in there somewhere.” Jackie picked up the book, brought it over to Claudia’s bed, and sat down.

Linda got up and sat next to Jackie, and Ashley followed. “We did everything correctly. I don’t know what could’ve gone wrong.” Linda put her head down.

Jackie skimmed through the pages and stopped at one. “There is one person who can help us.”

“Who?!” asked Ashley. “Tell us.”

“Claudie’s Aunt Tilda. This was her book. She’d know what to do.”

“But didn’t she die, like, when Claudie was little?” Ashley asked. Jackie showed them the page she had stopped at. It said: ‘To Summon The Dead.’

“Are you serious? Do you think it’d really work?”

“Don’t you think we’re getting in a little over our heads?” asked Linda.

“We already know that this book can do magic. We just have to be more careful.” Jackie seemed confident.

“Well, we know Claudie has to watch Susannah tomorrow night. We can cover for her tomorrow morning until her mom leaves for work,” Linda said. “We can try to come up with something by the time her mom gets home.”

“And if not?” Ashley questioned.

“Then it looks like we have some baby-sitting to do.”


The date was September 15. The alarm clock was going off at 6:30am. Claudia woke up on the floor, walked over to it, and shut it off. After doing that, she realized all her alarms were usually on her smartphone. There was a girl laying in bed. Somehow she’d managed to sleep through the alarm. Claudia noticed she was in her own bedroom, but things seemed odd. She walked around the room. The carpet was different. She was amazed looking at the heavy duty television and computer with the hunchbacks. Then she noticed all the posters on the wall weren’t hers. There were posters of hair bands and a notebook that read: ‘I Love Kirk Cameron.’ Who the hell is Kirk Cameron? she said to herself. Claudia opened the bedroom door, feeling a little creeped out.

“Breakfast will be ready in five minutes, Jess!” a voice yelled from downstairs.

“Jess?” Claudia repeated. She walked downstairs and everything seemed different. “What’s for breakfast, Mom?”

“Your favorite, Jess.”

The lady turned around and both her and Claudia screamed. They both simultaneously said: “Get out of my house or I’ll call the cops!”

Claudia took out her cell phone and the strange lady grabbed the wall phone. Claudia’s phone wasn’t working. The lady grabbed the kitchen broom instead and chased her out. “And never come back!”

Claudia started walking down the road. She noticed the cars looked older and some lawns had picket signs that read: ‘VOTE FOR DUKAKIS.’ Who’s that? she thought. She then heard two people talking. “Hey, Bob, hear ’bout the guy growing a one hundred seventy pound watermelon?”

“I’ll believe it when I see it, Stan.” My mother mentioned something like that to me, Claudia said to herself.

Fred’s Deli was still in the same spot. When Claudia walked in, there were a few teenagers talking about cutting school and going to the arcade. She overheard them and asked: “What’s an arcade?”

“Dude, she doesn’t know what an arcade is,” said a teen wearing a leather jacket with Heavy Metal patches on it.

“Yo, babe… are you from this planet?” asked another boy in acid-washed jeans.

“Forget her, guys! To the arcade!” The three teenagers headed out.

“Hi. Is Fred here today?” asked Claudia.

“Yo, Fred! Someone here to see ya!” shouted a man behind the counter. A young man with a full head of brown hair came out. “Can I help you?”

“You’re not Fred. Fred is a balding old man with a gut.”

“And you’re not dealing with a full deck. Get the hell outta my deli!” Claudia did as he said.

Outside, Claudia tried texting her friends. Her cell phone still wasn’t working.

Before heading to school, Claudia saw a newsstand. Aren’t these things in movies? she thought. She looked at a newspaper. It read: ‘Thursday, September 15, 1988.’ “This can’t be right,” Claudia said aloud. “Could I have traveled back in time somehow? I wasn’t even alive in 1988.” She looked at her phone again and it still didn’t work.

“Hey. Like, I’ve never seen you around. You new?” asked a girl with long puffy blonde hair and bangs.

“You could say that.”

“Name’s Julie.”

“I’m Claudia.”

“Do you go to Newton High?”


They headed to the high school. Claudia went with Julie even though she wasn’t enrolled. Kids were passing notes all around class. Claudia remembered hearing stories about that kind of thing.

“Walter! Why do you continuously disrupt my Math class?”

“I love it when you yell at me, Mrs. Greenburge.” Claudia bursted out laughing because she knew the name. “You could have my digits anytime,” he smiled.

“What am I going to do with you, Mr. Roscowitz?”

“Mr. Roscowitz! Oh my God!” she laughed.

“You can have detention with him, missy.”


For the past couple of days, Claudia stayed over Julie’s house. She told her parents Claudia was an exchange student.

Up in Julie’s room, they were putting nail polish on each other’s toes. “I saw a billboard at the movies and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers comes out October 21st. I can’t wait to see it!”

“Four?! I thought only two were made.”

“Where have you been? Oh, I can’t believe we graduate in 1991. I wonder what the nineties are gonna be like.”

“Amazing,” Claudia responded. “Let’s enjoy 1988 right now ’cause it’s bitchin’!” They started combing each other’s hair.


The days seemed to be going by so quick. It was already the following Thursday. “Oh my God, Claudia! Do you believe Brad Doherty asked me out? What should I wear?”


“Maybe. I’ll probably end up wearing black spandex ones, that go down to my calves, with my low tops. Guys dig that.”

“Why don’t you wear your black spider necklace, too?”

“Yeah, and I’ll tease my hair. Tonight we’ll tell my mom that we have to study at Jennifer’s house.”

“What for?”

