Friday, 10 November 2017

Anything for a quiet life...

Well, I really fucked up this time! I thought I could handle things, save the day; whatever.. and where did it get me?  In a coffin… buried alive, God knows where.
I’ve been here for at least two hours now; a length of rubber tubing leading up to the surface as my only means of survival, so I’m at least four feet deep and my whole world consists of this small, silk lined box. I should’ve stayed at home.
I know the technique; it’s an extreme form of dehumanisation: complete sensory deprivation on an archetypal level; they don’t want me dead, just pliable and in another couple of hours that’s how I’ll be; fat and pliable.... Trouble is, I have no idea how to get out – my hands and feet are tied and the cords have no give in them at all.
Every so often I hear a creak of the timbers around me as the earth settles itself; pressing, compacting against my world. I swear that the lid of the coffin is pressing closer, caressing my cheek and I would love to scratch at the twitches that are starting to develop , but I can’t; so I use it to stay sane –focus on the minute details, keep myself occupied. I have to stay sane, keep with it; the whole village needs me..
I’ve got to keep sending out my psychic S.O.S’s; there must be someone out there who can pick it up; but I need to remain calm, panicking won’t help me at all –it’ll only send me closer to them. I’m already far too vulnerable and I’m just surprised that they haven’t taken a more overt approach in subduing me. Maybe that will come later and then I really will be fucked! At least I still have a chance, it’s slim but it’s there….
There – I’ve sent it again. I guess I’m sending them out every couple of minutes but there’s no real way to know. It doesn’t really matter, it needs to be enough so someone can pinpoint me. I should be able to pick up when they’re in the vicinity and shout to them –that’s always supposing I can shout.
I need to conserve my energy, figure out stuff –I have time. Like where did it go wrong? When exactly were they expecting me? Was it all planned from the start? That would explain so much….

Like the letter I received; Roger never wrote me unless it was urgent, he knew how busy I was. His letter was brief: two deaths in the village was bad enough and certainly unheard of in the comatose village of Slaughley, where I’d grown up, but both were of children! The first, Rosemary Dew, had been on a walk with her family in the local woods. They were new to the village and didn’t know that they woods were actually out of bounds to the villagers; private property. Certainly nothing prepared them for what happened.
Three Alsatians came out of nowhere and attacked them. The father did what he could to defend his wife and twins; and managed to save his wife and son but his poor daughter never stood a chance. I don’t even want to think about what she went through; but the father witnessed it all and it’s unlikely that he’ll ever talk of it, or of anything else, again.
A week later and another child goes missing. Tony Ashworth didn’t come back from church one Sunday afternoon; hadn’t been playing with his friends and no one remembered seeing anything suspicious that day. It was two weeks before his parents saw him again and they will always be left with one simple question: why?
He was found in the local pond, in the catchment area where the new-born fish were always released and the frogs spawned. The irony was lost on everyone but the tragedy was just as real. There was no sign of mutilation (sexual or otherwise, thank god) and no one could understand why such a thing was happening: this was Slaughley, after all, and not Brighton. Things like this didn’t happen there –the worst was a broken leg at a rugby game or repetitive strain injury through too much fishing!

I breathed in deeply again though the plastic tube and sent out another signal. Luckily I’d spent many years meditating so I was able to keep myself from panicking, although time was rapidly running out. I felt a tingling sensation at the top of my scalp which either meant that my psoriasis was acting up or someone had picked up on my psychic S.O.S. I was hoping for the latter; I had to keep the channel open so they could track me. Keep broadcasting, I thought, help will soon be here.

It was the possession of Amy Brown that persuaded Roger to write me and he was right to. Perhaps possession was the wrong choice of words; Amy was bewitched, but to a layman it would be difficult to tell the difference.
Roger had helped me research my first novels and had even been with me when I started my own ‘journey of enlightenment’. (although from where I’m lying now I’ve obviously still got a long way to go!) He alerted me to what was going on and I was gung-ho enough to believe that I could handle it without any cause for concern. Certainly everything that had happened in my life up to that point had led to that conclusion, but I fell to the second stumbling block of learning: clarity. Maybe I believed that I saw things too clearly and someone else obviously anticipated that, and that’s what’s worrying me now… I need to go over the last day in detail because I’ve missed something obvious but vital to my survival!

