I placed a restraining hand on Plum’s arm, unable to believe that she was just going to walk towards the cyclone of ectoplasmic energy empty-handed. Beastie was walking a few paces behind us. He looked up and paused, patiently waiting for us to start walking.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing darling? I have to save those fools from themselves.”
“You don’t have a wand or anything. You’ll just get sucked in with them.”
“That’s not true darling. I’ve got all I need right here.”
“A bottle of water? Call me crazy, but even if the poltergeist is thirsty. That’s not going to stop it.”
“It’s holy water.”
I still didn’t see what effect one little squeeze bottle filled with water was going to have on the tower of surging ectoplasm. She briskly walked away, leaving me to follow. I took a few steps and stopped, watching her go to work. The sound of Plum’s voice was swallowed up the commotion of screaming witches and roaring of the growing twister. She allowed herself to be pulled to the edge of the circle with her left hand holding the bottle behind her back. I was perplexed by Beastie’s lack of involvement. He sat beside me, on his haunches watching the scene unfold.
The whirling mass abruptly contracted back down into the ghostly child’s form. It drifted towards her and peered curiously into Ross’s eyes, appearing to sense Plum residing inside the man’s body. The spirit’s mouth dropped open and emitted what I initially took to be a gasp. Beastie suddenly stood and trotted a few paces towards them, with his ears forward.
I looked back at Plum and saw a luminous glow outlining her profile. The line grew thicker, until I could see the shape of a head and shoulders emerging from Ross’ chest. It took me a moment to realize that the spirit was extracting Plum’s essence from Ross’s body headfirst. It was trying to switch places with her! Beastie began barking aggressively. The spirit looked down at him. With a wave of its insubstantial hand, Beastie was dealt a concussive blow, which knocked him backwards. He fell to the ground unconscious.
The water bottle fell from Ross’ splayed fingers, as Plum was pulled head and shoulders from Ross’ body. The thought of such a powerful being turned loose on the world inside of a man’s body got my feet moving. I reacted without thinking, running towards them. Something suddenly grasped my ankles tightly, causing me to fall forward. Reflexively, I put my hands out on impact with the ground. Sharp pieces of broken glass bit into both palms. I looked down. saw pinpricks of blood dotting my skin, and started to wipe them on my jeans. That’s when I realized that tendrils of ectoplasmic energy attached to my ankles, which were winding themselves up my legs.
I crawled the rest of the way to Plum, wincing as the vice-like grip of the strands tightened. My arms strained towards the water bottle. Three times, my scrabbling fingers caused it to roll just out of my reach. Plum was halfway out of Ross’ body. I ignored the searing pain in my legs and used my feet to inch myself forward, until the bottle was in my grasp.
I pulled the lid open and flicked holy water onto my legs. The vine-like ectoplasm dissolved. I got to my feet and squeezed out a protective circle on the ground around Plum. The spirit recoiled and Plum slid back inside Ross. Enraged, the being turned on me. Fear beat at my chest, as I felt myself being dragged towards the circle. Every exorcism movie I had ever seen flashed in my mind’s eye and prompted me to raise my arms and squeezed the bottle, sending a blast of holy water into the air inhabited by spirit.
“I banish thee back to the foul depths of the hell from whence you came, ” I shouted.
I watched in stunned fascination as the water appeared to extinguish the spirit. The tendrils of ectoplasmic energy retreated towards the portal in the ground. Emboldened, I followed and continued to douse it with holy water. When the last tendril of ectoplasmic energy withdrew, I squeezed the bottle and sent a stream of the holy water chasing it. The coven lay scattered and dazed where they had fallen, seemingly afraid to move. I was rooted in place myself, unable to believe that the ordeal had ended as abruptly as it had begun. Plum was the first to recover. She impatiently urged the group to get back on their feet.
“What are you all lying about for? Let’s get this circle closed, before something else gets out. Move it ladies! You know how this works.”
Delilah made herself comfortable where she was, giving us a sly look. The others stayed put, taking their cue from her. Plum merely folded her arms across her chest.
“Is there something you wanted to say Delilah?”
“I know who you are…who you really are Plum. We made a deal with Ross, not you. It’s his blood on that parchment.”
“As long as I operate this body, you owe your allegiance to me.”
“No we don’t!”
“I say you’re dead wrong. Are you really willing to chance losing your soul by breaking the contract,” challenged Plum.
Delilah glared at Plum, poised to argue her point when one of the dancers slowly struggled to her feet and the others followed suit. Without backup, Delilah lost her nerve. She stood reluctantly, with her arms petulantly crossed over her chest. They slowly joined hands and began moving counterclockwise, reciting their closing ritual. Their voices were flat and emotionless. Nothing happened. Plum made them do it again, warning that the creature could come roaring back at any moment. Fear got through to them. They earnestly recited the incantation and I gradually felt rumbling under my feet, as the ground began knitting itself back together.
The coven turned to Plum, submissively awaiting her instructions. Delilah was the only one who remained defiant, standing with her left hand on her hip. Plum raised an amused eyebrow and called her over.
“Come here Delilah. Since you finally figured out that I have a new host body, there’s no need for Patricia to walk around with that heavy collar around her neck. Go and remove it. Good, now bring it to me.”
As soon as Delilah removed the cuff, I felt a sense of relief that was almost orgasmic. She literally took a weight off of my shoulders. The constant hot, constricted sensation around my neck was gone and the air hitting my bruised skin felt delicious. I sighed with pleasure. Delilah placed the collar in Plum’s outstretched hand and was dismayed when Plum motioned for her to turn around. She refused, until Plum roughly grabbed her by the shoulder and turned her. I admit to a sense of vicious gratification at the sound of the collar locking around Delilah’s neck. It was her turn to suffer. Delilah turned on Plum.
“I hate you!”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“I’ll get even with you, if it’s the last thing I do.”
“I will make sure it’s the last thing you do. Now, get your ass on that van!”
Delilah aggressively brushed past Plum and stalked off towards the van. Plum laughed, appearing not to take the threats seriously. I was unnerved. Plum made sure that Beastie was still breathing. She directed the rest of the group to carry him to the van and lay him in the back. I could barely contain my irritation, until they were out of earshot.
“It’s not funny Plum. What are you going to do, if she tries to make good on her promise?”
“Why do you think I put that choke collar on her?”
“She’s never going to be a trustworthy member of your coven. None of them will, they hate you. If I were you, I’d watch my back.”
“Whoever said anything about having those losers join my coven?”
“But the contract…you said you were going to be their new leader.”
“And I am darling, I’m going to lead them into a battle against the traitors in my coven.”
“Even if you could trust them to follow your orders, they’re not very good witches. I don’t think they’d stand a chance against your crew.”
“Don’t be silly. I wouldn’t trust those stooges to help me cross the street, let alone fight by my side in a battle. They’re cannon fodder, nothing more. Now, come on let’s get out of here. We’re already behind schedule.”