I glance around the room. The miasma redoubles in strength. The Lums’ spirit guides are fleeing to different realms for cover. But there is no overt sign of the evil spirit.
I’d have to flush it out.
“Vanessa, please let me see your hand,” I say.
She holds out her arm. Examining the streaks, I peer beyond the material realm. Every black line is a deep cut in her aura, filled with dark festering energy, consuming her life energy.
“Do the marks feel odd? Are they warm, cold, numb…?”
“A bit cold, actually.”
The curse was devouring her life force to fuel itself.
“Have you washed the marks?”
“Yes. With soap and water. I keep scrubbing them, but no matter what, they don’t go away.”
The boy snorts. I ignore him, listening instead to Leonhard and Lupin. The spirit guides whisper into my mind’s ear, and I repeat them.
“This is a powerful curse,” I say. “It is eating away at your life energy and your luck. I think there is a negative spirit possessing the man you described, and you were unfortunate enough to run into it. But don’t worry: I can handle this.”
“What do you need to do?”
“Are you ready to be healed?” I ask formally.
No healing, magic or other working can be performed without a patient’s consent. It was an ironclad rule in this business, one to be broken at your peril.
“Excellent. Please wait here a moment. I’m going to cleanse your home.”
“‘Cleanse’?” the boy asks.
“Yes,” I reply. “I will cleanse the home of negative energies and create a sacred space. It is the first step of the working.”
The black ball of negativity whirls round and round his head. “It’s really going to work meh?”
This is how negs work their will in the real world, through pawns and useful idiots. John’s trying to provoke me into an outburst, or to convince the family to throw me out. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he doesn’t exist.
“I won’t guarantee results,” I say slowly, “only that I will do my best.”
“So you can’t do anything lah!”
“John!” the mother snaps. “Don’t talk to Mr Chang like that!”
“Aiyah, what can he do?” he says. “He’s not a doctor, he’s not some sort of priest or what, he’s just a quack lah. Why you even listen to him?”
Leonhard chuckles and whispers a single sentence into my mind.
“How is your ankle?” I ask.
I point. “Your left ankle. It’s an old injury. Does it still hurt?”
There is a throbbing brown ball in his ankle. Electric streaks of red pain radiate through his foot and leg. He’s leaning against the wall because his injured foot can’t take his weight. The neg orbiting his head is probably interfering with the healing process too.
He blinks. “How did you… Someone must have told you, right? Who?”
“I never told him anything about you,” Vanessa insisted.
“Then? How did you know?” John demanded.
“John, as I said, I will do my best. You may observe, but do not interrupt.”
Lupin growls at the neg dancing about John’s face. It shrinks away and melts into the miasma.
“Can you help him?” Vanessa asks.
I turn to John. “Do you want to be healed?”
He crosses his arms. “We’ll see how first.”
I unzip my bag and lay it flat on the floor, revealing several smaller ziploc bags. I retrieve the one containing a bundle of white sage smudge sticks and grab a lighter.
Igniting a smudge stick, I hold it high and let the purifying smoke rise into the ceiling.
“The smell is pretty powerful,” I say. “If you have breathing difficulties, please stay clear.”
With even, measured steps, I walk throughout the house, filling it with smoke. The scent is thick and herbal, like burning tobacco but brighter and cleaner. The miasma retreats before it, pouring out of the doors and windows.
Smudging is a Native American practice, but most Singaporeans are familiar with burning incense or other offerings. They are conceptually similar enough that people don’t ask me questions about it. I swirl the smoke in the corners of every room, letting it clear out the miasma.
There is a tiny altar mounted in the kitchen near the ceiling. It is the only overt sign of religiosity in the household. John’s bedroom is humming with tense, conflicted energies. The energies of a teenager undergoing puberty. The parents’ room is flat and empty, mostly devoid of life.
Vanessa’s room swam with a toxic brew. Most of the energy here was hers, but there was much stagnant foreign energy too, no doubt the traces of strange men. The miasma was thickest here, and I spent extra time clearing it out.