Over twelve hours ago, Bryan had caught me unawares, surprised me whilst I was investigating Slaughley church. Maybe that should have been my first clue. I’ve known both Bryan and Roger for years. We became linked, even though Bryan lacked the stones to carry on through the Teachings. There was no way he could’ve snuck up on me, he possessed neither the power nor the skill, yet surprise me he did.
“Fuck, Bryan – you should know not to do things like that! Especially not when I’m in the middle of cleansing!”
“Found anything yet?”
“No, I haven’t! That’s’ what’s worrying me –it’s too well hidden, which means they’re expecting me.”
“Well, if I knew that you were coming…” I looked at him – I didn’t think that he and Roger were that close any more.
“No… I meant that I’d picked up that you were coming round here first thing this morning. I knew that I’d find you here – well, I remember when we were kids!”
“We were hardly kids, Bryan. Have you heard from Roger at all?” He shook his head and walked towards the church. I was on its furthest boundaries trying to get a feeling where the blockage was. Something was certainly disrupting Slaughley’s energy but I couldn’t figure out the three fundamentals: what, why and where! I’d only been searching for fifteen minutes when Bryan interrupted me and that should’ve been my first clue.

Why I’m still alive baffles me sometimes… I must either be special or lucky…or stupid.

“Should I have heard from him?” Bryan replied too innocently. True, there was no love lost between them but even so.
“So you don’t know what’s been going on around these parts then?
“Coffee? It’s too cold to just stand and talk!” That he was hiding something from me was obvious, but why? I had to play his game to find out; seems that I played it too long.
As soon as I walked into his cottage I knew that he’d been ensnared into it, whatever it was. If I hadn’t taken all the precautions and protected myself with the relevant crystals and visualisations I would surely have been finished.
Look, I’m a writer, yeah? No, you’ve probably never read my books; they’re a mixture of the esoteric and fantasy, based a little on my own journey of awakening and path to learning… Well, whilst writing the novels I unwittingly opened myself up to forces that I didn’t know even existed. I thought I was writing fiction, but it seems I was closer to the truth than what I thought! It took me dangerously close to the edge on a few occasions but it really does make you stronger. Cracked, certainly… but if you’re strong enough you can see things in a completely different way. The world is never the same again.
One of the troubles is people think you are actually the character you write about and expect you to be able to deal with the things that your character does… I’ve dealt with cases of ‘possession’ before but all that was required was an understanding of psychology and occult symbolism.
I’ve also been involved in true black magic. It’s real, believe it. Doesn’t matter whether you do or not though, if you don’t make yourself a target you won’t really have to worry; they’ll probably just passively feed off you as they would normally do.
If you do make your presence known to them, like I did, then you become a target to be converted anyway they can. It was during a fateful trip to Paris that I found this out and learnt all I could about protection to make sure that it would never happen again. Times like this it certainly pays dividends.

“What the fuck are you playing at?” I whirled round to Bryan upon walking into the cottage. “When did they get to you?”
“I’m not as strong as you, Alex. I never have been. They took the whole village in a matter of weeks. The childrens death were just the tip of the iceberg!”
“And you let Roger face it all on his own then? He was the only one savvy enough to realise what was really happening, I take it.”
“Don’t delude yourself – I’m not bloody stupid. I knew exactly what was going on but I wasn’t going to stick my neck out for no good reason!”
“You’re nothing but a quizzling, Bryan. So… I was supposed to just blunder into this and get enslaved as well?” In amongst this Bryan was true to his word, making us both a cup of coffee as if we were discussing the weather, or the price of eggs. He handed me a cup.
“Drink from both, mate.. if you will.” I insisted.
“You’re kidding me? You still don’t trust me?”
“Do you blame me?”
“Look… I knew you’d get called over and would easily recognise what’s going on; just as I knew that you’d rumble that this cottage was under siege. I said that I wasn’t daft enough to face it on my own, but with you here that’s a different story.” He took a mouthful from both mugs and grimaced when it came to mine. “I hate sugar in coffee…”
Ok, what he said made sense, but what next? It was still two against the unknown…
“Tell me more about Amy Brown.” I asked him.
“She’s a cute kid, only seven, you know? She’s at that age where everything she does is adorable. Everyone loves her and she’s brightened up the whole village. Some people have gone so far to say that she’s the very heart of the village now.”

