A VIRGA MYSTERY
The Invisible Girl: Entry 1d
Dan didn’t lunge though. He stared at Melissa for a moment, then he laughed out loud. It wasn’t a very nice laugh.
“So, you figured that much out, did you?” he retorted. “Damn. You’re better at your work than others give you credit for. It was your last question of me on Friday that gave it away, I suppose?”
“It confirmed my suspicions,” Melissa acknowledged. “But even so, there were lots of little things I’d wondered about before. For instance, why such a vague description of Danielle to me that first time? You didn’t even mention her glasses, yet you could provide information about her nail polish when asked. And why would Danielle have a name so close to your own in the first place? It made me question what might be closer to the truth… a reasonably good looking boy creating a shy young girl to have someone to play with… or a shy young GIRL creating a tall, handsome man to help her feel safe.”
I looked from Melissa to Dan to Danielle. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I heard myself say. “You mean Dan is imaginary?”
“Right,” Dan grunted, seemingly more to Melissa than me. “So when you asked about my first bully, and I couldn’t answer…”
“Yes, well, even setting aside your lacklustre attitude through this case, and the way you seemed to base that answer on what would win me my bet… anyone with a memory for nail polish and blue blankets should have had a better recollection of their first tormentors. Unless, of course, the tormentee hadn’t existed yet, at that point in time. Those blue blankets, they really were Danielle’s, I presume.”
“I… I don’t understand,” Danielle murmured. “What’s she talking about, Dan?”
Dan rolled his eyes. “She means you’re real, dope. I centred in on you a long time ago, not that I’ve ever let you remember.” He smiled nastily. “You were the invisible girl, Danielle. The girl no one ever noticed. After appearing in the guise of your imaginary friend a few times, it was easy enough to switch places with you. My only concern was your parents, but it wasn’t hard to convert their minds. They’d always expected a son, blue blankets and all.”
“Hold on,” I cut in. “Does that mean that if Danielle becomes real again, Dan returns to… where, exactly?”
“The other side,” Melissa remarked. “Supernatural balance. Of course, this exchange shouldn’t have been possible in the first place, not without Danielle’s permission.”
Dan grimaced. “I should have simply eliminated the girl when I had the chance,” he grumbled. “If only her etherial form and childish nature hadn’t been so useful to me… and now I’ve been a human for so long, I can’t do the required magick to take care of things myself. So I gambled on being able to manipulate your agency. Still, I’ll be damned before I let anyone take me down after all this time!”
He lunged for Melissa then, but I think she’d been anticipating that, as she easily dodged to the side. Her size helped to make her a small target. I barely got out of the way myself, before Dan was at the door. I figured on him charging through, maybe locking us in, but instead he grabbed the block of wood Melissa had used to keep the door open. He heaved it back towards one of the upright mirrors.
Of course. If any of the mirrors were shattered, this realism ritual was toast.
“Declino!” Melissa cried out, extending her palm.
There was a small flash of light and the wood spun off course, smashing the overhead lightbulb instead. (Declino meaning essentially ‘deflect’, by the way. Like Melissa’s last name, “Virga”, she draws spells from the latin.) The door, no longer being propped open, now clanged shut.
Then Melissa’s flashlight clicked off, and the room went dark. If there was another light source, I hadn’t seen it. So, Dan was still in there with us. Ready to attack. Except, for right now no one was moving – it was taking all of our eyes a moment to adjust.
“He’s sizing me up,” I heard Melissa whisper during that moment. I jumped. It sounded as if she was leaning in right next to my ear, but when I put my arm out, it encountered nothing but air.
“James, I’m talking to you using a form of ventriloquism, so there’s no point whispering back,” she continued, as if reading my mind. “But listen very carefully to what I say next.”
Melissa began to speak a lot faster, yet still in hushed tones. “I can’t attack Dan directly while he’s in a human form, because I’d be forcing magick on him and would thus suffer consequences myself,” she explained. “There are related issues with casting on myself. So, Plan A, I’d like your permission to give you a quick burst of strength for about 10 seconds. That should allow you to take Dan out. Call out if you accept this!”
I was still trying to process that, when I heard Dan make his move just off to my right. Meaning no time to ask about Plan B. Fine, what the hell, you only live once, right? Besides, it may be that a part of me figured I had to do something to make it feel like the night hadn’t been a total wash.
