Balance - Book One - Chapter one

Balance - Book One - Chapter one

A Chapter by Marc Dickason
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Jet Clarence is about to meet his demon for the first time, and pay a visit to the Department of Magic

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Balance

By Marc Dickason

Copyright 2014 by Marc Dickason

Smashwords Edition

 

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BALANCE

By Marc Dickason

 

CHAPTER 1

The more specific details of the dream slip my mind, but what I do recall with some clarity is seeing the tuxedo for the first time.

I recognised it as the design often referred to with humorous, somewhat clichéd connections to penguins, and noted it was made of the expensive sort of fabric a wise old tailor would rub between thumb and forefinger while nodding in approval.

The suit stood before me, perfectly fitted, buttoned and shining gloriously. What struck me as odd was that a person was suspiciously absent from the expensive clothing. Where a neck and head should have protruded was only empty space.

“I command you reveal yourself,” my dream presence said, and with that a face swam into focus above the empty collar; a human face by all means, but for the light blue skin and pupil-less, blood-red eyes.

The face looked at me in response, and then I felt the pointy object being forced into my lower back, three inches above my backside. I attempted to reach for the object and realised I was unable to move, but not restrained in any obvious way.

Bizarrely, I did not panic. Not yet.

How long I was in that vulnerable position is a bit of a mystery. It seems to have been only moments, but on reflection it may have been a great deal longer. At some point, the pain in my back becoming unbearable, I spoke again;

“Jet Clarence, mental state awake.” A rather odd and specific thing to say. “Jet Clarence, mental state awake…”

And then I was alone in my bedroom, lying amongst twisted bed covers and gazing up at shafts of early morning sunlight penetrating the curtains.

With mind scrambling to catch up with reality I slipped a hand under my night T-shirt and massaged the aching spot on my lower back.

It took a few more moments before the chaos surrounding me was registered. Every object in my bedroom; bedside table, lamp, chair, and shoes, was sitting as if flung from where I lay.

To my left; the wooden bedside table had been sent skidding across the floor till it came into contact with the wall and could go no further. Looking down the length of my body I saw the chair which normally sat at the foot of my bed, generally covered in discarded clothing, pushed forward till it now sat leaning against my cupboard.

“What the hell…?” Before the words had been formed my eyes were drifting up to the light fixture. It swung erratically, arching through the air above my head as if molested seconds before.

I did not yet see the blood on the wall, but would soon enough.

So there I lay in sleepy confusion, the twittering of early morning birds audible beyond my window, glancing around the room and half expecting to see a sneaky assailant hiding in the corner, pointy object clutched in hand. But I was alone.

Desperate to make sense of the situation I stood, stumbled from my bedroom and into the bathroom.

When I lifted my shirt and turned my back to the mirror, the bright red mark where the pointy object had done its business was visible.

This in itself would have been enough to get me alarmed, but upon returning to my room I now spotted the blood on the wall; the shape and size of a starfish.

At first I could not imagine from where it had originated, but the source revealed itself at my feet.

Critter was my mom’s boyfriend’s cat. He had been flung against the wall with enough force to kill him instantly.

“Oh no…” I muttered, my hand clapping itself over my mouth.

 

* * *

 

It was no secret in the Clarence household that Critter and I did not see eye-to-eye. On more than one occasion it had been hinted at that I disliked the fat, stupid animal. On other occasions I had been out-rightly accused of hating him, who knew why.

If forced to be honest, I thought of Critter the same way that some might view a disease-infested rat. And no, the irony that “Critter” was a sort of self-fulfilling name in that case was not lost on me. From his pointy little ears which sprouted puffs of black hair, to his flat face that looked as if it had been the victim of a door slamming, I loathed Critter. Always slinking around and purring with that smug look, like he had just found a cure for cancer and was expecting praise.

But I did not kill Critter, and would not kill any animal. At least not on purpose. And the fact that the little b*****d was dead put me in a whole world of trouble. My mind had not begun to process how the murder had occurred.

Clinton, Critter’s before mentioned owner, was the only person I saw less eye-to-eye with then the ridiculous creature itself. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that the man was an unemployed drunk, but to put it in a nutshell we did not get along.

And I was certain cat homicide was not going to serve as the bonding occasion that brought us closer together.

