Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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.

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