I had her pegged as a tantrum-thrower within a few minutes of meeting her. It’s truly amazing how accurate first impressions can be.
All the better that she wasn’t speaking to me, she couldn’t get in the way. I might apologise when the whole thing was over, just for a quiet life. Then again, I might not. My first impression was also telling me that she wasn’t an easy person to apologise to.
I continued on towards my grandfather’s, not bothering to make sure she was actually going to leave town. She wasn’t exactly high on my list of priorities, given that I didn’t even remember her name.
My grandfather’s a strange sort of man. Some around the town say it’s the trauma from performing that last containment. Most of us agree that he was always a weirdo. His choice of home marks him as such for a start. His ‘heroic endeavors’ meant the town supported him for the rest of his life. He could have lived in the best house in the area if he wanted to. (And I wish he had, it would make getting to him a lot more convenient in this kind of situation)
Instead, I was trekking to the furthest edge of civilisation to find the old hermit in his shack of a house which was missing a couple of windows. I had a notion of why he had chosen this particular building but it wasn’t a topic I could really bring up in casual conversation. He was a strange, strange man, but probably the most interesting person I was ever likely to meet.
“Red alert!” I called as I busted though the door, making the hinges complain. The house smelt as it always did, old and musty and faintly of cheese. I tried the light switch a couple of time before noticing that the bulb was smashed. Again.
“I’ve told you before,” a voice from down the hall said, “Don’t come wandering in here saying that. You’ll make my heart give up altogether, saying things like that.”
“But it’s true this time,” I pointed out, rattling the box.
I heard a crash and wondered if breaking the news gently might have been a better course of action. Maybe the last containment did traumatise him a little… We were all in trouble if he wasn’t in a fit state to help with this one.
“All right there?”
He came charging into the kitchen with blood pumping from one arm and a lampshade on his head. “Did you say what I think you just said?”
Before I could answer, his eyes were locked on the box. He took it from me with a kind of reverence and peered inside.
“How did it happen?” he breathed.
“New girl. Underdeveloped aura. Bad times.”
He removed the jumper from the box. “So she was influenced?”
“That’s good…” He tilted the box, making the can roll, inspecting it.
“Well of course.” His inspection complete, he threw the jumper back in. “Can’t have a containment without bait. Where is she?”
“I… Ah… I sent her out with the kids so she couldn’t be used as a vessel.”
“Well then you might want to go and get her back again.”
I blinked at him. “But… Is there no way of doing it without her?”
“Well would you rather kill her or a kid you’ve known your whole life? Your choice, I’m not doing this again.”
“Hold on,kill, what?!”
“Only way to trap it. Get it into a living vessel and then force it out quickly into a container.” He set the box down on the table and took the lampshade off his head.
“But… Wouldn’t… I don’t know… an animal or something do?”
“It wouldn’t like to take an animal, their auras are completely different. It likes humans, Jack. And we happen to have one that it really likes to lure it out. Handy, isn’t it?”
This wouldn’t be the first time I’d questioned his sanity.
“But there has to be another way around this… Can’t we just release it and re-trap it?”
“Nope.” He was running his arm under the tap now. “Killing its vessel does some damage to the Darkness itself. Then it’s weak and can be trapped. Release it and all it’ll do is kill you and move on. Stupid boy…”
“But I just met this girl, I can’t just turn around and kill her!”
“Why not? You don’t even know her. She could be a terrible person for all you know. She might like country music.”
“That’s no reason to kill her!”
“Well could you at least go andfindher. If worse comes to worst, I can kill her. I’ll just need you to hold her still, I can’t run as fast as I used to.”
I backed towards the door. There was no way past this. That girl had to die. And I was probably going to be the one to kill her. “Will I get her back here before it escapes by itself?”
“If you stop hanging around the doorway looking dramatic, yes.”
I opened the door and turned to leave.
I nearly fell in my hurry to get back into the house, expecting some kind of reassurance. “Yes?”
“Is she pretty?”
“I… suppose? Why?”
“Ah, that’s good. Containments always look so much more professional when there’s a pretty girl to sacrifice.”
I slammed the door when I left this time, although the effect was more or less ruined when the hinges gave in and the door fell off the wall.