Eloise was surprised when the App Store instructed her to prick her thumb before double clicking to buy the app, but she gave it points for committing to a vibe and sticking with it. Kov’n was, or so it claimed, “the last grimoire you’ll ever need” and “the next best thing to going into the Black Forest and apprenticing under one of the masters.”
Who had time for that? Not Eloise. She was busier than ever these days, and if she was ever going to give up her day job in grant writing, she was going to need to really turn this side-hustle into a full time gig. Love potions for the neighbors in South Philly were one thing – there was a steady stream of business there – but to really make this work, Eloise was going to have to really commit herself. So she pricked her thumb and let a dribble of blood coat the button on her phone and she clicked twice. The Face Recognition software started to churn, and the whole phone vibrated. Face not recognized. That’s what she gets for trying to buy something in the dark lying down, she thought. She sneaked out to the bathroom, held her phone up, made sure her thumb was still bleeding a bit, and double clicked again.
A sudden jolt coursed through her arm. It was not quite like electricity, thought Eloise, suddenly concerned that she’d short out her phone with blood – more like the sour taste she got under her tongue when she drank Lapsang tea that had gone cold over an afternoon of inattention. She shook her head and watched as the app downloaded and installed itself.
Create an account! First you’ll need to select your username. Make sure it is unique, since this is going down in His Dark Book! Oh shit. Now she had to pick something good. What was a good witch name? Lilith. Sorry, this username is already taken. Yaga. Sorry, this username is already taken. Tituba. Sorry, this username is already taken. Was everything taken already? Eloise glanced around the bathroom, casting about for inspiration. Just to see if anything would go through, she typed in “Soapdish” and hit Confirm. Congratulations, Soapdish! Welcome to the world’s largest Kov’n! Let’s start by setting up your profile. Shit, she thought, and slumped onto the toilet.
The app was not just committed to a witchy vibe, it was downright creepy. One section invited her to shop for essentials – and there was a great deal this week on liver of a fenny snake. Several tabs in the shop were grayed out, available only to witches who had taken part in certain rites.
Suddenly a notification popped up: You have a new message!
“Hey #bosscrone! I’m so glad you joined us here, Soapdish! This is going to be great, okay hon? I believe in you and so do all the other sisters in Kov’n. Look, can you do me a favor before going any further and rate this app if you’re loving it? And if you’re not feeling it, I totally get that. Can you reach out to me to see what we can do to make your time here better?
Have a Wicked Day,
CEO, Founder and Grand High Witch, Kov’n”
Eloise momentarily considered ignoring the message but then realized she had no idea who might be scrying on her and tapped the five star rating, trying to appear enthusiastic while she did so. She then returned to the app to find the setup wizard waiting for her. Literally, an old Merlin-like character had wandered out into the screen and was asking her a series of questions. How long have you practiced witchcraft? What are your goals with the craft? Do you have any relatives who are witches? Do you belong to a local or regional coven yet? Upload a picture of your familiar here! What’s your sign? Favorite spell. Favorite hex. Favorite tarot deck. Do you prefer wand or incantation?
Her profile complete, “Soapdish” was invited to view her progress through the world of Kov’n. Completing her profile netted her 2% completion. Rating the app had given her another 1%. It seemed there was quite a bit going on in Kov’n. There were live chat rooms where she could meet local witches, troubleshoot a spell with a witch-on-call, or just chat about life. There was a calendar to help her keep track of the phases of the moon as well as the zodiac. There were progressive tutorials, which she could work through to unlock additional spells. And there was an entire section devoted entirely to potions, which explained that all potions would need to be verified by mail in order to unlock more complex brews. She quickly a set of empty crystal vials so that she could get her first round of potions verified as soon as possible. There was even a part of the app dedicated to matching new witches with familiars.
Eloise thought briefly of her familiar, Dinaazdiraath, a lesser demon that had appeared at the foot of her bed the morning of her 12th birthday. They usually took the form of an earwig and mostly kept to themself. And it was usually for the best that they had little to say, since the chorus of doomed voices that they used to speak were, well, it was a lot. She wondered if there was a process for requesting a new familiar, but decided she didn’t want to potentially disturb demonic forces at least until the weekend.
