|Evicting A Squatter|
|What: Happening across Balor on her front stoop, Fern witnesses the ancient god getting rid of a trespasser in the apartment below hers.|
It's a cool evening, for the first Saturday in August, but it's a nice coolness, with a breeze that brings what passes for fresh air in the city. Taking advantage of a special program keeping the nearest branch of the library open a bit later, Fern stayed until closing, looking up some names and places. While it's not quite full dark yet, the shadows are deepening quickly and streetlights (the ones that actually work) are beginning to flicker to life. There are a few books in the messenger bag that swings from the young woman's shoulder but her hands are free, swinging lightly with her unhurried stride.
As she nears her building, Fern will spot a rather unfamiliar kid seated on the front steps...right in front of the door. The kid looks to be around 13 or so, and is most notable for two things: first, the rather expensive looking smartphone he's currently playing some sort of game on (suggesting a measure of wealth that tends to avoid this general area), and second, the eyepatch over his right eye, which bears some sort of symbol in ivory. He seems rooted to the spot, and doesn't look to be paying much attention to what's going on around him.
Fern slows her step as she approaches her building, eyes falling on the very occupied boy. She's familiar with most of the faces in the neighborhood, so he's either new or not from around here. But 'not from around here' would seem pretty odd to just be sitting on a random stoop in Harlem, playing a game. Raising one hand to take a light hold on her bag strap, Fern stops at the foot of the steps, looking up. "Hey there."
He has a pretty memorable appearance, too--she certainly couldn't have missed him. The one visible eye looks up for just a moment as she approaches, but then turns its attention back to the game. The kid doesn't move. "Y'live here in this buildin', lass?" he asks. His voice has a pretty strong accent--sounds Irish. "I'm wantin' t'ask some questions o'someone livin' here."
While she's thoroughly American, Fern has broadened her horizons enough to have a grasp on accents and slang used in other countries. So there's an eye-patched, game-playing, Irish boy on her stoop wanting to ask questions. How can Fern possibly not be intrigued by this? She steps aside to lean on the rail, not advancing, and nods, "I live here." He doesn't seem threatening, so she's not on guard or anything. Surely she's run into weirder things in this neighborhood.
"Sure, sure," the boy says. "Ah--there y'are now," he mutters, and then grins as he evidently accomplishes something in the game. He tucks the phone away in its holster, and looks up at her. "Thing is, I'm lookin' for somebody. Prob'ly moved in the neighborhood recently. I'm thinkin' even this buildin'...feels that way. Woulda been a silent type. Not talkin' much, least not actually showin' much connection. Y'look like the type t'get t'know folks...anybody round here like that?"
A light frown pulls on Fern's lips as she pauses to think. There was an empty apartment on the third floor, but she doesn't know if someone moved in there yet. Still, before she offers the information, her head tilts, and blue eyes turn curious. "I'm not really sure. Why are you looking for them?" She's not usually one to pry, but she does know one 'silent type' that's been a visitor to the building of late, and if that's who is meant, she's not so ready to give up that information.
The kid smirks. "Y'know somethin', sure." He chuckles. "Y'wanna know...fine. I'm a ghost hunter, lass...or that's what y'mortals would call it, I guess. There's evil spirits 'round, an' I'm lookin' t'get rid of 'em. The one I'm speakin' of...that one's possessed. Been long 'nough there's nothin' left of the mortal. Leave it free an' there'll be nothin' left o'anyone in your buildin' soon enough." He grins. "So before that happens, lass, I'm gonna eat him."
Fern dismisses her reservation almost at once. The 'silent type' she knows is certainly not possessed. She's been in his head, surely she'd know it, so it can't be Elijah that the boy means. He's the farthest thing from an evil spirit. She eases again, although she hadn't visibly tensed. Still, there's something a bit unnerving about that grin coupled with the boy's words. "Eat him?" she asks, her lack of understanding clear.
The boy keeps on grinning. "Eat him. The ghost, I mean. Not the body...that'll prob'ly die once the ghost's gone, 'course, but I don' go eatin' humans. Don' worry now. The ****in' thing's pure evil--ain' some soul lookin' for redemption or losin' its way on the road t'heaven or nothin' like that. The things I hunt...they escaped where they were supposed t'be, long, long ago. So I eat 'em an' put 'em back where they belong." He taps his eyepatch.
Well, that does make all the difference in the world. And a boy that eats ghosts? Sure, why not. It doesn't dawn on her for a moment that he might be making things up, not at this stage of the game. She's been here long enough to believe all manner of things. "Third floor," she offers immediately, "There was a vacant apartment, but I don't know if someone moved in. I've been working a lot lately." Her lips press together for a moment, before she ventures, "How long ago?"
"Third floor, sure...sounds about right." The boy blinks. "How long? ****, how long's it been...few thousand years, I think? Sorry, lass, it all kinda blends together after a certain point." He chuckles. "They used t'all be in here, y'see," he says, tapping the eyepatch again. "Then this little thing happened called the Second Battle o'Magh Tuiredh, I got myself offed, an' a whole buncha the ****in' things went every which way."
Fern nods, and while some would call her gullible, she's absolutely ready to believe this boy's words. Still, she looks him over, commenting curiously, "You look young." Not that it matters as more than an observation. Fern motions toward the door, "I can take you up if you want to check it out."
The boy hmphs, a scowl coming to his features. "****in' measure o'control. Folks who sent me back don' trust me much, on accounta who I am. Not blamin' 'em for that, mind, but it's still annoyin'." He finally gets up, and steps aside to let her to the door. "Sure, sure. Lead on, an' I'll be done before the big match t'night. Y'can even watch me take it down...it's really cool." Which, judging from his expression, predictably probably means "really gross."
Fern trots up the steps, her keys jingling in her hand, and as she moves to unlock the door, she asks, "So.... are you a leprechaun or something?" That's the first thing most people would think of, right? "My great grandmother was Irish." She steps in as the door opens, holding it open with her foot as she turns her attention to the second, inner door. A quick twist has that open as well, and she leads the way into a lobby with a bank of mailboxes and a stairway going up.
The boy laughs out loud, having to catch himself with a hand on the wall as he almost doubles over. "A leprechaun? I'm no leprechaun, lass." He steps forward, following after her, and finally gets the giggles back under control, assuming some semblance of dignity once more. "I'm Balor of the Evil Eye."
Reaching around Balor to make sure the door latches, Fern thinks the name is apt enough, all things considered. "Balor. I'm Fern." Her hand goes out with this, offered to shake. "I didn't really think you were a leprechaun, but I can't say I'm really up on all the legends and things. I should be, though, since it's part of my heritage and all." Mental note, google more.
Balor chuckles. "I can tell y ain' read up much. Y'didn' run screamin' for the hills." He shakes her hand. "Well, if y'do go readin' up on me...I'm here t'help this time, an' the relevant authorities are all aware, so don' go botherin' any gods y'might happen t'know 'cause they prob'ly already know I'm here an there ain' a **** thing they can do about it anyway."
Fern smiles, "Alright. People can change, I know that." He seems like a nice kinda kid... guy?... so, while she may do her research, she's got experience above things old legends claim. Turning, she leads the way toward the stairs, her sneakered steps light, and up to the third floor. She stops them at the landing, pointing toward the door at the right at the far end of the hall. "That's the one that was open. 3D. It's right below my apartment."
Following her up the stairs, Balor shakes his head a little. "Anybody ever tell y'you're a little gullible, lass? Not that I don' 'preciate the sentiment." He looks over at the door she mentioned, and nods a bit. "That's the one, so." He walks over to the door, peering at it and crossing his arms. "It's tryin' to hide pretty good...but it's there." He looks back. "Y'can't get keys, can ya?"
There's a grin at the words and Fern nods, "Oh sure. Especially here. But I try to believe in people." She follows along behind Balor, to the apartment door. It has fewer locks than her own, only two, but they're solid deadbolts. "Not if it's a new tenant," she says, reaching out absently for the knob. "If it's supposed to be empty I could say I wanted to let a friend see it, but..." Her words trail off as she turns the knob and the door pushes inward without resistance. She pulls her hand back as if the knob was suddenly red hot.
Balor blinks, scratching his head. "Huh." He shrugs, looking back at her. "Some o'these ancient ghosts ain' too good with modern technology. Like, y'know...locks. ****. I was hopin' I could kick the door down. Always annoys Aiden when I do that." A pause, and then he replies to someone, "If y'want me t'stop that, y'know what y'gotta do, Aiden. Get me lockpicks an' lessons." Another pause. "C'mon, I'd be like a superspy! Ah, well...come on, lass. Let's see what's inside, so." He pushes the door open with his foot--probably so he could feel like he kicked the door open--and steps inside.
"Aiden?" The question comes at mention of the name, but Balor seems distracted with his line of thought. Still, he seems to be talking to someone and she can't help but look around. No, she'd thought there was no one else here. Despite appearing older than the boy, she's got no problem taking him at his word and letting him enter the apartment first. The only light seems to be coming in from the streetlamp in front of the building, and Fern blinks against the darkness in the room. It's no bigger than her own apartment, one room, a kitchenette, bathroom and closet doors closed.
"My watcher," Balor explains, and turns his head, tapping one ear--where he's wearing an earbud. "Nice enough guy, even if he acts like he's my ma half th'time." He frowns, tapping his foot. "Now, lesse...you're hidin'...where..." He walks into the darkened room, looking about, not bothering with the lights. "Hmm...yep." He whips the closet door open, and reveals...a body. A man, dressed in a fashion more associated with young adults, but appearing to have died of very, very advanced age. Around his neck is a necklace bearing a pendant that has a bright red ruby in it. It pulses with a faint light that seems to call out to those that see it...'take me...wear me...' with a somewhat hypnotic cadence.
Watcher. Fern immediately associates the term with a television show she'd watched when she was little, and in reruns. Accurate or not, it's the concept she's going with until (if) she gets clarification. She creeps in behind Balor, head swiveling, as the boy moves in surely and opens the closet. Fern looks toward the closet, unable to see past Balor to the body, but seeing the red glow as it brightens and dims in the small space. "What's that?" she asks, drawn forward a few steps.
"A really nice piece o'jewelry if y'don' mind it basically eatin' your soul an' drainin' you o'life," Balor says. "'xplain's why this one was hidin' so well...wasn't the kinda possession' I'm usually lookin' for. Controls who's wearin' it without actually enterin' the body." He reaches down, taking hold of the necklace and taking it off the guy's neck and takes a few steps back. "Y'want it? It'd prob'ly look really good on you, for the few days you'd be livin'." He waves the pendant back and forth, grinning.
As Balor holds the pendant toward her, Fern reaches out, drawn as it pulses steadily. But the pulsing alters, taking a more erratic, almost frantic beat, and the young waitress stops, then pulls her hand back. She shakes her head, saying softly, "No, I don't want it."
Balor grins. "There's nasty ****in' stuff in this world, lass...remember that." He tosses the pendant on the ground further into the apartment, and walks over to it. "This poor fella prob'ly picked it up as a nice present for someone...or maybe he stole it t'sell for a quick buck. Y'gotta keep your head around this stuff, or y'won't be you anymore." He raises a foot, and smashes the pendant flat.
There's a horrible wail--not sound, but a spiritual echo that seems to shudder against the soul. A half-visible thing squirms free from beneath his foot and lunges for Fern...only for Balor to grab it by the "tail" and hold it in place. "There's my tasty little snack."
As Balor tosses the pendant farther away, Fern blinks, then frowns at him lightly. "Well, it wasn't very nice, offering it out to me." A lot can be forgiven, though, especially as Fern jumps back, startled by the thing that makes a move for her, watching as Balor grabs and holds it. Her nose wrinkles in distaste and she takes another step backwards still.
"I gotta make this fun somehow, lass," Balor says, grinning. "Messin' with the heads o'mortals is pretty much the best way, since Aiden doesn't like me destroyin' too much property. Speakin' of...Aiden, I've got it. Y'wanna authorize me so I can get rid o'this thing?" A pause. "Oh, come on, Aiden...she's followed o'her own free will. 'sides, she seems t'like this kinda stuff. She'll get a kick outta seein' it go away. Nothin' banishes nightmares 'bout evil ghosts like seein' one eaten." Another pause. "Ain' like there's much left t'hide. I already ran through the usual checklist o'things y'tell me not t'tell people that I don' care about. Just let me eat it so I can get home." A final sigh, and he looks over at Fern. "He's tellin' me t'get your okay. Honestly, it's like he's my ma. Y'wanna see me eat this thing?"
Even hearing only one side of the conversation was hearing rather a lot, and Fern looks dubiously at Balor at his question. Since Balor still seems a little... spirited (sadistic?), she decides to decline. "Uh... no... I don't think so, really..." She turns away as she answers, "You go ahead." Her curiosity does get the better of her, somewhat, as she turns barely enough to see the boy from the corner of her eye, cautious dread on her face.
Balor looks almost disappointed, in rather the manner of a kindergarten boy first finding out that girls actually don't like seeing gross worms and aren't just faking so he'll show them even more. "Fine, fine," he says, shrugging. "Aiden, she ain' lookin', so go ahead." There's a flash from the symbol on his eyepatch, and he pulls the patch off, revealing the blood-red, lidless eye beneath, with a symbol in black instead of a pupil or iris. Lines of blood-red glowing energy flow forth from the eye across his whole body, and his skin reddens. His hair grows longer, deepening in color to a blood-red as well, and a mist of energy surrounds the Evil Eye. There's an uncomfortable feeling about being near that eye, though he's keeping it pointed mostly away from her so she's not taking the full effect.
"Time to eat," the boy says...the mist swirls about the eye, and then streams forth, surrounding the evil spirit and latching on to it. The blood-red eye fades away to an endless chasm of blackness, and the mist pulls the spirit ever closer...closer...and then, with another spiritual wail, it is pulled inside. The blood-red color comes back to the eye, and Balor grunts a bit in pain, stumbling a bit and putting one hand to his eye.
By the time Balor has transformed and speaks, Fern has turned all the way to watch what he's doing, in a transfixed, horrified fascination. The second wail makes her cringe, but not look away. And as Balor stumbles and his hand comes up, she reaches out in an attempt to steady him.
Balor takes a few deep breaths, letting Fern assist him, and keeps the eye covered. "Y'done fightin'? Y'...can't get free, an' y'know it. So...calm down an' stay put." He takes another deep breath or two, and looks better again, standing fully again. "Aiden, it's done. I'll..." And suddenly, the eyepatch actually slithers out of his hand, up his arm, and onto his head, strapping itself on. The transformation reverses itself, leaving him as he appeared when Fern first saw him. "...ungh...or you could just do that. I was gonna put it on this time!" He shakes his head a little, and looks at Fern, then crosses his arms, looking away a little.
Fern doesn't pull away until Balor's had his couple deep breaths, and even as she pulls her hands back, she's ready to dart forward again if needed. But then he changes back to the boy that had been sitting on the stoop. She looks a little pained and unsure, but asks softly, "Are you alright?" Even shaken up from the odd few minutes that have just passed, she's concerned about her companion.
The boy keeps looking away for a few moments, but then his expression softens a little, and he looks back at her. "I'm alright," he says, looking almost guilty for a few moments. "I...got a little carried away," he says, slowly, and then looks away a bit again, mumbling something that might have been 'sorry', though you would've needed super-hearing to really tell.
"It happens," Fern says simply. "In the moment and everything. I get it." She takes a deep breath, leaning back against the wall next to a window overlooking the street. "That was... uh.... do you have to do that often?" She settles on the question, not really having articulation for the rest of it right now.
"I do," Balor says, shrugging and looking over at her. "There's a lotta these things, an' they're gatherin' around this city. They're mine, so I'm takin' 'em back." He hmphs, looking over at the window. "An' it's kinda a work-release sorta thing, or however y'say it. I clean up the evil spirits, an' I get t'stay in this world instead o'a really borin' prison o'sorts. Either way...there's lots of 'em."
Fern can't help but look sympathetic, that didn't look like the most pleasant experience, certainly not an afternoon in the park with ice cream. "That's kind of a drag. But it could be worse," she agrees gently. She turns to look at the floor, then motions toward the twisted and broken pendant, the chain flowing away from it as if slithering off. "Thanks for stopping that. I especially appreciate it since I live upstairs and all."
"Well, hopefully now you'll be able t'get a downstairs neighbor who isn't a life-suckin' ghost," Balor says with a slight laugh. He shrugs. "It ain' that bad. I clean up some ghosts an' I get to enjoy life again. This world's way better'n it was in my day, sure." A pause, and he looks over at her. "Y'said you were Fern, right?"
Fern glances toward the closet, which still has an occupant, biting her lip uncertainly. "I'll tell the landlord that I heard some noises down here, and he'll check it out. That way I won't have to be too involved. Probably just have to answer some questions about what I heard." The prospect doesn't thrill her, clearly, and she reaches up, scratching her head for a moment. Nope, that doesn't dislodge any new thoughts. "Oh yeah, it's Fern. Fiddlehead. I'm up in 4D. There's probably not much of a chance something else like that would happen here, right? I mean, what are the odds?"
Balor laughs. "Not real big, I'm guessin'. Things like this're happenin' more around the city now that I'm here...they're drawn towards me. But the same spot, again an' again...doubt it. Still..." He digs out a business card, and offers it to her. He's clearly had input on the design, judging from the creepy eye insignia and bloodspatter pattern on it. It gives contact information for Breandan and Aiden Lalor. "Y'find somethin' else that reminds y'of this, y'give us a call, so." He grins. "Nice meetin' you, Fern Fiddlehead. An' don't worry about the landlord. I'm registered, sort of, so I'll handle it." Does he actually feel bad about playing with her head earlier? Well, probably not entirely, but at least he feels a little inclined to not put her through even more stress at the moment.
Fern looks reassured as she takes the card, but she does blink when she looks down and sees the design. Of course. And she looks relieved that this matter will be seen to without her input. "Oh great," she says with a grateful sigh. "It's been... really interesting meeting you, Balor." She manages a smile, and it even looks honestly amused at the weirdness that's just transpired. "Tell Aiden thanks for me too, will ya?"
Balor grins. "You're honest...that's good," he says, chuckling. "I'll tell 'im. I mean, y'technically just did, since he's listenin' in an' all, but I'll tell 'im anyway." He walks over to the door, looking back at her with the sort of charming smile only the real troublemakers can manage to give. "I'll see y'around, lass. Take care o'yourself, now." With that, he steps out, heading to find the landlord.
There's one more glance back at the closet, and Fern shudders. "Ugh," she whispers. "This city is so weird." She scoots out a moment after Balor, scampering up the last flight of stairs clutching her keys, and disappears into her relatively safe apartment with a click of three locks and the scrape of the iron bar jamming into place.