Here is another story I’m working on, with the tentative working title of A Demon for Time. It might be a little scary.
How the world works
I was thirteen when my first, only and last séance made me a believer of ghosts. The possession that followed gave me intimate awareness of the demons that came with them. Demons that come through a person to get into the world turn that person into a toe dancer, board stiff, finger tendons strung tight. It lifts them up off the ground or floor in this case, into the air by the swiftness of its passage. Don’t stick around to see what happens after. That’s a moment to run. Sorry for the friend who’s possessed, but, each for his own. Don’t try to help the possessed. Don’t try to cure the possessed. Not for the faint of heart or untrained. Demons know this. They will eat you alive.
Ghosts and demons. One after, and sometimes with, the other. It all made me know that I wouldn’t ever pick up another Ouija board, ever in my life. It didn’t inform me that I would one day become a demon hunter.
I found out fast, at that young, tender age, before there were boys even, that the dead aren’t especially fond of the living. Most of them hate us with a passion. Hate us for breathing.
I learned at 15 that hatred brings all kinds of bad mojo right back at you, living or dead. And so the bad ones, well, they are really bad, piss your pants and freeze your breath in your lungs bad. They are like the robber prowling the streets of the city you shouldn’t go to at night except with a crowd and only for special occasions. Those robbers, well they have their own special Angel of Death hanging on their shoulder, egging them on, encouraging them to do all the bad things in the world. The good guys don’t generally get those kinds of spirits. The good ones are few and far between.
When there are too many bad ghosts, coupled with an alive bad junkie, thief, rapist, murderer – take your pick of any of that breed of man – when too many of them come together in a twisted concert of evil, in the conflux, all that negative energy brings a demon.
Well this usually leads to the death of the mortal. Almost instantly. Within an hour or two at most…except the one time. Mortals and demons are only compatible in certain extenuating circumstances, which is a good thing for the living. The demons aren’t gentle or imps or anything but life rending monsters, and they don’t care if they are compatible or not. They’re in the world and their intention is to stay in it. By whatever means necessary. Lots of people die when a demon comes through. Lots and lots.
Killing a demon, as you might expect, is oh my God nearly impossible.
Killing a demon that has found a compatible?
It hasn’t been killed yet.
The other part of the equation here, is the demon hunter. That person is a special type as well. You have to have balls of brass, coated in… I don’t know, something stronger than brass to face a demon. Titanium… no, tungsten balls. The hunters have to be cunning, which makes the whole ‘not succumbing to the evil influence of the Bad Guy’ very tricky and difficult. Cunning isn’t exactly what people consider a good trait, like being kind to your fellow man, being a donor, being an all around decent human being would be considered good traits. Cunning isn’t on that list.
Trustworthy and cunning don’t usually go together either. A lot of demon hunters start out right and end up sitting on the shoulder of a psychotic killer where they draw in a demon on a conflux, and worship the thing in their delusion. It never ends well for the worshiper.
Can’t trust a demon to not suck your soul right out of yourself and send you off to the lock down. The Firey Pit. Home of Satan and all that. In you go. Never come out. Lots of hunters ended up that way in time, after being used and broken. Can’t trust another hunter either. It’s difficult, though not completely impossible, to tell if they’ve been turned. Hunters are kinda solitary. With good reason.
You also have to be able to tolerate flying through space to the New Worlds so that you can hunt demons there too. Everyone’s got them apparently and I have a talent.
I don’t just see dead people. I smell them, too. Some of the dead are not so bad, but no, most just reek. It’s impolite to say so. I try not to look like I’m holding my breath. And I feel them. Yes, that is just as creepy as it sounds. Hear them – in places you can’t believe and might make you afraid to walk out your door. Oh except, they’re in your house too. Here’s the end of the misconception some people have that only certain places are ‘haunted’. No. Ghosts are everywhere. All the time. The number of them are somewhat dependent on population density and how many people have had a particular connection to your area over eternity.
So you can imagine, there can be a literal crap ton of dead people all crammed in. I’ve seen them that way, packing in so tight I wouldn’t dare try to make my way through. The older continents are the worst. Do not go to Damascus. Just don’t.
It’s true the dead hang out in old buildings. Sometimes when an old house is torn down the ghosts go away. Mostly, they just move on, which includes next door.
I sometimes envy the people who can walk through a crowded hall stuffed full of ghosts and not know it. They might feel the hairs on the back of their neck or on their arms stand up. Cold breezes. Cold heart, hands, nose. When your whole body goes that way, that’s when you need to hope they don’t decide to stay in your nice warm self.
