Spades Fiction

Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

Neon Noir: The Eighth Beat

Robert Howell

Selene is going to kill me.

Robert is still walking back to his apartment come noon. He found his personal effects along with his gun in a little box outside the room he was kidnapped to. He was rather grateful for that, though can’t help but wonder what they want from him.

Hen clutched the folder he was given very closely. He went through hell to get it, he couldn’t give up now.

The Gaudios were a family of criminals, in constant war for control of illegal imports. Despite their power and influence, prohibition has reduced drinking in the city. Now it’s just reserved for those with enough cush to payoff the mayor.

I’d love nothing more than to go after them. But I don’t have the support.

This ‘Arcadia’ though is different. It’s supposed to be the place anyone in the neighborhood can get a drink. It’s not just bringing the booze back to the little people, but it might be the place Robert can bring down to get more resources from the city.

He stomped up the stairs of his complex, wondering what he’s going to tell Selene.

She’ll be happy I’m still alive, but I don’t know if I can tell her everything.

So what would he tell her?

He got to his door and held his hand up in a fist, ready to knock. Then it softens and he pulls out his key to unlock the door.

He enters and calls out,

“Selene! I’m home.”

No one answered.

“Selene?”

Robert looked through the apartment, checking their bedroom and bathroom, looking behind the doors, in the tub, anywhere he could.

She wasn’t home.

The blood in him began to burn, as his face flushed with emotion.

I swear to god, if they’ve touched her I’ll-

“Robert?”

Selene entered the door, eyes locked on her husband. Robert turned and immediately rushed over to her. She dropped the grocery bags she was carrying as they caught each other in a deep embrace.

“Where were you all night?!” Selene sobs.

Robert is silent and holds his wife closer.

Ryan Shane

They were back at the Arcadia, in Vash’s side office. Ryan was standing watch next to the door, listening to the two women. Vash practically pulled them into the office and made two drinks, one for herself and one for Bella. Ryan noticed she added a little more shine to Bella’s dink.

“Here, it’ll settle your nerves,” Vash says.

Bella sheepishly takes the drink. She was a far cry from the confident aristocrat that entered the restaurant.

“Thank you.”

Vash sits at her desk, sipping her cocktail. Though she was friendly and polite, her eyes were sharp on our guest.

“Now Bella, I need you to tell me everything. Start from the beginning.”

The girl took her own unsure sip from her drink and sighed.

“Raphael and I had been seeing each other. We met at one of the Belrose family’s parties.”

“How? How could you just show up there?”

“I didn’t! I was snuck in.”

Vash takes another swig and eyes Bella up and down. If she was still trying to pretend to be polite, she wasn’t showing it.

Bella downs the rest of her drink. The poor girl looks like she just drank gasoline, which considering the shine she got in there, might not be too far off.

“I owed money to Lenny. I couldn’t pay him back at the time, and he offered a way to work it off.”

Vash scoffs.

“You could have easily paid him back. What could you owe that creep?”

“Ten grand.”

Vash nearly spit out her drink.

“What in the hell were you doing owin’ that dough?”

Bella looks sheepish again, eyes unwilling to meet Vash.

“Cards. Dice. …Dames.”

“You’re supposed to do that for a weekend, hon. Not a year.” Vash follows suit and downs her drink, though she handles it much better than Bella.

She continues.

“So Lenny says you can work it off by being a twirl? For the Belroses?”

“It was more like a deposit until I could get some cash from my father. I had no idea it would be for them.”

“This is why you shouldn’t have lied to Lenny. Hell, he probably knew exactly who you were and that’s why he did it.”

“I met Raph there. We got to talking and then one thing led to another…”

Vash waves away her words.

“Yeah yeah. Fine. So what happened?”

Bella looks around the room, her eyes catching Ryan. They looked like they were pleading. Ryan was about to speak when Vash spoke.

“Bella, I need to know what happened if I’m going to help you.”

“We were going to run away.”

As surprised as Vash has been in all this, nothing has worried her more than this statement.

“The two heirs? Disappearing in the night? That’s not very smart, Bella.”

“I know. But we knew our families wouldn’t understand. The morning we were going to leave, Raph caught a bullet through the window.”

The window? Who’s a good enough shot to hit him there?

Vash looked down, as if she was searching her desk for answers. Thousands of scenarios ran through her head as she thought about what she’d need in each one.

“Who else knows about this?”

Bella gives a very weak smile.

“Rupert.”

“Why in gods name did you tell him?!” Vash nearly screamed.

“I needed someone to clean out my apartment! I don’t know how to dispose of bodies!”

“The body is disposed of?”

“…No. The Belroses found it before Rupert could get to it.”

Vash is silent for whole minutes.

“Mr. Shane, do you know how to pour a drink?”

Ryan takes his queue and walks over to the bar. He pulls out a glass and some rocks from the ice box. He pours a good three fingers into the glass and walks it to Vash.

“Leave the bottle.” She says.

The Elysian: Tenth Dream

“You are a different soul! Neither proud, nor humble be.

But the middle of the line, a place most un-free.

Your work demands excellence. Your daughters need guidance.

And so you found this middle ground, and built around you a fence.

“You couldn’t fail at work lest you lose your money

To provide for your family, and keep your life sunny.

And your kin must be raised, with a sense of humility

That wild dreams are work in futility.”

Yet you had a dream! Once upon a time.”

Which brings me right back to the start of these rhymes!”

He got really close to me, to make sure I could hear. It was like there was someone around he didn’t want listening in.

“You wanted to draw a building so wild!

But the jobs you took left you feeling so mild…

I had to put that spark back in your soul

There was only one problem. You had a big hole.

The hole was fear. Fear of failing, of loss

It was an experience, a bridge for you to cross.

And now with your terror, embraced and affirmed

It is time for you to find that lost feeling confirmed.”

How does he talk like that, I wonder?

He reaches into his pocket and brings out that which I had been seeking. The key was the same size as the other two, but it had a fragile look to it. Like it was made out of a fallen leaf. I had already caught on to the way this world is working, so I didn’t question it, but I still had so much to ask the strange man before me.

