October 25, 2015

Witches Shadow

[Posted by Ted H]

Happy Halloween. Now, enjoy the triumphant return of James Blake and John Praque! This time next week I'll embark on my quest for 50,000 as I begin the 2nd Blake novel. Enjoy this short that if anything, shows that Blake is no longer just an average guy trying to make sense of the supernatural.


[Witches Shadow]

"I am so mad at you now," Blake said as the car drove passed the dark and empty gas station. "Christ, my bad," John complained from the driver side "I'll never hear the end of this, will I?" Blake shook his head as he looked to his pack of cigarettes, only three remained inside to last him through the night. He'd smoke one before bed, and had a hard craving to smoke one right now, meaning he had only one left for some unknown point in the night, and he felt it was going to be a long night.
            "Next time you think you know of an 24-hour gas station on Bear..." Blake began as he lit up his cigarette "...Make sure you know which one; Bear Road? Or Bear Street? Because the difference is paramount!"
            "I stand by my choice," John defended himself "I wasn't driving out of the way just so you could pick up a pack. Next time remember to pick your cancer sticks up during normal business hours." Blake rolled his eyes as he returned his lighter to his trench coat and took a drag. They were on a case. More specifically, Blake was on a case. John was around because he owned a car and a former cop can find other ways to be useful.
            "Which house is it?" John asked as Blake flicked ash out the open window. "Towards the end of the street. Red cedar house. Should be the only one without lights on." Blake then looked to his cigarette and frowned at how much had already burned away. "Remind me why we're here?" John asked.
            "Our client, Kaylyn, wants us to find her older sister, preferably before their parents come home in two nights."
            "Sounds like a job for the police and Missing Persons."
            "Kaylyn says her sister had been dabbling in certain things."
            "What kind of things?"
            "She didn't know. Probably Wiccan."
            "Damn sluts."
            "I know, right?"
            "Where's the younger sister now?"
            "Friends house."
            "Dare I ask why it's us and not her searching the home?"
            "Because the last thing Kaylyn remembers before running from the house was her sister screaming followed by something demonic crying out."
            "Wiccans can summon?"
            "So the job is to find the sister and figure what happened?"
            "Pretty much. So you'll understand why I'm so miffed over not having an adequate supply of smokes for this evenings activities."
            "You could have a carton of those things and still not think you have an adequate supply for an evening."
            "...Touché....But c'mon, just three?"
            "Those things will kill ya anyway."
            "No. Dealing with another crazy Wiccan girl in my life will kill me."
            Both men continued to quip back and forth until John spotted the right house and slowed to a stop in front of it. "So what's the plan?" John asked as he killed the engine. Blake laughed as he got out, amused at the notion that he would deviate from his usual MO of figuring things out as the situation happens. "First we need to see what we're up against," he said as he flicked his spent cigarette away and walked towards the house.

            "The door is open," John noted as they approached. "You think she got possessed by something demonic and got out?" Blake huffed as he fought an immediate urge to smoke. "Wouldn't that be all I need tonight," he said as he used his foot to push the front door open. It slowly moved until something unseen blocked it and it remained partially open. Blake stuck his head in and around to see what the obstruction was before he immediately came back out. "Call the cops," he said "I think we have a burglar."
            John cocked his head to the side and pushed his way into the house, Blake right behind him. Inside on the ground was a man dressed in all black with an empty backpack nearby. His throat was completely torn out and blood spilled all over. "Jesus," John said as he crouched near the body "Someone must've thought the house was empty."
            'How fresh is that corpse?" Blake asked. John took a moment to check before answering. "Not too sure," he said "At least a couple days. What does it matter?" Blake made a face as he surveyed the foyer and nearby staircase. "No flies," he said to himself. "Care to clarify?" John asked as he stood up. "Not a single fly," Blake said "Now what could a fly be scared of in this house?"
            "I didn't know that flies knew fear," John said as Blake slowly made his way forward down a hallway towards the kitchen. "What the hell is in this house, James?" John asked as he pulled out a pistol and readied it. "Only one way to find out," Blake responded.
            "You didn't get a description?" John asked, astonished.
            "Girl didn't know. Said her sister yelled for her to get out of the house. After she got outside, she heard Sierra scream, followed by the cry of something she never heard before."