The Lums weren’t particularly religious, much less spiritual. They would have been easy targets for a malevolent entity.
Returning to the kitchen, I extinguish the stick and settle in my chair. Half-closing my eyes, I take a series of deep, full breaths. On the inhale, I direct a glittering golden stream of life energy into my second chakra, two fingers below the navel. On the exhale, I discharge a cloud of waste energy into the universe to be renewed.
Opening my eyes, I see.
A swarm of beings crawl all over her. Some are as tiny as gnats, others are the size of my fist. Some are parasites, others are lost souls swept up in their wake. Underneath the mass of creatures, I see something larger swimming through her aura, like a shark among a school of lesser fish.
The chief of the negs.
“Archangel Michael, please come to us in our hour of need. Bless this space and open a gate to the Light.”
Above our heads, an astral gate opens. White light, pure and holy, floods the dining room, burning off the last of the miasma. The world brightens immediately. Framed in the portal, I see a man in sky-blue armour with a blazing sword in his right hand, spreading brilliant white wings from his back. My namesake.
Swooping down, he lands next to me. My spirit guides bow to him, and he bows also. I nod, and continue the ritual.
“We are now in the presence of the Light. Beings who wish to pass on, you are free to leave. Michael, please watch over them.”
A rainbow stream of souls unwind from her, ascending into the Light. As they depart, they flash through human forms—an elderly man, a little girl, a young woman—and vanish from sight.
“Do you see sparkling?” Mr Lum asks.
“Where?” John asks.
I ignore them.
“Beings who wish to harm Vanessa, know that your time here is done. You are free to pass into the Light. You are also free to leave. But you cannot stay.”
A gentle warmth radiates from the burning blade. Smaller entities leap off her and join the souls heading up. The horde thins out immediately, and in that gap something dark and ugly surfaces in her aura. It glares at me. I stare back.
‘This one is tough,’ Lupin says. ‘You gotta burn out its attachments.’
“Here we go,” I say.
I take her arm. It is smooth and cool and springy. A strange feeling passes through my kin, like the sensation of rubbing milk with your fingers crossed with clutching a lightning bolt. Cream white flashes across my eyes.
Breathing through the sensory intrusion, I touch the fingers of my right hand to the black thumb-sized streak and channel energy from the Universe. A river of hot, clean energy surges through me, down my crown, through my arm and fingers, and into her wound.
“Tell me if you feel anything,” I say.
The cosmic energy floods into the auric wound, transmuting into White Light, burning away the festering energy, leaving a gap behind. The energy turns into a golden liquid, filling up the hole and sealing it off. The being growls.
“It’s getting hot,” she whispers.
“It’s working,” I say.
More energy. More power. More heat. I step out of the way and allow the Universe work through me. First comes a stream of Light, burning away the last of the curse. Then a stream of life energy, filling out and sewing up the wound.
The creature shrieks.
“I think… I hear a voice,” Vanessa says.
The neg is now perched over her face, resembling an overlay of an ugly old man scowling at me.
“I want you to take a deep breath.”
“That is the being who cursed you,” I say.
“What? Really? I—”
She does. The deep breaths keep her from panicking.
“Can you hear what the being is saying?” I ask.
“I’m going to talk to him now, but I want you to tell me what he says. Can you do that?”
By listening and speaking, she will regain control of her sovereign body.
“I… I don’t know…”
Smiling, Michael steps behind her and lays his hand on her shoulder. Her expression relaxes immediately.
“There is nothing to be afraid of,” I say reassuringly. “We are in the presence of the divine. It cannot hurt you.”
She nods. “I’ll try.”
“Okay. What is your name?”
“I don’t have a name.”
I shake my head. “All sentient beings have a name. What is yours?”
“I won’t tell you.”
“I ask you for your name, that I may address you with respect.”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
Michael looks at me. ‘His name is Reshazak.’
