Cinemagic, p.1
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       CineMagic, p.1

           Andrew E. Moczulski
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  A Slayer of Evil (Prices Negotiable) Story


  Andrew E. Moczulski

  Copyright 2012, Andrew E. Moczulski


  Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

  It looked like nothing even I had ever seen before, a nightmarish mish-mash of seemingly random limbs and other body parts; legs sticking out from the stumps of severed necks, mouths inside other mouths, eyes on the tips of its fingers. It was as if Picasso had taken a hand at designing a living creature... while he was violently ill. There was quite clearly nothing “alive” about it, though; the flesh coating the mismatched bones was a sickly gray, no human shade. At least, not a shade you would find on a living human.

  Moreover, the whole thing had a blurry, unreal quality to it. As if it was just barely existing, or perhaps it had been purposely sculpted to give someone who saw it one final spot of hope before they died. “It can't be real,” your mind would say. “If I close my eyes, it will disappear.”

  It wouldn't, of course, but I couldn't blame someone who hadn't seen what I'd seen for thinking that. As a species, we deal poorly with the unknown.

  It had come from literally out of nowhere. Just appeared in my home, whipping its limps through the furniture and sending everything in my living room crashing against the walls before beginning to crawl towards me, clawing along on too many hands, screaming my name in agony with too many mouths, a dozen red eyes blinking madly.

  “Eric Margraaaaave... reckoning, for your sins... this is the end for you...” it hissed, speaking in a multitude of voices at once as it continued to claw its way through the ruins of my living room. “This is thSQUARRRRKZ.”

  The rant dissolved into a sound sort of like a speaker being thrown into a vat of battery acid, as the creature itself was bisected by a bolt of blue light. The mass of flesh fell apart, sliced cleanly in two, and the halves themselves dissolved in seconds, leaving behind no sign that the creature had ever existed beyond the disarray in the room.

  My roommate stood there, in a spot which had, when there had been a creepy thing in the room, been hidden from my view by said creepy thing. Her hand was outstretched, her fingers glowing a pale blue light the same shade as the energy she had just fired to obliterate the ugly nasty creepy thing. “Eric,” she said in something between concern and annoyance. “What was that?”

  You seem confused. I should probably have mentioned the roommate before now.

  Way back when, in 1903 (Or was it 1904?), Lydia Talman had moved with her family into the home we now stood in. It had been left to her husband by his recently deceased employer, Harcourt Stanfield. Unfortunately, there had been some issues with the property, mostly in that Mr. Stanfield's twisted, psychotic ghost had still been residing on it. He had started small, frightening the family's young daughter and feeding off her fear to grow more powerful, as ghosts were wont to do. Then, when he was strong enough, he killed them all in a sadistically vicious display.

  That's when things started to get kinda weird.

  In the last moments of her life, Lydia Talman had leaped to the defense of her only child, dying in an attempt to protect her loved ones. In so doing, she had met the requirements to become a Lar, a household guardian spirit. Unfortunately, seeing as her daughter had died at the same moment she did, she then went dormant because she had nothing to guard... until such time as I bought the house, looking to get a good deal. Killer specters drive property values way down, it's awesome. And given that I have made something of a career out of freelance paranormal extermination, I was just the guy to take advantage of that bargain and come out alive. There had been some snags, but Lydia and I had managed to team up and kick old Harry out of our house, and we'd been kind of a team ever since.

  I shrugged in response to her question, poking idly at the floor where a creepy monster no longer stood. “If I had to guess, I'd say someone is trying to curse me. This thing knew my name, and it wasn't like any creature I've ever even heard of, which suggests that it was custom-made by someone wanting to kill me, specifically. Curses can take on all kinds of different forms depending on who is casting them and how, and 'big shadow monster' is definitely a plausible one. So, we should be...”

