The Lost Soul

This short story, “The Lost Soul,” originally appeared in Travels into the Breach: Accounts of a Reclusive Mystic. The story introduces Malachi McKellan and his spirit guide Simon Tull, a pair of unconventional detectives who specialize in psychic attacks. Hope you enjoy!!

The Lost Soul

It’s painful, perhaps too painful at times to be alive. In fact, at times he felt drenched in it. Odd how negativity so completely drowns out gentler emotions — love, hope, even joy.

The fear feels like a raging animal filled with pain and madness, desperate to alleviate it, somehow, any way possible.

He breathed in sharply, the emotion clinging acutely somewhere around his spine, specifically the lower back region. The solar plexus was usually where the more primal emotions were housed though he felt it everywhere.

Whoever said emotions weren’t physical, well, was more than mistaken. The intensity of it made him ill.

He walked into the hallway of the apartment building. The ceiling was high, the floor a black and white terrazzo pattern — small blocks — rather nonde­script, the doorways painted white, wooden.

Again, there was a wave of that intense emotion punching into his gut. How could anyone bear to live here?

“Numbness,” his companion commented to him. He glanced next to him, a tall stately, ebony skinned young man dressed in his 19th century English garb. Simon Tull was his sometime companion and his full-time spirit guide. He would see him, normally, when he traveled astrally – whether in dreams or as now on an excursion, an out of body excursion.

He was Malachi McKellan – primarily an esoteric author but from time to time a sort of paranormal investigator. He was in his mid-60s and was feeling more often than not that he was getting too old for this business. “One would have to be pretty numb to ignore this level of emotional disturbance.”

“Most people achieve a cultivated numbness, dismissive of their own feelings, or rather worse attrib­uting them to incorrect sources.”

Another wave of fear hit him acutely right in the middle of his stomach. It was true that if he didn’t understand this intense emotion did not belong to him that it would be extraordinarily disturbing to his peace of mind. He tried to clear his thoughts, separating himself from the unchecked negativity. But it was challenging. The place was thick with the cobwebs of unfiltered emotion. “It’s difficult,” he murmured.

“Yes, of course,” Simon grimaced; continuing to walk beside him but letting Malachi take the lead. Simon never relinquished his role as a mentor, or perhaps more aptly put guide. These exercises, though often disguised to help others, were still his learning ground. Simon’s function was to nudge him, at times strenuously nudge him, in the right direction, and also in the direction of Malachi’s personal evolution.

He stopped near the end of the long hallway staring at a wooden door — one with a bold number eleven painted in black on its white surface. “Still alive?” he asked.

“Unknown,” Simon answered.

And quite jarringly, even for those operating from the astral plane, the door flew open. Malachi stumbled backward a bit at the force of the action. In addition to the jolt of his sudden appearance, the man now before them was perfectly frightening. He was a young man, early twenties, skinny, grizzled, unshaven, eyes wide with terror, face with a nearly yellow pallor. But it was the blood that was so evident, still running from the slashes he’d made on his wrists — some dried, caked on his clothing, but most still fresh dripping out of the wounds.

“Are you the paramedics?” His voice rasped with fear. “I called days ago,” and then he frantically clutched his wounds. “I can’t get it to stop bleeding.”

Malachi took in a breath that felt like a knife of pain in his stomach. No, this one was definitely not alive, and that would make it much more complicated. “How long?” he murmured to Simon.

“About half a century,” he answered softly, clearly not trying to further agitate the monstrously agitated young man.

Good Lord, imagine being trapped in your own psychodrama for half a century.

Two days earlier

“It’s an older building, right on St. Charles Avenue. I’ve no idea how long it’s been there.”

Malachi sipped his blueberry tea. It was purported to be good for his nerves, though at the moment he couldn’t really attest to that. He’d been stuck somewhere deeply in the abyss of writer’s block when Adele Blanchard had dropped by unexpectedly to jar him further off course or perhaps just distract him a bit from his intended purpose.

“And your friend who looked at an apartment there, did she find something somewhere else?”