So it’s like that then… By making her suffer then village knows to keep compliant; they want to cut the very heart from Slaughley.
“Let me guess, the Brown’s didn’t take the deaths of the other two children lightly did they? Like Roger, they were starting to see a pattern forming and got quite vociferous about it.”
“Yup, not now though. And with the Browns silenced so has the whole village.”
“Right… it’s nearly ten, will they be up?”
“Who, the Browns? I don’t think that they sleep much anymore.” Bryan replied.
“Will they agree to my helping them?”
“They’ve already got an interest in the occult –not like you.. but I think that they’ll accept whatever help you could possibly give.”
“If you could go in and tell them about me whilst I go and take a reccy of their cottage… I don’t know exactly what I’m dealing with yet. The grid feels like it’s been disrupted but I can’t tell by who or how powerful they are. Something feels very wrong… to disrupt the grid takes power and knowledge but it’s the possession that feels strictly amateurish.”
“What do you think you’ll find?”
“I don’t know yet. I don’t want to prejudice things by having a pre-conceived idea, but you think you can do that for me?”
“What, act as your agent? Course!” The humour was misplaced but I let it slide.

But I let too much slide, I didn’t want to believe that Bryan was that far into things. It’s easier, after all, to place the blame on other people’s shoulders but I should’ve been more careful. I let my curiosity and pride cloud the way.
I could feel someone above me now, scrabbling on the earth over my burial site. Thank god – course, I didn’t know who it was. It wouldn’t take them long to get me out, I just hoped that they were friendly.

As I thought, there were four marker points to act as a barrier at the cardinal points, but was that to keep the energies out or in?
They were child’s play to defuse. Just stones wrapped in parchment, muddied enough to blend in. On the inside of the parchment would be writing of some form or another, a statement of intent no doubt, to cause harm to those who lived within. I half expected them to be booby trapped so I didn’t pick them up initially; they had to be neutered first.
Normally I would’ve urinated on them, but I don’t think that the Brown’s would have relished me pissing on their gardens, what would the neighbours think?
Luckily there are always multiple ways of doing things and I had in my back pocket a bottle of holy water. Always prepared! Experience has taught me some very valuable lessons, often through the hard way (but as my mentor once said to me, is there really any other way?).
I doused the stones as there were runes scratched onto the surface; someone really wasn’t taking any chances. As funny as it sounds, their penmanship was appalling, for if intent is the key to all things magic then concentration and skill denote a magus. This was shoddy but the knowledge behind it was far beyond the skill level exhibited.
I was beginning to understand exactly what was happening; it wasn’t normal at all, but there was a practice of using a surrogate to carry out all the dirty work, thereby concealing the true intentions.
This took a lot of energy and thought, and meant that I could be in deep shit if I wasn’t careful. However it could also work to my benefit. If, and it was a big if, if it was the surrogate that was being used to possess and drain the child then I could use that to my advantage. If it wasn’t then I could be in a world of pain –only one way to find out!

Jim Brown was fighting a losing battle, still trying to remain polite to strangers when his daughter was losing her fight for life. Amanda Brown wouldn’t leave her side now, she was almost without hope, by maybe that was where I came in.
I explained to them both what was happening, what I was expecting to find and what I was going to do next.  I also told them that there was a large element of risk involved,
“Look, I know that if we do nothing then our daughter is dead; I have no illusions, Mr Paige. But if there’s even a ten percent chance of you saving her then I’m prepared to accept those odds.” Jim had lost none of his determination and I nodded. “And if what you say is true and you could very well end up hurting those that are behind all this then so much the better!”
“The other person may be completely innocent about what’s going on.” I replied solemnly.
“There’s no such thing.”

I scanned Amy’s bedroom and only one thing seemed out of place, but I needed confirmation from the family.
“What’s the most recent toy of Amy’s? It might be the one that she’s most attached to as well.”
Jim and Amanda shared glances that confirmed my suspicions.
“How did you know?” Amanda asked, pointing to the bear that Amy clung to.
“Now, I’m going to need it taken from her, and I think it’s best that you give it to me. I’m sorry if this upsets her further but I’m going to have to destroy it.” Jim nodded and handed me the bear despite the weak protestations from Amy.
“How did you know?” He asked.
“Did you get it at a jumble sale? Bric-a-brac? Let me guess, it was actually handed to her.”
Again the strained disbelief glanced between them. “It’s an old trick, the person probably wasn’t even aware of the significance of it.” This was unlikely, but I didn’t want any acts of vigilantism, besides I needed access to them myself.

Right then, when the spade finally hit the coffin lid, I nearly lost it. I actually started to panic; Just like in the movies I started shouting; as ridiculous as it sounds… I mean, why else would anyone be digging a hole in the ground at that time of night? So I stopped myself… too little, too late though, as the coffin lid was torn free and I was face to face with the last person I expected to see.
“Well… you certainly fucked up this time, boy!” She said, echoing my earlier sentiments.

An hour later, safe and warm, which is more than I deserved under the circumstances. I’ve a cup of coffee in my left hand and a chocolate digestive in the other, ready for dunking.
“So… what happened then? You discovered that the fetish was in the bear, so how did you approach the possession itself? I don’t remember that being in the curriculum. No wonder you fucked it up!”
And she was supposed to me my friend!
But even that wasn’t strictly true. A begrudging friend would probably be closer. Ruth started out as my mentor when things first went bad for me. I was drawn to her after a cursory meeting at a psychic fayre. She was one of the many mediums displaying their wares and she insulted me during the whole reading, but each of the insults hit home. I needed to know why and so spent three painful years unravelling the whole story. At least, that was the initial theory, but I sometime wonder whether I actually made things worse; still, at least I’d gathered enough material to write my first two novels!
We kinda fell out after that. She was getting more manipulative and I didn’t like the direction she’d chosen for me… we had a parting of the ways and a very tense argument or three.
And this was the first time we’d spoken since then!
“Oh, you’re going to love this..” I replied.
“You allowed yourself to be possessed, so you could get information and kill the host; right?” She interrupted. Don’t let the pink punk hairstyle fool you; Ruth’s no idiot, despite being over seventy years old her temper is just as boiling, her tongue just as acerbic and mind just as sharp as it ever was.
“Well, yes… and it worked… I’d figured that they were using a cipher as a go-between and I wagered that I’d be stronger than the cipher. I’d already pinned it down to a person in the village and reckoned that I could beat them easily.”
“So what’s it like being so wrong?”
“But I wasn’t… things got ropey for a while, apparently. I nearly ended up killing the family..”
“Bloody idiot! I always told you that you’d fuck up one time, didn’t I?”
“But I got back.. eventually… I sensed what was happening and managed to sever the connection. I came back and all was well with the girl.”
“So how did you end up in the coffin?”
“Ah… well – I got no information from the first time that I went in…. so I tried it again. Even though the girl’s connection had been severed I could still make contact with the cipher. I felt that there was another presence in its mind, something hidden and I wanted to find out what it was…. So I went in again… that evening… when there was nobody else watching.”
Ruth laughed mockingly. “Andy you never once thought that that would be a bad idea? Like it may have been an elaborate trap?”
“Well… yes…” I agreed, blushing. “I thought I was well protected though. I never envisaged that there would be that amount of psychic ensnarement. It took me a couple of hours to get back in to my body and by the time I did I was buried alive. Not exactly the best way to spend a night.”
“Fucking idiot.” She chastised and I could only nod. “More than you deserve though. I mean, how could you be so fucking stupid? Did it not occur to you the power behind this? You’re nothing to these people! I used to tell you, even when we first met, the nature of the black. Even after what happened in Paris, but you still don’t get it. This is not a game – you’re lucky to be alive! They shred minds as well as souls and yours would be nothing to them!”
“Thanks –your support is greatly appreciated.”
“Fuck you, Alex. You call me out at stupid fucking o’clock so now you can hear me bitch, and you know I’m right –goddamnit!”
“Yes.. I’m sorry…” She was right, as always.
“So, what are you going to do now?”  
“Go home, get some sleep and then figure out how to put the village back on the energy grid, so to speak.”
“How the fuck are you going to do that? What makes you think you stand a chance?”
“I have no idea.” I yawned, “but I have an idea that it starts with the church, so that’s where my second port of call is, after bed.” I tried to unsuccessfully stifle another yawn.
“Be careful about the church.” Ruth cautioned. “It’s guarded.”
“I’ve no doubt about that, but by what exactly?”
“An ancient power that’s been perverted by the black, it won’t take kindly to you snooping around at night.”
“Who said I’d be doing it at night?” Ruth fixed her gaze at me and I smiled. “Yeah, ok – I don’t want to be snooping around when just anyone can see me, beside it makes sense to do it at night… don’t worry, I’ll make sure that I’m protected.”
“Like you were tonight?”
“Look –the world breaks everyone, Ruth..”
“But you might not get the chance to shoot yourself…”
“Touché.” On that note I left Ruth. I knew better than to expect words of encouragement from her, if I survived the next night then we’d surely meet up again… I just hoped that whatever I was going to learn was worth it.

