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Witch Time (Cult of the Butterfly 13)


By Paul Smith.


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Witch Time (Cult of the Butterfly 13)

Paul Smith

Copyright 2017 Paul Smith

Smashwords Edition.


This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.


ISBN: 9781370584185


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'For Cereza.'


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Calm. It’s important to stay calm in these situations.

Seb had experienced disassociation before. What teenager hadn’t, experimenting with drugs? But he’d never come across a mental state that so closely matched the almost clinical detachment as the one he felt now.

Peering through the windows of his eyes, he watched one hand as it was raised before him, fingers and thumb immobile as a surgeon whose washed up.

The coating of gore was quite comprehensive, a bright scarlet in the washed out light of dawn that came leaking in through his patio doors. The creases of his palm picked out in deeper shades. His eyes darted to the nails, where little flecks of tissue had snagged. He sent a request for the hand to be twisted, watching in fascinated horror as it rotated on its wrist, revealing similar across the back. The whole mess was starting to congeal, he realised, feeling the sticky pull against his skin as it dried in the warming breeze. It was tacky to the touch, like paint that hadn’t gone off yet…

...and like vomit hitting the pavement he was back in the room.

Seriously, what the fuck?

Some still detached voice at the back of his head tried questioning why he wasn’t freaking out yet but the rest of the crowd shouted them down as he took stock. It seemed whatever had happened he’d gotten at least partially dressed for it, as he was wearing the ripped jeans he’d had on yesterday before getting dolled up for the sting. They too were looking worse for the encounter, blood caking the fabric and his knees through the various artful rips he’d been cultivating in the denim.

Damn, and I really liked these!

Some people might take such a shallow reaction as worrying (you’re covered in blood and it’s the jeans you’re worried about!?!). Seb’s mind however had coughed up the phrase ‘coping mechanism’, and he clung to it like a drowning man.

One of his sets of slip ons (My Carousels!) had obviously been the footwear of choice. A quick survey did not at this point reveal anything in the way of t-shirt of vest, but given the climate here such apparel tended towards social nicety rather than necessity.

He raised his hands again, turning them back and forth, noting what looked like a nasty slash across the palm of the left and nicking the edge of the wrist bone on the right, marring the tattoo there.

Bugger…

Thoughts of infection danced across his mental stage, but he ushered them into the wings, casting his attention instead out across the room around him.

All seemed normal, aside from the open patio doors. Stealing himself, he stood, crossing to the edge of the rug that loosely defined his lounge (and conveniently hid the protection circle he’d spray painted onto the floor beneath), feeling the cool touch of the wood as he padded up to the billowing curtains. A gust of wind revealed their handles to be unmarked by blood.

But then if you went out that way you’d have left them open, so they wouldn’t be.

This explanation ran smack up against the fact his apartment was eight floors up, with the building’s fire escape situated at the rear. Access was via a fire door on the communal landing or (ostensibly) a precarious climb through the bathroom window.

Yes, but magic…!

But nothing, fuckwit.

A great deal of time and effort had been put into defying the physical universe’s natural laws since the shallows had been discovered. Clips of said attempts tended to surface periodically across Narcissa’s various social networks, trending into swift ascendancy before crashing and burning like the majority of their creators.

It took a lot of juice to circumvent gravity. Seb was good, gifted even (in certain areas), but there was no fucking way he could fly.

So, I climbed down.

Settling on this (deeply unsatisfactory, not to mention disturbing) interpretation of events, Seb retreated from the doorway and turned to stare at the entrance to the bedroom.

You went out. Whatever weird shit this is you went out to perpetrate it. Which means you are not going to find a corpse in there. No Pollockesque redecoration will have taken place in your (apparent) absence…

Completely un-reassured, he nevertheless forced his body to place one foot in front of the other, stepping with care round those parts of the floor he knew would creak as he headed for the bedroom door, which stood partially ajar. Taking a final breath at the threshold, he sidled through the gap, nudging the edge of the door as he did so and wincing as it squeaked quietly, swinging a little further open.

Ilian’s perfect buttocks greeted him, the younger man blissfully, soundly asleep. He lay on his front, head turned to one side, broad shoulders tapering down the shadowed curve of his spine towards those perfect globes, well muscled legs disappearing beneath the duvet where he’d obviously kicked it down the bed in his sleep.