Adele seemed to perceptively bristle, straightening up in the rattan chair across from him on his screen porch. “Well yes, she found a lovely place off of Henry Clay Avenue, but it’s more than clear something is very wrong in that apartment building.”

He nodded, noting her blueberry tea still remained untouched on the glass coffee table in front of her. “You went there?”

“I was curious.”

He put his mug down and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes for a moment. “You were able to go inside?”

“Yes, I called, told them I wanted to look at the place.”

“To rent for yourself?”

“Well yes Malachi, otherwise —”

“Otherwise they wouldn’t have let you in.” He opened his eyes, feeling a dull throbbing somewhere in the middle of his forehead now.

“There is something very wrong there,” she muttered.

“No doubt, clearly you lost quite a bit of energy.”

“Do you think so?”

He shrugged. “Tell me what you felt.”

“Let’s see. The place was large, two-bedroom, high ceilings but window units. Not so unusual for an older building.”

He could concretely see the place in his mind as she described it. Quite unconsciously, it seemed that she was somewhat adept at transferring visual images. “No Adele, please, how did you feel there?”

“Oh yes of course, well it did feel cold, oddly cold since it was such a warm day outside.”

He could sense within the image the cold spots she’d felt. “What else?”

“I—” and she hesitated, shifting a bit in her seat, “I felt strange as though it was difficult to breathe.”

It was clear that she’d tapped into others’ emotions there — powerful, tangible, negative emotions that translated physically. “You know you really shouldn’t seek these places out.”

“I thought you’d want to know Malachi. You know you’re very gifted with these sorts of things. Maybe you could do something to help there.”

“Not everything can be helped. Sometimes you have to simply let things be what they are,” he commented, perhaps a tad too dryly as he sipped his tea.

She did look a bit stunned, surprisingly as though he’d reached out and slapped her across the face. “But you’ve been given such abilities Malachi. I truly believe you should use them.”

He leaned back in his chair with no comment. How could he possibly explain this to her? Somewhere along the way his optimism and belief that he could fix and help every situation had dissipated. It had evolved into a sort of world-weary acceptance that every soul was involved in its own self-created drama, and yes at times its self-created hell. And the truth was that there was very little on the whole that he could do to make much of a dent in the misery in this world.

“You must understand, Adele, that acceptance is often a vital part of life. People choose their own paths for varied amounts of reasons, not the least of which is learning. We should invariably spend much less time judging what is good or bad but rather accept. We must allow others to go through life their own way, instead of trying to force what we believe should happen upon them.”

She sat up even more straightly, though he had not believed that was possible. Bristling further, yes perhaps that was an apt description here. “Malachi, what are you here to learn yourself, if you don’t even try?”

He sipped his tea because it had cooled off enough to do so, and he sipped his tea because he did not know how to answer her. When should one accept and when should one attempt to be of help? That was the question he had never quite found a proper answer to.

Over the next day and a half Malachi sunk himself into his writing. Through his books, this was a tangible way he could help people, educate them about the spiritual nature of existence. But it was rough going. There was no easy flow to his thoughts, nor any adhesiveness to his concentration. There was an impediment. And though he did not actively seek it out, he knew without question Simon would tell him that this was a message from the spiritual realm. It was telling him that he was ignoring a pressing matter.

So, he took a drive in his sky-blue sedan. It was late May, and the humidity of the summer was already beginning to devour the New Orleans’ landscape. At this point, all he could hope for was a strong thunderstorm to temporarily blot out some of the heat.

It bothered him, or rather Adele bothered him — her optimism, her naïveté so to speak. Perhaps it had begun to overwhelm him, too much pain traveling to places and seeing things with a decidedly unique view that most people would never be conscious of.

He found it necessary to insulate himself from becoming too involved, not unlike a doctor who had to become detached to the suffering of their patients in order, well, not to absolutely drown in it. But how much was too much detachment? Was he slowly losing his humanity? And as Adele had suggested, what indeed was he here to learn?

