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*If I were to describe the spirit world to you, you’d think I’m crazy.
Maybe I am.
I’m not, though! I mean, I’m probably not. The thing is, I’ve never met anyone else who can see spirits. I’m told such people exist, but they’re as real to me as my spirits are to normal people.
I’m Kal Glass.
I’m a millennial.
I’m a necromancer.
Welcome to my blog.*
I leaned back in my chair and re-read my introduction. I didn’t hit submit just yet. It had to be snappy, I needed feedback. Was it too much? I mean, I was trying to get hits, maybe a few gigs from this. I didn’t want to scare people away.
My phone buzzed and I checked it. Just my alarm. Oh, balls, my alarm!
I leapt up and grabbed a coat. I pulled back the curtains of my room, and instantly realised the coat was too much. It wasn’t raining. For some reason, everyone thinks it’s always raining in London, and even though I lived there, I bought in to the stereotype. I picked up a beige trench instead and headed for the door.
Gary and Sandra were in the kitchen, bickering about something. If I had to guess, it would be who didn’t buy more milk when they used the last of it. What I knew for sure was that someone hadn’t taken the organic bin out when they should have, and my nose had thoughts regarding that decision.
‘Seriously. You can’t keep doing this!’ Sandra said, waving an empty box of cereal around. ‘If you use the last of it, you have to buy more. You’re an adult, get it together.’
Ahh. Not milk, but I was close.
They both glanced at me and waved noncommittally. ‘Hey.’
‘Heading out for work. Need anything on the way back?’
‘More cereal would be great yeah, cheers,’ Gary said. ‘And milk.’
‘Don’t you dare, Kal. Gary will get both.’
‘Belay that order, gotcha. Sorry, Gary, got to run!’ I shot out before I got sucked into their vortex of minor annoyances and blame shifting. Say what you will about living with other young professionals, it’s filled with… well, it’s filled with no one being quite ready to grow up despite just turning thirty.
I pulled on some Timberlands – because a pretty girl once told me they looked nice, and that’s the pinnacle of my fashion sense – and jumped out the door.
As soon as it closed behind me, I realised I forgot my wallet. I considered going back in, but I really didn’t have time: I had my phone and keys, so that should see me through the day.
I checked my phone for the address I was headed to, and Routz told me the way. I had titled the calendar meeting as something rather obscure, so I was going to have to guess what I was meant to be doing. “Mini Sayo. BTB. 100”. I kicked myself for not getting my shit together and writing in full sentences. Still, it was my only job today, so I could feel the client out and see what was up.
The weather was middling and a bit breezy. Behind me were grey clouds that could spell rain, however in front of me were clear skies that were making me think heat wave. That was real London weather. I crammed some earbuds in my ears, stuck my hands in my pockets, and forged ahead to the bus stop.
A bus and two trains later, and a riveting retelling of World War 1 from a podcast, I jumped off the Victoria line at Highbury & Islington underground station. The weather had turned sour, and a light drizzle had struck. I could breathe that little bit easier, as the exhaust from cars was bogged down by the humidity. But the humidity made it harder to breathe, so it was a wash. Either way, the place smelled of bile, and I realised that’s because I was standing next to someone’s aborted dinner after a heavy night out – classic London.
Turning left out of the station, along Holloway Road, I checked my phone and found I’d received two texts while I was on the Underground. One from my mum – who despite knowing how to use instant messengers refuses to – who had left a voicemail, and the other from “Templar Reed”. I checked the voicemail first, as mum definitely topped whatever the other guy wanted.
“Hello, dear. Just making sure you’re okay today. Because… well, you know. This and that. Give me a call back if you want, always nice to chat. Hope you’ll be coming down soon. Toodles, darling!”
Today? This and that? What was today? A puzzle for after my job, definitely. I checked the other text.
“Member Glass, the Order will convene tonight at 8pm. You are invited.”
Bloody Templar meetings. I knew exactly what “You are invited” meant. Last time I didn’t turn up, they sent a mentally unstable pyromancer to my flat to impress upon me the importance of attending these “entirely optional” meetings. It was a Tuesday morning. What if I had plans for this evening, hmm?