The possessed are also everywhere, so it’s a better idea to have a clue. There are preparations to take against such invasions, oils and elixirs to take and wear. There are words to say too that come out a lot like a spell. I’ve definitely freaked a few people out looking wide-eyed and muttering under my breath. They back away pretty quick, whisper about what the hell is wrong with that one, and cast me a glance or two as they move off.
It’s a living though.
Also, I just saved their old, frumpy-assed selves from the giant monster about to cause a heart attack right there in the mall food court, make the grandkids sad (or maybe happy that you’re gone fake-sad) and your kids go through the whole estate thing you still haven’t set up so there’s no bickering over the ‘stuff’. So, lady, don’t look at me like I’m nuts.
I only wish.
I got used to the stares and whispers and mostly stopped worrying about it, but that’s been a recent acceptance of my situation. I’ve been fighting this off for a few years now, taking on this damn job. It doesn’t pay the rent, so for saving your life, I don’t get the Ritz or even a Motel 6. I do all right, but it may not exactly be what most people call an honest living.
See, occasionally, just every once in a while, I will get a ghost to bump you. They may accidentally knock a person over, but I try to get them to be gentle about it. And I run over and help you up… aaaaand then I help myself of your wallet, and/or the money in it. Girl’s gotta eat. Sometimes I take a card, but those are two easy to track. You old people carry cash more than younger ones. Walking around as if the world has not changed.
Okay, so it hasn’t that much.
Not the way people act anyway.
Technology is coming along at a pace. We’ve got space ships. Still no flying cars though, damn it. Someone lied about that ever being possible. Jury’s out on whether or not that’s a good thing.
War’s mostly a thing of the past. We haven’t killed ourselves off yet and it even seems that we mostly get along. No one thought that would ever happen. We all even get along with the North Koreans. Well, they all but killed themselves off and had a national implosion, civil war and then they eventually quit fighting. That was the last big war. Finally put a stop to it.
We can thank the aliens for that.
They ransacked every store on the planet, took whatever they wanted out the door – even in Podunk, Mississippi folks – everyone on Earth picked up a gun and hunkered in as if the world was ending. Scared the shit out of the aliens. They left and have not been back since.
Getting an answer to that big question put people in a different mind. Wars started ending and we all collectively decided that it might be a good idea to get the fuck along. Everyone kept their guns too, and crime went way down, except for murder and accidentally shootings. Aside from a few bumps, we earthlings realized that we are way more the same than the green goblin that got off the ship and tried to make friendly with us.
We were having none of that. Black, yellow, pasty white, brown as a berry, red and all the variations there to, but not green. Everyone drew the line at green. Kind of a pity there. They might have been friendly these alien people, but we didn’t give them the chance to find out. Obviously, civilization still has some growing up to do. Accepted.
We started building spaceships pretty soon thereafter. Some spy group got into their computer brain and sucked out all the schematics. We learned a lot about how to get around. Talk about putting the space program into high gear. We launched maybe a year later. A year more and we had ten ships. Another year after that, over a hundred. We rocketed off to places we thought we knew.
Some did not come back.
Some found pretty amazing places out there and finally, they found another planet we could live on. It’s just around the corner in worm time. Warp time. Whatever you want to call moving space and time without moving. I still don’t get it, but whatever. They have engineers for that. Takes a week to get there.
The other planet they found is two days beyond the first. P10 and P11 they are now called. The space agency is so full on creative. There are requests every day to name them, but no one can agree on what. We haven’t changed all that much.
The pioneer spirit is alive and well. People left earth in droves. By the thousands, until there were a few million gone. There’s regular back and forth now. The New Worlds didn’t have other people on them, or really much of anything else, though there are signs that maybe there once were. More scientist types are sorting out what happened, and we already hope it doesn’t happen here, whatever it was.
Lots of woods now. Natural resources abound. We’re still not so great at managing them, but at least we don’t clear-cut whole forests anymore.
I left earth for the first time when I was 18. I didn’t want to go to college or small college or get any more book learning, so I signed onto a freighter going to P10 as part of a one way crew. An extra hand. I cleaned the toilets and mopped the floors. Food was even included. Best I ate for a whole week, so it wasn’t a bad deal.
I left because I thought I could get away from the ghosts.
Turns out, I was wrong about that.
Clean up on Aisle 3b
I have some family left on Earth – also have some on P11, but I almost never see them live. See them onscreen all the time, but I just don’t get over to P11. Another story.
On Earth, I visit regular enough that I still have a room at home, in the old house where I grew up and my mom and dad are still puttering around. They’re old. They’re retired. They’re waiting on me to give them grandbabies, which is not exactly happening fast enough for them. Mostly they try not to remind me every single day. They aren’t getting any younger. I haven’t told them yet there probably aren’t going to be any kids. I don’t have a steady anyway, so…I don’t want to have them without a partner, or by the village method. Call me old fashioned. If I have kids, I’m going to make it a unit, natural, the way my parents did it. Other people do it the other way, but that’s not my deal. More power to them. Although, at this point, my parents might agree with them.