“Normally every weekend, someone throws a party when their parents are out, but Brad’s are gonna be home this weekend. He was bummed out, so he bumped it up to tonight, and we’re all going to the Fire Storm. It’s a happenin’ place. All the teens hang out there. It’s just like the mall, but cooler. The only bad thing is sometimes the cops break it up.”

“That’s when you know it’s a rad party.” Claudia picked that word up hanging out with Julie.

“Totally!” Julie responded.


Later that night at the Fire Storm, the girls met up with Brad Doherty. Claudia was enjoying herself and even met some people. In her time, Claudia never experienced anything like it. People were doing gelatin shots, playing Spin the Bottle, and listening to loud music. She was just so amazed at how many people showed up without electronic devices, and wondered how they survived without them. People were having nothing but a good time and Claudia was beginning to consider Julie to be like a sister. Then she felt something weird happening that she had no control over.


At around 7:30pm on Saturday night, there was another knock on Claudia’s door. “Girls, the pizza just arrived. It’s on the table for when you’re ready.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Macintyre!” Jackie called out.

“I should be home around midnight. Don’t keep Susannah up too late and please don’t let her talk you into playing any of those scary movies for her. She’ll have nightmares for weeks.”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Macintyre. You go have a good time.”

“Are you sure everything’s okay?” She continued speaking through the door. “You girls have been locked in this room all day.”

“We’re fine, Mrs. Macintyre. Like we told you before,” Ashley said, “we’re getting a surprise ready for Susannah.”

“I don’t know what you girls are up to…”

“Don’t worry, Mom,” Jackie said, raising the volume of the TV so her voice couldn’t be recognized.

“Alright, girls… I’m leaving. Susannah’s watching TV in the living room. Thanks again for watching her. Don’t forget to contact your parents so they know you’re staying over again.”

“We texted them. See you later, Mrs. Macintyre,” Linda said, moving things around the room to make it sound like they were busy.

“Goodnight, ladies.” The girls heard Mrs. Macintyre leave the house at last.

“I’ll go get Susannah!” Linda hurried out of the room.

“Hopefully she isn’t too scared to do this.” Jackie was nervous.

“Are you kidding? She’ll love it!” Ashley assured her.

“Good. We need her for this to work. The Hexchanted says we need something with a connection to the deceased. A niece should be good enough!”

Linda returned five minutes later, holding Susannah’s hand. “We’re here!”

“Ready?” Jackie asked, holding the book. Her and Ashley were already standing in the center of the room and waiting to begin the summoning.

“Yeah. I told Sue all about Claudia’s magic trick. She can’t wait to help bring her back.” Linda winked at her friends.

“Thank you for helping us, Sue,” Ashley said.

“Are you sure I won’t get in trouble?” she asked.

“No way! Claudie will be sooooo impressed.”


Jackie placed the book on the floor and the girls formed a circle around it. “Now let’s all hold hands and read this together out loud.”

“Far away,
We need you near.
From the dead,
We bring you here.
Matilda Macintyre, we have something of yours somehow.
We ask of you to appear before us now.”

The girls backed away after reciting their chant.

A haze appeared in the air, and the girls were in awe. Tilda Macintyre stood before them in ghost-form. Susannah stared up at the relative she didn’t remember ever meeting.

The three teenagers quickly explained what had happened.

“Tilda, there has to be something you can do. We need Claudia back right away!” Linda begged, trying not to let Claudia’s eight year old sister see how nervous she was.

Tilda remained calm. “Show me the verse you used, girls.”

Jackie quickly turned to the page they used to levitate Claudia.

Tilda looked it over and asked if Claudia could have possibly had her mind elsewhere. Ashley reminded her of Mrs. Macintyre’s knocking.

“Could that have been it? But where did she go?” Linda asked, again hoping not to upset Susannah. She looked over at her and was relieved to see she was all smiles.

“We’ll find out. Repeat after me, girls:

‘Wherever and whenever you may be,
Claudia Macintyre, come to the light so we can see.
It’s not about what’s right or wrong,
Just return to where you belong.’”

The girls did as they were told, repeating each verse after Tilda recited it.

They sensed Claudia’s presence and felt a strong force. Suddenly, their friend appeared, stumbling, as if losing her balance.

“Claudia!” they all screamed.

“You did it!” shouted Susannah.

“Claudia, where were you? Where did you go?” Linda asked, relieved to see her safe.

“Whoa! What year is it? Is it still 1988? Where’s Julie?”

“Huh?” Jackie asked, confused. The girls listened intently as Claudia explained her exciting trip to 1988.

“You must have been distracted from your mom’s knocking,” Linda said.

“And we were making fun of Mr. Roscowitz right before!” Ashley jumped in.

“Don’t even get me started on him!” Claudia said, laughing.

“That explains it,” Tilda announced. “Well, girls… it was great to meet you all, but I must go now.”

“We should do this again sometime,” Claudia joked. “But only with us big girls,” she continued, looking at Susannah, and realizing that they really did have to be careful with magic.

“Until next time.” Tilda smiled at Claudia and Susannah. “Nice seeing you girls again.” She disappeared.

The girls, including Susannah, all continued their slumber party, giggling about the popular Tommy Flaherty, the annoying Mr. Roscowitz, and Claudia’s totally rad time in 1988.


2017 James J. Murphy III and Lisa G. Murphy

Bio: James J. Murphy III and Lisa G. Murphy are a married couple that live in New York. They both love watching movies, listening to tunes, and reading. James is the author of The Nursing Home, a horror novel that he and Lisa chose to self-publish in September 2010. James and Lisa have been working on short stories together and hope to sometime come out with a collection of them.

E-mail: James J. Murphy III and Lisa G. Murphy

Website: www.LandJPublishing.com

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.