Chapter 2 “Gvla”

   I had translated less than half of the pamphlet since whatever was going on Wednesday. It wasn’t from a lack of trying: 
it was from trying, then having to do some chores or errands or work, and then I’d sorta forget to go back to it. 
Okay maybe there was an amount of trying in short supply. 
I wasn’t really sure what counted as half of the pamphlet as some pages were pictures while others were sprawling rants. 
   Hopefully the library would have more easily available information on demons.
Maybe I’d learn something about the author and “translator” of the pamphlet too. 
Only those two are credited, but there were also musings in the margins with differing handwriting. Some of it was in actual English. 
One snippet, inked in blue, read: «When I first heard jazz music, I swear the singer sounded like you. Are you still around?» 
I wondered who wrote that and when. Were they still around?
    Probably not. Could’ve been written when jazz was invented and the writer would be dead now. 
Anyway maybe the author wrote other stuff, though I couldn’t find anything online. 
   Aquila dropped me off at the library. I asked the librarian if he’d heard of the people in the pamphlet but he hadn’t. 
I complimented the long hair of an old lady reading about lock picking, then approached Ambrose who was at a table.
   He looked me over and stated, “That outfit looks quite nice.” I twirled in my burnt amber lolita dress before sitting across from him. 
   “So,” he started, “what do you know about demons?”
   Using what I experienced Wednesday and have read, I answered, 
“They’re shape-shifting spirits that possess people and sometimes eat them?”
   “Yeah, that’s all you need to know. Now we can discuss the dealer.”
   “Wait, that’s it? But why do they do that?”
   “We don’t kn– well, if bloodlust is an addiction that someone is fueling, then that might explain the density of demonic attacks in our town. 
That means if we stop them, the attacks should stop as well.”
   “We get more attacks in our town compared to what? The rest of the state? The world?”
   “County. Now, I have a plan to find them: capture and interrogate a non-hostile demon. And I have some ideas of how to do that with your help.” 
He paused, seemingly waiting for me to say something, which… No. 
He was answering my questions, yet he didn’t really care if I got it so long as he could explain his plan. 
   He eventually asked, “Are you not following?”
   I stated, “I want you to explain this to me, not talk past me. You know this stuff, so help me catch up instead of leaving me behind.”
   He paused. Then he said he needed to get something. We walked to the front desk and Ambrose handed the librarian a note.
   The older man said, “Sorry, all those books have been taken out.”
   “Can I see the list?” I asked. Taking a picture of the titles would let my see if my friends knew them. 
Wait, the handwriting matched some of the pamphlet's. I continued, “Where’d you get this?”
   As we headed back to our seats, he answered, “We used to have an exorcist; he wrote this so we’d remember what books to recommend for newcomers. 
Why do you ask? Do you recognize anything?”
   I didn’t want to reveal too much about my only leverage point. 
Also I didn’t want to say that the passage with matching penmanship was discussing cannibalism. I replied, “I think I do but I’m not sure.”
   “Alright,” he said as he sat back down at the table, “what else?”
   I joined him and announced with maximum charisma, “We can continue our date!”
   I had spent the day after the attack in bed. The drop in adrenaline hit harder than expected, and I slept in. 
After calling the station to explain what happened, I was encouraged to stay home. Safety apparently mattered now. 
Work the next day was awful, so I didn’t want to think about it. The next meeting with Missy would hopefully be a nice distraction.
   But now that the books were gone, I wasn’t sure what to do. Did Missy genuinely want to date me or keep appearances? 
Was there someone here watching us? A fellow witch? Or was it a demon? Did she have that artifact that she claimed could sense them? 
I had only ever felt a demonic from that highly aggressive wrath demon; normally I had no way to detect them. 
Even then, I was only vaguely aware of it. They could be anywhere or anyone. No one seemed to be paying us any mind, but it was hard to say. 
I moved my bangs away, mindlessly raking my scalp through the repeated motion.
   “You go to this library often?” Missy asked.
   I replied, “Not really.”
   “A different library or do you just not read?”
   “I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, but I do go to libraries. My favorite is near the natural science museum.”
   “Oh, the one by the water?”
   “Yeah, it’s two floors and has free books near the front door and DVDs in the back, a wide selection too. 
Once a week, my mom and sister used to go through what to rent for movie night while I’d stare out the massive windows watching the sea.”
   “Maybe we could walk the pier someday.”
   “That would be nice.” I felt the cool, wooden surface of the table on my fingers; I had stopped messing my hair without realizing it.
   Missy glanced down and asked, “Wanna compare hand sizes?” 
   She was making an excuse to hold hands, thus I obliged. I brought up my hand and she pressed her palm against it. 
The moment lasted longer than it needed to. Did she expect me to interlock our fingers first? My hand was much larger, 
and curling my fingers practically covered her hand. It was hard to tell from her dark complexion, but she might have been blushing.
   “Are you having fun?” I inquired. 
