Trixie

Virga: Act 3B

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3b: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

Tapping the handle of the push broom, Melissa continued her trajectory right out into the middle of the empty outdoor pool. This meant she was hovering where the water level might have been, were there any water present. She then spun around in the air to face the lycan, who for his part was forced to stop short at the poolside, and again reconsider his options.

“Clever,” the wolfman yielded. “But remaining like that requires concentration, which will falter eventually.”

“Yes, well, gives us time to talk about why you’re so against restoring supernatural balance. Along with why you’re targeting me when there’s plenty more witches doing this on a grander scale,” Melissa said. “Am I an appetizer before them?”

“Surely you’re aware of the Prophecy. You’re the Chosen One, Melissssa Viiiirga,” it countered with a hiss.

Melissa stared. “Prophecy. How special. Okay, I’m listening.”

“I’m done talking.”

The lycan moved to grab a rather hefty concrete vase, no doubt used to provide some décor to the area, which he then threw at the brunette.

Melissa was forced to do a quick dodge, as she not only attempted to avoid the object but the splinters of the vase after it shattered against the far side of the pool. The wolf used this opportunity to jump at her.

Melissa saw no alternative.

She hopped off the broom, hefting it by the handle as she fell towards the pool bottom. She then angled up the hard wooden end holding the bristles, mentally calculating her drop in relation to the way the lycan was twisting in the air to try and land on her, then with as much force as she could muster, she jabbed it up between the lycan’s legs, hitting at the crotch of his jeans. (Sometimes, Melissa conceded, you can’t avoid the cheap shots.)

Her opponent let out a bit of a whine and his trajectory shifted, as Melissa released her grip on the push broom, calling out “Salio!” once again.

She landed on the pool bottom with both feet together, grimacing as her weight followed, bending her knees to try reduce the shock, as the spell helped her spring back up.

Know that repeated use of the same spell does tend to reduce its effectiveness, at least in the short term. (Magick tends to reward the more creative individual, rather than penalize across the board regardless of what gets cast.)

As such, Melissa didn’t spring up as high as before, this time only just managing to catch the middle rung of the ladder for the deep end of the pool, once at the height of her arc.

She looked down, noting that the wolf was apparently trying to block out whatever pain he was feeling, and was already standing up. He again jumped for her. After doing another quick mental calculation, she pulled back her leg and delivered a kick to his face before he could grab hold of either her, or the pool ladder.

He did manage to leave a bit of a scratch on her leg for his efforts, owing to his outstretched arms.

“Having fun?”

Melissa declined to answer Trixie’s remark, but did accept the redhead’s extended arm, helping her to get up out of the pool that much faster.

“Time for Plan B, containment,” Melissa said tersely. “Go to the opposite side.”

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

“What was Plan A?” Trixie mused, even as she quickly moved to comply, hopping nimbly over the low diving board at the head of the pool on the way.

The wolf, for his part, had apparently decided that it would be easier to get out by heading down to the shallow end, as he was now doing so. However, the couple of falls and hits meant he wasn’t moving at top speed.

Melissa began a quick chant here, and I won’t transcribe all of the latin, but the gist of it was a containment grid that the lycan would not be able to pass while in wolf form. Not without having to endure a lot of pain.

As Melissa finished, she looked up to link eyes with Trixie, who was by now crouching directly opposite her. “Initimus!” the two witches chorused, slapping their hands down onto the pool tiles in tandem.

The tiles lit up sequentially around the poolside, like a glowing rectangle. In less than a second, the whole perimeter had been covered, and then beams shot out laterally to cover the area as well. They passed right through the torso of the wolf as he was emerging.

The lycan howled, even as his transformation suddenly reversed, leaving what looked to be a forty-something bearded male yelling out in its wake. Said male then fell back beneath the surface of the glow, leaving him sitting in the shallow end, glaring up at the witches.

The glow itself faded after a moment, but the barrier remained.

Melissa tucked some hair back behind her ear. “Okay, we’ll question him later,” she concluded, expelling a long breath. “For now, back to James and the vampyre.”

“Worried about your James, hmmm?” Trixie inquired, standing back up and tugging on her short skirt, one hopes to make sure she was staying decent.

“No. Maybe. He’s not my James. Shut up.”

The younger witch smirked as she followed Melissa back out of the pool area. “Guessing you’re going into Amy’s dream,” Trixie reasoned. “Can I come too? I haven’t seen James’ bizarre form of incompetence against an adversary yet. And after your complaints about how I’m doing things different, I’m curious.”

“I wasn’t complaining. And I said shut up.”

“Uh huh. You know, it’s possible he likes redheads more. Not worried about a little witch competition, are you?”

Melissa whirled. “Trix, for the last time, I said… ohhhhh, hell-o!” Where the ‘o’ was very much tacked on, so that she could pretend she hadn’t come close to swearing.

“No, you said…” But then Trixie’s voice trailed off too, noting the expression on Melissa’s face.

She spun as well, looking back towards the motel’s pool. Where the man who had been a wolf was climbing out amid a silent crackling of energy, which lit up his face and revealed the way his teeth were clenched and his eyes were practically bulging out of their sockets as he braved whatever their barrier was doing to him.

“Sooo, you know how to fight a lycan, huh?” Trixie said. Humour was something of a defence mechanism for her.

“That should have worked,” was all Melissa could say.

Trixie hesitated. “It really should have,” she yielded, as the lycan (in human form) finally completely surfaced, collapsing back onto the deck by the side of the pool.

“He’s insane,” Melissa diagnosed. “You don’t have any new tricks hidden in your so-called hammerspace for insane lycans, do you?”

“Not so much, no.”

Melissa’s jaw tightened as the shock value wore off, and her instincts started to take over. “Fine then. Another plan forms. It involves using the mirror I brought back with me. Which means I’ll need you to tell me the moment James awakens from his spell-induced slumber, because I can’t invoke the mirror safely until I know he’s handled the vampyre spirit.”

Trixie blinked. “James and the vampyre? You think he can manage that on his own?”

“He handled a poltergeist three months ago with only minimal assistance from me.”

The redhead rolled her eyes. “Oh, right, right, the poltergeist story again. Fine, I’ll let you know when he’s conscious,” she finished, hurrying back towards the car.

Once there, Trixie later said she took the opportunity to peek in through the curtains at the slumbering Amy as well, to verify that the dream world was still both active and stable.

Melissa looked around for something new that she might be able to use as a weapon. She didn’t see anything, but then resigned herself to the fact that if the lycan could withstand all the punishment she’d thrown at him so far, brandishing a club wasn’t liable to dissuade him either.

With a few quick murmurs and gestures, she began to work on what she determined to be her best possible defence, a moveable shield. These actually work better than simply enclosing yourself in a six-sided box, as their smaller size requires much less energy to activate and maintain. Though their use does require the caster to have a sense of where the next attack is coming from.

Once completed, Melissa extended her non-dominant hand, the magick circle appearing at her palm to her eyes alone. She then looked back up at the lycan. He had managed to at least partially transform back into wolf form, and was now about ten paces away, moving slowly but steadily, still sizing her up.

“You know,” she began. “Maybe we can still talk about –”

It lunged, slamming against her invisible shield with such force that she had to take a step back.

“Or not,” Melissa sighed in defeat.

What followed was a series of clawings, poundings, and attempted bitings. No finesse at all, Melissa later noted, and no imagination either. The lycan apparently didn’t even consider capturing the nearby Trixie to use as bait, not that such a ruse would have panned out any better.

Melissa did have to expand the diameter of her shield a couple of times though, and she suspected that, had the lycan been at full strength, it wouldn’t have held out. Soon she began to grow concerned that maybe I’d decided to wait in Amy’s dream for her to get there.

