From the Archive
"A Mostly Text Interlude"
Main Hail, Washington, Mid-town
Monday, September 15th, 2014
Using a lump of blue sidewalk chalk, Earl Silverman drew a succession of arcane sigils at center court. An old friend of his, a janitor, had phoned to report a series of strange events over the past month in the community center. It had started with door slamming and lights flickering, signs of a harmless minor haunting. When things progressed to cold spots he had gotten concerned. When he went to clean the mirror in the ladies room only to find GET OUT written on the mirror in blood, he had decided to make a phone call.
Even in the dead of night with no one else in the building, performing an exorcism in a public place is difficult. It’s about thresholds. They do something weird to beings of the supernatural. Houses have strong thresholds, because generally people aren’t aloud to just wander in and out uninvited. There’s a mystical element of protection to that, the safety of your own home. Public places, like a department store or a gym, just have people wandering in and out constantly. It’s why vampires can shop at Wal-Mart but you never meet a vampire burglar.
Earl had been working on a theory that the reason so many people end up moving into a new house only to find it haunted was that the ghost was able to enter during the open house. Testing it, however, would take far more time and resources than he had. Earl considered himself more of a Theoretical Arcanist anyway.
Casting his mystical senses around the room, Earl didn’t immediately recognize anything out of the ordinary. Brushing his hand against the charm he wore around his neck, a gold amulet inset with a smooth green crystal, he focused on a spell to project his voice.
“I am addressing he entity that has taken residence within the Mahoney County Community Center. By the authority of the Caretakers of Magic, I order you to vacate not only this building, but this entire realm.”
A shadowy laugh echoed from the walls, sending a chill down Earl’s spine. He felt it’s presence then, inky and squirming, meaning it was a Specter. That made things complicated.
While any soul that has escaped it’s mortal form is a ghost, they come in an exiting variety of flavors! A Spirit is the most common, a simple echo of the being that they once were. Spirits are harmless, usually waiting to tell someone something before they can pass on. Spooks are mostly obnoxious, sticking around for the thrill of frightening the living. They don’t even want to hurt you, really. They’re just ghosts who get their jollies moaning and rattling chains. Other than a Poltergeist, a Specter is the most dangerous form of ghost.
A Specter is indiscriminant rage with the ability to reach out and touch the living. Most of the time they’re formed when someone feels that their death was unjust, often one that they had time to stew over. People who died of a long illness that never made peace with it are common, with the occasional torture victims thrown in for color. A Specter doesn’t go quietly into that good night. Thankfully, Earl was ready.
The Specter manifested as a sloppy, dribbling mess of pale flesh and wet hair coated in tar and plant life. That was a good indicator that whoever it had been in life had drown. At this point, solving the case of who-dun-it was beyond Earl’s scope. All he could do was keep it from hurting anyone.
“What do you hope to accomplish here, mortal?” The Specter asked in a voice of the same oddly resonant quality as it’s laugh had been.
“My hope is that you’ll listen to reason and decide to move on. Realistically? I think you’re going to put up a fight and I’m going to have to perform an exorcism. The first option ends with you going to wherever ghosts go when they’re done haunting. The other ends with you either obliterated or trapped in an object for the rest of eternity.”
Alas, the Specter didn’t even take a moment to consider his options. Being as they can’t touch the floor, ghosts don’t so much charge as they hurl their ectoplasm forms at their would-be victims. In this case, the Screaming Soggy Specter of the Mahoney County Community Center had his sights set on thrashing the pacific northwest’s foremost wizard with all of it’s damp and detestable destructive ability. Earl knew himself well enough to admit that an alliterative run on sentence in his internal monologue was a good indicator that he was nervous.
The dreadlocked wizard stole a moment of focus, just long enough to throw up a protective shield to hold the ghost at bay. The Specter slid around the edge of his bubble and hurtled towards the boundary line.
With a pathetic yelp the hurtling Specter met invisible wall and stopped fast.
The beauty of performing the exorcism ritual on the basketball court was that the lines in place already held power. Years of players, screaming fans and, most important of all, officials, had made the lines that marked parts of the court out of bounds serve as minor thresholds. With the sigils Earl had drawn to prop them up, the specter had walked right into the cage and slammed the door on itself.
“Now,” Earl asked, channeling his mana towards his hands in preparation for another spell, “are you ready to have a reasonable conversation?”
Earl took the resulting roar and the Specter trying to charge him a second time as a no. He released the stored mystic energy in a torrent towards the ghost. The Specter erupted into green flame and collapsed, it’s momentum unexpectedly halted.
Stepping towards the flaming spectral heap, Earl once again produced the sidewalk chalk and sketched a hasty circle around the momentarily incapacitated ghost. As the two ends of the loop met, the circle chimed with power, signaling that the Specter was sealed within. Closing his eyes, Earl began to chant.
“Regna terrae, cantate Deo,
qui fertis super caelum
caeli ad Orientem
Ecce dabit voci Suae
tribuite virtutem Deo.”
There are maybe a thousand ways to perform an exorcism, but Earl preferred the tried and true Catholic method. The Vatican boys had been chanting Latin and banishing the undead since long before he was born and would no doubt continue as long as there was a Pope to prop them up against. Earl being a practicing Buddhist didn’t factor into the equation at all.
The ritual went on for a while longer, but the fight was over the moment the Specter had stepped onto the basketball court. Spell slinging is truly a very minor part of wizardry. A practitioner of the art worth his salt knows that the real skill comes from being able to outthink your foe. So far, Earl had managed to always do just that.
It was a streak he hoped would continue for a long time.
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