The Milk of Human Kindness

Alex began to unscrew the lid, gently screeching, of a small glass vial. He poured the contents in a circle around the table, just past the runes he found in his extensive research into the arcane and unknowable, which were surprisingly easy to understand.

He began chanting, as one does in situations like this. His particular chant was in Latin, specifically a dialect that has long since been dead, but was commonly found off in a northern set of mountains. As he butchered the consonants, which was not as important as you’d think, he started to light the candles around the table. The book suggested pure white candles, but Alex was hoping that the backlog of Yankee candles his mom had gotten him over the years would suffice.

After lighting the last candle and finishing the last chant, a spark leapt from Mountain Vanilla TM. It landed on the table and the entire circle, runes and all, burst into flames. Alex touched the batteries to the fire alarm in his pocket, thanking, well, not God, for remembering to remove them.

From the flickering light of the tall flames stood a figure, growing taller and taller, made of a twisting menagerie of limbs and mouths and fewer eyes than one would expect of something so otherworldly. It stood tall on its odd array of legs and tentacles, and all the mouths sang in a dissonant chorus.

“I am Blairthuk. I am the sense of dread that comes creeping into your mind when in the woods at night. I am the confusion that fills your head after a betrayal that simply demands revenge. I am the desire of something greater than mortality can possibly give. I raised the Magus John Dee to a position of power, higher than any other sorcerer of his time. I brought down the city of Ys in a great flood during high tide. I make cities disappear in the blink of an eye, and flames rise just as quick. I invented arsenic, mercury, and a particularly sharp stone that became the first knife.

“I…

“AM…

“Uncomfortable.

“Are you crying? Why are you crying? Please don’t cry.”

Alex raised his head, his eyes bloodshot and moist, his face warm and twisted in a grimace. He opened his mouth and no words came out, only a choking rasp.

“Alright, alright, come on, please stop crying. This is really awkward.” Blairthuk stretched an arm to scratch behind the head of its form, which was tangling up into something slightly more human. Kind of halfway between a person and that figure that you always see in the corner of your eye that just won’t leave. Right in the middle, maybe an inch closer to human.

Blairthuk hover stepped off the table and closer to Alex. “Hey buddy, let’s uh, let’s uh work through this, yeah? Why did you summon the dark emperor of nightshade?”

Alex’s choking raspy breaths did not subside. He wiped the sleeve of his robe, which was less of the dark and brooding black of a cultist, and more of a deep burgundy of a bathrobe that one’s mom might give during a particularly uninspired Christmas gift.

“Deep breaths, deep breaths. Breathe in through your…nose? Yeah, your nose, hold it for ten seconds…

“and then out through your mouth.

“In…

“and then out.

“In…

“and then out.”

Alex’s heaves started to slow and calm down. His breathing became more regular and he stood just the tiniest bit taller.

“Alright, let’s try this again.” Blairthuk reached out a tentacle, almost placed it on Alex’s shoulder, and then decided a clawed facsimile of a hand was more comforting. “Why did you summon me?”

“I need you to punish someone.”

“Who shall I punish?” Blairthuk gently tilted two of its more prominent head-like structures.

Alex’s voice rose, “His name is…”

“No, what is his relationship to you?”

Alex’s voice faltered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Blairthuk spoke from 3 more mouths than before, “The contracts require you to, if you want my service.”

“He is a friend.”

The fires on the table behind Blairthuk raged for a few seconds.

“Oh jeez, please tell me you took the batteries out of your fire alarm. That’s totally going to trigger it.”

Alex nodded.

“Ok, whew, well, the fire doesn’t seem to believe you, so…”

“He was a friend.” Alex’s voice squeaks a bit higher.

The flames rose and twisted only a little higher, as if in a kind of shrug.

“Technically true, but you’re still skirting the contract.”

Alex grumbled, “He’s my ex, okay! My ex!”

“Oh, jeez. Are you sure, oh look, whoosh.” Blairthuk quickly swirled one of its tentacles through the flames. “The fire said you lied again. I should really get going. You can unsummon me if you’d like.”

“No! I need your help.”

“Oh man, alright, do you have any ice cream or something? We need to talk this through I think.”

—–

With the flames gently falling asleep in the kitchen, the credits to Amelie scrolling across the screen in the living room, and 4 empty pints of icecream strewn across the coffee table, Alex turned to Blairthuk.

“Thanks, you really helped me out here. I feel like I can breathe again…” Alex’s eyes opened wide in fear and he held out the talisman dangling from his neck, carved with an ancient sigil. “You’re out of your circle!”

Blairthuk raised 3 arms up. “Whoah, buddy, I mean, just to be fair, that talisman is more effective against shades. I’m technically a wraith, and a prince at that. It would just make me kind of itchy, you know?”

Alex did not lower his talisman, “How did you get free? Why didn’t you kill me?”

“Well, uhm, uhhhh, the salt, right? It was made from your tears, yeah? So that means I’m bound to you instead of the circle.” Blairthuk began to nod his heads, with two looking towards the fire, which also began to nod. “Mhmm, yeah, that’s why I didn’t kill you.”

“Oh thank g…that’s good. Glad to hear it. I was really scared there for a second.”

The two sat on the couch, neither looking at the other for a solid minute. Even the flames tried to look away, which is quite difficult for sentient rapid oxidation to do.

“Thank you for helping me out. I no longer feel vengeful. I can dismiss you now if you want.”

“Yeah, all for the best. Don’t want a death on your conscience before your first century is up.”

“Death! I just wanted to make him go bald!”

“Oh, is that all?” Blairthuk raised one of the arms behind him, with the most human of fingers, and snapped. “Done!”

As Alex began to recite the proper declensions for returning Blairthuk to its most unholy realm, Blairthuk spoke up, “Hey, uh, would you want to hang out again sometime? It’s a bit stuffy down there, in my most unholy realm, you know?”

“Are you free next Saturday? There’s a documentary on Helvetica we could watch.”

—-

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