“Trixie,” she called out after maybe two minutes of the lycan’s mauling attack. “Maybe we’ll get you to go into that dream after all.”

Trixie brightened. “Seriously?”

“Well, something needs to break up this stalemate, before we end up with a much bigger problem,” she shouted.

“He’s awake,” Trixie called out at that moment.

“Arcesso!” Melissa stated, Charlie’s mirror in her mind’s eye.

She extended her non-shield hand in the direction of the car as his mirror flew out through the broken rear window. The wolf’s momentary distraction at the sight of the object flying in towards Melissa even gave her the reprieve she needed to catch it.

“Honestly,” she continued. “If there’s one thing more annoying than unexpected vampyres, it’s when they’re accompanied by lycans.”

Apparently deciding that the mirror wasn’t a new threat, the wolf jumped at Melissa again.

Big mistake.

The witch dispelled her shield and brandished the mirror in both hands, calling out something rapid fire. Whatever she said meant the lycan’s jump took him right inside the mirror, and out of our plane of existence.

Melissa immediately smashed said mirror onto the ground, breaking the glass, and then she moved to stand on it, jerking the frame out of alignment. There was a long sighing sound, not unlike the air being let out of a tire, and for a moment a white haired image appeared, hovering over the debris.

This, I believe, was the Somnalibus. His image then vanished (I may have imagined a smile), and all was silence. Except for the sound of Melissa’s heavy breathing.

I waited a beat before exiting the car, looking first to Trixie. “I’ve missed something.”

“No kidding,” Trixie chirped back. “Man, you just can’t stop yourself from saying idiotic things, can you. It’s actually fascinating.”

Melissa trudged back to the car, looking tired, rumpled and sweaty, which I found simultaneously worrisome, given how she’s usually more proper, as well as bizarrely erotic, for precisely the same reason.

“Tell me you and Amy handled the vampyre spirit,” she said, more a statement of what she wanted to be true than an actual question.

“Yeah. Well, the Somnalibus did,” I amended.

“Good,” Melissa said with a sigh.

I then glanced towards the shattered mirror on the pavement of the parking lot. “Your, um, lycan dealt with?”

She shrugged. “If that went right, he’s trapped in the Culicinae realm with the vampyres. If not, well, at least he’s not here any more.”

“Ah. Well, good.”

The two of us linked eyes. Melissa’s cheeks were already flushed, and I suspect mine got darker too, at the intensity of her gaze. I cleared my throat, searching for the right words. “This is probably going to sound weird. But I’ve missed this.”

The corners of her mouth twitched. “Only the cases then?”

I slowly shook my head. It’s possible my gaze wandered over her form.

“So you’re coming back.” Again, almost a question, but more a statement of hopeful truth.

I paused for a moment to make sure I meant it. “Yeah. If you’ll have me.”

“Oh, heck yeah,” Melissa repeated, sighing again. “I’d much rather bring you to dinner with my parents tomorrow, instead of Trixie.”

“Right. I can underst– wait, what?”

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Virga: Act 3A

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3a: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

Melissa’s drive back to the motel had been pretty uneventful. Once she had arrived back in the parking lot, she turned off the car, pulled her cell phone back out of her jeans pocket, switched it on, and called Trixie’s number.

“Hi Missy,” the redhead said in delight as soon as she picked up. “James get to you in time with the garlic?”

“So it was you who sent him.”

“No, he psychically knew you were in trouble. You two have that special bond.”

Melissa sighed. “Trixie…”

“Well, what did you expect me to say? Anyway, how is it that in all our conversations you failed to mention that James is somehow a competent idiot? That’s a real interesting mix. For the record, I’ve told him he can do better than you.”

“Trixie, he’s not your type.”

“Oh, sure, immediately leap to thinking that I hit on him.”

“I bet you at least did your stupid ‘look at my chest’ pose.”

“Stupid, hmm? What if I said James looked, meaning he’s a typical guy? B-t-w, green’s not a good colour on you, Missy.”

Melissa leaned in against the steering wheel. “Let’s table this. I need you to bring some items over to his and Amy’s room, ASAP.”

“I’m already here. How about you simply bring this stuff to me?”

The brunette witch blinked. “What are you doing in James’ room?”

“He wanted me to protect Amy while he was gone. Little thing called chivalry. Remind me to fill you in on the concept.”

I’d once suggested to Melissa that if someone was being deliberately annoying around her, she should simply count down from five in her head to avoid saying a rather blunt remark, thus causing the situation to escalate further. I suspect that’s why she remained silent for a moment at this point.

 

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

Come to think, Melissa pauses like that a lot when Trixie is around.

“Fine, well, I’m parked in front of that room with James asleep in the passenger seat,” Melissa said at last. “So we might as well be talking in person.”

“YOU called ME,” Trixie reminded.

Melissa simply hung up. She then dropped the phone onto the floor of the car and reached for the door handle – which is when the rear window shattered from the large rock that had been thrown at it.

The witch quickly spun, and she admitted to me that her heart briefly leapt into her throat, over concern that the mirror had been destroyed prior to our agreed upon time. It had fallen over, but still seemed intact.

Unfortunately, with her attention being on the mirror, she was unable to defend against the long, hairy arm that reached in through the shattered glass and grabbed for her throat from behind. “Melissssssssa,” a voice hissed.

“Urk!” was all Melissa could manage to vocalize.

Her mind immediately went to work sizing up the situation. She didn’t have enough force to break the grip. Her better spells required a focusing phrase, which was currently impossible. I was obviously not in a position to help, her phone was on the floor, and she wasn’t in the best position to strike back at her aggressor. Moreover, while slamming her hand down on the horn might attract the attention of someone – like Trixie – who could help, it might also wake up Amy, which was also not in Melissa’s best interests.

At this point, I will mention that there is a spell, unique to every witch, known as ‘ultima ratio’ (or ‘last resort’). They can invoke it in times of dire emergency.

I say it’s unique, because it might involve vanishing, or explosions, or growing a third arm, or whatever said witch has previously decided should happen if the situation is really as bad as all that. It also effectively renders the witch incapable of casting spells for quite some time afterwards, hence why it’s a last resort spell.

Of course, Melissa’s situation here was, in fact, not as bad as all that – I mostly bring it up at this point so that it’s not a surprise later, and to give you a sense of how bad things may yet become.

What Melissa did do at this point was reach up and rake her fingernails over the hairy hand that had her by the throat.

When the hand flinched, she was able to subvocalize a particular thought.

When the car then caught fire, the hand flinched even more, to the point where she could rasp out, “Fulgur.”

Melissa tapping her fingers against the hand now sent a sharp electric shock through it. By the time her opponent had processed the fact that the fire had no heat, he was jerking back and twitching from her electrical attack anyway. (Illusion, Melissa has said, can be a very powerful tool. At the very least, it can provide one with the second or two that’s needed to think up something better.)

Melissa wasted no time in kicking her car door open and getting out, in order to put herself in a more defensible position.

Her opponent – a lycan, as mentioned earlier, so essentially a wolfman in jeans – was able to backhand her before she was fully prepared.

Melissa’s body flew back onto the hood of the car, but she rolled with it, landing in front of the vehicle on one knee. Trixie poked her head around the motel room curtains at about this point, having heard something. Her eyes went wide, and keeping the drapes pulled back at least slightly, in order to still be able to see Amy, she hurried outside.

“Do you two mind?” Trixie quipped at Melissa as she opened the door, and then tried to close it as quietly as possible. “People at this motel are trying to sleep.”

“Not now, Trixie,” was Melissa’s only response, slowly getting to her feet, eyes fixated on her attacker.

The lycan, for his part, had also paused to size up the situation, seeing as he’d now lost the advantage of surprise.

“Lycan,” Trixie said, a mite reduntantly, to fill the ensuing silence. “Different from a werewolf, silver doesn’t apply. You’ll have to –”

“I know how to fight a lycan, Trix,” Melissa said, her tone clipped.

Trixie hushed. Whenever Melissa started getting terse, you knew she was serious. (Conversely, Trixie tends to use full names when she gets serious, as she likes using nicknames as a matter of course. Go figure.)

For your sake though, assuming you are unaware, I’ll mention that the main difference between a werewolf and a lycan is that the former requires a full moon to transform, while the latter has more control. There are other differences, but, well, the internet is actually not as wholly inaccurate on this particular distinction as it is on others, so you can check into them yourself if you like.

Melissa and the lycan continued their staring contest for a few moments more.

“So,” Melissa ventured. “I’m willing to go our separate ways here. Though I’d recommend some silver sulfadiazine, should help you balance out your control issues, you’re liable to get in trouble looking like that.”

“I won’t be in trouble once I keep you from restoring the balance, Melisssssa Viiiirga,” the lycan retorted at last. “Very arrogant of you to put your real name on the motel ledger.”

“I’ve been told I can be arrogant,” Melissa admitted.

“Yeah, I’ve told her that,” Trixie chimed in.

“Is this not directly connected to the whole vampyre thing with Amy then?” Melissa continued.

“Doesn’t seem like it,” Trixie lamented, when the lycan simply stared. “The movies have lied to us again, not everything interconnects.” She shook her head sadly, her twintails knocking against her shoulders.

The lycan’s eyes narrowed. “You two must think you’re pretty smart.”

“IQ of 151,” the redhead said proudly.

“Must you always bring that up?” Melissa said in annoyance.

“Oh, right, cuz as you’ve told me, James never flaunted his intelligence. His apparent complete absence of such, you seem to have become love numbed towards.”

“Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”

“Shut up,” the lycan said in disbelief.

“Make me,” Trixie shot back.

The wolf form lunged at them. Or more specifically, at Melissa, though he took a side swipe at Trixie too.

The redhead was able to simply step back; Melissa’s dodge had to be a bit more artistic, but seeing as she’d anticipated the lycan’s move, she was even able to reach out and grab one of the motel’s exterior deck chairs to use as a shield afterwards.

“MAKE me?” she said to Trixie in disbelief.

“Sorry, hadn’t parsed it was him saying that,” the younger witch mumbled.

“I’ll lead him on a chase, meet you at the pool,” Melissa concluded, as the lycan managed to rip the chair from her hands. The pool was one of the outdoor types that these motels sometimes have.

“But…” Trixie began, gesturing at the motel room, before blinking and nodding in realization. She pulled out her computing device again, punching something in quickly with her thumbs. “Rixi, protective scrolls,” she said.

“All right,” her own voice replied agreeably. “Accessing.”

One light show later, and Trixie was quickly thumbing some self-adhesive papers to the motel room’s door jamb and window.

At the same time, Melissa had made a run for her own motel room. It wasn’t, in fact, her destination, but she had hoped the lycan would believe that to be the case. She had already concluded that she wouldn’t be able to outpace him on foot – wolves are damn fast – and that running any sort of confusing zigzag pattern would only serve to slow herself down.

As expected, he did jump in front of her, so as her own foot touched the ground, she intoned, “Salio!”

As her foot came up, she shot at least ten feet into the air. With her momentum still carrying her forwards, she easily overshot her opponent, and was able to continue running.

With a snarl, the lycan turned to catch up again, this time passing her and blocking passage to the room she had booked. Which was pretty much what she’d hoped.

She turned to the side before reaching the lycan, grabbing the long push broom that someone had left next to a small pile of debris, outside an unoccupied room. After giving it a quick enchantment, she grabbed the handle, hopped up onto it, and rode it off in the other direction, like a segway. (I believe I mentioned this is how she uses brooms to travel.)

With an exclamation of annoyance, the wolf followed, but now at least they were moving at roughly the same speed.

“Hurry it up, Trix,” Melissa remarked as she came within earshot of my hotel room again.

“I’m keeping James’ current girlfriend safe,” Trixie retorted as she stepped back to activate her scrolls. “You’d be blamed if Amy came to harm.”

“That girl’s not his girlfriend yet,” Melissa was heard to mumble as she continued to ride her push broom through the parking lot.

I hesitate to point out here that no effort was made to actually protect my slumbering form in the front seat of the car. I’m not sure what that says about my witch associates, or about me, but I choose to believe they felt I was in no danger, or could handle myself. Somehow.

The lycan continued his pursuit of Melissa, obviously his primary target. She continued to glide on her broom in the dim light being cast from both the moon and the neon sign for the motel, until she reached the access to the pool.

The gate was locked, but public property has never stopped a witch before. Once inside, she was confronted with the fact that it had not yet been opened for the season, and remained totally drained.

This did not bode well for her initial idea of getting the wolf wet, and possibly altering the chlorine content to be something rather more aggravating to her adversary.

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Virga: Act 2E

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 2e: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES

In fact, Amy had taken the opportunity while the rest of us were talking to edge back away towards the wall, presumably hoping that things would be cleared up without her intervention. Yet as the vampyre jumped at her now, she didn’t freeze up. Rather, she raised her index and middle fingers in front of her body, and the vamp seemed to bounce off an invisible forcefield.

Amy let out a little sigh of relief. The vamp quickly recovered, landing back on his feet.

“Can’t attack a genie that way,” Amy admonished, apparently starting to assert herself a bit more, seeing as we were out of the detective scenario and into something a little more familiar to her.

“You gave yourself powers,” the vampyre realized. He shot a look at the Somnalibus. “Little help here?” he demanded.

The white haired Somnalibus demon sized up the situation. The vampyre was, for the moment, keeping his distance away from Amy by the wall, as well as from me, in the light coming in from a front window.

“You can handle it,” the demon concluded, crossing his arms and leaning back against the open doorway. In other words, the outcome here was uncertain, and the Somnalibus didn’t want to be on the losing side.

“You useless piece of–” The vampyre didn’t even bother to finish the sentence, instead reaching for the vase on a nearby table, heaving it at Amy instead.

Again, she raised her fingers, the object bouncing off an invisible wall. Regrettably, the vampyre had probably counted on that, as he used Amy’s momentary distraction to jump at ME.

I was at least able to reason out his angle of attack, namely parallel to the window, since he was having to pull the curtain as he moved. To block out the sun.

This let me evade his initial strike, and vault over the couch, though without thinking I put some weight on my wrist as I did so. I cried out in pain before falling onto the floor.

“James?” Amy called out in concern.

“Capture the vampyre in a cage or something,” I suggested, my arm throbbing.

“I cannot grant you that wish unless you have my lamp,” Amy protested.

“Think of a better idea yourself then?” I ventured.

“I cannot use magic on the world around me, unless it’s in self-defense.”

Okay, her dream world, her rules. You’d think she could have bent them, but then, certain beliefs can be pretty fundamental to an individual’s personality. Also, in a way it means supernatural balance was playing a role even here.

I became very busy fending off the vampyre’s next attack, wishing that I’d had the presence of mind to throw on a turtleneck sweater at some earlier point in the evening.

With the curtain closed, grabbing one of the couch cushions became my plan for blocking an attack to my face or neck. It was successful, but the vampyre then went for my injured wrist.

Well, that wasn’t good.

I kicked at him, but he avoided it. His grip locked around my arm, and just as I felt like there was no way to prevent him from biting down on my skin somehow, there was a smashing sound, and he collapsed on top of me.

I quickly hefted him off and crawled to safety, seeing that Amy the Genie was now standing above the both of us with her hands on her hips.

“I can still attack without using magic,” she asserted. Pieces of the other vase in the room were now scattered about the floor, following its impact on the vampyre’s skull. Unfortunately, he remained conscious, and seemed to be shaking it off.

There seemed to be only one way out of this.

“Amy, give me your lamp?” I requested.

She immediately tossed it in my direction. I caught it with my good hand, then rubbed it with my opposing elbow. “We good for magick on my behalf now?” I asked.

“Mmm hmm! Three wishes, Master,” she affirmed, seemingly smothering a giggle as she tacked on that last term. Under different circumstances, it would have been very cute.

“I wish that the vampyre here be trapped in a cage that he cannot escape from, which has us on the outside, yet is such that we can still see and converse with him,” I blurted out.

The thing with genies, even friendly ones, is trying to account for some of those little loopholes that wishing always seems to generate.

“Granted,” Amy said, clapping her palms together.

With a clanging sound, a cage of iron bars dropped from the ceiling, narrowly missing my foot as it enclosed the vampire. Along with the couch and a quarter of the room.

Well, it didn’t really matter to me that it was roomy inside. I got to my feet again, moving to stand next to Amy as the vampyre also rose. He immediately lunged, reaching through the bars, but fortunately his reach wasn’t enough to touch us.

Sensing that he was temporarily out of options, he stepped back, crossed his arms and glared. “What now then, associates of Melissa?” he demanded. “Are you going to kill me?”

It was a rather good question, actually. I looked to Amy. “I don’t suppose I can wish for him to be banished back to his realm.”

“Uh, since his realm isn’t within this dream, I’d have no idea how to do that,” Amy apologized.

I rubbed my chin. “How about wishing for him to spill everything he knows about the prophecy he mentioned? Could be a clue there.”

Amy shook her head. “James – that is, Master – this vampire is not actually a character in my dream, so I can’t interfere with his free will.” She frowned. “Come on, can’t you think of some way that my magic would be of use?”

I refrained from bringing up her pronunciation issues.

“Fine, we can certainly make things uncomfortable here, such that he’d want to cooperate of his own accord,” I concluded. “Amy — uh, Genie – I wish for garlic to be in every house and environment in this world. Along with a basket of garlic bread for the both of us.”

My Asian/Arabian friend grinned once again. “Granted,” she declared, again clapping her hands.

The vampyre’s eyes went wide. “No,” he said rather hoarsely, as cloves and sprigs of garlic suddenly popped into the room. A gift basket of bread also appeared on a nearby table.

The vamp threw his arm over his face, to try and screen his breathing. Or perhaps to remind himself that he didn’t need to breathe, I don’t know.

“Fine, torture me if you like,” he shot back. “It’s still nothing compared to what my fate would otherwise be, either within your realm, or my own.”

I handed some garlic bread over to Amy as I pondered that. “What, are you a wanted felon or something back in Culicinae?” I asked, now hoping I was pronouncing it right.

He didn’t respond, simply glaring with his red eyes. I sighed, taking a bite of bread myself, before shrugging and looking back at my companion.

“Maybe we’ll have to wait until Melissa shows,” I concluded.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

Amy’s eyes went wide. “What? She’s coming into this dream as well?”

“That had been the plan, I think. She was returning to the motel first.”

“But I can’t let her see me like this,” Amy protested, tossing her garlic bread aside. “It’s bad enough that YOU are seeing one of my most secret desires. Dammit James…!”

Amy pressed two fingers to her forehead, and it felt like the room blurred a bit around the edges.

“I-I’m sorry,” I apologized, suddenly worried that she was going to wake up. “Could we simply get you a disguise?”

Amy shook her head. “Give me the knife back, I guess I need its help to reverse this whole setting.”

I frowned. “The knife?”

“Yes, I turned Melissa’s nasty knife into that lamp when I switched us over into this fantasy.”

My fingers tightened on the object.

How long had I been holding the knife/lamp now? At least a minute. And when Melissa said two minutes, she meant it. And once I exited, the mirror would be smashed, and Amy would wake up.

“Okay, big problem. Hypothetically, what would happen to the vampyre if this dream abruptly ended?” I asked, not really expecting Amy to be able to answer.

“He’d probably make me jump to another one,” answered the Somnalibus in her place.

I’d almost forgotten about him.

I turned to the white haired demon, still watching us from the entranceway to the room. “What if you were released though?” I asked, trying to speak quickly without slurring my words. “If the item in my world that the vampyre had used to trap you here with him were to be simultaneously destroyed along with the end of this dream.”

An eyebrow went up. “He’d merely be a free floating spirit then. Albeit one liable to trap another of my kind and then find more victims.”

“Could you act to prevent that, within the next thirty seconds? With my personal guarantee that you will be freed from his influence thereafter?”

The demon half smiled, straightening his posture and cracking his knuckles. “Indeed I could. Because I’ve always wanted to see precisely why my associate decreed the absence of all garlic within the dreams of your companion.”

“Now hold on,” the vampyre said, finally sounding a bit worried. “I was going to release you too. Right? Once I’d become corporeal? You’ve known this James guy for all of half an hour. How can you trust him over me?!”

“From what I have seen of her dreams, this Amy is honourable,” the Somnalibus responded. “I extrapolate the same to her friend. Moreover…” The demon smiled a rather unpleasant looking smile. “In the more lengthy time I’ve known you, I’ve decided I quite DISLIKE you, Culicinae. You think you know better than me? You may have another think coming.”

I held up the lamp. “Third wish. That the Somnalibus here have access to the vampyre’s cage, along with whatever else he might need to defeat the vampyre before I depart.”

“Granted,” Amy said, clapping her hands.

“I don’t need anything else,” the Somnalibus rumbled, grabbing Amy’s discarded garlic bread before marching through the iron bars as if they weren’t there.

The vampyre backpedaled frantically. “Buddy. Friend! Let’s talk about this,” the vampyre began, only to shriek as he put his palm down onto one of the garlic cloves that Amy had summoned up earlier.

“We may not want to watch this,” I realized.

“Yeeeah,” Amy said, briefly tugging on my sleeve before heading out into the hallway.

I followed, though was still in time to hear the vampyre scream again like it had when Melissa had blown the garlic vapours at him.

“In fact,” Amy continued, moving to sit on the stairs. “Leaving the vampyre at his mercy, even this doesn’t feel right, somehow.”

“No element of poetic justice?” I suggested.

“Maybe,” Amy granted.

The screams cut out. She shuddered.

“My wonderful genie fantasy’s been tainted,” Amy murmured. “I wonder how much of this I’ll actually remember when I wake up.”

“At least your dreams will be yours own from now on,” I offered.

“Oh! There’s that.” She looked up at me. “Thanks, James. You’ve helped me to realize that magic is–”

“–a much bigger problem,” Melissa shouted.

I sat up, realizing that I was back to being in the passenger seat of the car. We seemed to be parked at the motel.

“He’s awake,” Trixie called out, staring at me through the front windshield.

“Arcesso!” Melissa stated.

I turned in time to see Charlie’s bathroom mirror fly out of the back seat, through the previously shattered rear window, towards Melissa’s outstretched hand.

“Honestly,” Melissa continued, and in the dim lighting of the parking lot, all I could see was that she was talking to some sort of beast, looming over her. “If there’s one thing more annoying than unexpected vampyres, it’s when they’re accompanied by lycans.”

I’d better back up.

END ACT 2

Previous INDEX Next Act

Virga: Act 2A

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 2a: OF VAMPYRES AND GENIES

Bizarrely, I found myself standing in an office. And not Melissa’s office either.

Feeling momentarily disoriented, I took a half step back before evaluating my surroundings. Large wooden desk, coat rack, filing cabinet, no obvious windows. That is, the door had a window, but the glass was frosted. Had I just been magically teleported somewhere? If so, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Lacking anything better to do, I moved to open the door and peer outside.

On the other side of it was Amy, although she seemed to have purple hair. Like in one of her reviews, except it didn’t look like a wig, the colour looked completely natural. She looked equally startled to see me.

“James?” she said in confusion. She looked down at the rather familiar knife in her hand, then back up. “Did I summon you here? Because the private investigator I was hiring a minute ago just seemed to vanish on me when I turned–”

And then just like that, I was back in the hotel.

“–like an idiot,” Trixie concluded.

“Whoa, what?” I placed a hand to the side of my head to steady myself.

“I said you could actually suggest pertinent details from Amy’s recurring dreams, or continue to stand there like an idiot,” the redheaded witch reiterated without missing a beat, still scrolling through the internet using her electronic device.

“I think I just saw it,” I admitted. “She was with a private investigator.”

“Vampyr PIs, okay, that narrows it down to Moonlight, Angel, Forever Knight, maybe True Blood – no, wait, Blood Ties…” Trixie stopped and looked back up. “JUST saw? Wait. Were you also holding onto the talisman when Amy fell asleep?”

“Yeah.”

Trixie stared. “Huh. That’s either brilliant, or idiotic. I know which direction I’m leaning, but then again, maybe you do have some usefulness after all. Go fig.”

She finally lowered her keyboard to continue. “Look, there’s a good chance Amy’s dreams were being used as a kind of self insertion fanfiction. Can you recall anything more about a dream motif on her end that might lead us towards the kind of vampyr we’re dealing with?”

“Uh…” I tried to recall some of the information I’d previously passed on to Melissa. “The theme was often film noir, so not a lot of sunlight.”

“Yeah, but no vampyre types like sun, it doesn’t even kill all of them, and right now it’s 11 PM, so Missy can’t use that. Next?”

“Okay, euh… oh, countdowns. There was almost always a countdown to some event or other celebration in a lot of the dreams Amy could remember.”

“So now we’re leaning towards the more OCD vampyres, like the ones from X-Files or the Count from Sesame Street. Better. More?”

“I…”

With a slight ping in my ears, I was back in Amy’s dreamworld again. This time I was standing in a lobby. It seemed likely that I was in the same building that the PI’s office had been in during my last trip, as I saw Amy walking across the open area, towards the front doors.

“Amy!” I called out to her, hurrying to catch up. “Where are you going?”

She turned. “James? You’re back! I… I was thinking I should be somewhere surrounded by people. Or should I just wake up? I mean, if the investigator was Charlie, and he’s not here any more?”

“No,” I said hastily, which I then attempted to clarify. “There’s been complications. What I need to know is –”

How could I put it incredibly succinctly? There was no telling how much time I had left here! But just like that, I had it. “Is there anything that you particularly enjoy in real life, that you never, ever, remember having or seeing while you’re inside of these dreams?”

Amy blinked, and her brow creased a bit as she looped a bit of purple hair back off her ear. “Wow, no pressure, huh? Um… oh! Would garlic bread count? That and bruschetta, it’s never on the menus in the restaurants which–”

“–are being increasingly unhelpful,” Trixie concluded in annoyance, as I adjusted to my return to reality.

“Garlic,” I said firmly. “Garlic’s been absent from Amy’s dreams. It must be a particular weakness.”

“Says who?” Trixie said dismissively. “Vampyres have heightened senses, which are irritated by items like allium sativum.” Then her head canted to the side, one of her two red twintails swishing over her shoulder. “Unless?”

She resumed tapping at her keyboard.

“Unless?” I prompted after a second or two.

“Culicinae realm,” the redhead muttered. “It fits, but realistically there’s no way Charlie would know about it. Still…” She punched a final button, then spoke into her phone. “Rixi, garlic cloves.”

“All right,” the device intoned back. It didn’t sound like Siri, the voice was an electronic variation on Trixie’s own voice. “Accessing.”

Having backpedalled a step or two at the sound, I stepped forwards again. Only to take another step back as a small globe of light appeared, hovering over the screen. Inside the glowing sphere, what looked like a few cloves of garlic appeared; Trixie grabbed them, which dispelled the light.

Sensing (or expecting?) my amazement, the young witch shot me a knowing grin. “My own personal Siri, connected to my magical hammerspace. Did I mention I have an IQ of 151?”

“Um, no,” I said. I supposed I could believe it, she seemed to know exactly what she was doing. “And why do you have a hammerspace full of garlic?”

“I’ve had to eat Missy’s cooking,” Trixie said with a shrug. “Remind me to impress you more later, for now, we’d better get this to my cousin.” She strode over towards the door – which I now realized had been partly ajar throughout the whole conversation – then looked back at me expectantly.

“Trixie, I can’t leave Amy,” I pointed out, gesturing at the bed.

At that moment, my Asian friend stirred a little, and I found myself standing outside on a street, no doubt in her dream again. However, this time, before I could even get a handle on exactly where Amy was, I was back in the motel room, so all that really happened was I missed the gist of what Trixie was saying. Something about driving.

“Sorry, mentally absent again,” I apologized.

Trixie pressed a palm to her forehead, and then spoke with deliberate enunciation. “Me no license. Cannot teleport somewhere new. Car faster than broom. You drive?”

“I can, but someone has to stay with Amy,” I reiterated. “If she gets in trouble in the dream, someone may need to wake her up.”

“Seriously?” Trixie made a bit of a pouty face as she stared at me. Just as I was wondering if her interpersonal skills were really any better than Melissa’s, she reached out to grab my hand.

“Fine,” the redhead said, handing over the garlic, along with another object that she pulled from her pocket. “Skeleton key,” she explained as I looked down at it. “It’s how I got in here.”

She then rattled off an address and apartment number. “But hurry up,” Trixie finished. “While I’m sure my cousin can hold her own, it’s better for all of us if she doesn’t get bitten by any lurking vampyres in the process, hm?”

Given how it had already been close to five minutes since I’d sent the text, and from what I recalled of the town’s road map, it was liable to take me another five to get over to Melissa’s location… I hurried up.

***

For her part, Melissa hadn’t wasted any time in shutting her phone completely off after receiving my message. She even admitted later that she hadn’t fully read what I’d sent, so perhaps I could have texted anything. For the sake of the narrative, I’ll give you the gist of what happened here, as I was talking with Trixie.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

Focused on the task at hand, Melissa began by using a picture of a key (and a little magick) to trip the lock on the apartment complex. When that worked, she decided that the complex itself wasn’t housing a lot of witches, or at least that there was not liable to be any magical protection outside of Carlie Halko’s apartment.

Melissa then proceeded up the stairs and to the apartment door in question, taking just a moment to listen against it, figuring it was possible that Charlie wasn’t alone inside. As it turned out, she was correct in that, though not in the typical sense.

Hearing nothing, she gently tried the door – locked, eliminating the excuse of meaning to have gone next door – and proceeded to knock.

Some might find this tipping of her hand to be a curious decision, but understand that Melissa had held some hope that Charlie would be reasonable when confronted with the truth of the situation. Plus there was always the chance that she and Trixie had been wrong about his involvement, and on top of this, Melissa says deadbolts are a pain to deal with, even using magick.

There was no answer, but my former roommate later indicated to me that, at this point, she thought she heard someone moving around inside. Melissa then tried to open the door using the old trick of sliding a piece of plastic between the lock and the doorframe. (Well, it wasn’t plastic per se, but you get the gist.)

This being a more conventional way to break and enter, it could have tipped her off as to the extent of actual magical protection on the door, as well as informed her as to how much force she might need to use on a more unconventional attempt.

However, with a click, it felt like the door completely unlocked at this one attempt.

That immediately ramped up Melissa’s level of concern. Either Charlie was way too overconfident, or he was forgetful, or… he was otherwise prepared for this sort of eventuality.

She turned the knob slowly and pushed the door open.

At that point, all Melissa could register was that it was dark. Even the curtains leading to the small balcony were blacked out, meaning the only light spilling in was from the hall.

Committed now, Melissa took a step or two, attuning her senses to the talisman that Amy had, looking for a trace of it to pinpoint the Somnalibus as soon as possible.

The door swung shut.

Melissa ducked instinctively, having caught sight of movement out of the corner of her eye. The frying pan whizzed over her head, and the person swinging it was put off balance. (Of note, her small stature can be an advantage at times like this.)

During Melissa’s initial scan, in the available light from the hallway, she had remembered seeing a light switch, and dove for it now. Hoping to gain the advantage, given that Charlie’s eyes were obviously attuned to the darkness, while she had the opposite problem.

But despite flipping the switch, no light came on.

Melissa hadn’t brought a flashlight; she doesn’t like to weigh herself down with useless items. So her backup plan became a lamp on a nearby table.

Ducking again and heading over, she didn’t even fumble for the lamp’s switch, instead reaching out to touch the bulb, then calling, “Luminarium!” The lamp switched on, revealing… a lot more lamps.

As far as layout went, Charlie’s apartment door opened into a main living area and kitchen. Apart from the closet (where Melissa deduced that her assailant had crouched when she knocked), there were two other doors. But what really drew her attention now was how a lot of available space was taken up with lights and lamps.

Ones that Amy had reviewed in her online web series.

Of course, Charlie was also visible now, brandishing the same frying pan which he’d swung earlier. He was of medium build, with short dark hair, wearing a button up shirt and pants.

“Witch!” he called out, recognizing the use of a spell (and not, presumably, fumbling a ‘b’). He flung his frying pan right at Melissa’s head, despite blinking to adjust to the illumination.

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 1F

Previous INDEX Next Act

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 1f: OF WITCHES AND DEMONS

I realized I must have vocalized that last thought aloud. “Oh, uh, it’s just, Melissa, she’s so well organized. She’s picked her calling in terms of supernatural balance, she’s observant to the point of being able to anticipate events surrounding it, she often seems to have an answer for everything… she knows what’s coming.”

“You once told me she’d be broke by now if it weren’t for you helping her plan out some investments,” Amy pointed out.

“Well, there’s that. No one’s perfect.”

“Also, she’s rude and insensitive.”

“Not out of spite. You just have to get to know her.”

Amy continued to look at me quietly for a moment. “You talk a lot about Melissa,” she said at last.

I blinked. Did I really? “Oh. Um, sorry?”

Amy shook her head. “Don’t apologize, it’s just… I don’t know. Never mind.”

Amy pulled away and rose off the bed again. “I should probably get ready to sleep,” she concluded, moving towards her overnight bag. Setting the knife on the side table, she stretched her arms over her head before reaching down to pick her bag up. “Now, no peeking,” she added, teasingly waggling a finger.

“Of course,” I retorted, pressing a hand to my chest and looking indignant as she vanished into the bathroom.

Though, truth be told, I was still a little hung up on Amy’s prior remark. With her out of the room, I used my eidetic memory to flash back to a few of my conversations over the last three weeks. Melissa had, in fact, come up in a lot of them, in one form or another.

Was I really living a life without Melissa? And was that really what I wanted?

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

For a minute, I worried that I had turned into one of those guys who’s always obliviously droning on about his ex-girlfriend. If that was the case, why hadn’t Amy said something sooner? After all, Melissa sure would have said something if… damn it, there she was again.

Amy was right, I couldn’t get her out of my head.

I forced myself to calm down and assess things a bit more rationally. It wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed. Yes, Melissa had come up in conversations, but usually only in passing, in connection to a topic already being discussed. I wasn’t purposefully mentioning her name, or drawing comparisons between the two girls, like an idiot. Melissa had simply been THERE the entire time I was in university.

Consider that game ‘Taboo’, where you have to make a person guess a word without using any of five words associated with it. Not as easy as it sounds. In the same vein, Melissa couldn’t help but be associated with a lot of words in my life. So to speak.

However.

It finally dawned on me that I’d been treating the last few weeks almost like a vacation, like “down time”. But a vacation from what? Was it in the back of my head that I’d be going back to Melissa’s agency?

Also, while I’d been enjoying my time with Amy, I hadn’t felt like she needed me the way Melissa did. Oh sure, I was helping Amy out, but I’m she could just as easily have found someone else to be a bodyguard. Could the same thing be said of the help I gave to Melissa? Because honestly, I didn’t mind helping her with organization or finance. It helped give me purpose, and she was appreciative.

Also, what of the way Melissa had been helping me to see the world?

One other point of comparison flashed into my head then, as Melissa had predicted three weeks ago. For the record, I’m not exactly proud of what I did next. When Amy came out of the bathroom, dressed in her pyjamas, I moved in close… and kissed her.

This wasn’t completely out of left field. We had almost kissed on one prior occasion, a goodnight kiss when dropping her off, and I’d been the one to turn away at the last moment. Which might be why Amy went along with it now, not shoving me or saying “what the hell?” or anything.

No, she simply kissed me back for a second or two before marginally tilting her head away.

“Why James, what prompted that?” she said coyly, slightly raising an eyebrow.

“I…” Words failed me. ‘I wanted to see if I’d enjoy a kiss with you as much as I had with Melissa’ was definitely the wrong thing to say. I wondered if Melissa would have said it anyway. “I wanted to make sure you had pleasant dreams tonight,” I managed.

I think Amy sensed there was more to it than that, but either she didn’t want to confront the issue, or she didn’t want to admit it to herself. Instead, she smiled. “Works for me!” Giving me a quick hug, she then went back over to the desk to pick up the knife, meaning she was facing away from me.

I brushed my fingers against my lips. Had Amy’s kiss been better? Worse? Well, it had been different. And maybe, in the end, that’s what was at the heart of the matter. Did I want new and different, like Amy? Or back to more of the same with Melissa? Not that any of Melissa’s cases could ever truly be called “the same” as another.

“Would you mind holding this until I actually fall asleep, then slipping it into my hand?” Amy requested, turning back and holding the knife out. “I want to minimize the chance that I’ll roll over and accidentally impale myself.”

I latched onto the change of subject. “I wouldn’t mind. But it might be that you have to be holding it when you nod off. I don’t want to be responsible for screwing up the enchantment.”

“Huh. Well, at least hold my hand too, until I’m sleeping then?”

“I… sure,” I agreed after a momentary hesitation. After all, after having kissed, that seemed like a perfectly reasonable request.

Amy got under the covers, with the exception of the arm holding the knife, and I stretched out next to her on top of the sheets, reaching over to clasp the knife along with her, as requested. She then activated it using the trigger word. The knife seemed to glow momentarily.

“Hopefully after tonight, we can put all this supernatural craziness behind us,” the dark haired girl finished with a sigh.

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. Because to hear her say that finally helped me realize that I didn’t WANT to put it behind me.

I didn’t want to go through life doing a mundane job with normal people. I wanted life to be a little adventurous, a little crazy, a little… Melissa. And as far as the romance angle went, sure, Melissa only had two settings. Hot and cold. While Amy, she had layers. But with Melissa, you always knew where you stood.

I then wondered whether a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome could have been involved.

I took more time to turn things around in my head again, as Amy slowly nodded off. But ultimately, I arrived at the point where you entered this story. Looking down at my childhood friend, then at the knife, then towards the window, I realized that Melissa Virga was the one for me. Or at least, that she was the one for me at this point in my life.

At last, I had a pathway forwards.

Noting Amy’s regular breathing, I carefully pulled my hand away from the knife, pulled my phone from my pocket, and texted Melissa that Amy was asleep.

About two seconds later, the motel room door flew open, revealing a freckled redhead, sporting two twintails. She was dressed in a sleeveless collared shirt, which was grey with blue highlights, along with a short skirt and matching stockings. The outfit screamed “schoolgirl”, but while she looked sixteen, I found out later that she wasn’t much younger than I was.

The first words she hissed at me were, “Don’t send Melissa a message.”

***

The redheaded teenager’s voice clicked right away. I realized we’d spoken on the phone once before. “Trixie?” I said uncertainly, and quietly, so as to not wake Amy.

“Duh,” Trixie retorted, her voice similarly muted. “Oh, wait, let me guess, my cousin didn’t mention that the two of us had taken a room at the motel too?”

“No,” I admitted, rising gingerly from the bed to approach. I glanced at our motel room door. “Also, I was sure I’d locked that.”

Trixie made a show of waving her palm in a large arc in front of her. “Hiiiii. Witch. Locked motel door, not a problem, they open for anyone with a ‘key’.”

She paused, then canted her head to the side in a way that I can only describe as being remarkably cute. “So, you’re James. Wow, you’re a LOT more drab in person. Missy is actually terrible at disseminating information. Why did you leave her, exactly?”

“Hey!” I protested. “I didn’t… leave her. Not really. I just needed some time away.”

“Psssh. You don’t hire your cousin to handle your technology if you think your ex-boyfriend is coming back. Not that I care about your relationship, you realize. I simply wish Missy could’ve shut up about you for longer than five minutes.”

That remark caught me off guard. “Mel used to mention me?”

“Duh, she sure did. It’s partly why I was interested in meeting…” Trixie’s voice trailed off and her eyes narrowed. “Are you having second thoughts about her? Oh lordy, you are. C’mon, you’re not THAT plain. You could do SO much better than Missy. Even within the magick community. You know that, right?”

“What?”

“There are witches who do tech, y’know. For example, there’s me! A witch who’s nearly twenty, and who can actually carry on an intelligible conversation on Skype.” She smiled and clasped her hands behind her back, leaning forwards alluringly. “I dress better than Missy too, hmmmm? You like?”

“Uh, yes. I mean, no. I mean, you dress different, but why are you even dressed that way?”

I was a little troubled in the way my eyes responded to her lean by slipping away from her face. I registered only that Trixie probably had the ability to do bikini modelling the way Melissa could model jeans, before forcing my gaze back up. In my defence, I was tired.

“I like keeping people off balance,” Trixie answered, flashing a smile. “Also, if someone’s talking to my chest, they’re not noticing the evil look in my eye.”

I felt like this conversation was going off the rails. “Look, Trixie, why exactly should I not have sent that text to Melissa?” I questioned.

Her eyes widened. “Sent? Past tense sent, as in she’s about to attack the vampyre, sent?”

“Yeah, uh… vampire?”

Trixie strode forwards and smacked the back of my head. “Idiot, when I tell you not to send a message, don’t let me flirt, tell me right AWAY that it’s too late,” she muttered.

She then pulled a small device out of a pocket in her top. It looked sort of like a cellphone with built-in keyboard, as in an old style Blackberry, but it seemed to have a glowing red crystal embedded in it. Trixie began to poke at the buttons with her thumbs.

“Sh-Should I wake Amy up?”

“No, idiot, that just means Missy wouldn’t know what object to destroy. Assuming she even can, given how she’s not expecting to have to fight a vampyre to get to it… you know, maybe I CAN see why you ended up stuck with Melissa for four years. What’s going on in your head, James?”

“Trixie, please back up, when exactly did vampires enter the picture?”

“Vampyres, elongate the i. And they came in about five minutes ago, when I finally clued in as to the nature of the phrase Charlie Halko uses in his .signature file.”

“Okay, so, Charlie’s a vampyre…?”

The redhead continued to tap away. “No, but he’s gained the ability to emulate one. Which is surprisingly unhelpful given the twelve dozen or so vampyre variations there are out there. I’m trying to narrow it down.” She turned her screen briefly to allow me to see it. “See? TV Tropes, Our Vampires Are Different.”

The screen of her device was faintly glowing red, as opposed to blue. My best guess was that the red crystal was giving Trixie internet access via a nearby wifi. Whether she had a password or not.

“I’d better text Melissa again,” I realized.

“Oh sure, because Missy’ll drop everything to read a TEXT,” Trixie said, rolling her eyes in a good imitation of her cousin. She was immediately back to her web surfing. “For that matter, why not just PHONE Missy, alert EVERYONE to how she’s breaking and entering? Man, just when I thought you couldn’t be even more of an idiot.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do?” I demanded, starting to feel panicky but still wanting to keep my voice down. Behind us, Amy let out a little moan and twisted a little in the sheets.

That’s when things got really crazy.

END ACT 1

Previous INDEX Next Act

Virga: Act 1E

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 1e: OF WITCHES AND DEMONS

The whole investigative process took us about three weeks. The first of those were merely to determine the guy’s online alias (which involved a few false starts, as to begin with we hadn’t even known Amy’s crazed fan was a ‘he’), then there was one additional week for Melissa to pinpoint his location. Though… perhaps I shouldn’t have said ‘us’.

As Melissa had suggested, I spent all that time with Amy, after moving back to my hometown and staying with my parents.

The justification was that I was keeping Amy safe, being a sort of bodyguard, as well as gathering information. Which was partially true – I did get some hints about pieces of dreams, and information about fans who had sent her messages in the past, all of which I relayed on to Melissa.

Yet at the same time, I couldn’t deny that I was also taking the opportunity to see what life would be like without the presence of supernatural investigating. What life would be like without Melissa.

It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. On some level, that worried me.

I thought I’d be yearning for Melissa’s arms. Instead, I was realizing that half the time my interactions with her had involved me trying to make sure she had an income, and was functioning in modern society. The other half of the time had been spent trying to figure Mel out – her deductive skills, her thought processes, her romantic preferences, et cetera. For the first time in a long time, I no longer felt like had to concern myself with those things.

I DO grant that part of the trouble there could have been my balancing all of that with university classes as well. We all need some downtime, and I hadn’t had any of that in a long time either. Now I had both downtime, and time away from Melissa.

However, in a related note, I wasn’t seeing supernatural events everywhere, which others were writing off as natural phenomena. And that had been one of my other big concerns. Had Melissa known that I needed to experience this?

Finally, there’s the fact that Amy was kind of fun to be around.

I watched her do one of her online episodes, and helped to lay some of the groundwork for her newsletter. We went on what some might classify as dates, though neither of us admitted to each other that that’s what a dinner out was. (My parents, you might imagine, had no problems with the label.)

I also watched Amy sleep, in what we assured ourselves was a purely professional capacity, to see if there were any clues to be garnered there. There didn’t seem to be. (Note I didn’t actually share her bed, and I tried to behave in as much of a non-creepy way as possible.)

Then, I got the phone call.

“Amy’s stalker creep is Charlie Halko,” the female said on the other end of the line. “Missy wants you to bring Amy to a motel just outside the town where he lives. Within the next two or three days, if possible. I’ll email you the info, it’s not overseas or anything. Alright?”

I stared at my phone. “W-Who is this?”

“Trixie. This is James, yeah?”

“Yes… um, you’re working with Melissa?”

A pause. “O. M. G,” the female said at last. “Four years, FOUR FREAKING YEARS with my cousin, and she NEVER mentioned me?”

I did a quick scan back in my semi-photographic memory. “No…?”

Come to think, Melissa had never mentioned any relatives at all, not that I’d ever asked. But I suppose it stood to reason that someone within her family would have made a good replacement for me.

“Missy is SO going to hear from me about that!” came Trixie’s sharp voice. And she hung up.

I never got the email, instead getting the particulars from Melissa herself, when she called me an hour later. Apparently Trixie had told her to “send James the info your own damn self, he doesn’t know me”. More on Melissa’s cousin later.

Amy and I met up with Melissa Virga two days following, at the motel she had recommended.

***

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“So here’s the thing,” Melissa said, pacing back and forth in front of the motel room window. (I’d drawn the curtains, of course, so no one could see us. For all I knew, this Halko guy had magical means of knowing Amy was in town, and was looking for her.) “Charlie must be using some kind of item to control the Somnibulus. Problem: I’m going to have no way of identifying what that object might be, and defusing it, unless it’s active.”

“So you need me to fall asleep,” Amy deduced. She was sitting in the only chair in the room, at the desk near the television. I was sitting on a corner of the bed.

Melissa made a little gesture, indicating agreement. “You released a new episode two days ago, and James told me that you’ve had the most difficulty getting a restful sleep in the days after a publication. Plus it’s now Friday night, a good time for Charlie to stay up, so you’re liable to be targeted. Which brings me to our next problem: To have the Somnibulus demon release you of his own free will, we need to make your dreams less hospitable to him.”

I blinked and exchanged a glance with Amy. “How do we do that?”

“Lucid dreaming,” Melissa clarified. “That is, becoming aware of the fact that you’re in a dream, and taking control of it. It’s the best way. Somnibuli hate that, they basically become at your mercy rather than the other way around.”

“I’ve heard of the concept,” Amy agreed. “But I have no idea how to do it.”

“Oh, I figured as much,” Melissa said offhandedly. She finished her most recent bout of pacing over by a small bag she’d brought with her, reaching in and pulling out an ornamental knife. “That’s why I’ve enchanted this object to act as a focus. Upon seeing it in your dream, you should realize the truth of your situation and be able to act as you like.”

Amy’s eyes went a little wider. “Okay… one, what guarantee do I have that your focus will show up in my dream at all, and second, why a KNIFE of all things?”

I found myself answering. “It makes sense that if you go to bed holding it, the enchantment will take effect, bringing it into the dream with you. As to the object itself, either the knife was particularly easy to enchant, or Melissa was considering the need for self defence. Or a combination of the two.”

“That’s pretty accurate, well done,” Melissa said, lightly tapping the fingers of one hand against her other palm in light applause. “You haven’t lost your edge.”

“No, wait, hold on,” Amy protested. “Are you saying I’m actually going to have to FIGHT this demon thing??”

“Doubtful, but you may need to bare your teeth a little, yes.” Melissa extended the hand holding the knife.

Amy continued to look at it a bit nervously. “Okay, no, wait, I need a moment here,” Amy said at last, sliding out of her chair and away from Melissa’s arm. “Why didn’t you warn me it was going to come down to this three weeks ago when you first diagnosed the problem? Isn’t there some other way to handle these demons?”

“No. And I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to risk your dream reactions tipping the demon off, otherwise Charlie might have shifted his target to someone else. Making it impossible for me to locate this fan and solve this problem,” Melissa said, her tone casually dismissive. “Besides, it’s not like you could have prepared.”

Amy made a face. “You don’t know that. Also, I’m not good with knives. What if the demon takes it, or otherwise manages to get control of the dream away from me?”

Melissa sighed. “I don’t know, but according to James, the demon hasn’t been giving you images of anguish and torture to this point. Why would he start now?”

“Because now I’d be actually trying to annoy him!” Amy pointed out. She shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself, and it was again obvious to me that she hadn’t been kidding about getting flustered by the unexpected. “I’m not sure I’ll even be able to fall asleep at this rate.”

Melissa now let out a sound of exasperation, while rolling her eyes. “Well, I’m sorry this doesn’t fit in with your world view. But look, James will be staying here with you! Right? The way he has been for the last several weeks, to keep you out of danger, and to wake you up if necessary. All better?”

Both girls turned to look at me at that point. Amy’s expression was almost pitying, as if it was dawning on her that Melissa really was a heck of a roommate to have had for four years. Melissa’s expression… was, as always, harder to read, but it seemed almost… wistful? Could it be that she’d hoped to bring me along with her to Halko’s?

I decided I was merely seeing what I wanted to see.

“No, not all better, but with James here, I suppose there’s a better chance of me enjoying myself tonight,” Amy said after a moment. Her tone now struck me as petty, but again, might have been imagining it.

I also nodded agreement, though I’d kind of expected that I’d end up staying behind anyway. So I wasn’t upset with Melissa having volunteered this duty on me. Heck, it would hardly have been the first time she did something like that, usually my own safety being part of the equation.

“Just one more thing though,” Amy said, finally taking the knife and holding it gingerly. “Is it true that if you die in a dream, you die in real life?”

Melissa merely rolled her eyes again before looking at me. Which, I must point out, wasn’t a denial.

“James, to activate the talisman, just have Amy say ‘Incipio’,” Melissa said. “Oh, and send me one of those text things once your friend’s fully asleep. That way I’ll know it’s time to break into Charlie’s apartment. Got it? Good.”

She headed out before waiting for a response, though I suppose my not protesting or calling her back was response enough.

With that, I turned my attention back to my former schoolmate. “Let’s focus on positive thinking at this point,” I suggested, knowing Melissa had utterly failed to address Amy’s concerns. “From what I’ve read about the Somnibuli, this guy will take one look at the knife and run. No problem.”

I managed a smile, and she smiled back.

“Thanks, James.” Amy then glanced idly about the room, as I stood and went to lock the door for an added show of security. “You know, in under a month we’ve progressed from dinner to checking into a motel together,” she said. “At this rate, people will talk.”

The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. “Uh, yeah. Guess it’s a good thing you’re not famous enough yet to have paparazzi?” I fired back. Then, seeing her smile vanish, I back-pedalled. “Sorry, that sounded better in my head.”

Amy shook her head. “Oh, it’s not that, it’s just… well, I suppose in a way it is that.” She stood herself, moving to the bed and curling her legs up. I rejoined her, again sitting on the edge.

“It seems to be a human thing,” she continued. “To want to be popular, to want to have our fifteen minutes of fame, huh? Yet now here I am, a borderline celebrity, and look where it’s got me. Attacked by a crazed fan with a pet demon.” She shook her head. “And if I get any more popular, I may not have a life of my own to look forward to… or not a private one, anyway. Do you think people would be trying to dredge up gossip on me?”

“Uh, I don’t know.” I tried to think of something cheery to say. “At least you’re not an author, like me. We’re pretty much disregarded, barring the off chance of a story being turned into a movie or a television serial.”

“James…”

Making light of the situation obviously wasn’t helping. “Sorry,” I said again, this time reaching out to put my arm around Amy’s shoulders. She leaned into me. “You don’t have to keep doing your lamp reviews, you know,” I pointed out.

“Oh, I know,” Amy sighed. “But I enjoy it And I don’t want to disappoint the few fans I have. Of course, being a part time waitress to help pay for it, that I can do without. Maybe I should have aimed for better than a three year degree.” She shook her head. “I guess my life just isn’t going quite how I pictured it would.”

“Life never does,” I granted. “Unless you’re Melissa.”

Amy turned to look at me, her expression hinting at a frown. “What?”

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