  I was cut off, then, by the doorbell ringing, which is actually a fairly big deal. My house is off Route 87 a little west of Lake George, about an hour's drive north of Albany, in an area that is really not too inhabited. Queensbury is decently close if I need supplies, and there are several reliable airports within an hour or two driving distance, but it's far enough out of the way that not many folks will be dropping by without my invitation. This was very much on purpose. I don't want visitors. Visitors lead to neighbors, and neighbors lead to people noticing why I'm driving away so often in an unmarked van with cases full of bullets and guns.

  “Hold on, I guess I should get that,” I said mildly, heading to the door. I whistled a little tune, walked with a little spring in my step, and grabbed up the shotgun from the disguised cabinet next to the door. Benelli M4. Fired at the kind of super-close range I would see fighting inside the house, it deals some painfully absurd damage, is reliable and easy to take care of, and can handle a larger variety of ammo than you'd think. Can't be too careful, y'know?

  I opened the door, taking a step back as I did and letting it swing open while I raised the gun and slid my finger onto the trigger, fully ready to blow the face off my guest if they turned out to be hostile.

  On the other side of the door, her finger still on the button to ring the doorbell, was a girl. She didn't look old, maybe twenty at the most, and kinda mousy. Straight brown hair, dull brown eyes behind small-framed glasses, fairly average build and height. Not unpleasant in any way, just not terribly striking either, the kind of person you wouldn't notice if you walked past them in a crowd. If looks were ice cream, she would be vanilla, basically. She was dressed in head-to-toe black, and around her neck was a silver necklace with an inverted pentagram, which is generally the fashion I've come to expect from the ones who get into black magic solely because they think it's cool.

  “Stop by to check up on your handiwork? It didn't work,” I said mildly.

  “N-no! I... please don't shoot me!” she squealed. “I didn't curse you!”

  “I didn't say anything about being cursed, honey,” I said. “You realize this, right?”

  “I know, I know! I know about the curse, but not because I cast it! It was my sister! She told me about it, and, I mean, I know she's family, but it just wasn't right! I had to come out here and warn you about it!” she continued.

  I pondered this for a moment. “Okaaaay... well, I admit I'm not getting the 'psycho-killer' vibe from you, but I've been wrong in the past. So what we're going to do is, you stay right there and explain everything, while I keep this shotgun pointed at your face. You have five minutes to clear up everything, and I mean everything.”

  “Okay, okay! Um... my name is Connie Ryan. My sister and I grew up just... you know... loving ghost stories, tales about witches and spells, stuff like that. We always liked to find new rituals or stories. Eventually, we got interested to the point of trying it ourselves, just for fun. Doing little charms on people we liked, or trying to give acne to the bitchy cheerleaders, that sort of thing, All just harmless, silly kid stuff from ridiculous books we found in libraries or bookstores, nothing with any power to it... until we found a tome in an old antique shop. Not a normal book, this, but a unique tome, handwritten
, and more importantly...” Connie said, pausing for dramatic effect.

  “The spells actually worked, I take it.”

  “The spells inside... were real,” she continued, apparently ignoring me. It was okay, I was used to it. “My sister and I had discovered true magicks.”

  And yes, she said “magick” with a “k”. Don't ask me how I knew... it's just a thing you eventually pick up. You can always tell the people who say it with a “k”. They think the “k” adds mystery to it or something, I dunno.

  “Okay. So far, so good. How about we skip ahead to the part where y'all are trying to kill me?” I suggested.

  “Oh, right. Well, I was dedicated to being a good witch. I never hurt anyone, used my magic only for good, in a good way,” Connie said piously.

  I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Sounds... good.”

  “It was,” Connie said without the slightest hint of sarcasm. Wow, she was a unique one. “But it didn't last. While Michelle.... that's my sister, by the way.”

  “I guessed.”

  “While Michelle originally walked with me the path of light, she eventually... fell... into shadow,” Connie said, her tone taking on what I think she assumed was a dramatic knell. It was kinda hard to take her seriously given that she mostly looked like a goth librarian, but it would have been really mean to point that out, I think. She was so into it. “My sister, who had once been my closest companion, was seduced by a dark practitioner, and turned to the path of evil. He initiated her, then, in the dark arts... until we went to college, at least, after that I think they just mostly exchanged dirty e-mails. I mean, I didn't want to pry too much into their love life. Just the dark magic part.”


  “But then, one day, as my sister prepared to return home and continue her pursuit of the dark arts, no matter how I tried to stop her, she received a message stating that her master had been slain, all his evil powers not availing him!” Connie said, and the edge of excitement in her voice was palpable. “It was a time or wonderment and joy for me! I felt sure that without his tainted influence, my sister would once again begin to heed my advice and return to the path of good! But I underestimated the depths of her affection for her fallen master. She began to hunt his killer, seeking to claim revenge!”

  I sighed. “I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that said killer was me.”

  “And that killer... was you!” Connie said, dramatically pointing at me.

  “I just said that.”

  “Michelle is coming for you now, her powers steeped in the bloody darkness of revenge, and I fear that without my help, you will never be able to repel the curse that she has cast upon thee!” Connie declared. I had no idea if she was ignoring me on purpose, or just so caught up in her meandering warnings that she didn't even notice I was talking to her.

  “Actually, we seem to have gotten rid of it pretty well,” I said.

  “It was not that difficult,” Lydia agreed, appearing at my side. “It was actually a rather poor curse.”

  Connie, the witch who had mastered the grand arts of magick, reacted to Lydia's sudden arrival in pretty much the way you'd have expected she would based on her performance thus far.

  “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!” she squealed, turning and running across the lawn at a full, terrified sprint. There was a beat-up Chevy parked on the street, and she leaped into it, gunned the engine, and drove off so fast the tires smoked.

  I probably could have stopped her if I tried; I'm pretty fast and had a heavy gun to club her with. But honestly, I was just so bemused by the whole sight that I couldn't do much but sit still and watch. Every once in awhile, you just get a day that is so odd you can't do much but go with the flow on it and see what happens, I guess.

  “So, Eric. Who was that pleasant, if somewhat high-strung, young lady?” Lydia asked after we just kind of stared at the road for a few minutes in confused silence.

  “She claims to be a witch, and that her sister is the one trying to kill me this time. I guess I killed her boyfriend-master? Personally, nothing about this situation rings a bell, but I do appear to have been cursed, so I have no particular reason to assume she was lying.”

  “And you must admit that does sound like you, yes,” Lydia said brightly.

  “Hey, why are you so quick to assume I murdered the guy?” I asked. “That hurts, Lyd. Hurts me in my soul, that you have no trust in me.”

  She didn't say a word, just glanced rather meaningfully at the shotgun I used when answering the door. It was, admittedly, on the large side.

  “Well, okay, yes, I do engage in pretty frequent violence,” I admitted. “But in my defense, if I killed her boyfriend, we can be pretty sure he had it coming.”

  “I will concede the point,” Lydia admitted, which was gracious of her. It was nice that she at least knew me well enough to notice that most of what I was hired to hunt had done something to earn a bullet to the face. “So, that creature I disposed of was summoned by that young lady's sister in her effort to take her revenge?”

  “Seems to be. I guess she cast a lethal curse of some kind on me, and it took the form of that... thingamabob... and came to kill me. Which is worrisome, granted, but apparently whoever spun this specific curse isn't any match for my gal, the Spiritweight Champion of the World, so I'm guessing we don't have to make a rush job out of finding 'Michelle' and politely breaking her knees if she doesn't cut it out.”

  “Actually, Eric, the situation is more grave than you believe,” Lydia said softly. “There has already been a serious loss to us.”

  “Eh? Lyd, I'm fine, you're fine, so I'm not sure what you mean, here.”

  She sighed in abject sorrow. “Come, follow me back to the scene of the attack. And... brace yourself for the trauma to come.”

  I did so, still a bit confused but knowing better than to argue with Lydia when she was trying to make an impact. We came upon the room where I had been when the curse manifested and scattered the furniture. Wordlessly, Lydia extended her hand to point at one of the pieces that had been caught in that initial rush and thrown aside by the creature's violent entry.



  The television.

  “It... it was so young...” Lydia whispered, a quaver in her voice as her eyes ran over the cracked screen of what had once been our modest TV.

  I winced. Lydia was, under normal circumstances, stuck in this house, and generally had no physical form unless I, the resident, was in mortal danger. As a result, when we were at home, she tended to watch a lot of television and movies. When you couldn't even read without someone to turn the pages for you, a form of entertainment that revolved around sitting and staring with no physical input became your best bet for stimulation. And now, TV was dead.

  “It's okay, Lyd. They sell sets for pretty cheap these days, as long as you aren't going for the ultra-huge high-def plasma screen ones that look like the viewscreen on a spaceship. We can make a road trip to replace it tomorrow, no problem.”

  “But it was movie night!” Lydia wailed. “We were going to watch The Moopets!”

  “That actually isn't the title of th-”

  “I care not! I am distraught!” Lydia declared, tears filling her eyes. Which, considering her eyes weren't real, was a genuine accomplishment. Death had done shockingly little to hinder her ability to make her emotions known to those around her. If anything, it had made her more expressive about them, since she now had infinite time to wear your patience down to nothingness. When she was distraught, you knew she was distraught.

  “Clearly,” I said. It was true, after all. And more to the point, I knew better than to try arguing with her when she was crying.

  “Movie night is our moment of bonding as co-workers and friends! It is the glue that binds our team together! It is one of the few reliefs I have from the interminable boredom of my existence,” Lydia snarled.

sp; “Lyd, we go out and do stuff all the time.”

  “Yes, your 'stuff.' Whenever we leave the house, it is for work! And whilst your work is admittedly somewhat more... colorful... than most, that does not mean it does not occasionally become extremely tedious to me, Eric. We never do anything simply for fun except on these movie nights.”

  I considered this. “You know... you have a point.”

  “Oh, of course you would dismiss my concerns out of hand, after all you are and ever have been nothing more than a violent, self-cent- wait, did you just agree with me?” Lydia asked.

  “We could use a night off, couldn't we? Just head out on the town, no monsters, no bloodshed, just the two of us, hanging out. Could be fun!” I said cheerfully. “Only problem is, someone is still trying to, apparently, curse me. I mean, I doubt that attempt will be the last one, so we really ought to be working to figure out who it is before we do anything else...”

  Even as I spoke, a shadow detached itself from the wall, taking on the form of a raven the size of a man. The creature was translucent, as the first one had been, but had the additional joyous little bonus of evil, glowing red eyes. It did not open its viciously hooked beak, and yet still managed to speak the words, “Eric Margrave! For your sins, I have come to bring true despair upon ySQUAAAAAAAAAAARKZ.”

  “I believe I can deal with the issue, Eric,” Lydia said, sparks of azure light dancing between her fingers from the bolt of light she had just hurled to reduce Big Bird to fried chicken with something less than a thought.

  “You do seem to somewhat outmatch whoever has their cauldron all a-bubble in my general direction,” I admitted. “Will you still be able to keep this up outside the house? You never do quite as well outside the house.”

  Lydia blew on the tip of her finger like an old-west gunslinger. “Trust me. I would need less than a thousandth of my full potential to repel such low-class manifestations. Whomever is sending them against you is quite good at looking dangerous and quite bad at actually being dangerous.”

  I smiled. Sometimes, she was just too awesome to dislike. “I choose to trust in my world-class bodyguard, then, and reward her with a fun little jaunt into the world. So, where you wanna go? The world's your oyster.”

  “I actually do not like seafood, Eric.”

  “Sometimes, I can't tell if you actually don't understand me, or if you pretend not to just to be annoying,” I said. “Where do you want to go?”

  Lydia smiled.

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