When going to war, first build an invincible defence. And I am strongest at my home.
Home is a studio apartment a few minutes away from the Farrer Park MRT station. Unlike most single Singaporeans my age, I live alone, well away from my parents. It’s for their safety. They’re normies, and given my lifestyle, the last thing I need is for demons to show up at the doorstep of my family home.
It’s happened more than once.
To the naked eye, it’s an open concept one-room flat. In my mind’s eye, I see multiple reinforced layers of shields, shimmering white and blue and gold, ready to repel intruders. Crystals stationed near the door and windows anchor the shields in place. The wards are intact, and there are no signs of forced entry.
Setting my backpack down, I don a pair of Flare Audio titanium earplugs and pick up the crystal singing bowl in the corner. It’s less a bowl and more like a cylinder, half the size of my torso. I cradle it to my hip and strike the rim with a wooden dowel.
A pure note fills the room with white sound. Rubbing the dowel against the outer rim, I circle my home, carrying the sound to every corner. The walls are thick enough that I don’t disturb the neighbours. The high-pitched tone sweeps through me, clearing any stray negativity I might have picked up.
I put the bowl aside and sit on the floor. Draw my Benchmade Griptilian from my waistband and pop it open. Closing my eyes, I open my mind’s eye and hunt for negative attachments.
There. A cluster of black cords extending from my crown. I swipe my knife through them, severing the connections.
Vanessa would have left those attachments, of course. She couldn’t help it; where intention goes, energy flows. She desires intimacy and seeks it in mere flesh. I can’t help her with her issues. Not today. All I can do is help myself.
Passing the knife over my body, I clear all other unhealthy attachments in my aura. It’s a staple practice in Western occult practices, but it’s not something I do for people who aren’t read into them. Singapore doesn’t have a knife culture, and the first time I brought out the knife the client freaked out there and then. Since then, I resorted to sage.
I didn’t make this world. I just have to live in it.
When I’m done, I hit the shower. Cold running water with plenty of sea salt. Can’t ever be too careful. I change into a green shirt and comfortable pants, and dump the laundry just in time to hear the doorbell.
I check the peephole. See a woman. Open the door.
Eleanor Wang stands at the doorstep. Dressed in a bright yellow dress, she carries a sling bag over her left shoulder, another bag on her right, and a smaller carrier in her left hand.
“Hello!” she sings.
“Hi,” I reply. “Just in time.”
I let her in. Dumping her bags next to the door, she plops herself on the sofa and hugs a cushion to her chest. Her spirit guide, a small tabby cat named Blazer, shows himself, sprawling all over her crown.
“So coooooooooold,” she says.
“Monsoon season’s starting.”
“Mm. Is it cold here?”
Blazer climbs down. Lupin and Leonhard reveal themselves, and the trio hold a conference in a corner of the room. As I sit next to her, she says, “How was your client today?”
For the next ten minutes, I recount the events at Bedok. Eleanor listens intently, chiming in with questions where appropriate.
“It sounds like a powerful neg,” she says.
“We’ve dealt with worse before,” I reply.
There are a handful of people in the world who know who I am and what I do. Eleanor is one of them. The first among them. We met in secondary school, and she was the only friend I retained from those days. When I stumbled upon the hidden world of gods and demons, she was the first person I confided in, and the first person who followed me down the rabbit hole. It helped that she had no small amount of talent herself.
“It feels like a spirit of lust,” she says. “It is attracted to carnal desires, but it feeds directly on life energy. But it’s also powerful and dangerous enough to protect itself.”
“Michael says he’s gunning for me now.”
She sigh, shaking her head. “As expected.”
“It’s what I do.”
“I need to prepare for round two,” I say. “Can you help?”
We reinforce my home. More shields, more wards, more blessings, concluding with a prayer for help.
“Archangel Michael, General of the Armies of Light, watch over and protect us from the forces of evil. Safeguard this place and ensure it remains a sanctuary from darkness. Thank you.”
Short and simple, as the best workings usually were. Eleanor favoured other divinities, but it’s usually best to concentrate your energies on a single celestial being than to spread them out over multiple ones. More so if they don’t get along.
A quarter of an hour later, we’re done. Eleanor chugs down a glass of water and declares, “Time for dinner!”
We have dinner twice or thrice a week. Sometimes she visits me, sometimes I go to her workplace in Toa Payoh, other times we meet somewhere in between. Her way of keeping track of me, I suppose.
I’d left two packets of salmon fillets and another of potatoes out to thaw. I don’t normally prepare those, but with Eleanor around I made the exception. We rummage around the fridge and produce a bunch of French beans, cherry tomatoes and peas. Together, we prepare dinner. There was so little room in the tiny kitchen we had to work hip-to-hip.
The kitchenette has a tiny cooking hob. Just about adequate for what the real estate agent had called ‘light cooking’. Today, that meant pan-seared salmon with helpings of assorted vegetables.
Laying out the food on the dining table, we lower our heads, clasp our hands and bless the meal. I draw down divine energy into the real world, into this tiny spot in space-time, and infuse it into the food, willing the energy to bring health, wealth, and good fortune. In my second sight, the edibles glow softly.
We make small talk over dinner. She does most of the talking, complaining about the latest round of office politicking, venting about the people she had to deal with, commiserating about the stresses of the job. Her voice, a sweet, melodious mix of green and yellow and indigo, makes listening to the litany barely tolerable.
In the grand tradition of countless Singaporeans before her, she’d joined the civil service after graduating from university. It paid much better than what I did, as she liked to remind me, but I wasn’t sure if the job was worth my soul.
I suppose we who are called to serve the Divine have different priorities.
“How are you doing these days?” she asks. “Can you still cope?”
“Sure. I’m making enough to get by.”
“How much do you save a month?”
I shrug. “Five, six hundred.”
“Still a lot more than you.”
She chuckles. Much of her income went to servicing her education loans. Most of mine went to paying the bills. We all have our crosses to bear.
“Is your magic business working out?” she asks.
I nod. “I can cover the utilities.”
I offer a multitude services. Tarot, palm reading and graphology are my most successful offerings, and those I’m obliged to charge for. I have to, to keep myself afloat. Healing, only if the client can afford it. Exorcism is a donations-only endeavour. It’s not a money-making business; in a good month I can cover my expenses, in a bad month there’s nothing to do but dip into my savings. But this job isn’t about the money – and if I needed cash, there were other ways.
“And cryptocurrency leh?
Now I grin.
“I made fifteen hundred dollars off trading Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash and Litecoin this month.”
She smiles too. “That’s awesome.”
Okay, I exaggerate. A little. Most of those were paper gains. I’d jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon early in the game, early enough that when I finally remembered I had a Bitcoin wallet I realized I was sitting on a small fortune.
I wasn’t a millionaire. Not by a long shot. But I could afford to stay here for ten years, if I made my trades carefully and if the crypto market continued to remain favourable.
Of course, the main problem was ensuring my bank account had real money in it. Singapore still ran on fiat, and most of my savings were locked up in crypto. I supplement my income with freelancing and other mundane work—but talking about that would bore the both of us.
We keep conversation light over the rest of dinner. It’d been a long day and I didn’t have much energy for anything else. We put away the dishes and she stays a little longer, sitting next to me on my sofabed. We’re so close our shoulders touch. She is soft and warm and it only took me a full year—the entirety of my last year in secondary school—to acclimatize myself to this much contact.
A pleasant hour passes in conversation, tarot reading, and meditation. At least, she tries to meditate.
“I can’t really meditate as long as you do,” she complains.
“Can’t sit still lah.”
I nudge her side. Lightly. The sensory recoil sends shockwaves through my body.
“Maybe I should tie you up.”
“I read somewhere that people do that to keep their minds and bodies still…”
But she giggles. And she keeps her tone light.
“Well, if you’re ever interested—”
“Go away! I don’t know you!”
And again she laughs, lightly shoving me away.
We turn to less sensitive topics for a few more minutes. Then she breaks out a tube of cream and squirts out a small amount on her palm, as large as a twenty-cent coin. Rubbing her hands together, she runs them down her face, her neck, her arms, her legs.
Her skin is a battered wasteland of dry flakes and dull red patches. Full-body eczema, co-morbid with lichen amyloidosis. With a careful diet and rigorous skincare regime, she’s kept it under control for the past decade and a half. Despite my best efforts I haven’t found a way to help her. But I’m not giving up.
As she speaks, she gushes about her latest skin care products and skin-friendly makeup. Most of it flies over my head—all I comprehend is a daily infusion of aloe vera—but I smile and nod anyway. It’s the best I can do for her. At least, for now.
She stays for another half hour, and then it’s time to go. Donning my knife and flashlight, I escort her to the MRT station. She’d long ago given up any hope of persuading me to disarm myself, but she lives in a different world. Cold iron and white light are the most effective tools against spirits, second only to blessed and enchanted holy objects.
I have also been reliably informed that knives and flashlights tend to useful against human threats. Not that I plan to use mine on humans, of course. After all, as every law-abiding citizen can tell you, weapons are illegal in Singapore, and self-defence is no excuse to carry one.
I return home and stifle a yawn. All the socialising had sapped my energy reserves. No point doing any more work tonight. I wash the dishes and brush my teeth. Fire up my laptop, check my Exodus wallet and my accounts on various cryptocurrency exchanges, record my income, and spend the next half hour relaxing with videos and some light reading.
When I can’t keep my eyes open any longer, I unfold my sofa into a bed, stash my flashlight and knife under my pillow, turn off the lights and dive under the covers.
It is warm and soft and clean and comfortable and soothing. After so many hours of sensory contact with other humans it was just the thing to recover. It’s a weekend too; I could sleep in if I wanted to, not that it was going to happen, I had work to do and work never ended. I close my eyes and turn on my side and sink into the mattress.
There is a new pressure next to me. Soft and warm and human. I sit up and Eleanor is lying next to me, smiling an invitation, peeling off the blanket to reveal an expanse of smooth fresh skin and in her right hand is a coil of rope and the rope unfurls into a hangman’s noose and she is smiling like a tigress and she crawls over with noose in hand and that is not Eleanor’s skin that is not Eleanor wake up wake up WAKE UP!
My physical body is frozen. My soul is not. I visualize a pentragram. Five blazing white lines burn into existence, forming a barrier between me and not-her. She hisses and her face warps into an malformed spotted thing.
“I banish you! By the most holy names of God—Yahweh, Agla, Adonai, Ehyeh Asher Ahyeh—I banish you and command you never to return!”
The pentagram burns white, drowning out the world.
I shoot up into a standing position. Hot electricity crackles through every fiber of my being. To my right, just past the bed, I see a large brown blob the shape and size of a man. It scowls at me, growing massive fangs and a pair of clawed arms.
Reaching under my pillow, I grab the first thing I can find. Heavy, plastic, textured. Knife. I snap the knife open and pounce on the entity.
“MICHAEL!” I scream.
Angel lights flash into existence. The knife punches clean through astral matter. A demonic howl fills my head. The lights frame and illuminate the neg, holding it in place, burning off the darkness. I slash and thrust and cut and stab and the spirit is gone.
I turn on the lights.
My heart pounds in my chest. Sweat spills down my skin. My steel is steady in my hand. And there are no more threats.
It is just after three in the morning. There are great, gaping holes over the windows and door. I’d have to repair them later. I put my Benchmade away. Wipe the sweat from my face. Sit. Breathe.
Lupin and Leonhard materialize before me. Their bodies are covered in scratches. The angel lights flit over them, concentrating at their wounds.
‘Are you okay?’ Leonhard asks.
I nod. ‘I should ask you that.’
Lupin growls. ‘Reshazak brought many friends. They tore down your shields and created an opening for him. Sorry we couldn’t hold them off.’
‘We won. That’s all that matters. Michael?’
‘Here I am,’ the archangel says, his voice emanating from the lights. As he speaks, the guides’ wounds close over.
‘Thanks for the assist.’
I’d rather not fight at all, but winning was second-best.
‘You’re most welcome. Reshazak read your mind and exploited your weaknesses. You did well to detect his presence and drive him off, but he will come back. His pride demands it. And if he can’t reach you, he’ll target Eleanor.’
I exhale sharply. I’d expect nothing less of a demon. There’s only one thing we could do.
‘We’ll hunt him first,’ I declare.
For more long-form fiction by yours truly, check out NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS on Amazon.