As he drove past the palatial homes on St. Charles Avenue, he forced himself to put aside all of these cryptic self-reflecting considerations and obtain a clear mind. Such circular distractions could be of no help now.

He slowed his car as he approached the building. Adele had succinctly described its location before leaving. No matter what he’d said, she hadn’t given up on him. He breathed in deeply, focusing on receiving impressions much as a blank slate.

But at least a block and a half before he came to the structure, it made its presence known with a stabbing pain directly in the middle of his forehead. The sensation was not so very unlike someone taking a rather sharp and pointy knitting needle and plunging it directly through the skin on that spot.

And as he actively drove by, it intensified quite decidedly. His breathing became labored, his skin clammy. He was more than sure anyone else experiencing these symptoms might surmise they were having a heart attack or stroke. But Malachi knew differently. He knew the symptoms of a spiritual attack. Nearly as though something had reached outward and struck at him directly.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been down that street, but I’ve never felt this magnitude of negative energy there before.”

“Sometimes these things are cloaked, perhaps mostly confined to the interior of the structure itself.” Simon didn’t always have all the answers, or if he did, he didn’t always disclose them promptly. Malachi had noticed since their earliest association, which had actually been when he was a young teenager that Simon Tull preferred for Malachi to puzzle out his own answers. A good tactic for a spirit guide, he supposed.

“Adele, Adele came into direct contact with the place. I suppose she might have functioned as a kind of conduit or even magnifier for me.”

“Could be,” Simon murmured, pacing in front of the fireplace of the mountainside cottage, actually the cottage that existed somewhere in a deeper level of Malachi’s consciousness. It was a place where he and Simon would extensively hash out some of his dilemmas. And always here it seemed to be perpetual November, something that suited him quite well. “That is possible. Adele Blanchard is quite a sensitive, untapped as that may be.”

Well he did agree with Simon on that count. Although she liked to assume the façade of a bit of an eccentric, she did have an uncanny way of getting to the heart of the matter. “She was adamant about that place. That something was very problematic there.”

Simon had stopped his pacing and was eyeing him curiously. “And you resisted her prodding?”

“Yes, I suppose I did. New Orleans is filled with all manner of psychic activities, divergent energies, problem spots if you will. How in the world does one know when to step in, and when to leave well enough alone?”

Simon leaned back against the redwood mantle of the fireplace, seemingly lost in thought. “Well I can tell you my friend it isn’t an analytical decision. At times, you must act because there will be no peace within you if you do not.”

When Malachi was nine, nearing ten as he recalled, though granted the recollection was not as crisp and jarring as it had been when he was younger, he and his family vacationed in a charming sort of beach house along the coast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. His father’s work, consulting on engineering projects, actually had the small family rather mobile in those days. For him, it meant roots that were transferable, certainly not firmly grounded and a younger sister as his one true friend.

But this summer had promised to relieve them all of some of the vexation and turmoil of their transient lifestyle. At least, that was the hope.

Cosmetically, and from old family photos that he’d acquired upon his mother’s death, he recalled the house as being quite lovely. Just a half dozen yards from the beach proper, white wood, spacious rooms, a long screen porch at the front, and a winding stairwell leading to the second-floor bedrooms.

Of course, even at nine, though he was not yet under the tutelage of his good and faithful mentor, one Simon Tull, Malachi had a radar for unusual phenomena. Even before he crossed the threshold of the house, he knew that something was wrong.

And on the third night of the occupation of their new residence, Malachi found out in particular what it was.

He kept his window open at night, allowing the sea breeze to fill his room. The white sheers fluttered as the illumination from the moon gave a tinge of variation to the darkened room.

Perhaps he’d been dreaming, but he awoke to the sound of rustling, movement.

It startled him, the figure standing at the window. He was only nine, but then reason stepped in. Perhaps it was his mother or sister. But no, his sister was not of a taller stature than him and his mother, while a lovely woman, was well into her late thirties. This young lady in the long white nightgown was also not a blond. Her hair was long and dark, dark like the shadows covering her.

