Daniel slept, and unlike the sleep that had plagued him for half a decade, this had been a night of good sleep. This was sleep where he did not wake sweating. Not waking to feel his heart beating in his neck, trying to escape his body. Shivering and checking the corners of the room. Did he dream? He supposed he must have, he did not – for the first time in an age – remember.
Daniel sat up and flopped his legs over the side of the bed, slipping his slippers on as he did so. He really could not remember the last time he’d had a dreamless night. Daniel grabbed his dressing gown from the floor. It had fallen from the bed, wrapped it around himself, and shut out the cool morning air. It’s the cold, honest. He made his way to the kitchen.
His daily caffeine intake was needed and needed quickly. Daniel turned the radio on, switched to the local station, and listened for the news. He waited to hear if anything interesting had happened, wondering if his torching of the house would make it, it didn’t. The usual gossip and nonsense, nothing more than regurgitated crap to feed the few who listen. It was the same most mornings.
Daniel turned on the radio in the mornings to add some noise to the day. After listening for 10 minutes, hearing more adverts than anything else, he would turn it off. Tomorrow would be the same, as was yesterday. Like many relationships, a vicious circle of love and hate, though not the one he and Lisa had shared. That thought reminded him of his plan for the day, he had to call the Institute, but he did not want to speak to Lisa. Welcome to the breakfast show, Will Daniels plan work? Will he get his wish? How will he make sure he gets what he wants? Tune in after these sponsored messages…
Daniel headed to the hallway and then to the shelf that held the telephone and a few books. The shelf by the front door that held the landline telephone, soon to be extinct available for viewing in your local museum. Daniel looked through the pile of books, looking for one particular book. But when the phone was gone, where would he put the books? He found it, opening it, and he flicked the pages stopping halfway through. Daniel ran his finger down the list of names in his contact book and stopped upon reaching the name Martin, “Bingo”, He said to himself.
Keeping the book open at the page, Daniel walked back to the kitchen and sat at the table. Daniel got his mobile and keyed in the number. The phone rang, and he put it on speaker, placing the phone on the table. Martin answered the phone, much to Daniels delight. He had feared Lisa would answer. Lisa and Martin worked in the same office, at the same desk. It would not have been unlikely for her to have seen Daniels name flash upon Martins phone. Maybe she had, he thought. “Martin, Daniel”, he said, “I am calling about the house, I’ve sorted it”.
‘Sorted it?’ Martin replied, “bloody hell mate, that was quick, what did you do, find a buyer?”
“I burnt the fucking place to the ground, its done, gone. fuck it!”
“You did what!” Martin laughed, “‘it’s a bit unconventional, but I suppose if it works. It did work, didn’t it?”
“I didn’t have a nightmare last night, so it’s a start”, Daniel replied.
“No nightmares? That’s wonderful”, Lisa added. Daniel realised he is on speakerphone too. “Hi, Lisa, uh yeah. No nightmare, singular. It is a start though”, Daniel said, wanting the call to end quickly now as this was not how he had planned it. “So what happened?” Martin asked, “anything unusual?”
“Other than you becoming an arsonist”, Lisa added.
“It was unusual to spend the evening between the fire service and police station, but no, other than that nothing strange”, Daniel said. Adding, “It was strange, almost like the house was willing me to do it. I did not intend to go inside at first, just to burn it from outside. When I got there, I just felt a pull and ended up starting with the kitchen and covering the hallway in petrol”.
“You really did go for it!” Martin said as he laughed, “How did the police feel about it?”
“Unimpressed would be the word I’d use, the fire service felt the same”, Daniel answered sheepishly.
“I’m not surprised”, Lisa said, “and you should not be surprised either if they lumber you with the bill!” Daniel groaned inwardly, another cost he could not afford. He hoped it would not come to that. “I don’t want to be a downer here”, Martin added; the laughter had gone from his voice. “but, do you really think it was a good idea to burn what we didn’t understand?” It was a good question, one that Daniel would usually have considered. “Fuck it, it’s done. I couldn’t give a shite about the rest, let ’em bill me. I am just glad it is out of my life”, Daniel said, meaning it. Daniel ended the call by saying goodbye and promising to keep in touch both professionally and informally. Martin’s question had concerned him. He would have usually agreed, and it went against his nature to want to destroy what he didn’t understand. Daniel thought about it for a second or two, then decided that he was right, fuck it. He clicked the kettle and put the radio back on. Another coffee was in order.
The radio played, and his coffee made Daniel sat back down. Mindless, beatless drivel plays first, ending in a monotonous noise that seems to defy songwriting basics. Not that he knew about songwriting. Taste, he thought, he’d never had any, and he still didn’t understand the trends. Adverts came next, come to our car wash, buy your beds here. The usual shite, nothing of any interest, just alleged bargain after bargain, then the news begins. The news report was what Daniel was waiting for. He always listened to the news. It was an addiction, a bad one. He’d listen to the news in the morning, and it was a sure-fire way to start the day in a shite mood. Politicians who were unable to keep their pants (or knickers) on. Death, robberies, muggings and all that jazz. It was the best way to start a day feeling that humanity was a little bit wayward, a touch broken. A bad habit, an addiction that he could not quit.