It was about 5:45am when I crept downstairs, snuck into the kitchen and stole a garbage bag from the drawer.

By 6:00am I had Critter in the bag; a process that took about fourteen minutes longer than I thought it would. The delay being time spent gathering the courage to handle a bloody feline.

And it was just after 6:06am when I stepped into the crisp morning air and began to dig a hole in the back garden. Having not been able to find the actual hole digging shovel I was forced to settle for the little hand version that had me digging till 6:15am.

Critter was put to rest, bless his furry soul, at 6:35am.

By the time I tiptoed back up to my room I sensed no indication I had been overheard by my mother or Clinton and, as I grabbed a sponge from my bathroom and the scrubbing of the blood stain on the wall began, I felt satisfied that I was in the clear. For the moment.

When my alarm clock went off at 7:30am I descended the wooden staircase as per normal, dressed for work in my standard attire of “whatever happened to be close at hand”.

 I headed for the kitchen to find my mother, Liza, already cooking eggs. Dressed in apron and flattering work clothes one was dared to believe she was a day over thirty five.

Her spectacle wearing boyfriend, Clinton, who hadn’t been polite enough to die during the night and disappear forever, gave me an uncertain smile from the small kitchen table. His appearance on the other hand loudly declared every day of his fifty odd years on Earth.

“Morning, Jet.” he said hopefully.

Clinton.” A single word was all he was getting, and lucky to have gotten it. I sat across from him and avoided his eyes. My mother looked over her shoulder,

“Want some eggs?”

“Please.”

I sat in silence, half expecting accusation of being a cat murderer. None come. The eggs continued their sizzle in the pan.

“Clinton’s going for an interview later.” my mother said, trying as much to break the silence as to once again convince me her boyfriend was good for more than drinking her money away. As if to validate her statements’ truthfulness, the skinny man offered me a grin.

“Great.” I murmured, letting the room fall back into silence.

After another pause I spoke my mind; “I just had the strangest dream, mother.”

“Oh? Do tell.” she replied, flipping the eggs.

I knew she was sore at me for not accommodating her attempt to involve Clinton in our morning small talk, but had stopped caring long ago.

“I’m wondering if it might not have been magical.” I continued.

“Really?” This got her interest.

Beside me Clinton sunk into his chair, accepting he would have no part in yet another conversation.

My mother had always been the only one in our family with any real level of natural magical ability. Except for my grandmother of course, but since I only saw her once a year at most I hardly considered her to be “real” family.

“What makes you think it was magical?” my mother asked, and already there was a hint of excitement in her voice.

“Well…” I wasn’t sure how to put it. And besides it was not so much the dream that bothered me as much as moving of objects and dead animal.

The brochures they handed out on the first day of high school always said stuff like “dreams of a magical nature,” but what that meant I wasn’t sure. I had never cared enough to read further. Nowhere had I heard mention of remote manipulation of physical objects.

“I was attacked.” I said, hoping that my mother knew more then I did.

“Attacked?” She slid the eggs onto plates and placed one in front of Clinton. He started eating, thankful to have his mouth occupied.

“Yes, attacked. Something was pushed into my back.”

“Okay. And you saw someone there?”

Someone? Had it been a ‘someone?’ “Some kind of creature with a blue face and red eyes. Not human, I don’t think.”

“Alright,” She put a second plate in front of me and took a seat to my right. “And did this blue guy say anything?”

“No. I looked in the mirror after, there’s a mark on my back.”

She frowned. I stuffed eggs in my mouth and watched her, wondering if she guessed there was more to the story. But she broke into a beaming smile and gave my shoulder a sharp slap. It was supposed to be an indication of congratulations, but succeeded only in making a forkful of egg miss my mouth by an inch. She did these kinds of things, my mother. Odd little gestures of parental affection that should’ve come from a father. I loved her for trying.

“I guess you have an appointment at the Department, then.” she declared, still grinning.

Much later when I thought back on this moment, I often wished I had spotted the misplaced delight my mother had for my development of magical abilities. Yes, in that moment I had just assumed she was pleased to have another magic user in the family, knowing the point of pride it was for her and my grandmother, but I should have guessed it was more. Had I picked up on the situation earlier it would have given me a greater chance to avoid some of the more tragic events that later developed. But then again, in the state of mind I was in those early days asking me to pick-up on any unusual behaviour was akin to asking for a miracle.

