You had just closed up for the day, in the quaint little shop you worked at called The Oracle. The scent of Dragon’s Blood and Sage wafted out the door as you exited it. The Oracle was your typical “New Age” shop with poultices and incense, it had become a makeshift home for you. The smell and the sights and the people were comforting for you.
You would showcase the occasional “fortune teller” or “medium”, but you’ve yet to meet one that hadn’t used simple “cold reading” techniques to fool the clientele. You only hired the best though, despite it being a somewhat misleading business. It paid your bills and brought some folks comfort so you turned a blind eye to the charlatans.
“Hey Y/N, wait up!” You whip around and Amita, your friend is close behind you, her boots hitting pavement. She’s shorter than you, a petite woman, with thick gorgeous ebony hair that tumbled past her shoulders and graced the middle of her back. She had an almost contagiously cheery disposition that seemed impossibly large for her small stature. She was one of the few you considered to potentially be an actual medium with legitimate power. She grinned knowingly. “So how’d it go?”
“How’d what go?”
“You know.” She winks and smiles a cheesy grin. You had almost forgotten.
“C’mon, Amita, I don’t kiss and tell.” You grin devilishly and lean up against your car and pull a stick of gum out of your purse. You kicked your smoking habit years ago and gum seemed to help keep it at bay.
Truth is, there wasn’t really anything there between you and the guy Amita was talking about. You had lunch and that was about it. You’d think a self-proclaimed magician would have more tricks up his sleeve. You met him at some sideshow while he was swallowing swords and doing simple sleight-of-hand.
“Aw, come on! I mean he’s a sword swallower right? He’s got to be a fabulous kisser.”
“How does swallowing swords—“ you shake your head in disbelief, “never mind. Are you carpooling with me again?”
She frowns. “Yeah, my car won’t be out of the shop ‘til the end of the week.”
“No biggie.” You hop in the driver’s side and turn the car on.
You always enjoyed the macabre and the strange, so that’s who you associated with. “Freak show” types, people on the fringes of society, you gravitated toward them. You had a penchant for simple magic and herbalism, so you fit in just fine.
Your sedan struggles to life and you head to drop her off. You both were quiet for most of the trip, until you placed your car into park.
“Y/N?” She broke the silence.
“Why are you so secretive? I mean everyone’s entitled to their secrets. But I feel like you know everything about me, but I don’t know much about you.”
“I don’t know, Amita; I guess I’d rather hear about other people’s lives than bore everyone with mine.” You smile as you park in her driveway. Of course you know that’s bullshit though. You were secretive because as soon as people learn your secrets their life goes to absolute shit. She seems satisfied with your answer though. “I can’t stay for tea tonight, Amita, I need to stop off by my neighbor’s and give her some medicine. She’s been sick.”
“What that old lady that lives across from you?”
“Oh okay! Good luck! That stuff you make is practically magic. I don’t see why you don’t go in business for yourself making it; it’s like miracle powder.”
“I don’t know, I’d rather just do it for free.”
“You’re too nice for your own good.”
“Yeah, probably,” you shrug. “Tea tomorrow?”
“Okay, sure, see you then!” You leave, miracle powder in tow.
You pull into your quaint apartment complex and stop at an apartment that looked just like yours, across the way, where your neighbor lives. Your fist raps on the door and a very flu-ridden elderly woman answers it.
She sniffles between words, holding a blue handkerchief. “Oh (Y/N), It’s so good to see you.”
You smile warmly. “It’s good to see you too. I brought you something that may help.” You pull the small bag out of your hulk of a purse. She gingerly takes it from your hand. “Just remember to mix a tablespoon in with your tea or water. It won’t taste incredible, but it should help.”
“Thank you, y/n you’re such a good girl.” She sniffs a few times and adjusts her nightcap. “Oh, dear, by the way, I saw a man outside your place a while ago, I don’t know if he’s still there or not, but I thought you should know. He was a handsome fellow. Smokes like a chimney though. Be careful around men, young lady, you know how they can be.” She shakes a crooked pointer finger at you, her eyes perpetually watery from her sickness. She was twice divorced, she had every right to be suspicious.
Smokes like a chimney .
“Thanks, Ms. Bartlett I’ll look into it.”
“Goodnight dearie.” She smiles with an nod and closes the door.
You get back in your car and park in your assigned spot. In the glow of the headlights you see someone who you haven’t seen in a very long time, whose face brings back a flood of memories. Your stomach churns with a mixture of anger and longing. How you could simultaneously want to strangle someone and kiss them was beyond your understanding at the moment. You flick off your headlights and can still see the ash at the end of his cigarette glowing orange. You get out of the car and lock it. You approach with something akin to contempt.
“Hello John. Long time no see.” You snark, venom lacing your voice.
He’s changed a bit since last you saw him. His trench coat has gathered some more stains, and time has faded some older ones. His blonde hair has started to grey ever so slightly and has been cut a little shorter since last you saw it. His face looked more tired than you’ve ever seen it.
“Hello, love. Aren’t you going to invite me in? It’s bloody cold out here.” Steam escaped his mouth. His British accent rolls of his tongue in that familiar, yet currently infuriating way.
“Should I?” You cross your arms, your back to the door and raise an eyebrow.
“Now you’re just toying with me.” You gesture for him to go in after you unlock the door. He steps in and flicks the butt of his cigarette out the door. You close it and lean against it, your temper lowering only slightly by seeing his face and those eyes. Those fucking eyes . “Nice place you’ve got here. Does the herbal business pay well?” He remarks snidely.
“What are you doing here, John?” You ignore his insulting question.
“Don’t sound so hostile. Can’t I just be visiting an old flame?”
You clench your fists and speak through gritted teeth. “I hardly think that’s what this is.”
“I’m hurt.” He goes to light another cigarette and you pluck it from his fingers as before he can ignite it. “Maybe I’m visiting for the warm hospitality,” he jokes with a wicked smile.
“Funny.” You poke an angry finger into his chest. “I’m sorry, I’m just a little caught off guard by the fact that I haven’t seen nor heard from you in, what, five years? And you think it’s appropriate to just appear on my doorstep? You expect me to be welcoming?”
“I had my reasons for not keeping touch, love.” He looked down at you sincerely, but you’re used to his fake sincerity.
“Sure you did. And now you’re here expecting to get a lay from an old girlfriend.”
He smiled devilishly. “I’m not saying I’m opposed to the idea.”
Anger flares up in your gut and you felt your cheeks redden. “Unbelievable. Just get the fuck out of here, John. I don’t have the time nor patience for your shit.” You open the door for his exit, but he closes it. You didn’t fight too hard.
He laid his hands out in a “calm down” manner. “Hey, Hey, Hey, listen, I really do have a reason to be here. Not just for the off chance of a lay.”
You shoot him a glare, and listen cautiously, unclenching your jaw. “Go on,” you sigh reproachfully.
“I’ve got myself in a bit of a tight spot and I need your help.”
“I don’t have any old artifacts, tomes, or money, John.”
“Jesus, I don’t want your money.” His voice is laced with frustration.
“Then what is it?” You shout, temper rising again, the fucking nerve of this guy…
He stands up and walks toward you and stops close enough to where you can smell the cigarette smoke and alcohol off his jacket.
“I’ve been possessed, (y/n), by something nasty. I think it may be our old friend.” He says in a hushed tone.
Your stomach drops and you push back the horrid memory. You glance up at him and he looks down at you with those eyes that can melt a succubae’s heart. You felt the hate and anger falter.
“If this is your idea of some sick joke…” Your voice shakes slightly.
“Cross my heart. I encountered it after a bar fight near here.” Violence .
“Why do you need my help? Don’t you have a priest friend that can help you?”
“We both know that you have far more experience with this bastard than any priest. I trust you more than any priest too. Listen love—”
“I’ll help.” You say the words before you can even fathom what they mean.
“I need you to be sure.”
“Yeah. I will. I assume you don’t have anywhere to stay so you can take the couch.” You point at the second-hand couch lazily. He wouldn’t have asked for your help if he weren’t desperate, even he wouldn’t be so evil.
You’re both quiet for a moment. “Thank you, (Y/N).”
You stare at each other for longer than anticipated. There was death in his eyes, a darkness you had thought you would never see again. Something deep within you wanted it to consume you.
You needed sleep. This was too much for one night. You stepped toward your bedroom. “I’ll see you in the morning.” You brush past him to your bedroom.
You close your bedroom door slowly, and you begin to tear up a bit, but shove the urge away.
You thought this nightmare was long over.
You sigh and flick off the lights.