Samuel awoke to the smell of smoldering brimstone, blearily opening his eyes long enough to look down at the floor where Imogen’s bed was to see her cuddling with Baron Schadenfreude Von Angst. The stuffed toy sang in small places where her tail had wrapped around protectively. Shaking his head, he rolled over and looked at the clock.
“Six-ten… this is going to be an awful day.” Samuel groaned, throwing a hand over his brow.
Not that many days were good for the teenage Warlock; as one of the few to reach his level of proficiency at his age, he constantly had to keep a check on any and all supernatural claims wherever he went, banishing ghosts and specters, laying to rest zombies and vampires, and outright slaying the more degenerate undead that lurked at the fringes of mankind’s imagination. So far his Eye of Elena hadn’t detected any overt supernatural activity, but in a city as large as San Antonio, that was bound to change.
Getting up, he padded quietly across the room in his pajamas, fetching his clothes for the day so that he could take a shower in peace. Imogen stirred in her sleep, but a wordless spell from Samuel had the black silken sheet tuck in around her tiny form, to which she snuggled into. Wandering out into the hall to make use of the guest bathroom, seeing as the master bath would wake his darling familiar; he opened the door and dumped his day clothes into the sink.
Looking in the mirror, he pulled down his lower eyelid to look at his bloodshot eyes and examine his pasty skin. His short cropped hair, cut just above the ears, was well kept and neat, something he prided himself on. The rest of him could use a few months in the gym and a few weeks in a tanning salon before he looked halfway alive, but it hardly mattered. He detested high school more than he hated exorcisms, and with the number, he’d done you could say they weren’t his favorite line of work.
But a Warlock has to eat, and the Witches Guild paid handsomely for ectoplasmic residue left behind by corporeal ghosts. Nearly a hundred bucks a milligram. The last specter that Samuel had banished had left behind over a kilogram of the substance, smeared around the ground where it had been standing, howling in defiance as Samuel had banished it to the lower reaches of Hell.
Not the nicest thing to do, but the ghost had been that of a serial killer that still performed the work he did in life when given the opportunity.
Turning on the shower head, Samuel turned the shower to full blast on its coldest setting, shedding his clothes as he stepped into the pulsing stream of water. Sighing at the steady stream of icy water washing over him, he reached out of the shower for the bottle of shampoo he’d left on the counter yesterday.
Only to grasp at air.
Pulling the curtains aside, he looked around the bathroom, only to find the shampoo upside down near the door on the countertop.
“Oh boy…” Samuel sighed, reaching out a hand and releasing a pulse of magic to have it come to him. “We might have ourselves a spook after all.”
Washing his hair, he closed his eyes and opened his senses to the ethereal; reaching out with his mind’s eye to try and see any lurking spirits close by. He saw his normal tendrils of psychic energy rolled up tightly against his frame, something he maintained every day so as not to pick up any unwanted travelers, but he saw no signs of… wait, there it was! A small dollop of ectoplasm, slowly dissolving into the ether, located where the bottle would have been. Whatever had moved it wasn’t very strong yet and had most likely spent the better part of the last few years in hibernation. Only Samuel, and to a lesser extent Imogen's, presence here had provided enough energy to spark some life back into the spirit of whatever dwelled within this house.
Muttering a quick spell to cleanse his body of grime and sweat, Samuel turned the knob of the shower off, killing the spray of water onto his scrawny hide. Opening the curtain, he was surprised to see on the toilet a set of folded towels. A quick pulse of magic told him they held trace amounts of ectoplasm.
Was the ghost trying to play nice with him?
He pushed that thought aside. That was one of the core tenants of all Warlocks, as opposed to Witches and Wizards; ghosts and other supernatural beings were to be disabled and banished from this reality as often as possible. Too many of them could lead to a tear between worlds, allowing darker powers to enter the world, causing untold amounts of chaos and destruction. Samuel frowned at the towels before picking them up to dry his body. Wrapping one around his waist, he used the other to dry his hair before he had to do anything else.
Staring in the mirror, he took a comb and combed it back, allowing the hair to be spiky naturally. A few more strokes and it held in the position he wanted, allowing him to put up the comb in the drawer before pulling on his black jeans. Buttoning them, he looped a black belt with a skull belt buckle in through the loops, the belt buckle a silver plated piece of magical gear he’d purchased on a whim while traveling the backwoods of India. Charmed to keep the wearer’s body perpetually cool, he used it to remain a constant seventy degrees, even during the hottest days of summer.
He’d really come to love the gothic trinket, despite the way it looked and drew attention to himself.
He pulled his black tee shirt over his head; he walked out of the bathroom and slowly downstairs, turning to make his way into the small kitchen that the large manor boasted. A single oven with an old fashioned metallic refrigerator and a solid oak table, the room was straight out of an 80’s style magazine depicting what modern kitchens would look like.
They fell short by a few feet.
Opening the fridge, Samuel smiled as he noticed layered frog skins, all stacked into four neat piles, with a jar of frog eyes soaking in water right next to them. A tray of skinned frogs sat on the bottom shelf, the dozen or so amphibians pale and pink looking. Samuel planned on flash frying them tonight for Imogen, who loved spicy food in all of its differing flavors and packages. He’d smuggled some cayenne peppers past Imogen using the same scent-blocking spell into the pantry, where he had them soaking in jalapeno juice. A temporary ward, while noticeable to a magical being like Imogen, would keep her out of the cupboard for at least a day or so, long enough for Samuel to use the peppers when cooking up the frogs.
