Virga

Virga: Act 3D

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3d: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

At first, Amy and I simply sat near each other on the motel bed.

“Reality bites, huh?” I offered at last, when Amy didn’t say anything. Amy laughed weakly at that. “Yeah, if it’s not my own internet success tripping me up, it’s having my childhood dreams of genies torn apart.”

My face fell. “I’m sorry. I just meant about the magic school thing being beyond you.”

She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “Bah, don’t look at me that way, James, I’m being melodramatic. I must confess though, part of the reason I went along with your parents to meet you that first day was because, deep down, I’d hoped their casual dismissal of a ‘supernatural detective agency’ wasn’t necessarily something to be dismissed.” She brought her hand back to rub at her neck. “Of course, your work wasn’t at ALL what I’d expected it to be.”

I tried to smile. “I’d love to say I’ll stick around to help you through it, but… uh…”

“It’s not going to work out between us.” Amy’s tone was as matter-of-fact as Melissa’s, but her expression was anything but neutral. “Because I can’t deal with this stuff like you, and I think you’ve missed having the magic around. Or Melissa. Or maybe they’re one and the same in your mind?”

I coughed. I hadn’t thought of things that way. “I’m sorry if I kept talking about her.”

Amy shook her head. “Don’t be. I’m sorry I ignored the signals.”

“I guess I did too.” I edged a bit closer. Amy was still my friend (I hoped), and she looked so sad that I wanted to hug her. But I worried that it would give off the wrong signals.

“Live and learn,” she concluded.

Perhaps sensing my awkwardness, Amy bridged the distance then, and the two of us met in an embrace. She buried her face for a moment in my shoulder, and when she pulled back, her eyes were misty but her expression overall seemed more composed.

“Just be careful out there, okay James? It really doesn’t seem safe. At the least, it certainly puts my concerns over internet criticism in perspective.” She pursed her lips. “And, can I be honest with you?”

I nodded. “Please do. Friends should be honest with each other.”

Amy chuckled, accepting the label. “Okay then. Thing is… I’m not sure that Melissa’s the best choice for keeping you emotionally stable. I don’t mean she’s a bad person, but in particular if there are people – or beings or whatever – out there after her… but look, I grant that I haven’t known her for as long as you have, so there is that too.”

“Yeah, well, Melissa’s…” I fumbled for a word. “Unique.”

“Everyone is,” she reminded me. “You are too. Make sure she realizes that, and that she doesn’t take advantage of your good nature. She may not even do it intentionally.”

“Uh… yeah, okay.”

Amy shook her finger at me. “I mean it, James. As one friend to another. Make sure that you’re happier with Melissa than you are without her, before you commit yourself long term. Yes?”

I shifted on the bed. “Okay.”

“Good.”

We hugged again, quickly, and then Amy got out of the bed, insisting I at least get some sleep there, despite my protests. I passed out shortly thereafter, discovering in the morning that Amy had apparently done the same at some point, while sitting slumped over the desk, next to her lamp.

We were asked the next day by the motel management whether we had heard anything during the night, with respect to vandalism at their pool. I hedged, saying I’d heard something around midnight, and pointing out that my car window had also been smashed. They simply responded how they weren’t responsible for damage done on their property, as per the agreement I’d signed.

So, as far as I’m concerned, this can be an unsolved mystery for them. Particularly given the fact that Trixie told me Melissa answered “Lycan” when they’d asked the same question of her, and they dismissed her as a crazy person.

***

The rest of Saturday was a bit of a blur.

I got Amy back to our hometown, and then dropped in to see my parents, to let them know that I’d made my decision as far as returning to Melissa. You really don’t want me to bother transcribing that, mostly just my Mom asking whether I was REALLY sure, along with my Dad’s resigned acceptance, provided that I made sure this was something I could make a living at.

He suggested adding my name to Melissa’s agency. More on that later.

I then headed out with a lot of my essential items, bringing them back to Melissa’s apartment. Or rather, back to what felt more like my home, as I’d stayed there right through University.

Remember, if this return to living with her seems rushed, I had dinner with the Virgas on my schedule now, and I kind of wanted to be moved back in by then.

I was brought up short upon my arrival though, discovering that Trixie had, in fact, fully moved in over the past couple weeks, taking over my old room. We still had an hour before meeting up with her parents, so Melissa gave me the whole story.

Apparently the (at present) nineteen year old techno-witch had decided that schooling had nothing more to teach her after her high school graduation, and had subsequently spent more than a year doing mad science in her room while generally driving her parents crazy.