“I guess I do.” I responded, trying to work up excitement for her sake but failing. An appointment at the Department of Magic was nothing about which to get excited: queues, wasted hours and stuffy rooms.

“I was thinking,” Clinton started, daring to step into a conversation not specifically about him, “maybe we could have a coffee after you knock off from work. I’ll be out that way after my interview.”

I looked over at him; his expression was that of a man who had just suggested a seal clubbing date and was hoping it would not be taken the wrong way.

“Don’t think I’ll have the time.” I muttered.

 “Well, maybe another day.”

My mother’s previous smile melted, ushering us into yet another awkward silence courtesy of Skinny Clinton.

“Right,” my mother declared, “I need to get to work.” She stood, turned to Clinton, “Best of luck, dear.” kissed his forehead, and stalked out.

I took the cue and abandoned the rest of my toast, not much in the mood for a moment alone with Skinny Clinton. But he wasn’t going to let me go without first dropping the bombshell.

“Have you seen Critter this morning?”

Being a terrible liar I opted to shrug my shoulders unconvincingly, then shuffle from the room and proceed desperately to the downstairs phone.

I flipped through a phone book, found the number and dialed. But as expected the Department of Magic put me on hold. I listened for as long as I possibly could to a horrific instrumental version of a popular movie theme. When that drove me to consider suicide I hung-up and headed for work.

 

* * *

 

Researcher. That was the official title of my job at The Whisperer. Though if they had been honest they would have called it “New-Guy-Hell.”

You see The Whisperer is not so much a magazine as it was the single biggest load of completely fabricated celebrity bullshit it’s possible to bind between two glossy covers. It preferred to be called a “gossip magazine,” but really, who’s fooled?

My job was to scour the internet for information or photos that might help to embarrass, or better yet humiliate various celebrities. A good day was when I managed to spot the overlooked n****e of a popular female star in a new photo, and let me tell you there is something very wrong with your life when you get excited about a cheeky n****e for all the wrong reasons.

I’d worked there for only a few months and already been reduced to turning in information about celebrities’ pets to fulfill my daily quota of “ten items of interest”. That was what three years of studying journalism had got me; a “ten items of interest” daily quota and a salary that still had me living with my mother.

It wasn’t all bad, though. The lively environment of The Whisperer offices was a buzzing hive of activity, populated by interesting characters and flirty ladies.

A quirky, heavyset girl named Marge regularly brought in cookies, always quick with wisecracks and somehow inexplicably comfortable with her position as “comic relief”. The boss, a strikingly handsome man named Chad, was hard on everyone and constantly fretting about the deadline, but deep down we all knew he had a heart of gold. And then there was Cindy. Gorgeous despite her approachable demeanour, sarcastic but only in the most lovable fashion, and man oh man could she kick up a storm when one of her team was being exploited…

That’s all a lie. The part about the wacky office colleagues at least; my job really was s**t. Marge, Chad and Cindy will not be making an appearance in this story. In reality The Whisperer offices were as dull as it’s possible to be without being a concentration camp.

My desk, quietly sitting in a corner that seemed less well lit than the rest of the office, was positioned so as to be just beyond talking range of the next person. You might think that this had just been a small lack of foresight in office layout, but it soon became clear that this was a well-planned decision. It had become apparent that any person holding the job of “Researcher” would soon be reaching out to other human beings in frantic desperation; a pathetic attempt to remain sane. So clearly the correct course of action had been to place the soon-to-be-insane employee’s desk on the fringe of “inside voice” distance. All the better to let them sink alone, without dragging others down for the ride. Much like kicking well-anchored vines away from a man being consumed by quick sand.

It occurred to me that others probably did not make such detailed observations about their environment, but it was something that I found myself doing often. In fact I held it as a personal matter of pride to see things that most did not; like spotting a deeper level of the world lingering just below the surface. You might walk through The Whisperer offices a hundred times and not notice my previous observation, but I managed to pick it up on my very first day on the job.

My eyes drifted to my PC monitor, currently displaying what may or may not have been an aging female singer exposing her panties while climbing from a limo.