His heart was pounding with fear as his analytical side concluded that this indeed was an intruder. “What do you want?” He called out in the steadiest voice he could pull out of his nine-year-old arsenal.

It was moments before he was acknowledged, but she did slowly turn toward him. Granted, the light was dim but even, so he marked the extreme pallor of her skin, not so different from the color of her nightgown, nor the long rope hanging loosely around her neck. It was a noose.

But even with the ugly swollen welts around her throat the most horrible thing was her eyes. They were so wide, so terror filled that he could feel her horror, her fear hitting him tangibly in the gut. He was a boy, not given to panic, but he was more than sure he screamed.

Of course, when all was said and done, his rescuers, his parents, attributed the episode to a bad dream. But he knew without question that it had not been.

“Suicides are a difficult lot,” Simon had pronounced rather emphatically some years later. “Unfortunately, of course depending on the mitigating circumstances, they often bear the fate of a murderer.”

Malachi did remember being somewhat befuddled at that proclamation. “That sounds a bit harsh.”

“From a certain point of view by killing our body, we are murdering ourselves. Do we have the right to destroy the physical vessel that houses the spirit, any more than another has the right to destroy that vessel?”

“Yes, within suicide we are only causing harm to ourselves. And I’d imagine someone who does it is just looking for an escape from pain,” Malachi argued.

“Pain perhaps their spirit has chosen to learn from.”

“All in all, it still seems a bit harsh.”

“Well judge it as you may my friend. It does, however, hurl the one who does it into a rather protracted period of chaos, a fugue if you will. That can last for some time, until they can acknowledge and take responsibility for what they’ve done. Only then can healing begin. That young woman you saw had been trapped in her own psychodrama for over a hundred years in your estimation of time.”

“My estimation of time?”

“Another discussion Malachi, but the truth is that in attempting to escape pain a suicide actually only inflicts more pain on themselves, self-created as it is.”

Malachi took in the pitiful creature before him, feeling a curious case of déjà vu. He had all the hallmarks of a suicide trapped between realities that had been quite unconsciously haunting this old apartment building for some time. But nonetheless something about this just didn’t quite sit right with him.

He turned to Simon. “He can’t be responsible for all the negative energy in this place.”

Simon shrugged a bit expressionless. “Doubtful that he could be, more of a symptom I’d imagine — though no doubt he has fed into the overall complexity of the situation.”

He turned back to the fellow in question who seemed to be eyeing both he and Simon with growing agitation. “Yes, of course we called,” he tried to say as pleasantly as he could manage. “But you really need to calm yourself.”

His eyes widened in undeniable terror. “Look at my arms,” he said holding them out in front of him. “They won’t stop bleeding. No matter what I do, they just won’t stop.”

“Yes, perhaps you just need a bit of a rest.” He glanced inside the apartment becoming aware of a rather pungent smell emanating from the interior. “What did you say your name is again friend?” he asked.

The poor unfortunate glanced to Simon then back to him suspiciously. “My name? Why do you need my name?”

“Don’t push,” Simon murmured.

He was right. Malachi could feel it acutely — the sheer horror and panic emanating from this lost soul — something that he found oddly disproportionate, because clearly it wasn’t all self- generated. Something or someone wanted to keep this one in a perpetual heightened state of anxiety. But why?

“Draining,” Simon answered as though Malachi had spoken his thoughts aloud, but then again it was true in this astral state that thoughts were more permeable, more accessible than normal. “Such a height­ened level of upset makes energy draining much more easily accomplished.”

Of course, that was true, and in the psychic or dare he say spiritual realm, energy was a commodity much sought after. It was more precious than gold to those who understood its real power — the life force: a force that under the right conditions could be stolen from unsuspecting victims.

“So, he is not the source,” Malachi concluded. The young man was glaring at both of them wide-eyed and utterly panicked, responding as though what they were saying was complete gibberish. And he supposed, considering his realm of experience that their conversa­tion probably was.

“No, as I said a symptom or if you’d rather a victim.”