My phone let me know I’d arrived at the correct block of flats. It was gated and looked kind of fancy with bricks too clean for London, and not nearly enough graffiti. Nice. I used the intercom to buzz up, and was immediately let through without a disembodied voice raking me over the coals about who I was or why I was there.
After the lift, I walked along the too-hot hallway, unbuttoning my coat as I checked numbers on doors, until I reached apartment 304. Not that this was some grand high-rise block of flats. It was just the fourth apartment on the third floor.
The door opened before I knocked.
‘Oh, Kal Glass?’ A frail older woman looked at me quizzically, putting her glasses on. ‘I didn’t hear you buzz. Or knock.’
I looked behind the small old lady and checked out her flat. North facing, nice and bright.
‘Didn’t you open…’ I waved it away. ‘Never mind. Hello. You can call me Glass. Or Kal, if you must. How’s it going, Mrs…?’
She frowned. ‘Shouldn’t you know that?’
I wagged my finger and chuckled lightly. ‘No, no. I speak to the dead. Fortune telling isn’t… umm, I’m not here to tell your fortune, am I?’
I honestly couldn’t remember booking this thing.
‘You said you could communicate with my grandson!’
‘Oh yeah, I can handle that.’ I smiled her annoyance away. ‘Let’s get started, shall we?’
She was going red in the cheeks as she said, ‘Probably handle that? No! I’m done with you scammers. You’ll say anything. Out!’
She slammed the door in my face.
I considered leaving, but didn’t. It was awfully hot in this corridor, and she claimed to not have been the one to let me in… classic malevolent spirit signs, and I knew just what that could mean without intervention. Also, it was my only job today and I did have the crazy idea of wanting to be able to pay rent this month. I sighed and knocked on the door. The older generation did ever so enjoy their showmanship, so time to ham it up.
‘Ma’am, I can’t leave. Your grandson has a message for you!’ I felt dirty just saying it. ‘He wants you to know that it wasn’t your fault!’
The door opened. She glared at me. ‘I know it wasn’t my fault, you idiot. He was murdered. And it wasn’t by me!’
What can I say, I took a guess. ‘Ma’am, I’ll make a deal with you. Let me in, and let me ask a few questions. If I can’t find your grandson, I’ll leave. If you don’t believe I’m really communicating with him, there’s no charge. Okay?’
She squinted menacingly at me. Or, as menacing as a small old lady that looked like she had a stash of biscuits to feed the local kids could. ‘That’s what the others said. They stole my loo roll when they went to the toilet.’
‘Well… those were just bad people. I promise you, your toiletries will remain untouched.’ I smiled with all the energy I could muster at this early hour.
Slowly, she stepped out of the doorway to let me in.
I stepped through and pointed down. ‘Shoes?’
‘They’re fine on.’
‘White, two sugars, please.’
Her suspicions aside, she still offered me tea. She was a good sort. She bustled off to the kitchen and I sat on the sofa. What I wanted to do was explore the flat and ask about how much it cost. I could tell it was a standard new build, very minimalist, hardwood floors, white walls, the occasional bit of furniture dotted around as if the owner was told they had to have it but didn’t know what to do with it. It was one of those morbid curiosity things. I knew I’d be stuck renting forever, but it was fun to know just how far out of my reach this kind of thing really was. Excellent gripe material for Gary and Sandra.
‘If I may ask, ma’am, is this place yours?’
She hobbled back from the kitchen, and I half got up to take my tea from her.
‘Oh no. This was his.’
I nodded politely. ‘How long ago did he… pass?’ I didn’t need to pause. I knew I was going to say “pass”. People liked the pause.
I nodded reassuringly. This job required a lot of different nods.
‘I see. Have you held the funeral?’
I nodded knowingly.
‘And, his name?’
‘Sorry, I’ll need his full name.’
‘Mmm hmm. Insurance scam, is this?’
I nodded denyingly. ‘Names hold a certain amount of power, and it might be the difference between finding him or not.’
‘Hmmph. Fine. You’d better get results, young man. Marcus Baxter.’
I smiled. I always liked it when people called me young, and it did not happen much these days.
‘Let’s see what we can do then, shall we?’
I took a sip of my tea, and placed it back on the coaster in front of me. I sat all the way back in the couch. I rolled my neck. I puffed out my cheeks and tapped them lightly. I prodded at my teeth with my tongue. All nervous tics, nothing to do with the summoning.