            "I say we burn the house down."
            "Always an option, we'll call that plan B. First we need to find Sierra."
            "Probably dead, if we're being honest."
            "Not necessarily...Let's say it's a 25% chance she's still alive, depending on what exactly she summoned."
            "Not exactly comforting."
            "We've faced longer odds."
            "See my previous statement."
            They made their way into the kitchen where the stench of rotting fruit hit them. The overhead light was out and the only vision they had was granted from the hall and dining room lights casting from afar. A soft pile of food sat on the counter with an open bag of bread nearby. "Again with the no flies," Blake muttered to himself as he looked around. "So anything out of the ordinary?" John asked, wondering what it was he needed to help Blake look for. "Something like that," Blake responded without looking over "A pentacle or something similar, maybe some candles. Anything like that a basic witch would use."
            "Pentacle..." John said "You mean a pentagram?"
            "Not quite. There's a difference." Blake said with a grin.
            "What difference is there?"
            "Pentacle is a pentagram with some bells and whistles apparently."
            "That makes no sense."
            "Trust me, it's important. Remember that self proclaimed sorceress we met on the other side of the tracks by the river? She was about to pull a knife on me because I refused to differentiate."
            "Oh yeah, that chick," John said as he struggled to remember her "What was her name again?"
            "Anin," Blake said, still with his original grin "Anin Terror-something-or-another."
            "Anin?" John repeated "But wasn't she white?"
            "If you knew why she calls herself that..." Blake started as he turned to John to elaborate, but stopped when he saw something behind him. John identified the look in Blake's eyes and stopped in his tracks. "Don't move," Blake said as he eyed something dark silently making its way along the wall behind a row of hanging pans.
            Blake reached behind himself near the sink to find a rolling pin he noticed on his way in, never taking his eyes off the movements behind the pans as the creature readied itself. "Get ready to duck," he said as he readied the rolling pin, John becoming a statue with a trickle of sweat rolling down the side of his face.
            A slow, high pitched growl sounded from behind the pans. "Now!" Blake yelled as John dropped just as a six-legged black creature the size of a puppy exploded through the pans, flying over John and heading right for Blake as he swung the rolling pin into it, sending it to the opposite side of the kitchen and onto the stove. "What is that thing?" John shouted as he scrambled to Blake's side and readying his pistol.
            The creature landed on its back, but was able to recover almost immediately and dive out of view. Blake dropped the rolling pin, which was now stained with a sticky black residue from where it connected. "Back to the hall, NOW!" Blake yelled as the two scrambled out of the dark kitchen and into the hall as the creature rattled off a growl. The two ended up sprinting all the way out of the house, John making sure the door closed behind them.
            "Did you see it?" John asked as he tried to catch his breath "Cuz I sure as hell didn't."
            Blake didn't respond as he fished out his cigarettes with a pissed look on his face. "That wasn't Wiccan," he mumbled with a cigarette in his mouth as he retrieved his lighter. He lit up and took a long drag. "So you did see it," John said. Blake spit to the ground and walked back to the car and spoke. "That in there is Witchcraft."
            "Isn't that still a witch?" John asked.
            "Witch, yeah," Blake said as he opened the trunk "Capital W this time. Big league hostile."
            "Does that change anything?"
            "At least we know what we're dealing with," Blake said as he opened the trunk and rummaged through it.
            "What was that thing in there?"
            "A Witches Shadow," Blake said "Witches usually only hang in darkness, and these particular pets always hang with their masters. Anyone who survives one claim it was the shadow of the Witch herself that attacked."
            "Wait, so Sierra is alive? But she's attacking us?"
            "Maybe. These things are dangerous; Only Witches that know what they're doing can summon them."
            "So...Wait, I thought Sierra was a noob at this?"
            "Something's off," Blake said as he picked up and examined several exotic looking objects in the trunk before settling on an aerosol can "We'll worry about it later. First things first: we deal with the Witch Shadow inside."
            "What's the plan?" John asked as he reached in and retrieved a flashlight.
            "They heal in the darkness," Blake said as he pulled out a handheld floodlight and closed the trunk "We mess it up and keep it lit up. If it can't heal, it dies and slips back into hell...or wherever it came from. I'm not too clear on Witchcraft."
            "I thought you were the expert here," John said as they walked back towards the house.
