Category: fantasy

Not Even a Proper Meeting

Not sure how effective it’ll actually be, given that spirits are ephemera rather than solid, but I found a gym that offers boxing classes. If nothing else I feel a little better about if we ever have to fight a possessed person again.

And it fills the time.

Keeps my mind off the fact that we let a couple of heavily TB infected Uratha wonder back into Pearly Oaks where vulnerable humans live nice and crammed close together. Which I didn’t even think of after the fight and we would have never learned about if Skip and I hadn’t headed over to see if we could learn more from them. So many people getting sick while Brook and _ had recovered completely.

Even more than Brook vibrating after drinking anything with caffeine in it or having seen their wolf forms running off after the fight, that really drives home how not human the Uratha are. Which adds an extra flavor of weird to Alpha Storm seeming interested in Viv’s health but not seeming to care at all what had happened to Louis. Not sure what’s going on there.

Brook asked if Louis was doing better. Maybe the others just seem odd by comparison to her since we interact with her more than the rest of them?

I suggested that maybe we should meet somewhere else where there was less of a risk of anyone getting infected but all anyone would say to that was that they were too busy keeping order at Pearly Oaks for anyone to leave. Didn’t seem too orderly to me, but who am I to say? Maybe Storm figures that with Consumption out of Viv it isn’t our business anymore. Maybe he figures that they don’t need us anymore. He’s wrong on either count but I’ve seen people be more stubborn over dumber things.

I’m not going to go risk getting infected to try and learn things they don’t want to teach me. I can always hit up the forums that I first found the First Speak in.

Which I have since then, of course, there’s an item that might help us keep tracking Consumption, the Judge’s Eye, it seems like it should be some kind of lens for scrying through. It’s smoked with an incense that I’m just not familiar with the ingredients for. Not sure if that’s a matter of it being common things with names that the Uratha use that just don’t translate well or if they’re something completely new that I’ve just never heard of. Google isn’t any help either way because of the First Speak. It also mentioned needing a “gift of essence” as part of its crafting and needing to be smoked in the incense beyond the Gauntlet. I’m assuming that the Gauntlet and the veil are the same thing, which might be dangerous, but the context seems to bear that out. Talking to Viv about it, “essence” is what Consumption called the stuff it took from ghosts. Might be some kind of needed sacrifice?

Both of those leave me with no clear idea of how to continue. I’m sure there’s a way to get the essence for this, but I’m not sure what it is or if it needs to be freely given to qualify as a “gift”. Likewise, for this thing to exist and have as much information available as it did, there has to be a way to cross the Gauntlet or veil or whatever you want to call it, do the ritual, and come back all while still alive.

When I talked to Jimmy about it he thought it might be more trouble than it’s worth, that maybe I should go back to working on that spell to see spirits. That would work for me, but only for me. The Eye should work for anyone who uses it.

At any rate, Jimmy’s running a class tonight with some of the other more experienced magic users in the alternate religion side of the club about warding and spiritual protections. He invited me to come help and I think that Skip and Matt are coming too. I might have more to add on that later.

So, guess who got hit with a fun little dose of anxiety about actually starting her new job back on Wednesday. It’s me. I spent so much time getting up and looking for things to do that I got just about nothing done. All the same though, I’m happy to share this one with you all. The nice folks at Tor Teen sent it to me ages ago and I’m finally talking about it. By an author I’ve reviewed several times before, Ann Aguirre, this is Heartwood Box. Enjoy!

Heartwood Box cover

Araceli Flores Harper’s parents sent her to live with her great aunt Ottillie for her own safety. On paper, the town is safer than nearly anywhere Araceli could possibly be. No crime. No outward threats. But people, her great uncle included, have been disappearing for years with no trace found. That’s concerning enough on its own. But between her new pen pal from World War 1 and the disappearance of her best friend Araceli will need to dig deep into the town’s mysteries for the truth regardless of the danger.

Ann Aguirre’s Heartwood Box does an interesting job of balancing the mystery of what causes the disappearances and Araceli’s attempts to figure them out and the sort of romance across time between Araceli and Oliver.

