Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thursdays United, Part 2: He Saw A Sight He Could Not Un-See

              It was three past midnight and like most college students their age, Quincy and Aster were awake. Unlike most college students their age, they were not partying. In fact most people at Plumfield University didn’t really “party”. The best friends attended a small university on an island town in the east of the United States known as Plumfield; not so tiny that there was nothing to do, but not large enough to be particularly well known. It was also prestigious enough to where Quincy had no idea how he got accepted. Maybe it was an act of fate, happenstance, or just the inevitable, but he and Aster could not be separated.
                The two walked casually along the streets of the town passing by old house after old house, making small talk about things they liked and enjoyed; baby otters, irrational fear of penguins, the school café’s lack of skill when it came to making a fine grilled cheese sandwich, and red balloons- Aster was especially fond of red balloons after going through a German music phase. They talked like this until they reached their destination, a cramped-looking palm-reader’s shop.
                “Do you think the Raincoats are already here?” Quincy sounded antsy and his fingers were a little twitchy. He had a hard time focusing on the creaky little magic shop in front of him where he had heard a séance was soon to begin.
                “Wakeman probably just left the library. He and I have a test in the Abnormal Psychology of Television Characters in the 80s. They’ll catch us here right as we finish up.”
                A wicked smile crept along the boy’s face. “Good.” Aster rolled her eyes and boldly took the first step towards the shop, opening the door for a gracious Quincy. Most days she felt like the gentleman in the relationship.
                Inside the shop the ceremonies had already begun. A black-haired woman in loose, earthy garb sat in front of a crystal ball, holding the hands of students Quincy and Aster had seen around the school - in total there were five victims holding each other for the spell, in the clutches of the scam artist death speaker. Except Lady Barkhurst really wasn’t a scam artist. She had talent, and Quincy could see it; She had caused plenty of trouble since Quincy and Aster had been at school, and they never quite knew how to deal with her.
As Lady Barkhurst spilled out word after word of her incantation, and as people failed to notice the presence of either of the newcomers, Quincy could see smog spewing from her velvet lips. It continued to flow, being trapped by the circle created by the hand-holding humans.
                “Speak to us!” Lady Barkhurst’s voice was smooth and enticing. It was her special gift, like Quincy’s eyes and Aster’s hands.
 Quincy had the unique, albeit disturbingly creepy ability to see things that did not belong. As vague as that sounded it basically meant he could see the supernatural tendencies of the world; every time a ghost vanished he saw the trail of where it went. Every time a ghost spoke, he saw the sounds and energy emanating, seeping through the air slowly and chaotically like a blood droplet falling into water, contaminating the world. Anything supernatural, he saw its essence. Both he and Aster found this quite useful for their hobby of ghost hunting, though not very effective as a party trick to impress large groups of people.
He inhaled sharply and at the same moment Lady Barkhurst threw her head back, her eyes turning white. Her mouth became grotesquely large to accommodate the large amount of smog that escaped from her pale figure, and it seemed too much for the poor woman to handle. When Quincy thought she was about to break, she suddenly stopped. The smoke gathered, condensed, and took shape. Quincy heaved out a tiny gasp of surprise.
“What is it?” Aster squinted her eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that was going on. She didn’t need to see with her eyes, however- right then she only needed her ears. An Earth-shattering scream, similar to a child in pain, filled the room quicker than the smog ever could. Aster covered her ears and looked up to shout a warning to those holding together the circle of arms containing the ghost, but her call was drowned out and never came. The circle broke as people covered their ears and Aster caught a brief glimpse of what Quincy had seen: A little girl in pigtails with blood red eyes and veiny skin. The next thing she saw was the ceiling, and she felt Quincy on top of her. The table everyone else was gathered around only a few brief seconds earlier flew overhead.
“Poltergeist.” Quincy pushed himself off his best friend, launching into the air and looking around the room for the noisy spirit that was causing furniture and papers to go airborne.
“Where is it?” Aster covered her head with her thin arms. She shouted again, “Where is it?”
“To your left!” Aster turned to her left and swatted the air in frustration. “I didn’t say it was right behind you!”
“Quincy, I can’t get to this thing unless you’re specific!” A chair flew past Aster. “And don’t get knocked out, or else we’re all dead.”
He gave a thumbs up, and the crystal ball Lady Barkhurst was using smashed him in the face. Blood rose gracefully up from his plummeting body. He met the ground’s not so warm embrace with a thankful thump that was his unconscious way of saying “Why thank you floor, I do feel welcome here. I will in fact stay for a quick snooze.” Aster swore loudly.