            "What idiot told you that?" Blake asked.
            Back inside the house, John took lead with a pistol in one hand and his flashlight in the other, sweeping the floor with light as he walked. Blake tailed behind him with the aerosol can and a lighter at the ready. "What's in the can?" John asked in a whisper. "Hairspray," Blake said at normal volume without missing a beat. "Are you serious?" John asked "All the shit in my trunk and you go with hairspray and a lighter?"
            "I like to keep it simple if I can," Blake said "Now focus." John sighed before going back to sweeping with his flashlight "If I die from this shit, I'm haunting your ass." Blake rolled his eyes and didn't respond. His eyes scanned around the darkness for any signs of the creature. They returned to the kitchen and continued through to the dining room.
            "So Witches," John whispered as he switched off the flashlight in the lit room and followed Blake for the darkened living room "They serious business?"
            "I'd think so," Blake said "Spell caster types are largely ignored, compared to Witches, who were burned at the stake at their height."
            "Like Salem?"
            "Meeeeeeh, no. Witches were not as prevalent there. They found one Witch, and overreacted. Salem was a village of idiots."
            "So, if Witches are a big deal, and if we've already confirmed that this house has some Witchcraft going on, why aren't we just running away and letting more important people handle this?"
            "Cuz I wanna get paid. Rent is already late this month."
            They reached the living room and John switched his flashlight back on. Two lamps in the room had been toppled over and broken. The far end of the room had a fireplace with a loveseat nearby. The near side of the room had a couch across from a TV stand with a flat screen facing it. One wall had a desk against it with various notebooks and a laptop placed on top. The only window had its curtains drawn, keeping the room in pitch darkness. "This is where I'd hang if I were into darkness." Blake announced as he stepped into the room and motioned for John to follow.
            "Carpet floor and lots of fabric around," John said as he looked about the room "Perfect for a small creature to sneak around unheard." Blake played with the lighter in his one hand "Their feet don't make noise," he said as he flicked the lighter to emit a flame to see with "Don't ask me why I know that detail but not where it comes from."
            "Anything else trivial?"
            "They don't have ears. Can't hear anything."
            "What?" John whispered "Then..."
            "Can't smell either. No nose."
            "That's weird." John said, no longer whispering.
            "Weird for anything in this world. It gets along fine, beckoning to the call of its master."
            "But how can it hear its master...never mind. Where is the master then? We haven't run into her yet."
            "It's a growing concern of mine for a number of reasons," Blake said as he looked at the fireplace and its nearby tools."
            "This is stupid," John said "It could be anywhere. We need bait or something. What do these things eat?"
            "Eye of newt?" Blake suggested as looked into the dark fireplace with his lighter, but saw nothing "They like dark places, and it wouldn't stray far from where we first encountered it. It eats flesh, so just look tasty for it."
            "Hope it likes lead," John said as he motioned the gun in his hand with a smirk.
            "Let's try not to shoot a gun at this hour," Blake said as he held his lighter high to illuminate up towards the ceiling. "Found it," he said as he motioned with his head to the far corner of the room where the creature was positioned. "Easy," John said as he flashed his light on it, causing it to stir and position itself with a growl. "Uh, oh," Blake said as it snapped outward towards John, who sidestepped and attempted to line up a shot with his gun.
            Before the creature could try and attack again, Blake was over it, spraying hairspray into his lighter, sending out a fireball. The creature screamed as it scurried into a corner, attempting to find darkness, unaware that it had become a mobile beacon of light. "Hit it again!" John cried as Blake put down the hairspray and reached into his trench coat for the flood light. "At this point, just step on it," Blake quipped as the creature tumbled back into the open and Blake turned on the floodlight, illuminating the room in a bright light. The creature screamed on as it attempted to find shelter. Blake ran up and kicked it into an open corner of the room where it had nowhere to hide as he kept the floodlight focused on it.
            The fire on it had died down, but the Witches Shadow was unable to heal as its smoldering body twitched about in the corner. John retrieved a poker from the fireplace. "This gonna be quiet enough for ya?" he asked. Blake was about to respond when he noticed the light from the floodlight was beginning to quickly die down. "What the hell?" Blake asked as the seemingly quiet creature began to respond to the dimming light with a renewed sense of escape.
