“So you think this place is haunted?” Samuel asked his imp, the small creature flapping around his head as it examined the dusty woodwork coming from the ceiling.
“Hard to say, not enough spiritual energy has been released in the air for anything to feed upon, you know?” The imp said, looking over her shoulder as she landed next to a bust of an old English poet. “Who’s this guy supposed to be anyway?”
“That’s Alfred Austin, a novelist, and poet from the late nineteenth century. Why anyone would make a bust of him is beyond me, but I did spy a compendium of poetry in the den. Perhaps one of the former tenants was a fan of crappy poetry?”
“Sounds like you,” the imp muttered just loud enough to hear, causing Samuel to smirk.
“All in the eye of the beholder Imogen… besides, I prefer the philosophies myself.” Samuel said, grabbing his other suitcase and heading up the stairs towards the master bedroom once more. He stopped halfway up, looking down. “Coming?”
Imogen looked up, smiling. “Yeah, of course!”
Samuel smiled as he walked up the groaning stairs, listening to the flapping of wings as his familiar tried to catch up to him. Only as he reached the top step did he feel the scrabbling of claws on his shirt as Imogen climbed onto his shoulder, her cold to the touch tail coiling slightly on the curve of his neck. He reached up a hand and petted her absently, listening to her purr as he walked into the master bedroom with his second suitcase.
“Can you believe that lady?” Samuel asked aloud, still scratching underneath Imogen’s chin. “She was about to proselytize to me right there in the street!”
“Imagine how she would have reacted if I’d come out,” Imogen said with a fiendish smile.
Samuel flicked her in the side of the head, earning a cry of pain and a hurt look. “Don’t even think of doing that. Around company you’re a cat, remember?”
“I know it just would have been funny to surprise her with a big fat whammy of a devil in her face!” Imogen pounded her tiny fist into her equally tiny hand. Looking up at Samuel, she smiled sheepishly. “Just my humble opinion is all.”
“I’m sure,” he said with a bemused smile, unzipping his first suitcase after placing it on the bed, kicking up a small cloud of dust.
“Imo, if you would please?” Samuel said as he waved his hand back and forth in front of his face.
“Of course!” Imogen replied, inhaling deep enough to draw all of the airborne detritus into her minute frame. She rubbed her stomach, now slightly paunchy, cooing as she did so.
“You are so freaky sometimes it bothers me, you know that?” Samuel said, pulling out several pairs of jeans to hang up in the closet.
“What? I just like savoring a meal is all.”
“Well just make sure those meals don’t become local pets and we’ll be in good shape,” Samuel said, earning a lopsided grin from his familiar.
“But cats are so tasty! They get so scared so easy!” Imogen whined, fluttering down to the bed and laying back on the comforter.
“I mean it Imo, no local pets this time around. You stay in the house and I’ll feed you what you need, not what you want. If it were up to you you’d be as plump as a Cornish hen.”
“I would be…” she smiled, a small line of drool escaping her lips.
“Thus, why the you-stay-in-this-house rule is in effect. I don’t need you fat and lazy, got it?”
“Yeah, yeah… I got it. Don’t have to like it, but I got it.” Imogen sat up, crossing her legs and arms in a snit.
“If you behave I’ll let you go harvest some herbs tonight for me. I saw a local garden center when we were driving up here.”
“Would they have what you need?” Imogen asked, almost hopping with excitement.
“I bet you they would. I just need some Sage to burn, clear out bad spirits and whatnot. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have it.”
“I don’t know… is superstition a big thing here. In New Orleans you could get almost everything you needed for your rituals at your local head shop, but here? San Antonio seems a little straight-laced to me.”
“Trust me, they’ll have it,” Samuel said as he hung up his fourth black shirt. Turning to face her, he smiled and leaned down, lips puckered.
Imogen happily pounced on him, kissing his puckered lips over and over again until he leaned back up, allowing her to fall into his hands, purring like a kitten. “Feel better?” He asked her, rubbing a nodule on her back that contained her poison.
“Much!” She said with a chirp, her tiny fangs protruding now that she was so giddy.
“Feel like being milked? I’m running low on your venom, almost down to half an ounce.”
“Oh no! Sure, just get the tube,” She said, dancing from foot to foot in his hand. Carefully setting her down, he reached into a side pocket of his suitcase and pulled out a jar with a wax seal, along with a screw top lid. Unscrewing the top, he presented the wax seal to Imogen, who chomped down onto it with the speed of a snake striking for food. Slowly but surely, rivulets of her venom began to dribble down the sides of the glass jar, her nodule of venom growing softer as it emptied out.
After a solid minute of milking, he tapped her once on the head to tell her to let go, and lifted her up, setting her on his shoulder. She yawned loudly and nestled into the side of his head, both hands taking hold of his hair so she wouldn’t slip as she nodded off. Screwing the cap back on, Samuel set it aside on his dresser and fished out his most prized possession.
