A Gift, A Curse
As Zoe Lestrade grew older, she also grew to ignore the things around her. They weren’t people, she realized that. They were lost spirits connected to Earth or dark forces from Hell- she didn’t know what was worse. These spirits were always coming to her for help or for entertainment. It was annoying, mostly because she grew up to hate human interaction because of them.
Most of her friends were ghosts or dark fairies, if they could be called friends. According to theory, fairies are either: earthbound unbaptized souls, guardians of the souls of the dead, ghosts of venerated ancestors, fallen angels condemned to remain on earth or nature spirits. Fairies are said to have magical powers and consort with witches and other humans with supernatural powers. But what Zoe has wouldn’t exactly be labeled as a power but more of an ability that she developed as time passed by.
The dark fairies were these little spirits of what Zoe wanted to believe where unbaptized souls who preferred to follow their own rules. They were very common on Earth. People called them bad luck, but they were just a bunch of mischievous little bastards who love to mess with humans—especially her.
It was quite strange to be able to verify if one was paranoid or he was really watched by something evil. Zoe would have preferred to live in ignorance just like normal people but she could affirm if something was following her around-and there was a lot. If in the beginning Zoe could only see souls of recently departed, as she grew up, fairies got closer and closer to until they decided they should just stick to her side.
Her parents never really understood the difference between common imaginary friends and her imaginary friends. When she became a teenager, it was weird to have something so childish surrounding her. But Zoe never isolated herself and therefore blended in with the other students through high school.
The bad times began after she became an adult.
“You want to move alone? But aren’t you happy here with us? You have everything you need.”
Her mother was overprotective. Besides, she was a little sceptical in letting her weird daughter venture into the big bad world.
“I’ll be fine, Mom. I just need a place of my own.” Her mother didn’t seem convinced, “I’m 24 already. Don’t you think it’s time?”
Her father walked behind her mother and wrapped a hand around her waist.
“I think you’re right. You’re old enough to start your own life. You already have a job and a diploma. All you need is freedom.”
Zoe smiled gratefully. Her father had always been on her side. Even when she had her episodes, he was always against therapy and special schools. He had always trusted her.
It took another three hours until Mrs. Lestrade gave up. Zoe was so happy that she started to pack right away. Of course, not everything went well with her choice.
On the day she moved to her new apartment, ghosts barged in as if it was a party. They made a lot of noise and the neighbours weren’t happy at all.
“Please leave,” she mumbled, sitting at her desk with her laptop open.
Zoe was trying her best to ignore the party in the living room and concentrate on work. She had been writing and drawing ever since she entered university so it had been a while now -- three years to be precise.
The noise got louder and a slight breeze closed the door to her room.
“They are suspiciously joyful for such dark creatures,” she mumbled, aware that someone was standing behind her.
“That’s because you let them,” the voice of a young man started, his energy becoming more prominent as he walked closer to her. “You can’t fight them anyway. They are drawn to you,” he continued.
That was part of her day to day life; scolding and judgmental opinions that weren’t needed but were coming anyway. Zoe got used to them since she had been followed by familiars for as long as she could remember.
Actually, anything could be a familiar, from mice to low ranking fairies. According to English witchcraft handbooks of the early seventeenth century, the name was given to spirits attendant upon witches and magicians. It is said that the familiar, in the shape of a small domestic animals, was given to the witch by the Devil as companion, helper and adviser, which could be used to perform malicious errands. However, Zoe doubted that last part because in her 24 years of life, the familiars she met did nothing but play with the human imagination.
The noise got louder again, and Zoe was forced to save her work and turn towards the door helplessly.
“You should use a spell or two to make them leave,” the ghost started, the wood cracking under his feet despite him being energy and not material.
A sudden knock made the whole apartment freeze and Zoe’s breath hitched. She had to walk through the mess that was in her living room to get to the front door. The fairies lurking around the jukebox were slowly getting the hang of how it worked. They must have stolen it and brought it in when she was working because Zoe didn’t remember having something like that.
“Excuse me ma’am but we’ve received a complaint at this address,” the police officer begun as soon as she opened the door.
She frowned and glanced over her shoulder at the mess that was in her apartment: fairies aside, she could see ghosts that she had never met before and familiars of all forms and sizes.
It only took a week after that complaint before she had to move again.
The second place was a little cramped, but that didn’t stop the dark fairies from hanging around, though. They also found it necessary to bring bad luck to everyone in the complex. Zoe had to move again.
“You’re making my life miserable,” she mumbled to the perky fairy on her shoulder.
“You just didn’t find the right place yet. We feel the danger around you. We’re just trying to protect you.”
“I need protection from you, not from my neighbours.” The fairy rolled her eyes and pinched her cheek. Since she was on the street, Zoe had no choice but slightly slap her cheeks. That way, the fairy got squished.
Zoe entered the restaurant and completely ignored everything that didn’t seem normal but she couldn’t help notice the abnormal. There was a couple next to the window that had two dark fairies on the table, running around the food before literally plunging their small hands into the food. It was no surprise that the couple begun arguing with how much negativity the fairies were emanating. A few tables down were a man in a business suit and his associates fighting over some stupid football game. It didn’t look suspicious at a first glance but once she passed their table, she noticed little demons under the table. The Liars were tiny and theoretically harmless demons that looked very much like cats with dragon-like ears and tail. They weren’t a danger for humankind - they were just annoying.
Zoe sighed and sat at the table in the far corner. She couldn’t see what was happening in the restaurant but she could see into the kitchen which was a lot better. Demons weren’t really fond of human food, finding it unattractive and overestimated so they would rarely lurk around kitchens.
She chose to eat spaghetti that day. It was better than the raw meat given by different acquaintances. What was supposed to be a present could easily guide her towards death; like unprepared snake meat.
“Shouldn’t you help these people? They’re being tormented.”
The grumpy ghost appeared in front of her.
Zoe sighed heavily.
One ghost that found it vital to act like a teacher was Andrew. He had probably been in his early twenties when one of his colleagues pushed him down the stairs. What was supposed to be an innocent joke transformed into murder. However, Andy wasn’t a vengeful person. He was quite a nice kid, but had that evil glint of the other side. He didn’t want to leave and move on because as he said, he wanted to keep a close eye on this particular friend. She didn’t dare ask more but she noticed just how much Andy missed that guy.
He was in his first year of college when he died. It had been two years already. Andy was majoring in Music and that boy was in Contemporary Dance. It was quite the story and Andy used to tell it every chance he got.
“You should do something. Don’t you know a spell or something?” he continued.
Zoe raised an eyebrow and leaned against her chair.
“No. I learned that some things are natural. You can’t fight the usual evil; you have to let people fight in order to realize just how much they care for each other.”
Andy leaned back in order to see the business men.
“I don’t think that applies to them.” He pointed at the group and shook his head in disappointment.
Zoe shrugged innocently. She wasn’t allowed to create a better future. She could see the evil behind everything but she had to obey some rules.
“Who invented those rules anyway? If you can see it, you can react and do something against it.”
“Never interfere, never involve the innocent and never react against the wishes of a human who has given his soul to the hands of darkness; three rules that tie my hands altogether,” she mumbled, leaning back and watching the waiters being followed by what looked like playful little spirits, about the height of a dwarf, that could morph into anything they wanted. Scaries, they were called, because most of them were lurking in the shadow of humans, making them paranoid.
“You have a mouth and can use it to warn them if what they see is dangerous or not. The rules don’t say anything about helping people who need closure,” Andy continued, his lifeless eyes staring at her intensely.
“That doesn’t concern me,” she responded, smiling when the waiter glanced at her.
“Of course not. I forgot that you are a kind of ignorant, selfish young woman who wastes her life on drawing a cartoon.”
“Strange, because I know this college boy who stayed on Earth after he died. Even stranger is the reason he did it.” She stared at him with her big blue eyes. “You have been nagging me for two years about helping ghosts and every time I give you a negative answer, you start rambling about that boy you liked so much. Who do you want me to help? Others or you?”
She felt the table vibrate. Andy narrowed his owlish eyes at her and scoffed.
“You’re such an inconsiderate woman. How did you make it so far?”
She leaned her head on her left hand and glanced at the kitchen door, already used to making his voice part of the background noise.
Andy continued his rant but Zoe blocked his voice out. She noticed something dark lurking around the door. It wasn’t a fairy or a Liar; it was a demon of low ranking. With how much hatred he was emitting, he wasn’t playing around but targeting someone. That didn’t usually happen.
“Are you listening to me?”
She wasn’t. The hatred became more accentuated and the demon noticed her. He chuckled and crawled inside the kitchen as if taunting her to dare and follow him. Zoe got up quickly and walked towards the door, stumbling inside the kitchen with nothing but a gut feeling. She succeeded in sneaking around the refrigerator and the oven but the demon was going deeper into the room, to a guy who looked like he was pretty much in charge there; probably the head chef.
“One more step.” She needed only one more piece of luck and she didn’t get it.
“Excuse me miss, but why are you crawling around on your knees? And how did you get so far into the kitchen?”
Zoe jumped on her feet and ran out of there. She actually ran out of the restaurant too because she couldn’t risk staying there and eating like nothing happened.
“Great. Today’s lunch is supermarket frozen pizza again. Don’t I have a joyful life?” Andy rolled his eyes and disappeared. “Yes. Thanks for fading away now when I need a companion, Andrew!” Zoe complained before she sighed and entered the closest supermarket.
She was looking through the shelves when she noticed a pair of shoes that didn’t look at all normal. They were expensive Oxfords, with a certain detail along the side in the shape of an elongated ouroboros.
“Did you come to warn me of another robbery, Mehrdir?”
Mehrdir, the demon that has been lurking in Zoe’s shadow for two years already, but only interfered when he felt necessary. A man with a sharp chin and big black eyes, tall and fit, sustaining a very tense pose as if he is always ready to defend himself, with short messy hair and dressed in simple black clothes, except his expensive and unique shoes; that was Mehrdir.
The demon chuckled and followed her. He knew what she meant; he did push her over her humane limits by intentionally sending her in dangerous places. Robberies were most common because he could interfere quickly and were fun to watch from the side.
Shrugging him off, Zoe concentrated on finding something easy to cook but nothing seemed appetizing.
“No matter how much I’d love to see you trip and fall over a bag of chips or how much fun it would be if you’d actually fall over the shelf of drinks-” he needed a moment to imagine and chuckle bemusedly at his own plan. She would be embarrassed and never enter that supermarket ever again. “It would be quite entertaining but I’m here to check up on you.”
She was careful not to speak loudly in places where people could look at her. It was suspicious to see a woman talking to herself.
“Maybe you don’t understand because you’re stupid and oblivious to the world around you, but there are dark forces leaking into this world. The gap is supposedly small; like a hand-print. But I heard Liars aren’t the only demons getting out.” Mehrdir started on the wrong tone, which only made her narrow her eyes at him.
Zoe already got used to him and the way everything was a threat in his point of view. She grabbed a pack of frozen French fries and sighed.
“Let me remind you that you are a demon too. How did you crawl through that little hole anyway?” Zoe was only joking but he scoffed and moved closer to her.
“Look, don’t compare me to low lives. I’m a Level-“
“Level F greed demon yes, yes. I got it.” She was ready to enter another parlor when he grabbed her hand and stopped her.
“Pay attention, Zoe. You know very well that everything you see is not what it seems. Demons are not ghosts. That little Andy friend of yours is just a child. He can’t help you against something powerful.”
“And what do you want me to do?”
He smirked evilly, his eyes narrowing as he tried to look intimidating.
“Make friends in high places.” He disappeared right after he gave his words of wisdom.
She blinked in confusion. Since Mehrdir was known to be a tricky demon, she just pushed his advice into the back of her mind.
Zoe was calmly walking towards the counter when she felt a sudden chill down her spine. She ignored it and that was a big mistake. She saw a bag of chips on the ground and chuckled, jumping over it while shaking her head. That demon wasn’t going to trick her again.
She was in the line and had two more people in front of her. Zoe couldn’t wait to get out and go home; she had to finish her work and give it to her editor. Unfortunately, while she was busy thinking about her next chapter, she didn’t see the child that ran past her. She jumped in surprise and lost her balance, trying to lean against the counter for support but a gust of wind threw her over the little shelf with drinks. The staff crowded around her and each tried to help her up. Through their alarmed voices she could hear a low voice laughing.
“Stupid demon,” she mumbled, getting up on her own and shrugging off the helping hands surrounding her.