When I joined him on the stairs, Cory had opened the front pocket of his satchel. The pocket unrolled to reveal a long row of smaller round pockets. It almost touched the ground and held hundreds of writing implements, from cheap pens and expensive art markers to chalk or oil pastels. He pulled a pristine piece of chalk from a pocket halfway down his thigh and handed it to me. “It’s far from the best tool to draw a ghost trap, but it’s the easiest for a Novice Mage to use. Please be careful, that’s a stick of what’s considered the best chalk in existence and the company is no longer in operation. There’ll be duals to death over the last piece.”
He pulled a notepad and small pencil from the front pocket of his suit jacket. He drew a circle with a rounded pattern in the middle that was a cross between a cartoon flower and a pentagram. “I want you to draw this. Ideally on a piece of clean, hard floor.”
I carefully studied the sigil after he handed it to me. “There’s no clean floor in there.”
“What we're about to do isn’t ideal, but it’s a safer choice.” Cory handed me an A4 piece of black cardstock. “You may as well copy it out here. Draw another exactly the same on the palm of your hand but leave a slight gap, that can be closed in a small single stroke. Damage either with your sweaty fingers, and we die.”
He gave me a look so serious I laughed. “We die? I’m pretty sure it’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen.” I felt like a Kindergarten student doing arts and crafts. I carefully copied the sigil, drawing it in the same order Cory had. When I finished, he nodded at the door handle, and I opened the door.
He pointed to my hand, “Remember not to smudge that.” He had a small metal torch in his bag. When he shone it into the house, there was no sign of Nora Rowe.
“It’s been a month. How do you know someone hasn’t been in here?”
“This place is completely made of asbestos prefab. We had it declared condemned and placed magical locks on the entrances. The only people with permission to be here are you and I.”
“Every house in this part of town is built solely from asbestos. Sixty per cent of the houses in Dunn should be condemned.” I said. “This place is a dump, toxic waste included. Everyone raised here probably has permanent brain damage.”
“Answer me this… why go to the effort of placing magical locks on the house but not remove the ghost?”
“You have to clean up your own mess.” Cory’s torch flickered for a few seconds, then went out. He clicked his tongue and shook the torch until it flickered back to life. The temperature in the room had decreased rapidly in the few seconds of darkness. “Sorry I need to buy a new one.”
“You need to buy a new one… Seriously?”
“It’s not high on my to-do list.”
I looked at him and mouthed, ‘She’s here.’
He stepped closer to me, stood on my foot and gave me a sharp look. “Let’s check the other rooms to make sure we have all those books. Mrs Gregory is rather mad at you for running out of here like a scared baby the other day. You know ghosts aren’t real, right?”
Scared baby? The prick was purposely trying to provoke me. I smiled at him and carefully checked the sigil to make sure I hadn’t smudged the chalk. The card stock was already damp between my sweaty fingers.
I closed my eyes for a few seconds and took a deep breath.
I could do this.
I had to do this.
I met his eyes, and he looked at the ground for a few seconds. After he looked up, I carefully dropped the card on the ground, thankful it landed face up.
We waited and pretended to have a mundane conversation as Nora Rowe slowly came towards us. Positioned against a door, wall, and the end of the hallway, there was only one way for her to approach. When she reached the sigil, I finished the chalk copy on my palm and closed my eyes. My focus turned to imagining her being gone, to making her disappear. She didn’t belong in this world; she had to go. She had to vanish.
She had to leave.
My ears popped.
Cory tapped my shoulder, and I opened my eyes.
She was gone.
“Maybe I can make something of you.”
I was careful to give him back the sweaty chalk in one piece. The whole be careful thing felt like a threat, and I didn’t want to see what would happen if I wasn’t. “It worked?”
“It’s not always going to be easy. Be sure the person was Mundane before you use that tactic. It wouldn’t have worked if she knew what a sigil was.”
“How does a Mortal leave a ghost?”
“Like I said, everyone’s capable of magic. Most of the time they’re created through sheer determination. Base level magic is created mainly through thought, the last of their energy powers it. The desire, wish, need to stay here. The last thing they want in this world is not to die.”
“It sounds sad when you put it like that.”
“That felt too easy.”
“Don’t get too big for your boots. It wouldn’t have been that easy if you were alone.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know that from experience.”
We walked out of the house and back to Cory’s car. “I feel like that was a setup.”
He turned to look at me. “I made it easy for you.”
“Easy for me?”
“I placed some runes in the hall.”
“They’re on the walls.”
I grabbed the torch from his hand and marched back into the house. The walls were covered in letters… runes. They were hard to see, he’d written them in a marker almost identical to the colour of the paint. I sensed him behind me as I shone the torch around the space. “Why?”
“You need to learn the process one step at a time. I wanted you to focus on banishing her and learning a basic sigil.”
“What is it?”
“A spell. They’re letters. It’s an ancient magical language. Ancient Roman alchemists used this particular spell language.” He pulled a small spray bottle from the bag and sprayed a thin layer of mist over the walls. He carefully used a microfiber cloth to remove the marks. “Death Magic is my third magic, and my focus is on Necromancy. We will hit a wall, eventually. Hopefully not before I pass you on to the people who are supposed to be training you.”
“You could teach me some Necromancy,” I said.
“No.” He replied. “I’d be skinned alive if I did that without permission.”
“Everyone specialises in two or three types of magic, right?”
“Almost always two but I don’t get out much.”
“Unless you’re taking part in compulsory cult activities.”
“I want to learn Potion Craft. I used to watch Pop make potions, I find it fascinating.”
“You need to focus on learning one type of magic at a time.” He looked at his watch. “Let’s go get lunch.”