            "Uh, you did remember to charge that thing, right?" John asked.
            "I thought that was your job."
            "Are you serious?" John exclaimed as the floodlight died down to where it glowed, but no longer shot light "You used it last!"
            "Details," Blake said as he dropped the useless light and tried to step forward until he realized his eyes needed to readjust to the darkness. "Can you see?" he asked. "Give me a minute," John said as Blake bumped into the desk and kicked over the wire wastebasket. "We're fucked!" John said.
            "Not yet," Blake said as he lit up his lighter and sprayed into it on the desk, igniting the papers and notebooks and offering more light along with John's flashlight. "Did it heal?" John asked as Blake searched where he last saw the creature to find nothing. He found a fresh trail of black blood dragging up the wall and suddenly stopping. "Yeah...it healed."
            Blake was wondering how he would find the creature now when John started screaming. He had dropped his gun and flashlight and started flailing about, trying to grab at his back. "It's on me! It's on me!" he cried out as Blake noticed the creature digging its claws into John's back. He briefly thought about hitting the easy target with another round of fire, but figured John would hold that against him. Instead he placed his lighter into his other hand to hold both it and the hairspray while he dug his free hand into his coat to retrieve a pocket knife.
            John stopped running around long enough for Blake to stab into the creature, then he used the knife as leverage as he dragged it off of John and fling it into the desk where the fire he set before was still burning. The Witches Shadow screamed in the fire before tumbling off of the desk, but Blake was ready for it and sprayed fire onto it immediately. It then scurried behind the couch to put itself out. "That thing is not happy," Blake noted as he watched a trail of smoke rise up and move along the back of the couch. "It's making another move," he announced as the creature emerged from behind the couch and immediately jumped for Blake.
            John was waiting and ready though, as he shot his pistol and blew away the creature in mid-jump, sending it across the room. Blake wasted no time and scooped up the fireplace poker and ran for the creature. John's shot crippled the creatures right set of legs, making it difficult for it to scamper away and hide from any light. As it tried to escape, Blake drove the poker through it and into the ground, pinning it in place. It gave off high pitched squeals as it twitched about and a pool of black blood quickly formed beneath it.
            James grabbed the wire trash can and placed it beside the creature before he ignited some of the paper trash inside, creating a light beacon right beside it, hastening its demise. "Now what?" John asked as the two men stood over the dying monster. "These things aren't exactly fragile," Blake responded "It'll take a while, but it should bleed out and finally die within the hour." John made a face as he pointed his gun down at the creature. "Not fast enough," he said as he unloaded three shots into it, finally bringing an end to its death shrieks.
            "Really?" Blake called as John made his way back to the kitchen "Someone will hear those gunshots and call the cops!"
            "No one will call the cops," John said without turning around.
            "We're like a block away from a gated community; Someone's calling the cops."
            "That's racist."
            "Yeah, white people frighten easily."
            "We don't."
            "Are we really arguing this?"
            "I dunno why we are. Deed is done."
            Blake didn't have an answer for him as he looked down to see the melting corpse of the Witches Shadow as it was leaving this world. He sighed and searched his trench coat for his last cigarette. "Let's just find the girl and be out of here," he finally said.
            Because the basement seemed too obvious, Blake and John began searching the second floor bedrooms instead. The first bedroom yielded no Sierra, but answered the question of how the creature got into this world. "So is that a pentagram or a pentacle?" John asked referencing to the summoning circle set in the middle of the bedroom. There's a circle around it," Blake said as he played with the unlit cigarette in his hand "That makes it a pentacle."
            "Seriously? That's it?" John asked. "People are weird about it, I know," Blake said as he looked at the set of symbols set around the pentacle, noting that some were unfamiliar to him, but all defiantly Witchcraft. "That puts an end to every question except the most important one," he said aloud as he went to exit the room "Where the hell is Sierra?"
            He made his way to another bedroom and pushed open the ajar door. "I'll search the master bedroom," John said as he walked down the hall "If we still don't find her, we try the basement together." Blake shrugged. "What if she's not in the house anymore?" John asked. "Then we have an unaccounted for Witch running around out there," Blake responded as he stuck the still unlit cigarette in his mouth.
            "Is that bad?" John asked, a slight concern in his voice.
            "Meh, it's not good. Could always be worse things out there though."