I folded my hands in my lap and closed my eyes. I took a deep breath and gathered my magic to me. I’d been doing this for so long, it was effortless. Now, the bigger magic? That could knock me down for a few days. But a simple sighting was nothing. I opened my eyes.
The apartment had gained a purple tint.
‘Did the murder occur here, Mrs. Baxter?’
‘That explains what I’m seeing. There’s a strong sense of the dead here. It’s everywhere.’ Pretty standard for this sort of thing, but Mrs. Baxter wasn’t the type of client who wanted to hear how her grandson’s murder was ordinary.
She leaned forward and placed a hand on my forearm. ‘And is he? Is Mark here?’
‘Let’s see, shall we?’ I spoke loudly, to the room. ‘Mark? Mark, are you here?’
No response apart from the nervous rasping breath of Mrs. Baxter.
I let the silence hold for a few seconds, just in case, but there was no one here. Yet. I gathered my magic to my voice, just the tiniest speck, and spoke softly. It would have barely been audible. ‘Marcus Baxter, I call you to me. You are summoned.’
I looked at Mrs. Baxter and she jerked back in her chair.
‘Kal Glass! Your eyes are… glowing purple!’
‘All part of the show, not to worry. Proof we’re getting somewhere. Now please, stay back in your chair, and don’t move.’ I picked my tea up and shielded it from the inevitable.
You could set your watch to a summoning like this. As soon as six seconds had passed, a loud boom cracked out from the air in front of me, scattering anything lighter than a TV across the room. The boom was replaced by a scream of agony, and an amorphous, gently glowing, purple and white form appeared, pulsing on the hardwood floor.
I sipped my tea, waiting for the scream to pass.
‘Marcus Baxter, you’re home. Be calm,’ I said quietly.
The glowing light gained a face. ‘What?!’
‘Marcus Baxter, you’re home. I am Glass. This is your grandmother… Mrs. Baxter.’
Disembodied hands appeared next, pressed against the ghost’s face.
‘I don’t like it here!’ Mark wailed.
‘Marcus Baxter, you are home. Appear!’
The glowing light whirled and spasmed, and suddenly coalesced into a person. Mark was lying in the foetal position.
‘Is he here?’ Mrs. Baxter asked.
‘Can I talk to him?’
‘Just one moment. He needs to collect his thoughts.’
Mark began sobbing. This was within the range of emotional responses I’d seen before. The recently deceased tended to be manic, especially when on the receiving end of a summoning spell. A simple Calling would have been preferable, but Mark’s ghost had been turned into an aura inhabiting the apartment. The jolt of pain from the summoning managed to coalesce him.
‘Mark. You’re safe now. Would you like to speak to your grandmother?’
The sobbing broke long enough for him to squeeze out a few words. ‘Gran? She can’t hear me. No one can!’
‘Mark. I can hear you,’ I pointed out.
As if he required what was happening to be spelled out in no uncertain terms, the ghost opened its eyes and looked at me. ‘You’re… yeah? You can hear me?’
‘That’s right, Mark. I can hear you. You can call me Kal’
The sobbing cut off instantly.
‘Are you the grim reaper? Are you going to take me?’
‘No, Mark. I’m not here for that. That’s also not how it works, but let’s not get sidetracked.’
‘Bloody yes let’s get sidetracked! I’ve been in hell for god knows how long!’
Oh, boy. ‘Mark. It’s been four days since your death.’
‘Yes, Mark. You knew that.’
‘Oh, yeah. Sorry, it’s just a bit of a jumble.’
‘That’s normal, don’t worry. Especially in a violent death.’
‘Violent… oh. Yeah.’
Mrs. Baxter’s patience had worn thin, and she finally asked, ‘How is he?’
‘Gran? Gran! Let me speak to her!’
‘He’s a touch discombobulated, but he’s here.’
‘Tell him I miss him so.’ Mrs. Baxter had produced a tissue from her sleeve and dabbed at some tears in a distraught-yet-composed manner.
‘I’m here Gran! I can hear you! Why can’t she hear me?!’
I held my hands up in a calming gesture. ‘Calm down, Mark. I can tell her anything you want to say. Go ahead.’
He glared at me, anger welling up. I glanced down to a coaster that had flown across the room behind Mark. It began shaking and slowly lifted up from the floor as the spirit was about to lose control of the force holding it together.