   She pulled her hand back to wildly gesticulate. “Well uh I you– you– are YOU having fun?”
   I couldn’t say. The brief bout of panic had subsided, but did I want this?
   Missy's phone rang, so she answered, “Hello… Today? What time…? Two to six? Oh seven. I... 
If no one else can cover it, I can do it. Bye.” Her face face went slack. But then she smiled to face me and laughed, 
“Whoops! Better get going then! We can schedule our next date tomorrow.”
   “Alright, but texts only: I’ll be working,” 
I said. “Also, would you please see if any of the Belladonnas can perform exorcisms?” Missy then ran off.
   While I had no authority to enlist a new exorcist, they were the best at communing with spirits 
and could even save the hosts. The fact that the team had gone nearly two decades without one was a tragedy. I’d amend that.
   That night, I didn’t want to interact with another human being for the next decade. 
If I ever had to hear a client yell at her because she wasn’t the usual IT guy that helped them where’s the guy he’d know what to do just.
   I was too tired to dwell on it. Aquila made dinner that night for everyone. No one was working so they could eat together. 
Except, of course, for me who ate the leftovers hours later. Alone. 
I tried to muster up the mental energy to read the legible parts of the pamphlet but got stuck on biochemistry gibberish.
   Today really was a bust. I didn’t even get to have a good time on my date! 
I was going to have to break up with him eventually, oughta take advantage of it while it lasted. 
But no! Had to get embarrassed before the call pulled me away. Can’t a girl melt over how her date’s hand envelopes her small, dainty one? 
It was endearingly quirky! I mindlessly scrolled through the internet before going to bed.
   I dreamed about my childhood pet rabbit, Panda, but he no longer recognized me and kept running away. 
That morning, I had a slice of bread for breakfast. Phobos was chatting with one of our other roommates, Shade, at the coffee table: 
the only usable table in the house due to the messy kitchen. Phobos sipped tea while Shade slurped cup noodles. 
Shade picked me up yesterday despite the last minute change of plans, so I wouldn’t judge her eating habits. 
Though I would forever judge her for making the apartment smell like weed.
   “Is that all you’re having?” Phobos asked me. “How about I cook up some turkey bacon?” 
She went into the kitchen before I could reply. I understood why Phobos only mothered itty-bitty me and not anyone else, but whatever.
   Shade proded, “Learn any demon junk yesterday?”
   “Nothing new except that exorcisms are a thing.”
   “Yeah, Comet does those.” 
   Oh. Her. Comet was technically a roommate, in that she “contributed” to the rent, 
but she slept in the basement and the landlord didn’t know about her. I wasn’t sure if she even had a job. Do exorcists get a salary?
   “Would she be interested in being a professional exorcist? There’s an availability,” I inquired.
   “Maybe... Right, Dr. Monty retired from that. Wonder what he’s up to.”
   “A retired exorcist?” I remembered the matching handwriting. “Did he… Did the pamphlet come from him? Do you know his number?”
   “Whoa, one question at a time! But, uh, retired exorcist. Yes to the pamphlet, though I don’t know why or how you guessed that. 
And he’s real old timey, no electronics, but I’ll stop by his place and see if he’s chit chat available.”
   “Before you go, can you ask Comet about the job opening? I need to do some paperwork.” 
The paperwork was a lie to avoid a conversation with Comet. Shade agreed to do it, so I gave her Ambrose’s number to pass along. 
And once I ate the bacon from Phobos, I retreated to my room to write up fictional resignations scenarios rich with drama and witty dialogue. 
That counted as paperwork.
   Work was off-putting with Matt still recovering. My breaks went by slowly without Matt showing me some unfunny videos that I’d pretend to like. 
Everyone in the precinct would try to visit Matt at least once. Probably to see that he was okay. It was a mild concussion, he’d be fine. 
I’ve had my fair share of head injuries from football and I was fine, therefore Matt would be fine. It’s fine. 
If the other officers felt guilty about what happened, then they should have done more for him. 
   I was taking matters into my own hands. I called Matt during my lunch break, the first time I would talk to him since the attack, 
but didn’t get a response. A minute later, I received a text that simply read “busy.”
While still on break, I went to the cafe “Comet” told me to meet her (a block away from the one Missy and I went to) 
and saw a woman in an orange pencil dress waiting for me.
   I greeted her, “You’re Comet? One of the Belladonnas, right?” 
   “Yuppers!” she chirped. “So ya know we’re witches, huh?” 
   “Yes, but not what kind of witchcraft you do.” 
   “Nothing serious, ha! No curses or blood or anything like that! We just study demon stuff.” 
   “Really? Like the Nightshades did?” I had no clue what they did; I really should have looked through their files.
   “Kinda? Well, I mean, I never met them, but Bo and Quill... They don’t, ha, talk about… The job’s got insurance, right?”
   I didn’t know. “This isn’t exactly an interview. A busy eatery is a tad unprofessional for such a thing.” 
   “Haha gosh sorry. I just like this place, super pricey though. No joke, Black Cat Brew has the best frappes! 
But the owner’s cat isn’t completely black. He’s got white spots on his face, paws, and tummy, and–” 
   “Tell me why you are the best candidate for the job.” 
   “ ‘Cuz of my degree in clinical psychology. Gotta tell the difference between the seized and a seizure!”
   “Well, Ms. Comet, if you can have proof of that degree ready for the actual interview, we’ll gladly call you back about the position.”
   “Okie dokie! Hold the phone, is the job a definite yes or a maybe so?”
   “Maybe.” And I left before she could utter another annoying word. With that interaction over, I checked my phone again. No new messages. 
   “Call me when you can,” I texted Matt.
   Shade approached me with a solemn expression, “Hey, can we talk?” 
   I had an hour until my shift, so we walked outside, going along the road to where everyone dumped their litter 
and the anoles would sun themselves. 
   She explained, “Dr. Montague passed away two years ago.” 
   “I’m sorry to hear,” I replied, “Were you close?” 
   “Not really since I… found out now. Today. But he was cool. Hey, Stella. Missy,” she said, 
“I told you that someone you live with knows about exorcism and that someone you’ve never met also knows about it, 
yet you wanted to talk to the stranger. Why don’t you want to talk to us?” 
   “Am I part of the ‘us’? Because this is sounding a little confrontational now.” 
   She backed up. “M’kay. Didn’t know you felt that way.” 
   “Well, you guys did your witch thing and I didn’t know if it was a lifestyle or religion so I stayed out of it. Try not to touch anything–” 
   “Yeah, Aquila was pissed when you used her spell candle–” 
    I nearly jumped as I interrupted, “Sorry for fucking lighting a candle during a blackout!”
   Shade picked up some trash. It was mostly fast food wrappers, cigarettes, and vodka bottles. 
   I continued, “After Wednesday... I just wanna feel safe. And I’m not sure if everyone wants me involved, 
so that’s why I wanted to see about the other guy. He gave you the pamphlet, so he seemed willing to share advice.” 
Truth be told, I thought the others were incompetent and wanted to meet an expert. 
As I stopped Shade from trying to use a discarded lighter, my confidence in her wavered too. But the apartment was technically in her name,
and the roommates were really HER friends, so too many complaints might lead to an actual confrontation that I would lose.
   “Next time we’re all off work, we can explain everything we know,” Shade said. “Because we want to share this with you. 
Comet even studied under Monty! Sound good?”
   “Yeah,” I lied. We went back while discussing the weekly meal plan. 
   Alone in my room, I read more of the pamphlet: «While gluttony demons are quite charitable, 
do not forget that all they care for is their poison to fill the void. It isn’t always an excess of food: 
sometimes it’s a preference for certain consumables or even a strict regulation of eating. Often it isn’t food related at all. 
But you must be well aware of this by now.»
   That would’ve been ominous if it hadn’t been written, like, centuries ago. 
But it suggested the original author intended a specific person to read it. I wondered if they ever did.
   After work, I got a call from Matt, “Did you do something to my phone?” 
   “The charging port was filthy, so I cleaned it while I waited for you.” 
   “Oh, that’s why it was always hard to charge it. Thanks. You waited for me for how long?” 
   “A few hours.”  
   He teased, “Aw, you care about me?”
   “Of course I do,” I replied. “I care about the wellbeing of everyone; it’s why I’m a Hunter.” 
   Matt gave a disgruntled hum. Wrong thing to say then.
   I continued, “As an officer, you save people. I want to help, so I found an exorcist.” 
   “What? Dude, do you know what you’re doing? I heard the last guy wasn’t even a licensed doctor.” 
   “I thought Dr. Montague had his license revoked.” 
   “That’s worse!” 
   “Matt, I have it all planned out. The exorcist is part of the new coven. 
We can keep track of the witches’ activity by having one work for us while also having an exorcist to back us up on future hunts. It’s perfect.” 
   “… Have you told anyone else this?” 
“I thought you’d want credit for the idea.” By that, I meant that my idea needed credibility to be accepted by the Hunters 
that Matt could provide given his seniority over me
   “I guess I need a win after Wednesday. I really made an ass of myself, huh?” 
   “It’s not your fault; something’s going on which is why we need help.” 
   “I guess… I wasn’t really part of the team when we last had an exorcist so I dunno what to expect or how to sell the idea, but... 
Yeah. Sure I’ll try. Thanks. Thanks, man.”
   “Are you feeling alright?”
   “No? Hold up, yes. I had a rough night, is all. What’s this about?” 
   “I think my concerns are reasonable.” I remembered putting Matt in the back of my car, feeling for any swelling in his skull, 
not knowing how to lay him down without making the damage worse. If he’d be okay when he awoke. If my best friend would wake up again. 
My concerns were more than reasonable.
    “Well, don’t lose sleep over it, okay? See you tomorrow.” Matt hung up.