October Frights 2022 Part III
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On to the story. It's Part III of Spirit of Alchemy
It’s much more difficult to be immortal these days. It used to be that when people began to question why you didn’t age so much, or drew other attention like having money without an obvious means of support, you simply moved somewhere else. If you live long enough, it’s hard not to accumulate some wealth, and we had done well over the centuries. With all of the gadgets surrounding life in the twenty-first century, having a secure identity and money that didn’t draw unwanted attention was a challenge.
I was grateful for Mister Baird on that front. The firm he worked for had taken care of such needs for us since fifty years before the first auto spewed smoke through London. They asked few questions other than what was needed, and served what was now a specialized community.
Sitting at my desk, I took my laptop from a nearby drawer, and sent instructions to pay Fastred, and include a bonus. As an afterthought, I included a note to see if they had any information on someone that might be inquiring about Lord Offredus.
Returning the device to its place, I decided I would check on the bane of my existence. He’d been quiet since I’d gotten back to the apartment, which alone was concerning. I poured a glass of merlot and made my way down the hall to his door. The television wafted a laugh track from people long dead, with an undercurrent of incoherent grumbling.
I took a deep breath, and reconsidered a dozen times whether to knock, or wait for his highness to beckon, but there was always the chance he could be in a good mood. It happened once a century – or two. But I wasn’t betting on it.
“Enzio.” The thick, but hollow voice bellowed. “Come on in. I can feel you breathing.”
“Well shit.” I muttered. I’d brought it upon myself. I took a deep breath, turned the handle, cracked the door, and mustered as pleasant a grimace as I could. “How are you this evening?”
“Where were you off to?” The etheric form of Lord Apollinaris Offredus, still projecting himself as dressed breeches, blouse, and pointed shoes as he hovered several inches above and slightly off center from the faded rose-colored fabric of his favored chair, a gift from Louis XIII court. If you can consider something stolen by a courtesan a gift, but that was a different time. And we both still had corporeal forms at the time, even though he’d lose his within a decade. “Loyalty is so hard to come by. I called, and called for hours. What if something had happened?”
I bit my tongue at the melodrama. Watching modern television had done nothing for his overacting. Placing the glass on a side table, I took my seat on a cracked leather chair. “I was gone little more than an hour, and what could possibly happen to you? What could you need?”
“The little people in the glowing box, they are not the neighbors I wish to watch. It keeps changing. I wish to see more of what is happening with Amile and Roderick. I must know if her amnesia will be cured, there may be something there to help our situation.” Offredus’ faced me, his crooked nose pointing in three directions and wild hair streaming like a fountain of wisps framing a serios look. “I do like this era of voyeurism.”
I rolled my eyes and searched for something that would possibly capture him besides a bad soap opera. “These are fictions. Plays. I assure you, nothing of value can come from this device.”
“Were you off with a companion? You should get out more often. I miss being able to travel about.” The specter rose upright and floated nose first towards the glass. “You waste the body you inhabit. You should take me out with you more often.”
“Fastred mentioned that he hadn’t seen you in a while.” I took the glass and sipped from it, just to watch his sneer. “Maybe we can arrange a play date for you with Marie Antoinette’s head.”
“Bah. What about a tavern? A café? A tearoom? A companion for an evening or two?” He folded his arms across where his chest would be when he saw my reaction, and turned away. “But I would not object to a trip to the shop. Maybe I could find something of interest. If you still refuse to allow me to borrow your corporeal form.”
“You will not be, not be, given reign over my body again. Never again.” I growled. “I would accept this damnation and cast you into the abyss for eternity before I will allow you earthly pleasures in my body. Not after last time. Never again, do you hear me? I am no longer your servant. You have the freedom you do at my pleasure now, do you hear me?”
“When I found you, what were you? A peasant shoveling horse shit. You should have more respect for the gif I have given you. Knowledge. Education. Wealth. Immortality. The devil has wrought deals like this for the future of nations, not trinkets like what your life was.” The specter flared with an unearthly glow filling the room. “What would you be without me?”
“Dead. In the ground having fed the worms. Gone to my eternal reward. Generations of children from my loins running about.” I shook my head. I’d let him draw me into the old fight. He was in the mood for blood. If he wanted blood, I could draw it as well. “What would you be without me?”
The glow flared around him, but was losing strength. “I should be the one about the town, celebrating, educating the few worthy among these senseless husks shuffling about. I would not be wasting my time.”
“Well, if the errands you send me on are a waste of time, then maybe I should no longer do them.” I had but one way to get his attention, and I wanted no more of him for the evening. Maybe ever. Maybe it had been in the back of my mind to start this fight tonight. Maybe it was time to be done and accept my fate. I leapt from the chair, crossing the room in a few steps. Opening the door to the old tabernacle I withdrew his cracked, sigil covered skull. “Good-bye Apollinaris.”
His mouth turned into a cruel slash across his face. “What do you think you’ll do with that?”
I turned and marched down the hall, tugging his spirit behind me.
“Boy! Return me now!”
I turned into the kitchen, several retorts on the edge of my tongue, but any response would just open the door for him to talk me out of it. I paused in front of the butcher block on an island in the middle of the kitchen and withdrew a cleaver from the rack. A huff of a laugh escaped my lips as I placed his skull in the center of the board. After this was done, it would likely destroy the board, and the blade. Hell, it could wipe out the block for all I knew. Or cared.
Likely it would test my immortality. Maybe it would finally give me peace as well. I just hoped not the be in the same bar in hell. “Any last words you second rate Faustus?”
“I have the solution.”
“Bullshit.” I swung the cleaver, the sigils I struck sparks showering me and the board, cracking the steel.
Offredus howled a curse, clutching his head as his form dimmed. “Stop. I speak the truth.”
I scanned the knives. None had a heavier blade. I opened a drawer and withdrew the meat hammer. Drawing it high over my head, I swung with all my might to be rewarded with an explosion of sparks setting the butcher block to smolder and the hammer’s head to fly in another direction. I needed something heavier. Stronger. Magical?
“Damn you.” Offredus bent over, seemingly gasping, trickles of glowing plasma flying from his etheric head.
“Too late, you bastard.” I stormed into the study.
“It is true!” He exclaimed.
“How would you have possibly found something after all this time. Damn soap operas have rotted whatever mind you may have once had. Lies will not save you. Not this time.” An old gun lay in the case. I doubted I could find fresh black powder this time of night, and I didn’t really trust it the last time I’d fired it fleeing Greece in the revolution.
“One of those things on the glowing box, it opened my memory.”
“Your memory is worth less than that spectral sausage and eggs between your legs.”
The wraith shrieked, “It found me, or -- he found me.”
I stroked a chunk of stone from the old workshop. It still carried a little of the energy from our transformations. It might be enough. “He who? How? You haven’t left your chambers in ages.” I grunted as I hefted the stone in my hands, carrying it against my chest.
“He summoned me.” The spirit scurried to stand between me and the skull, arms outstretched, not that he could stop me. It might not be pleasant, but worth the pain he could inflict even in this form. “I have been working with another student of the Great Work. I think I have what he needs, and he, I. Or we.”
I struggled to hold the rock in my hands. “Speak quickly. I’m about to drop this, and it’s up to you if I am to miss your skull.” I staggered forward.
“He has several of my missing journals. The one from the laboratory. One lost in London. The one from Paris. And his own work. He has the lineage.”
I took another step. “And what does he want?”
Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for Part IV! In the interim, check out the rest of the tour!
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