Unsurprisingly, by the time I got back to my cottage I was pretty damn tired. Not tired enough to do a cursory check of the property though. That would have been the easiest way to get caught out, through my carelessness; but there had been no attempts to seize the cottage. That struck me as odd, but I filed it for later and checked my watch. Ye Gods, it was ten after four in the morning! I needed sleep over everything else.
I created a cocoon of protection around me and a barrier around the cottage. If anything tried to get through I’d be woken. With those in place I slept dreamlessly.

I awoke feeling refreshed but still befuddled about what was going on. It was the timing that still bothered me. It was no secret that the black was highly operational –after all, there was the alchemist scandal back in the 1980’s which was never really cleared up but, by and large, they kept themselves off of the radar. So why now? Why make such a blatant attack against the village –especially a village that had no significance whatsoever? The only thing that it had going for it was John Wayne visiting it in the 70’s whilst on location. Apart from that, I was the only resident who had made anything of themselves and, even though I could be pretty egotistical sometimes, I knew I was strictly small-fry for these people, and there were far easier ways to ensnare the bigger fish.
I looked at my watch –it was ten after seven in the evening and it was starting to get dark out, good. By the time I’d fixed something to eat there’d be no one around.
An hour later and I’d fixed up my backpack ready for the evenings activities: a thermos flask of holy water and various bits of paraphernalia. I performed a few protection visualisations and was ready for whatever was going to happen.

