Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt this week is
When Being A Little Arch Is A Bad Thing
Pearl Barley, trainee exorcist stood, mouth open, agog. So many arches. She glanced at the note. It clearly stated that there was one possessed Arch at the ruins but if so which one?
Deacon Prebent, her boss, liked to test her, often enlisting clients in his trickery. His notes, in his customarily incomprehensible handwriting, said, or so she thought, ‘Client worried about arch is perm ghoul. Needs banishment. Again.’.
She put down her bag and pulled out the hazel switch with coriander encrustations. It was the latest in ghoul guidance technology, guaranteed to reveal any ghost, ghoul or other spectral extrusion within 15 metres (subject to the usual line of sight rules and ectoplasm corruptions). She picked up the handbook, glanced at the ‘First Use’ section and balanced the wooded wand on her right index finger.
‘Incantate slowly in a counterclockwise swoop, maintaining a curve ratio of 6:1’
Pearl scratched her free ear; she hadn’t a clue what that meant. She gave the wand a swizz. A blue light filled the third arch, followed by an ‘Oi!’ As Pearl watched a crumpled coat fell across the paving, followed by a foot which was quickly snagged back. A face appeared. A cross face. A face that wasn’t about to ask after Pearl’s health. A face that appeared to be put together in a way that wasn’t customary.
The face must have noticed Pearl’s confusion because a hand appeared from a coat pocket, followed closely by an arm. It checked the facial layout, registered the eyes and the nose had somehow become muddled and pushed them roughly back in place.
‘How’d you do that?’
Pearl held up the wand that was still glowing brightly.
The face and arm-hand combo, which had now been joined by other body parts, managed a shrug. ‘Exorcist?’
‘Who’s your boss? No, don’t tell me… Deacon?’
‘Sod. Who complained?’
‘I’m not at liberty…’
‘Yada yada. You can tell me what the complaint was though, can’t you?’
Pearl hesitated. All spectres have the right to know why they’re being moved or, in extreme cases, expunged. But Deacon always impressed on Pearl that she should try very hard to avoid saying as it tended to give away who made the complaint.
While she tried to think of something to distract him, the ghoul struggled to pull himself together. He hissed, ‘Can’t you turn that thing off? It’s inhibiting my corporeal recreation.’
‘You won’t run…’
Pearl stopped as the spook laughed. It said, ‘I ain’t run in 72 years, girlie. Look I’ll pack and go if you insist. I’m not one to fight. It’s pretty mean, though. The wind plays havoc with my tendrils, the frost makes me look like a demented icicle and your boss wants me to leave the one good shelter I’ve found in ages.’
‘You’re scaring the kiddies.’
‘Rubbish. They love a little light haunting. School parties especially; the teachers think it’s great cos it means they don’t have to work so hard.’
‘You sure you’ve the right ghoul? I mean I can’t go telling tales but there’s a banshee resting her vocals in arch four and an inhabited light cloud over there, by the woods. Sure it’s not them?’
‘I… what’s your name?’
‘Archie Pelligrow. Is that who you want?’
Pearl looked at the shivering spectre and the incoherent scribble. Almost certainly, she thought.
‘No, I think it must be one of the others, Mr Pelligrow. If you could try and stay hidden and maybe move on soon, I might be able to, erm, persuade Dea… Mr Prebent that there’s nothing to see here.’
‘You’re a Treasure. What’s your name?’
‘As in the…?’
‘Yes. Though yours isn’t much better.’
‘Parents eh? I owe you.’
As Pearl shut down the wand and Archie faded back into the shadows, she allowed herself a smile. Then she imagined Deacon’s face on her return and suddenly the arches didn’t seem quite so welcoming.’