This is the other main writing project I’m working on. It still doesn’t have a definite title, but it focuses on an warlock who makes a living as an occult investigator, who goes by Vic. The setting is somewhat loosely draw from an indie tabletop RPG titled After Sundown, which itself takes place in a horror version of the real world.
Vic is genderqueer, and prefers “they” pronouns, so if you’re confused by the constant use of “they,” that’s the reason.
I’ll be posting chapters individually, hopefully, but I may also just post individual scenes.
“S-Stygis sidsim hotu!”
Vic’s hands glowed red and the light resolved into a disc of crimson between them and the gushing pipe. The disc became a portal that harmlessly drank the torrent of water and sent it to the underworld.
The drenched warlock stepped back, feet sloshing in ankle high water. They looked down at their soaked t-shirt, and futilely flapped their arms, shaking droplets of water off their thin arms.
“Want me to start bailing?” a crow perched on the bathroom mirror croaked, followed by a cawing laugh.
Vic glared at their black-feathered familiar, “You know I could transmute you to a form that could, Diavolo.”
Diavolo bobbed his head, “I’ll shut up.”
“Thank you.” Vic turned to the water around their bare, delicate feet, “Ewaka, qaua,” she muttered, hand glowing green-streaked blue, the light extending to the water, and a waist-high form roughly humanoid in shape and composed of water rising in response. Vic’s hand, nails smudged with alternating red and black polish, thrust a bucket into its hands, “gather the water in the bucket, empty it into the sink,” they commanded the elemental. “When you’re done, climb into the sink and wait.”
The form nodded it’s head-like orb in response and set to its task… and stalled at the “gather water” step as it ran around the small bathroom trying to gather all the water into the bucket.
Vic sighed. “Stop.” The elemental stood up holding the full bucket in it’s hands. “Fill the bucket with water, empty into the sink, repeat. When no water remains” Vic shook their head, “when you can’t fill the bucket, climb into the sink and wait.” The elemental nodded again, dipped the full bucket to fill it, and lifted it to the sink to empty it. As it repeated the task, Vic turned and stepped up into their tiny apartment’s back hallway.
They grabbed a towel from the small nook next to the bathroom and fished their phone from their pocket, drying it off as they headed to the bedroom to change. Their thin fingers tapped in the number of the super. As the phone rang she tapped the button for Speaker, “Vehor,” they said, releasing the phone into the air as they peeled their shirt off.
A click indicated someone’d picked up on the other end. “What do you want, girl!?” the super’s voice crackled through the phone.
Vic stared daggers into the phone as they tossed their shirt down the hallway to splash into the flooded bathroom. “A pipe burst in the fucking bathroom, Chuck. I want you to fix it or send someone who can.”
The super muttered something vulgar and barely audible on the other end, “No can do, I’m booked solid. You interrupted me in the middle of something urgent,” Chuck said, and the creak of an office chair and clinking off an open belt was just audible. “Hey, yer a witch, aincha? Use your magic to fix it.” Chuck laughed at what passed for his wit.
“Well, you know, I could, but the demonic laborers and Dissian steel pipe they’d use would probably curse your whole shiteshack—I mean building.” Vic replied as they rubbed the towel over their chest and tried to warm their glass-cutting nipples back up.
They were rewarded with silence on the other end before Chuck responded. “Well, look, you pay your rent for this month, and I’ll consider it. You’re not late—yet—but looking at the last… year, yer gonna be. So that doesn’t make me too eager to get down to yer shit-smelling apartment and do shit for you.”
“Well, you could fucking evict me,” Vic said as their drenched pants fell in a squelching heap on the floor, “but you’d have to give me a month to move out, and would have to fucking fix the damned pipe anyway before you could try to rent this place to the non-existent masses that are clamouring to live in your slum—I mean apartment.” They stood a moment, trying to decide if their underwear had gotten wet enough to bother changing, before sighing and peeling it off too, and closing the door.
“Aww,” Diavolo croaked outside.
Chuck sighed on the other end of the phone. “Look, I’ll do it when I get around to it.”
“Let me put it this way, Chuck. You charge me for the fucking utilities, and there’s water gushing out of my wall. You charge me for water this month, I haul your ass to court with documentation—just like last time. The sooner you fix this, the sooner you can bill me for water,” Vic arched an eyebrow and channeled a few of her ancestors, “Capiche?”
“Fuck-sake…” Chuck muttered, followed by a lower mutter that was to muffled to be heard, “fine. I’ll get right down there and take care of it. Gimme fifteen minutes.”
“Really? Fifteen? You always struck me as more of a two-pump-chump, Chuck” Vic smirked as they buckled new pants on.
“Fuck you,” the super groaned as he hung up.
Vic pulled a new shirt on and opened the door to check on the elemental. The watery being was sitting in the bucket and the floor was covered with only a couple inches of water. Vic looked Heaven-ward, muttering, and sighed. “Lesep,” they said, waving their hand, the form collapsing into water. Vic emptied the bucket into the sink. They reached up to the portal that was carrying the gushing water into the underworld, hooking a finger into it. They pulled it down and closed the shower door behind it, letting the pipe gush into the shower. Vic pulled the dish-sized portal down level with the floor and let the remaining couple inches of water drain into it. Once the floor was merely soaked, rather than flooded, they waved their hand over the portal, “Talpor sleoc.”
“So I have to go outside, I take it.” Diavolo croaked.
“Yeah, I’d say let’s just go out, but… I don’t trust Chuck in here alone… I don’t have the money for new underwear if I let him fix this unsupervised…”
“Doesn’t he have a key?” Diavolo replied as he stepped onto Vic’s outstretched arm.
“Yes, but I have discouraging magic on the door. And he doesn’t care enough to have a way to overcome it.” Vic walked to the kitchen window to let Diavolo out, “in fact, even if there were a fire in here and this whole shithole was at risk of burning down, he’d rather collect the insurance than rush in here to put it out, so a discouraging ward is as good as locking spell with him.”
“Thank the divines for greedy bastards, eh?” Diavolo croaked before taking flight out the small window.
“They kind of make the world go round,” Vic muttered in reply, smiling as their familiar flew off. Crows in flight always made them smile. They half thought they were a valkyrie or shield maiden in a past life. Vic walked back and grabbed her soaked shirt off the bathroom floor, wringing it into the sink. “Let’s see… elemental dismissed, portal closed… no effects active elsewhere in the house… Diavolo out… …unmentionables…” Vic craned their neck out to the hallway, scanning it for underwear or in-discrete toys, then looked out to the common room for the same, “not in sight,” they nodded and hung the shirt over the towel rack. “Ok, we’re go-”
A clicking behind her stopped with a slight scrape and a ruffle. Vic turned to regard their animated book stand, struggling slightly under the weight of several of their harder to explain tomes. “Ah, right. Thanks, Podia.” Vic stepped over the animate-furnishing and opened a cabinet stuffed with books, a small hollow in the middle, books forming steps to. “Gotta hide you too.” Podia responded with the sound of ruffling pages and climbed the book-steps up to it’s nest, settling down inside as Vic slowly closed the door behind.
Vic walked back to their bedroom where their phone still hovered. “Annnnd you.” They sighed, “I can’t keep track of this shit.” They plucked their phone from the air and checked the time of the call to Chuck. “Still five minutes, which means at least ten.” Vic padded out to their desk and plopped into the chair, spinning the frankenstein-ed office-papasan around to face their computer. As they opened their email, a knock sounded through the room. “…or none.” Vic stood back up, catching their cat Pasha as he scampered off, and cradling him in their arms. They opened the door for Chuck, “Thank you for your prompt response, sir.”
Chuck pushed past them, narrowly missing Vic’s knees with his rusted toolbox, “Yeah, yeah.” Chuck walked back to the bathroom, “You got somewhere to be? I can lock up.”
Vic plopped back into their chair, “Nah, it’s fine, was going to do some writing anyway. I mean, I gotta make rent,” they smirked.
Chuck got to work with a steady stream of swearing and pounding in the bathroom as Vic turned back to her email. Typical spam filled the folders, and they clicked over to folder that received all mail including “Esoterica” in the subject, marking it as related to their blog.
Most of the emails were digests of comments, the blog was set to only email her once a day with shortened versions of all the comments from that day. Job offers were slim, as most people thought her blog was creative fiction. Vic didn’t disabuse people of the notion. It was safer that way. The syndicates were not fond of people who tried to tell the de-luminated masses about the truth. However, when people found the supernatural on their own… Vic was there, ready to help for a fee. It was a grey area of the Vow of Silence, that leaned heavily on the Law of Misdirection. Vic could help people with their troubles, but could not clue them into the true nature of the four worlds.
Of course, their blog skirted the Vow of Silence as well. They had to make certain changes, or gloss over some specifics of the cases they wrote up, and occasionally pay off some syndicate authority who checked up on it, but Vic got by.
Today there was a single email with the subject “ESOTERICA—CASE.” Vic opened it, knowing there was a fair chance it was nothing but a paranoid mundie.
You have to help. I NEED you to help me. I see things that make me think your blogs aren’t just stories. I don’t know what I see… I just see… people, shapes… monsters.
I’ve seen the doctors about it, but they can’t figure it out. They say there’s nothing wrong with my eyes. They’ve sent me to shrinks, and they gave me meds. I still saw shit. Now they want to commit me, but since I’m not a danger to others yet, they can’t do so against my will. So please, help me. I know this isn’t just in my head.
I need you to help. You’re my last resort.
Chuck shouted a garbled FUCK from the bathroom as a fresh gush of water sprayed him in the face, as if Vic needed the encouragement for the job.
Vic sighed, and lit up a cigarette, “CLOSE THE FUCKING SHOWER DOOR CHUCK, I ALREADY BAILED THAT CURSED BATHROOM ONCE TODAY!”
Three slams responded before a small click was nearly drowned out in the sound of rushing water, and the drenched, form of Chuck, a tall man, normally-gelled hair plastered to his forehead, typically pressed work shirt drenched and stuck to his moderately fit torso, squelched into the common room in sopping sneakers.
“I gotta turn off the water,” he scowled, and walked out of the apartment.
“Most people would do that before working on the pipes,” Vic muttered behind him, cigarette dangling from their lip, as they turned to respond to the email. They sighed. “Great…”
You’re right, my blog isn’t fiction. You’ve come to the right place.
I think you’ve some how acquired the ability to perceive auras. This allows one to see into other worlds, as well as detect supernatural creatures, and a certain type of person which is better able to conduct supernatural energies. It can also detect active magic. This could mean a few different things, so I’d like to meet with you, so we can discuss the matter, and I’ll see what I can do.
Please let me know when is good for you, and where you’d like to meet.
Vic hit send and took a sip of their now-cold coffee they’d poured before having to deal with the burst pipe. Gmail popped up a message telling them a response had arrived by the time they set the cup down.
NOW. My home- 5034 Barnes Way. You’re in Portland, right?
Vic sent a quick response confirming they lived in Portland, but would need about an hour before they could meet.
Fifteen minutes passed, and while the water had been turned off, Chuck hadn’t returned.
“Fuck it.” Vic groaned, scribbling a note to Chuck to post on the door, in case he came back, and grabbed a coat, made of thick olive-drab canvas, covered in patches depicting arcane sigils and anti-establishment emblems and sentiments, and shrugged it on. They leaned their head out the kitchen window, “Diavolo! Case!” they called. The bird flapped down and through the window as Vic finished sorting themselves out to leave.
“Anything interesting?” he cawed.
“Mundie with aura perception,” Vic replied, “or a new transhuman. Or witch. Who knows. We’ll find out.”
“Chuck fix the pipe already?” Diavolo cocked his head.
Vic answered with a look that said “what do you think?” as they fished a phone out of their pocket. “I’m going to call Mare. She’s got a key.”
Diavolo perched on Vic’s shoulder as they locked the door and stuck the note to Chuck on, “Her plumber’s crack is also much more attractive.” he cawed. Vic just laughed as they dialed.
Mare answered after only a couple rings, though her voice was distant. “Vic? What’s up, I have you on speaker.” A clang in the background told Vic that Mare was under a car again.
“I’ve got a burst pipe, and an incompetent super.”
A short laugh sounded over the phone, then the sounds of the phone being picked up and Mare pushing herself out from under the car. “Want me to come fix your pipes, eh?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a case I’m running out for, you’ve got the key still, go ahead and let yourself in. I’ll be back before too long. I hope.” Vic folded their long limbs into the driver seat of their car that could be better described as a land-yacht as Diavolo perched on the window opening before hopping down into the passenger seat. Vic switched their phone to speaker and set it in the cup holder.
“Anything major? Should I worry about horsemen of the apocalypse?” Mare scratched something on a pad, “hold on a sec,” she said before shouting something to someone else at her shop, “k, I’m back.”
“Nah, just someone who stumbled into the world of beasties. Worst case scenario, we’ve got some ghosts to worry about.”
“Oh, so I should make sure I pay the rent on my shop, then?”
“Well, until I find an apocalypse in the next month… yes. Alright, pipe’s in the bathroom, water was turned off, hopefully Chuck doesn’t forget and turn it back on, but… we’ll see. I’ll talk to you later, thanks Mare.”
“No problem. You’re paying me back for this right?”
“I’ll buy dinner?”
Mare sighed in mock irritation, “it’s a start. Ok, go set that poor fuck right.”
Vic laughed, “will do, best as I can, anyway… talk to you later.”
Diavolo pressed the call end button for Vic. “So who fucked themselves how?” he asked.
“Some mundie has found a magic book, or a ritual, or a smokeheart, or otherwise opened themselves for witchcraft, or they’re a leviathan that got lost and no one’s watching them to tell them about the fish and the bees, or they’re stuck in the Shallows with a working computer. The last one is the least likely, given that they haven’t been eaten yet.”
“Those are always fun. Mostly when they throw things at you. And after you’ve sorted them out but they’re not yet sure what’s going on.”
Vic smirked around their cigarette. “Ass.”
“I am as you made me,” Diavolo said, spreading a wing and ducking his head in a bow.