Malachi stepped back from this pitiful individual trying to obtain enough distance so that he could focus again on his surroundings. “There isn’t a great deal that can be drained from an individual such as this caught between existences. Most of his energy is gone.”

“Yes,” Simon standing beside him again. “Unless, he can be used as a tool, help create an atmosphere of anxiety in this place.”

“To help facilitate the draining of the living,” he finished Simon’s thought. “But if he’s been here over fifty years, what exactly is forcing him to stay.”

“Something else,” Simon murmured. “Something confusing him, suppressing him, using him for its own ends.”

Hearing is an odd thing in the astral realm. Sometimes it functions like a thought in one’s mind, and sometimes it is something quite physical akin to the sensation in the physical world. Malachi was more than certain that in that moment he heard a heavy foot fall behind them.

Fifty-two years ago

“Your sister is in trouble.”

He frowned. He was thirteen and heavily enmeshed in a new science fiction release. And at that point he hadn’t really decided whether or not Simon Tull was real or just a figment of his overactive imagination.

But there he stood, big as life, in the middle of his bedroom, two o’clock in the morning while Malachi lie huddled in his bed holding a flashlight reading his new book. Perhaps he wasn’t really reading. Perhaps Simon Tull was part of a dream within which Malachi was reading his book, though quite honestly that seemed a little thin.

So, he put down the paper back and quite dryly commented, “Am I my sister’s keeper?”

The tall dark fellow glared at him a bit. “Are you daft lad? To sit up on your high horse and quote the Bible at me as if you even understand what it means.”

He shrunk a bit beneath the covers. The stern British tone disturbed him. “I don’t know what you expect me to do.”

“I expect you to help young man. You’re very gifted, and I expect you not to just sit on all that talent and piss it away.”

He sat up in the bed though feeling a bit of outrage making the hairs rise on the back of his neck. “I’m only thirteen. What do you expect you ridiculous ghost?”

And then his face broke into a wide smile. “That’s better. Now get out of your bed, and let’s see about your sister.”

He was dressed in a t-shirt and pajama pants with no socks, of which he was acutely aware as his bare feet hit the cool wooden floor. “What’s wrong with her anyway?” He didn’t actually care for his sister just now at this stage of their lives. She was a pest, a pesky ten-year-old who always wanted to be in his business. She hadn’t always been that way. His mother claimed it was a phase, a phase that in his estimation was going on entirely too long.

“Come with me,” the tall lanky, fellow com­manded. He’d actually talked to him only maybe one or two times before, but he was always dressed the same, that old-fashioned gray tweed suit. Awfully dressy for Malachi’s boyhood bedroom he thought.

Evangeline or Evie as was her nickname slept across the hall, door always opened because she was afraid of the dark. Simon Tull stopped short before they entered the room putting his hand out in front of Malachi. “Now lad, you might find this a bit upsetting at first. Keep your wits about you. That’s the only way you’ll be of any use to Evangeline.”

He yawned, wishing now he could just return to his bed. “Fine,” he muttered.

Simon Tull stepped back allowing Malachi to enter first. But he didn’t get far. In fact, he didn’t get much more than two feet in the room.

Evangeline was there, seemingly asleep in her white metal daybed. The shocking thing, though, was that she wasn’t alone. There was something with her, bent over her, something dark, darkish green and moist. It seemed humanoid in some respects but with abnormally long slimy wet arms and scaly skin. It moved or slithered a bit over her, then pulled its misshapen head up and turned to them. He didn’t know if it had eyes. All he could see was a round hole where a mouth should be and long silvery teeth.

“It’s a monster,” he choked out.

“Calm down Malachi. You won’t be of any use so upset.”

“What’s it doing to her?”

“Draining energy, I’d imagine. Most children have a natural immunity to that sort of thing, but there is something about Evangeline that makes her vulnera­ble.”

Its arms sort of unwound and slithered over his sister, almost as though it were making some sort of claim. “Why is it so hideous?”