I had not yet got round to braving the Department of Magic’s cruel “on hold” music a second time. The truth was that the more I thought about it, the more I began to fear what the government’s reaction would be to my transgression. It was no secret that harsher punishment had been dealt out to those who broke magical laws as of late, and what penalties I might pay was starting to become a concern. After all, what I had unintentionally done seemed to be something that could be a dangerous hazard. Not by any means the worst magical hazard I had heard about, but something that might ruin the days of unsuspecting civilians. What the normal procedure was in this case I did not know, but I was reminded of a rather disturbing picture I had seen in that brochure they handed out on the first day of high school…

Just then a hand descended on my shoulder and I jumped.

“Well, well, well, surfing the snatch on company time.” a voice said.

It was Brent, a late twenties graphic designer from a section of the building that remained a mystery. The only person I considered to be a friend from the bowels of The Whisperer. We only made a bit of small talk when bumping into each other in the kitchen, but that was more than the casual “good morning, good bye” banter I had going on with everyone else.

“She’s nearly fifty,” I responded.

“Really? Who’s it supposed to be?”

“Does it matter?”

“Not really.” He leaned in over my shoulder for a closer look, “That’s an awfully provocative pair of panties for a fifty year old. I’ll bet she’s a minx, even if she is old enough to be my mother.”

“You are aware of the incredible level of Freudian depths you just ploughed?”

“Ah. Yes, very clever.” He sat on the edge of my desk and scratched at the little goatee that lived on the tip of his chin. It was the most finely trimmed and nurtured piece of facial hair I had ever seen, putting my own rather scruffy stubble, which existed because I’m too lazy to shave, to horrible shame.

“Listen, there’s a work thing going on Friday, lunchtime,” he continued, “Cecil’s birthday. You should come.”

“Who’s Cecil?”

I suppose I should have been happy I was being invited to something, a chance to get to know some of my work associates and solidify my place in the company. But besides the fact I was not much in the mood for social occasions, the truth was I couldn’t imagine a more agonising way to spend my Friday. Since promotion seemed about as likely as a shower of frogs I had no interest in the company or its people.

“You know, Cecil!” Brent said, “That guy who does that job. Good old Cecil, what a character.”

“You have no idea who he is, do you?”

“None. But look, it’s my responsibility, okay? I got shafted with the damn office team-building bullshit in my section and I have to make sure people show-up.” He paused, then added a hook; “Claudia will be there.”

I racked my brain, “The girl at the front desk?”

“That’s the one, what a fox. She can’t stop talking about you.”

I doubted this. I had said a total of one sentence to her. It went; “I’m here about the job.” My instincts told me that blonde haired Claudia the Receptionist preferred guys that could afford to take her some place other than a fast food joint.

To spare Brent’s feelings I made a show of being torn with the difficult position, even going as far as to sigh in disappointment. “I’d like to, Brent. Really, I would. But I’ve got an appointment at the Department of Magic.”

Brent stared at me, studying my face. I nearly burst a blood vessel forcing myself to hold eye contact and not let slip a telltale sign of deceit. The effort didn’t pay off.

“You’re lying.” he declared, “I’ve seen jars of mustard with more magical ability than you.”

My bluff had failed. And I for one had the common decency to not draw out a defeat. “Yes I am. But just for the record; I really could have an appointment on Friday.”

“At the Department?” His attitude changed gear to genuine interest.

“Yes. I had a dream.”

“Ah. I hope you changed the bed sheets.”

“Ho ho.”

His eyes narrowed, he looked at me in a manner that suggested for the first time. “I honestly didn’t take you for a magic user. What’s your Spirit Level?”

“No idea, I’ve never had it measured.” I replied, “Doesn’t interest me enough to willingly subject myself to six hours of queues in a stuffy government building.”

“But rules is rules.” he said jovially. A sinister grin turned the corners of his mouth upwards; suggesting new cards had been dealt while I was distracted. “The up-side is that I have the means to help you jump to the front of the queue, effectively circumnavigating those six long, blasphemous hours dealing with the body odour of the fat guy that will inevitably be in the seat next to you.” He paused for effect. “It just so happens that my brother, Benny, is a Junior Enforcer.”

“You’re shitting me.”

He shook his head. “I s**t you not. He could handle your Spirit test personally and have you registered before lunch.” Another pause. “So I’ll see you at Cecil’s birthday? No need to bring a gift, your heartfelt best wishes will do.”

