Firestarter

Absolution 2.3

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Absolution 2.3

August 16th 2014 – Molly

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When I awoke, I found myself floating in darkness. It was a weird experience, everything around me was dark, but I still had a sense of space. The ground looked the same as the sky, I couldn’t even see any sort of line between the two identical patches of void, but I knew instinctively which was which. And despite the utter lack of any sort of light, I could see my own body, as if it was illuminated evenly from every direction at once. The darkness around me was heavy, but warm and comfortable. It pressed in with an almost tangible weight, and when I swung my hand I could feel a faint drag, almost like being underwater. Except thankfully without the part where you drown when you try to take a breath. My borrowed scrubs were still dry, so it wasn’t actually some sort of liquid, just a really thick gas. I halfheartedly doggy-paddled a few times, trying to see if I could actually swim in the inky murk. I gave up once I realized I had no reference to determine whether or not I was actually moving.

“Isn’t it cool?”

I turned to face the voice, the sliver of a demon that was responsible for my current predicament, millions of dollars in property damage, and the deaths of several hundred people.

He wasn’t at all what I was expecting. He wasn’t an ominous voice in the back of my mind, or a slavic man armed with an ancient longsword. He wasn’t even a buffy-style big foreheaded monster. He was a boy around my age, with messy black hair and a face that hinted at innocence and eastern european ancestry. Most of his body covered by a dark grey cloak several sizes too large, but it was obviously he was very skinny. And he was smiling at me in a disconcerting un-demonic manner. He was also eating from a very large plate of fried rice. And it was good fried rice too, the authentic stuff that was actually fried in sesame oil and was pretty much fifty-percent protein by volume.

When demon-boy noticed me staring at his meal, he gestured for me to come join him. For a moment, I hesitated.

“Relax, I’m not going to eat you. I have fried rice.” He said.

Against my better judgment, I chucked a bit at that. And then I walked over to join demon-boy. He produced another bowl and fork from somewhere within his massive cloak, and I started scooping myself some rice. He wasn’t a fairy or anything, so it wasn’t like I was signing away my firstborn by accepting his food. Also, the only food I’d had in the better part of a week was an apple, some cereal, and a coke. I eagerly dug in to the rice. It was as delicious as it smelled, the rice had actually been fried in sesame oil, the chicken was perfectly cooked, and it was filled with bits of egg, slices of green onion and slivers of carrots. I inhaled my first two bowls of rice, then slowed down to savor my third. I wasn’t sure if this counted as the confrontation going well or was a sign of my imminent corruption. Either way, I appreciated the rice and decidedly non-demony form.

I supposed it made a bit of sense, maybe he was fishing for sympathy or trying to reflect his host. The fact that he had manifested with a large bowl of what was my favorite non-candy food couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. I didn’t really care what the reason was, I was just relieved the demon hadn’t chosen a form that was intentionally disgusting or otherwise psychologically scarring. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would have been able to have a serious conversation with a giant mass of floating tentacles, or a red-skinned musclebound devil. I did appreciate the fried rice though, even if it was just an illusion.

Everything here probably was. Father Murphy hadn’t gone into a ton of detail about what to expect before he put me to sleep, but he had told me the basics. I was experiencing my own subconscious as a physical place. It was sort of a diagnostic technique that the Church used to figure out exactly what they were dealing with in more subtle cases of possession. The only thing I knew was that everything in this little worldlet was a reflection of one or both of our minds. Father Murphy had refused to tell me anything more specific on the grounds that it would prejudice the result of the test. The demon’s shape was probably a combination of his self image, my expectations, and likely some attempts on his part to create a more favorable impression. The fried rice was probably mostly from my memories, it was way too similar to the my memories of Philadelphia’s Chinatown. He was probably the one who manifested it though, if I had that kind of control over the dream-world I wouldn’t still be wearing dirty scrubs.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you at last. My name is Casimir.” The boy said. He was sitting on the floor, as much as any particular glob of the insubstantial darkness surrounding us could be called the floor. Casimir’s long black hair was messy, even by my standards, covering his ears and reaching down far enough to get into his eyes. His voluminous cloak was tattered and clearly ancient, but it wasn’t the literal pile of rags that his physical form had been wearing when I’d met him. He also didn’t have the longsword his physical body had been carrying. That was no guarantee he was unarmed though, this new incarnation might have changed it’s weapon the same way it changed it’s age and clothes.

I had done some thinking in the time that’d a been awake since the catastrophe at the airport. I hadn’t had the opportunity to look at a bible or browse Wikipedia, but I had come to a few conclusions. So, angels and demons both fall into seven choirs. Seven different choirs mind, but there are definitely parallels between choirs with the same number on opposite sides of the aisle. The choirs are named for the story of genesis, when God made the world in seven days. Each choir is loosely associated with a particular day in that mythical week, and their powers tend to tie in to what God did that day. Or, in the demon’s case, the opposite. Casimir had attacked with physical violence, rust, and decay. He was basically concentrated entropy, or maybe accelerated time. Either way, it was a pretty clear link to the Choir of Ruin. I wasn’t actually sure which one that was. I knew it was paired with the Angels of the Fundament, so whatever day God made land. I didn’t know what day that was off the top of my head, it was probably the third or fourth. Maybe the second. Clearly I’m not the greatest of Christians. Anyway, tl,dr: Casimir’s powers break stuff.

“Hello Casimir. I’d introduce myself, but you probably already know everything about me. I’d really appreciate it if you would be so kind as to vacate the premises, so to speak. Having a demon in my head makes my life substantially more complicated than it’s needs to be.” I replied.

If he was going to be polite, then so would I. At least at first. Politeness cost me nothing, but one way or another, he was going to be leaving my head. Even if being possessed didn’t make me a target, I really didn’t appreciate the gross violation of privacy. The thought of anyone being able to hear everything that went on inside my head made me feel icky and embarrassed. And more than a little furious. I wasn’t sure how exactly I was going to force the issue though, Father Murphy really hadn’t been all that helpful there. I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t provide the whole truth during our conversation. How the hell was I supposed to fight something that I couldn’t even sense outside of a state of deep meditation?

“I would like nothing better, I do not wish to trespass within you if I am unwanted, but unfortunately I am unable to do so at this time. I am a fragment of the demon you encountered, placed within you in order to prevent you from expiring from your wounds, thereby fulfilling the terms of your compact with him. The greater measure of my strength was consumed in healing you, and without it I cannot exist independently.”

“No offense, but this is so not my problem. I really couldn’t care less that your demonic daddy left you out to dry, I just need you out. This is an eviction, not a negotiation.”

“If that were true, we wouldn’t be speaking right now. You lack the ability to safely remove me. And while I am sincere in claiming that I do not wish to trespass, I must place my own survival above your wishes. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this causes you. I shall do anything I can, within reason, to minimize the disruption my existence inflicts upon your daily life.”

I fumed silently. It was hard to hate someone who sounded so reasonable and honest. This really wasn’t how I expected this conversation to go. I had expected some sort of epic mental battle for the fate of my soul. Apparently I watched too much TV. “Anyway,” Casimir continued, “I would like to propose a solution to that problem. You should learn how to control me.”

I started at Casimir. He stared back at me, as if he didn’t just say the most ridiculous thing in the world.

“Uh, what?” I asked.

“You should learn diabolism. It would solve all your problems.” He replied.

“By leading me to an early grave?”

“I was thinking more putting your enemies in an early grave. You don’t really seem like the suicidal type. Think about it, if you learned how to bind and control demons you could actually trust me, then we wouldn’t be at odds with each other. You could even help me recover enough that other people wouldn’t be able to detect me. Once you did that, I could use my powers to help you, or leave your body altogether.”

“So, let me get this straight. You want me to delve deeper into demonology in order to be able to trust you, then give you more power over me in order to help you hide yourself?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much the idea.” Casimir replied.

“Do people actually fall for that?” I asked.

“You have no idea. People will fall for anything, even the blatantly impossible, especially if they want it badly enough. I was quite sincere though, I could be of great assistance to you, and learning more about my kind would enable you to interact with me more safely.”

“I have only your word for that. Diabolists have a pretty shitty reputation, and with good reason. I suppose you’re going to tell me it’s just a coincidence that so many of them go so horribly bad?”

“Nope, totally not coincidence. Look at the sort of people who turn to demons for power. The desperate, the lazy, the already morally compromised. Very few of them properly do their homework. They draw more power than their bodies can withstand, or use contracts with loopholes so obvious a first year law student would notice them. It’s hardly surprising that they die as a result, our interests are generally diametrically opposed to those of our summoners, and we’re racially disinclined towards mercy.”

“You’re trying to play off my pride, convince me that I can succeed where they failed, receive the fruits of the art without making the sacrifices.”

“Yep, and I’m not trying to be subtle. I’m trying to be honest and fair, I didn’t pillage your memory and shape myself into something you couldn’t help but trust, or force you to harbor me by threat of mutually assured destruction. And you could succeed where they failed. Can you honestly tell me you haven’t once looked at the people running the world and wonder how they hell they haven’t destroyed it yet? Haven’t once thought you could easily do so much better than them if you just had the power they’ve accumulated over the centuries?”

“Except again, we run into the issue of you being horribly, irredeemably evil. I can’t trust anything factual you tell me, let alone your estimation of my capabilities or the courses of action you suggest.” I replied.

“I cannot lie to you. You might not be able to trust my judgment, but you can trust my word.”

“That’s just folklore. Everyone knows demons can lie, it’s just a myth that started when someone mistook a fairy for a demon.”

“And why do you believe that? Because the Church told you? Why are you constantly reminding yourself you can’t trust anything I say, but blindly accepting their propaganda? Sure, our record is far from perfect, but look at your own experiences. In the last week, a demon has saved your life, and the Church will murder you if they ever found that he did. Would it truly be so outlandish to at least consider that they might not be as trustworthy as you seem to think they are?”

The problem was I had no credible information at all here. I might not trust the Church, but Casimir was obviously biased, his life was literally on the line after all. There was no way I could safely verify that he was really unable to lie.

I paused for a moment, pretending to think about what he was saying. Appealing to my own experiences was an obvious anecdotal fallacy, even just looking at the last week of my own life, the Church only threatened to kill me, Casimir’s “father” had killed hundreds of people for no apparent reason.

“I know what you’re thinking.”

“Of course you do, you’re inside my mind. So you also know how angry that makes me.” I snarled.

“Sorry, bad choice of words. I swear upon all that I hold dear that I am not currently reading your thoughts, and I shall not attempt to do so again.”

“Like I can trust that promise. What exactly do you hold dear anyway?”

“Not much to be honest, I’m still only a few days old. And everything was pretty fuzzy while you were on so many painkillers. I suppose my existence is dear to me, it’s barely been a few hours, but getting to watch the world through your eyes has been so interesting. The idea of having my own body, getting to do more than just watch… It’s something to look forward to. I don’t really have much else to hold dear, or to swear by for that matter.”

“I do know what you’re thinking though,” Casimir continued, “even without reading your mind. I’m not exactly a reflection of you, but I was in large part born from your mind. I might not agree with you, but I at least understand why you think like you do. Anyway, you’re thinking that my pseudo-father killed a whole bunch of people at the airport, but the Church only would kill one person, and they’d do it to protect others.”

“That’s awfully specific for someone not reading my mind.”

“I’m more perceptive than you. Suck it.” Casimir said, scrunching up his nose and sticking out his tongue at me.

The expression was so ridiculous that I burst out laughing. All of my righteousness indignation was washed away by the sheer silliness of his response. Even rationally knowing what he was, it was getting harder and harder to stay angry at him. Eventually I got my laughter under control enough to reply.

“I’m going to have to give that a pass. You need to at least buy me dinner first.”

Casimir stared blankly at me for a few moments, before what we were talking about sunk in. Then looked down and blushed, sputtering something about not knowing what the idiom meant. And I burst into laughter again. If this was an act, it was a damn good one.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to be crude. It just slipped out, please don’t be offended.” He apologized. Then, he looked back up at me and grinned slyly. “You know, fried rice is dinner though.” He continued. And, suddenly I was struck by a powerful urge to slap him.

“I don’t care how adorably awkward you are. You’re still a demon, and you’re still getting the hell out of my head. It’s a single occupancy unit.” I replied, giving him my patented ‘I’m-going-to-cut-your-spleen-out’ glare.

“As much as I’d like to get back to our completely pointless bickering over a fundamental difference of opinion, we have bigger problems.” Casimir replied.

“Really, such as?”

“Well, for starters Father Murphy didn’t believe your story. He can sense my presence, and he’s going to kill you as soon as you wake up.”

“Oh. Shit. That’s a problem.”

“Indeed. Want my help solving it?”

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