“I accept,” I called out, jumping to intercept Dan.
“Convalesco!” Melissa shouted just before Dan plowed into me. (Another crude translation for you is ‘to gain strength’… personally, I’m now thinking I should pick up latin as an elective course.)
Anyway, Dan struck me, and more or less rebounded. Stumbling a bit myself, I heard an exclamation of surprise. To Dan’s credit, he not only stayed on his feet, when I next jabbed at him in the face, he must have seen my hand coming up because he was able to dodge back.
The next thing I knew, Dan’s fist connected with my gut, and I doubled over, falling to the ground, the wind knocked out of me. Great, whatever strength I’d received didn’t last long, I thought. But even on the floor I didn’t immediately give up, moving to sweep my leg out, in an attempt to take Dan down.
I put all the force I had into that move, knowing it would probably be my only chance, and to my surprise, when I connected with Dan’s lower legs it was like he’d been whacked with an iron bar. Whereas I hardly felt anything at all. He collapsed to the ground with a shout of surprise and I heard a thwacking noise as his head hit the floor, as he had not had enough time to break his fall.
“I’m still strong,” I blurted out in surprise. And then just like that, I knew I wasn’t, as the dull ache in my gut became an explosion of pain. I’m pretty sure I groaned.
Melissa’s flashlight clicked back on, illuminating both me and Dan’s unconscious form. “Knee jerk reaction of your body to fold when hit,” she observed matter-of-factly. “Just because you have increased strength, doesn’t mean you can disregard your natural instincts. Or your need to breathe. Still, you got the job done, that’s good. Now, can you help me with this mirror?”
“Geez, you’re welcome,” I wheezed back sarcastically, clutching at my sides.
She blinked at me with her gorgeous, yet at that point quite uncompassionate, green eyes. “You’ll be in a lot more pain in 56 seconds if we don’t get this mirror repositioned,” Melissa said after a few more moments of staring.
I blinked at her, then to where she was gesturing, namely where the timer was still counting down on the natural gas pipes. “Oh heck,” I groaned, stumbling to my feet.
“Danielle, where exactly does this need to be?” the brunette detective asked, turning the one mirror away from the wall. The short blonde didn’t respond, and I saw now that she had simply sat herself down on the floor mirror and was staring vacantly into space.
“This was meant to be a surprise… for our mutual birthdays…” Danielle murmured abstractedly. “And now… well, no wonder we have the same birthday…”
“Danielle?” I called out to her, even as I moved to help Melissa.
“Never mind, lost cause,” Melissa sighed. “She’ll get a good chunk of her memory back though, after the transition. Anyway, pretty sure I can figure out where this needs to be…”
“Pretty sure? Melissa, isn’t the fate of the physics building, not to mention our very lives, hanging on the line here?!”
“Panic isn’t helpful, James. Now, help me shift the glass a bit this way, and angle it thusly,” she replied calmly (obliviously??), after training her flashlight beam around the room. She then moved next to the timing device (27… 26… 25…) shining the light onto the mirror in question.
The angle was such that the beam reflected down onto the mirror beneath Danielle, back up to the second upright mirror, and then, seemingly impossibly, back to where the light was striking the first mirror. Like a bizarre never-ending triangle had been created – the glass on one mirror must have been warped in some way.
“Good enough,” Melissa decided. She scooped her purse back up and pulled out a necklace of some sort, which then she pulled over Dan’s head.
“Banishing amulet?” I wondered.
“Exiling spell,” Melissa said. “Cheaper, even if at sixty-three dollars, it still puts me in the red. But what can you do? Now let’s get out.”
The last she said in her firm, no-nonsense tone, so I was backtracking even before I noticed the timing device ticking down past 7 seconds. Melissa was hot on my heels, all the while chanting something in Latin which was pretty incomprehensible – I won’t bother to reproduce it.
I got to the door, we both charged through, and Melissa concluded her spell by spinning back towards the doorway, throwing out her arms in some mystic gesture. At that point I heard clearly, “Die dulci fruere!” (You can look that one up yourself.)
The papers Melissa had placed around the frame lit up with a bright glow just as the explosion went off. The door, which had been swinging closed again, was jarred off it’s hinges by the force of the blast, tongues of flame licking out from around the metal.
A few of Melissa’s paper wards caught fire. In fact, I could feel the whole building shake, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I probably screamed.
Then just like that, it was over.
Scorch marks were visible all around the remains of the doorway, and in fact when the little pieces of paper ceased their glowing, the smoking door itself collapsed right down onto the floor in front of me. As Melissa would have, had I not reacted quickly to catch her.
“Melissa! Are you all right?” I cried out.
She resembled a long distance runner who had just completed the marathon in record time. Her eyes were closed, she was breathing hard and there was a sheen of sweat causing some errant strands of hair to stick to her face in a bizarrely erotic manner. (Again, the sort of thing that would have worked better under different circumstances… I suppose you’ve gathered by now that I seem to have developed a bit of a crush on her.)
Melissa’s eyelids flickered open. “Geez, what in the devil did she use for the explosive?” the mystic detective muttered. “Containment spells shouldn’t be so hard to control.” With my help, she got back on her feet.
I was soon distracted by a quiet coughing, as Danielle stumbled out of the destroyed room. Her dress was in tatters, her glasses askew, and a bit of flying glass had apparently caught her in the arm – oh yes, the mirrors turned out to be quite destroyed – but otherwise she seemed none the worse for wear.
Danielle collapsed back against the wall. “I… I feel… I feel real again,” she murmured in a daze.
“You ARE real,” Melissa assured Danielle, wiping her arm across her own forehead. “Always were. What Dan took from you has been returned. In fact, no one outside of this limited area will even be aware of the switch back. You can live your life as if none of this had ever happened. Though there may be some questions as to how a female managed to get placed into the all male wing of a dorm.”
“Oh,” Danielle murmured quietly. Her brow furrowed. “Is that why I remember what he did now? That is, it feels like… like I did what he did. That is, everything he’s done since we were in grade school, I’ve done… that is…” She raised a hand to the side of her head. “I-I’ll need some time to figure this out…”
I peered back towards the scorched room, but didn’t see anyone else visible amid the carnage. “And Dan?” I mused aloud.
“He’s become spiritual again,” Melissa said absently as she set about retrieving the few mystic papers that remained undamaged. I wasn’t sure if it was so they could be reused, or simply to not have evidence of the supernatural lying around. “I’d have liked to banish him permanently, but the exiling spell – activated by his transition to a non-corporeal form – will at least keep him out of our realm for years,” Melissa explained. “If not decades. After all, nullifying it requires intelligence, and he didn’t seem to have too much of that.”
Danielle gave me an uncertain look, the confusion of her situation obviously becoming too much for her. I decided an explanation wouldn’t be of any help. “Let’s get your arm looked at, then you can go lie down,” I suggested to the blonde, venturing a reassuring smile.
“The sooner the better,” Melissa agreed, turning back to both of us. “After all, this building could still blow sky high. James, could you phone someone and tell them that there’s a natural gas leak here in the basement?”
“A… what?” I retorted. “But… your papers, the spell…”
“A containment spell won’t shut off a gas line, it just temporarily seals a room,” Melissa shot back, rolling her eyes. “The pipes themselves are now dangerously compromised. So, are you going to call it in, or will I?”
I think at this point I was opening and closing my mouth randomly, prompting Melissa’s sigh of, “Fine, I will. I suppose I would have anyway, if you hadn’t come along. Now, both of you, hurry up and get out of here!”
She physically pushed me and Danielle out towards the stairs. At that point our instincts took over, and we rushed outside. Once there, I turned around to say something else to my roommate, but she had already hurried off to parts unknown. Presumably to make the phone call.
There isn’t much more to tell, really.
I got Danielle to the campus centre for her arm, and when she arrived back at ‘her’ dorm, she found a room transfer notification on her door. I asked Melissa about this, and whether we should be doing something more for Danielle, but Melissa considered this case closed. Reality was just reasserting itself based on the supernatural events that had occurred, she explained idly. As to the explosion, the campus newspaper headlines read ‘small earthquake causes natural gas leak’, and it barely made local news.
That’s actually part of the reason I asked Melissa for permission to write this all down. It feels like there should be a record of what really happened somewhere.
Now, I’m not certain if I’ve done this case justice – in fact, I’m fairly sure I haven’t – but perhaps I’ll improve on that in time. If you’re willing to keep reading. I am only a first year student, after all. And, unless I want to become a chicken instead, I’m stuck rooming with Melissa too. At least her cases seem liable to be just as interesting as they are strange!
END CASE 1
NEXT CASE: Net Worth