Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Clay Tuesday: No Faith, No Voice, No Blues

The Case of the Silent Angel

It was very common for students who attended any of Rachel’s classes or lectures to come to her with other-worldly problems, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when one of her brightest students from that semester, Akahana Mizu, approached Rachel one afternoon after class. What did surprise Rachel was the problem. Outside Aka’s family store stood a prize machine with a mechanical parrot perched inside. According to Aka, the mechanical parrot had recently started freaking people out with glowing red eyes and would scream out incomprehensibly. So, not having taken a case recently and wanting to avoid grading assignments, Rachel graciously decided to help her student. Regretfully the blonde professor stood confusedly in front of the robotic bird.

“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.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Clay Tuesday: Roots in the Grave

Roots in the Grave (The Case of the Canopy of Flaming Hands)
A Clay Tuesday Short
It was a drastically dull evening with the clouds eating up all traces of star- or moonlight, a travesty that struck deep in the chords of Rachel’s nature-loving soul. The evening air was warm and dry, filled with the taste of a prolonged death. Being around ghosts as often as she was, she felt comfortable assuming she knew what death tasted like in the air.
Rachel was in the process of making her way back to the creepy little house on the creepy little hill, only she was infuriatingly lost and in need of a great deal of guidance. The house had brought them to the outskirts of a little town in Colorado three days prior, and for the entirety of those three days she and Kristjan had been getting lost trying to find the supernatural disturbance that required their attention. Nobody in the sleepy little town of Rent that either of them had talked to knew a thing about any local legend, any strange disappearances, or any odd people that had recently moved to town. Instead Rachel received a few cat calls and a local priest, who was oddly youthful in appearance, told her that women shouldn’t wear pants on a Sunday to which Rachel replied that it was in fact a Tuesday. He then re-introduced himself and made the exact same comment. His short term memory must have been awful. Three hours later, when she passed by his church a second time, he told her she was going to hell for showing so much skin and then called her ‘Delilah.’ Whether he was comparing her to the biblical figure or not, she had no clue, but she would make sure to avoid Samson.
            Some days Rachel wondered if introducing herself as Dr. Moomaw would get her more respect from people, but in a town like Rent, Colorado adding a fancy title to one’s name was no way to get that respect. Respect had to be earned, and Rachel knew that from the little town she and Adam grew up in. Their father had only a high school education, but he earned the trust and respect of everyone he came in contact with by being a hard worker. Rachel was starting to think that at the rate they were going, she would be in Rent long enough to earn that kind of respect.
            Then she thought about Adam, her little brother. He hated the family work and had declared his plans to go to college in one of the Carolinas—Rachel couldn’t remember which one. She didn’t care. Adam was already gone, leaving her behind with Kristjan. She was without family.
            Frustrated, the woman with the sweet southern voice shoved aside dead tree branch after dead tree branch, searching for her way back home. The further along the path she went the more melancholy the trees looked. Instead of bursting with florid leaves and a speckling of blossoms Adam would fawn over, the trees were bare and void of any significant life. She hadn’t even heard the familiar buzzing of insects so common to that time of year. Rachel paused on the path, moonlight breaking from the clouds catching her eye—the fragile beam of white light shone briefly on one glowing red spot not more than 200 yards away.
            She sprinted to where the light pointed, branches scraping against her skin leaving long ruby marks on her arms. She was desperate to find the red glow, to see what needed to be fixed. She came to a halt when she arrived in a clearing, in the middle of which was a very old and very large tree. It was majestic looking, whimsical even, and was the only thing blooming with bright blossoms. But what caught Rachel’s fancy were the small objects dangling loosely down from the branches. As she drew nearer her eyes began to better focus thanks to the low glow emanating from the objects in question. She could make out the shapes clearly.
            They were hands. Hands were hanging from the tree.
            Rachel reached up to touch one of the hands but withdrew her finger millimeters from the glowing red appendage. After a brief hesitation she held the hand. The life of a little boy, who professionally played piano, a prodigy, flashed before her eyes. His birth, the first song he played by ear, his first concert, his last; all leading to a premature death from consumption. She let go and grasped another hand and the full life of an old man who once had plans to leave Rent but had stayed for the woman he adored momentarily replaced her vision. The woman, a blonde who looked vaguely similar to Rachel in the fact that she was blonde and also a woman, was a vixen named Delilah. She did this several more times until she felt she could no longer handle channeling the memories; the older the hand she held, the fuzzier the memories were as though the soul trapped in it was fading into nothingness. It dawned on Rachel that that was exactly what was going on. Souls were trapped inside the hands, being fed on by either the tree or by something else entirely.
            The sole female resident of the creepy little house on a hill tried to walk quickly to the trunk of the eerie tree, but everything felt slowed down. She walked step, by step. By step. By step… By painful step. Her breathing reverberated in her skull. The hands twitched in an achingly slow motion, and even ones with newer souls that grasped at her for help were moving at a fourth the speed they had been moving at before she walked towards the trunk.
Rachel imagined that anyone who had ever died in Rent, Colorado had their soul trapped right there in one of the thousands of dangling hands, helpless, in need of rescue.
Finally, in what took hours in her mind but was actually only a minute, she made it to the trunk, where time felt more or less normal than it had been arriving there. She paced around it, brushing the gnarled tree as she went along. The more time she spent going around the circumference, the more she saw that it was not one tree originally, but multiple trees grown together. How had she not seen this monstrous plant from town?
            Rachel stopped several yards away from a rouge light on the opposite end of the tree. She stepped slowly, inching her way until she could make out what it was. The source of the rough glow was the priest from earlier, who was melded into the large trunk of the tree. Rachel lowered her eyebrows and daintily brought the fingers of her hand to her lips to form her common thinking posture. It made sense, somehow. The priest was oddly youthful in appearance, yes, but had the attitude of an old, nearly senile man. Rachel’s father had once told her a story about magicians like these who were able to keep themselves young by slowly feeding on souls. However, while their bodies remained young their minds were still susceptible and aged. The priest was greedy, Rachel decided, living much longer than he should have, afraid of death. She couldn’t save Yeates from Wallace, but she could save the souls trapped in the hands hanging from the tree. While the priest was attached to the tree he was feeding he was vulnerable.
            Little blue lights flashed into existence, slowly at first. They were soft little fireflies that belonged to Rachel, were a part of her, protected her, did her bidding. They latched on to the tree, setting it ablaze in flames of reds and yellows that danced and licked the dank sky. The priest’s eyes shot awake and his distorted voice shrieked blasphemes at Rachel, but he couldn’t free himself from the tree, hard as he tried.

The strings holding the hands singed into nothingness. The hands vanished as the souls were set free. And Rachel stood there in front of the blazing tree and burning man, remorseless. Before long there was silence—the only thing that remained by Rachel’s side were her fireflies flickering fearlessly in the moonlight breaking through the gray clouds and the ash that dusted the ground.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What The Snowman Learned About Love

Far and away in an unspecified frozen tundra at an unspecified time (for you see time did not matter much here), a snowman sat un-frightened yet alone in the middle of it all. To his left was a pile of downy white flakes, then to his right a pile of slightly less white but just as lovely white flakes. In front of him lay an endless, dreamy view of white, and behind him—well, he wasn’t sure what was behind him as he had never been able to fully turn around, but he assumed it wasn’t nearly as impressive as what he could see hence his not being blessed with the mobility to view it.
The snowman himself was painfully average, almost mediocre with his two stick arms and charcoal face. His one defining characteristic, the one thing he was most proud of, was his heart of ice. You see, his frosty little heart was indeed tiny but it sparkled ever so magnificently in the tundra’s blinding sun and then glittered so softly underneath the ever waning moon. The snowman had the utmost regard for this heart and the love he knew it held, careful not to just share it with any snowflake or beam of light that could possibly catch his fancy. No, as unique as each snowflake was they were everywhere and did not deserve the secret love he held. And the beams of sun, while warm, threatened to melt the snowman on a daily basis. How could he love something that would kill him? For it was common knowledge the sunbeam could not help but be what it was, unable to change for anything—even love. The snowman was saving his love for the bipolar polar bear.
The bipolar polar bear, BP to most, though most really only meant some since most did not survive encounters with BP, wandered past the snowman every day in a search for something. BP was never sure exactly what she was looking for, for she would constantly and rather violently switch moods and lose track of what she had been doing to begin with. The snowman, of course, knew none of this and was merely attracted to the strong physical appearance of the creature.
BP shone a blinding white, matching the snow exquisitely. But unlike the snow or the snowman, she was free to move in a large hypnotizing mass. Similar the snowman’s lone beautiful heart, BP too had one characteristic that made her stand out. Her eyes were two very different, very brilliant colors. The right was a strawberry red while the left a deep blackberry purple. The snowman felt it was quite queer to call it a blackberry when it was in reality not black, but nevertheless that was the shade of purple the eye reminded him of. Together they were striking, unsettling, unnerving- they would have left him breathless had he been able to breathe. They were easy to pick out in the blanket of snow and every time they drew near the snowman pleaded the beautiful creature would take notice of him.
On one confusing excursion undertaken by BP the snowman finally got his wish, for his glittering heart caught the attention of the bear. She drew closer to the snowman she had never once noticed before that point. The snowman stared into those curious eyes he was so drawn to, contemplating what to say to the bear once she arrived.
He saw her breath rising in puffs from her nose. He felt it on his face, which caused it to melt little by little. His eyes slid down roughly an inch each and his black smile, the second thing he was most proud of (which would have been the green scarf he once owned had a gust of wind not blown it away), became malformed as well, forming a blank expression. Wasn’t this what it would have been like had he given his love to the sunbeam?
The snowman saw BP’s eyes turn from curious, to puzzled, to ferocious; she had forgotten once again what she had been doing. She stood up on her hind legs, rearing back her arm and swiping the glittering heart from the snowman’s chest and forcing him to crumple down into a worthless pile. BP sniffed the heart as curiously as she had come, gnawed on it lightly, then plopped it in the freshly demolished heap the heart had come from before moving on.
The snowman’s smushed head rolled and rolled, then rolled some more before it finally settled down surprisingly not that far from his deconstructed body. He now had a full view of what had laid behind him and he was more than a smidgen surprised. There, only inches behind him, was the destroyed body of a lady snowman with a heart glittering just like his, the snowman’s missing scarf hanging from her outstretched stick arm that jutted out from the downy pile that once was her body. And, right next to his head, was hers. They now stared at each other, uninterested in anything else that happened to be near for the snowman had finally found what he had been searching for.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clay Tuesday: Bad Standard

Bad Standard (The Case of the Death Chair)
A Clay Tuesday Short
            And so the story went, continuing on to the next resident of the creepy little house: Adam. Adam Moomaw rarely took on cases by himself. In fact, he rather hated leaving the house altogether but once in a while he was forced to inspect something due to Rachel’s absence and Kristjan’s working on something else. This was one such occasion.
            The legend of the death chair was one of those stories well known in only one area, though it had plenty of evidence to back up its reality, and thus remained an obscure tale. The real tales of its horrors from ‘back in the day’ had been told so many times through unintentional games of telephone that the actual facts had become so muddled and altered that all believability soon became lost. The chair, originating from the late 19th century, now resided in a museum as part of a set piece for something or other. Adam had quit paying attention by that point when researching the chair before coming. That was about as far as Sebastian Doegh got as well.
            Sebastian worked for what would be considered one of those ridiculous supernatural magazines, though how ridiculous it truly was, was debatable. Often times Sebastian had witnessed and written about supernatural events and ghostly encounters, and his experiences had made him into a believer.
They, they being The Horrorscope, the magazine that employed Sebastian, assigned him to travel around the eastern coast of the States and report on local legends. He had first covered the Jersey Devil, blue hole, Mothman, and finally he came to the death chair, the least exciting, he thought, of them all. He wasn’t particularly thrilled, hating all of the travel. Money was money, though, and so he dealt with it.
            Brushing his shaggy black hair out of his way, Sebastian stared unenthusiastically at the chair wondering whether or not he should snap a picture of it with the Polaroid camera that dangled around his neck (he had learned using Polaroid snapshots made the photos look that much scarier for the articles). Next to him stood Adam, who was slightly shorter than the slightly taller than average Sebastian. Adam had no need to brush his close cropped dirty blond hair out of his face nor was he curious if he should snap a photo to see if he could catch a ghost in the shot or not, something his sister Rachel and their father had been known to do. He was actually very hungry and wondered what kind of groceries he should pick up for the next few days to feed Kristjan and himself while Rachel was off giving lectures. Kristjan was a surprisingly picky eater with refined, code for expensive, tastes. Adam was convinced Kristjan didn’t even need to eat but he had to put up with it anyway, because he always got stuck with cleaning the house and preparing the meals. Aside from thoughts of groceries, Adam did wonder if he should touch the chair or not- if the chair really was haunted, it would be the quickest way to end the case.
            “Have you heard the story of the chair right there?” Sebastian inquired of Adam, trying to make polite conversation. Adam responded with a ‘huh.’ Sebastian was starved enough for attention that he ignored Adam’s ‘I don’t care’ remark and continued anyway. “Apparently whoever sits on that chair dies within a few days. I personally don’t believe it, but I get paid to write about crap like this.”
            There was the briefest moment of silence before Adam responded with the gem “Are you hitting on me?”
            “Not interested.”
            Sebastian, for the first time since the tenth grade when his then girlfriend had broken up with him, was at a loss for words. He resorted to taking action, snapping a quick picture of the chair, shoving his camera into Adam’s chest, and crossing the rope to sit in the chair. “Take my picture.”
            “What? You idiot, why would you- if you’ve heard the legends, then- are you- did you get a lobotomy?” Adam’s southern accent, something he tried very desperately to hide, slipped out with his shock and anger. He ran towards the chair but froze with his hand inches from Sebastian’s. His eyes were frozen, blue eyes dilated. His gaze was caught above the chair.
            “Just take the picture before a worker comes back. What’re you even staring at?”
A dingy skeleton floated above Sebastian like an aged buzzard draped in ragged clothing, looming, its hands reaching for the reporter’s head. Adam yanked Sebastian out of the chair then grabbed it with both hands. The skeleton vanished. Adam would have smiled had he not discovered that his touch had no effect on the chair. Nothing was growing on it; the skeleton had no reason to vanish. So why had it, if Adam didn’t cause it to? “What was that?”
            Adam looked back at the bewildered Sebastian, a Sebastian that looked like he was about to be sick all over the floor. Adam responded, “The reason you shouldn’t have sat in the chair. Now shut up.”

After checking the chair for magical symbols, Adam found one. This was satisfactory enough as it gave him something to work with, but disappointing because Sebastian wanted to know everything about it and Adam, forcing an introduction out of him. For the first time in ten years Adam spoke with his natural accent for more than three sentences.
“I’ll buy you chocolate or whatever if you’ll be quiet and leave me alone.” Adam walked out of the museum, Sebastian tailing closely behind.
“Why would I want chocolate?” Sebastian followed Adam through quick turns; he was obviously bad at losing people in crowds. So instead Adam decided to stop at a shop and finish some errands praying that this would bore Sebastian so badly he would leave of his own free will.
“I don’t freaking know, just take it.” Adam thoughtlessly thanked the thinning cashier, a charming old woman, for her compliment of his southern drawl. She called it adorable and Adam blushed, taking the items he purchased and tossing two of them, a catholic medallion and a chocolate bar, at Sebastian. “Put on the medallion.”
“Um, thanks. Now explain to me what’s going on.”
“You’re cursed and I need to break it before you die.”
“Thank you?” Sebastian tried asking more questions. Adam tried ignoring him. Neither plan worked very well. Both were a little miserable and Sebastian only spoke again when they started ascending a creepy little hill towards a creepy little house. In front of that creepy little house was a creepy little tree with a creaky little swing. “How long has this place been here?”
“Two days.” Adam opened the front door, entering with Sebastian.

Multiple aged books lay open on the floor in front of Adam as his research for the magical circle he found on the chair. Sebastian was having a hay-day examining all the old texts that covered the house.
“You have… thirty three grimoires at least, and I haven’t even heard of half of them. Like this one, the Lunar Grimoire. How did you find these things?”
“Stop touching them, that’s not polite. Especially the lunar one, Wellington might need that one again.” Adam was referring to a young man and his friends Adam and the other house residents had helped half a year prior when the house had taken them elsewhere in the country. Adam ground his teeth while flipping through pages, about the only two things he was good at doing at the same time. “They belong to my sister, Rachel.”
Sebastian made the connection in his head. Rachel. Rachel Moomaw, Ph.D, had degrees in folklore studies, ancient mythology and the like, and was often a guest speaker or teacher at universities. Other reporters from the website had interviewed and consulted her for stories as well. Before Sebastian could ask yet another question, Adam spoke in his sweet southern tongue.
“The magic circle bound the maker’s soul to the chair. The reason me touching the chair didn’t do anything is because when somebody sits in the chair the soul attaches itself to the person and haunts them until they die. Show me your chest, I’ll prove it.”
“Excuse you?” Sebastian was taken aback. Adam got up and forcefully lifted up Sebastian’s shirt. A magic circle was burned into his chest.
“Yeah, cursed.”
Sebastian could only make strange noises in response, freaking out even more when Adam touched the burn. Small blossoms started popping up, covering the mark then dying and falling off just as quickly as they had appeared. The mark was still there. Sebastian managed to mutter a “What?”
“Green thumb. The magic circle on your chest’s a curse. It transferred the ghost from the chair to you. It’s too powerful for me to get rid of myself.”
“So what you’re telling me is I’m haunted.”
Adam answered quickly and sharply, “Yes, I already said that!”
“How haunted?” Sebastian was starting to feel a little awkward.
“More haunted than an abandoned mansion and less haunted than the state of Florida.”
“Oh, you don’t say? Now would you mind letting go of my shirt?” Sebastian gave Adam a tight lipped smile. Adam, shrugging, let go. “What’s the next step?”
“Wait for it to try and kill you.” There was silence, then Sebastian let Adam know he was not okay with the plan. Adam heaved a sigh, slipping once again into his southern accent. “Listen, it’s a basic ghost- okay, maybe more of a poltergeist since it’ll probably move things to try and kill you- but it’s still simple enough. I either need to touch it or bind it with some sutras.”
“Sutras?” Sebastian was massaging his temples out of frustration. Adam was doing the same.
“Chants. They’re ancient… and stuff. My sister says they’re words that hold things together like the world. Words are important, you know. That’s why you should never tell somebody your full name. It gives them power over you.” Sebastian then pointed out he knew Adam’s full name because of the forced introduction earlier. Adam waved him away with his hand. “That’s not the point, you were being flippant. Hush and follow me.” Sebastian, before leaving, grabbed one of the books Adam had been looking at and brought it along.

Not so far and away, down in a perky playground Sebastian sat somewhat frightened on top of a jungle gym, playing with his dark skinny tie. Adam was hiding inside of a slide. Sebastian decided right then and there during his moping that if he died he would haunt Adam.
The plan was to wait for the ghost to find the perfect opportunity to kill Sebastian. Sebastian had no idea why Adam chose a playground for this to happen, but it was. At first, nothing happened, and Sebastian began getting annoyed. He glanced up, seeing the raggedy clothed, dingy skeleton. It reached out a thin, darkened hand, a gust of wind pushing Sebastian off the jungle gym and the hand caught him mid-air by his tie, choking Sebastian to death.
From the slide emerged one Adam Moomaw, leaping up to the rescue. In a booming voice he began chanting. Glowing Sanskrit letters faded into existence around the ghastly apparition, binding it in place. Its hold on Sebastian was broken, and he crashed to the ground, getting the wind knocked out of him. He hacked and coughed, trying to get back his breath and reaching for the book that had fallen out of his hands when the ghost appeared. Adam’s focused gaze did not break. The ghost could only move its jaw. A smog oozed out of the skeleton’s open mouth, dripping down its chin. It coughed like Sebastian, then gurgled, trying to make a noise. The sounds at first were incomprehensible, but quickly they began making sense. “A… dam…,” it started, “Adam… James… Moomaw.”
Adam’s name was followed by a long slur of unintelligible words, a spell. As long as the skeleton ghost had been around it must have picked up something or created its own sort of magical spell because the letters floating around the skeleton shattered in a magnificent burst of fluorescent, breaking the spell simply by the call of Adam’s true name. He was now for a short time unable to use any magic spell, his energy being repressed by the skeleton.
The specter descended to Sebastian’s level, reaching out its dusty hand. Sebastian, who had regained some breath, held open the book and shouted a phrase. A Sanskrit letter blocked the ghost’s hand but the ghost pushed through the floating symbol, shattering it like the other ones, and for the first time directly touched Sebastian. It would be the first thing the ghost would regret touching. A crackling energy surged through the spirit, pushing it back into the second thing it would regret touching- Adam’s hands. Vines grew across the ghost’s body and those vines grew silky, scarlet spider lilies. Once those lilies bloomed, other flowers emerged, engulfing the ghost skeleton. This was Adam’s natural ability, not a spell; it was the one thing that could not be broken by reciting his name with a spell.
 Energy wafted up like steam and vanished seconds later. The flowers fell down, shriveled and dead, the ghost having fed them until it vanished and they could feed no more. What looked like a few fireflies flew away.
Sebastian took out the still glowing medallion from underneath his shirt and watched it twirl round and round on its chain, mesmerized by the effect it had had on the cursed spirit that haunted him. The glow grew softer and softer before fading altogether.
“Francis de Sales, patron saint of Journalists. Now lift up your shirt.” Adam tried forcing up Sebastian’s shirt but he smacked away Adam’s hand, lifting up his shirt himself. The curse mark was gone. “Good, let’s keep it that way.”
“What were those things that showed up a second ago?” Sebastian asked, letting the medallion plop softly against the cloth of his tie.
“Those firefly things guide lost souls to the afterlife once they let go of this world, either willingly for forcefully.”
“There’re other spirits that come and take demonized human souls like that one to the afterlife sometimes.” Adam plopped down on the cool grains of sand, sifting his hand through them. He held his breath and drank in the moment; the setting sun, the finished case and someone new sitting beside him. Pins and needles went down his spine and involuntarily he shivered. He hadn’t felt this good since the case with Wallace Moorcroft and P. Darwin Yeates two years earlier. Who knew, he thought. Maybe one day he would get used to Sebastian like he had Kristjan and even consider him a friend.

Sebastian walked Adam to the front steps of the creepy little house. He glanced down at the dying grass, browning like the death chair, a half smile crawling across his face. “We should do this again sometime.” Sebastian said, handing the book back to Adam. Adam received the book, his handsome face as dull, drowsy and dreary as always. Adam shrugged, knowing the house probably wouldn’t be there in the morning. “Just stop trying to undress me, alright?”

“Cool.” Adam, unsure of what to do, nodded, glanced around and did a half turn. Sebastian did something similar and held out his hand. Neither one could agree on a handshake, fist bump or man hug so Adam ended the awkwardness by walking into the house and shutting the door on the journalist. Sebastian laughed and descended the creepy little hill, passing by the creepy tree and creaky old swing while on the other side of the door Adam allowed himself to smile.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clay Tuesday: I Believe

The Case of the Doppelganger

Everyone at school knew that if you saw the glowing green-eyed doppelganger in the old mirror it meant you would die. The other self would crawl out of the mirror like in horror movies and eat your eyes, then toy with you, leaving you unsure of when or if it would finally kill you. This raced through Jack’s mind as he nervously ruffled his rust-colored hair and checked out his face in the mirror.

Maybe it was the idea of death that had drawn Jack to the old mirror hung and hidden in the woods behind the school, or maybe it was the constant dare from teammates that brought him there. Jack scanned his features in the mirror; square jaw, lean body, easy on the eyes. Basically a good looking guy who was a little bit of a prick but okay with it. What spirit wouldn’t want to take his shape, he thought.

Jack gazed at his hazel eyes in the mirror. There was no green-eyed doppelganger. Disappointed, he scoffed and shook his head at the thought of anyone believing the old tale. Of course nothing had happened. Green eyes would have clashed with his hair anyway, that’s what Jack’s gay older brother George had said once before their parents had kicked him out. At this thought Jack started grinding his teeth. He thought about how his parents so easily saw fit to discard their own son. He looked back up at the mirror. A blond-haired man was behind him.

“The hell?” Jack spun on his foot to face the man. “Who are you and why are you creeping on me?”

“Kristjan. Oh, don’t run- I’m going to need you to stay and help me for a second. I can’t do this on my own.” Kristjan’s words ran from his thin lips so effortlessly as he walked closer to Jack, passing him. Kristjan stopped in front of the mirror and gazed at it from a plethora of odd angles. His index finger gently grazed the dusty glance; he was entranced by something he saw in it.

Jack gave the back of Kristjan’s head the most confused look he could muster which involved, but was not limited to, furrowed brows, a slightly open mouth and a tilt of his head. The man was obviously messing with him. Or one of those crazies from the mental ward. “Yeah, tall gangly guy, not gonna happen. I’m just going to-”

“I’m not gangly, I’m lean. Just because I’m over six foot people assume I’m all skin and bone this and skin and bone that. I eat! I exercise! Genetics plays a huge part in this too, even though my aunt Cecilia on my mother’s side- not my father’s, she lives in Winnipeg and nobody talks to her- always told me to eat more and called me a scarecrow. But the point of the story is that I’m not gangly. And now I’ve lost my concentration.” Kristjan drew back his finger from the glass, grimacing at the dust on his finger. “Look in the mirror again, you… what’s your name?”


“Right. Look in the mirror, would you, Jack? You’ll understand the world differently once you do. It’s exciting. Kids your age love exciting.” Kristjan stepped away from the mirror so Jack could see what he came to see, and indeed he did see it. He brought his hazel speckled eyes up to meet his reflection’s in the mirror, but instead saw a vicious, vain, vile and unhealthy glooming green gaze coming from a face exactly like his own. Fight or flight kicked in, and his body, to protect itself, moved back and away from the reflection. The reflection matched his movement and went forward.

“Legends, folktales and myths like this are very often grounded in fact, not fiction. They, like you or me, are a type of reality that exists in this world either created alongside us, from us or by us spreading tales. Our repeating of a story gives it life.” To Jack, Kristjan’s monologue was surreal, a serenade accompanying a seemingly fictitious supernatural encounter. The doppelganger’s hand reached through the mirror, fingers slowly cringing and twitching like a man struck with palsy. Kristjan continued. “The thrill of wanting to encounter the supernatural vanishes once the meeting takes place, when the entity feeds on your fear. You look for a cheap scare and find something very real. Something just as alive as you.”

Jack’s gaze lingered in the green depths of his doppelganger’s eyes, freezing him in place. Piece by piece, little by little, the copy of Jack slinked forward out of the old mirror. Jack could feel the fingers emanating sharpness like a knife, coming closer to his enlarged pupils. He was grotesquely fascinated by the idea of a true urban legend, of meeting, most importantly-


The word sifted out of Jack’s parted lips and covered the area like thick smog.

“Death is an entryway to a new life, Jackson Douglas Rae.”

A white crow landed on the doppelganger’s out-stretched arm. With a haunting caw it flapped its wings causing the doppelganger to explode into a mass of feathers. Jack snapped back into his senses, sweat pouring down his frame. Kristjan shoved Jack to the side. “Move!” he shouted, the false Jack re-appearing and jabbing a fist where the real Jack was moments earlier. Dust and grass soared through air, and with a swift kick Kristjan forced the doppelganger backwards. The crow flapped furiously, turning the double back into feathers.

“Jack, come here!” Kristjan pulled Jack over into the edge of a magic circle. The fake Jack appeared once more, lunging forward with sharp fingers, fingers which stopped inches short of Jack’s face. The magic circle was glowing a furious yellow and preventing the fake to move at all. The doppelganger was trapped, and the white crow landed on Kristjan’s shoulder, sinking into the black fabric of his sweater and vanishing as mysteriously as it had appeared.

Jack was unsure of what to say, but that didn’t stop him from speaking. “That- What –Me- Who are you?”

“That’s not important. You were fantastic bait by the way,” Kristjan said cooly, bringing out a small notebook from his pocket. He started chanting in a language largely unknown to Jack- French- and little by little, as Kristjan read, pieces of the doppelganger shone brightly then cracked like glass. Pieces fell off and hit the ground, shattering and vanishing. When Kristjan finished and closed the notebook, the monster had ceased to exist.

“What the hell did you say to in French that you couldn’t say in English to kill it?” Jack said, breaking the silence left by the monster. Kristjan’s response was a smile. “Why couldn’t you just let it take your shape?”

“I read a passage from a grimoire.” Kristjan stuck his hands in his pockets and shrugged. Jack waited for more of an answer. “Oh, the French. English is a horrible language to do spells in, there’s borrowed words from other languages everywhere in it. French is purer, more concrete and precise.”

“Okay, still not sure what a grimoire is.” Jack stopped and realized something else important. “And how did you know my full name?”

“It’s a spell book. Different spell books for different occasions, different cultures dealt with these things differently. And I took your wallet while you weren’t looking and saw your license,” Kristjan tossed the increasingly confused Jack his wallet.

“Why didn’t it look like you?”

“Because I’m already a doppelganger of myself,” Kristjan began to walk off after his answer, despite protests from a very confused and unsatisfied Jack.

“That doesn’t make sense!” He shouted after Kristjan’s fading figure.

“It doesn’t make sense to me either. Go home and do your homework or something.”

“Just like that?” Frustrated, Jack tried chasing after Kristjan, who looked as though he were doing more fading away than walking.

“People experience the otherworldly every day. Accept it and move on.” Kristjan was gone before Jack could catch up. He took some deep breaths, trying to remember what Kristjan even looked like. Kristjan’s image hurriedly faded from Jack’s mind, no matter how hard he tried to conjure it up. Ultimately, he took the blond man’s advice. He accepted what had happened to him and more importantly to his brother, and moved on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Clay Tuesday Part 3