The archangel’s voice is a deep, commanding blue, rounded off with a melodic gentleness.
‘Thanks,’ I reply. Out loud, I say, “I hear your name is Reshazak. It shall be so. Reshazak, your time here is done. You are free to go—”
“No! The girl is mine!” Vanessa blinks and shivers. “I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s okay,” I say, feeding her more energy. “We know who said it. We’ll carry on. Reshazak, you may leave with our respect and gratitude.”
“No! She will always be a part of me!”
Michael rests his sword on her crowd. An agonised shriek fills my mind.
“Reshazak, it hurts, doesn’t it?” I say.
“You are in the presence of Michael the archangel. You stand now exposed to the Light. You are suffering, aren’t you?”
“Reshazak, if you stay and continue to harm Vanessa, you will suffer even more. But you can end it. All you have to do is leave.”
Her voice grows harsh. “You leave! You are a fake! You cannot do this—”
“No. I am staying. So is Archangel Michael. Your time in Vanessa’s body is done. If you continue to stay, you will suffer even more and receive even greater punishment.”
“Fuck off you piece of shit!”
The Lums recoil. Vanessa quickly shakes her head. “No, I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s fine. You’re just the messenger,” I say soothingly.
Ethereal flame leaps off the sword, pouring through her aura.
“He’s screaming,” she says. “He’s screaming and telling you to… well, you know.”
I nod. “Reshazak, you can stop the pain. All you have to do is leave.”
Vanessa tilts her head back and opens her mouth. An unearthly sigh fills the world. A male sigh.
And Reshazak is gone.
She slumps over. Releasing Vanessa, I take a deep breath and recharge myself. The portal closes. The miasma is gone. Michael steps aside, grins, and gives me a thumbs-up.
“Did you hear that?” John asks.
“That was the being departing,” I reply. “It won’t harm anyone again.”
Vanessa looks up at me. Her aura is free of negs. “Thank you.”
I dispense my usual post-exorcism advice. For the next seven days, shower with salt, preferably sea salt. Scatter more salt on the corners and at the windows and door. If the being comes back, if something else happens, let me know.
Vanessa shakes my hand. “Thank you so much.”
Her touch lingers longer than expected, her warmth burning and corrosive. Her eyes widen, a pair of black holes threatening to swallow me whole. It was the same behaviour that got her into this mess.
I slide my hand away as politely as I can. “You’re welcome.”
Her aura is still a mess, still polluted with the remains of who knew how many men. I honestly don’t know if I can clear them out, but I’m not going to compound the problem.
‘You did what you could,’ Leonhard says.
‘Now she must save herself,’ Michael adds.
You can’t win them all, I suppose.
Mrs Lum presents me with a red packet. I don’t charge a fee for higher-end magical services, but I do request a donation. I slide it into my breast pocket and pick up my backpack.
“Um, can you help me with my injury?” John asks.
“I could, but I have a policy of treating one client at a time,” I say. “Drop me an email and we can arrange for another appointment.”
“Okay,” he says.
At my feet, Lupin and the rabbit converse earnestly, no doubt plotting how to nudge John to contact me later.
I leave the flat. At the lift, I open the red packet and find two fifty-dollar notes. Not too bad for an hour’s work. I’d been paid much more before, but I’ve also received much less. Looking up, I see the archangel staring intensely at me.
‘Michael, this job isn’t over,’ he says.
‘What do you mean?’ I ask.
‘You’ve only dealt with a small portion of Reshazak. It was not taken into the Light; it fled to reintegrate itself with the whole. He knows now what you are capable of. He is a being of immense malevolence, and beings like that are not the forgiving type. You are his next target.’
Stand against the dwellers of the dark long enough and they will start hunting you. It’s the nature of the game.
Still, I grin.
‘I’ll be his last.’
Part 1 can be found here.
For more fiction by yours truly, check out the Dragon Award nominated novel No Gods, Only Daimons.