I hesitated, but it was futile. Check and mate. “Claudia will really be there?”

“Sure. But your chances of getting with her are about equal to dandelions suddenly springing out of my a*s.”

“Great.”

He took out his wallet, fished for a business card and handed it to me. “Good luck. Benny’s a bit of an odd one. He made a guy eat his own liver once.”

 

* * *

 

It was true that Enforcers had a reputation, validated by endless amounts of rumours, for either being creepy, overly flamboyant, odd, or just plain scary. I had on many occasions presented a wacky “Celebrity Enforcer” story as one of my “ten items of interest”. Most concerned reports that one had been spotted doing something inexplicable, or had been confirmed to have a bizarre fetish; including goat fondling, making love to a goldfish or perhaps rolling around naked in chicken feathers. Take your pick, it was all as substantial as any other celebrity news. I had never heard of an Enforcer making a person eat their own liver, and was sure, not in the least because of the logistics involved, that it was not possible to do so. The thought did linger in my mind.

Although being ludicrously easy to identify by the theatrical uniform, one that would, in my opinion, seem far more at home in a military ceremonial event, I had seen only a handful of real Enforcers in my life. And that was just in passing, glimpsed on the street or perhaps hovering around in a building lobby.

Upon entering the Department of Magic building I was greeted by the sight that turns even strong men’s blood cold; a queue of seated civilians, all looking as though they were secretly hoping for a quick death to relieve them from the tedium, winding its way in a zigzag fashion to a row of teller windows. I was grateful for my free pass.

To my left behind a tiny wooden desk sat an obese frowning woman. I approached with caution, my footsteps deafeningly loud in the otherwise silent hall.

“I have an appointment with Benny Kingston.”

She gave me a dedicated scowl and consulted an open book on the desk, “Jet Clarence?” I nodded. “Door across the hall, turn left, office is on your right.”

I headed for the door, feeling a little smug as I skirted the queue and drew envious gazes. It opened onto a narrow passage and I turned left, soon found the door labeled “Benny Kingston” and knocked.

“Enter.”

Inside the office was roughly the same size as a jail cell. Benny Kingston I assumed, sat behind the desk, eyes fixed on a computer monitor that could have told more stories about the “good old days” than I cared to hear. He was a thin clean-shaven man with only one real distinguishing feature; a nose that would have felt comfortable in profile on a roman coin. All this apparent ordinariness was absurdly contrasted by that ridiculous Enforcer’s uniform. Blue blazer, protruding gold buttons, a jingling collection of what appeared to be decorative medals on the left breast, and although I could not currently see them, I knew the polished black boots sat below the table.

“Benny Kingston?” I enquired.

He gestured to the guests’ seat, an uncomfortable looking chair, without taking his eyes from the monitor.

I sat, aware that a powerful feeling of claustrophobia was setting in like a foot of whale blubber.

Apparently forgetting I was in the room Benny continued to stare with intense concentration at the monitor, leaving me in awkward silence.

So I leaned back, fingers locked in my lap, and chose a section of blank white wall above his head at which to stare.

The moment drew on; he didn’t cough or so much as clear his throat. To my left the plain white clock on the wall ticked; a sound I would never have believed could be so loud.

I’m not a person who finds himself easily put into a state of discomfort, so I was surprised to realise that the level of awkwardness was fast becoming unbearable.

Finally I opened my mouth to make some kind of indication I was still in the room, and as I did Benny’s head snapped up.

“So you surf porn for a living, huh?” he said brightly. It was not a question.

“Sort of,” I responded, feeling relieved though not understanding why. “That’s part of it.”

“If I got paid to surf porn I’d be a rich man.”

“Well, I’m not.”

He grinned again. “You said over the phone you had a dream?”

“That’s right,” I confirmed, shifting about in my chair in an effort to avoid my legs going numb, “last night.”

Here one might have mentioned the poltergeist objects and dead cat.

“I see.” He nodded, then leaned down and took a plastic pouch from the desk’s top drawer. I got the impression that the pouch must contain some kind of magical paraphernalia, but he opened it and tipped a mountain of tobacco onto the desk’s surface. “And this dream was significant to you?”

“It made an impression.” I said, watching as he started to sift through the tobacco with his fingertips, separating larger chunks into a second pile. “I was attacked by a guy with a blue face.”

“You recognised this guy?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

“Afterwards there was a red mark on my back. That’s what worried me.”

“Nothing to be worried about. You were attacked by a demon.” He said this as if it held no significant impact.

 I paused, absorbing the words. “Is that not a bad thing?”

“Well, it’s not a good thing, per se, but it is good confirmation your Spirit levels are high. No one squanders their time digging for potatoes in unfertile soil, if you catch my meaning. Would be a waste, right? Just sand and earthworms.”

“So I’m not in any danger?”

He hesitated. “Actually, you’re in a fair amount of danger. I was trying to lessen your anxiety.”

“Oh. What kind of danger?”

“If left unchecked the demon will grow in strength and eventually… feed on you. If that continues, it can be very bad for your mental health.” He paused, then added; “Sorry.”

I stared. The words did not register. “What? Feed on me?”

“Don’t sweat it; it takes a long time for a demon to reach that level. You’ll have it sorted out long before then.”

“Okay.”

“The plus is you can learn a few spells. Impress girls, be the life of the party. That sort of thing.”

Satisfied that his tobacco was now sorted, he reached down and took a second pouch from the drawer. From this he extracted a pinch of new tobacco that was sprinkled onto the original pile. I watched the process with fascination. It was not the first time I had seen a person handling his or her own tobacco, but the methodical way in which he went about it seemed misplaced.

“So what does this mean?” I asked. “Are there… side effects?”

I was fishing for information, hoping he’d mention something useful about avoiding further accidental pet mutilations.

“Two things,” he declared, “Firstly, we will need to measure your Spirit level. Secondly, should your Spirit level be above average, I will have to register you. Beyond that, it’s really up to you. If you want training that’s on your own buck, the government doesn’t cover it.” He now took a rolling paper from his top pocket and started to roll a cigarette.

“Wait. What? You said I need this training to avoid being fed on by my demon.”

“Yes.”

“The government doesn’t cover that?”

“No.”

“You can tell me I need it, but not give it to me?”

“Correct.”

“Great.”

“Tell me this, how much do you actually know about magic? Read any books? Got a user in the family?”

“My mom.”

“And what is her Spirit level?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You never asked?”

“No. Well, she’s told me before, but I don’t remember.”

“Okay, and what is her chosen field of magic?”

I racked my brain for the exact words. “Illusion, Influence and Manipulation.”

“That’s a broad field. More specifically?”

“I’m not sure.”

His frown managed to make me feel like a dog that had just messed on the rug. “Her name?”

“Liza Clarence.”

“Liza Clarence.” He repeated, placing the perfectly rolled cigarette between his lips and punching a few keys on the keyboard. His eyes scanned information on the monitor as he pinched the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. A small flame sprang forth from between the fingers and ignited the cigarette. A not too impressive bit of magic, I’d seen it before. “It says here your mother is a competent Influencer.”

“Right. That’s it.”

“Your father?”

“He’s dead.”

“And was he a user?”

“Not as far as I know.”

He squinted at the monitor. “It says here… your father died under suspicious circumstances…”

“What? No. He had a heart attack when I was young.”

“I’m reading it right here, Jet; ‘died under suspicious circumstances’. But the case was closed almost immediately after being opened, so I guess it was nothing.”

“It must be a mistake, I’m telling you it was heart attack, I was there, I saw it.”

“Yes? What happened? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Not at all, it was a long time ago…”

I cast my mind back to the events of my father’s death, something about which I thought as little as possible for obvious reasons, and drew up a memory.

 I had been standing looking down at my father as he lay on his back, arms spread on either side of his body. My mother had been kneeling beside him, screaming herself near hoarse.

“What’s wrong with dad?” I had asked, my voice calm for a child witnessing the death of his father.

And my mother, looking up at me as if just realising I was present, responded…

What had she said?

Try as I might I could not remember the words, though the impression they were ones that had caused me emotional grief remained strong.

Benny watched me as my brow furrowed.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Sure,” I muttered, “I just don’t really remember the events very well.”

“Interesting.” As he pondered this he had one long drag, then took an ashtray from the drawer and stubbed out the un-smoked cigarette. The ashtray was overflowing with similarly abandoned cigarettes.

“What’s interesting?”

“Vague memories are sometimes a sign of having been manipulated.”

“You think I was manipulated? Magically?”

“I never said that.” he replied, “I just said it’s interesting. Besides, the case was closed so I’m sure it’s nothing. Now, let’s do your test, shall we?”

“Okay.” I shifted my position again.

“What can you tell me about your time here so far, Jet?” The question was accompanied by a smile and sweeping gesture of the room.

I squinted at him. “Is this the test now?”

“Just answer the question.”

“Well, is it?”

“You’ve already had the test.” Another smile.

“I’m confused.”

“Good. Then the test worked. Now, tell me about the time from when you entered the room up till now.”

I decided to play along. “I came into the room, you told me to sit and I sat down.”

“Is that what happened?”

I thought about it. “You never actually said sit down, you gestured to the chair, and then I sat down.”

“Right. And then?”

“And then what?”

“How did you feel?” he prompted.

“I remember feeling a bit claustrophobic.”

“Good, yes. And then…”

“I was about to talk, but you spoke first.”

“Exactly. And how long do you think you sat in silence before you started to speak?”

“A minute or two.”

“Two minutes and thirty seven seconds,” he declared as if this fact held significance. “Would it amaze you to know that some have sat there in complete silence for nearly a full hour? Others have simply stood and left, never having exchanged a word with me, so deep was their confusion. They failed.”

“Failed? I’m sorry I’m still not following.”

“I’ve measured not your Spirit Level, Jet my old chum, but rather your natural defence against Spirit attacks. You were under attack the moment you stepped through the door. The room, the clock, your chair and my attitude, were all a very well planned attack. But you broke the effect in just two minutes and thirty seven seconds, not bad.”

I hesitated. “Is this the real test? Talking nonsensical s**t and seeing if I’ll buy it?”

He threw back his head and laughed. “No, but extra points for that.” Leaning forward, he spoke the next words with deliberation; “Mental Manipulation and Influence. I suspect, since your mother is a practiced user of similar techniques, you have picked up a strong resistance, regardless of whether you know it or not.”

“So you made me uncomfortable and waited to see how long I would tolerate it?” I asked, still not understanding.

He nodded. “It was just the basis of an attack. It could have gone much further, depending on intention. It may have progressed to making you believe you were a wildebeest, for example.”

“A wildebeest, right. The tobacco thing was part of it?”

“No,” he said, “The tobacco thing is my Primary Crutch. But that’s not important, you’ll learn about that later, if you choose to have training.”

“Did you make a guy eat his own liver?” The words were out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

He stared at me, expressionless. “Did I make a guy eat his own liver? Are you serious?”

“I heard a rumour.”

“Did you even stop to think about what that would involve, logistically? How would I have gone about doing it? Surgically extracting it, then serving it with a bit of apple sauce and hoping the victim will go along for the experience?”

I shrugged. “Yes well, when you say it that way it does sound a little impossible.”

“It’s very possible. Weren’t you listening? Surgery and apple sauce. And yes, I could make a man eat his own liver. As to why I would do it is another question.”

“Right.” My mind struggled to keep up. “What about the fire from the fingertips thing? How do I do that?”

“Well, that’s a different field altogether; Self Deceit, a branch of Reality Manipulation. It involves having a mental discussion about the nature of combustion, friction and heat. And if your mind is convinced, at that moment, that having fire spring forth from your fingertips is logical, it will be so.”

“I’m still a little confused here…”

“Yes well, you may have a high Spirit Level, but your grasp of the basics is not very strong, Jet. I’ll register you. What you plan to do now is up to you. But since you have been targeted by a demon, I would strongly recommend you seek advanced defence training.” He took a business card from his top pocket and handed it to me, then turned his attention to the monitor. “Full name?”

 http://balance-book.weebly.com/




© 2014 Marc Dickason



Author's Note

Marc Dickason
Whoops! Sorry guys, I am not great at online stuff. I uploaded this twice now, both an early version. Sorry about that. This edited version should have been the one I posted.

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Added on January 10, 2014
Last Updated on January 11, 2014
Tags: fantasy, urban-fantasy, magic, demons


Author

Marc Dickason
Marc Dickason

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa



About
Marc Dickason studied script writing for film and theatre at AFDA, as well as freelance journalism and professional short story writing at Intec College. He has been involved in a number of tele.. more..

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