I could wax lyrical about the Norman aspects of the church but it’s pointless. Suffice to say that it was an important site, important enough to have a three thousand year old yew tree in its grounds; and, despite what you may have heard, yew trees are gateways to other consciousnesses if used correctly, and it was now the target of the attacks. My first hunch had been correct and it was only because of I’d been distracted by Bryan that I’d not followed up on it….
Of course, that made perfect sense to me now. The whole thing had been stalling me, but not anymore. It was time to do something and fight back. If Ruth was correct then something had trapped the energy and perverted it.
Once in the churchyard I walked to the yew and even in the darkness I could find it. I’d been christened in the church so this, to me, was extra personal, which meant that I had to be careful not to let my feelings get in the way.
The moon poked out of the clouds, but most of it was in hiding –smarter than me, obviously. I sat with my back against the yew with both my feet firmly planted on the ground. Both of my palms were on the ground as well.
I didn’t bother with the circle of protection for I knew the tree itself would be enough. It hadn’t been gotten to yet, I could feel that its own defences were still too powerful so I envisaged a circle of light around us and dug my roots deep down to mingle my energies with the yews.
Growing the roots is a powerful meditation technique to gain strength and anchor oneself to the ground, which is especially useful in confrontations such as this.
I sat there for an hour and couldn’t have asked for a nicer night, which didn’t really make sense. It was almost clear with very few clouds, no ill winds; nothing to corroborate the feelings I’d had earlier. Everything was almost too peaceful.
It was then that I felt it. A roar of wind pinned me to the tree taking the breath right from me. If I hadn’t been rooted down then lord knows what might have happened. I couldn’t see what had caused the roar but felt a powerful energy, dense and very angry. It knew I was there and saw me as an intruder. I had to face it, if I turned to run then it would cut me down mercilessly. At least this way I stood a fighting chance.
I dug my roots ever deeper, gathering more power into my body, ready to use it. The entity must have realised what I was doing for it bellowed again and came closer though I still couldn’t see it.
What I felt was its immensity and its anger; I had no idea it would be this powerful, yet I sensed nothing malevolent about it. I remembered Ruth warning me and readied myself for the attack. If I didn’t strike now then I’d be too shit scared to even try.
The entity knew what I was doing and I felt it tense, readying itself for the retaliation, but it did nothing to provoke me.
This wasn’t right; nothing about this was right. If what Ruth had said was true then I should have been dead by now. The entity should either have attacked. It could have easily obliterated me, I could see that now. The two bellows had been displays of power, warnings, nothing more. If it was evil I would never have been given any warning. That meant that Ruth had been wrong… or lying?
Oh dear God, I was in trouble now. Once again, I’d found myself in a near impossible situation. Rather than being buried alive I was now trespassing and meddling with things I really shouldn’t be. This was a guardian, warning me to back off and, unless I was mistaken, I had already taken things much too far to back down now. I’d been set up.
I couldn’t fight the guardian, but what else could I do? What happens when an unstoppable force meets an unyielding object?
And then it was obvious, I yield. Immediately I let the shield of light down and withdrew my roots from the yew allowing the guardian access to me. This was surely suicidal for if I was wrong then…

I felt the guardian draw closer, the very air becoming tangible with the power. I felt myself grow warmer, a pulsing love enveloped me and I saw a large ball of light appear. It moved until it was at eye level before moving closer to me still. A sense of peace and wonderment filled me. I’d obviously done the right thing; by opening myself, allowing myself to be vulnerable, I was no longer a threat and the guardian reciprocated in kind, showing me its true form.
When the light passed through me I felt as if I’d been scanned… that’s the only analogy that I can use. I felt known by the guardian as we became one and felt nothing but love.
When the glow left me and the guardian receded I broke down and cried. I’m not ashamed to admit that, I wept like a child. The love had been so powerful that I couldn’t bear to be separated by it. I also felt rejuvenated, stronger than I had felt in months.
And I also knew why this had all been happening and what had been the catalysing incident.

I now knew what had to be done, but I needed the more specialist equipment that what was in my knapsack; two things specifically. One of which was a spear fashioned from the wood of the very yew tree I was sworn to protect that had been given to me some years before, and the other was water from the Maidens Cup.
Legend has it that the Maidens Cup was where St Leonard slew the dragon that had been terrorising the area, using a local virgin as bait. The virgin’s blood fell onto the ground and from that time water has always sprung up with a reddish tinge. Obviously that’s a load of crap, it’s just the site of a local spring; its coppery colour due to the amount of iron in the earth.
In order to protect myself from whatever was surrounding the place I not only had to bathe in the vile liquid but also had to drink it –that’s what the guardian had told me when we merged. I had to be one, both within and without, with the spirit of the Maiden, in order to be its protector.
Luckily it was still in the middle of the night and the Maidens Cup was down a steep slope which I’d like to say I traversed without a problem… Unfortunately I actually slid down the steep bank on my arse. I figured it was better to drink from it first then bathe and within twenty minutes I was ready to face whatever was in the wood. I was careful enough to anoint my spear as well, everything needed to be pure and as one. I had no idea what I would be facing in the wood so needed as much protection as I could.

The wood had been my favourite childhood haunt. I’d spent so many happy hours reading, safely ensconced within the embrace of the trees. I saw so many deer in my time and shared many magical moments with them. It broke my heart to be there now; its aura had changed completely. With only one footstep I knew that it had been taken over by something dark and evil, and that’s a word that I don’t use lightly.
We use that word without really understanding it; we say that a person’s evil when what we really mean is that they’re a right bastard. Evil is a feeling that sits in the pit of your stomach and churns, contracts and eats away like cancer. It infects everything it comes in contact with until there’s nothing else.
The Dew family would never have stood a chance, dogs or no dogs. They would’ve fallen prey to the woods own defences without the Alsatian’s attacking them. I didn’t have long myself though. Bathing in the Maidens Cup gave me an hour at best, and I didn’t plan on being there that long, to be honest!
I mentally checked my knapsack again: holy water, check; pen knife, check; spear, check… Talk about travelling light… Thing is, there was nothing else I could really take with me, save a twelve bore shotgun and I’d never really fired one of them before.
I walked on drawing a map in my mind as to where I needed to go. If I remembered correctly the power place, the very heart of Slaughly was in the middle of the Daffodil Dell, but I doubted very much that anything grew there now.

I walked carefully trying not to make a sound, but with every footstep there were the requisite crunches and snaps of branches and leaves so I resided to walk normally. I figured that my presence had been sensed the moment I entered the wood anyway, so walking carefully was actually hindering my progress. The wood was dreamily quiet, the moon adding a deathly pallor, heightening the tension I was already feeling.
I knew that nothing would attack until I’d reached the Dell. They would have the advantage of being on higher ground. I also knew that there was nothing I could do to really prepare myself, I just had to be hyper-aware and not let my guard down for a second.
Of course, it was then that they attacked. I never even heard them; I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts. Forget the horror movie cliché of the snapping teeth, the first dog launched at me from behind, knocking me off my feet. It went straight for my left arm and sunk its teeth into my flesh. I screamed out and tried to shake it off, but it hung on. I could see the other two togs circle, ready to join the fray.
I had to do something fast. Drawing deep from within myself I recited the spell of Inner Light and spat into the eyes. There was a blinding flash as the water from the Maidens Cup transubstantiated into pure energy. That was something I knew could only happen once; the guardian must be helping me as much as it could.
The dog was thrown off and cowered. I pushed myself up, digging my roots deep into the clean earth and held my spear up like a quarterstaff. I chanted, praying to the guardian for strength, as the second dog launched at me. I whirled around, side stepping it completely and gave it a large whack with the spear just as the third one came at me. It went for the spear, taking me completely off balance as the first one tried again. The third dog let the spear go as the first one lunged at me –bathing the spear had given it protection and the dog couldn’t keep hold of it. I twisted it so it took the first dog by surprise and managed to stab it in its flank. It was out of the battle, leaving just two more.
They attacked together. I managed to kill one of them out right, striking into its mouth as it lunged, but the other one got hold my wrist and crunched hard; I screamed with the pain again and fell on it hoping that my weight would make it let go but it didn’t.
By now the blood loss was getting to me and I was on adrenaline alone. I wasn’t sure if I had much more left but there was no way I was going to give up; there was too much at stake.
Ignoring the pain as much as I could I wrapped my other arm around the dogs neck. It was already in a difficult position and had no manoeuvrability. I called upon every deity I could think of to give me the strength I needed. With one swift snap I broke its neck, but my wrist was badly mangled. My days of badminton were over… luckily I hated the sport.
Two of the dogs were dead for sure, but I couldn’t leave the other one suffering –I wasn’t a sadist. I picked up the spear and stabbed it through the heart.
It was then that I made the unfortunate discovery. The sharp pain in my hand where the dog had bitten me was in fact where two of my fingers being severed, brilliant. I took my handkerchief out and tied a tourniquet as best as I could. I didn’t have time to deal with it properly as I‘d only accomplished half of what I set out to do, and in one bizarre way losing the fingers may have actually worked in my favour.
I staggered into the Daffodil Dell and knelt at its heart. I could tell this was where the magicks had first taken place; I also knew why the family had been attacked, and what I had to do to end it all.
I undid my backpack and took out the holy water. The pen knife was there, originally so I could take some of my own blood to use as a sacrifice to open the grid again, but luckily there was plenty leaking from all over my body, so I held my mangled hand over the flask and mixed it with the holy water. I was really shaky now,  the adrenaline was wearing off, let alone the Maidens protection. This had to end.
Digging down as far as I could with my hands, I then pierced the earth with the spear, and poured in the mixture of the holy water and blood asking the Great Spirit to accept my sacrifice and cleanse the energy grid of the great wrong that had been done to it. I called on the guardians of the cardinal points to wreak great vengeance on those that dared to defile the sanctuary of the soil and the Spirits of the air and water to set things right again.
I’m not sure what I expected…  a great rush of wind, a crash of thunder or flash of light.. or even a scream, but nothing happened… except for a definite “Wooooh” of an owl in the branches above. I could clearly see it in the moonlight; I’m sure it winked at me before flying off. You can’t say fairer than that. In fact, on the journey out of the wood, it was as if it had woken up again –all I could hear were things scurrying about. That was as good a sign as any… which left me only one more thing to finish off… Ruth.

She wasn’t surprised to find me knocking on her door for the second time at an ungodly hour, and as I expected, she was all dolled up in her regalia. She was in her finery; black dress, purple cloak and even the requisite black eye make-up and lipstick like some septuagenarian Goth.
“When did you know it was me?” She asked when she invited me inside.
“I thought it was odd that you answered my psychic s.o.s. when you did… and I don’t think it was to make sure I was alright either… that must’ve surprised you…I reckon you were going to be the one to convert me regardless, after all you had a vested interested in me, didn’t you?” Ruth nodded and motioned for me to continue. She kept both hands behind her back and the cloak concealed too much for me to discern what she was planning. Truth be told, I was too tired and bleeding profusely to put up any kind of a fight and she knew it. I continued: “You slipped up with the guardian though. Did you really think that I’d try to pick a fight with something like that? I mean, I know I’ve done some bloody stupid things in my time but I’ve always had respect! The moment I realised how you’d set me up I let my guard down to it…”
“You always made a habit of doing that, didn’t you? You’ll never learn, Alex.” Her movements were fluid and I never saw what she did, just felt the dagger as it pierced my gut. I never stood a chance. “Shhh..” She whispered to me as I collapsed. She fell with me, but gracefully as if she had all the time in the world. She sat on top of me and twisted the knife. “Shhh.. it will soon be over… Bleed for me and it will be done. You may have cleansed Slaughley but it’s just one square on our board; there are plenty of others. Lie still, this won’t hurt a bit.” She twisted the blade deeper. It was then that she stopped and looked at me, alarm registering in her eyes. She saw the dagger in my stomach and the gaping wound that was now appearing in her own.
“That’s the thing about offering oneself as sacrifice. If it’s accepted it’s better than a get out of jail free card. I made a promise that I would bring the people who perpetrated this travesty to justice and now that I’ve found you,  I guess I have. It’s you that never stood a chance, Ruth.”
I pushed her away from me and took out the knife from my expansive gut; there was no wound. Ruth, on the other hand, was now bleeding badly.
“Please.. finish me.” She begged.
“You must think I’m daft!” I spat. “No, I’m going to watch you suffer, bitch… just as you made all those families suffer.” She tried to push me away to escape but I was having none of that. I got the spear which was liberally coated with the blood from her dogs and broke it into three pieces. With each crack I heard the bones in her body break, such was the power of sympathetic magic.
She pleaded for me to forgive her and I tried to remember all that she had done for me, but all I could see was the face of Amy Brown as the curse worked its way through her body, and I watched the life’s blood drain from Ruth. When I was sure she was dead I took great pains to burn her place the fuck down.

There was no way she was coming back this time….

1 comment: