By Victor D. Infante
The lights are strobing madly as we re-enter the club. There are no doormen to check our hand stamps, no one taking money. Security guards, bartenders … all of them are on the dance floor, and the dance floor has become a horrific mockery of what it was, bodies moshing in agony, unable to stop. Lips pulled into rictus, cheeks stained with tears. Clothes shredded and bodies soaked in sweat. And you don’t stop, I sing under my breath. No one can stop at all. Every one of these people is going to die dancing.
And above it all, the DJ is transfixed, staring blankly at her handiwork. The music is simply a pulsing beat now, without even a pretense of being anything else. There is no rise and fall, just a relentless pummeling of sound.
There’s a sickness in the air as we walk, and I restrain the urge to vomit. I glance at Henri, and he’s obviously doing the same. He’s got that macho stoic thing going on, but there’s no disguising when you’re green to the gills.
And then the DJ looks at us.
There’s something peculiar that happens when something that isn’t really human turns and looks you in the eyes, a sort of coldness that murmurs through your blood. You get a small does of it when a Gila monster or an iguana stares at you. This is that, turned up to eleven.
The moments tick by as the DJ and I stare at each other — Her, cold and alien, Me, trying desperately to hold it together. Henri is gritting is teeth, but his hands are shaking. I can feel Ru looming behind us, now dressed in some sort of wild red Ziggy Stardust sort of thing with pointy shoulder pads, which I presume must be battle garb.
“Who are you?” I say, after what’s probably only a few seconds. “What do you think you’re doing?”
A smile stretches across the DJ’s face, and it’s even worse then when she was expressionless.
“If I ever had a name,” it says, in a voice that scrapes against your skin like sandpaper, “it is forgotten. I remember very little of what I was before you freed me, Whitney Bierce. It was so long ago.”
And there’s the confirmation I was looking for. This is one of the damned spirits that was freed when I fought Harriet. And then the other implication … I let loose thousands of things like this.
“I remember the blood,” she says.
Oh, goodie. She’s lost in nostalgia. Hurray.
“I remember the bodies of children strewn across fields, the women screaming as they were locked in rooms with the flayed and battered corpses of their men. I remember when cities burned. I remember what was left behind, how it was worse for the living.”
I gulp, and wonder if the DJ noticed. But it’s not really the DJ. The DJ is just a possessed tool. And the faintest trace of a plan crosses my mind.
“OK,” I say, sounding more brave then I feel. “I have to call you something. So I’ll call you Deadmaus. So … Deadmaus … what do you hope to get from all this?”
The possessed DJ laughs, and I repress a shiver.
“The first small sacrifices were … targets of opportunity,” she says. Their deaths gave me strength enough to seize this body … the one with the most power in this wicked house.”
I nod, saying nothing.
“I see what you’re thinking, Whitney Bierce, but I’ve watched you closely. You’re not a murderer. You won’t kill the innocent woman who owned this body. And even if you did, you have no way to bind me. I’d simply move to another body. By the time you can do anything, this body will be mine, permanently, and the sacrifice of these revelers will make me more powerful than I ever was in life. Powerful enough to even stand against you.”
And she’s right. Blood is now dripping from the walls, and the dancing has become even more frenetic. Everyone in this room is about to die, and that’s only the beginning of a tide of blood that will sweep past this city. If she’s allowed to leave, the carnage will be immense before she’s stopped.
And that’s when I smile, because I know I’ve won.
Without a word, wires rip from the walls and the ceiling, dragging Deadmaus into the air, entangling her limbs, wrapping around her neck, dragging her into the air.
“THIS WOMAN WILL DIE,” she shouts, sounding a little frightened. “SHE WILL DIE AND IT WILL ALL BE FOR NOTHING!”
“Uh huh,” I say, not really listening. “I remember my vision from earlier, and wrap the coils around the woman’s neck, and begin to strangle her. The possessed body flails and gasps, but the electric coils entwine her.
“You’ll kill her, Whitney,” says Ru, aghast.
“I know,” I say. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Henri preparing some sort of magic, but I don’t have time to confer.
“Why does everybody think I’m the nice witch,” I say, as I will the coils and wires to tighten. “It’s because I’m blonde, isn’t it?”
And then, I can see Deadmaus’ aura leave the body. Bingo. It had to leave before the body actually died. The spirit bolts around the contours of the nightclub, searching for a suitable vessel, and it finds the only one that could possibly suit.
Henri spasms as the ghost enters him, and he screams in agony, but to his credit, he maintains control. As I knew he would … long enough for me to lower the DJ to the ground. She’s dying, but with a wave of my hands, I heal the wounds before it’s too late. That’s one less thing on my conscience. Dimly, I realize the dancers have stopped, left dazed and confused in the middle of the dance floor.
I return my attention to Henri, who is regaining his composure, but still in too much pain to speak. Still, there are questions burning in his eyes.
“The DJ was dying,” I say, “and Deadmaus wasn’t strong enough to survive without a host. Not before this ritual was done,” I say, gesturing to the bloody dance floor. The dancers were too used up already. They’d never last. And I’m way too powerful for it to risk trying me. That left you. And you’re a houngan. It didn’t know that.”
Henri gasps, regaining his voice as the ghost battles for supremacy of the body. I step closer to him.
“Which means,” I continue, “that among other things, you’re used to letting loas and other spirits ride you like a pony.” I ignore Ru’s side-eye glance at the imagery. “Which made you the perfect place to put Deadmaus until I could find a more suitable arrangement.”
“I thought,” says Henri, coughing blood but slowly regaining his strength, “that you didn’t know what a houngan is?”
“Oh, no,” I say. “I just didn’t care. And now that we have a moment, you can tell me why your mother really sent you here.”
Oh, those puppy dog eyes. If he only knew how close they were to working. I mean, not very, but closer than usual. Thankfully, he sighs and relents.
“There are big forces surrounding you, Whitney,” he says. “Great evils, horrors few witches will ever have to face. My mother is concerned. Many witches are concerned. They want to see what you’re made of.
“And since there was a dangerous spirit already handy,” I say, rage brewing under my skin, “You and your mother made sure I was drawn here. It was a test.”
He just nods.
“Fine,” I say. “Can you take care of the spirit by yourself?”
He nods again.
“Then I’m out,” I say, storming to the door before I really lose my temper. “But tell your mother that I don’t play games. If she wants to come to my city, she needs to come for real.”
I don’t wait for his reply. Outside, I steady myself against a Buick while I stop shaking, letting out all the fear and anger of the last few minutes.
“You know,” says Ru, beside me. “You really could have killed that girl. Or Henri.”
“I know,” I say, then will the tulpa to disappear. Because for the first time in a very long while, I want nothing more than to be left alone. But that won’t happen. The ghosts are already screaming at my window, waiting to see how long it takes for me to break. Watching to see how long until this haunting turns my blood to ice.
Victor D. Infante is the editor-in-chief of Radius.