Suddenly, a notification popped up: You have a new message!
“Hey Soapdish! You’re really working through everything! I am so glad you ordered your first set of crystal vials so that you can get moving on your potion making! Did you know that witches who brew together are 43% more likely to get their potion correct on the first time? Have you ever thought about inviting a friend to join Kov’n? You know she’d be a welcome addition to the sisterhood. Look, can you do me a favor and invite two friends to join Kov’n? If you do, we’ll throw in a double set of crystal vials when your order ships within 3-5 business days! Isn’t that awesome?
Have A Wicked Day,
CEO, Founder and Grand High Witch, Kov’n”
A pop-up showed Eloise her contact list, and she scrolled through it aimlessly. Who could she invite that would not be annoyed to get the spam? Her friend Jan was already a member. She wondered if that would count. Well over half her contacts were work-related, and while plenty of people who worked at the Mural Arts Project were, like, quirky, she didn’t know how they’d react to witchcraft. And she didn’t really want to find out just yet. Someday, she fantasized, she’d come out at work, and if they took it poorly, she’d just hex them all and turn into a bat on the spot. Until then, though, she needed the paycheck.
A couple friends from grad school were likely candidates, she figured she could laugh it off with them later if they took it poorly. They were still working as librarians, although barely, and librarians could always be counted on to be into repositories of information, whether the information was their “thing” or not.
Dinaazdiraath crawled under the door and stood in the middle of the room, glaring at Eloise, who was still perched on the toilet. They scowled with their little mandibles a bit before scuttling back out under the door, and Eloise was sure that they had heard her thoughts about requesting a new familiar. Guiltily, she hit send on the invitations to Margot and Katherine and closed the app and climbed down from the toilet.
As she lay in bed, wondering where Dinaazdirath had gone, Eloise smiled to herself and let herself give a tiny little cackle. That’s when she noticed the shadows creeping around the edge of the room. Din? Is that you? The shadows swirled and congealed around the far corner of the room, in the small space between the armoire and the closet. Din?
The voice that answered was like a foghorn and a chainsaw and a cat all had an unholy menage-a-trois and then neglected the resulting child. Eloise levitated out of her bed, grabbing her phone on her way out of the room.
Do not leave, Eloise. She poked her head back in the room, tentatively, and saw that the shadows had begun to create a more solid form that was now sitting at the foot of her bed, wearing a sable smile. Do not leave. You called me here. We need to figure out what kind of a familiar will be best for you, if you won’t have Dinaazdirath anymore. The shape held up an earwig that clicked moodily at her.
I didn’t actually want a new familiar, she lied. Eloise. Our relationship will be much better if you don’t lie to me. I heard you wonder if the app could pair you with a different familiar. It can’t. But I can. So tell me, why did you want a new familiar? Was Dinaazdirath not to your liking? They are, well, small. It isn’t the smallness, actually. It is that they sort of don’t *do* anything. They aren’t a terribly useful messenger. In fact they aren’t even usually around. It’s just, I think I’d like something, you know, a little more… familiar.
Done, the shadows snapped, vanishing immediately. And at the same time that she noticed the black raven sitting on the nightstand next to her pillow, her phone chimed with a new notification. Oh hello there, you. Hello you! Oh aren’t you a clever bird. Clever bird! She chuckled a bit and grabbed her phone to check the notification from Kov’n. The raven flew over and perched on her shoulder.
“Congratulations on your new familiar, Soapdish! I’m sure you two need to get acquainted, but we just wanted to congratulate you on selecting Skinthrash, the symbiotic demon familiar. It will have likely started the process of embedding itself into you. If you encounter any problems with the binding process, a simple pain tonic can help dull the new sensations until you gain more consistent control over the shadow tentacles. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
This message is auto-generated. Please do not reply to it.”
Eloise looked at the raven. The raven looked at Eloise. Are you embedding yourself into me? Embedding into!
As the pain crept down her shoulder and settled deep within her chest, Eloise decided to delete the app.