I don’t have a partner. I don’t think I’m looking for one right now. I don’t need the complication. I have the occasional fling. I try not to leave in my wake a path of destruction and broken hearts, but well, that does happen to me. Mostly the destruction. More than once. More than twice even. And yes, there are a few broken hearts, too. Yes, okay. More than a few. If I say more, I’ll sound a floozy. A girl who loves them and leaves them. Promiscuous. Et al. It’s not my fault they get serious and fall in love with me.
I move around too much so I can keep the ghosts off, as much as is possible. My folks ought to understand the life.
I try to keep my parents out of my professional business, though it’s not like they don’t know what’s going on. They’ve seen enough. They’ve definitely been on the detail before. They have some skills, but they’re retired. They don’t want to play the game anymore. Okay fine.
A conflux, remember, is when a bunch of bad ghosts get together with a bad live mortal and help a demon come through the hole they create between here and there. If the human baddie is all like, oh yeah, bring on the power, only the most skilled hunters can stop what happens next. If the human is a clueless toad, it’s easier and harder at the same time. On the plus side, they aren’t trying to help. On the minus side, I have to try and save them. When they’re on the bad side, I just shoot them without so much trouble.
I was only just trying to go to the grocery store. House needed some food supplies for my visit and Mom came along with the bank.
The store was crowded. A full complement of bots was deployed to assist patrons with shopping. I don’t usually use them, but my mom thinks they’re cool, so we took a bot. Just my luck – it had an attitude from the start.
“If you’ll come this way,” bot said, floating ahead of the cart. Yes, we have small, floating black balls of general robotic skill, but no flying cars. See, we know how to make them, but they won’t let us have them. Damn safety police. “The next item on your list is three aisles to your left on aisle 3b. Please follow me.”
“Mom, do you have to put it in talk mode,” I asked, rolling my eyes as we dutifully moved after the thing. It hummed when it paused at the end of the aisle, sensing on all planes, up, down, left, right and all the angles to see if it was clear to go. It was only a momentary hesitation.
Mom’s pushing sixty these days, while I’m getting out of my teens. I’m twenty-one. LEGAL! Wow, that’s so nice and a real PITA at the same time. She partnered up late and had me with dad probably a good bit past the prime birthing years, but I came out all right anyway. Or I guess I did. My folks were always older than other kids my age. But, cool. Thank the powers. She does, however, still have the ability to make me feel like I’m twelve.
“I like them in talk mode,” my mother, Samantha Hayes responded in a voice of disinterest as she walked, squinting at the shelves – we were on the aisle with the jars of fake spaghetti sauce and a couple of different grain options for pasta. Whole wheat. Barley. Synth. Raw. Real. Plain. Fancy.
“Thank you, Ms. Hayes. I’m better able to help you when fully activated.”
The bot spun its eye to me. That was a camera just visible on the interior of the shiny black surface. If you looked close up to it, you could see it spinning as it tried to focus. I flipped it the bird.
“There’s no call for obscenity, Miss.”
My mother glanced over her shoulder at me. Some people called her Sam, but not me. “Are you going to cause a scene like the last time we were here?”
I said no, but that turned out to be wrong too.
It came through an older man who was walking toward us where we were stopped to pick out a bag of sugar. There were twenty choices of sugar to pick from and my mom sometimes liked to ponder them all, or at least half of them.
The old guy wore a hat and seemed a regular type fellow. He had a white shirt on and a jacket, but no tie. All normal. He walked along, shuffling in old people gait, carefully watching the floor in front of him so he wouldn’t misstep.
When he looked up at me and his eyes went blank and then mottled with blood veins, I knew the thing inside this man was going to attack.
I never go anywhere unarmed, just like everyone else, but one of my guns shoots a stream of plasma, because bullets don’t do shit against a demon trying to find and get into a compatible. Plasma slows them down and then it’s time to do some fast talking, spell casting, power repelling voodoo in the hopes that it’ll close the portal and suck the demon back out on the way.
I saw the old guys eyes turn and pulled the plasma gun – oh yes, I call it a ray gun. Why the hell not? – shot him the second it was powered and before the demon did much more than snarl.
