It’s too bright and too crowded for me to act. A hostile entity wouldn’t feel constrained by people, but if things went dynamic and if I had to perform an exorcism… I don’t need the attention.
I make a sharp right turn, heading down a narrow alley between a 7-Eleven and Ramen Bar Suzuki. It ends in a fork: straight ahead or to the right.
I go right.
Bikes and streetlights cram the road. There’s barely enough light to see. No people in sight, not yet. I cast a wary gaze on the doors on either side; the last thing I need was for some innocent night shift worker to step out into a fight.
Sprinting silently down the alley, I draw my flashlight. Place like this, I need illumination more than an edge. Behind me, I hear animalistic breathing and heavy footsteps.
A bend to my left. I look. A group of citizens gather around a group of tall, narrow tables, chatting and drinking. No go.
To my right, an opening to the main street. Two men lean against the walls, smoking and chatting.
No place for an ambush.
An incoherent roar reverberates down the alley.
Too late. I spin around just in time to see the threat barrelling down towards me.
I get my hands up.
“Stay back, stay back!” I shout. “I’m not looking for a fight!”
Closing in, the man brings up his hands.
I light up his face. He pauses, covering his eyes. In that light, I see dark, twisting smoke engulf his face, rearing up like a snake.
“Back off! Back off now!” I yell.
I step in. Snap my foot into his groin. He just keeps coming. With my light I hook his left hand down, and hack his other arm up and away with my left forearm. Closing in, I seize his skull and ram my elbow into his jaw. Something cracks. I smash my right forearm into his neck, shoving him aside. Cocking my left hand, I slam my palm into his temple, bouncing his head off against a wall.
He shrugs off the blow. Pushes himself off, grabs my shirt with his left hand, and cocks his right hand back.
Trapping his grabbing hand with my flashlight, I slam my forearm into his broken jaw. The blow unbalances him. Reaching around his arm, I grab the pinky side of his grabbing hand. Peel it off, torque anticlockwise and take a big step.
My inverted wristlock sends him crashing into another wall. Despite the damage, the sonofabitch still keeps fighting, flailing and snarling and thrashing. I extend my left leg, brace the locked arm against my thigh, and drive my right forearm against his upper arm.
With my entire bodyweight on him, he’s not going anywhere. He must be in terrible pain, but the demonic strength keeps him going. Glancing around, I see witnesses on their phones, gawking, filming the encounter, doing everything but helping out.
The great black cloud washes over me, infiltrating my nostrils and stinging my eyes. I have to finish this. Taking a deep breath, I find the essential stillness in my centre and bring it out into the world. I connect with the White Light and call it down. The possessed man pauses for a second. I begin my litany.
“Archangel Michael,” I whisper, “I call on you now in this time of need. Protect me and those around me from the forces of evil.”
A blazing blue light burns down from the heavens, clearing away the darkness. An inhuman howl escapes the man’s lips. A glowing yellow poker skewers my ears and brain. I grit my teeth and carry on.
“Free this man from the darkness. Surround the evil being in a bubble of White Light, that it may harm none, and carry it off to be transformed.”
A glowing masculine hand touches the back of the man’s head. I look up and see Archangel Michael with his glowing blue armour and burning sword. A large white bubble grows from Michael’s hand, encapsulating the possessed man’s skull. Michael lifts his hand away, taking the bubble with him. Inside the bubble there is a angry black cloud.
Michael looks at me in the eye.
‘This is only a small part of Reshazak. It’s not over yet.’
I nod. ‘Understood.’
A rectangle of light opens behind him. He steps back, and the portal swallows him and the captured spirit. I blink, and there is no longer any trace of the astral.
The formerly-possessed man goes limp. Gently, I set him on the ground and roll him into the recovery position.
“Hey, are you okay?” a man asks.
I check him out in my peripheral vision. The passers-by have stopped gawking, and now one of them is babbling into her phone.
“Yeah,” I say.
“What happen just now?”
I shrug, clipping my flashlight, still looking away from him.
“Dunno. This guy just started chasing me out of the blue. I tried to run, but he caught up and attacked me.”
“We call the police now. Just rest here, okay?”