As such, Trixie’s parents had been only too keen to pawn her off on Melissa when she’d called up for technical advice with Amy’s stalker. Meaning for the moment, Trixie didn’t have anywhere else to go.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Two weeks ago, I thought having a technical consultant in house would be a good plan,” Melissa admitted. “At the time, I didn’t realize she’d be such a pain in the ass, and it’ll take some time before we can get rid of her.”

“It’s fine,” I assured Melissa. “Besides, she was helpful in terms of the garlic and vampyre, so she can’t be as bad as all that.”

“Helpful, but a little last minute in terms of the deduction,” Melissa countered.

“To be fair, we didn’t see a connection either.”

Melissa crossed her arms. “Okay, but maybe she’d have figured it out sooner if she wasn’t busy trying to seduce all our other prospective clients.”

I frowned. “I’m not sure those things are connected. Also, she what?”

“I’m talking about that thing Trixie does with getting guys to look at her huge rack, despite dressing like she’s too young to have it. She told me she showed you that pose, yes?”

I tried to think of a good way to answer that, and decided to be evasive. “I think I know what you mean. But not all our former clients were male, and how many have you even had in the past two weeks for Trixie to pull this on?”

Melissa sniffed. “Like, two. Maybe three. Only one case was actually supernatural. Look, James, clients aside, I’m not blind to the fact that Trixie’s personality is quirky like mine, except she’s funnier, and prettier than me. I’m just saying, if you and her try to run off and start a rival Agency, she’ll be a problem for you, so I wouldn’t.”

I peered at Melissa a bit closer. “Hold on. Mel, are you being evasive too?”

Melissa’s cheeks went a bit pink. “Yes. Yes, okay, fine. What I’m saying is don’t have sex with Trixie, despite her being available in your old room. Okay, James?”

“Whoa.” I coughed. “Are you saying that in a ‘hands off my young cousin’ way or in the sense that you think me and her–”

“Trixie’s not a virgin, she’s only a couple years younger – despite how she dresses – and I think she’s into you,” Melissa clarified. “Though, while we’re on the subject, the fact that she’s my cousin makes a threesome out of the question.”

I had to look away from her serious expression, rubbing my forehead for cover. “Oy. Mel, remember, Trixie has hit me multiple times. I don’t think she’s keen on me.”

“James, you’re being your wonderfully naive self,” Melissa insisted. “In smacking you, Trixie was taking the time to clue you in, rather than tune you out. You don’t help someone if you hate them. I think maybe I was singing your praises too much this past week too, which helped make her interested.”

“Okay, well, even if you’re right–” Composing myself, I fully turned back. “Mel, your cousin is not the one I’ve fallen in love with. That’s you. You don’t have anything to worry about, no matter how much your cousin might want to develop a love-hate relationship with me.”

I smiled, hoping that sounded as sincere as I felt. I worried that my earlier facial expression resembled that of your stereotypical guy in the movies who’s been blindsided with the old ‘were you looking at that woman?’ schtick.

“Right. Okay.” Melissa bobbed her head in agreement, then scrunched her face up a bit as she shook her head instead. “But while intellectually, that makes sense to me, being away from you seems to have made me insecure in new ways. I mean, I thought I’d properly planned for your departure, yet despite that… it didn’t turn out right.”

“No? What, the Agency accounts got messed up?”

“Not that.”

“Then did you run into technical issues? Because Trixie seems to have the tech-fu, or whatever you want to call it, more than either of us.”

“It wasn’t a tech problem.”

“Is was personal? Did you miss the… um, er…”

“Sex? No. Well, maybe a bit. Thing is, James, it was more I liked having someone to bounce ideas off of. Because talking to Trixie professionally just makes her get defensive, and talking to her about personal stuff… well, I mostly didn’t. I don’t want to give her ammunition. But I couldn’t shun her entirely, because I didn’t want to run this place alone.”

“So, you missed me,” I summarized.

“Nngh. Yeah,” Melissa forced out. “In fact, about a minute ago, I guess I should have simply said I love you back. If this is love I feel. I’m sorry?”

I smiled. “It’s fine, Mel. I know you. Hug?”

I moved in to give her a hug, and she hugged back, drawing in a deep breath.

“Okay,” Melissa said at last. “Dinner with my parents is in under half an hour. Might as well just put your stuff in my room for now. I mean, Trixie’s not here to complain about your return, so screw her. Not literally.”

I pulled back a bit. “Where is your cousin, dare I ask?”

Melissa made a face. “She’s been gone most of today ‘thinking’. I bet because our whole lycan-containment-fail happened, when it theoretically should have worked. She’s stupidly smart, to use an oxymoron, but that doesn’t translate to work out in the field. I can’t believe I allowed it.”

“Mel, don’t get too harsh. Trixie’s still young. We all make mistakes in our youth, as we learn.”

“She’s not that young,” Melissa sniffed. “But what, you don’t want her to move out then? You want to check out her chest a bit more?”

Having opened my mouth to respond to the first question, I paused momentarily at the second. “Uh, well, I don’t want to barge back in and kick Trixie out if she has nowhere else. But my motive is not to check out her body.”

“How could you not though,” Melissa muttered, only to pull right back from me. “Sorry. Let’s drop it, I think this parents thing is messing with me a bit tonight too. I haven’t spoken to them in months, aside from the dinner invitation, so I’m on edge.”

I had questions about that, but I suspected that asking any meant we’d run out of time for me to get my stuff inside. Or the conversation would somehow loop back to Trixie.

So I simply agreed with Melissa, and put my stuff in my no-longer-ex-girlfriend’s room. When I was finished, I moved up behind her at the desk in the main area, where she was staring at a snow globe.

“Mmm. What time is it?” she said, as my shadow fell on her.

“It’s 3 o’clock,” I responded, noting that the clock in the room still didn’t have batteries. Melissa turned in surprise.

“Oh. Seriously?”

I pulled back and gestured towards the offending timepiece. “No, that was a joke. It’s a ten to seven.”

“Oh. I knew that,” she lied.

Truly, I should have known better than to make a time joke with someone who doesn’t register the passage of time.

“Anyway, let’s go. Doesn’t matter if we’re a bit early,” Melissa decided. “I should probably help chop vegetables or something.”

Melissa reached under her desk, grabbing a handbag. Which for the record, I was pretty sure contained magical artifacts, rather than beauty products.

“Anything I should know first though?” I asked. “Because you’ve, uhm, never actually spoken to me about your family. Like, at all.”

“Haven’t I?”

“No.”

“Huh. Guess I never thought it was relevant. Well, my mom is a pixie and my dad is a dwarf, so I knew from a young age that I’d have height issues.”

I searched her face. “Now you’re joking.” It almost came out as a question.

“Yes. My mom’s name is Marissa Virga, she’s a witch like me, and my dad’s name is Wayne Black, he manages a general store and does alchemy on the side.”

I let out a breath of relief. “Well, okay then. You know, you’re definitely getting better at deadpan humour.”

“Thanks,” Melissa said with a grin, before gesturing towards the kitchen. “Shall we have you learn more about them by simply talking to them now?”

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Virga: Act 3C

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3c: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

Melissa’s response to my confusion was a shrug. “It’s like I said that night your parents brought Amy over the first time. Before your graduation. My parents were hoping to have you over for dinner this upcoming Saturday in May.”

“You never told me that,” I protested.

A pause. “I was sure I did.”

I ran back through that night in my head, and managed to hit on something. “You said you’d wanted to talk to me about something relating to parents when you went to get my dad his water. You never specified what.”

“Oh.” Melissa rubbed her nose. “Well, I’m specifying now. You good with that?”

“I… sure.”

There was no point arguing about the circumstances. This was Melissa’s way. In fact, it felt strangely reassuring to think that things were going back to “normal” so fast. Honestly, my only hesitation was over the fact that I’d never met her parents before.

But after everything Melissa had needed to handle with my parents, doubting her supernatural connection, it seemed only fair that I give hers the chance to give me the once-over as well.

She half smiled at my acceptance, and with that, I realized just how much I had missed her. I reached out to brush some of her hair off of her face.

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

“A-HEM,” Trixie said, clearing her throat incredibly noisily. I realized that face had moved in to within an inch of my former (current?) girlfriend’s, and so I quickly pulled back. Melissa did likewise.

“I’d say get a motel room, but I’m worried you’d kick me out to use the one we’ve got,” Trixie said, hands moving to her hips. “Also, Missy, dinner what now? You never mentioned that to me.”

“Oh, good, so you won’t be offended now that you’re not coming,” Melissa said, raking her fingers back through her rumpled hair.

“No, but I’m wondering if you told your parents we’re dating,” Trixie remarked. “We’re related you know, so that’s a bit twisted.”

Melissa’s face seemed to get redder. “I only told them I might not be able to bring James. This wasn’t a matter of coming with a date either, they wanted to know who I was associating with at work. But you know, even if we weren’t related, your attitude is such that I would NEVER –”

“I think we’d best check on Amy now,” I said, hoping to prevent an argument. I attempted to clear my throat afterwards and just sounded raspy, so I turned and stepped towards the motel room door, reaching my hand out for the doorknob.

Trixie blinked. “Oh, wait, James, I put up –”

As I touched the door, I felt an electrical jolt, which not only knocked me off my feet and onto the pavement a good foot and a half away, but which left my fingers twitching spasmodically for several seconds.

“—some protective scrolls.”

“Now who’s an idiot?” I grumbled back in her direction.

“Well, it stood to reason, didn’t it?” Trixie countered. “You told me to keep her safe, and what did you think those little papers were for? Idiot.”

I glowered. This caused her to switch tactics, clasping her hands behind her back as she pushed her chest out. Despite her maturity, she looked remarkably cute, to the point where it almost felt cruel to remain upset with the freckled witch. “I sowwy,” Trixie cooed.

“Oh, I… uh…”

“Cut that out, Trixie,” Melissa grumbled, moving to stand between us, blocking my view. “He’s working with our Agency again, so he’s off limits to your nonsense. Also, let us into Amy’s room, I need to sit down.”

I saw Trixie stick out her tongue at Melissa as she walked closer, right before winking at me. That said, she then deactivated her scrolls without causing any other arguments.

***

At this point, per Amy’s request, we explained to her exactly what had been going on while she’d been asleep. Of course, some of it she already knew, through me. But Melissa’s account of the lycan was new to both of us, and I also had to fill in some information about Amy’s dream world for the witches. Without going into quite the detail I did above with respect to Amy the Genie, to be sure.

After all, while actual “Jinn” are supposedly neither angelic or demonic, there is an association in folk tales with more evil intentions. Sleep paralysis is also associated with Jinn attacks. I didn’t want to send the witches off on a tangent.

Oh, for the record, I did make contact with Amy again before setting this account down. She’s okay with you knowing more, given the time lag and what this managed to lead up to. It was also during this motel room discussion that Trixie hit me multiple times for failing to understand women. Couldn’t argue either, particularly being the only guy in the room.

“At the risk of sounding self-centred,” Amy said when it was all over, “What exactly is going to happen with Charlie Halko? Is he still going to be stalking me, even without that vampire’s presence?” (She really couldn’t get the hang of elongating the ‘i’.)

“Halko was never stalking you,” Trixie reminded. “That was a dream scenario. And from all the electronic data I went over, I don’t think he was necessarily interested in you, per se. His initial fascination was with lamps, he’d started buying them even before your show existed.”

“I agree you shouldn’t worry,” Melissa added. “I suspect it was the vampyre’s compulsiveness that drove Charlie to monitor you to the degree that he did. You were a wedge he could use. Charlie’s now liable to be a bit hazy about the last few months of his life, plus he’ll probably associate your videos with fear and horror. So let’s classify him as mostly harmless.”

“Ooh, Missy, are you quoting Douglas Adams?” Trixie asked her cousin, expression brightening.

“What?” Melissa asked tiredly as she turned back to the redhead.

Trixie’s expression became a pout. “Sorry, for a moment there I thought you had culture.”

“Though, one more thing, speaking of lamps?” Amy broke back in. From where she sat on the bed, she gestured at the old style lamp on the night table.

The one that had formerly been a knife.

“Yeah, now, that should not have happened,” Melissa admitted.

She stood up to go and examine the object once more. Trixie immediately took Melissa’s place, sitting in the only chair in the room. I continued to lean against the wall.

We had gone to the effort of rubbing the lamp, by the way. No genie.

Melissa turned the lamp around in her hands a couple of times, then shook her head. “Still no signs it’s going to revert. The current supernatural balance is obviously even more out of whack than I previously believed,” the brunette witch concluded.

“Maybe the knife’s transformation has some connection to this Prophecy?” I suggested. “Between that and the three month window that the vampyre alluded to, perhaps we’ll start seeing more of this kind of thing.”

“The lycan mentioned a prophecy too, but I have no idea what it’s about,” Melissa said, starting to sound frustrated. “Trixie? You turn up anything yet?”

“Nopers,” Trixie said with a shrug. She’d done some online searching for it during my earlier dream explanations, and had come up empty. “But remember, I’m a techno-witch. If it’s not published on the web, I can’t find it. You’ll need to research dusty old books in the library with James. If you can keep your minds on research, that is.”