Act III: White Crow
The facts were these: The boys, now with the inclusion of the sole female, were back to where they had been the Wednesday a few days prior. They waited behind The Flaming Pickle, the boys impatiently and Rachel rather calmly. Within moments Wallace was to walk briskly into the alley to meet them; the trio may have caught him in his lie, but they morally could not let Yeates have his way with the murderous Wallace. They planned on dealing with him after Yeates. When Wallace did arrive, he was in a full sprint with Yeates in pursuit
Yeates, his face half-melted off, his clothes torn to rags, hunched slightly over and with claws in place of fingers hopped like a frog from building to building chasing after Wallace. Demonic seagull-like wings sprouted from the phantom’s back. His jaw unhinged, his mouth grew larger, and the teeth became hair-raisingly visible. Both eyes were melted over; his face looked like pale wax.
Wallace spun around, his hammer appearing in hand, and aimed for the demonic phantom but got knocked into the wall when the phantom’s gigantic claw met his body leaving rips along his clothes and scratched that bled profusely.
Adam and Kristjan held open their tiny notebooks, each pressing a hand against a wall. Magical circles in a pastel glow cropped up near their hands like graffiti, sprouting forth wires that sought to entangle to demonic Yeates, but his teeth and claws severed the bindings with little effort. A heavy energy shot through the alleyway, the source of which came from Yeates’ negativity, making it hard for the living to breathe. Yeates focused that force in his wings, creating a whirlwind that thrust Adam and Kristjan into the side of the building.
Rachel gazed at the phantom, standing un-phased in the midst of action. Her sweet smile held something deadly behind it, an untold story waiting to be heard. Her eyes shifted to the three large flowers growing on the demon’s arms.
“Let me tell you a little something about why you should be careful,” she started, taking carefully calculated steps towards Yeates. Yeates, having lost sense of being human, charged at her, a gut wrenching inhuman roar echoing from his mouth. “First, I’m poisonous to ghosts. Second, you hurt my brother. Never hurt my brother.”
Little cerulean lights flickered into existence around Rachel; it was her most basic ability, like Adam’s flowers, or Kristjan’s crows. Dozens of little fireflies surrounded Yeates, stopping and burning him. Smoke rose from his body, searing him and forcing more growls and roars to erupt from him. The phantom’s struggle weakened him, keeping him from fighting off the effects of the flowers, which began to grow and connect to each other. In seconds more spider lilies sprouted from vines that encased the entire upper left side of Yeates.
The phantom was unable to smack the fireflies away. In retaliation he shot pressure at Rachel, knocking her down but Kristjan was there to take her place. Or more precisely, his white crows which emerged from his body were.
“You asked about these back at the hospital. If you had dug deeper into my mind, you would know that even before I became a victim of happenstance my family called me Kristjan the Scarecrow.” The abnormally large birds flapped their wings, and Yeates burst into feathers. The phantom, disoriented, reformed seconds later in a different location only to be consumed by more of the fireflies he so agonizingly tried to swat away. “Phillip Darwin Yeates, go to hell.”
Yeates froze in a striking position, mouth wide open ready to eat any of the fireflies or even bite off his covered arm. A large magic circle that looked vaguely like a clock formed in a soft blue light, ticking down the time until Yeates would be free again. Yet before the flowers could finish devouring him, before the fireflies could singe him, or even before the crows could peck away at him until he was nothing, Wallace had found his own way to the side of the white clad menace. Standing by the phantom, Wallace’s fingers stroked what little hair was left on his victim’s head, his lips drawing near to Yeates’ ear. Mockingly, he whispered “You’ll be useful after all, mon cher. I’ve always wanted Psychic powers.”
Wallace had activated a spell, dark symbols crawling across his skin. Not so delicately, and ever so un-gently, Wallace brought his mouth to the neck of his victim. The flowers wilted away. Yeates morphed back to his original form then vanished all together into Wallace’s open mouth. The magic circle broke. The symbols left Wallace’s skin, and he stood victorious for all to see. With a crazed smile he lifted his hand and gave a simple wave. Then he vanished.

 Kristjan sat discontent on the creepy swing in front of the house. It had only been a day, but already the house was somewhere new and far away from Strawberry Fields. Back and forth the man from the in-between swung until Rachel’s hand fell on his shoulder and Kristjan came to a stop. He looked over his shoulder at the woman and at Adam who stood sheepishly with his arms folded across his chest. Kristjan gave a gentle, unpracticed smile.
“It’s okay, Kristjan. Sometimes we fall down.” Rachel said softly, rubbing his back. Kristjan let those words sink in; the words were, after all, important. There was an unspoken bond that had grown between the three inhabitants of the house due to the events of their last case. They had experienced failure together, and forged something strong through the trial.
Kristjan allowed himself to believe what Rachel had said.  He responded, “I know,” then slid off the swing, allowing her to get on. He pushed her while Adam sat against the tree reading one of the old grimoires from the study, looking up every so often to fend off Kristjan and Rachel’s teasing.

When it got dark the fireflies danced to their words underneath the waning moon and the trio laughed together, and together they lived and worked case after case, continuing their adventures in the ebb and flow of the ever-evolving world of the stunningly strange and supernatural. There was still so much more for them to do.

Clay Tuesday Part 2

Act II: Failures Anonymous
            Rachel softly closed the door of the creepy little house behind her, returning from a Kobudo class she had taken in town. She noticed how shiny and polished everything looked, and knew instantly that Adam was home. He often voluntarily did most of the chores around the house which suited Rachel just fine since her brother didn’t do much of anything most days other than watch sports on TV.
She walked over to Kristjan’s desk, noting that he had taken the sunflowers she had picked up for him earlier in the day. Smiling brightly, Rachel walked over to one of the book cases to grab a grimoire so she could further prepare for her lecture tomorrow (she had gotten the days wrong as she often did, thinking the lecture was that night when in reality it was the next day), but stopped at a framed photo of her and her father when she was twelve, a little after Adam was born. She was short and scrawny compared to the large figure of her father holding a rifle, the same he had used to teach her how to hunt. She touched the glass of the frame, her bright smile gradually growing more sullen.
There was a loud clattering that snapped Rachel out of her reminiscing. She set the photo back down, making her way to the source of the sound, in the kitchen. Once there she saw Adam standing by the sink, tossing pots and pans in the foamy water. Rachel let out the little bit of breath she had been holding in. Adam was fine.
“I take it you took care of Yeates behind the gay bar?” As she spoke to him she grabbed a blackberry from a little bowl on the counter and popped it in her mouth.
Adam looked as angry as a malnourished bear woken early from his hibernation in a cramped cave he shared with three others (a creature she didn’t believe existed as she had never seen one in all of the hunting expeditions she had been on). “No, he got away. How did you know it was a gay bar?”
“It’s called The Flaming Pickle, Adam. How could it not be a gay bar? How did you two not get that?” Rachel popped another berry in her mouth. “Are you cooking something French again? Adam, we’re in America. Cook American food.”
Her little brother glared at her unappreciatively.
“So how’d you lose Yeates?” Rachel smiled wickedly, changing the subject back to the case. “Don’t tell me it was Wallace’s fault. I want more detail than that, like how it was his fault.”
“We didn’t know what the ‘P’ in his name stood for,” Adam muttered under his breath. He didn’t make eye contact with his sister. “Still don’t.”
“Yeates is a psychic. He knows our names.”
Stopping mid-chew, Rachel held up her index finger, signaling for her brother to wait a minute. She left the room briefly and when she returned she held a marker.
“No, Rachel…” Adam’s accent started to slip out.
“C’mon Adam, just let me write a sutra on you so Yeates won’t be able to see you. You need to be prepared when you see him again.” Rachel drew closer to her brother but he pushed her arm away.
“Who says I’m going out again? I didn’t want to take the stupid case in the first place.” Adam shoved Rachel’s arm away from him again. “Stop it!”
“Adam, darlin’, I just want to make sure you don’t get hurt.” Rachel shoved the cap back on the pen, getting frustrated with her brother.
“You’re too over-protective. You’re not dad, you’re not in charge of me. I’m an adult. Now leave me alone!”
“I am head of this household Adam James Moomaw, and if you’re going to work this case then you need to—”
“I don’t want to work this case,” Adam countered, raising his voice. “You know what? I can hardly wait until I’m out of here and in college so I can prove to you that I can handle myself!”
Rachel watched as her brother stormed out of the kitchen. She tried swallowing the lump she felt in her throat, but it only got larger.
“Dad,” she said solemnly, “how do I deal with him?”

The calculatedly cold corridors of the hospital left much to be desired in the way of appearance, and even more so in the general atmosphere. Kristjan walked down the long stretches of hallway without so much as a visitor’s pass, but no one stopped him; no on dared interrupt him. Or rather, no one could. That was the problem Kristjan had to deal with, for which he considered himself a victim of happenstance. No one could see him. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. A consequence of his being neither dead nor alive was that people couldn’t focus on him. If he was in a crowd, he would go unnoticed and if he had met someone briefly face to face, they would quickly forget what he looked like. Only people who could use any form of magic and spent considerable time around him were able to see through this, like Adam and Rachel. This limitation, however, left him free to roam and gave him an easier time doing discreet research for cases. This also meant he usually received terrible customer service.
Kristjan pressed forward through the corridors, holding on to a bouquet of sunflowers Rachel had purchased for him.
“They changed my room, didn’t they?” Kristjan said this loudly, but he doubted anyone could hear him, nobody was near him. It was more to himself than anything; he was trying to calm his nerves. He hadn’t expected the house to take them to the town where his body lay. Within minutes, like always, Kristjan found his room right where it had been since the accident— hospital room forty and four. He walked in.
There on the bed was Kristjan’s body.
Eight months, three weeks, two days and twelve hours earlier Kristjan was involved in a car crash while driving out of Strawberry Fields, Canada, to visit his family at their estate. The crash had left his body comatose, but somehow his spirit, soul, or consciousness— whatever you wanted to call it— had been projected, pulled, outside of his body. Kristjan at first thought he was dead. But his body continued to breathe. He was stuck in the in-between, yet still able to make a physical impact on the world. So there the chunk of flesh Kristjan once claimed as his own laid withering wastefully away while his family, being one of the wealthiest in the province, kept his body alive with some glimmer of hope that Kristjan would wake up. But he never did. Not once, no matter how hard Kristjan or the doctors tried. The one thing he could remember from the accident was the vivid image of a man in brown who made Kristjan feel calm, and a shadowy woman. Then there was something he thought he heard one of them whisper: The L Noise. But he had no clue as to what it meant.
In mourning for himself, Kristjan always wore black, and now was no exception. He brushed his hands against his black slacks, made sure his black dress shirt was tucked in and straightened his black coat. He left the top button undone on his shirt, and did not wear a tie as he had always hated them. Growing up there were occasions where his older cousins would rough house and one almost choked him with his tie once. Since then he considered them a liability.
Gently, Kristjan set down the flowers on the nightstand next to the bed, said goodbye to his body, and left the same way he came in: confused, and frustrated.

Once out of the hospital, the last thing Kristjan expected, wanted even, was a second encounter with Yeates. But it happened anyway. Whimsically the phantom phased into existence from a haze, and flamboyantly hopped behind Kristjan.
“Found you,” Yeates whispered in Kristjan’s ear. Kristjan snapped around to hit Yeates but the phantom had already leapt back, wagging a finger. The red flowers were still on him and looked to be roughly twice the size they had been before. “Imagine my surprise when I found out you weren’t alive. How thrilling! How unique!”
“Stop being so nosy, it’s annoying. You’re like my cousin Maurice, always going behind people to learn their secrets.” Kristjan’s eyes went from the flowers to the phantom’s face which looked like it had started to melt off. Kristjan inhaled sharply out of shock.
“You should really re-consider helping Wallace, you know. Just let me kill him.” Yeates’s charm, his perkiness, had left him. The phantom emitted anger, discontent and hate. “He’s the reason I’m like this, a gorgeous man losing all his beauty. All I want is to get my body back, but that isn’t going to happen. That’s a fact you know about as well as I do. Killing Wallace is the next best thing, cheri.” The white figure of Yeates invaded Kristjan’s personal space, one thing the phantom was exceptionally good, at by travelling through his haze. “An eye for an eye, right? He killed me with that hammer of his, and now he gets the just desserts.”
In the seconds that passed, Kristjan’s face scrunched together in the realization of what the real situation was. Suddenly what Yeates said in the alley before made sense. Wallace had murdered Yeates for whatever reason, and was now using the trio to get out of the consequences of his actions.
Kristjan didn’t have the time to worry; he could see the pointed teeth lining the phantom’s wide smiling mouth, like a Cheshire cat turned feral. Kristjan snapped his middle finger and thumb. Yeates’ face was met with the talons of two white crows.
“What?” The phantom shrunk back, beating away the abnormally large birds with his flailing arms. He looked more confused than hurt. “When did you use a charm?”
“Sorry guy, I didn’t.” Kristjan, pushing back his fear, began slowly stepping away. “As much as I enjoy your Old Testament appreciation, I had to get you to stop rambling. Nobody likes a rambler, you know. It’s very pas bon.”
Yeates let out a distorted growl of pain, leaping away from the birds and snarling, bearing his hideous bear trap teeth. He vanished in a hazy mist, leaving Kristjan and his crows alone in front of the dimly lit hospital.

Everyone was back inside of the creepy little house early the next day for a meeting on what to do with Yeates. Kristjan sat where he had the last time they were all gathered, looking perturbed with Wallace, who sat fidgeting with his hands in the same chair.
“Wallace, darling, could you explain to us one little thing?” Rachel brushed some of her yellow hair away from her face and looked kindly at the thinning man. Sweetly, her voice carried on the rest of what she had to say. “What the hell did Yeates mean when he told Kristjan that you killed him? I’m not trying to sound dense. I’d just like to assume you didn’t come to us as a way to avoid your consequences.”
Only Rachel had the ability to say hell and still sound adorable. Wallace looked uncomfortably at the trio of ghost hunters.
“It was for the black market. To pay for school. Some scientist wanted to study a documented psychic, and was willing to pay good money. He only paid half price, though. Something about damaging his brain when I smashed his skull.” Wallace sounded relatively guiltless now, staring at each of the house’s inhabitants coldly, no longer fidgeting with his hands. Adam was ready to punch him in the jugular.
“How did you track him down?” Rachel started nonchalantly toying with a large switchblade, keeping her eyes focused on the unwavering Wallace.
“I’ve known the prat for years. We met on a ghost tour. I couldn’t stand him. He was a pompous party playboy who was wasting his life away using his psychic powers to perform cheap parlor tricks for rich snobs. He was barely using his brain, so I thought maybe I could benefit from it instead. He didn’t deserve to live.” Wallace scrunched his nose, disgusted merely at the thought of the phantom.
“Neither do you.” Kristjan shook his head slowly, his voice surging through the air like electricity. A dark feeling began emitting from Kristjan’s words.
Ignoring Kristjan, Wallace continued, “I lured him to The Flaming Pickle, seduced him, then with the hammer…”
Rachel threw her knife at Wallace’s head. He tried catching it, but the knife travelled faster than he had anticipated and he ended up getting cut instead. The knife stuck to the wall by Wallace’s face.
“P. Darwin Yeates is a nuisance,” Kristjan started, “and I really hate how he called us mon cher. Was anyone else bothered by that? I’ve got French-Canadian relatives and they don’t even say that to me.”
“We need a plan.” Adam sighed.
“That’s easy. All we have to do is wait a day or two and use Wallace as bait.” Everyone with a Y chromosome shifted focus to Rachel, who obviously knew what she was saying. She batted her large azure eyes, and with a sly smile explained herself. “Kristjan said his face was melting off. When a ghost’s face is melting off like that it means they’re turning into a demon due to personal vendettas carried over from life. The process is sped up when the person who died has some kind of psychic ability, because their soul’s more sensitive. Once he’s fully transformed, he might not be able to say our names so all we’ll have to do is find out what the P stands for, which should be easy now that we also know he was a performing psychic. I’ll just call up some contacts.”
Everyone was needlessly surprised with the knowledge the one person with two X chromosomes had. She did, after all, have multiple degrees and had been doing this the longest out of anyone else in the room.
“We can think of some ways to get Wallace to stick around,” Adam said coyly, reaching up for a grimoire he knew contained binding spells.

“I’ll stay willingly. No matter where I go Yeates will find me eventually.”