“I think it’s the only way your mind can translate it to your brain. It’s a low one, a sub parasite sort of creature. Looks like a monster to you because it lives on such a base plane of existence.”

“What does it want?”

“What we all want deep down to have a better life, to evolve, acknowledged or not. It feels that if it can absorb Evangeline’s pure energy it will gain strength, feel better.”

“You said she’s vulnerable.”

“She’s an empath. A pension for psychic abilities seems to run in your family. It must have approached her as something else — perhaps.”

“An imaginary friend,” Malachi completed the thought dubiously. She had rattled on and on about her imaginary friend. What was it? A koala or panda? Much to his chagrin, he couldn’t recall.

“Yes, yes and she’s a lonely little girl, happy for company.”

“But this thing?”

“Well she doesn’t see it as you do.”

“So, monsters are real then?”

Simon Tull shrugged a bit. “There are all kinds of monsters in the world Malachi. But what’s clear is that we need to get rid of it, before it makes her too weak and open to all sorts of other attacks.”

“How do we do that?”

He smiled rather warmly given their situation. “That’s where you come in.”

Malachi stood quietly within the halls of the Napoleon Apartment complex on St. Charles Avenue. It was difficult to think here, difficult to center himself as he was overcome with waves of disturbing concentra­tions of low frequency emotions. Fear was paramount, anxiety of all sorts, panic, paranoia, and anger — fierce strands of anger always the stalwart companion of fear.

“Focus Malachi,” Simon’s voice from now or perhaps long ago. “Fill yourself with calm, with peace, with love for your sister.”

He remembered it from the past. “The feeders don’t know what to do with those emotions. It confounds them, then it terrifies them.”

He heard the movement behind him — the rustling. “Can you see it yet?” Malachi asked.

“Yes,” Simon said quite solemnly. “This one has grown strong here — feeding for so long.”

“What can I do against that?”

“It thrives on fear young Master McKellan, on all the base emotions. Even its appearance to you inspires this. So, you cannot give it what it wants, instead give it what it does not want.”

Slowly, he opened his eyes. It was in front of him now, moving, rasping as it moved. It had a huge misshapen head, long twisted arms not unlike mangled and brittle tree branches. The eyes were red, a glowing indication of its energy frequency, and the skin the palest white. There were clothes as well; tattered torn clothing suggesting that it had attempted to emulate human wardrobe. Is that what it aspired to, evolving to their level?

There were beings in the world who masqueraded as people, usually existing on the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder. Base creatures still functioning largely as parasites, bent on exploiting what is worst in the human condition. Perhaps in all its energy accumulation that was its ultimate goal.

“Possibly,” Simon muttered, acknowledging Malachi’s thoughts in his clipped British accent. “This whole place has functioned as a power charging station for this thing for decades.”

It moved or slithered perhaps was the proper description. “I don’t think it likes me,” he remarked. His skin felt hot. It wanted a way in, but his determination and focus were resisting it.

“We need to kick it out,” Simon said rather placidly.

“How do we get rid of it?” He said a bit breathlessly. That’s what it felt like being near the creature. That he was wholly out of breath.

“Be calm Malachi. Do not be afraid of what you see. It’s much more afraid of you, than you are of it.”

“How can that be?” asking a bit in disbelief.

“Because it feels your strength, the positive energy of your character, your energy, that is death to it.”

“I’m not that positive.”

“Do you want to hurt anyone?”

“No, of course not.”

“Do you wish to help people?”

“Yes, that’s what is right.”

“Do you want to help your sister?”

He focused on her, seeing her toss and turn in her sleep and seeing that thing near her. “Yes, of course I do.”

“Then use all your concentration Malachi and surround her in white light, a protective cocoon that this thing cannot breach.”

He stood there concentrating, reaching deeply into his imagination. There is a power in creativity. He remembered that from somewhere.

He could see the light all around Evie now like a white glistening bubble surrounding her. He could feel peace, love, and a calmness that he could not remember truly ever tapping into before.

This will be your life — the voices whispered to him. You will help others and battle what seeks to attack.