“Puck, I… Well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure I completely understand the lesson you were trying to impart to me, but I’ve been here plenty long and I get the feeling Death is chasing. So, I’ll just ask you one more thing. Why help me? Why teach me whatever lesson you beings feel are so important that you give them to me after I die and not before?”

“That is something I cannot tell you just yet.

But you needn’t worry about it. Don’t you fret.

Now take the key and continue on.

I swear I’ll see thee again before this journey is done.”

I take the key and turned around. Amazingly, a new door stood right next to me. Moving trees. I’ll have to try and remember those. Today’s lesson might not have made such an impact, but I certainly remembered Luna’s. Have to keep moving forward.

As I opened the door, I decide to yell back to the faerie.

“Hey, Robin. That last one was a half-rhyme.”

The light from the door blinds me as I walk through. That’s going to get annoying. Will it do that every time? Can’t this place be a little less dramatic? I suppose being the realm I’m in after I’ve died, that it really can’t.

As my eyes adjust to the light, I notice something familiar. Some familiar shapes around me- Wait…

“Most of my rhymes

aren’t perfect each time.”

Robin sits in front of me. Well, he’s standing. On his head.

“What!? I thought you gave me the key.”

“Yes, indeed you did think that.

But why, I can not tell.

You are far too trusting

Truly, an easy sell.”

He laughs to himself and jumps right side up.

“I should ask, Rodriguez, who am I to you?

What do you see standing here? Do you have a clue?”

“Um, you’re Robin Goodfellow? Sometimes called Puck? Spirit of the forest and all that?” He lifts his hand and summons a breeze that somehow becomes something he can sit on. He’s sitting on the wind. All this power and control and he just-

“You’re a prankster…”

“Correction, I am THE prankster, always seeming so odd.

My forms have been many, fox, fairy and even GOD

Your cultures revere me and used to pay me tribute.

But now my own existence has been rendered moot.

“Yet here I am, a being who can make you bleed,

Taking an interest in this little life you used to lead.

Did you really think I’d let you so easy?

Back on your quest, feeling so breezy?”

He jumps to his feet and stands on one foot while he crosses his arms.

“I have more for you mortal and I find you amusing.

So I have several tasks. Missions of my choosing.

Before you proceed-”

“NO! Stop it! I’ve had enough! I passed your little test already! Just give me the key and let me continue my futile plan to outrun death.”

“Technically you didn’t succeed…”

“Don’t care. You told me I was done. I just want to go. I can’t do this anymore. No. We’re done.”

Robin got silent. Like… really quiet. This guy likes talking too much to just get quiet for-

Oh shit, I just pissed off a god.

“Mr. Rodriguez,

I have shown you patience

Which is more than I do

In all the time I have

Been around mortals like you.

So if you would, appreciate the gifts I bestow.

Because I will turn on you, before you could know.”

I’m tired. I don’t want to keep doing this. I hate this place. But most of all, I hate dealing with personified concepts, with their phenomenal cosmic powers, with their mind games, with all the bullshit that comes along with whatever the hell they do.

I’m just so tired.

Seeking Dusk: Part 8

The lead vampire puts his hand stretched out into the air. I could feel him gathering energy into it. Absorbing bits of power from the other creatures. Three vampires, a wendigo, and two animali. Those would inspire lots of fear in any other hunter.

I start trying to tug out of my body. This is going to take a bit. Picking this fight was a bad idea.

Without warning, one of the animalus shifts into his true form, a wolf, and starts jumping down from the fire escape he was perched on. My attention is focused on the beast as it descends, but I forgot about the vampire. He throws the ball of destructive force at me, leaving barely enough time to react. I jump to the side and fall behind a dumpster as the energy explodes and sends chunks of concrete in the air. This body is so damn annoying. I’ve got my head and shoulders out, but the rest of me is still stuck in here. The wolf is on the ground, but where is his companion?

“CRAHHH!”

Oh wonderful. He’s an eagle. And he’s divebombing right for me. I get up and run towards the wolf. He roars at me and lunges. Got to time this just right…

I jump and step on the wolf’s head for added momentum. Pushing with all my strength, I break free of the false body. It falls to the ground. Going to be pretty dinged up when I return it. IF I return it.

In midair, I extend my free wings and quickly spin around, drawing my sword. Holding it out just in time, I block the bird from hitting me. He knocks me back a bit. Even without drawing on The Power, he shouldn’t have been able to do that. Still, just a shrug.

“GRA-ha! I wonder what Angel tastes like?” The other two vampires tackle me while I was dealing with the eagle, and latched onto my body. The air isn’t safe when four of the things I’m fighting can fly. They pulled me down a little. This is getting to be too much. One started going for my neck. Dammit.

My body lights up, engulfed in holy fire. The vampires are thrown back, burning to ash from the experience. My armor materializes. While I should now have the upper hand, this shouldn’t have been necessary.

“There it is. That’s what we came to see.” The last vampire was laughing from atop the building. I shoot a dirty look to the monster. He just smirks back.

I aim straight for the ground and slam my sword as hard as I can into the wolf. He dodges at the last minute. Something isn’t right. These creatures should know that with this power I could annihilate them all. Why aren’t they running?

“The prototype can’t give these beasts enough strength to bring you down, but I have a feeling I know what will.” The demon puts two fingers to his lips and whistles. A group of about a dozen and a half more supernatural beasts pile outside from the door. He had backup hiding in the club.

They should still be nothing, but then that eagle was supposed to be nothing. The doctor’s words echo in my head. Courage doesn’t have to mean stupidity. Damn humans…

A good number of those reinforcements can fly. And if they’re as unnaturally strong as the vamps and animali, I have less than a second. A thousand and one ideas all go rushing through my mind. And the simplest one sticks out.

Take out the ringleader.

I push The Power just a bit more, the wave of light shoving the beasts away from me. I speed towards the top of the building keeping out of reach of the now ascending monsters. I ready my sword to rend that vampire’s head from his shoulders. I barely noticed the oddly cold wind brushing against my face….

I’m hit and knocked to the side. The wendigo tackled me in midair.

“They aren’t very bright, but they do make such lovely pets, wouldn’t you say, Host?” I hate vampires. Always so damn cocky.

I struggle with beast during the descent, which I was able to slow just a bit. The deranged human looking fiend kept gnashing at me. I finally spin and throw him off, just in time to see the group of monsters flying up at me.

I am not prepared for this. I should have ran. I should have called for Rand. I never should have agreed to this idea in the first place. I should never have sat there wishing for the bar to attack just so I could wipe them out.

The beasts finally reach me. I start slashing. Each cut is made without conscious thought. Instinct kicks in. It feels like it did during the war. That horrible war. Battle after battle.

It was cruel. I didn’t kill most of them. Sliced off an arm here. A leg there. I finally did stab that harpy at the end. It didn’t last long. One second, they were charging me. The next they were falling out of the sky. That harpy looked at me with a tear in its eye. But I could feel no pity.

“You realize they’re all part human, right? That each one is a soul. And because of your sword, none of them will reach your beloved heaven.”

I look up to the vampire. I see him smile that damned smile.

That did it. I point my sword back up at the vamp. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t make a sound. I manipulated The Power in a way I haven’t in so long. One instant ago I was halfway between the top of the building and the ground. No time passed. I was just there. Behind the vampire. My sword already sliced through his neck. His head fell the long way down towards the other beasts. They lost their leader. They lost their controller. And they knew fear of me once again.

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 12

At that moment the doors to the main house opened. An infuriated Dr. Maladar burst into the hall followed by a few servants.

“Mr. Branner! Do you mind explaining what this street rat is doing in my house?!”

I see I touched a nerve. Seems to be a good moment to put on my own facade. Let’s see if the doctor can pierce it this time.

“I told you to just call me Branner. And if you could explain the issue using a more civilized tone, I would appreciate it.”

My posture straight, my gaze fighting the owner of the house, I stand defiantly in front of the doctor. He was understandably upset, but I needed this boy’s help.

Mister Branner, this young man has been more than a nuisance to my estate.” He came to a stop a few paces from where I stood with my new assistant.

“He has forced his way onto the premises without permission, stolen my property, caused untold destruction in the area and from what I’ve been told, directly assaulted your persons! How can you expect me to let such a boy free reign in my home?”

“That’s simple. I don’t.”

Con looks uneasy during all this. More than uneasy. This poor child. I’ve had to take away his strength, put him through the awkward position of walking among the people he has become so used to seeing as enemies, and now he must endure the rage of Doctor Maladar himself. This will not stand.

“Doctor, this boy can provide valuable insight into this investigation. He has many talents like the ones which enabled him to evade capture by your men for so long. And regardless of his past, he has been officially hired on as my assistant. If you wish to keep my services, you will accept that he will come along.”

“Yeah! Accept that!” Well, Con was looking a bit less sheepish. Funny boy.

“You are trying my patience, Branner. What gives you the right to talk to me in such a tone while you are a guest in my house?” His steely gaze was still in full force, but I have a hunch there isn’t much backing it up. Time for a gamble.

“Simple. You mentioned yourself that there have been plenty to try their hand at solving your particularly dangerous quandary. I am the first to prove there’s more to my words than just air. I am the expert on these types of events. You called for me. And while you’ve done much to hide your own feelings on the matter, you truly believe I am the first person you’ve brought here with a chance of helping you. So let me help you.”

I don’t believe it. The doctor backed down. His stare broke and he glanced sideways momentarily. Alright, I have the edge now. Time to bring it back. I turn to Con, who is looking ecstatic.

“But, as I said, I don’t expect you to trust him. Measures have been taken to ensure he won’t step out of line. In addition, he will only go where I go, sleep in my room and if you do find him away from me, you may feel free to escort him off the premises, never to be allowed back.”

The boy’s face went from joy to horror in an instant.

“Branner! That ain’t fair!”

“Oh really now? And what did you plan on doing that would take you away from my side, Con?” I glare at him. He should know better than to complain. True, I don’t like the idea of holding this boy’s own sense of normalcy over his head, but I have no choice.

Making peace between warring parties is always more difficult than starting the war. Sometimes it takes peace offerings. Sometimes it takes threats. And sometimes it completely fails and you’re forced to run from an angry tribe while they burn your formerly favorite coat.

Con just looked a bit upset. I will make it up to him. Someway. I really do feel bad about this, but I’m afraid I don’t have the luxury of playing nice in this situation. I turn my attention back to the doctor. His eyes have the similar sense of betrayal that Con’s had. Stay strong. I can’t let their emotions jeopardize the safety of everyone else. Show of force.

“Now, Doctor Maladar, if you’re quite through, I will need to examine your library. The room where Mr. Patrik was held. The one with the flying books.” I shoot a glance over at Con. His eyes light up. Now he knows what I meant.

“Branner, if you really expect me to-“

The doctor is interrupted by the sound of rushing wind and the whole hall goes dim for a mere second. It appeared as if a large shadow passed by, outside the windows. Everyone in the area is struck with silence. We all turn and looked where it came from, but whatever is was, it is gone.

“AHHHHHHHHHHH!” a housemaid screams out.

Well, that didn’t last long.

One of the men at the doctor’s side went to go comfort her. I look around. The beasts were gaining in strength, but they still can’t leave the house. That shadow wasn’t coming from outside, blocking the sun. They are creatures of darkness, possibly lacking a full physical form.

But their power radiates that darkness, like a reverse light. So the being must be on the other-

“Branner, now’s not a good time be in here.”

I turn back to Con. His eyes are filled with absolute fear. He is staring at the ceiling on the opposite wall where the shadow was only moments before. One of the demons was in the room with us. I now knew where it was. Everyone in the house was counting on me to do something.

I just wish I knew what.

Doctor Maladar turns and sees me looking the opposite way.

“Branner… what are you-“

“Doctor, I need you to get everyone out of here right now.”

“Of course, but-“

“NOW!”

I turn behind me.

“Con, tell me if it moves.”

“Oh it’s movin’ Branner. Right for the door!”

No time. I need to react. I reach into my pocket and grab the octagonal talisman from before. Pointing it at the door, I begin the chant.

“The darkness prevails.

Exposed to the-“

“Look out, Branner!” Con screams. I hesitate.

The unseen creature knocked me down. The talisman flies out of my hand. Curses. At least the demon is out of the way.

“Now, Doctor! Get them out!”

“Above you!” I quickly roll to the side just in time to see a huge crack appear in the floor. Con is proving helpful.

I look to the door to see the last of Maladar’s people leave. The demon tried to crush me. He’s favoring physical attacks. The conjuring magic he used before must take time. And to affect the physical world without being fully summoned takes concentration. Those are my only saving graces.

At the very least, this limits the damage he does. Well, to an extent. I need a distrac-

“BRANNER! Would ya unseal my power already?”

Oh right. Con. At least this doesn’t require a chant. I extend my hand and focus on the ring. I feel it click and a rush of smoke flows from the ring over the boy’s body. As it settles, Con falls to his knees. He looks up, a sparkle in those violet eyes of his. A grin comes across his face. He stands up and tosses his wild hair behind him.

“Hey there, ugly! Ya mind taking a break to let me whoop yer ass?” He jumps and catches on to the invisible beast.

He starts flailing around as the demon tries to shake him off. Now’s my chance. I run and grab the talisman off the floor. I point it up at the monster, trying to aim without hitting Con. With his half-demon physiology, the blast would be painful. And assuming it hits only him, that would leave me alone to face an opponent I can’t see.

“Con! Try to hold him in one spot!”

The boy is thrown from the beast. He goes flying against a wall and is left embedded in it.

“…sure thing… just let me try askin’ nicely…”

“Do what you can. Tell me when he’s between me and you.”

I point the disc at the wall and restart my chant.

“The darkness prevails.

Exposed to the light

falls before the veil

and bends…”

As I prepare my spell, Con pries himself out of the wall and falls to the ground. He looks up, sees something and jumps out of the way. A loud crash is heard as the windows around the wall shatter. The boy disappears as he turns into that energy form from earlier. He reappears on other side of his opponent and changes back and climbs up the side of the creature.

Con starts flailing back and forth through mid-air again.

“Alright Branner! In about two seconds here, you’re gonna get your shot. Better make it count.”

I aim for Con and try to keep the energy in the talisman held back. Con is trying to hit something on top of the demon. I can’t tell what, but-

Con’s hand squishes into the creature’s head, yellow liquid squirting out.

Oh. He was aiming for an eye. The creature roars in agony as he throws Con off again. The wound gives me something to aim for.

“Now, Branner!”

Right.

“…its MIGHT!”

I release the pent-up energy right at the floating wound. The beam slams into the invisible beast. The hit sends a shudder of energy throughout the creature, outlining it. The demon is a half humanoid, half serpent. The upper body has four arms and the head and back are covered in spikes. He’s a large beast, easily taking up most of the height of this massive entry hall.

Our opponent lets out another massive roar and vanishes. I can only guess he changed into a similar wisp form as Con. He’ll go somewhere secluded to lick his wounds. Meanwhile, we need to do the same. More importantly, we need to find the altar where the summoning ritual was performed.

“Con, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think. Is the room spinning for you too?”

“Let’s say yes. I’ll have someone bring you water. When you’re ready, we need to investigate those flying books. As a matter of fact, we need to look into most of the occurrences that happened upstairs. I think they were caused by the other demon.”
“Going from one to the next? You want I should fight the next one blind-folded?”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 11

“This is horrible. I’ve never encountered this situation before. If a demon is summoned, they are normally given the signifier of their deal and the summoner is almost always immediately murdered.”

But this? This is new. The demon was summoned, but the deal was not completed. A second summoning would have had to happen almost instantaneously with the first to interrupt the process.

“The second demon has no real allegiance with the first, but I don’t see why he would impede his progress either…” I mumble.

The boy knelt down beside the carved-out floor.

“So, these things… they’re sending messages to each other?”

Well, it appears he is gaining a better understanding of the situation.

“Yes. Whether on accident or intentional, two demons were summoned and given dominion over this place. Yet, neither have full control. This is both good and bad in different ways.”

“Ah, so that’s what ya were trying to say.”

“Ahem, yes. It is.”

Power seeps out of my fingertips, as I draw images of light in the air. I design a false demonic altar and a little person performing a summoning ritual for my new companion.

“See, when a demon is summoned, the place to which it is brought forth belongs to the demon, acting as an anchor to keep him on this plane. Even then, he is severely limited in his abilities, normally requiring an additional sacrifice to gain his full power.”

“So one of our baddies needs this girl to start causing all manner of mess, right?”

“Precisely. But, because of whatever way the house and the things and people within were separated among the two demons, one didn’t get the chance to acquire his sacrifice.”

Con stood up, looking around the room. He caught the eye of one of the workers and became embarrassed. I don’t think he will ever get used to being considered a guest here.

“Alright. So what about the other demon? What’s his sacrifice?”

“I’m not sure. I am mostly sure he does not have it, only because he hasn’t massacred the entire occupancy of the estate.”

“Right. So what kinds of things can be considered sacrifice.”

“People. Objects. Ideas. Memories. Events. Something that means everything to someone. Someone of importance in relation to the area…”

Con gets a strange look on his face as I speak.

He walks away and starts feeling around behind one of the tables in the hall. He pulls his hand out and is holding one of the dead maggot-looking creatures. Seems like the servants missed one.

“This thing… it’s what made the blood in this room, right?”

“Yes. Low class demons barely considered a threat. Meant to inspire fear more than anything.”

“But they are demons, ain’t they?”

“Well, yes, but only in a certain sense.”

“So someone summoned them.”

He’s going somewhere with this.

“Yes. I believe it was one of the higher-class demons plaguing this house.”

“So they brought little things that make blood and left a message for their buddy and just randomly picked this place? I thought you said they each had control only over parts of the house.”

“…I did, but what…”

“So how’s the other demon supposed to know what was said when they can’t step foot in here?”

I had never even considered that.

“…A valid point. What do you think?”

“I don’t think these things were just randomly summoned to scare the staff.”

“They were supposed to help get the message across. Get the message to the other beast.” I figured out where he was going with his questions.

“You killed them. The staff is cleaning them up. Those marks in the floor have that creepy feeling that told me what the words said. And I can say, the rotting carcass of these gross creepy crawlies has the same feeling.”

This is genius. As the staff move them out of the room, and through another, that other demon can feel the sentiment attached to the creatures thus the message is passed on. So, they aren’t so much warring with each other, as having a standoff, with the residents and hired help caught in a violent crossfire.

“This is good. You might end up being of even more use than I thought.”

“Glad to know you need a tool…”

“That’s not what I meant. You can help me. If you choose to.”

He throws the creature to the side and crosses his arms.

“It’s not like I have a choice. You got my strength all locked up in this stupid ring.”

I say nothing. Yes, I still feel horrible about that, but I need this boy’s help. Despite his demon abilities being sealed within the ring, he has some lingering ability. And I need that to piece together more clues.

If he can sense energy and sentiments from spiritual objects, he might be able to give me more insight into some other events in the house.

Con gives a big sigh before speaking again.

“What do ya need me to do, Branner?”

“Have you ever been in a library?”

“A kid who can’t read in a place filled with books? Yeah, ’cause that makes a lick of sense.”

“Oh, you’ll like this one. I’m sure you’ll find plenty to ‘read.'”

The Elysian: Ninth Dream

Standing there, admiring the absolute hopelessness of the situation, I noticed something peculiar. Robin Goodfellow was staring at me. Not in the incredulous way he was doing earlier. As a matter of fact, it was almost a knowing smile. Only without the smile part.

He seemed to understand exactly what I was thinking. The emptiness piercing my being. I felt hollow. And my competitor was not taking another leap towards his ill-defined finish line. A curious sight.

The swarm was getting closer. My feet weren’t moving. It was done. I embraced the pain to come. As the first of the flying pests struck me, something odd happened. I felt nothing. The bees passed right through me.

The look on my face must have been something to see, because the imp broke out laughing. After the horde of insects made it through my now even more ghostly form, they faded out of existence. What in the hell is going on?

“The mortal’s mind twists and turns

He reaches for answers, he grasps and yearns

This strange event bewilders his senses

Let’s end this charade and drop the pretenses.

Ask the question. That you wish to know

I’ll answer in kind and make it so.”

The imp had hopped back over to me, laughing to himself. This whole thing was freaking me out, and that’s saying something considering the kind of time I’ve had recently. I was too tired to deal with this.

“What just happened? Why didn’t the bees sting me to undeath?”

Robin gives me a wry smile, almost as if he expected me to already know. A beat later he responds.

“The spirit of the moon told you the means

Through which your will has provided these scenes.

Your emotions and belief change your person…”

I blink and from seemingly nowhere he pulls out a screen, displaying an uncanny picture of myself.

“…And since your self confidence could only worsen

The wispy form you currently possess

Ditched what little it had; removed the excess…”

He snaps and the screen changes, showing a transparent version of myself. Little animated bees flew at the false visage of my being. I don’t know how it was doing that, but it was odd to say the least. Best not to ask.

“…Your non-physical body let the massive swarm

pass right through you, without coming to harm.”

He snaps and the screen disappears into nothingness. Robin grins, appearing pleased with himself.

I finally get the nerve to speak.

“So, I felt bad. And I became… feel-through? That’s… That’s ridiculous. What in the hell does feeling bad have to do with teaching me something?”

“Well you see, mortal-”

“DON’T ‘MORTAL’ ME! You jerk! What are you trying to do to me!?”

“Now it is with a chortle-”

“Stop with the rhyming! I’m done with it. Why in the hell do you rhyme?!”

He gives me a dirty look. Still not as scared of him as Luna, but I do have to remember he is the spirit of the forest. Best not to trifle with such beings.

“You forget that our existence is based on belief.

And we play such a charade without a relief.

Now if you’re quite finished with all your screaming

I’ll tell you why it is you should be beaming.”

“I am the master of pranks, who is sometimes called Puck

If find those around me who are down on their luck

Then I change their thinking, add a correction

Take a good hard look at your life in reflection

And if the mortal in question has a head far too big

Then his ego must shrink, lest he become like the pig”

“And yet back to you, our dear, good friend Rodriguez

…um…”

“Can’t think of anything that rhymes with my name?”

The imp looked embarrassed. His whole monologue fell apart. He takes several minutes, thinking through his words. If he’s supposed to rhyme, what does that mean for our ‘delightful’ conversation? I sit down on the tree trunk, quickly becoming bored. I should be trying to get the key out of him, but after his last outburst, I don’t think it so wise. Still, this was taking forever and-

“Allow me to start again. That rhyme was too slick

My words fell apart with but a mere simple flick.”

“Hold on, that’s not fair. You can’t just stop rhyming halfway through! You told me so yourself.”

“Devil’s in the details, my dear boy! Pay attention.

I can’t stop solely because it causes you tension.

But if my knowledgeable mind can’t find that right verse

I can slip around it, to stop my speech from becoming worse.

Now hold on a second… What was I saying?”

He takes his time again, perusing the recesses of his brain. I think I would prefer to deal with Luna over this. She at least knew where she was going and had a lesson I learned at the end of her test. This guy is trying to explain what I should know from completing his task. Wait…

“Robin, sir, if you don’t mind me interrupting, why are you acting like I finished the race when I didn’t?” Crap. That was probably going to bite me in the ass.

His eyes lit up at my question.

“Ah yes! I was going to explain the game we’ve been playing!”

Seeking Dusk: Part 7

“Are you two done?” Dumah said as we re-entered the room.

He looked annoyed. Or at least I think he did. It’s difficult to tell emotions under that slime.

“Dumah, we can discuss terms. But how do we know you can make good on your end of the deal?” Rand crosses his arms, trying to look tough, but I bet we’ve lost ground.

“You’ve got no choice. You’re desperate if you came to me for help.”

Rand scoffs at the suggestion.

“You’re stop number 1, mate. Don’t get me wrong, I figured you most likely had the information, but we haven’t knocked on any other doors yet. We’re far from desperate.”

Dumah scans Rand’s face, trying to detect any hint of lies. He shifts to me, almost imploring me to tell him the truth.

“He’s honest. We’ve not questioned anyone else yet. But Rand guessed you’d be our quickest option.”

Dumah sets his drink down and curses under his breath.

“Fine. You want proof?” He reaches into his jacket’s inner pocket, pulling out black smoke. He lays it on the bar.

I step closer, trying to figure out what it is, when Rand puts his hand in front of me.

“Don’t. It’ll make you sick.”

This human is getting on me nerves.

Rand steps forward and holds his other hand out. As he does, a light shines out from his hand, purifying the energy surrounding the item.

The smoke dissipates, revealing a stone totem. Enochian runes are carved into it, denoting a demand for payment.

“Someone is calling in a favor?” Rand asks.

Dumah sighs.

“I don’t know the three demons you’re looking for. But I know who called them. Because he called me too.”

Rand takes another step forward, when Dumah, snatches the stone up and puts it back in his pocket.

“You have my proof. Now I need your word. My person. My establishment. Both under your protection.”

I shake my head.

“I can’t give my word about that. It’s not possible for an Angel to swear to protect a demon, even one as lowly as you.”

“Then you have nothing for me. There’s nothing you have that I want besides to live.”

I’m about to make a threat, when Rand steps in again.

“What if we do?”

Dumah and I are surprised and each of us gives Rand a strange look.

He continues.

“What if we have something you want more than protection for your bar?”

Dumah laughs at the suggestion.

“You’re looking to stop a war, and will probably start one instead. What could I possibly want more than survival?”

His phrasing intrigues me. I’m just here to hunt demons. What makes him think it will start a war?

“A source of true obsidian.”

Dumah stops laughing. I stand up. Rand, you cannot be serious.

“You’re lying.” Dumah is quiet, but curious.

“You could outlast whatever war you’re afraid of. You could outlast even our winged friend here.”

I don’t move. I can’t. How did Rand find it?

“You’re promising me the source of the Devil’s Mirror?”

Rand takes a seat and puts his feet on the table.

“No. I’m offering to get you a piece. A very small one. Enough that you can weather the storm.”

Dumah considers it. Even if he doesn’t use it all, a small piece would be more than enough to buy him a piece of the pie.

I can’t stay here. I start walking to the door, when Rand notices me.

“Alli! Where are you going?”

“I need air. And I have nothing I can offer. Get our information and don’t do anything stupid.”

Rand looks down and back up. Before he can say anything, I speak again.

“You better know what you’re doing. Because if this goes south, it’s on you now.”

I leave the room and cross the club to exit again. The whole building is awash in dark energy and it’s making me sick. I finally make it back out to the alley and take a seat next to the wall. Feels good to breathe again.

The idea of Rand cutting deals feels horrible. How long has he been doing this? Has he given them true obsidian before?

And why do I feel like shit?

I have to wonder if I ever really knew him at all. I’ve lived for millennia and known Rand for only ten years. Why does this feel like a betrayal of a brother?

He isn’t even doing anything officially wrong. If he was, The Presence would have stripped him of his powers. So he has to be doing something right, right?

Damn it, Aluma. Stop being so melancholy.

“Out for a nice stroll, host?” a voice yells in the distance.

That’ll do it. I jump to my feet and look around for the source of the voice.

“Up here!” it calls out.

Up on the building across from me, stand shadowy figures. Looks to be about six of them, though more might be hiding nearby. They’re all low-level creatures and shouldn’t be able to sense me. Dumah barely could and he was suspicious enough to suspect me. Something isn’t right.

“Well boys, you found yourself an angel. Now what are ya going to do?” I shouldn’t be taunting them. It’ll take me a bit to get out of this body. They have the upper hand.

“I think we should play a game. What do you all say?” Vampire was doing the talking. The fact they knew I was here should put me on edge, but all I could do was fight back a smile.

“If you really want to play, I’m game.”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 10

“I’m human?!”

“Shush!” I quickly put my hands on his mouth, slowly removing them as I speak.

“It’s only temporary. My assumption that the ring would incapacitate you was partially correct. I thought the ring was meant to control demons, but it seems the original purpose was to contain demons.”

“So I…”

“It traps your demon half and leaves you normal.”

“I was normal!” He struggles to stand. He’s not used to relying on so much less strength.

“You were half demon. How is that normal?”

“It was normal for me. I felt normal. Fine. Peachy. Now, I’m stuck relearnin’ to walk. Get this ring offa me!”

I am an evil, evil man.

“…No.”

“Excuse me? You can’t leave me like this!”

“Actually, this works perfectly. I don’t have to worry about a child running around with the strength to rip this house to shreds, or disappearing and just leaving his aura to try and guess where he is.”

He glared at me. Thinking. Probably considering how to kill me.

“And if you do still want to help, if we get in a pinch, a quick snap and all your abilities come back.”

“Fine. I’m just as curious to find what’s makin’ this ruckus as you…”

That was close.

“…but you better believe I’ll rip your head off if you don’t get this damn thing offa me as soon as we’re done.”

Well, close enough.

“Fantastic. My name is Archibald Branner. Please, call me Branner.” I extend my hand.

“Call me Con.”

He takes my hand, and I pull him to his feet.