Listening to the sounds of the house, he reached past the frogs eyes and grabbed the carton of orange juice, taking a sip directly from the container. Closing it up, he reached in and placed it back where it belonged before closing the door, only to reveal a shadowy mess lurking in the corner.
Two arms and two legs extended from a shroud of shadow, a hood pulled up over the pale head of the entity that had once been a human being. Now, stark white and twitching, it looked more like a cadaver being electrocuted than anything else, the way the muscles jerked and twisted. It cracked its neck to the side, pale eyes looking Samuel over as he turned to face the hunched over figure.
“You… you’re a Warlock, aren’t you?” It whispered its voice hoarse yet light at the same time.
“Yes,” Samuel replied, pulling out a chair and taking a seat, never turning his back on the spirit. “That I am.”
“So you’ll exorcise me, given the chance?” The spirit asked, eyes rolling down from the back of its head to reveal twin crimson orbs. “Send me to Hell for the things I’ve done?”
“I don’t know… what have you done?” Samuel asked, cursing himself for not reviewing his Grimoire more thoroughly last night.
The spirit laughed. “Like I’m just going to spill my guts to you… not that you’d care, you’re all the same.”
“How so?” Samuel asked.
“Exorcise first, ask questions later. You take our own energies and add them to your magical cores before sending us on our way.” The ghost said the cabinets beginning to rattle. “I saw your familiar… you’re connected to Hell, just like the rest of your order.”
“Actually, if you did a deeper scan, you’ll note that Imogen, my familiar, is no longer fueled by demonic energies, but by me,” Samuel explained, looking over to the fridge. “She can also gain energy just like a living person, by eating food. Not exactly normal, but she seems to enjoy it.”
“So what about you then? I can sense you have a massive magical core. How many ghosts have you sent plummeting to Hell before me, eh? Eh?”
“Too many to count, though to be fair I tend to send those that did bad things in life. I’ve let a few go assuming they promise not to harm anyone with their hauntings.” Samuel calmly explained.
“Liar! No Warlock would allow a spirit to roam free!”
“I just don’t see the need to send every single spirit on to the afterlife when for the most part they’ve been perfectly happy as ghosts for the longest time.” Samuel offered, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ve sensed you a few times in the house, so you must be incredibly weak.”
“It’s been ages since anyone with emotional outbursts lived here… there was a lone man that gave way to depression that fed me for a while, but he moved away.” The ghost said, drawing itself up to its full height, some three heads taller than Samuel. “So is what you’re trying to tell me is that you won’t banish me?”
“So long as you don’t do anything foolish like attack me or one of my guests, I don’t see why I should banish you,” Samuel explained.
The specter hovered like a black mist, long pale arms hanging low. “So what do you want in return?”
Samuel smiled a wicked smile. “I want you to do me a little favor, just not yet. It will involve sending you out of the house. Are you bound to it?”
The ghost shook its head. “I’m not a ghost per se, more of a composite. Several personalities and memories stitched together into one form.”
“All of them negative I can only assume?” Samuel asked, fetching a box of pastries from the pantry.
“At first yes, but after a while, I developed my own thoughts and feelings. I’m originally five men and women murdered by police officers in a drug raid some… eh, what year is it?” The ghost trailed off.
“Two thousand fourteen, November.” Samuel supplied, selecting a donut from the box.
“I’ve been dead for twenty-two years…” the specter said, sounding melancholy.
“I assume you were all high when the police busted you?” Samuel asked, raising an eyebrow.
The image chuckled. “Oh yeah, we were tripping bad. We killed three officers in the firefight, but they didn’t seem to linger.”
“Their minds weren’t altered or given time to think about death. Your minds were all on the same drug and all afraid. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not even a ghost, at least by Guild terms.”
“I’m not?” The skull-like visage looked at Samuel, dim eyes flaring briefly.
“No, you my friend are a poltergeist. The amalgamation of several souls left behind that sheds the positive aspects and keeps the negative ones. You’re generally a Class III menace on your own, Class II or Class I if you’ve been feeding on enough emotional energy.”
“I don’t get it… Class III menace?” The specter repeated.
Samuel waved him off. “Forget it, just be sure to feed only off of what I put out and you should be able to manipulate the television and computer, once they’re hooked up,” Samuel said, waving the thought of classifications away.
“Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem. Why are you offering me your energy so freely? Like I said, what’s in it for me?” The poltergeist’s face shifted, the skull-like visage taking on a shimmering cover of a young woman for a brief second.
“I get a night guard. You watch the place for me when I’m not here, and do whatever you can to stop intruders should we ever get any, and I’ll let you live here, so to speak, unmolested.” Samuel offered.
“That… sounds fair. I never did like anyone coming into this house anyway… you seem like a nice enough kid, though, so I’ll cut you a break.” The specter grinned before fading from sight.
Samuel couldn’t respond to that as a hurried and frantic knocking came from his front door.