It rasped and moved as though it had been hit by something. “That’s good Malachi. It drains through the eyes.”

He zeroed in on the glowing red eyes, targeting and sending forth a pure belt of energy. It tumbled backward slithering.

“It’s strong, and it’s been here too long. Remove its focus.”

The frightened figure was crouching down a bit near his doorway, but whether or not he could actually see the thing was unknown. Malachi reached out for a name. “Henry,” he called out. “It’s time to move on.”

He felt the initial rush of Henry’s fear but tried to steady it with his own energy. “Come Henry, it’s time to end the pain you’ve been living in and move on where there is help for you.”

“No, no, I can’t leave. It’s not safe.”

The thing rasped in anger, but Malachi ignored it. “Henry, you aren’t safe here,” he said as compassionately as he could muster. There had been many times during his life, when he’d been called upon to help a spirit cross over who had lost their way. It was essential to be firm but comforting with them. They must feel your resolve but not be too afraid of you to trust. “Henry, you are being used, used to hurt others. Calm yourself and feel the truth in my words.” He projected a powerful shower of energy in Henry’s direction. He tried to help him sort past the fear that paralyzed him in order to hear the truth.

“I — I can’t.”

“Henry, they’re waiting for you, the ones who love you.” He could feel them just beyond the veil, just into the light. There was now the passageway to them opening in that dusky hallway where they all stood. They had tried for so long to reach out to him, but all their efforts had been muffled by the hunger of the thing still rasping behind them.

Henry rushed toward him. That was the key. He felt the tiny flower of hope in him. “My mother.”

“Yes Henry, she wants to see you again, but you must go to her.”

He stopped in front of Malachi. Beside him the thing writhed, reaching out its gnarled limbs toward Henry. Once it made contact, Henry flinched but didn’t seem to see it.

“I can’t,” he muttered again, his energy being tapped by the beast. Malachi focused his energy toward it again, and it rasped painfully, breaking the contact. “You must. You cannot stay here any longer. It isn’t safe.”

“I don’t know.”

Malachi could feel his confusion. He’d been trapped here for so long, literally preyed on until he had so little will of his own left. “Henry, she needs you.” He had to try to reach him. He looked up confused. “Your mother needs you. Won’t you go to her and help her?”

Henry looked around with an alertness in his eyes that Malachi hadn’t seen before.

“Behind us,” Simon said.

Malachi turned as he saw the tunnel of white beginning to open. He had to push his advantage. “Can’t you hear her now Henry?”

The tall gaunt man shuffled closer, and Malachi stepped back so he could see the tunnel. “That’s where she is,” he compelled. “Henry, you must go quickly.” But he was wavering, Henry glanced around with confusion. The thing made a sudden lurch toward him, but Simon jumped between them intercepting the contact.

“Go Henry. Run. She needs you.”

The lost soul hesitated but only for a moment. Then, with an unexpected sprint that Malachi was amazed he even had within the emaciated body, he leapt toward the tunnel that seemed to immediately seal itself behind him.

“Good,” Simon said breathing deeply with marked fatigue. “That will make this much easier.”

“What do I do?” He whispered, literally shaken to the core for the first time he could really remember in his thirteen years on this earth.

“Focus, envelope Evie in the white light, restore the natural barrier that she should have to this kind of attack.”

He tried. He focused with everything he had in him. His imagination was strong. It had always been that way, but it undeniably felt different this time. It pooled into a place of visualization where he could literally feel power in the form of energy flowing out of him. The thing moved, glided perhaps around the outer perimeter of the bubble he’d placed around his sister. It was trying to reestablish contact but seemingly unable to puncture the protection he’d placed around her. “Now strengthen it,” Simon Tull’s voice was calm but exacting.

He focused strength into the bubble and almost instantly the creature reacted — howling in some disturbing, indistinctive voice. Malachi could see liquid oozing out of it, ugly black seepage as though it had been wounded.

“What now?” He yelled to Simon because everything felt louder, as though a powerful storm was whipping around them all.

“Holdfast boy, continue,” he commanded.

