Vic pulled up to the curb of the house in the suburbs of Portland. Looking around, they held open the door for Diavolo to hop out. Diavolo took wing, circled around, and landed on Vic’s shoulder. “I’ll bet plate,” Diavolo said.
“Eh, she emailed me, so she should be expecting me.” They walked up the path to the door, and knocked. When no reply came after a couple minutes, they knocked again, clearing their throat, “Kristal, this is Vic, I’m here to help.” With no response, Vic sighed, and stomped their cigarette out before placing their hand on the knob. “I’ll bet…” they considered a moment, “knick knack.”
“You’re on,” Diavolo responded.
Vic tried to turn the knob and found it locked. “lokunc” they whispered, rewarded with a click, and they turned the knob, raising their voice as they entered, “Kristal? This is Vic, we talked online, you asked me to come over now and deal with the things you’re seeing. OK?” They announced as they looked around.
Vic gingerly stepped through the living room, looking around. They silently opened their eyes to the energies of magic and other realms. “Oh yeah, definitely not-fun-things happening around here,” they said as they surveyed the entryway and living room, broken knick knacks and mugs littering the edges of the room, a large crack running through a mirror over the fireplace, a mysterious—but coffee-scented—stain on one wall. The house looked fairly normal beyond that, provided you’re well off enough for a young woman owning a house on their own to be normal.
They turned toward the kitchen, sweeping their eyes over it before they narrowly dodged something that shattered against the wall behind them.
Diavolo looked back, “Plate, you owe me a filet.”
Vic glanced back, “Bullshit, that’s a commemorative plate, you owe me a spell.”
“Hey, I just said plate, I didn’t say what kind.”
“Commemorative plates are knick knacks,” Vic contended, before turning in the direction of the thrower, “Kristal, it’s Vic. We talked.”
“No! You’re another fucking demon! What the fuck is happening to me!?”
“De- oh. Goddamnit.” Vic sighed. “Look, Kristal, I’m not going to say what you’re seeing isn’t real, because it is, but it can’t hurt you. What you’re seeing is in another layer of reality, ok?”
“But you can see me! And you’re talking to me! How can-”
“I get it, I have a lot to explain to you, but I need you to calm down, and understand I won’t hurt you, ok?” Vic slowly approached, “I’m here to help, ok? Once you understand, it’ll be better, I promise.”
Kristal looked uncertain, her eyes still wide with fear. “Wh-what are you?”
Vic rubbed her eyes and pinched the bridge of their nose, “I’m what’s known as a Baali, a witch who gets their magic from energies from, well, Hell, essentially.” They crouched to level their eyes with Kristal, “But I won’t hurt you, ok? I can help you with this.”
Kristal’s eyes scanned around, as if looking for escape, before locking with Vic’s. “Ok,” she said, a little hollowly, then she reached out to take Vic’s proffered hand, “OK,” she said again, firmly, as Vic helped her up from the floor.
Sitting down at the table, Vic gave Diavolo their arm to remove their coat, switching arms mid-way, and place the coat over the back of a chair, where the crow hopped over to perch. “So, first things first, Kristal, this is Diavolo, my familiar. He can talk, and is as much a person as you or I, so please remember that to avoid faux pas that would go unthought of when talking about a normal bird.”
Kristal blinked. “Um, hi?”
Diavolo bowed his head, “Hello, Kristal.”
“So, you’ve been seeing demons? Describe to me what you’ve seen. I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on, but I need to narrow things down a bit.”
Kristal swallowed, “Um, well, I see…Can I get you some water? Or something?”
Vic nodded, “Yes, please, there will be a lot of talking, and a smoker’s throat dries quickly. Please, continue,” she said, pressing the reluctant woman.
“Ok,” Kristal got up to retrieve water, hesitating, but putting her head down to charge ahead in the explanation, “I see… women… eating ashes. Skin like a porcelain doll, but cracked and fractured, being repaired, but they scream horsely…” Kristal set the water down.
“Asura,” Vic nodded, “A pitcher might be a good idea. I need you to tell me about this as uninterrupted as possible.”
Kristal could swear she could see Vic’s left eye flash red, but, given the circumstances shrugged it off. As she filled a pitcher, she continued. “When I’m out… when I used to still go out… I would see… well, like, monsters, but like they were being worn by people. Like, people with giant snake heads, or who looked like they were wearing wolf-suits…”
“Yes, aura perception allows you to see the true auras of supernaturals. Tell me more about the creatures you would see that weren’t being worn by people. That’s why you saw a demon when you looked at me.”
“There were these giant… things. With horns. Or extra arms. Or twenty legs and no arms.”
“Got it.” Vic said. “Ok, think back before you started seeing these things. Did you come into possession of any strange objects? Did you have any strange dreams? Did you come across a book that detailed how to achieve immortality? Alternatively, have you found yourself with holes in your memory from childhood, or realizing that some childhood memories were false, or remember strange events from childhood?”
“Um,” Kristal stared blankly at Vic.
“No, seriously. I need to know if any of that has happened, and which of those things it was. Look, you’re talking to a warlock, who brought their crow familiar in with them, I myself have burned out my soul to obtain magic from Hell, believe me, I’ve kind of seen it all.”
“I guess the only really strange object is a souvenir pot my uncle sent to me from some tourist trap in the Middle East.” Nicole said uncertainly.
Vic raised an eyebrow, “Can I see the pot?”
Kristal pointed a thin finger to the window over her sink. A clay pot, deep red in hue, with depictions of ritual torture etched into it and filled in black. Vic stood and looked it over, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely some major Baali shit.” They gingerly picked up the pot, which radiated smoke under the perception of auras. “So, the Middle East. I’m going to guess your uncle is in… Hm, what would you say, Diavolo, Iraq?”
“Ur. Southern Iraq,” the bird replied, starting Kristal.
“Yeah. Ur.” Vic carried the pot back to the table.
“So… that pot is making me see things?” Kristal said uncertainly.
“In a way,” Vic replied.
Kristal quickly rose and backed into the corner.
“It’s done its thing.” Vic said, setting it on the table, “You can sit down, it won’t hurt you.”
Kristal reluctantly sat back down, but straddling the leg of the table, as far as she could be from the pot.
“So, yeah, this is definitely a Baali thing. Most likely, it was used by an ancient Baal to gather blood from the sacrifices they used to recharge their energies.” Vic looked at Kristal who had gone from just uneasy to uneasy and puzzled. “Ok, short version- the pot is why you’re seeing shit. You have a power that is commonly known as aura perception, which allows you to look into the next layer of reality and see things there, as well as see the true auras of supernatural beings, and, if you know what to look for, magical items. The things you’re seeing could hurt you, but they’d need to get into this world first. Provided you haven’t mucked around with mirrors, I don’t think you could let any through.” Vic looked side-long to Diavolo, silently telling him to not correct her.
“That’s the short version. I’m going to leave this here on the table, and you’re going to go sit on that nice, comfy couch in your living room, and I will bring you some tea, and we’ll go over the long version, ok?” Vic soothingly told Kristal, their eye flashing red again as they put a little measure of power into the words.
“Will the tea make me not see things anymore?” Kristal asked weakly.
“Well, I could give you tea that would do that, but that would entail blinding or killing you, so, no, I’m going to teach you, and you will turn off the visions yourself, ok?”
“Ok.” Kristal stood, slowly and mechanically, as if she were being driven by remote, the metaphorical distance between her body and mind becoming a vast chasm. As she entered the living room, she shrieked.
Vic stood and shot into the living room, hand already clutching a sachet of sand from her coat pocket. They looked around, before locking eyes with a fiendish visage in the mirror over the fireplace. She pocketed the sand, and maneuvered in front of Kristal, between her and the mirror, “Kristal, it’s in the other world. It can’t come through that mirror. You’re ok.” Vic looked around to find a blanket on the sofa, and nodded to Diavolo, who flapped over, and picked up the blanket in his beak, dragging it over to the mirror and carefully covering it with the blanket, delicately perching on the rim of the mirror and tucking one end behind it, wobbling slightly with the awkward task, then hopping down to the ground, and picking up the other end of the blanket to do the same on the other side, and then tuck the middle behind it.
“It’s still there…” Kristal said, on the verge of tears.
“Yes, yes it is still there, in the shallows of Limbo. IT CANNOT CROSSOVER THROUGH THIS MIRROR. I promise you,” Vic said, “Trust me.”
Kristal looked up to Vic through tear-welling eyes, and nodded. Vic guided her to the couch, and sat her down.
“Diavolo, stay with her.” Vic said, returning to the kitchen.
Diavolo ducked his head in a nod. “Won’t leave her for anything.”
Vic filled the kettle with water, and rummaged through the cabinets, looking for a green tea. “She’s a fucking wreck,” Vic muttered, “probably hasn’t slept proper in weeks. She needs to relax, but she needs energy.” Vic pulled out a box of generic Asian-themed packaged green tea, and a mug. They also set up the coffee maker for themselves. “I owe you coffee” they said, their voice raised so Kristal could hear. The woman grunted a vague acknowledgement.
Vic walked back out while they waited for water to boil. Kristal sat on the couch slouched forward. Vic placed their hands on her shoulders, softly rubbed when she flinched, and pulled her back and down to recline against the arm. “It’ll be a few minutes. Close your eyes for a bit, Diavolo’s watching you.”
“Can he make the monsters go away if they come?”
“He can peck their damned eyes out and raise a fuss that makes me come running, then I blast the ever-loving fuck out of them,” Vic reassured her. “You need rest. Tea is on its way, but just close your eyes for now.”
Vic let Kristal doze. They took the kettle off the burner, and just let the coffee brew. “Half an hour won’t hurt. It’s not as much as she needs, but it’ll be more help than just a mug or two of tea,” they whispered to Diavolo. “I’ll do the standard warding stuff.”
Vic poured themselves a mug of coffee, and went out to their car to retrieve a larger bag of sand from their trunk.
After setting a large glass of water from the filtered fridge spout on the coffee table, they set to work on every reflective surface in the house with the sand and their levitation magic.