Clay Tuesday Part 1

Act I: A Victim of Happenstance
Once upon on a time on a creepy little hill there sat a creepy little house with a creepy little tree that had an old, creaky swing hanging from it. Inside of that house lived three individuals; Rachel, an intelligent blonde-haired woman in her later twenties, was the first of them and the legal owner of the house. She had a doctorate in folklore and a best-selling book on the supernatural and due to her notoriety in her field often guest lectured at universities. Her younger brother Adam, a silent young man, was the second resident. He kept his hair closely cropped to his head, much preferred sports over the paranormal, and was known to have a quick and bitter tongue, something he had developed after the death of his and Rachel’s father five years prior when he was thirteen. Finally, there was the third resident— Kristjan. Kristjan was a man in his late-twenties who always wore black as if in mourning, and who was neither dead nor alive— he was somewhere in-between. As Kristjan enjoyed saying whenever the subject was brought up in conversation, he was merely a “victim of happenstance,” and left it at that.
            It was a dark and dingy Tuesday that looked as though it should have been made out of clay, and said day was greeted by the eerie opening of the creaky front door. Apprehensively a rather tall man stepped through the entryway into the lives of Kristjan, Rachel and Adam. The almost sickly thin man ran his hand through his thinning black hair; in his faux sickness was the fading appearance of youth and innocence. Kristjan sat at a wooden desk covered in books and papers near the front door. Kristjan’s crisp cerulean eyes met the man’s dull gray ones.
            “How can we help you?” Kristjan asked, his voice solemnly smooth and his speech direct. Rachel wandered in from the other room carrying an old leather grimoire. Kristjan kept his watchful gaze on the tall, sickly man.
            “My name is Wallace Moorcroft. I, uh, well, from what I’ve heard, this is the house, correct? You three are… I mean to say, the house wasn’t here the other day so it must be.” Wallace glanced nervously down at the ground. A pristine and well-practiced smile crossed Kristjan’s face. He was in terribly amused. Rachel directed Wallace to a chair so he could sit.
            “You’ve heard correctly. We deal with everything supernatural.” Kristjan set his hands down on the desk in front of him, clearing away some of the clutter.
            “Good, good.” Wallace fidgeted, playing with his charcoal colored coat. He had a hard time finding the right words to say.
            “Don’t fret. Take your time.” Rachel said with the slightest hint of a southern accent, setting down the book she had been holding onto the desk. She turned her head, her tawny mane of hair flowing untamed. She shouted out, “Adam! Adam, come in here. We have a client!”
            “So?” Came the grouchy reply from another room.
            Rachel shut her eyes tight and nibbled on her upper lip, revealing her lack of patience for her brother’s attitude. “Adam, if you don’t get out here I’ll cancel all the sports channels!”
            “You—why— why would you do that?” Adam’s voice lacked the southern twang of Rachel’s, but did have a little bit of resentment drizzled on top. “I don’t care if nobody else watches them I earn those channels doing the housework!”
            “Actually, I watch curling sometimes.” Kristjan piped in. Wallace looked a lot more uncomfortable than he had moments earlier.
            “Not a real sport, Kristjan!” Adam yelled out.
            Rachel brushed a hand through her hair, and had Wallace been looking up he probably would have thought it looked like her hair was eating her hand it was so thick. “Adam, remember when you were in the fifth grade and—”
            “Stop it, I’m coming!” Adam’s response this time came in a southern accent. This, of course, left Rachel with a large smile on her face and Kristjan with a thinning one. Kristjan brought out his wallet and withdrew a few bills, handing the money to Rachel who snatched them from his hand and shoved them in her pocket.
It was a little game of theirs, seeing who could get Adam riled up enough to slip into the southern drawl he tried desperately to cover up with a neutral, dreary tone.
Adam, wearing a plain white tee and some jeans but no shoes drudged himself into the living room where the others sat, rubbing his hand over his head. “I hate you.”
            Rachel smiled sweetly. “Was that really so bad?” She turned to give Wallace a proper once-over. “We’ll do our best with whatever it is you need from us. Now what’s the problem?”
            “I’m being haunted by a phantom. I’d like you to, you know, get rid of him for me.” Wallace’s head did not move from its uncomfortable downward slant but his eyes did shift to stare at Kristjan, who gracefully tilted his head down.
            “Phantoms don’t haunt humans, they haunt places. What did you do to piss him off?” Rachel inquired, intrigued. She placed a hand on her brother’s shoulder trying to get him to loosen up, but Wallace was the one who was truly tense.
            “It already sounds like too much trouble. Just let the thing kill him.” A sulking Adam was never good company, but a non-sulking Adam was hardly much better. Adam, who was more of a ‘sensitive’ than Kristjan or Rachel, was picking up peculiar signs from Wallace. Rachel’s grip became a steel claw, digging into Adam’s shoulder. He held back a cough of shock.
            “How long has it been hanging around you?” Kristjan’s head perked up, and with a swift motion he ran his fingers through his soft blonde hair.
“A few days, maybe.” Wallace chewed on his lip and changed his answer. “Closer to a week.”
“A week? How’ve you kept it away?” Adam looked a little skeptical; in his opinion, if Wallace had lasted that long then he probably didn’t need their help.
“I’ve been using salt at the entrance of my apartment to keep him out at night.” Wallace slunk back in his chair, finally moving his neck back and stretching it. He continued on with a sigh, opening up the collar of his neck to reveal Chinese characters drawn on his skin with marker. “I wrote some sutras on my body that hides me from the spirit, but it only fools him for so long. I’m not an expert, this isn’t something I dedicate my life to. I’m in med school, I only dabble in these things, the supernatural.”
“That’s the heart sutra. There’s a story about a monk who painted the sutra all over his body to hide himself from a spirit but forgot to cover his ears, so the spirit took them. Ridiculous mistake on his part, honestly. It looks like you’ve got the first few characters a little messed up.” Rachel let go of Adam’s shoulder to move closer and get a better look at the characters.
            “Do you have his name?” Kristjan asked. His voice had gone dark, and soft.
“Whose name?”
“The phantom’s name.” Every word escaping from Kristjan’s pale lips left an empty void in the air. Wallace looked at Kristjan, sighing again, heavily this time. “It’s very important that you tell us.”
            “P. Darwin Yeates. Why?”
            “It’s easier to exorcise ghosts if we have their name.” Adam had broken his silence, looking more perturbed with Wallace every second.
            “I’m still not sure why…” Wallace was starting to break free of the dark charm of Kristjan’s spoken words, annoyed that he had to reveal the phantom’s name. He clutched the fabric of his pleated pants.
            “I’m getting to that. One must always be patient; otherwise you end up like my great aunt Chestina.” Kristjan didn’t bother elaborating. “Names are the most important words of all, more important than the words in your fancy sutras or our fancy grimoires. They’re bound to us even in death. If we know a ghost’s name, we can use it in a spell. Doing that binds the ghost completely allowing us to perform a quick, painless exorcism without being interrupted.”
            “I see. Thanks for the explanation.” Wallace frowned. He looked like a very confused old man.
            “You look like some students I’ve had. What didn’t you get?” Rachel touched her elongated fingers to her hair, trying in vain to push it behind her ears. She arched her delicate eyebrows.
            “Doesn’t matter, it won’t do him any good to know.” Adam took some pleasure in Wallace’s confusion; this was all relatively simple to him, and for once he wasn’t the person who knew the least about the supernatural in the room.
            “Ignore Adam.” Kristjan smiled, even laughed a little. “We’ll help you. Is there anywhere specific you’d like us to meet so we can deal with the phantom?”
            Wallace finally looked a little happier. “I have an exam in the morning that I need to focus on right now. Meet me tomorrow night in the alleyway behind The Flaming Pickle, the bar in mid-town Strawberry Fields.” He got up and headed for the door.
            “We’ll meet you there at sundown. Don’t die.” Adam said snippily. Wallace walked out of the creepy little house.

In the dark and dingy alley Adam waited with Kristjan, sitting with his back against the brick wall of the pub called The Flaming Pickle. He didn’t understand why it was named that, and he didn’t care. He found the people who visited the place to be rather annoying with their boisterous banters that they shouted with their drinks in hand. He had too much to baggage, old and new, to deal with to worry about anyone else and their stories that he never once found interesting. Adam looked over at Kristjan who was standing beside him in the chilly air with his black sport coat buttoned all the way up. Rachel had run out of the house wearing her pencil skirt and a red blouse presumably on her way to a late lecture at Strawberry Fields University, hence her absence. As she left she assured the two boys that they would be able to handle the job themselves, which was true, but Adam did not appreciate it; Kristjan made him uncomfortable whenever they were on a case. It was one part the grimy gray nature of his words when he would talk business and one part Adam himself, and his natural born ability outside of casting magic.
Any supernatural entity that Adam touched with his bare hands would grow flowers. The flower would slowly drain away the energy that kept the ghost in the living world, and once the energy was fully drained the ghost was exorcised and sent to the Afterlife. The flowers would often times multiply on their own, turning into a stunning rouge bouquet of spider lilies, each flower or group of flowers connected by thin vines and roots. There was, as far as Adam and Rachel knew, no way to remove the flowers once they had grown. Adam wasn’t sure if touching Kristjan would cause a flower to grow on him or not, and he was unwilling to find out for as much as Kristjan could bother him, he was growing on Adam. He wanted Kristjan to stay— Adam was tired of people coming and going from his life. Though he planned on leaving this life behind soon to go to college, he wanted Kristjan to be there to keep his sister company even if she was often busy researching and teaching. He wanted more of a family to come home to on vacations. He wanted someone to take the place of his father.
“Adam, if you keep your head in the clouds you’ll miss everything that’s about to happen, and you’ll regret it. Regrets turn us into what we fight.” Adam’s foggy eyes cleared up from his train of thought and for a fleeting moment he thought about how Kristjan’s words sounded thoughtful, genuine. It was like Adam’s father, and Adam wished Kristjan sounded like that more often.
Adam began to focus on the mission at hand. They were there to exorcise the phantom P. Darwin Yeates from Wallace Moorcroft. Yeates. Darwin.
Adam realized too late that they lacked information they had neglected to get the day before; the meaning of the P. in the phantom’s name. Adam opened his mouth to tell Kristjan, but before so much as a sneaky little sound could creep out of his mouth, Kristjan spoke up.
“Here comes the client and bait, rolled into one.” Kristjan pushed himself from off the wall. Wallace came into the alley in a half run, breathing hard, and sweat forming on his brow. A haze followed the med school student, and from that haze the shape of a platinum blond man in a white tux formed.
“It’s a fox face.” Adam made note of the phantom’s squinty eyes and narrow face, but he didn’t expect the phantom to hear the comment, let alone respond to it.
“My my, how rude!” The white phantom Yeates appeared in a haze next to Adam, whispering coyly in his ear. Adam’s eyes grew wide in shock and Yeates hit him with a blast of pressure that sent him flying into a pile of garbage. “Words are very important, mon cher, be careful you don’t use them to make hurtful remarks.”
“Adam, try to bind him with a sutra!” Kristjan reached into his coat pockets and brought out three paper charms, each one had the kanji for shikigami, paper guardian, written on them. The charms floated in the air for a simple moment, releasing ripples in the air and glowing a serene blue before morphing into three paper crows that were like an unsettling, lifelike origami. What made it even more unsettling were the three, very organic eyes each crow possessed. The three crows shot swiftly like arrows through the air at Yeates who leapt up and above the flailing Kristjan. Yeates stood in the sky, wagging a finger.
“I’ve got no problem with you two. I’m after the doctor.” Yeates smiled, letting out a soft tsk tsk. As Adam pulled himself from out of the trash, shivers shot down his spine. The crows followed Yeates and dive bombed him, but the phantom kicked his leg, the gust of energy emitting from it knocking the birds away in a plumage of paper feathers. Yeates spotted Wallace helping Adam out of the trash and shot towards him. A split second before the phantom got face-to-face with Wallace a silver hammer with the name MAXWELL engraved on it formed from a brilliant light in Wallace’s hand. Wallace swung with surprising force and his silver hammer met with the phantom’s face, knocking Yeates backwards into the sky. Yeates used his hand to claw at the air like a solid object and slowed himself down, stopping above the group of men.
“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace! You’re even stronger than I remember. You should have used that strength the first time you hit me with your hammer. I get it, though; it was your first time so you were nervous.”
Wallace clutched the hammer tightly in his hand, breathing harshly through his mouth. He gave a primitive war cry, preparing himself to attack the floating phantom. Yeates brought his arm forward, sending out a blast of pressure that forced Wallace back into the brick wall of The Flaming Pickle. While Yeates had been distracted, both Adam and Kristjan had begun chanting a spell in Latin, reading from little black notebooks. Wiry threads sprung from the notebooks, wrapping around the phantom’s form, bringing him back down to ground level. The serious looks on Kristjan and Adam’s faces were the perfect counter to Yeates’ perky outward appearance.
“Mon petit fantome, it’s been a pleasure but you’ve outstayed your welcome. I’m sure you understand, being the dashingly dressed gentleman you are.” Kristjan motioned with his head for the crows to attack. They shot at Yeates, tearing a chunk out of his right arm. “P. Darwin Yeates, you’re…”
Kristjan trailed off. He realized what Adam had realized earlier- they didn’t know what the P stood for.
“Sorry, Kristjan Rupert Callier, Adam James Moomaw and Wallace Policky Moorcroft. I’ll never tell what the P stands for!” Yeates began stringing together French words in a spell. The wires surrounding Yeates, and the birds too left the plane of existence, shattering into paper bits and a fantastic pastel glow that looked like stardust. In what took half a blink, the phantom’s face was in front of Kristjan’s, taunting him, pushing closer.
“How did you get our names?” Kristjan spat at the phantom dressed in blinding white, the contra to his black clothing.
“I was an up-and-coming psychic before death. Lucky me, my powers carried over! Isn’t that just convenient? I can read your minds! Mon cher, your thoughts were so very useful. There was so much I didn’t know about this world.”
Kristjan pushed the phantom’s face away. Yeates stood smugly, mocking the man in black with his fox face. His arm was raised, ready for attack once more when a large crimson flower popped up on his damaged shoulder. Confused, Yeates looked behind himself and came eye to eye with the stony faced Adam. Yeates, shocked, couldn’t prevent Adam from planting two more flowers on his arm before he finally realized what was happening, flying back through the air.
“Oh my, I should take my leave.” Yeates smiled broadly and saluted the group with his flower-covered arm. “Ta ta!”
The phantom vanished in a haze. Wallace sank to the ground, exhausted. Adam looked at Kristjan, frustrated, and Kristjan clenched his fists, angered. They were up against a psychic. That would have been some nice information to have known beforehand.
“There’s no point even trying to use any spells on him now. Way to screw it up, Wallace,” Adam grumbled through gritted teeth, kicking the side of The Flaming Pickle. A jolt of pain shot through his foot. “Now what?”
A back door opened up and out came a muscular man in a shirt slightly too small for him, swaggering just a hair. He looked Kristjan and Adam over and whistled. “Well howdy,” he said with slurred speech that was difficult to understand. “Would you fellas like to come in? The alley isn’t the best place to hang around.”
“The hell?” Adam looked to Kristjan for an answer, but he just shrugged. They looked back at Wallace, who was trying to hide his face from the drunken man.
“Wally? That you?” The drunken man tried, not very hard, to look past Adam and Kristjan. He gave up and started receding back through the door with a groggy shrug. “Whatever, man. I’ll catch you later.”

Things suddenly made a little more sense to Adam and Kristjan.