Aguirre is one of those authors that I adore with major exception to how she writes romance, Heartwood Box is a fascinating exception to that. Something, I think, about how she balances the romance against the plot and Araceli’s feelings about other characters. The plot is allowed to happen without being entirely devoured by the romance. As the plot gets more serious it feels like Araceli leans more heavily on the impossible romance with Oliver. And yet, the only thing that feels lost to the romance was the possible love triangle with the boy next door class clown, Logan, which did not feel like a loss at all given the characters involved.

It actually becomes difficult to talk more about the plot, beyond going over how it balances with the romance, without spoiling the climax. Which is a bit frustrating because the real mystery only kicks in later in the book, the first half or so of the story is introduction and lead up. And yet, it is introduction and lead up that is done well enough that I was almost disappointed when the end started getting closer. I was enjoying seeing Araceli trying to figure out how she was communicating with Oliver, seeing her finding out more about the town, even her interactions with Logan made for good character work and made him feel like more of a character than just the third wheel guy. The character work over all is good actually, I enjoyed reading the interactions between Araceli and her friends. I wanted to see more of them, more of their stories, it made for great side characters because they felt solid and like they had their own stories going on off page.

My problem, if I had a problem at all, with Heartwood Box is the ending. Trying not to go too far into it, it feels way beyond Araceli’s scope. By nature of the narrative and the book to that point, the reader has to stick with Araceli for the ending but then the things that happened seem vastly out of step with what both the reader and Araceli herself know and could expect. It leaves her feeling unmoored in a way that could easily have been the start of a completely different story. This is definitely a matter of necessity, again the reader has to stick with her or it would be way too jarring, but the difference has to be tremendous enough for the reader to get the sheer magnitude of how much changed from the comparatively small scope of Araceli’s life in this small town in New York. It is a trade off that I’m not entirely sure works, but acknowledge had to be made.

Which brings me to this, I liked Heartwood Box a great deal. It falls pretty far from my usual genre preferences but the characters were interesting and the mystery was well constructed enough that I got hooked. It reminded me of the parts of Ann Aguirre’s writing that I really enjoy and made me want to check out more of her YA works. So it earns a four out of five from me. If I felt more confident with the ending it would have gotten a five.

Meeting 8 (Meeting 7 follow up??)

We saved Viv!


She has just, so much TB. Like, the folks at the hospital were amazed that she was alive much less that she’d been able to walk into the Old Drugstore. That badly infected.

Louis, Brook, and the Uratha Elder who was actually there to do the exorcism ritual were also all infected.

Louis and Viv’ll be in the hospital for at least the rest of the term. Skip, Matt, and I all had to be tested and are quarantined again. Some old law apparently. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have. And the Uratha can apparently just sleep off their TB infections no big deal.

Which is cool but weird.

I want it noted that things didn’t start off this badly.

The Meat Market was a bust because the haunted part could only be accessed through the current business. So we moved on. It just didn’t seem like the kind of place we could both get into and do anything with. The Crumbling Pioneer House definitely had powerful ghostly activity but, of the three there, the only one actually in the house was super aggressive. It seemed more likely to go ahead and attack us itself instead of letting us set our trap and wait. The other two didn’t seem dangerous, but then they just seemed to be bratty kids.

Note, right, note that this doesn’t mean that the Drugstore ghost was harmless. Salt and iron do not block supernaturally created, I think it was at least, ether from spreading throughout the room. The ghost himself wasn’t aggressive at all, he was just working on whatever he’d been working on when he died, but also leaking horribly flammable gas. I would bet my last dollar that that was the cause of all those mysterious fires.

Note also, tasers and stun guns produce major sparks.

So, what I’m saying is that, after deciding that the Drugstore was our best bet for the trap. Setting everything up. And, in face, managing to actually trap Consumption in with us with the needles and what not.

What I’m saying is that we set Viv on fire and then had to rush out of our own carefully set trap in this carefully chosen building so that we didn’t kill her before Consumption had the chance.

We mostly managed to pin her after that. Between the needles and the Uratha pinning her and the exorcism, Consumption was separated enough from Viv for Louis to blast it a couple times before. That was enough to make it separate and to chase it off, but it’s still out there.

It still could do this again.

I denied it out of hand at the time, but we got it out of Viv. She’s going to be fine eventually. Matt’s already doing everything he can to help her get things back to normal, calling her professors, canceling her classes, everything he can to help her and, maybe, make himself feel less like he failed her somehow. We could just let things go back to normal and leave it be.

Let the Uratha deal with whatever Consumption comes up with next and go back to being a normal college occult club. Stop having to worry about if this’ll get one of us killed.

It’ll probably be like that for awhile any way. I mean, people need to recover. There’s not much we can do with half a team. But it also feels wrong to even think about letting Consumption keep going with whatever it has planned.

Recovery first though.

Things’ll be quiet for a couple weeks probably. I can’t say that I won’t have anything to report to you guys, but it seems unlikely.

Meeting 7

Right, just not talking about the danger doesn’t work for either of you. Got it. You guys are worried that I’ll get myself into something I can’t come back from.

Maybe have a seat or do some breathing exorcises before reading this one?

So, lot of research, same as ever. Skip and Louis worked on their weapons, something to get another charge out of the stun baton and a drive for the detector grid to store data for later going over. I think at least. I could really have asked better questions on that, but I was kind of burning up my own research.

Got a big copy of a map of the city from the library. Working from sites mentioned in local folklore and place that Brook, our Uratha contact, scoped out for us. Those give me a solid idea of which places had ghosts, which had spirits, and which were busts from the start. Between those and Brook reporting which places she’s been that were already hit, we figured out where it’s headed and that we can probably get ahead of it and trap it.

Like, Skip figured that it probably doesn’t have a base of operations. It doesn’t seem to be doubling back or staying in any one area long, and it’s moving fast. The more or less direct line it’s going in suggests that it’s just grabbing everything it can as fast as it can, which could tell us that it’s got a plan to put into place that it wants the power. Maybe it’s worried about the Uratha catching it.

I don’t think it plans on them catching it any time soon either way, so I lean towards it having a plan. I don’t think it’s counting on us being a threat to it, so that plays in our favor.

The fact that our current plan has us bringing the Uratha with us and making use of their exorcism ritual and greater experience should just tilt things more in our favor. They should be able to separate Consumption from Viv, assuming that the fusion hasn’t gone too far, leaving us able to attack it without hurting her.

Our general plan is to find a place in the line Consumption is traveling in to set our tap. A site with a powerful enough ghost to definitely be on its radar but also easy enough to lock down that it can’t make a break for it and double back or change directions and leave us having to track it down again. That would risk Viv way more than I think any of us are comfortable thinking about.

Side bar, my research turned up something called a Shadowblind Cloak that, if we can get our hands on one, should make ghosts and spirits less interested in Viv once we’ve gotten her free. I asked Brook about it, but she didn’t know anything about it. Though I’ve apparently been digging into things that concern her. I mean, I know that Google doesn’t like some of my research, especially the First Speak, but Brook’s reaction suggests that I might be getting further into things that regular mortals aren’t meant to know than is safe. But then none of this is safe, is it? Best not to think on that too much just yet.

Back on track though.

Skip, Louis, and I are going to go scout out the three likely locations we’ve found for setting our trap. While we do that, Matt and Brook will head back to Pearly Oaks and collect the Uratha who’ll be helping us. Once we’ve picked the location and let Matt know, we’ll get the trap set. Then it’ll just be a matter of getting everyone settled in and waiting for Consumption to kick the plan into action.

I think Skip’s excited to be looking into the locations we zeroed in on. He called it a job that seemed made for him.

All three are historic locations. The Underground Meat Marker has a new butcher shop built over it, so there’s no telling if we could even get in. It isn’t like Consumption hasn’t broken into places with proper doors and locks and all before, but it hasn’t really broken into a business yet. Might be too much trouble for it.

The Crumbling Pioneer House is a semi-active archaeological site, theoretically we should ask the city for access to it. But then that would take weeks that we don’t really have and most of what was there has already been taken to local museums. There’s a lot of reports of strange activities there, so definitely ghostly things happening. At least, Professor Croft had a lot of stories going weird when she was working there a few years back. She really doesn’t seem entirely the type to make things up just to pull her students’ legs.

The last is the Old Drugstore in the old down town. It’s near some museums and what not. Nothing really big in the area. Most of what I could find about it was reports of mysterious fires.

Full honesty, we’re heading out right after I send this, so try not to worry too much. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you on the situation in a day or so. Just, try not to worry for a little while.

Meeting 6

Fun fact, rats are terrifying in large groups.

That fact is not actually fun at all.

Backtracking though, it’s been a weird day. With Viv gone and Jimmy in the hospital we needed to wait a little while for Matt to get the other side of the club all set for their practices before we could leave for Pearly Oaks. I used the time to hand out the new protection charms. We picked up some cheep pizzas on the way there as a sort of peace offering since none of us knew what to expect of the Uratha.

All considered, it went fairly well. They checked us for silver and asked questions while one went to find their alpha. Turns out the thing that came out of the sky is more akin to a minor god of avarice instead of just, “just”, a spirit of it. They’re willing to help us with the Consumption problem, since it’s possessing Viv and it tore the hole in the sky open.

We did not get a ton of new information from them. The ban is definitely important to stopping a spirit. Consumption is definitely eating ghosts to get stronger, to gain their essence and add that to its own. The important bit was that a spirit will eventually fuse with the person it’s possessing, leaving them reliant on its essence to survive. Which means we’re on more than a bit of a time crunch if we want to save Viv, since we have no way of knowing how long it’ll take before Consumption fuses with her fully.

One of the Uratha, Brook, is going to be our contact for them, she’ll be helping us while we try to find Viv. She seems nice. Was willing to go along with it when we stopped by campus to gear up and then go check out the old brothel that Consumption had initially showed interest in. All that.

I would have emailed you about meeting with the Uratha then, but we didn’t really have time. Sorry about that bit being a little thin. I’ll try to stay on top of things better but rat man ghost kind of threw things out of whack.

The lock had been cut off of the doors. There were signs of someone having gone down the stairs, even having fallen on them. I’m a little worried that Viv may have a head injury assuming that it was her that fell. How’s that going to affect her?

Regardless, in the main room there was only one ghost that we could find. In the light of the laser grid it was just a blob pulling itself along the floor. Louis said that it looked like it was hurt. I can’t say that I saw that clearly, but I could believe it. There was a footprint, about Viv’s size, and a tunnel off to the side that must have been a hallway at some point. There was blood outside of it, no way to tell if it was human or not but of course I’m going to worry.

Brook mentioned hearing rats. They’re always in old buildings, Skip said. Not like this though, almost definitely not like this.

Skip lead the way down the tunnel. I’d like to say that he was just closer to it than I was but I couldn’t get the idea of a tunnel full of rats out of my head and so, yeah. Skip lead the way.

The tunnel was full of old needles, old needles and a spot of blood where someone hit their head before turning back. The rat man ghost and just so many rats were at the end of the tunnel.

When Louis caught him in the grid, he stood up and all the rats started chittering in time. Like they were chanting or something. When we tried talking to them they went full silent and attacked as a mass.

The ghost didn’t last long after attacking us. Louis’ ghost blaster is really effective there and the salt certainly didn’t help it. But we were all covered in rat bites from the knees down at minimum.

It looks like we’ve learned a few things with this though. I mean, not only that ghosts can control animals if they’re strong enough. But that Consumption either was worried about Viv’s safety enough to pull back from the tunnel full of needles rather than going after the clearly powerful rat man ghost. Or, more likely, that hypodermic needles are its ban or, better yet, its bane and we have something to fight it with. We’re even armed given how many of them we found.

There was some discussion of trying to find a way to tranquilize Viv, if we could get something from some of the party kids or something, but Matt does not like the idea. Safety issues and all. More research is called for, both on that and on trying to figure out where Consumption is going next.

I don’t think you guys are going to be terribly happy with what happens next. Let me know if you want me to keep sending these weekly or if you just want me to do one big report after we’ve beaten this thing.

Meeting 5

Two weeks of being quarantined and I think I might have gone a bit off if not for the web pages I’d found in that weird untranslatable language. There was nothing else to do besides research, so I eventually asked my linguistics prof. if she’d help me with what I thought was a code that I’d found. It took a few days for her to get back to me, but it was a lot of help, she figured out the sentence structure and picked out the parts of speech for a fair few of the words used there. I’m picking away at it a little at a time.

I did find out, while I waited on that, a big part of why my protective charms for everyone weren’t as effective as I would have liked. I used symbols that would have been effective for me rather than taking into account what would have worked for each of them. Working on fixing that now. I’ve got a Ghostbusters logo for Louis. One of those Darwin evolution fish for Matt, gonna see if I can weaponize his doubt here. Skip’s working on some kind of nested geometric pattern he figured he could use. Still trying to figure out what to do for Jimmy, but I want to make something for him. Something for Viv too, I guess I’ll have to wait on that one though. I hope it’s just waiting on that.

The upsides to working on translating these web pages, I’m pretty sure all this research means I could double major in anthropology and linguistics, but more immediately it also means that I turned up something about all spirits having something called a “ban” that can ward them off or even be used to seal them.  That at least seems to be the gist of it. The flip side, of course, is that I also think I translated a bit about the Uratha having upwards of five different forms rather than just the two we already knew about. The more I find out about them the more they seem like some kid’s edgy original characters, many formed werewolves that police the veil between worlds and hunt spirits that dare cross over. I can only assume that they’re less that in the flesh, there’s got to be limits on how the number of forms works or something.

Of everyone involved in the attempted exorcism it looks like Jimmy’s the only one who was inflicted with TB, which suggests that Consumption can direct where it wants the infection to go. I mean, I’m assuming that it eventually wants the infection everywhere, but knowing that it can direct it like that should be important to trying to fight it, I think.

Either way, we met at the same time and place as usual for the club. Matt’s acting as the president for now. Louis had fixed up his ghostblaster after it got smashed and Skip had picked up a taser, so if we run into anything dangerous they’re at least armed. More importantly Louis found an absolute treasure trove of Victorian literature about tuberculosis and the “Spirit of Consumption” from back in the day, absolutely confirming that that’s what we’re dealing with, and Skip got the pictures he’d taken during the exorcism developed. They showed this massive shadow behind Viv, not quite shaped like her but decidedly attached to her. We’re learning more about it.

That meant a trip back to the drainage ditch to see if we could find a lead on the Uratha, sort of an enemy of my enemy deal. They’re our only lead on stopping it, so it seems like our best bet. Initially all, “all”, we found were dog tracks that turned into human tracks and then back again in the mud and a rough carving of a rat with three stars in front of it in a tree. There was a flash of fur in the undergrowth that might have been one of the Uratha or it might have just been a stray, but then a guy popped out from behind one of the trees with a knife longer than my forearm demanding we stay quiet because he was trying to sleep.

It turns out that foolishness gets worse if you’re in a group because we mostly ignored that and asked the guy about the carving and the Uratha. He didn’t want to talk unless we paid him and waved the knife a bit when we didn’t give him enough, which is a pretty big warning sign, but he put it away pretty quick once money was involved. He knew about what happened with the sky being torn open and that something really big had come out, called it a spirit of Avarice, said that it had attached itself to the new Amazon CEO who wants to make them a general retailer rather than specifically a bookstore. Said that it was at his left hand already, that something of that scale hadn’t shown up in ages and could change the shape of the city forever. We’re talking Rockefeller here, robber barons, bad all around.

The guy told us the Uratha would definitely want to know anything we had seen, that we should go to Pearly Oaks and ask to speak to Alpha Uratha. We aren’t supposed to bring anything silver with us.

This just keeps getting more and more complicated. We’re having a hard enough time with Consumption having possessed the club president, much less something bigger having possessed a big company’s CEO. Apparently the Uratha are having a hard time figuring out what to do with that themselves. It’s starting to feel like we’re taking a step forward and then three sideways, progress is happening and we have a next step but there’s always something else that’ll need to be dealt with, some new problem. At least we know where to go next though, right? We’ll figure this out eventually.

Meeting 4

So, I can’t remember but half or so of what happened last meeting.

I talked to Jimmy during the week. He seemed to think that an exorcism could work, so he got some of the folks from the alternative religion side of the club as well as some folks from the African Students Union to help out.

We got it all set up so that we’d be ready when Viv got there. You know? Talk to her, tell her what we were planning to do, get the spirit out of her. And if that didn’t work, restrain her long enough to do the exorcism and get the spirit out anyway.

She came in looking like eight miles of bad road, like she’d been sick for weeks. Insisting that she was fine, that she would be fine, that this really wasn’t necessary. We got her in the chair. Jimmy took lead, doing most of the work for the exorcism. Louis and another guy covered the door from outside. I had it from inside.

Something happened though. Like her body warped or something, making her all gaunt and stretched looking, and there was a blast of power centered on her. Jimmy dropped to his knees, vomiting blood. She charged the door, punching me in the head hard enough it sent me to the floor. Through the guy outside. Broke Louis’ ghost zapper. Then out the doors and into the city.

Someone called for an ambulance. The cops showed up. I think I rambled about superstitions and how human beings build stories based on histories and fears to an EMT while they took me to the hospital.

Everyone should be fine. I have a little bit of a concussion from the blow to the head, but that’s all. Jimmy’s stuck in the hospital for awhile though and everyone who was there has to be tested. It looks like Consumption somehow inflicted Jimmy with TB and a pretty advanced case of it at that. He’s stable though, and should recover.  Campus will be closed for a couple weeks while everyone is in quarantine though. Got to make sure it doesn’t spread.

Apparently Skip told the cops that Viv had tweaked out or something and Matt took umbrage at the suggestion that she might have done drugs. He’s worried about how all this will affect Viv once this is all over, I think. It’s understandable. It’s understandable, but I don’t think any of us really realized how dangerous she could be while possessed. I don’t really think that Matt’s realized that yet.

Kind of a downer here, isn’t it? I’ll try to have something more positive to report next time. For now though, Note to both of you, I’m changing the header to these to “the Consumption Incident” because incident is no longer a placeholder word and things have gotten so, so much worse than expected. Hopefully I’ll be able to change it back soon and the rest of the year will just be standard ghost hunts.

So, it’s taken me awhile to get one of these written, hasn’t it? I don’t know that I’m back back, but I feel like at some point with this one I fell back into my groove. That should make it easier to keep going. Anyway, this one’s Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls. Enjoy!

We Sold Our Souls cover

The Blind King is rising one last time, a final five nights of Koffin before they close the crypt for good. Millions of metal heads across America are desperate to see Terry Hunt perform before he retires, to be part of what promises to be rock and roll history. The advertisements for it are the ugliest thing Kris Pulaski, Best Western night manager and once band mate of the Blind King himself, has ever seen. She’s tired and buried in stress and the ad reminds her of Dürt Würk, the band that had so nearly taken them all to the top back in the nineties. The band that nearly had something great with Troglodyte, that last album that never was. The band that had been torn apart on contract night, when Terry sold out paving the way for his solo career.  As she sets back out to try and set things right Kris starts to realize that Terry might have sold more than the band’s credibility for his own success.

We Sold Our Souls is a book that simultaneously makes me wish I had started reading Grady Hendrix’s books way earlier and a book that I’m not quite sure how to talk about. This is a book that I both want to fangirl over some of its character work and that I also want to dig into and dissect other aspects of the writing.  It’s an interesting balance.

See, We Sold Our Souls is a horror novel that can feel far more urban fantasy than I’m entirely used to in the genre. The character work is the focus here with the horror following from the past, from things that were forgotten and choices that characters made in the intervening time. It builds as Kris meets with more of her former band mates and the audience learns more about Troglodite, the album that wasn’t.

There are between chapter bits that sort of introduce the weirdness and horror aspects a little at a time. It works well for pacing, starting slow and then ramping up as things get more serious. Though the content of some of them feels at odds with Kris and some of the other characters, I’m sure this is purposeful, I’m just not sure that aspect of it works for me. It can also wind up feeling a little on the nose further into the book. There was also this bit that I really loved, a call back between various former members of Dürt Würk about how they used to quote The Runaways’ “Dead End Justice” back and forth to each other. It was used sparingly but well and it added to the reality of the characters, giving them a sort of in joke from when they were still a band. It was also a nifty character bit to see how they invoked or reacted to it from character to character.

The end, while I don’t want to talk too much about it for fear of spoiling the experience, made for a fantastic tying together of the various plot threads that lead into it. And it was a thematic fit for the rest of the story that wasn’t exactly difficult to see coming but that was still more than narrative expectations might have lead it to be. It made me want to go grab my guitar and start practicing again.

We Sold Out Souls was definitely a right book at the right time thing for me. Having read it, I’m definitely going to go check out some of Hendrix’s other books and keep an eye out for if he has anything new coming out soon. It gets a five out of five from me.

Meeting 3

So, first things first, it has been a wild week. Between classes and stuff I’ve been digging into the difference between ghosts and spirits and if there is actually a difference. At first everything I found was either outer court Wicca stuff or things written by the million and a half occultists who want to be the next Ed or Lorrain Warren, all demons or shining angels of love and light. Not great that.

But then I started looking into exorcisms and sealing spirits away, that turned up good stuff. There’s this former priest who broke down how a Catholic exorcism works, why it works, and how it could be adopted by other faiths without losing effectiveness. Not sure why this guy seemed so sure that people would need the information, but I’m not complaining in the least. I’ll send you guys a link to it. It looks like the evil eye talisman Saul gave me should work effectively for me, since I trust that it’ll work to keep me safe.

Which is good, because I used the former priest’s work as a jumping block back into the difference between ghosts and spirits. Right? Turns out there definitely is one. Based on what I found, spirits are everywhere and they seem to be more neutral or even benevolent than not. Problem is, the kind of spirit that would charge through a ward like Consumption did seems to be in the not category there. Not really surprising there, but I mean, it’s confirmation that Consumption is, if not outright a threat, then definitely not our friend.

I also found documents in a strange language or code or something. Google didn’t want to translate it but there were enough terms defined with English words that it’s clear that it was talking about spirits. I saved a copy of it just in case I couldn’t find it again. I’ll attach that here, see if you can make anything of it. I’m going to pick away at it as I can, but who knows how far I’ll get.

On to meeting things though. Because oh boy, was this week a serious cluster of horrors.

It started off with a message on the group chat from Viv, all “the moon is right tonight” and “I’ll show everyone something wonderful” and “don’t trust, don’t come”. A lot of stampeding over the point that the spirit hasn’t done anything to prove its worth trusting. Setting the meeting off in a corner of the campus away from everything and everyone. And after that it didn’t even do anything there, it was just like “follow me to this creepy alley way away from campus, the veil is totally thin enough for me to show you all the thing there, this is totally not sketchy”, that’s me getting ahead of myself though.

I met with everyone except Viv at a coffee shop off campus to share the bits of information I’d found, including the bit where a guy at SU had done a paper on the brothel. Everything Viv/Consumption told us last week was in that. Matt said this is exactly like any other time Viv’s had an episode and what he’s said about her past, I find myself worried about how many times this has happened in the past. Following that, the likelihood that it’ll happen again once we’ve gotten Consumption expelled and sealed.

But yeah. We went to the meeting, staggering our arrival times so she wouldn’t suspect we’d met ahead of time. It was talking in plural, like Viv had any measure of control, assuring us that it was just a short bus ride and then a bit of a walk before it would show us this glorious thing. Talking about “Belishu” rat spirits and “Uratha” man or dog shaped spiritual jailers, how the veil wasn’t thin enough on campus to show us what it wanted to. Never giving a reason why we should trust it long enough to follow it to this supposed thin spot. Being a passive aggressive threat when called on that, claiming it wouldn’t do any of us harm and then, when called on that, specifying lasting harm.

Not going to lie, I’d have picked more than a bit of a fight over that if Skip hadn’t stopped me. I know Viv said that spirits don’t think like humans do, but this thing seems to go out of its way to push my buttons.

So we took the bus ride and the walk. Wound up over by a big waste ditch with standing water and what looked like places where homeless folks had been sleeping, but then abandoned.  Some trees that Skip almost immediately started photographing. Just a nice normal place to get murdered by a wicked spirit possessing one of your friends, right?

But then Consumption started walking out into the water chanting. No language I recognize, but that doesn’t mean much. Then the sky split. There was this whirl of sepia before it and rats the size of your gran’s corgi, all of them chewing at the world. More than that, a figure, not like the billowing thing that initially possessed her but like a scarecrow puppeteer, floating above Viv and controlling her. A glimpse of what Consumption looks like now, I think.  One of the rats got too close and it dispersed and absorbed it without breaking stride or stopping chanting. We tried to chase them out of Consumption’s range with salt, but it kept absorbing them.

So I threw my salt jar at Viv’s body. Hard as I could, hoping it would jar her enough to distract Consumption’s chanting. It worked but I hadn’t expected it to make her drop like her strings had been cut. It doesn’t seem like she’d been knocked out so much as knocked back into control. When I went to help her she seemed fine, just confused. She didn’t know where we were or how she got there. It seems very like Consumption can just do whatever it wants and Viv wouldn’t know better until she got hit with the consequences.

Speaking of, as soon as the sky tore open Matt started babbling about sewer gasses and the rats being reflections from under the water. It’s like having proof in front of him broke him so he had to reject it as hard as he could.

There wasn’t much after that. We all got back to campus and got cleaned up before going off to a diner to talk things over. Viv brought the schematics for an aura camera she’d been looking into last week. Louis seems to figure they’re pretty good. Viv seems to want this over with as much as the rest of us, though she doesn’t think that there’s a way to get rid of the spirit without just letting it run its course and use her until she’s not longer of any use to it. She did suggest talking to the leader of the alternative religion side of the Occult Club, Jimmy Tame, if I’m looking for a way to seal it away. So maybe she’s willing to try other options.

For now though, I have more research to do and homework to catch up on.

Meeting 2

I have edited just so, so, so much profanity out of this so many times. You guys have no idea.

Vivian was acting super weird, even having just met her last week. Apparently she’s been quiet and withdrawn all week, not wanting to go anywhere and missing classes, enough so that Matt was worried about her when I talked to him mid week. She’s apparently mentioned something about feeling a weight hanging over her. He’s not much sure what to think about it, the whole skeptic thing has him grasping for any explanation other than the supernatural.

Of course, all of this goes back to Viv being weirdly closed off, but then she comes to the meeting looking dazed and distant, all “we have a plan” and “there’s no need to worry about protections” and carrying a bolt cutter like breaking into a building is something to follow someone you’ve known for three hours on. Especially when the entire “plan” seemed to be us following her to this deeply haunted bordello that’s been locked up for forty some years, and us just trusting that she knows where she’s going and what shape the place is in. The whole deal is a near complete turnaround from last week.

Not going to even pretend to lie, it was freaky. She was super focused in on this place having a lot of ghosts. So focused that she’d brought respirator masks for the lot of us and those huge bolt cutters, but had neglected to do any kind of planning session to bring the group up to speed on what she wanted to do.

Admittedly the super weirdness might be tied into “Consumption”. It wants the energy from the ghosts in that building, talks about needing them like a tv junky. Couldn’t get into the building before it found us for whatever reason, but apparently it figures no ghost can touch it so we would be safe with it. Can’t say I agree considering it was the thing that attacked us last week.

The wasting from within, it called itself.

Apparently it just neeeeded to possess Vivian so badly that my trying to protect her from it was tantamount to a threat and of course it attacked. This thing seriously sounds like a bratty kid. A bratty, self absorbed, deeply deeply selfish kid.  It wants to absorb ghosts so that it can get bigger, get more energy. For that it needed to possess Viv as a vessel, something about needing a voice in the world to accomplish that.

It said that Viv is fine but, even once she was back in control, I don’t trust that. It feels like she’s too excited about it apparently knowing all about the old city and about how it’s been around here since there’s been people working the docks. She was two hundred percent behind its whole thing about my trying to ward it back being a threat to it. I got real mad about that.

Like, she says that spirits have always liked her and she doesn’t much mind them using her to reach their goals. Great, good. Doesn’t excuse her defending the thing that attacked us. Doesn’t excuse her trying to make getting attacked my fault for trying to defend us. Doesn’t make the idea that we need to keep it around and work with it so that it eats the ghosts we’re researching after we’ve gotten data on them rather than it following us around and eating the ghosts we’re researching anyway.

Ultimately we wound up going to the coffee shop and discussing more equipment, mostly an aura camera. I think I might be with Matt on that one, it would take a lot of testing to try and get good data out of one of those. Some idea juggling about sealing Consumption that devolved into telling Skip about Dragon Ball since he’d only heard of Z.

I might need to get a refresher on details from you guys. Or he might look it up himself. Either way.

Updates’ll probably just keep getting bundled with my meeting notes, easier to work out how the bits I come across fit with things that way I think.