Archive for January, 2014
Through the hallways, only slightly different from what I felt earlier traveling through as a ghost. More real, vibrant in the quick. My pulse is speeding up with the impending sense of conflict. I know what to expect, I know not to be ambushed, and my body responds by being hyper-alert. Eyes darting from movement to movement, stomach clenched, skin tingling. I start at the door to 22A. Heading down and mapping the spots of sunlight. Only problem is everything here is too bright, reflected light off of floors and white-washed walls now yellow. Move faster, I think to myself. I want to forget about the vampire, find someplace isolated and face down this thing that’s coming for me. I’m not sure why I want to save that thing, other than wanting to stop whatever this guy is doing. Making friends is a good thing right?
Only if they’re actually friends.
When I get to the first floor hallway, I realize that whatever it is, it’s here, and its not looking for me, its looking for it. I can feel the primal hatred moving through the building underneath me, going towards the basement. Sprint forward. Take stairs two and three at a time, hoping not to break my neck. I get to the landing just before it does. I can see the haze of darkness floating there, a spectral face distorted scrunched together and screaming. A woman and her child come out the first door on the right, look at me in the landing, right through the thing and scurry off, apparently scared by the look on my face. It hovers to a stop. I don’t bother trying to reason or talk to it, I leap forward, fist raised up to slam down on it before landing. My stomach relaxes enough to pull the energy up and out.
Contact. I stop midair, connecting with invisible solids, the grave-cold specter reels back from the blow and screams.
I hear a pop, and then nothing out of my left ear. A trickle down the side of my face, a rip through my shirt that barely misses passing into my abdomen.
Fists up, fighting stance. A man comes into the foyer and stops, looking at me, confused and somewhat alarmed. “Shadow boxing,” I say back to him, taking some jabs at the darkness that he can’t see. I’m distracted though, so I don’t connect. The thing scratches out at me, and I make a show of being light on my feet. Not light enough. It catches me on the same side, and I move so that the dude can’t see it. I can feel the blood. He rushes into his apartment, and I hope doesn’t call the cops.
I throw myself at the thing, grabbing it by the manifested face and somewhere that I want to call a chest but doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t have an abdomen. It screams, more of my skin rips open, especially on my face. I force some inner essence into the wounds so that the wounds seal into bruises rather than obvious cuts. I whisper some ancient Greek that I picked up from a book, entreating Hekate to claim her own. The two of us can hear the barking of dogs throughout the building, and the thing quivers, wretches left, trying to escape my hold, I keep going on the exorcism as it writhes, and I’m holding it, mentally hoping another one of the tenant’s doors don’t open.
There’s a whoosh, an out-gassing of air as I’m left breathless, suffocating. The archway into the stairs turns black, and the darkness in my hands is gone, sucked through. The world pops back into place. I take a deep breath and cough. I need to quit smoking. As I’m walking back into the foyer to grab the coffee I glimpsed when dude-face came in, someone else is walking in. The gasp at the blood.
“Shooting an indie film. I forgot my coffee.” I manage to look apologetic. Its a pretty close look to being in pain, so it works.
The coffee is cold again. I hurry down to the basement.
“He said the things below needed something more than human. I remember being ambushed in an alley, then I woke up here. That was weeks ago. Can I eat you?”
I can feel the need pulse, pass through the bars of the cage like they were nothing. “I can’t touch the cage, but you can. Know how to pick a lock?”
“Not in decades. Show me how?”
I pass a thin sliver of metal through the bars, floating it with ghostly hands. I should’ve had more of the cardboard pastry. Or her hunger is starting to get to me. Its hard to tell. She takes it. “We don’t have a hook?”
“Not that I can tell. Can’t see everything though. Not really physical.”
“This will have to do.”
I guide her, more with feeling than with actual words in what to do. A light brush along her hands here and there to let her know which way to turn, push and pull.
“So it does work like in the movies.”
“I can still leave.”
“You have to admit though—”
“No. No I don’t. I’m not actually dead, and this is not a pottery wheel. End of discussion.” The lock clicks open.
“Why not just talk me through it like I thought then.”
“Takes effort to talk, move things, not to be felt, ‘specially when you can see me.”
She takes the lock and opens the cage, stepping out and stretching. I am not reminded of domesticated animals, I am reminded of fierce, man-eating predators in the jungles. “Do you know a way out, or should I just wander?”
“Apartment 22A is empty. But its daytime.”
“Shit. Wondered why I felt tired.”
“Wait, ambush him.”
“I would need to eat for that to work.”
I can feel something. Something dark at the periphery of my senses, something non-real that could rip me to shreds, a dark reflection of hatred. I pull myself slowly inward.
“You’re fading. What’s happening?”
“Something comes. I’ll meet you up there.”
I pull back, fleeing not the way I came but through the walls and floor of the building. Coming back to myself in the alley. I gasp awake, the first breath of an entombed miner. The coffee is already cold. “Damnit.” I walk back into the coffee shop. “Can I get some hot water in this?”
A different girl than the one that got it for me smiles “Sure.” I’m bouncing a little on the balls of my feet. I can’t feel it anymore, but I know that if it finds the vampire, things will happen. I have to get the passage safe. “Here you go.”
I speed walk out, down the street a little ways to the entrance, double-locked. There’s a call-board in the foyer. I hit a random button.
“Hi.” My brain stops, too many things happening. “Building super sent me to take a look at some of the pipes on your floor, but didn’t give me a key, think you could let me in?”
The door buzzes, and I hurry inside, leaving the coffee cup in the foyer.
I walk out of the cafe and turn into the alleyway next to it. Dead end. Fitting. Everything so far has been a dead end. The summons, the ghosts, no one knows who this guy is dealing with, and no one seems able to find out. Or wants to. I can’t tell which. So, time to bust out the walking shoes and tail him. This looks like the place he usually gets his coffee, but I think I was made since he came in, didn’t get anything and left, I decide this is as good a break as any and I get myself something to eat. After a few cardboard-tasting bites, I throw it away in favor of the burnt coffee. At least its warm. I set it down outside, in the cold of the city, by the wall I’m leaning up against and close my eyes. I breath outward, extending myself, pushing, feeling, arcing over and under the doorways in the building, saturating the alley, the street, the building, feeling everything.
Bellow me, in a basement, I can feel a need so strong it startles me, and I have to refocus. Its a need for life that I haven’t felt before, and wouldn’t mind ever feeling again. I draw myself down, a ghostly specter into the basement, feeling the doorway and hallways, the locks on every one, planning the route out, planning on keeping everyone safe. This need is dangerous, deadly, a hunger so keen it will cut you if you’re not careful.
In the room there is no light, but I see through being everything, all awash in the strength of that need. I can feel the cages, the strength of high-grade steel and old magics deep within them, keeping me out. Chains built to withstand the strength of the elements, but certainly not the strength of this need. I see everything lit up in the reflector glow a red so deep it doesn’t project, a red that isn’t human. The thing in the cage turns to look at me. Long legs in a torn dress, hips and waist curvy and beautiful, strong, but still supple. Breasts to complement the figure without overpowering, one of which is free to the air since the dress stops existing at the waist for half her body, no bra. A slender neck, and then the face kills it. The need has contorted it, made it its own. Pretty eyes though, but the bulging upper jaw and incredible muscles look like they could bite through steel; the extra-long, sharp canines are bulging out, dying for flesh to rend and blood to drink.
“I always thought vampires would be prettier.”
The voice is sweet, incongruous with the distorted jaw in the way that possessed people talk: disembodied. Just like me right now. “We are, on our good days.”
“This then, is not a good day?”
“Are you here to help or mock me?”
“Depends. Who put you here?”
“Some ass-hat in a bowler hat. Ugh, god-awful thing that I thought had died long ago.”
“No, the hat.” She describes my mark.
My stomach rumbles.
I knew I should’ve eaten before the ritual, but too late now. Besides, better for my sensitivity to be hungry, the more aware of my surroundings, if the more likely to mess up as well. Oh well, no one said magic was going to be easy.
I can’t let the thoughts of what to eat afterwords distract me from what I’m doing. I can already feel some of the energy slipping away, leaking back into the unformed void. I refocus, pulling it all back into shape. It’s like gathering putty or clay together, unyielding and… goopy. Then trying to harden it into the shape I needed…
My stomach rubles again.
Deep breath, ignore it. I didn’t waste $75 on chalk from the cliffs of Dover, overnighted, or crystals from the four corners of world. I need this portal…
There’s a sudden, not-audible, whoosh as the pressure in the room drops, and with it the temperature. My breath comes out fogged as the crystals begin glowing and the chalk lights up from the glow. The spirit within rumbles, throws itself against the bindings and then turns to me. The thing is no bigger than your average toddler, except hunched over, a snout with long whiskers coming off the end the only thing to poke out from the depths of a hooded garment. Rat-like hands test the binding once more, and the thing turns to look at me.
“Who are you? What gives you the right to call me from the depths?”
My stomach groans. “Lawkeeper of the Depths. You will answer my questions to the best of your knowledge, without complaint and with complete honesty.”
“You do not command me.”
“I do not bargain, either.” A shaft of brilliant white energy arcs from the crystal towards the spirit. It screeches, mostly in the ultrasonic range, as far as I can tell.
“The day will come, mortal, when you shall be under my care.”
“Yes well. In the meantime I’ll just have to make offerings in apology. Father always said better to ask forgiveness than permission.”
The Lawkeeper looks at me. “Ask your questions.”
“Accept my terms.”
It sighs, throws itself against the bindings for a brief moment. Another arc-flash, another screech. Finally it looks back up at me.
“I accept. I will answer to the best of my knowledge without further complaint and with complete honesty.”
A picture comes out of my jacket, I turn it towards the creature. “This man has had trafficking with the dead. He calls them forth from the Depths in order to accomplish his foul deeds. No mortal can bring him to heel for his crimes. The living demand justice.”
It looks like its about to turn around and walk away, then stops, slumps forward. “I’ve not heard of deals broken or sundered, nor have I seen that man.”
“What tenant of your domain has made such deals, has wandered back to the physical world. Give me their name, that I might question them.”
“They are not lawbreakers, I have no command over their names.”
“One of them is. One of them has broken the balance and killed a guardian. Find that ghost and deliver me their name.”
“This is not our bargain.”
“I do not bargain, Lawkeeper.” Another arc-flash. This time I don’t stop until the thing screeches out an agreement. It is panting on the floor of the circle. The chalk undisturbed.
“I will bring your their name, guardian.”
“Without vengeance or malice. They are Lawbreakers. Do your duty.”
A growl, this time not from my stomach. With a deep breath I pull the energy closed, sealing the portal, the chalk bursts into embers briefly. Another expense I can’t afford.
I get it now. Those scenes in books where you can’t see a couple feet in front of you because of the flurries of snow coming down. It isn’t that bad, honestly. Minus the shadowy figure up ahead that I can’t tell if they’re coming towards me or away from me. But that’s just the way life goes. You wake up at four in the morning in order to take your time getting ready to get to work at seven so that you’re not a wound up ball of stress eating away your own insides with concerns about whether or not your doing your job right. The price for this is walking down a dark street in what feels like the middle of the night when everyone else should be asleep and the world is not really anything more than a flurry of snow. Crunch crunch crunch of your shoes and the brief prayer-thought of “I hope I don’t accidentally find ice and fall on my ass.” There’s the debate of whether or not its too late to call in, considering you’re already on your way to the bus stop. Still that figure up ahead.
And its not that you can’t see because of the snow, because really, it isn’t a blizzard or anything. Just some unexpected freezing cold fluff. It’s because you’ve bundled up so much to keep your face warm that you don’t have any peripheral vision. It makes it creepier, and it also makes the snow even more blinding. Even though it has nothing to do with the snow. But you’re not going to let your face get cold, so the fact that you can’t see has nothing to do with your own actions and everything to do with the snowflakes falling down and around you. You’re thankful for the scarf covering your face, even as the snowflakes find ways around it to land with brief freezing pinpricks on your forehead, under and around your eyes. People tell you it isn’t THAT cold, that you’re too bundled. They don’t understand that its just as much to keep you in and everything else out. Nothing to do with temperature, everything to do with wind, thoughts, voices, words. Precious precious words. You have to keep them close, nurture them, let them percolate through the drawn-out and aging filters of your experiences in order to get them into some sort of shape that eventually becomes something that you can use to help yourself get better. The help you purge the things that are festering inside your head, but you can’t just let them out all at once. Too many uses for them, like the stranger obscured by snow and scarf. You can’t see them anymore and you wonder where they went. Whether the Great Old swallowed them up. There is a peace to the chthonic entities that you read about. Yes it is the graveyard peace of the end, but it is a peace nonetheless. Something to be wished for.