Then it dropped. ‘Right, sorry,’ Mark said. ‘Tell her that I miss her too. And that she can’t stay here!’
I relayed the message.
‘I’m only here for the weekend. To arrange a few things.’
Mark slumped back against the wall. ‘Okay, good. Good.’
‘Kal, dear. Ask him if he knows who killed him.’
Ahh. that definitely explained the aura. Violent crimes are bad enough, but unsolved violent crimes? A lot of emotion and conflict. I asked.
Mark rubbed his forehead. ‘I don’t know! I don’t… No. No, I don’t. It was a gun. No, there was no gun. A bullet though. Or, it felt like being shot. I think.’
I relayed the information and added, ‘Did the police inform you how he… passed?’
‘They said it was a heart attack.’
I processed that for a moment. ‘But, you said he’d been murdered?’
‘I had a feeling. A whisper. I could tell something wasn’t right.’
Was it possible a heart attack could feel like being shot? I was intimate with death, not life and pain. I didn’t know, and it wasn’t any of my business. Although… I was curious, my business or not.
‘Mark, if you were shot, did you see the man? Perhaps we could solve your murder that way?’
The ends of his limbs began to fade away as he went into deep thought, but snapped back when he answered. ‘Wine! Umm, no, I didn’t. He was just a shadow. But there were two shadows! The one that shot me had something to do with wine.’
I held up a placating hand to make sure he didn’t get worked up.
‘Don’t worry, Mark. Memories from near the time of death are usually distorted in same way. It’s possible you’re even anthropomorphising the physical heart attack, nothing more.’
‘Cava!’ Mark blurted out. ‘Wine, but specifically, Cava.’
I peered at the ghost. I did not like where he was going with this. ‘Can you remember anything else? A sentence, maybe?’
Mark shook his head. ‘Not really. The other guy just called him that fizzy wine.’
He hadn’t called the other guy a spanish wine. He’d called him a “carver”. Slang term for a Vitaemancer – flesh carver, flesh mage, whatever you want to call them.
‘Mark, did this shadow have to touch you? Or was he on the other side of the room? Do you know why they were here?’
The ghost sobbed and held his hands up as if I was about to hit him physically. ‘I dunno. I’m sorry.’
I made a calming shush. ‘Don’t worry, Mark. It doesn’t matter.’
It did matter. But I’d worked with spirits long enough to know that if I pushed any further, Mark would disperse and require another summoning. Do that too many times to a new ghost, and he’d lose what little sanity he was starting to regain.
I slapped my knees. ‘Well, I suppose you two have a lot of talking to do. I’ve got some spare time, so…’
The two talked for another hour, and I relayed messages. Mrs Baxter had coped with the arrival of her grandson’s ghost with the typical stiff upper lip I expect from her generation. After a while, when the frantic swapping of gossip about relatives and post-death arrangements had finished, I was ready to take my leave.
Mark, now a fully formed ghost, was sitting next to me on the couch. He kept trying to reach for my tea but just rippled the liquid inside the cup. I gave them both the option of how to “resolve” the situation. They were adamant that they didn’t want Mark banished and that it was totally fine for him to haunt the place. I gave another signature nod, but knew I’d be receiving a phone call in the next few days. Perhaps I’d wait to invoice Mrs. Baxter till after the second visit.
I said my goodbyes, made sure they had my business card, and made my way back to the lift – the corridor was now a much more acceptable temperature since I’d resolved the malignant spirit. I headed back to the tube, and couldn’t help but feel as though I was being watched. Shit. A fucking carver. Shit. I did not want to get involved with that. Still, this meant that I actually wanted to go to the Templar meeting tonight. I could gather information. Poke around for clues. See who knew anything about a new carver on the scene. Or more likely, see if I needed to hire protection for accidentally sticking my nose in their business. This is why I should never follow my curiosity. Idiot!
Halfway between the flat and the tube, once I was sure I wasn’t going to suffer a mysterious heart attack, I turned my phone on. Having not deleted it, I still had the icon to remind me about my mum’s voicemail.
What was today? Why did today matter?
Anubis’ tits, I’d forgotten! The anniversary of my girlfriend’s death!
No problem. I’d be seeing her tonight.