He focused, focused acutely until his head ached, his body stiffened with discomfort, and his vision began to spin. But he held on with the determination born of his innate stubbornness. He wasn’t one to give way. It wasn’t in his nature.

The thing continued to ooze in more places and twist in horrible unnatural contortions. “Good Malachi,” he heard Simon’s voice but couldn’t see him. The storm was too loud. All he could see was the thing twisting and howling and Evie thrashing about in her frilly rose-colored nightgown as though she were trapped in some horrific nightmare.

He knew that he had to end this. His knees were trembling violently, and he wouldn’t last much longer.

Malachi focused one last ditch effort and sent every ounce of strength that he had left into the white bubble around his sister.

It landed powerfully, something like a mad surge of electricity. He saw the thing fling back violently against the far wall of the bedroom. It hit like an explosion, then broke into pieces with a fierce pop before it dispersed into a shimmery black dust that dissipated in the air.

He was breathing heavily, feeling as though he couldn’t get any air. “Did we kill it?” He rasped to Simon who was now standing to the right of him.

“Nothing ever really dies,” he said a bit solemnly. “But it’s changed into something else, perhaps a bit less virulent. I don’t see it returning.”

Malachi wanted to cheer, claim some sort of victory, but instead the shakiness overtook him as he sunk to his knees. “What’s wrong with me?” he murmured, feeling the peculiar pressure of Simon’s hand on his shoulder, given that he believed he was a ghost.

“You’re dangerously low on energy now Malachi. You must rest. You saved your sister my boy, be happy.”

It moved and rasped in confusion in the hallway. “Henry was its conduit, its bridge to draining the living here. Now it’s disconnected from its energy source.”

Malachi nodded. He could feel that. Simon’s words were accurate. But he could also feel that the thing was very old, and it would be difficult to dislodge it from its current residence. “If we leave it here, will it simply diminish over time?” Malachi asked.

“Hard to say,” Simon said grimly. “I don’t think we’re equipped as of now to drive it off. It’s too entrenched.”

Malachi felt a heaviness inside his heart. It bothered him to acquiesce to the reality that some things were beyond him. Some things he couldn’t resolve neatly. “I suppose we could do damage control. Keep an eye from time to time to make sure that it’s not exploiting some other lost soul as it did to Henry.”

“Yes, I suppose,” Simon said dryly. “Better if the place could be leveled in the earth and scorched.”

Malachi laughed a bit, “Yes, in a perfect world my friend, in a perfect world.”

Copyright © 2018 by Evelyn Klebert

First appeared in Travels into the Breach: Accounts of a Reclusive Mystic

At first glance, his life seems quiet, serene, and even uneventful. Malachi McKellan, a 65 five year old widower and author of esoteric books, lives largely as a recluse in a house situated just off the banks of Bayou St. John in New Orleans. But unbeknownst to most, he is also a bit of a detective, a specific kind of detective whose specialty is psychic attacks. Alongside his lifelong companion and spirit guide Simon Tull, a nineteenth century, twenty something English gent, Malachi battles the unseen, and is an unacknowledged hero to the most vulnerable – most of the population who have no idea what is really happening beneath the surface of the world in which they live.

In this collection of adventures, Malachi McKellan and Simon Tull wage war against the most insidious elements of the paranormal. In “The Three,” Malachi and Simon come to the aid of a young woman being victimized by a group of dark witches. An old apartment building is the scene of an unimaginable battle against monstrous forces in “The Lost Soul.” Malachi and Simon find themselves strategizing against a psychic vampire in “Obsession,” and “The Hotel” turns back time to the 1980’s where Malachi confronts a demonic spirit. In “Between,” a past life is revisited as Malachi attempts to rescue a beloved sister from committing her existence to vengeance, and “The Wedding” takes a personal turn when Malachi must confront painful truths while endeavoring to protect his niece from a potentially devastating union.

Travel into the Breach with a pair of paranormal warriors who choose to confront overwhelming forces on a battlefield unsuspected by most.

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