Police. Damn it. I still have my knife on me. If they found that, there’d be too many uncomfortable questions. They’d accuse me of carrying a weapon and I wouldn’t have a good answer. In the eyes of the law, that was automatically proof of guilt.
I turn and run.
“Hey, wait! Where you going?”
I don’t look back.
A couple of minutes later, I’m clear of the alleys. Slowing down, I breathe hard through my nose and make my way towards the waterfront.
Fatigue sinks in. The adrenaline dump has passed. My limbs turn rubbery and my eyelids begin to droop. A dull cold ache sinks into my body, and darkness slips across my eyes.
Must have picked up some of the crap from the threat. I flush my aura with White Light and reinforce my shields. It helps, a little. But there is still a lingering, sticky, greasy sensation that clings to my hands and thighs and face. I pat myself down. No blood. But the gunk is still there, and I’d have to wash it off later.
I think about the formerly possessed man I’d fought. Christ, that was a screw-up and then some. The ambush hadn’t worked. More than that, I had to whale into him, pound him, break him. I’d hurt him. Bad. But he wasn’t acting of his own free will. Did he deserve so much punishment?
I sigh. I have to get better at this martial arts stuff. If I have to fight possessed people again, I really didn’t want to break them.
But first, I had to get home. Whipping out my iPhone, I check my map. Closest MRT station was Raffles Place, but the police would check it out later. I’d have to make distance, get far away from the fight, before I could think about faster forms of transport. Just had to…
Motes of bright blue and white light sparkle before my eyes. The passers-by don’t notice them. Archangel Michael is near.
‘Look up,’ Michael says.
I do. Dark energies swirl and gather in the air above me, shredding the clouds to form a black vortex. It’s a portal, bridging this world to wherever the demon came from.
‘You made Reshazak angry,’ the archangel continues. ‘He’s coming for you.’
‘Could you shut down the portal?’
‘Ye, but it won’t keep him out forever.’
‘What should I do? Take the fight to him?’
‘No. He is strongest in his home plane… but comparatively weak here. When he crosses over, finish him.’
‘I’m not exactly fit for combat right now.’
‘Stand and fight. You started this, now you must end it.’
‘I’m going to need help.’
‘Ask, and the Almighty shall provide.’
I draw myself to my full height, and suck in a deep breath.
‘Archangel Michael, we go forth to battle evil. Please help me stay strong and win through. Protect me from harm, and together, we shall restore light and goodness to this world.’
I sense a smile.
‘Very well. To arms, Michael Chang. This night is not yet done.’
The lights vanish. Bitter cold sears into my flesh where I’d touched the man. A curse. And it would give Reshazak a chance to find me.
I just had to be ready.
Opening Whatsapp, I messaged Eleanor.
Need help. Send healing energy and shield up. Rough night ahead.
Her reply is instant.
A soft, gentle warmth descends on me. Her energy. I drink it in and direct it into the corrosive energy, taking off the edge, preventing it from sinking deeper, and cross Cavenagh Bridge. The running water acts as a natural barrier, disrupting any hostile spells or negative spirits still around me. The curse falters, fading into a background ache.
Past the river, I draw my Benchmade Griptilian and hold it by my leg in a reverse grip. Nobody notices.
I need room and privacy for the final showdown. I didn’t know how or where it was going to come for me; I had to pick a spot where I could see possessed humans or other creatures coming for me. A place where I could deploy light and steel without being interrupted.
I head north to Esplanade Park. The streets are deserted. The only people I see are clustered near the solitary bus stop. Their spirit guides watch me as I approach, and shrink away. They do not betray me to their humans and I return the favour.
Darkness crowds the world around me. Living shadows sneak across the ground, latching on to me. My shields hold, but already I feel a chill creeping across my body. I call down the White Light, burning it through, replenishing myself with Eleanor’s donated energy.
Glancing up at the dark whirling mass of malevolence, I send a thought.
‘You’re going to have to do better than that.’
Sinister laughter fills my mind. The vortex flattens into a flat circle of pure darkness, becoming a portal into an alien realm. A realm of near complete darkness, broken by swarms of iridescent lights tearing through the deeps. The lights grow larger, brighter, and race for the mouth of the portal.
And a horde of unclean spirits rains down on me.
For a fresh take on gods and demons, check out my Hugo and Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS.