Paraworld Chronicles-Ghouls and Explosions
I don’t like the dark or small places. I have many valid and rational reasons for not liking either of those things; like lack of oxygen, creepy crawlies, and mice. I’m sure I could come up with a few more intelligent things to add to that list, but my brain is currently concentrating on reminding my lungs they need to expand and contract in order for me to live. In and out Bridge, in and out. A scratching noise sounded to my right and froze mid-breath. Was that a mouse? Please, God, don’t let that have been a mouse. Closing my eyes, I shakily reached my hands out and pressed them along the sides of the wooden box that had become my prison.
“Oh, my. You are in a pickle aren’t you?”
I glared in the general direction of Edie’s voice.
“Any time you want to jump in, let me know.”
Edie harrumphed, clearly affronted, while I continued to search for a way out of the mess she had gotten me into.
“There’s no reason to get testy dearie. And stop scrunching up your face like that. It’ll cause wrinkles. You know I can’t help. It’s against the rules.”
I bit back the string of curse words that clawed up my throat and moved on to the plank of wood above my head. I’d already tried pressing on it with all of my strength but, apparently, the damn ghoul that had thrown me in here had enough brains to put weight on top of it. Which was interesting because ghouls rarely had the capacity to think about anything other than their next meal. The only reason I wasn’t currently being munched on was because the slimy bastard had already eaten. I swallowed down bile as images of the half-eaten bodies of two women rose up in my mind. I’m supposed to be on a nice and safe reconnaissance mission right now. Not stuck in the equivalent of a freaking lunch box for a giant slimy ghoul. This was supposed to be a quick in and out. All I had to do was set up my camera across the street and take some stinking pictures of an abandoned factory, but no, Edie, my not so helpful spirit guide, just had to inform me the ghoul had two victims.
I snarled to myself in anger and frustration. She knew I would run in here like an idiot to try to help them. She knew I couldn’t just sit there and take pictures while two women were being murdered. I struck the lid hard with my fist, but all I managed to do was bruise my knuckles. Edie sighed impatiently, and I could feel her rolling her eyes at me. I ground my teeth. Of course, what she failed to mention was the fact that the two women had been dead long before I came charging in here. Damn that stupid ghost. And damn my spastic brain for letting me forget my cell phone today. I wondered how long it would take Brie to figure out I was missing. A day? Two? Surely my family would know something was up if I didn’t show up for dinner at Gran’s on Sunday. That was three days away. Ghouls rarely had to eat more than once a week or so. Maybe I could stay alive that long.
I let out a breath as I tried for the umpteenth time to force the lid of the box open with my shoulder. The wood creaked, and a growl echoed off the walls outside. Ah hell, who was I kidding? Knowing my luck, I’d not only ended up with a smart ghoul but also a gluttonous one. My box rattled as the ghoul’s footsteps pounded into the cement floor. I froze and forgot how to breathe again. A moment later the box lifted, and I was rattled from side to side. Green slime dripped into the tiny openings between the planks as the ghoul stood over its lunch. I curled into myself, trying to avoid the acrid drops. The ghoul snarled loudly before slamming the box down hard on the cement floor. My head thwacked against the top and one of my knees banged into my nose, causing it to bleed. I lifted the bottom of my tank top up to staunch the flow, wincing against the pain. My box rocked a little as the ghoul stomped away, making a rumbling sound of displeasure. I’m guessing he didn’t appreciate my lame attempts at escape.
“I’ve had just about enough of that repugnant beast. Now, stop playing around and use your magick dearie.”
I let out a sigh of despair. I’d been trying to avoid that. I’m a terrible witch. My magick is touchy at best. It’s rarely there when I need it. When I do manage to use it, the results are usually disastrous, which is not good because my family and I are supposed to be in hiding both from the other para-worlders and the humans.
“Isn’t there another way? Any other way?”
My voice sounded desperate, probably because I was. Edie made a very unladylike sound in response.
“Don’t be silly, child. You’re a witch! Stop your whining and use your magick. I’m going to miss my stories if you don’t get out of here soon.”
I stifled a shiver. I’d only made Edie miss her soap operas once before, and the result had been torture. She’d followed me around for an entire week dishing out her revenge. Try explaining to your boss that the reason you can’t come to work is because a little old lady ghost was singing opera at the top of her lungs directly into your right ear canal. A little old lady ghost who was tone deaf. It had been the worst week of my life.
“Fine. I’ll try.”
I grumbled. I couldn’t see her in the dark, but I was pretty sure she was doing her impersonation of the Cheshire cat right about now.
I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath, searching for that spark inside of me. I felt it almost immediately. It was an enormous cerulean ball of energy close to my chest. Now came the tricky part. All I wanted to do was take a teensy tiny bit of that energy and use it to prop the top of the lid off my box. I envisioned a minuscule tendril of energy detaching and flowing down into my hands. My right palm heated and then my left, letting me know that I had successfully diverted the energy. I opened my eyes. My hands were glowing so bright that it almost blinded me. I bit my lip. It was too much energy, WAY too much. I looked at the corner where I thought Edie had been and saw her staring at my hands. Her eyes were wide and her perfectly trimmed eyebrows arched to the top of her forehead. It’s okay, I thought. You’ll need the extra energy to fight the ghoul, anyway. I reached out towards the lid of the box, but Edie stopped me.
“Bridgett dear,” she began carefully, “I don’t think,” but I was done listening to her today.
I was tired of being in this damn crate. Besides, I was being careful. I stopped an inch short of the top plank and gently placed the very tip of my index finger on it. It was barely even a touch, really. Just a small, insignificant brush against the wood. The wooden box exploded with a bang that had me covering my head and closing my eyes against the ringing in my ears. The enormous ghoul spun around at the sound and stopped short. It blinked its large, bulging eyes at me once before leaping across the basement to land in front of me. I didn’t even have time to stand before it grabbed my shoulders with its slimy hands and lifted me up. It shook me once. Twice. Then, it threw me towards the ground. I was in pure panic mode now, and that wasn’t good because my magick was out. You normally have to be extremely focused to use magick. The rest of the witches in my family can’t even cast a small spell without being calm and controlled. It doesn’t matter if they’ve called it to them or not. They simply can’t do anything with it without an extreme level of focus.
My power is different though. Once it’s out, it’s out, and I have very little control of it after that. Especially if I’m afraid or upset. It’s kind of like throwing a bunch of energy out into the universe and letting it decide what it wants to do with it. When I was a teenager, I got so angry at my cousin for ditching me to hang out with some cool kid that my hair caught on fire. Yeah, the universe can be a bit of a bitch at times. It was being one right now. As I felt myself going airborne, I envisioned my landing being soft and gentle. Instead, the ground seemed to have become a trampoline. I hit hard from the force of the ghoul’s throw and bounced quickly up towards the ceiling. I tried to envision another soft landing, but apparently, the universe thought it had the right idea because I bounced off that as well. I turned my body, aiming it at different areas on the basement floor several times, trying to find a solid spot to land. It was useless.
It seemed the entire basement floor and ceiling had been transfigured into springboards. The ghoul caught on to the whole jumping thing fairly quickly and kept coming after me. It kept passing me within inches, snarling and covering the floor and ceiling with its slime. I threw my body away as fast as I could, but the gooey substance the ghoul was covered in splashed onto me as well. Eventually, I made it to one of the outer walls and angled my body to hit it, praying that it was solid. It wasn’t. The universe was being thorough today. I sprang from the wall forcefully, shooting sideways directly into the ghoul’s path. We collided with a sludgy splash. The ghoul was solid and squishy, oozing with bright green muck that was warm and rancid. Its talons raked across my back. I cried out from the burning sting it caused.
At this point, my panic was turning into terror. Pain sliced into me and it took all of my physical strength just to keep my arm between the ghoul’s razor-sharp teeth and my throat. Its weight was almost unbearable on top of me, and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. I flailed and kicked, desperately trying to get the creature off of me. I began to leak power, throwing off wave after wave of uncontrolled magick. Something cold and wet sprinkled down into my hair, and it took me a moment to realize that it was snow. A small flake landed on the tip of the fiend’s nose-a white speck which contrasted starkly against the shimmering moss colored gunk that covered its body. The creature blinked in confusion, giving me enough time to finally land a kick. The monster howled in pain, and I scrambled away smirking.
It was my signature move-a spectacular blow to the groin. My sister, Brie, has spent years trying to teach me how to fight. Occasionally, I can pull off a few fancy maneuvers because of her efforts, but every time I find myself in a less than optimal situation with a supernatural being, it’s always been the groin kick that has saved me. My victory was short lived though. While I had been busy trying not to get eaten, the universe had decided to use the power I had given it to create a storm inside the building. The floor was no longer springy, but now slick and icy. Beams of broken wood and other old factory debris where blanketed in white and the air was crisp and full of milky plumes of fluff which lazily floated down towards the ground.
I managed to crawl a few feet away from the angry beast before slipping and landing face first into the gooey slush beneath me. My nose dripped with fresh blood, and I rolled over, moaning at the pain. The ghoul was on me again in seconds, growling and snarling. I expected to be torn to shreds. Instead, I felt myself go weightless. I had a moment of pure, unadulterated relief at not being eaten alive before smashing hard into the wall on the opposite end of the large open room. When I came to, my vision blurred, and I blinked. A loud, enraged bellow sounded from the other end of the room, and I looked up, confused as to why I was still alive. I broke out into a wide grin at what I saw. Edie had found a pipe and was using it to beat the crap out of the ghoul.
“How dare you put your disgusting hands on my charge!”
She cried, whacking the beast on the nose.
“No one touches my Bridgett!”
“Do you hear me?!”
“She’s MY responsibility!”
Whack, whack, whack. The fiend kept reaching out, trying to claw its invisible foe. Edie easily floated around the monster, her ghostly form blinking in and out of view as she berated the beast with her iron weapon.
“I haven’t even taught her how to use make-up properly yet!”
I rolled my eyes at that and used the time Edie was giving me to re-focus my power. I stood on shaky legs and held my hands out, envisioning streams of electricity pouring into the field. It took a few tries but, eventually, my magick cooperated. Sort of. I had intended to fry the gooey bastard where he stood, but I miscalculated the amount of electricity needed. The result sent the ghoul flying backward, through the outer wall of the building and into the street outside. He landed with a deafening CRACK! There was a moment of shocked silence before the cement beneath him gave way. He lifted his head. The expression he gave me was one of utter confusion. My magick wasn’t done yet though. Bands of angry blue power crackled in the air between the two of us. The ghoul looked at them in confusion and then at me. I watched the slow progression of realization dawn on his ugly face. I smirked. That’s right, big guy. Not human. Ghouls really were stupid.
He stood, fury dripping off every inch of him. I made another attempt to fry the big brute. He roared, raging. I winced at the cry he made. It had been loud enough to shatter what was left of the windows in the building. I squatted down, curling in on myself as glass rained down around me. Then, the ground vibrated. The ghoul was barrelling towards me. I panicked. Power rushed from me in a tidal wave, directing itself straight at the furious brute in front of me. He exploded. The impact forced my already bruised body into the wall behind me. I had just enough time to close my gaping mouth before a torrent of entrails the color of rancid spinach splattered all over me. After the rain of ghoul subsided, and I’d emptied the contents of my stomach a few times, I somehow limped my way across the street to my car.
Edie trailed after me, occasionally remarking on the un-lady like state I was in. I ignored her, more concerned about what Brie and Gran were going to do to me once they found out I’d magick blasted a ghoul in the human part of town. I looked back at the building in my rear-view mirror as I drove away. The hole in the front wall of the old brick factory was enormous, and the walls on either side were covered in the same putrid substance I was covered in. A large charred spot in the shape of a perfect circle lay in the center of the street directly opposite it. Through the opening, I could make out white flurries still dancing around inside. I worried my bottom lip. At least this part of town was mostly deserted. I was like 70 percent sure no one had seen me go all witchy on that thing’s ass. Hey, on the bright side, I am completely tapped out magickally. So, no weird crazy power leaks can happen on the way home. Still, as I made my way through town towards the apartment I shared with Brie, I got a terrible feeling this whole thing would come back and bite me in the ass. Most likely sooner rather than later…