A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT
ACT 2d: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES
“Phone the airport,” Sham Spayed insisted to Amy. “Have them book you on a flight out of town first thing tomorrow morning. If this stalker is monitoring you to the extent that I think he is, he’ll know. This forces his hand, creates a countdown.”
“Oh good, another countdown,” Amy murmured.
Sham droned on regardless. “Next step, you leave the theatre here, take a newspaper, and walk by the park. Keep all your electronic devices on, in case that’s what he’s using to track you. Sit on a bench to read. As you do, I’ll keep an eye on things, from the shadows, and nab the guy if and when he turns up.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there on the bench with you,” I assured Amy, as she again looked dubious.
Sham shook his head. “No good. A perp like this is too smart to approach if you’re with her,” he said to me. “You can hang back with me, as long as you can keep quiet, but it’s got to look like Ms. Lampana’s alone. It’s fine, I gather he’s more likely to propose to her than stab her.”
I frowned, deciding to just come out with an accusation. “Sounds like you want to split us up, to knock me out before attacking her.”
“Whoa! Hey! SHE hired ME,” the PI countered indignantly. “And let me add that as the boyfriend, you ARE a prime suspect – if you even are who you claim to be?”
“Oh, stop,” Amy moaned. “Let’s just get this over with already. Catching this guy, that’s… that’s what ends this, right?”
The question was pretty much directed at me, as Amy had somehow sensed or decided that this would be the fix for the complications I’d mentioned to her before.
“I hope so,” was the best response I could give her.
“I’ll get the guy, don’t worry,” Sham asserted, giving me a look.
Amy could only sigh in response.
We went ahead with the plan. Amy booked the airline flight, grabbed a movie magazine, and headed out. I waited a couple beats along with Sham before following. The two of us were constantly exchanging uncertain glances – neither of us seemed to trust the other.
Consider, the original private investigator had most likely been Charlie, pulled back into reality by Melissa’s arrival. But, I wondered, did that necessarily mean that the vampyre spirt had again assumed the role?
Could the vampyre have instead had the Somnalibus pull a reset, the PI becoming a puppet, while it took on the guise of the stalker instead? It could now be biding it’s time until it felt recovered enough to attack.
I didn’t know, meaning I now had to keep an eye on both Sham (who might attack me) and Amy (who might be attacked).
It seemed to be nighttime in the dream world too, which didn’t help. I belatedly wished I was close enough to Amy to tell her to make it brighter, using her lucid dream abilities.
Instead, I could only watch as Amy chose a park bench relatively close to a lamppost, so that she could see her magazine. It was a type of lamp, I suppose that was fitting. I took up a position in the bushes nearby, slightly removed from Sham so that he couldn’t suddenly clock me in the back of the head.
We waited. A good five minutes passed.
I started to wonder about Melissa, whether she had reached the motel, and whether she might suddenly appear here too. How close was the passage of time in this dream a match to the real world? I’ve never had a conclusive answer to that question.
A businessman in a suit and tie passed by without incident. Then some woman in a track outfit ambled by, walking their dog. Next, a brunette girl with long hair appeared on the path, facing away from me. I leaned in a bit, twisting my head to see if that was actually Melissa.
Which let me see something else out of the corner of my eye, something approaching fast from above.
I rolled left. A figure landed exactly where I’d been crouching. It wasn’t Sham, I’d been keeping tabs on him too. No, this person had somehow been in the tree above me.
The shape turned to look at me, his eyes red, his forehead ridged. “You’re not supposed to be here with her,” the vampyre hissed.
I blew my cover. All I could think about was getting away, so I scrambled out of the bushes, heart racing, barely aware of the person in the overcoat sidling up to Amy as I ran towards her.
At the time, I was thinking that she was the one with the knife, and the power over what was her own dream, so she could save me. (Again, Trixie hit me for that when I was telling this story, because from Amy’s perspective, she was now being accosted on both sides, one side by Overcoat, the other by me and a vampyre.) To perhaps no one’s surprise, Amy froze up.
“Idiots,” I heard Sham say, somewhere off to my left. It sounded like he was now hurrying in as well.
Apparently, Sham the PI was on the level, whereas Amy now had both a stalker and a vampyre to deal with.
That’s when I got knocked to the ground from behind.
It’s only a dream, I told myself as I fell, attempting to defy physics by missing the ground, or at the least springing back up like an acrobat. Instead, I wrenched something, ending up flat on my face, my wrist hurting like hell.
I quickly rolled over while bringing my knee up, which ended up knocking the vampyre aside as it tried to jump on me (or over me?), buying us a few extra seconds.
“Amy,” I called out, tilting my head back. The upside down image I saw involved Amy looking shocked on the park bench, as Sham Spayed got Overcoat into an arm lock. “Do something?”
“What?” she protested.
I was tempted to say ‘anything’ but recognizing that she needed specific directions here, I opted for, “Exert your power and change the setting!”
It was too dark to see the vampyre properly, plus with any luck, a good dose of sunlight would do him in.
“To what?” she still questioned.
My attention was back on the vampyre, as I threw an arm over my lower face and neck. It loomed above me, about to jump again. I think I said something like, “Your favourite dream. Please, Amy, now!”
Have any of you wondered what it’s like to be an animated character, where suddenly a new cel background is dropped in behind you without warning? I’m guessing no, but know that this is the point when I felt about the same way that character would feel.
The park was gone.
So were the muted colours, everything was suddenly rather bright, and I was indoors, near a window. As such, before even taking stock of everything else, I rolled in that direction, into the sunbeam. Only when it didn’t seem like the vampyre was about to reach in after me, did I sit up to take stock of the situation.
This was a residential house. I think we were in the living room, by the hallway for the front door.
The vampyre was on the floor by the couch, also looking around. Sham Spayed seemed to be accosting the coat rack near the entryway, having an empty coat in an armlock. And Amy… well, her hair was no longer purple. But that was the only thing I immediately recognized about her.
She was standing in the middle of the room, holding an older looking lamp in her hands, while dressed head to toe in Arabic looking silks and translucent fabrics. Like a djinn, or genie, basically.
Looking back, the “Aladdin” story may have been where her fascination with lamps started. It was definitely the reason she hadn’t tried to exert control on the dream before, as she’d known this was where her desires would lead, and she hadn’t been certain it would be of any help.
(I can say that definitively because Amy admitted as much to me later. For the record, she didn’t want to talk much about what happened, but as far as this setting goes, she was willing to confirm what I already suspected. Being a genie was a fantasy of hers, and she’d held out some hope of trying this by herself… until I started popping in and out of the dreamworld, speaking about complications.)
“Boss?” Sham said, dropping the overcoat.
He was speaking to the vampyre, who was now rising off the floor. The private investigator’s features morphed then, changing him into a much older looking male with white hair, his height increasing by a few inches as well.
This was the Somnalibus.
The vampyre snarled in his direction. “I thought you still held a measure of control.”
The demon shrugged. “I do. So does she. I couldn’t get the knife away from her.”
“Why were you even helping her out?” the vamp continued. “I was planning on taking over the stalker persona once I’d dealt with Melissa’s interloper here.”
“Earning her trust. A concept I know you have difficulty with.”
Something in the demon’s tone made me look closer at him. He looked back at me, and for a split second, his expression verged on apologetic.
Had his attitude towards me been out of a belief that the vampyre held a measure of control over me? Or that I was some sort of test?
Either way, I judged here that the Somnalibus wasn’t an additional adversary. Not yet. It helped that I had a couple weeks of research to back up Melissa’s initial assessment back after my graduation, namely that these demons were non-confrontational by nature.
The vamp grumbled something under his breath before concluding, “No matter. As long as I feed on these two, I’ll gain enough strength to affect their reality. You just wait for my signal, demon. Since Charlie’s been marked, there will be an unavoidable time lag before I can locate and jump to another willing patsy.”
I struggled to my feet – doing so carefully, to avoid putting any weight on my sore wrist. “But Amy has control of this scene now,” I declared. “You’re at a disadvantage. Surrender, vampyre, and maybe we’ll go easy on you!”
The vampyre turned a look of disbelief on me. “Ha! One of Virga’s associates, showing mercy to an intruder from another realm? Are you stupid, or do you merely have absolutely no idea who you’re working for?”
I was reminded of how this guy knew about Melissa prior to their meeting. Somehow. “Melissa’s fair minded,” I countered. “If you were to agree to a memory wipe prior to a return to your realm, I hardly think…”
He laughed. “No, you hardly do. I can’t believe I didn’t detect her arrival even sooner. Unless, in your realm, we only just entered the window for fulfillment of prophecy…?” His voice trailed off, as he seemed to muse on that.
I risked intruding on his thinking. “Prophecy?”
The vampyre shot me a look. “Never mind. Three months of your time should be more than adequate for reestablishing myself. But first of all…” And he lunged for Amy, who was not in a sunbeam.