Ray guns don’t kill old men, just demons, but my putting him into the shelf with the gun to his chest scared him. It didn’t help that I was putting a spellcast on him and on the space around him. I pulled out the sachet and amulet that hung on a silver chain around my neck. The pungent odor of mint mixed with the sea-salted smell of the ocean, seeded with a hint of white chocolate that acted like a bomb going off when it penetrated the demon hole. The words I used came from a long forgotten Indian language that only a few still remember, enough words thankfully, and I said them as fast as I could. The air burst in a slight white flash that looks kind of like a flashbulb going off to everyone else. To me it’s a star burst of dripping fireworks sparkling before all the lights wink out.
My mother likes to call it Fairy Dust, as if Tinker Bell really existed, that goes off in a puff. If I say there’s no such thing, it’s astounding the things that come out of her mouth. She might even make me clap my hands.
The hole shut. I didn’t even see the demon – a bonus there – and the old man was only shaken.
It did attract the attention of the other shoppers and the damn bot, that started accusing me of causing harm to another patron, that it was about to signal for store security and I better let the gentleman go right this instant.
“I thought he tripped,” I shot at the bot. It had a red light emitting from all its orifices. I carefully holstered the ray gun into the back of my pants under my sweater, keeping it out of sight. My other gun, the bullet, was strapped onto my leg and I was sorely tempted to pull it on the bot. My mother only had to hold up one finger.
“We’ll move on to the next item on the list now, thank you. The oils, I believe.”
The bot whizzed and whirred, spun toward me as if it meant to bring on another chastisement. I was still helping the old man come out of the possession. He didn’t know what hit him. I held him up. I didn’t take the wad of cash from his front right pocket or his wallet from the back. Tempting, but Mom had the bank so I wasn’t needy. I thought it was a good thing.
The bot turned to my mother. Maybe it was going to tell her of course they could go on, but it stopped when the shelves on the bakery aisle abruptly exploded. Flour, sugar, cans of milk, spices, tea, the entire line of products top to bottom flew off without visible cause. Not to the bot anyway. Or the three other people who cowered away from the flinging boxes.
Two ghosts stood on either side, grabbing whole swathes of product up in their arms and throwing them to the floor or heaving them across the aisle. They rushed from one end to the other
The bot started screeching – security, security, security to aisle— and then I shot it. While I was, Mother produced her own ray gun and took out both ghosts. She didn’t miss. The entire kerfuffle left her supremely annoyed that what was supposed to have been a simple trip to the grocery store had turned into a huge mess to clean up.
“We’ll have to get the oils later,” she said without a beat and moved on as if nothing had happened. A couple other bots arrived.
“Clean up on aisle 3b,” they announced and more bots came to get the job started.
I followed Mom, looking around behind me, and nodded. She was pointing to the opening between the fish counter and the meat counter, and I nodded again before she spoke.
“You should probably head out the back.”
Security was on the way after all. Big men dressed in black uniforms. They had the authority to arrest you and put you in lock up – sometimes for days, without anyone looking at the case. They were on the ‘to be avoided’ list. I had problems with that too.
“I’ll meet you around front,” Mom said, plucking a can of organic peas off an end cap.
“I should probably get a ride. Taylor works a few stores down. He’ll be off soon. I’ll see you at home. Sorry for the mess.”
“It’s all right, dear. You saved another life.”
“Right, Mom. Thanks for the assist.”
I slipped through the plastic strips that hung over the opening and hurried past the stacked crates of oranges and apples as I aimed for the loading doors off the back of the store. I made it outside.
“That was some kind of trouble.”
“Shut up, Peter,” I said over my shoulder, without stopping to look. Peter was another ghost. Not a baddie. More a pain in the butt than anything. He liked to make comments and tease me when I got in trouble. He was not very much use. He was gray and a little more see-through than others. His eyes used to be blue, but I only knew that because he told me.
“This stuff just follows you around, everywhere you go,” he chanted in a singsong voice. “They’re coming more and more and more.”
I glared at him as I skip walked, almost running along the length of the building, past crates and a few barrels. There were three bots too. I put them out of their electronic misery. The gun was silenced you see, so it didn’t make much noise going off. I reloaded. I checked the charge on the plasma gun and fished out another cartridge to have it in hand.
“Hey, careful with that thing,” Peter said, floating along beside me. He flinched from my aim.
“I’ll use it on you,” I said when he knew I wouldn’t. Tazing a good ghost brought on all kinds of bad mojo right back on you too. I had enough of that, it seemed. “You need to go, Pete.”
“I might actually hit you. Get out of the way of this,” I said. “I’m going to fight every step of the way home. It has that feel to it tonight.”
Peter agreed and vanished.
“I wish I could do that about right now.”
I was left talking to air.
(A Demon for Time is in a most raw state. It’s one of those stories that just popped into my head and at this moment, I have no idea where it’s going to take me, except off the planet. Please let me know what you think! I love hearing from readers!)