“This isn’t funny, Trix,” Melissa snapped. “Can’t you try the so-called dark web or something?”

Trixie’s grin vanished. “Geez, Missy, I didn’t say I was giving up. But you can’t just call me in and expect me to fix all your problems overnight.”

“Tell me about it. It took you two weeks just to pinpoint Halko,” Melissa grumbled.

“Which is not that long given what little I had to go on. You should have called me in a week earlier, before you started following false leads.” Now Trixie was sounding defensive.

I exchanged a quick glance with Amy, who smiled tiredly and shrugged. It wasn’t just me then – the working relationship between the two witches wasn’t as amicable as the one that had existed between Melissa and I.

I coughed. “You know, we could always talk to other witches, see if they have more information,” I suggested. “Maybe they’ve heard supernatural beings talking about it too.”

“Mmm,” Melissa said, nodding her head in agreement as she put the lamp back down. “Maybe see if any other witches are also seeing a rise in supernatural incidents, or magick forced on the unwilling, that sort of thing. Good thinking, James.”

Trixie rolled her eyes, but said nothing, which at least didn’t create more problems. As far as the Agency goes, I like to think I compliment Melissa’s analysis and Trixie’s tech with a little human interaction.

“Um, about that,” Amy put in. “If I’ve understood James correctly the last couple weeks, weren’t you breaking your own rules tonight? By attacking the vampire, using your magic to contain the wolf when he didn’t want to be trapped, and that sort of thing.”

Melissa turned to look at Amy. “No, because we were up against beings who knew we were witches, and thus expected spells. Moreover, when someone attacks you, they’re implicitly opening themselves up to be attacked back. Passive acceptance.”

“Besides, our spells were basically for self-defence, and we’re allowed to protect ourselves without a backlash,” Trixie added.

“Ah,” Amy said dubiously. “I guess real magic’s a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.”

“There’s special evening courses you can take,” Melissa offered. “Though you’d need a sponsor, you have to show some natural ability, and all the participants tend to be of high school age or less. Well, occasionally first year university.”

Melissa glanced my way. I vaguely recalled her talking about it with me once, but I had been more interested in my journalism goals at the time.

“Ugh, tell me about it,” Trixie moaned. “If I hadn’t had to take all those extra magick courses, I’m sure I could have graduated regular high school two years early.” She grinned at Amy. “Say, have I mentioned my IQ?”

Amy raised her hands, palms out, and waved them back and forth with a wan smile on her face. “Never mind, it’s fine, I think I’ll leave the magic to the professionals.”

“That’s probably best,” Melissa said dismissively. I suspect that I alone had sensed the disappointment in Amy’s tone. Maybe it was time to clear the room, to give Amy some peace and quiet.

I pushed away from the wall, stretching my arms above my head. “Well, at the risk of being rude, it’s something like 3am, and I think we could all do with at least a bit of uninterrupted sleep.”

“3am?” said Melissa in surprise. “I thought it was midnight.”

She gestured at the motel’s clock radio, which had been reset at some point and was flashing twelve.

“Yes, Missy, it’s been midnight for the last three hours,” Trixie said. She rose from the chair and headed over to her cousin, grabbing her by the arm. “Don’t you worry, James, I get it. We’ll get out of your hair, leave you to say to Amy whatever it is you need to.”

Melissa humphed. “Don’t get coy, Trixie. James knows not to hint with me, if he needs time without us, he’ll say so.”

“What he needs is for you to pretend to understand relationships,” Trixie said, pulling Melissa towards the door. “Honestly, you two idiots are made for each other.”

Melissa gave Trixie a look of annoyance, and me a sort of a confused shrug, but didn’t otherwise resist being led out of the room. As Trixie pulled the door behind them, I fired off a grateful smile her way.

Trixie’s response was to meet my gaze, and give me a wink while making a kissing motion with her mouth. I couldn’t tell if the redhead was making an allusion to “kissing Amy goodbye”, if she was trying to give me her own kiss goodnight, if she was simply trying to annoy Melissa, or something completely different.

Trixie was definitely harder for me to read than her cousin.

Only once the witches had left and closed the door did I go to sit on the side of the bed near Amy. It was time to end this particular chapter of my life.

Little did I realize that this would be less like ending a chapter, and more like concluding an entire book – before launching into a new volume, one that had me in a relationship with the Chosen One of a Prophecy.

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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?”

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 3A

Previous INDEX Next

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.

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 2E

Previous INDEX Next Act

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 2D

Previous INDEX Next

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.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

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.

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