I walk to the door and step out of the room. The two servants Dr. Maladar had stationed to keep watch seemed unnerved by my rather callous attitude towards the former intruder, but I insisted Con accompany me during the investigation.

I didn’t say this aloud, but he makes a perfect bodyguard. He seems resistant to physical and magical attacks. Not to mention that whatever is occurring at this residence wasn’t enough to drive him away either means it isn’t as dangerous as I thought, Con is stronger than I initially assumed, or he’s just foolish. Considering how easily he’ll let emotions control him, I can’t rule out the third option. Still, he will come in handy.

“How are you doing, Con? Finding it easier to walk?”

“A bit. Still feel like a gorram babe.”

“I imagine that will wear off soon.” I hope.

“Where we goin’?”

“You were a small anomaly I was curious about. Now that this little deviation is finished, we should try to find the altar used to summon the demon here. Such a ritual would require a large area, and keeping the demon partially contained means-“

“Means it take a while. They don’t wanna be disturbed.”

“Yes. Precisely. How much would you say you know about your heritage?”

He gives me a look. I realize he didn’t understand me.

“How much would you say you know about demons?”

He looks down, a little sheepish when he replies.

“A bit. Enough to get by, at least.”

“Then this might prove an educational experience. Your kind are a complicated creature.”

“You know I’m half human too, right? ‘Sides, they ain’t ‘my kind.’ Most want me dead just as much as you humans…”

We find our way back to the grand foyer. Almost the entire blood bath from yesterday was gone. Dr. Maladar’s workers were very efficient. Still, the carving in the center of the room was what I was more interested in.

“Give… me… the… girl….,” Con says.

I turn to my new companion. That is odd.

“Con, can you read?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting. Because what is carved in the floor here says ‘Give the girl to me’ yet you couldn’t read this. How did you know what the sentiment was?”

“Just a feeling. Like when you know someone is about to leave a room.”

“You know when someone is about to leave a room? Have you always had these types of precognitive abilities?”

He was looking uncomfortable. Likely due to the attention of the investigation being turned back to him and the lingering effects of his transformation.

“I guess. Thought it was normal.”

“It’s not, and that is what I find odd. Your demonic abilities should be sealed right now, yet you can still sense certain energies.”

“…..So, why would a demon want a girl for? He feelin’ frisky?”

Humor to disarm the situation. He doesn’t like talking about himself. I suppose I can throw him a bone.

“There’s a variety of reasons a demon would want a human child. Possession, sacrifice, even to signify the acceptance of a deal.”

“So which of these do you think it is?”

“I’m not quite sure. Of course, we have to keep the girl from this beast, but I’m more worried about something else.”

“And that would be?”

“If the demon has been given dominion over this house, he could just take the girl. Why hasn’t he?”

“Maybe he did?”

“Then why…” I trail off.

If the demon was looking for the daughter, he could have just taken her. If she was the signifier of the demonic trade, the summoner had more than enough time to give her to the demon. That is, unless the demon doesn’t have dominion over the home. Unless someone or something is stopping it and its summoner from accomplishing their goals.

Oh no. I think things have gotten worse.

“You ok Branner?”

“This situation has become infinitely more dangerous.”

Con looks troubled. I can see he’s still piecing it together. I was horrified that anyone was killed when I thought it was a ghost, but now I’m amazed this entire house isn’t a graveyard.  

“What’s the matter?”

“I believe we aren’t just dealing with one demon, but two. And worse, they seem to be at war with each other.”

“…I’m gonna assume that’s bad.”

Neon Noir: The Seventh Beat

The Belrose Crime Family rose to prominence with the implementation of prohibition. While their political connections mean they could work to have it lifted, there’s more money to be made with it in place.

Vashti Kianian

The sounds of cracking tables, thuds against walls and gunshot punctuations fade into the distance as Vash leads Bella through the kitchen. She hadn’t even protested when Vash left this way.

Out back, behind the building in the alley, Vash’s mind started working on what she’d do out here. Even assuming Mr. Shane survived, she doubted he’d be able to get her car pulled around quickly. And if the attack ended up being more than the one man, she couldn’t wait around.

Looking around the alleyway, Vash took stock of her options. There was a fire escape, but she’d have trouble getting Bella up it. The exit down the alley itself was the most available option, but if more men were coming, it’s also how they’d be caught.

Stupid dress. It was so stupid of me to wear it.

Vash turned her attention to Bella again, wondering what she thought of the dress, but realized she was shaking. This wasn’t the confident woman Vash remembered.

“Bella. Do you know why they were attacking us?”

The woman’s head droops down, the brim of her hat covering her eyes, but Vash knew exactly what they looked like.

They were afraid.

“It’s why I called you. The Belroses are after me.”

Vash froze for a moment.

“What did you do?”

All traces of Vash’s politeness were gone. She did not sign up for a war. In that moment, she mentally cursed putting so much effort in dressing up for Bella.

“I didn’t do anything!” Bella insists. “They think I killed Raphael, but I could never!”

This was getting a lot more complicated.

“Why, in the name of the maker, would they think you killed Raphael?!”

“You have to listen, I would never have hurt him! They just…”

Before she could finish her answer, the sound of screeching tires came from the end of the alleyway.

“Bella, give me your gun.”

She stares at Vash, horror in her eyes, but not moving.

“I said, give me your gun! Do you want to live?”

This time, Bella quickly moves, opening her purse and pulling the revolver from it. It was a little thing with a wood grip. Vash grabs the gun and points it at the car, now driving towards them.

There’s a wall behind us, but maybe if I hit the driver, we can go back through the restaurant. Ryan might be done by now…

The car pulls to a quick stop, and the door opens.

“Whoa there, don’t shoot!” Ryan says as he steps out of the car.

Vash lets out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding.

“Oh good… Wait, where’s my car?”

“No time. I’ll come back for it, but this guy’s was closer. Get in.”

In any other situation, Vash have protested Mr. Shane giving orders, but now was not the time. The two ladies moved to the back of the car as quickly as they could.

Ryan backed up, faster than Vash was comfortable with, since they were between two buildings, but he pulled it off. The car peeled back out in the street, making some cars screech to a stop, as he shifted and pulled into traffic proper.

“So, Mr. Shane, if I may ask, whose car is this?”

“After the first attacker went down his friend pulled up in this. I wasn’t sure if more could be on the way, so I figured I’d borrow his car.”

Looking around the vehicle, it was a far cry from Vash’s luxury machine. But it had a back seat, and enabled their getaway. It was clean though, which was surprising. Vash had expected brutes like that to leave their cigarettes or whatever laying about.

“Mr. Shane, did you kill the men?”

This was important. If he didn’t, he’d have to drive well to ensure he isn’t followed. If he did, they’d have lost those attackers, but the Belrose family would never stop hunting them.

“I didn’t. I knocked out the one in the restaurant. After I took away his gun, the guy in the car was easy.”

“Good. You know how to lose a tail?”

“We don’t have one, but I’m on it.” Ryan turned the car down a random road, away from Vash’s apartment. It might have been unnecessary, but Vash hadn’t lived this long without taking some precautions.

“Now that we have a moment, Bella, I need you to start talking.”

Bella clutched her purse.

“They think I killed Raphael.”

“Yes, you mentioned that. Why do they think you killed him?”

“Because they found his body in my apartment.”

Vash’s eyebrows shot up.

“Sweetie, you’re going to have to explain.”

Bella sighs, a tear trickling from her eye.

“We- we were seeing each other.”

Vash continues staring, Bella trembling a little.

“Mr. Shane, after you’re sure we aren’t being followed, please take us to the Arcadia. I’m going to need a drink.”

The Elysian: Eighth Dream

I pull myself into the crouching stance I assumed before. No time to think about hurting my ethereal body. There’s a sprite on the run, and I need to catch up. This time when I leap, I keep my eye on the trunk I’m aiming for to keep from hitting my stomach again.

It works, and I land exactly as I planned. Yes! I can do this! The imp is still a few trees a way, but I can catch up now!

I work on launching myself immediately after landing, making up the time. It doesn’t take very long for me to be only two trees behind.

“The mortal leaves me impressed. Good work I must say!

But your task is not so easy, more to do for you today.”

“What does that mean?!”

He smiles, putting his fingers to his mouth and lets out a loud whistle.

“Robin Goodfellow is no individual thing.

The entire forest my will. At my call they will sing.”

I hear something. Something behind me. It starts low, like a gentle hum. But it grows as we move, getting louder and more violent. I stop and turn just for a second, just to see what follows us. Immediately, I realize the mistake, and seeing the dark cloud following us, I figure out pretty quickly what he summoned.

I jump faster. Pushing myself from trunk to trunk. I may not be a physical being anymore, but I don’t want to see what a swarm of bees can do to me.

They were catching up quickly, and the focus on jumping from tree to tree is keeping me from thinking clearly. The faerie I was competing against just laughs at my predicament. I can’t help but wonder how it came to this. It couldn’t have been more than a few days ago that I was just an architect, driving home to see my family. Now, I race forest spirits who summon swarms of bees.

Remind me to give Fate the finger and a swift kick in the shin if I ever meet him.

How do I avoid bees? It’s not like I have insect repellent on me. The thought of cartoons hiding in water pops in my head, but even that far flung idea won’t work. I haven’t seen any lakes or ponds around so yeah.

I’m officially out of ideas. Wait… what did Luna have me do?

I yell ahead to my opponent, “Hey, Mr. Goodfellow? Would you please call off the swarm of bees?”

He stops and stares at me, his eyes going wide. It’s like I just asked him some horrifying question. I catch up and land on the same branch as him and wait for his answer. He just keeps that same look on his face. I turn and look at the oncoming horde of pain and back quickly.

“Will you please call them off please?!”

“Hmm.. No.

Let’s go!”

He responds quickly and jumps off towards the trees again. Damn! He was messing with me. The bees are even closer now. I have to keep moving. The hum of the swarm never lets me forget the danger should I stop. As fast as we’re going, they’re going to catch up at some point.

Bees behind me, unhelpful imp ahead, and the stupid wind circling all around us.

Wait. For real this time. Robin entered with wind. Each movement draws more air in gushes and gales. The following swarm moves faster with his movements. So is he controlling wind? Is that the secret?

Luna taught me how gravity was just my perception. That I didn’t have a body to be pulled down. Can I possibly control the wind like Robin?

If so, how? I had to let go of my beliefs to lose the pull of gravity. Do I have to forget I can’t control wind? I take a leap to the next tree and close my eyes. I concentrate on the belief that I can control the wind. I can’t not move the air with my mind.

“Hoo-aah!” I scream out. The tree I was aiming for moved, hitting me in the head. I fall to another tree below.

Ugh! I don’t have time to think. And closing my eyes to concentrate leads to the trees messing with me. Besides I don’t think it was working. I tried changing my thoughts but I didn’t feel anything.

I didn’t think it would be that easy, but I was really hoping. The bees are getting closer and I don’t know what they’ll do to me. I’d hope against hope that I can’t be hurt, but hitting these trees show me how wrong I’d be. The real question is ‘Can I be stung to death if I’m already dead?’

Both yes and no have bad answers. Second death versus eternal pain. Of course, I could maybe have the bees pass through me. I’m not real. Lord knows I’m not that lucky though.

There has to be something I’m missing. The swarm is almost on top of me. The faerie is nearly out of sight. I’m stuck on this branch, without any clue as to how to move forward and escape this whole scenario. My journey looks to be over as soon as it started. There has to be something…

No… There is nothing. I can’t win.

I might continue to jump forward and catch up to Robin, but I can’t win the race until he decides it’s over. Highly doubt he’d be so kind as to do so before the bees catch up to us. I could try going somewhere else to escape the bees, but that gets me nowhere. I lose this race, I lose my chance to move on. And it’s very unlikely the bees will listen to reason. I have nothing. I can’t move on.

I surrender.

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén