The coffeehouse buzzed with people. Sweet and dark drinks were shared and Jack’s hand was fading away like mist in the morning sun. He’d been feeling strange at lunchtime but it had been so long since he had experienced the calling that at first he’d put it down to something he had eaten the night before.
All the signs were there however: the quickening pulse, a sense of tension in the air that manifested as a mild headache, an itch deep within his ears and somewhere a faint hint of expectation.
“Here you go sir, one caramel latte with extra chocolate sprinkles.”
Jack smiled at the waitress, hiding the stump of his left arm under the table, taking the coffee in his right hand.
“Thank you” he said, doing his best to appear casual. She smiled back and was away to the next customer. Jack felt a slight tingling in his toes. His feet would be the next part to go. This would make leaving problematic.
He considered his options: rush for the exit and get somewhere secluded before he fell over, or wait it out and hope that nobody looked too closely at him in the interim. Jack opted to finish his coffee quickly and go. He sipped at the hot liquid, enjoying the energetic sounds of the coffeehouse.
Jack’s socks slid into his empty shoes with a little sigh. He’d have to wait after all.
“Bloody traditionalists,” he muttered, hoping the people calling knew enough to see it through to the finish; it’d only been a problem once and that had left him with memories he wished he didn’t own.
Twenty minutes later and an abandoned cup sat alone at the table.
“Oh, you have come! Praise be to you!” The woman’s voice was shrill and Jack found it grated in his ear.
He was standing in a candlelit room that smelt of something rotten. Jack’s mouth curled downwards, he was naked. It never used to bother him, but standing here in some woman’s lounge without any clothes made him feel ridiculous.
“What do you want?” he asked peevishly.
“Oh Dread Lord, you have come to me. I have called in the old ways. See, the lamb’s blood is spilled! I have whispered your secret names into its dying ear and now you have appeared. I bow before your Dark Majesty.”
Jack closed his eyes. He’d thought he’d seen the last of this a thousand years ago. “I had believed myself forgotten.”
“Oh no Lord, not by me,” she answered proudly. “It was my great grandmother, she said that our family preserved the old ways and she taught me when I was a little girl.”
This was going to be a major headache. He decided to get on with it. “What do you want?”
In answer, the woman produced a large, wooden handled kitchen knife. A name had been scratched into the side of the blade.
“I have been wronged! And now I demand vengeance!”
As she offered the handle towards him, Jack felt an old longing stir deep inside. His fingers twitched eagerly, hungry to begin. Not a good sign, he reflected. “So…”
“…Brenda…” She finished for him.
“… Why do you want vengeance?”
Brenda looked surprised at the question, “Well Lord, my enemy is a horrible twisted woman, her cat leaves its waste on my flowerbeds and even though I have complained many times, she does nothing about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she encourages the fat beast to do it.”
Jack’s eyebrow arched, “Her cat poo’s in your garden and you want her dead?”
“Not just that,” she answered quickly, “she borrows my things and doesn’t give them back, and even if she does, eventually, they smell awful and I have to give them away anyway.”
The eyebrow remained high.
“And she has piggy eyes oh Dark One – and at night I hear her snoring through the wall like an asthmatic walrus!”
“You can’t be serious.”
“But I am! I have made the sacrifice, and you are here, your hands robed in shadow, your feet in silence and now you must take the blade made to rid her from this world. I beg you, take it.”
Shit, thought Jack, she had him by the balls. “Where is your great grandmother now?”
“Oh she died long ago.”
“And only you have stayed faithful, all this time?”
She blushed. “Yes, just me Lord. But after tonight, I’ll teach others to whisper your name again, I promise.”
She held out the knife to him in trembling hands. He took it.
Brenda’s eyes gleamed in the candlelight. “Oh praise be to you Dread One!”
“Really?” He replied harshly, “Don’t you think I have anything better to do! Bloody hell, why do you think we left in the first place? It was because we got fed up with all this. Do you think I like killing people? I actually happen to quite like people.”
Brenda’s bottom lip began to wobble, “But why are you angry Lord, I did everything right.”
“Yes you did but I’d rather you hadn’t done it at all, and it’s why I’m going to have to kill you.”
“Me?” Her eyes widened in shock. “No, please oh Dark Master, I didn’t know you wanted to be left alone; I’ll never breathe a word to another soul I swear.”
Jack laughed bitterly, “Oh I’ve heard that one before! How do you think the knowledge got to you? You’ll tell somebody at some point and then, maybe not this generation, maybe not for another ten but at some point somebody will think it’s a good idea to use me as their personal attack dog. No more. This time I’m tying up all the loose ends.” He raised the knife in his unseen hand.
“Is that what I am to you Lord,” she asked, hysteria creeping into her voice, “a loose end?”
The knife flashed. “No Brenda, not anymore.”