A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT
ACT 2c: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES
Melissa responded to Charlie’s leap by reaching up towards me, and grabbing Trixie’s cloves of garlic out of my hand.
I had pulled them out as I reached the bedroom doorway. I’d had no real plan, other than throwing them at the vampyre, but Melissa must have seen them out of the corner of her eye, and she had a better idea.
She pressed the cloves between her palms, saying, “Sublimare.”
When she next opened her palms, the solid garlic had become completely gaseous. A gas which the vampyre inhaled as he again attempted to go for Melissa’s neck.
The vampyre (and Charlie?) screamed.
He screamed like he had just inhaled acid or something, loud enough for me to think that we’d finally alerted the neighbours to something happening here. The vampyre then clawed briefly at its neck, and collapsed. Or rather, Charlie’s body collapsed, as Melissa was about to clarify.
“The Culicinae spirit’s fled,” Melissa said, visibly shaken as she attempted to get back onto her feet.
I gave her a hand in rising, and she shot me a look of thanks. It was surprising how much that made this feel like old times.
“It’ll have retreated back to safety, with the Somnalibus,” Melissa added. “Thus inside Amy’s dream. We’ll need to retrieve the demonic control object, then return to the hotel so that I can perform another invocation, allowing us inside your friend’s dream world. To deal with that vampyre spirit for good.”
“I’ve already been inside Amy’s dream,” I offered. “And I likely will be again. If that’s helpful.”
In fact, it had happened to me once more on my trip over here. Fortunately, not for long, and as I was driving away from an intersection, so not at high speed. Otherwise, there could have been an accident.
Melissa shot me a look of mild surprise. I don’t often manage to elicit that sort of response from her, and felt perversely pleased.
“You were holding the knife too,” she deduced immediately. “Okay, I can work with that. First, to the washroom.”
By which she meant the last room in the apartment that she hadn’t investigated. Immediately upon opening the door, she saw that the oddly ornate mirror, which was hung overtop of the medicine cabinet, was emitting the glow she was looking for. It’s… probably best not to dwell on the fact that the bathroom had been selected as the location for spying on Amy’s dreams.
Melissa waved her palm over the glass.
“Okay, it’s all the vampyre’s doing,” she decided. “It trapped the Somnalibus here as a way of corrupting Halko, in order to eventually get itself a body.”
“Then Charlie’s innocent in all this?” I wondered.
Melissa shook her head. “Not really, he knew what he was doing. Okay James, first you kill or banish the vampyre that’s in Amy’s dream. Otherwise it might get strong enough to escape back into its realm.”
I frowned. “But don’t you want it to go back in its realm? Rather than running loose in ours?”
“He seemed more the type to return here with friends. I think we have to nip this one in the bud. Now, once you’ve dealt with him, I’ll shatter the mirror to release the Somnalibus – which will also eliminate the peculiar crack that this object seems to have generated between us and the Culicinae. Understood?”
I did, actually. Which didn’t mean there weren’t problems. “Thing is, I have no more garlic to attack the vampyre with.”
“Irrelevant, you’ll have to use dream world garlic anyway. Don’t worry, so long as our vampyre is in there, he’s vulnerable to that reality.”
“Amy’s dreams also have no garlic though,” I added.
“Makes sense, because the vampyre was controlling Amy’s dreams through Charlie. However, the Somnalibus should be able to exert more control now, if Amy allows him. Which she can do, seeing as she’s now lucid dreaming. Besides, there’s always the knife, decapitation kills most anything.”
“Um, and how exactly are we supposed to identify this demon – or the vampyre, for that matter?”
“It’s Amy’s dream, not mine,” Melissa said, starting to sound irritated. “Check inside lamps, maybe? You know her better than I do, James, you’ve just spent several weeks with the girl.”
“But I don’t–”
And with the momentary ringing in my ears, I was back inside Amy’s dream.
We seemed to be in a movie theatre now, in the main lobby. There were a handful of others present, but I was able to spot Amy once more, by virtue of her purple hair. I even managed to walk towards her this time, reality not reasserting itself quite as fast as before.
It seemed Amy was talking to a guy in a trench coat and hat. That was a new development.
“It could be an ex-boyfriend after me,” Amy was saying to TrenchCoat, before spotting my approach. “Oh, hello again James.”
I picked up on a bit of resentment there. I imagine she wasn’t thrilled with how I kept coming and going.
“And who’s this then?” TrenchCoat demanded.
“This is James. My current boyfriend,” Amy answered with a little sigh, before fully turning to me. “I was just explaining to Sham Spayed here about my stalker problem.”
The ‘boyfriend’ thing worried me, but then, this was her dream. I decided to take the comment in stride. “This is the private investigator you were going to see earlier,” I deduced. “The one who vanished.”
“Mmm,” Sham said, noncommittally. “Yeah, sorry about being called away suddenly, but I’m on the case now. So, Ms. Lampana, you said you had only a knife with which to defend yourself? Let me have a look at it.”
I immediately realized that the reappearance of the private investigator, and disappearance of the vampyre in reality, couldn’t be complete coincidence. Also, that it might be a bad idea, letting the PI have the knife that was acting as a focus for Amy’s lucid dreaming.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t voice any of that, because I again found myself back in Charlie Halko’s bathroom.
Melissa had apparently used the intervening time to pull the mirror down off the wall. (She later told me that she’d also checked that Charlie’s pulse was normal. In the end, once he came to, Charlie was pretty shaken by the incident. He swore off internet videos, which meant that Amy didn’t have to take out a restraining order against him.)
“We’re going back to the hotel,” the brunette declared, upon seeing me alert once more. She then half led, half dragged me back towards the apartment door, in passing switching off the lamp that she’d illuminated.
“Wait,” I protested, still parsing what I’d seen in Amy’s dream. “From what I just saw, I think I’d better return to the dreamworld, sooner rather than later.” Another thought occurred. “And is there some way to prevent me from being pulled back and forth at these really inconvenient times??”
“Let’s get to your car,” Melissa said succinctly. “Once there, I’ll put a conditional on you, allowing you to be in the dream permanently from that entry time up until, let’s say two minutes after you next touch the talisman knife. If you return to reality before I can enter as well, I’ll know it’s time to destroy the mirror. Sound good?”
“Two minutes? What if I need more time?”
“Don’t. I want to smash the mirror as soon after the vampyre’s defeat as possible, to prevent other incursions. But breaking it will free the demon, and subsequently cause Amy to wake up. You’ll really need to be out before then.”
“Oh, good…” I think that was Melissa’s way of telling me I might become trapped in the dream.
By this point we were in the hall, having closed Charlie’s apartment up. That seemed to be the cue for one of the adjacent apartment doors to open a crack.
“Hey, uh, did you hear screams?” a guy said tentatively from behind a chain lock.
“Tenant here REALLY didn’t like the mirror we brought him,” I offered up, thinking fast and gesturing at the object Melissa was holding.
“Ah.” A pause. “Right.” The guy’s door closed again.
People believe what they want to believe.
We hurried out to my car, this time with Melissa in the driver’s seat, the mirror tossed into the back. She turned to look at me.
“Incidentally, if you get the chance, ask the vampyre how it knew my name. If I’m becoming known outside of our realm, I’d like to know why. Now, are you ready?”
I took a deep breath. “I think I –”
“Dormis,” Melissa stated, tapping her index finger on my forehead.
I was back in the movie theatre.
The first thing I noticed was Amy and the PI both holding onto the knife from before, with him seemingly examining it. Now, I know that in theory once you start lucid dreaming, you don’t suddenly forget you’re in a dream, but we were bending the rules as it was – plus one can spontaneously wake up from a lucid dream, and I’m not sure where that would put me.
I quickly strode the two paces back over, saying, “Amy, don’t lose your grip on the knife.”
I almost reached out for it myself, before remembering that doing so would start the countdown for my own exit from the dreamworld. There was a lot to keep track of here.
Amy turned back to me. Her grip on the weapon remained firm, which was good as it seemed to me like Sham attempted to use her momentary distraction to jerk it away… but then maybe I was reading too much into him shifting his weight back and forth.
“James, can you stop running off already?” she said, trying not to sound exasperated (and failing).
“Yup,” I affirmed. “This time, I’m here until the conclusion.”
I shared a glance with Sham, the PI. His eyes narrowed a bit, but otherwise he remained pretty inscrutable.
“Fine, well, keep the knife then,” he concluded, releasing his own hold on the object.
Amy slipped it back into the pocket of the jacket she was wearing, still mostly looking at me. Possibly wondering if I was actually me, or if my declaration meant she’d manifested me as part of her dream. Hopefully my knowing about the knife’s significance was proof enough for her.
“Now, Ms. Lampana,” Sham droned on. “I know you said you preferred to keep somewhere public, but that won’t be possible all the time. Best we set up a situation now, where we can coax this stalker of yours out of hiding. We’ll confront him before he becomes violent.”
“Really?” Amy said, dubiously. She looked at me.
“Actually, yeah, the sooner the better,” I agreed.
My reasoning was, with too many people around, it would be really hard to get a read on where the vampyre was hiding. Moreover, if Sham’s setup seemed sketchy, I’d know he was the vampyre. Plus, in the back of my head, I was worried that the longer this went on, the more likely Amy would wake up of her own accord, possibly trapping me.
“Oh,” Amy concluded, rather nonplussed.
In retrospect, I completely understand her reaction. Sham and I were effectively telling Amy to put herself in harm’s way of a stalker. If it makes you feel any better about my insensitivity, Trixie gave me what for about this later, smacking my head as she pointed out that I was an idiot for not considering what kind of suggestion that was for a female.
“Don’t forget, ultimately you have control over what happens,” was all I said at the time.
She smiled uncertainly at that. After all, this was only a dream. A lucid dream that, by now, Amy should have had some control over.
Which was when it struck me how pedestrian things had remained. No magical beings or flying cars to be seen… Amy was either keeping things low key, or had not yet bothered to exert her will on the situation.
Had it been me lucid dreaming, I suspect by that point I’d have tried flying, or casting spells the way Melissa could. It made me even more aware of how incompatible Amy and I might be, long term.
“Good, then here’s what I’m proposing,” Sham went on, oblivious to the situation between us.