“It… looks like it’s very well built. Is it from China? Most things these days are,” Rachel shrugged. “Honestly it looks fine to me Aka.”
“Sorry, professor. I swear it usually acts out when people are around. It’s why we moved it over here near the alley where only creepers like to go.” Aka tucked her bobbed hair back behind her ear. “Please believe me.”
“I believe you, Aka. There’s no question about that. I just don’t have time to stick around. My brother’s making dinner tonight.” Rachel apologized and waved goodbye to Aka. As she started to walk away, a little dissatisfied with the fact she did not in fact get to deal with a possessed robot, she became overwhelmed by a violent screech that drew her back in. Turning, she saw Aka looking around trying to figure out what exactly she should do about the parrot. Rachel ran back and grabbed the glass encasing of the machine, looking with curious and confused eyes at the parrot’s rash, rabid red ones, looking as she could to find something. Sparks flew inside the cage. Lights in and around the store flicked rapidly on and off.
“Professor Moomaw, what’s going on?” Aka looked as though she would have a seizure from the rapidly blinking lights.
“Ghosts mess with electrical currents,” Rachel shouted urgently, trying hard to make herself heard over the probably demonically possessed bird. Searching her head for the best possible solution to the problem, Rachel settled on an exorcism spell in Latin then began to chant. The lights settled down and the parrot began to choke on its own words, thrashing its head to and fro. As the spell took effect, a grimy mist ejected itself from the machine’s mouth, covering the inside of the glass encasing. The smog slowly cleared out leaving behind blinking red eyes. Before the light in the parrot’s eyes went out, it said one word: Ballieu. Little luminous lights floated away from the machine.
Rachel sighed in relief. The darned thing had given her a monstrous headache. She tried convincing herself some of Adam’s homemade rolls would cure the pain if she could only get home in time to prevent Kristjan from eating them all. When she turned she saw a pale Aka, clutching her chest and hyperventilating.
“Professor,” she said softly, “what was that?”
The professor took her student for a walk around the block, delicately explaining with the little detail she could afford how she, Adam and Kristjan dealt with those sorts of things. The shock of knowing that the boogymen stories her older cousins from Japan told her as a girl were possibly real caused the girl to rub her temples and let out a pathetic moan. Pitying her student, Rachel found a bench in a park for the two to sit on near a statue of an angel grasping at its throat. The statue didn’t sit well with Rachel, nor did the incense at the statue’s base, or the ornaments decorating it. Rachel tried casually breaking the silence she had given Aka in order process the information.
“Aka, you know a little about the local folklore. What can you tell me about that angel?” Rachel rubbed her hands on her black leggings and skirt to try and bring warmth back to her fingers, for it had suddenly gotten chilly. Aka, whose breathing had finally been regulated, stared dismally at the statue.
“You don’t know about it? I thought you came here to study local legends.” Aka didn’t sound like she particularly wanted to talk any more about anything, let alone frightening things. “It’s well known in the state.”
“Honey, I don’t know everything, I only just got here. Assuming I’d already know is like me assuming because you’re Japanese you know all about karate.” Rachel responded gently like a mother talking to her child. Aka gave her teacher a pathetic look.
“It’s the silent angel; it’s a symbol for people who can’t speak up for themselves. People pray to it for miracles, and from what I hear sometimes it works. People leave loaves of bread in front of it as an offering, and some crazies sacrifice squirrels,” Aka explained in a half mope. Rachel folded her arms. It had gotten even chillier in the passing minutes. Glancing around, she noticed that they were the only ones there. “Wow, I can’t believe how cold it is, I should’ve brought a jacket. But it’s August…”
Rachel had a pretty decent idea of why it was cold; something supernatural was too close for comfort. Before she could grab Aka and leave to avoid an encounter, everything around them went black. Everything but the statue. This of course didn’t help with Aka’s current anxiety.
“Are these things happening to you?” Rachel said, trying to complete the trailing thought.
“No. Why aren’t you offering me extra credit for this?”
Rachel withheld a snort. Aka said she wasn’t kidding. Rachel let out her snort. “We’ll see.”
The darkness was everywhere, all consuming. Rachel could feel a desperate hunger emanating from it. She clutched her chest trying to feel for the charm necklace she brought to class that day for lecture, realizing in a daze that she had left it at the school.
“Are you scared?”
All focus shifted to the statue. Sitting cross-legged in front of it was a living representation of the angel, but rather than clawing at its throat it held a goat’s skull in his hands. His sharp features and dark hair struck Rachel. She placed a hand on Aka’s shoulder.
“I’ll ask you again. Are you scared?” His voice crisply penetrated Aka’s core and entranced her. All she wanted to do was stare at him. To Rachel, though, his voice was one with the darkness.
“I’ll have to think about that. Feel free to ask me again after you tell me who you are,” came Rachel’s response. She hoped her voice would serve as an contra to the angel’s and grasp Aka’s attention. “I don’t think I’ve meet something quite like you yet.”
The angel’s neutral face shifted into a smiling one, a change that frightened both women.
“Ballieu, the silent one. I am a spiritual being.”
“And how long have you been here?” Rachel patted Aka’s back, keeping her calm. “I’m assuming you represent those who can’t speak for themselves, but have you been around as long as the statue? For twenty, thirty years?”
“Seventy-seven this past March,” Aka interjected. Good, Rachel thought. She wasn’t completely overcome by shock or the darkness.
“I suppose… I suppose since March. I have been able to keep a solid, consistent form since then. But I first remember being conscious in the thirty-third year, when I heard a prayer uttered to me. I ripped out a man’s vocal chords as an answer to the victim’s plea.” Ballieu caressed the skull with his large hands, his fingers going over the grooves of a pentagram carved into the skull’s forehead.
“So it’s fair to assume you’ve been able to gradually keep conscious longer and longer the more you were prayed to?” Rachel’s hand made its way slowly to her bag where a little book of spells was kept.
“Yes, that is a splendid assumption. Now may I ask what you’re doing?” Rachel’s hand froze. In his hand Ballieu held up her little book, scanning through the pages. He began mouthing a few of the words, obviously having a hard time understanding them. “Magic… that is why I was drawn to you.”
The angel made a cutting motion in the air then held open his palm to show a little flame. Rachel felt her throat and tried making noises, but nothing came out. Without her voice she could not use any of her spells, which made protecting Aka that much more difficult.
“Your voice will allow me to read and understand your spells… I can better answer prayers this way, better punish the oppressors.” Ballieu’s smile was so sincere in what he believed. It horrified Rachel. “Perhaps I can permanently reside in your world then.”
“No.” Aka sounded breathy and nervous. It shocked Rachel that Aka was able to speak at all.
Ballieu stared at Aka, the girl who clutched her skirt so tightly her knuckles went white.
“Child, I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do to prevent me from doing so,” came his reply.
“She did nothing wrong. People produce prayers all the time directed at you, the saint of the oppressed, to avenge them. But taking her voice is punishment and she hasn’t done a thing, this is abuse!”
The angel clutched the horn of the skull in his lap. Darkness crept around the park bench and up the legs of both girls, devouring them, something that gave Ballieu’s face a frightening, joyous look. With that look he brought the voice to his lips, preparing himself to feast on the knowledge of magic speech it would bring him. Yet, as he opened his mouth, little blue lights surrounded the voice in his hand, preventing him from reaching his end goal. He tried scooching them away but every touch brought a searing pain to his senses. He dropped the voice and the lights carried it away; the darkness was being eaten by dozens of the little lights, the encasing of black releasing Rachel and Aka. The lights carried Rachel’s voice to her, and she gladly accepted the offering, placing the flame in her mouth and swallowing. She cleared her throat and straightened herself. The lights, Rachel’s fireflies, surrounded the fallen angel.
“You asked me if I was scared,” The woman sternly started, “well, allow me to answer. I’ve witnessed dreamers willingly sell their souls to the boogyman and turn into hollow shells known only as Empties. I saw a man eat a human soul to fulfill his own selfish needs. My whole life could be compared to the stuff nightmares are made of, but that’s how I grew up. So when you ask me if I’m scared of a hypocrite who was created by the misplaced faith of people looking for help, then the answer is no. No, I am not scared. I am infuriated. And hell hath no fury like a woman.”
The fireflies engrossed Ballieu, and he combusted into rich flames, catching the blackness that held the very area together on fire as well. Rachel watched the edges of the black burn up to show the outside and park where they sat originally. Ballieu flailed but made no noise- the fireflies had first gone for his throat, turning it to smoldering ash before anything else. Once the manmade entity left life behind, the women were able to see nothing but the natural world including the statue- a statue that had lost a meaning to Aka that maybe hadn’t have even been there to start; her indifference became disgust.
Aka hung a charm, something she had meant to show Rachel, on the statue that she had brought to class, but forgotten to do. She hoped it would help prevent negative energy from entering the statue again.
“As a woman scorned.” Aka said softly as they left. Rachel gave her a curious ‘huh’. “You didn’t say it properly. It’s hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. And you owe me extra credit.”
A laugh left Rachel’s luscious lips. Aka was so strangely serious that she couldn’t help but laugh at the student’s attempts to make the entire event worth it. “You’re still asking about that? Well, I don’t see why not.” As an afterthought she added, “Don’t tell the other students. They might get jealous.”
Kristjan looked over the couch when he heard the front door of the creepy house creak open then slam closed.
“Rachel, that you?” He called out, trying to see if he could at least spot her shadow in the door frame. “Adam’s in the kitchen. How was your day?”
“I met a spirit created by the combined faith and worship of seventy seven years’ worth of people while one of my students was with me. Oh, and I also dealt with a possessed parrot that tried warning me about the spirit beforehand.”
“A real one?”
“A robotic one. Less exciting, I know.”
“That’s debatable.” Kristjan slumped back down and continued reading from his picture book of exotic birds from around the world. “Parrots are creepy enough as is. They give me the wiggins.”
This coming from the man with crows that came out of his body, Rachel pondered, moving out of the doorway. She went to go see if there was any food left for her, knowing that her own faith wasn’t misplaced. She was rewarded with a quaint stack of biscuits and a plate of other such homemade delights.