            "Like what?"
            "Shadow Wraiths comes to mind."
            "What the hell is a Shadow Wraith?"
            "Let's just get this over with."
            Blake walked into a quiet sounding bedroom. Immediately a decaying scent hit him and he instinctively covered his mouth with his hand, almost knocking his cigarette to the floor. He flipped a light switch and a ceiling fan lit up dimly with one of those energy saving bulbs that take a minute to light up all the way. Blake noticed the room was relatively kept clean, with only a few articles of clothing idly on the floor. "Pants, shirt, shoes and one sock," Blake took stock out loud, wondering why there was only one sock in sight.
            His eyes darted around the floor, pointlessly looking for the missing sock while the ceiling light grew in strength. At the far side of the room, mostly obstructed by the bed, Blake found the other sock, and noticed it was still on a foot. He called to John and quickly walked over to the other side of the bed. On the ground, wearing just a sock and panties, was the mutilated and bloated remains of Sierra.
            "Holy fucking shit," John said as he looked down at the girl. "That thing messed her up good." Blake took the flashlight from John and surveyed the damages on the girl. The girl's throat had been ripped out and her torso had been ripped to shreds, apparent meal to the creature. "I thought she was the Witch," John said as he finally backed away from the scene.
            "Like I said before," Blake said "Only Witches who know what they're doing summon those things. If they don't, then...well..." Blake motioned to the carnage in front of him. "So that thing had no master," John said.
            "Nope," Blake said.
            "So, what would something like that do without a purpose?"
            "Well, it's an animal," Blake said "Not native to this realm, but you know, still an animal. It just lived on instinct like any animal would. The need to eat, safe place [relatively] to live, and the need to reprod-" Blake stopped short as a thought crossed his mind. "They lay eggs," Blake said. "Eggs?" John asked "Are you sure that thing was a female?"
            "They don't have genders, they just all lay eggs," Blake said "Somewhere dark."
            "Basement!" John said as he made for the exit.
            "No!" Blake yelled, causing John to stop. "Somewhere convenient, where the young can eat immediately after hatching until they grow large enough to claw their way out into the world." Without another word, Blake dug out his pocket knife and kneeled down next to Sierra's body. He placed a hand on her chest and recoiled it when he felt movement. He then plunged the knife into her stomach and cut her open, revealing her intestines and various small black things crawling around, feasting on her rotting entrails. The black creatures dug their way deeper into Sierra's insides to escape the sudden outside world.
            "Oh my God," John said as he kept his distance. "Wanna bet our dead burglar downstairs is also riddled with babies?"
            "How does it...?" John began but refused to finish his question. Blake reached over to Sierra's mouth an opened it, revealing the inside to be covered in black residue. "Eggs forced down the deceased throat," Blake said as he stood up and backed away "Eggs in stomach hatch and develop while eating the rotting host. Lots of eggs. She's probably more bloated because of her post-mortem meal."
            "So..." John started while trying to contain the need to vomit "The eggs hatched?" Blake nodded. "Not all, but yeah. Some might have even managed to make it out of her body by now to finish their maturation." John breathed heavy as he started to look pale. "We can't let these things get out," Blake said as he finally got around to lighting his cigarette. "What can we do then?" John asked.
            Blake held back a laugh as he blew out smoke. "Plan B."

            "You burned down my house!" Kaylyn screamed the next day when John and Blake went to her friend's house to receive payment. No one else was home at the time. Kaylyn sat at a table while Blake and John stood opposite her. "Job's done, the fate of your sister was discovered, cause of all problems eliminated and we stopped a potential world altering infestation to boot," Blake announced "That last one was free of charge, by the way."
            "My house is gone," Kaylyn repeated herself "My parents think I'm dead because I'm scared to turn on my phone to tell them what happened. Why would I pay you for ruining my life?" Kaylyn looked to Blake with a dumbfounded look in her eyes. "Because," Blake said as he pulled a cigarette from his recently bought pack and lit up "You lied to us, and now you need us silent."
            "Silent?" Kaylyn asked "Silent about what?"
            "Sierra didn't summon anything," Blake said "You're the Witch." Kaylyn said nothing. "You summoned that thing but couldn't control it. It got out, killed your sister and you realized you would've been next so you ran. The situation looked suspicious though, so you needed to shift the blame onto your dead sibling; They still burn Witches nowadays. You concocted the story of being innocent and sent my associate and myself practically blind in there. Either you expected us to die, or to not be smart enough to look further into the matter. I'm kinda offended at both scenarios, really."
            "You're insane," Kaylyn said while folding her arms.
            "It was summoned in your room, it killed her while she undressed in hers. Tell me how that happens?"
            Kaylyn made an angry face for a moment, but finally spoke. "It was caged," she said "It refused to listen to me. Maybe I screwed the summon up or...I don't know. I needed to think on it. It somehow got out. I heard the scream, and bolted for the door. Happy now?"
            "You weren't strong enough to control it, lord knows you wouldn't be strong enough to contain it," Blake said as Kaylyn sighed and hung her head low "Should've sent it back to Hell immediately instead of letting it roam free in this world."
            "It doesn't come from Hell," Kaylyn said, not looking up.
            "Uh...well...wherever it came from then," Blake said.
            "How is that the one detail you NOT know about that thing?" John asked, amazed.
            "Can we focus?" Blake asked "I know more about it than she did. She clearly didn't know it reproduces!"
            "It what?" Kaylyn asked.
            "It lays eggs, hundreds of them, when left to its own devices. We took care of your pet no problem, (I heard that snicker, John) but when I realized that it had laid eggs, and some of them had hatched, we burned the house down to ensure none of them got out. We didn't overreact. Trust me when I say this, you don't want any of those things getting loose in the world."
            Kaylyn pressed her lips together and looked away. "So now what?" she asked.
            "You pay us," Blake said "And we all live our lives."
            "What?" John said aloud "That Sierra girl is dead because of her!"
            "Negligent homicide at worst," Blake explained "Good luck charging her in court. Easiest thing to do now is blackmail her. She might be useful to us down the line."
            "You're not gonna burn me?" Kaylyn asked, taken aback by Blake's casualness.
            "Should we?" Blake asked with a grin.
            "I'm a Witch," Kaylyn said "The most unholy and evil thing a human can be..."
            "And she tried to get us killed!" John added.
            "Eh, she's cute," Blake said with a shrug "I'll let it slide this one time. I like to maintain a broad network of people anyway. Besides, we get her burned, we don't get paid. And I'd like to make rent this month."
            "I...I don't believe this," John said as he turned to walk out the door. "I'll be in the car," he said, giving up.
            "This is just about money?" Kaylyn asked, almost shocked at the simplicity of Blake's logic.
            "You hired us to do a job, we did the job. You may have been dishonest about the details of the case, but we still delivered. I don't see why you being a Witch has anything to do with me not getting my money."
            "How do I know you won't sell me out after you pay your rent?"
            "Like I said before, despite the taboo associated with your ilk, Witches can be useful. I may regret calling you cute if you grow a wart and stop washing your hair like all the stories depict."
            "So how about that money?"
            Kaylyn sighed as she reached beneath the table and brought out an envelope filled with cash. "So what guarantee do you have that I won't find a way to kill you and your friend to keep you quiet about me?" she asked as she slid the envelope across the table.
            "I got some friends," Blake said as he walked to the table and reached for the envelope "They may not like me too much and probably won't mourn my passing, but they're a paranoid bunch. They find out I'm dead, they're gonna wanna know why. One guy in particular, once he finds out a Witch was involved with my passing, I give him about a day before you're burned at the stake."
            "Hmm," Kaylyn pondered "What makes you think I'd be easy to find?"
            "That guy, Matthew, he can find anybody...Well, except that one guy he talks about, but you? He'd find you, easy. Besides, you can be useful to me, and we both know I can be useful for you."
            Kaylyn gave a sideways look as she thought over what Blake said. "Fine," she said as she sat back "Enjoy your payment Mr. Blake."
            "A pleasure doing business," Blake said as he pocketed the envelope into his trench coat.
            "Now I have more important things to worry about," Kaylyn said as she stood up "My friend is gonna get sick of me squatting and I need to find somewhere to live."
            "Family?" Blake suggested.
            "I'm not going back to a normal life," she said as she stopped and turned to Blake with an arched eyebrow "Say, interested in another roommate?"
            "Sorry," Blake said as he walked for the door "My landlord doesn't allow anyone with pets."

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