The heavy oak door slowly creaked open to reveal the man standing in the percussively pouring rain, the only noise in the otherwise tranquil night. The man, tall and somewhat portly, with weather-beaten skin and a silver halo of hair encircling a smooth scalp freely exposed to the expansive consciousness of the universe, cleared his throat. “I’m here for the…uh…exorcism,” he said.
The gaunt figure inside the doorway pursed his lips, narrowing his eyes on this seemingly average man. He stood back to give the man entry. “Mr. Braithwaite, isn’t it?”
“You can call me Roy,” the man replied, and he collapsed his ragged umbrella as he walked in. “Are you the one who called me?”
“Mr. Nevermore,” the host introduced himself, but did not extend a hand in welcome, nor offer to take
’s drenched jacket. He simply turned and led Roy up a grand flight of stairs to the second floor of the mansion. Roy
“If I may be frank,”
said, “I’m surprised you requested me for this…occasion. Normally exorcisms are performed by—” Roy
Mr. Nevermore tensely sucked in air through his teeth. He did not stop walking, but turned his head to look at
over his hunched shoulder. “I am aware that you are not a priest. This possession is unlike that of the standard variety.” Roy
“You will see.”
The two walked down a dimly lit corridor, the walls lined with portraits of unsmiling people shrouded in Edwardian dress and mystery.
assessed the paintings, appreciating their simple, antiquated beauty, although already he was thinking of ways he could have helped guide the amateur painter to help bring out the artistic exuberance that was clearly being held back in these subdued commissions. That was what Roy did, after all, as a mentor at the artists’ colony, aptly if not pretentiously named Inspirescape. He had been culturing the seeds of imagination and passion in young potential artists for years, many which would blossom into vibrant dream-weavers, and a few that would wither under the competition and fade away like photographs exposed to too much sunlight. Roy
Mr. Nevermore stopped outside a bedroom door, placing a hand on the doorknob but not turning it yet. “Perhaps I should prepare you by telling you that what you are about to see might be a bit disorienting at first. Or perhaps you are used to this sort of…” The master of the house slid his teeth over his tongue, as if the next word had a bitter taste to it. “Creativity.”
When Mr. Nevermore opened the door,
’s eyes widened in astonishment and bewilderment. The entire room before him was a living, breathing oil painting, a metaphysical garden of animal-like flora and otherworldly creatures from the deepest depths of the subconscious. Everything was augmented with dazzling dreamlike colors and surreal shapes and constantly shifting brushstrokes, as if an invisible painter’s hand was continually adding more and more to this masterpiece. Roy
“It is astounding,”
“Astoundingly horrid,” Mr. Nevermore said curtly. “And it is putting my dear niece in much turmoil. All of this…this…” He gestured towards the whole span of the room. “The physical medium creating this mess is my niece herself. She is being twisted and pulled apart with every new eyesore that pops into existence. Do you know what it feels like to be shredded hours upon hours so some parasite can make this abominable art show?”
“This…style…seems familiar,” he though aloud.
Mr. Nevermore glowered at him. “Does it, now? I thought as much. This is why I requested you. I assumed, since you are from the art colony and you deal with students who take on projects too ambitious for their puny minds, that this might be one of yours?”
The art mentor puzzled over this for a while. The heavy use of crimson and violet…the reoccurring theme of dark blue splatters…but it was when he saw a blurry image prowling in the corner, that of a yellow chameleon wearing a black-and-purple Venetian mask, that it clicked for him. One of his students commonly put this enigmatic creature into her artwork, as she said it was her “transformative totem,” her animal guide to unleashing her creative prowess.
Oh God, not Paulina again.
“Forgive nothing!” Mr. Nevermore was livid, quite a turn from the placid demeanor he had presented until now. “Just get that beast out of my niece, immediately!”
understood Paulina well enough after the two years of mentoring her, so enticing her out of Mr. Nevermore’s niece should be moderately easy. Paulina adored Roy—one of those harmless crushes that naive students sometimes developed towards a mentor who gives them too much attention—so she had shared a few basic, borderline-personal secrets with him. In this case, Roy chose to utilize the not-so-secret fact that Paulina was addicted to pear flavored jelly beans. These candies tended to calm her feverish tantrums most of the time, so Roy had gotten in the habit of carrying them on his person wherever he went. Roy
He took the small paper bag of jelly beans out of his pocket, pouring a few into his hand. “Paulina, you have to come out of Miss Nevermore. You’re hurting her, and you can’t use other people against their will to make art. Come out, have a few jelly beans with me, and we’ll go home and talk about this.”
At first, nothing seemed to change. Then
noticed that the chameleon with the mask was staring at him fixedly, flicking its tail. Of course, Paulina would hide herself inside of her totem animal. Roy
addressed the chameleon, “I know you’re in there. I’ll let you have the whole bag of beans if you come out right now.” Roy
The chameleon tentatively crept along the wall until it was positioned right next to
’s shoulder. It lashed out its tongue in an attempt to snatch up the bag of jelly beans, but Roy knew her tricks well enough and darted to the side. “No, none of that. Just come out, this is the last time I’m asking. You realize you could be kicked out of the colony for this. It’s against the rules to impose your talents onto others without their consent.” Roy
The chameleon frowned. “That rule in only enforced inside the colony.”
“It applies anywhere,”
The reptilian Paulina hung her head. “Don’t you even like what I’ve painted? It’s much prettier than how she normally looks.”
That did it. The chameleon instantly recoiled at
’s impending anger, and it crawled down onto the floor and sat. Everything in the room started peeling away, like centuries-old wallpaper, curling backwards and flaking away until all the brilliantly colored whimsy dissipated, returning the room to its original stark state. There was Mr. Nevermore’s niece, lying on the floor, sobbing dramatically while trying to take in deep breaths to recover. She was a grotesque-looking thing, something like a bloated crocodile with a gluttonous woman’s face, her four arms and six legs like overstuffed bratwurst, and curled tusks that protruded from her rhinoceros lips. Roy
The chameleon’s façade dissolved away to reveal a petite woman of fifteen years, a startling contrast to the niece that she had been controlling. Paulina was plain with hints of prettiness, with long teal-streaked hair framing a round face, and her slight build huddled beneath a smock shirt and jeans too baggy for her. She stared up at
with her chocolate brown puppy-dog eyes. Roy
“There we go, much better.”
smiled, reaching down and helping Paulina up onto her feet. He turned and looked at Mr. Nevermore. “Once again, I apologize on my student’s behalf. I promise it won’t happen again.” Roy
Mr. Nevermore scratched his head, the spot right between the two spiraling impala horns poking up from his scaly scalp. He snarled his two rows of jagged brown teeth, and his blood-scarlet eyes narrowed into splinter-thin slits. “Mr. Braithwaite, we demons came to this house over a century ago to be left alone, so we don’t have to deal with you pitiful humans anymore. But you obnoxious artists, coming along with your imagination and your vivacious souls, and tormenting us poor devils! When we possess you humans, we at least have the dignity to keep you intact, not spattering you all over the room in a rainbow-vomit mess! Make sure that little brat never comes here again, or I’ll devour the flesh off of both of you!”
escorted Paulina out of the mansion, both of them huddling under his umbrella as they walked across the street to his car, Roy couldn’t help but grin a little. He didn’t take Mr. Nevermore’s threat very seriously, given that the demons were more terrified of artists than the other way around. Plus, it was about time the demons saw things from the other side of the mirror—possessions were unpleasant experiences, and maybe the Nevermore clan would think twice before ever considering initiating a possession themselves, ever again. Roy