Seb felt his cock stir at the sight, cast a look heavenward in exasperation. But there was no denying how inviting the whole thing looked, existential crisis or no…

Existential. Is that what we’re calling it?

Sighing, he retreated, heading for the main bathroom and snagging his shoes on the way. They’d have to join his jeans in the wash with a prayer that they’d survive such treatment. But first a shower, because nothing’s freaks a potential fuck out more than serial killer chic.



If there was one thing magic taught you, it was to be a realist.

This might sound like a contradiction in terms, but what most people tended to overlook was the simple fact that magic was part of reality. Just as science (which had been capable of accomplishing some pretty mind bending feats even back as far as the twenty first century) functioned within the constraints of the physical universe, so too must the esoteric. Both could produce results that your average layman would be forced to take on trust, but at the end of the day each was bound up by a strict set of governing rules.

Thus it was not until sundown that evening that Seb returned to the troubling subject of what the fuck had gone on last night…



Ilian had roused eventually mid morning. The first Seb knew about it was the smell of coffee and the taste of pre cum smearing his lips. He’d opened his eyes to find the other lad knelt before him on the bed, legs splayed to either side, erection tickling Seb’s pout. He’d grinned down, light from the window haloing his head.

Now this is more like it…

Smiling himself, Seb had opened his mouth, welcoming the hot, sticky shaft in.

They’d finally decided they ought to get up round early afternoon. Seb offered to buy them breakfast, and they’d descended to the pavement cafe that stood at the end of his street, opposite the communal park. Ilian talked about his degree, Seb about small town life, and for a few hours it was nice to pretend there was nothing untoward up with the world. He felt his phone buzz a couple of times but decided he could legitimately ignore it, concentrating instead on the young man opposite and a world in which murder plots and stretches of stolen time did not exist.

I was a little surprised you know,” Ilian offered, as they shared a cigarette over coffee.

Oh?” Seb inhaled, blowing smoke from the corner of his mouth.

I’d heard you’d hooked up with Alex’s friend, Devan isn’t it? Didn’t think you’d be interested...”

Ah.” Seb sat up straighter, acutely aware he needed to come up with something better than monosyllables for this. “We have...” he eyed Ilian, whose expression was studiedly mild in the bright afternoon sun “...that is to say, nothings been set I stone.” He shrugged, offering the other guy a slightly bleak smile. “Last night, well, it seemed rude not to...”

Ilian laughed, shaking his head. “Don’t worry, it’s not like I’m going to grass you up or anything.” He stubbed out his cigarette. “I was just curious where I stood is all.”

In the bedroom, with the marigolds and the lube.”

Ilian’s eyes sparkled over the rim of his coffee cup. “Can we not swap the marigolds for a riding crop?”

Seb chuckled. “Only if I get to bring the blind fold.”

After the cafe they went for a walk through the gardens and Ilian brought them ice cream. Then it was time for the slow walk to the train station.

Exchange numbers?” Ilian asked, having apparently decided to be the brave one. “No expectations...!” he held up his hands theatrically “...just a fresh set of possibilities.”

Seb nodded, pulling his own phone out. They held them together, the handsets pinging to announce the exchange of prisoners.

Ilian consulted his screen before slipping it away. “Take care Seb Laikee,” he offered, leaning in to give Seb a peck on the cheeks. “Don’t be a stranger.”

Likewise...” Seb offered, as the barman mounted the steps up to the platform, his stride lengthening as the telltale hum warned that the train was inbound.

Sighing, Seb stuck his hands in his pockets as he headed for home, feeling unexpectedly introspective.



The introspection had turned to resignation as he lit the final candle in his summoning circle, stepping back to survey his handiwork in the thickening twilight. The candles burned in dishes on his lounge floor, their flames flickering in the slight breeze from the open patio doors.

Stepping back, he extinguished his nuzo with a flick of the wrist, muttering the daemon’s calling card as he did. The words echoed out across the otherside like a struck bell, one that would tug insistently at the calls intended recipient.

You know you only have to ask,” the daemon intoned dryly. “Such theatricality is not necessary.”

Seb sighed, eyes narrowing at the infernal now sprawled on his couch. The Blue Admiral rolled its eyes (or did a credible impression there of), hoisting itself to its feet and crossing to stand amidst the flickering candles.

Better?”

Seb shook his head. “Not really, but we’ll work with what we have.” Turning, he went to secure the patio curtains in place.

I presume you’ve asked me here about last night.”

Seb glanced over his shoulder. “You know something happened then?”

There was a report on SNN.” The daemon gave him a pointed look. “I take it you haven’t seen the news…?”

Seb scowled, annoyed with himself for not having thought of something so obvious. “And you have?”

The Admiral pursed lips like a stained peach. “I’m damned, not a Luddite.”

Seb raised his chin in acknowledgement of the point. “Just so.” He straightened. “Care to fill me in?”

The daemon raised a hand, producing a sheaf of rolled parchment from thin air. It glanced at Seb, who waved for it to continue as he crossed to the kitchen.

Three youths found dead, in the Harper Bay area. Police believe the killings to be the result of inter-gang violence, due to the ritualised form of the executions. All three corpses were found trussed and gagged on the ground in an abandoned car lot, their entrails arranged about them in a fan. The manner of their death, as well as local chatter, both point to the three having had links to the infamous Blue Peacocks, who are rumoured to operate out of the area. The SPD have declined to comment at this time.”

Seb nodded sourly. “I fucking bet they have.” He poured himself a few fingers of whisky, raising the bottle at the daemon, who shook his head minutely. “So, can we skip to the part where you explain to me what the fuck is going on? Or am I going to have to beat it out of you.”

Violence will not be necessary,” the daemon replied levelly. It’s lip twitched in the hint of a smile. “I would not ask you to bloody your hands twice in one day.”

Tou-fucking-ché.” Seb scowled, taking a hefty swig of his drink. “Well, come on then, out with it. Let’s assume I’ve made peace with the fact it was me, or rather my body. Just tell me how.”

The daemon’s look darkened, eye narrowing to smouldering slits as it crossed the room to join him, perching on one of the breakfast counter’s bar stools. Seb leant back against the work surface, eyeing it expectantly.

What do you remember of our original compact, Sebastian Laikee?”

A dozen glib responses presented themselves, but Seb forced them down, thinking back instead to that fateful night. “Not a lot to be honest, I was quite drunk.” He eyed the daemon sullenly. “Shouldn’t there be something in you people’s contracts about that? Sound mind and all that?”

The Admiral regarded him guilelessly. “Now where would be the fun in that?”

Yes, well.” Call a spade a spade and all that. He eyed his empty glass. Scowled. Poured another, shooting the daemon a look when it sniggered. “You can shut up.”

For an answer the daemon stood, putting Seb briefly on his guard. But the beast simply strolled towards the windows, pushing a curtain to one side so that it could peer out over the city. “Humanity really does have a talent for unintentional beauty.”

Seb re-corked the whisky, crossing to stand beside the infernal. The city stretched away before them into the distances, sparkling like gems tossed amidst the encroaching swamp. They stood together for several minutes in silence, eyeing the hothouse beauty that was Shensang by night.

I remember I was shooting for something else,” Seb offered finally, voice quiet. “Something a little more… terminal? When I set out with my cans of paint that night.”

Spray paint.” The daemon said the words like the worst kind of epithet. “How far we have come.”

Price of progress mate.” Seb fist bumped it lightly on the shoulder, marvelling as ever at how solid the thing felt, crushed velvet frock coat and all. “Happens to the best of us.”

Yes, well...” The Admiral turned to look at him. “What you may have missed during our little meeting at the crossroads were the wishes of the third party. Most specifically, the terms of its house arrest.”

...‘House Arrest’…?” Seb raised an eyebrow. “Am I a domicile now?”

Not quite. But you are a vessel of residence, and as such party to any agreement pertaining to terms referencing said state.”

In English?”

Several clauses of our agreement deal with the rights of your… lodger. Specifically, to the lodgers wishes and rights regarding freedom of movement.”

Freedom of… Ah, I see.”

Indeed.”

Seb chewed this over. Glanced at his tobacco and then made the executive decision that things were rather past that point.

So what we have here...” he said, kneeling next to the coffee table to feel around underneath it “...is a classic case of ‘mi casa, es su casa’?”

In essence, yes.”

Seb straightened, shuffling round to sit before the table Mahaian style, legs tucked beneath him. Reaching for his pouch and papers he began to skin up. “And you never thought to share this with me?”

I make it my business never to get involved in client relationships, once a deal has been brokered.”

Seb raised an eyebrow at this. “I’m not the only hybrid waltzing around then, eh?” He grinned at the daemon’s sour look, licking a finger to swipe his point into the air between them. Expended the extra effort needed to make it sizzle briefly with green fire before vanishing. Such petty displays of power annoyed the daemon, he knew, on an almost visceral level.

The Admiral looked away pointedly.

Ok, answer me this...” Seb made an effort to keep the smile from his voice “...How much danger am I in? What are the chances that the police will trace things back to me?”

Unlikely, even with eye witnesses.”

This, Seb decided, warranted both eyebrows. “Oh?”

The daemon glanced round from its perusal of his book shelf. “Suffice to say facial recognition would be hampered.”

I see.” Seb resumed his work, licking deftly along the edge of the skins before beginning to roll. “What about a trail? There was a lot of blood when I woke up. I’m surprised I didn’t get any on the floor on my way in to be honest. Or the doors.” He gestured at the patio.

It’s unlikely you’d have come in that way.”

Seb’s brow furrowed. “But the front door was clean as well. Now, I’m good with my mouth...” he glanced at the daemon, but its expression didn’t even flicker (hmm, tough crowd) “...but even I can’t unlock a door without the use of those babies...” and he popped the finished blunt between his lips, wiggling his fingers.

Your companion would have had its own means.” The Admiral smiled now, the expression that of a wolf wearing a bonnet and a nightie. “I can show you, if you want.”

Yeah, and I bet you’ll want something in return.”

But the daemon shook its head. “Consider it part and parcel of my wanting to see the job well done. A gesture of cooperation, if you will.”

Hmm…” Seb stood, pulling out his lighter and sparking up. “Very well. Demonstrate away.”

You’ll need to invite our friend up.”

Understanding blossomed. “Something I do remember is your warning me against doing that more often than I absolutely had to. Something about bleed-through and an ‘increased risk of co-option’? Which correct me if I’m wrong is exactly what we’re starting to see.”

The daemon crossed its arms, feigning indifference. “If you don’t want to see...”

Seb exhaled gustily. “Of course I want to fucking see. I just resent having some chaos spirit running off with my meat suit unannounced.” Sighing, he reached down inside himself, eyes closed as he pictured the journey through the trees that was their agreed metaphor. Reaching out, he parted the leaves before him, smiling at the confection of blue light that alighted on the branch beyond. The butterfly fussed briefly before taking flight once more, jagging through the air towards him until its wings seemed to sweep outwards, consuming his vision.

...Feeling of fizzing cold, blowing through his innards...

He opened his eyes, cocking his head at the odd expression on the daemon’s face. “What?”

Look in the mirror sometime.” Was all it offered, before stepping closer. “Now. The important thing to remember here is trust. Trust and certainty. A lack in either will see you smeared across the face of space/time thinner than the topping of ice on our rink.”

Humour. Excellent.”

Just be silent, and contemplate where you wish to go.”

Seb did as he was told, sticking the blunt between his lips and narrowing his eyes at the middle distance.

A sensation like the plunge from the apex of a roller coaster and suddenly they were elsewhere.

Hoooleeeey shit.” The daemon winced. “Sorry.” He looked around. “Fuck.” Because where one profanity was good, two were brilliant. A noise up the street made him glance over his shoulder. “Shit! That’s Maeve’s car! Quick, hide.”

The daemon followed him as he scampered into the bushes that fronted the wasteland just up the road from Raina’s. They stood watching as she climbed out of the car, Madam J bringing up the rear. Both women exchanged a kiss with the elderly woman driving before turning towards the door, where a pair of excitable kids stood in the doorway. An unfamiliar young woman was bidding them good bye before she sauntered down the path towards the waiting vehicle.

That must be Maeve’s niece,” Seb murmured, surprised at the stab of jealousy her presence engendered. Seriously Sebastian, it’s not like they’re your kids! Get a grip.

It might be unwise to linger.”

Seb glanced at the daemon, nodding. It was only later that night he would wonder at the look of unease it wore looking out at the scene.

Reaching out, he took the daemon’s hand, carefully picturing his living room…

...which now surrounded them once more, the blue phosphorescence of their passage dissipating like mist on the wind. Their reappearance had set the candle flames flickering, shadows dancing on the walls in response.

That was awesome.”

The daemon narrowed its eyes. “Just remember...”

Yes, yes, I know: insane storm spirit eating my brains so that it can run amok unchecked. I’ll be careful.”

The Admiral shook its head. “Sit down and finish your drugs while I fix you something to eat. We need to discuss our next move.”

Sighing, Seb did as he was told.


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