A Grimoire, in laymen’s terms, is a Witch’s connection to the magical world. Sure, he or she could memorize a few simple spells for everyday use, but for the bigger incantations, Samuel would find himself going straight to the source. Most are passed down through familial lines while others are cobbled together using leftover bits of other books on rites and rituals. Samuel’s was put together from pieces he’d purchased off of Amazon and eBay, allowing him to knit together an impressive Grimoire from scratch, all without the knowledge of other practitioners in the area.
Always a bonus.
It was through ancient Satanic rights that Samuel had summoned and created Imogen, and it was through Chinese folk magic that he severed her spirit from the nightmarish plane of existence and bound her to his own magical core, a mere pulsing bud of energy at the time. This allowed her to perform small bouts of magic and granted him immunity to the more negative side effects of her venom.
The beneficial side effects were what he loved about her venom the most. Smiling, he unscrewed the top and took a long sniff from the clear fluid swirling about the jar. He could just faintly smell the scent of sulfur and gunpowder, like a recently struck matchstick. He screwed the top back on, licking his lips. If he dipped the edges of his cigarettes in the venom and smoked from the green flame the cigarettes put off, he would feel soothed and relaxed as if getting a full body massage. The paralytic agents in her venom provided the perfect “high” for his addiction, allowing him to smoke a single cigarette a day and feel relaxed.
“Wish Mom would just let it go that I smoke…” Samuel said, moving around the king sized bed to the side he would be sleeping on. “It’s not like they’re around to stop me.”
Since his parents worked all but three days of the month, Samuel had come to love his existence as a teen living alone. It made for easier times when he wanted to study, allowed him to practice magic all he wanted around the house and it meant he never had to hide Imogen, who he’d never introduced to his parents, seeing as they were Mundy’s, or mundane folk. A pair of non-magical people like his parents would freak out if they knew half of what their son was involved in, namely the Black Arts of magic.
“Not that there is anything wrong with the Black Arts!” Samuel said as he unpacked his shoes, two extra pairs of clunky steel-toed boots. He set them in his closet, at the bottom near the entryway.
“Nothing at all…” Imogen muttered sleepily into the side of Samuels' head.
“I mean, they’re just labeled the Black Arts because the Church singled them out two thousand years ago and proclaimed them to be evil. Talk about the pot calling kettle black…”
Hearing a faint buzzing from the bed, Samuel walked over and moved a suitcase off of his phone. Not recognizing the number, he accepted the call and put it up to his ear. “Hello?” He said.
“Yes, am I speaking with Samuel Graves?” A feminine voice asked politely.
“This is he, how can I help you?”
“My name is Victoria, and I’m the student body president of John Marshall High School, I’ll be the one acting as your big sister for the first few weeks of you joining us,” She said, sounding positively giddy.
Samuel didn’t do giddy.
“Oh, well that sure is swell and all, but I don’t think I’ll need a big sister to get used to a school. I’ve moved around quite a bit, and I know the ropes.” He lied, hoping to dissuade the cheerful girl.
“Nonsense, you just don’t know that you need a big sister yet. I have your address down as 9311 Longhorn Lane, correct?”
“How do you have that information?” Samuel asked, slightly alarmed.
“Isn’t that the old Mason house? The one where the murders happened?” She asked, sounding like she was thinking a little too hard.
“I have no idea, I just moved here. No signs of any dead bodies, though…” Samuel said, looking around the room.
“Well, your first day of school is Monday and I’ll be waiting outside your house to walk with you to school.”
“I drive,” Samuel clarified, slowly growing annoyed. “I already got a parking permit and everything.”
“Oh… well, I’ll just meet you at your house and we can drive together!” Tiffany said, obviously trying to keep her cheer up.
“Look…” Samuel said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m sure this welcome wagon thing is important to you, I’m sure it is. But I don’t need it. I can get to school fine, I can find my classes’ fine and I can meet all the people who won’t want anything to do with me once I walk through the doorway easily enough.”
Tiffany was silent for a moment, the line just a mild ringing in Samuels' ears. Imogen had stirred from her slumber long enough to flap down from the side of his head to land on one of the pillows, curling up like a cat and folding her bat-like wings over herself as a faux blanket.
“Listen here Sam,” Tiffany said, loud enough that he could hear her teeth grind over the phone. “I am going to be outside your place Monday at 7:30 in the morning. We are going to drive to school together and we are going to walk around campus while I show you the buildings. It’s as simple as that.”
“I don’t think so,” Samuel said only to find out he was speaking to a dial tone, as Tiffany had hung up on him.
“Making friends already?” Imogen asked sleepily from the bed.
“No, I still need to read that book…”
“You’re How to Make Fast Friends that your mother gave you last Christmas?” Imogen asked.
“After talking with that peppy ball of school spirit, I was thinking of something along the lines of Dante’s Inferno.”