Past Lives: 1947: Silent House

A private detective who isn’t quite what she seems, her young, naive investigative partner, and a different kind of exorcism. Part of a new series – ideas for a comic – that’s part ’40s detective noir, part historical drama, part tribal, supernatural drama. Enjoy.

Melinda can feel it, the moment she walks into the hallway. The house seems almost physically weighed down, and she more than half-expects something to spring from the shadows.

Demon, her mind screams, and she refuses to let her hands shake. It never gets better.

“Stay behind me,” she tells List.

He half-opens his mouth to protest – a child, thirsty for knowledge, uncaring of the dangers until he falls – but is silenced by the look she gives him. She needlessly places a finger to he lips and then advances, hand.  The revolver at her hip.

They enter the kitchen in silence. List’s eyes flicker around the room, taking in the grey walls, the grey counter, the grey cupboards…

Colourful decor.

She hears List jump behind her at the whimper that reaches them.

The woman – young, wide-eyed, hands fisted in a tattered, once-red dress – is in a corner, rocking back and forth, murmuring something they can’ t hear. Melissa hears nothing behind her; List is frozen, and she knows he’s staring in silent horror.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Chapped, parched lips move not-quite-silently.

Melinda takes a few more steps forward, crouching in front of the girl. Dark hair falls into milky-white eyes, the irises and pupils invisible. girl words are clearer now. “Cold… C – cold… So cold…”

A rustle as List stirs, and his voice is hoarse as he asks, “What happened to her?”

Her jaw tightens as she stares into those blank eyes. “A demon happened.” The words, more than the sight of the girl or the silent house, make it real.

After a long pause, List speaks. “Just another case, you said.” She hears him swallow. “Bell, book and candle?”

She almost smiles, but it’s halted early by the sight of her patient, her voice brusque as she orders, “Water. Just water.”

The clip-clip of his footsteps; the squeak of his ridiculously polished shoes; the sound of a tap running.

She waits a moment, then places her hand on the girl’s forehead, lowering her voice significantly. “Hello, old friend.”

Something hisses, deep in the girl’s throat, and the answering voice is far from human. “It hasss been too long.”

“What did you offer her?” Melinda asks through gritted teeth. “Riches?”

The girl’s head shakes, and there’s a low, hissing laugh. “Love,” it replies slowly, as if tasting the word. “A little something to take the pain away.”

Demons and humans are meant to be simple: gold, mansions, greed. This… This is something new, something deeper. She has to fight to unclench her fists. “Very nice, Azakel.”

“She wanted a family. Now she hasss it.”

“Not for long. She’s decaying, her mind’s breaking, and I’m not letting you go this time…”

A squeak, a rustle, a word – List is by her side once again, brandishing a cup of slightly murky water. It’ll do. “Boss?”

“Thank you,” she says, taking it.

Azakel interrupts, grinding voice desperate. “Your promise…!”

“That was a long time ago,” she counters, building the words in her mind, remembering the Ways.

It was. She’d still been ageing then.

“Take her ams,” she orders List.

A curt nod, and then he does; Azakel begins to fight with the woman’s body, thrashing and shouting, but he ignores it. She’s proud of him.

“Palms up,” she adds.

He obliges, and she dips her fingers into the water, dabbing it onto the pulse points at the inside of the victim’s wrists. A hiss, not of Azakel’s but of sizzling flesh, and the demon spits, fights. She does the same with a point at the victim’s neck; the reaction is worse this time, and it manages to get a hand free, clawing her across the face with ragged nails before List can grab it again.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, knuckles white as he restrains the possessed girl.

The words, the way to remove the mindwalker, are complete in her head, and she begins to chant.

It screams, a blood-curdling thing, and begins to move. The girl’s mouth opens, and Melinda sees something begin to emerge. A claw, an arm…

Azakel climbs out of the girl, stumbling slightly, and she slumps, flesh seemingly unharmed. Melissa knows the reality is quitdifferent.

List moves to the girl, checking for a pulse, and Melinda grabs Azakel. It’s real, just, form flickering and fuzzy in the air, and she has to concentrate on knowing it’s there.

“An end,” she murmurs, touching her wet fingers to its forehead.

It flickers again, once, twice, then blinks out of existence completely, its cries echoing around the room still.

List looks up from the girl, eyes haunted, and shakes his head. Melissa joins him at the body, now just an empty shell, and uses two fingers to close the girl’s eyes; the irises have reappeared, human once again, and that somehow makes it worse.

“We were too late,” she states, simply. “It happens.”

List looks at her, expression horrified, seeming so very young. Barely a man, she reminds herself, and is patient as he cries, “You act like you’ve done this  hundreds of times!” He’s trying to rationalise what he’s seen, failing miserably.

She gets up and begins to walk calmly to the door.  At her silence – only a few seconds, perhaps, but it’s enough – he seems to realise the truth. A chord has been struck. He asks, voice hushed and disbelieving, “Who are you?”

She carries in walking, silent for a time, and, as she opens the door, answers quietly, “I’m not entirely sure.”

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