“Have fun,” Lady Barkhurst cooed gently, vanishing behind a door near the back of her shop. Aster felt the need to find and strangle that sly smile of hers off of her face.
With only a basic idea of where the poltergeist was, Aster couldn’t find a good solution of how to beat it. To take out her frustrations, she grabbed Quincy’s limp body by the shoulders and shook it violently and once she felt satisfied she dropped the boy, and turned back around to meet a short long-eared creature with nubby limbs grabbing a chair that was about to smack Aster. She narrowed her eyes.
“You’re sickeningly cute and macabre. You belong to Wakeman, don’t you?” The creature turned to Aster, gave an abnormally large sharp-toothed smile, and leapt away as quickly as it had come, leaving Aster a little flustered. She looked around trying to figure out where the creature’s controller was and after very little effort she spotted Blake Wakeman by the door, eating a candy bar. Oh how she hated the way he was constantly eating sweets. “Pig.”
Blake took a small bite of his candy bar and looked as though he was going to be sick. Tiny beads of sweat trickled down his forehead and across his receding hairline. Wherever he moved his gaze, his creature, which he called a Gimme Gimme, followed like a cat chasing a laser pointer. Aster was curious as to how Wakeman knew where to send his Gimme Gimme, but she caught a glance of a slender, short-haired young woman slightly taller than Wakeman standing off to the side, pulling down on her hat and smiling sweetly like a southern bell damsel in a cool summer breeze. One of her eyes was glowing; the one she had switched with Quincy. It was Lucky Avery, the other half of the Raincoats.
“Lucky, where is it?” Wakeman sounded rushed and not completely focused. Almost painfully he took another bite of his candy bar and forced the small chunk down his throat. Aster shifted her head from side to side trying to catch where the Gimme Gimme had gone but it kept on moving from point A to B, to C, D, E, F, G- Lucky couldn’t see as well as Quincy and was having a harder time tracking the spirit. She hadn’t realized it was in the ‘eye of the storm’. Aster’s hand made its way back to Quincy’s face and she plugged his nose and mouth- she ignored the blood that was coating her fingers. With her other hand she searched for a pencil.
Lucky pointed a finger at the veiny child poltergeist, a blurry white splotch on the canvas of the bleak black world that Lady Barkhurst had created inside the domain of her shop. For a moment the spirit flickered into focus and Wakeman took another bite of his chocolate bar, covering his mouth like he was about to vomit. The Gimme Gimme raced to it, easily ducking tossed furniture, making it to the eye of the vortex, jumping on top of the spirit’s shoulder and bearing large teeth, taking a bite of ectoplasm. The girl let out a shrill scream.
“You’ve got it!” Lucky exclaimed in a sweet Scottish accent. She jumped up excitedly, clutching her hat with both hands. Wakeman’s cheeks puffed out a little; his face was a bit green and he staggered for a minute. The girl thrashed around, trying to get the little creature latched on to her by its creamy white teeth off. She inhaled, and at that moment Quincy violently shot up, eyes dilating, inhaling large amounts of air. He looked at the crystal ball next to him then rolled his throbbing head to the girl and the Gimme Gimme. His special eyes witnessed the air moving into the little girl’s mouth, changing it into something ferocious.
“Move.” Quincy grabbed Aster, then rolled away from the crystal ball where moments earlier he saw something darker than black with six crimson eyes. The poltergeist girl let out the air in a shrill burst, the glass ball belonging to lady Barkhurst exploding and releasing a black mist that floated out in chunks almost as disgustingly as the smog that had been released from Lady Barkhurst’s mouth. It took the outline of a shadow man wearing a hat, the six beady eyes focusing on the girl. Quincy wasn’t sure if everyone else could see its ragged smile. “Aster.  Aster, I think it’d be a really awesome idea if you got the hat man first.” He spat out blood with every syllable.
Aster pushed Quincy off, grabbed a sheet of blank paper, and swiftly drew four rough, cartoony arms on it. The hat man made of shadows took no real steps, slowly gliding across the floor. It may have moved a good distance, but Aster didn’t go running after it, instead setting down the sheet of paper she drew on and letting those same four arms burst out of the page and grasp the hat man. With a great deal of force the arms started dragging the shadow towards the page. Its tiny dot eye shot to the size of apples, engrossing its face only to be pushed back by a menacing pointed smile that revealed a vast grayness inside. It tried to ooze out but the hands wouldn’t let it. They dragged the monster into the paper, and the paper went up in flames that faded into fireflies.
Aster Archer’s hands were blessed. Anything she drew would come to life, and anything she captured on paper would stay there, trapped. She was both a creator and a destroyer; she could draw Quincy a flower or trap a disgruntled soul in the pages of her binder, and then hang them up in her room for decoration if she so chose. Some would call her a whimsical witch with great power, but she referred to herself as an artist.
During this time the Gimme Gimme had grown larger from feeding on the spirit’s negativity. The effect the spirit child had on everything soon diminished. Objects fell back to the ground, the heaviness in the air drifted away- and so did the little girl. She drifted away in a flurry of small lights and not even Quincy could see her vanish into an afterlife. Wakeman dropped his candy bar, allowing the Gimme Gimme to gradually fade away. The four of them went around to the people who were in the circle, helping them get up and sending them out the door.
Aster and Quincy ignored Lucky and Wakeman. They had ended in a draw, defeating one ghost each. That’s what a lot of the ghost hunting and chasing around was to them, a competition to see who’s group was better- Aster and Quincy’s, or Lucky and Wakeman’s, the Raincoats as Lucky so lovingly called them as they protected the island from the rain of the supernatural. All Aster could remember about the rivalry was that it had started during their freshman year when they, as the campus supernatural investigation club, had split down the middle and dissolved into two separate groups over some ridiculous argument no one was willing to admit they couldn’t remember. The only thing Quincy was willing to admit was that he was jealous the other group had a name and they didn’t. He could only take solace in the fact that he thought he and Aster were much cooler and more fun to be around and that both groups had only two people; he’d die if someone else joined the Raincoats, assuming the two of them were more likeable than he and Aster.
“Did Lady Barkhurst get away again?” Lucky asked.
“Yeah. Next time I see her, I’m gonna…” A regular color had come back to Wakeman’s thin face. He ran his hands through his short, thinning chestnut hair.
“Gonna what? You can’t legally do anything about her. At least she has to clean up this mess herself.” Aster threw herself into the conversation, professionally moving towards the Raincoats with Quincy right behind her, his strong but kid-like face still caked with dry blood.
“Let’s start taking her grimoires,” Lucky said wistfully, gazing wide-eyed at the different artifacts Lady Barkhurst kept around the store.
“She could call the cops on us,” Aster responded.
“Oh…” Lucky looked down at the ground, fidgeting with her hands.
“Try not to worry too much about her. I’m more curious about how The Horrorscope knew this was going to happen.” Aster thought back to the newsmagazine she and the Raincoats received monthly, a queer little thing that had all the latest information about the supernatural things that went on in the US and UK. He favorite writer was one Sebastian Doegh, who had the most wonderfully written, witty articles. “Lately Plumfield has been in there a lot, but I haven’t seen anyone that could be a writer for the Horrorscope.”
“What, you think they have a certain aura about them?” Wakeman pointed out, almost delightfully. Almost. Quincy didn’t believe he could actually show any real emotion because he was so painfully bland.
“Bite me.”
Aster made her way outside, and the others followed her slowly keeping up boorish conversations that had stemmed from their discussion of Lady Barkhurst. They made their way out the door into the blackness of the night.
The unnatural blackness.
“Dude, did the moon take a smoke break?” Quincy said, trying to figure out what was going on with the lack light. It was times like these he wished he carried a portable nightlight. In response came a chilling cackle, almost human. But not quite.
Quincy stepped back, his eyes adjusting to the dark. Lucky was trying to do the same, but long before she could Quincy saw the round, glowing red eyes. Some of the shadows began to move apart, circling the entrance like a pack of wild animals. There was another unnatural cackle, a demonic shriek, and then words.
More cackling, then more unnatural voices.
“Aster Archer.”
“Lucky Avery.”
“Blake Wakeman.”
It became a taunt, a jeer, the voices sneering the names. Lucky clutched Wakeman’s arm and began shivering. Wakeman used his free hand to locate another chocolate bar but couldn’t find one- he wouldn’t be able to summon his Gimme Gimme. Aster had no paper on her, but even then she wouldn’t know what to aim at to trap. All Quincy and Lucky could do was look, stare at the red eyes until the shadow that hid them slowly moved away, leaving dismembered body parts of two of the people who had been I n the circle. Lucky covered her eyes. Aster thought she heard her stifle a yelp.
“Well, I feel a little left out.” Quincy looked at Aster, disappointed his name had not been called.

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