The cloud hovered, dormant. It had been fed and was satisfied, full after gorging on new souls. When it had killed the four before – for it did not think of them as human – they had merged with it, become one with it. It felt that it had more strength, more control. Was that because of the four or because it was fed? It could not be sure. There was said to much power in innocents; maybe the youngest of the four held the key, maybe innocents were vital. No, something told it that was wrong. It was not the innocence that mattered. It was the corrupting of them, degrading them until they were no more. Ripping their souls apart and feeding upon them until they were no longer welcome in either Heaven or Hell, they were the unwanted, the unwelcome. They were now all outcasts. Unwelcome in the many planes of existence.
Martin and Lisa sat at the desk they shared. Martin on one side and Lisa on the other. Lisa was dressed in a dress-suit, a neckerchief in black that her hair fell around. Martin in a plain and boring navy suit and tie. Why did they get dressed up when it was just them in the office? Professionalism, wanting to look good? It was mostly a habit. There was a split almost right down the middle that separated the two sides, Lisa’s side being chaotic, and Martin’s all ordered and neat. Lisa didn’t need systems for everything. She could find order in chaos; Martin needed order. Though both were good at what they did and either chaotic or ordered, they would very much work in sync without much effort.
“I’m concerned about this”, Martin said. He looked across the desk at his sister. “About the house?” she asked; it had been bothering her too. She looked up from her paperwork, “I agree, burning it down was not a good idea”. Martin leant forward, his elbows resting on the desk. Fingers of his hands crossed together, he rested his chin on them. “The house is haunted, we know that. So why didn’t it put up a fight? Why did it let Daniel burn it to the ground?” He asked. Knowing it was not a question that either of them could answer with any certainty. “Do you think it could have stopped him?” Lisa said. “He would have been pretty determined to go through with it”.
“It does not feel right, it feels too easy”, Martin said. “We know the house was haunted, we know that it was not linked to any event like a lunar cycle, or any pattern we could see, right?”
“Right, nothing we could see”, Lisa replied.
“So then why, did it die? Did it move on? Can it do any of those things? If it can’t, and I certainly don’t think it could, why did it not fight back?”
“It has been troubling me too”, Lisa said, “You should know that”. Martin knew, if it had been bothering him, then he knew it would have been bothering her. In many ways, they were different. Sometimes, though, they could be spookily similar.
David stood outside the police station, a large file in one hand and a cigarette in the other. His blue jeans and shirt keeping him warm in the cool mid-morning breeze. He took a long drag of the cigarette and blew the smoke into the air, watching it as it drifted. He’s older now, and if smoking kills him, then so be it. He’d led a decent life, heck, maybe even a good one. David opened the file and flipped through the pages, shaking his head and then he closed the file. What really is the point, he thought to himself as he threw the cigarette to the floor. David had worked as a policeman, working his way through the ranks, closer to retirement now than when he had first joined the force.
David shook his head once more. He had never seen anything like this. Boy killed with a china doll, parents screwed and ate each other while fucking, literally fucked and ate each other to death. “Jesus Christ”, David said to nobody but himself, “Jesus fucking Christ”. Then there was the car thief found just down the road. Found with his face smashed to pieces, was it connected? Was he just caught by the owner of the car? Could it have been some kind of fit? David lit another cigarette and took another long hard drag.
Crystal, not her real name, sat and dealt the tarot cards. The cards were not needed. They were, like her name, a prop, a part of the act. They had mocked her when she was known as Grace, Grace with the crystals telling the future. So she had changed her name to Crystal, Crystal with the crystals. If you can’t beat them, join them. Besides now, when they took the piss, it was good for business. The crystals didn’t matter. The tarot meant nothing. Glass balls were okay as doorstops and Palmistry. Well, there were better things to do with your hands. She pulled her hair up, tied it in a loose ponytail, and dealt the next card.
Crystal was not a fraud; she did have a gift. She could not tell the future, that was wilp, but she could read people and speak to spirits. She had been able to do both and discovered a talent for it at the time of puberty. The talent for the theatrical had developed shortly afterwards. Some of it because of necessity, most of it because she enjoyed it. Like many gifted people, it was both a blessing and a curse. The sadness of it all was the scourge. People would visit, and she would hear the most distressing stories from both the living and the dead.
She had never charged anyone. The services she gave were free, given willingly and freely. It was how she had been able to lay low and never get involved with any groups that wanted to test and control the people like her. She had kept it honest, and because of that, she had drawn no outside interest.
Crystal turned the final tarot and saw death staring back at her; now she would have to seek them out. The girl had come to her in the early hours, screaming and begging to be saved. There was nothing that she could do for her, save help her move on when it was the right time. But she may be able to help others, and, after all, isn’t that what having a gift is all about?