Arcane fire jumped from my hands and charred a half dozen of the converging ticks. I'd need more firepower if I was going to eliminate the plague of demonic arachnids moving in on me.
Ferry-boat-captain-Stevie was still dancing, totally oblivious to the nightmare around him. Lucky him. And he still held my carpetbag of exorcism tools. Lucky me!
I snatched my bag, stomped six cursed ticks and shoved the captain and another entranced Stevie out of my personal space. I dumped the contents of the bag on the ground and smashed two more ticks. I began rooting through the contents. Candles ... Salt crystals ... Rose petals ... Gah!
Setting a romantic bath would be no issue, killing these abominations, however, was looking near impossible. Was there anything here I could use on the fly. I smashed another tick biting my hand. Then I saw a spindle of moonsilk twine.
I had to turn the tables on the horrid pests. Focus not on destroying them, but instead rescuing them from this demonic perversion. Using the moon-silk, I made a simple cat's cradle between my fingers and chanted:
O spider's muse
of the cursed loom
spin us a tapestry
of your deadly mastery
call your children home!
call your children home!
Arachne of legend
your children cursed by Hades' hand
save them from this blighted land!
call your children home!
Nothing happened. The demon ticks continued their march, nine of them successfully crawled across the burnt remains of their siblings and were starting an expedition up my trousers. I kept my arms rigid and the cat's cradle taut while I tried to scrape most of them off. No luck. At least five had reached my waist with twenty more climbing up my legs. Fuck. Fuck. It wasn't working!
Then, suddenly, it worked.
Arachne, the cursed weaver of Greek mythology who dared compare her talents to that of a goddess, answered my call.
My fingers fused together and elongated into grayish, barbed pincers. I viewed my surroundings in all directions as multiple, orb eyes blinked open across my shaved head. From my throat a massive clump of sticky webbing erupted. The ticks ceased their climb as I wove an elaborate, wickedly beautiful tapestry. I nimbly plucked strings across and between one another, the whole time vomiting forward more and more of the viscous sludge. Two more spider's limbs grew from my sides to hold the tapestry taut. I was mesmerized by the tableau forming before me.
On it, Arachne's children, the demon ticks, faced a Greek dais where an elegant woman wearing a Grecian-style, draped gown held a dagger and a clay tablet. Her hands and feet were stained dark with blood. An agent of Hecate, me, crouched beseechingly. The tapestry re-wove itself to depict the ticks engulfing the pretty lady for her trespass against natural order. Once she laid dead upon the dais, Arachne's children were then called home.
My arms shortened and my hands split back to five fingers each. The additional spider's legs along my ribcage withered away. The eyes around my head blinked shut. I now peered through only two eyes at the horde of Arachne's children hungrily awaiting my permission to devour the drag queen who had corrupted them.
I turned and faced Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks. I had little in the way of choices. Set them on her or release them on me, the Stevies and then, eventually, her.
The hunger of the ticks coursed through me. Was the only option giving them her soul? It was a brutal price to pay in defense of the Pavilion, the nightclub she'd worked at for over thirty years. The nightclub she felt such a bond with. The nightclub she had described as herself ... and herself as the Pavilion! Of course!
To destroy the Pavilion was to destroy Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks!
I released the ticks upon the nightclub itself. I repeated her words over and over in my head, "I am the Pavilion!" Urged forward by her honest sentiment, the demonic deer ticks of the Meatrack crushed their tiny, barbed heads as they voraciously attempted to devour solid concrete and wooden walls. In under a minute, the entire horde of parasitic demon ticks mashed themselves into a chunky, crimson chutney.
It was almost done. I crawled to the stage. I lifted myself up to face Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks. She stood there, still dancing with a half dozen of the remaining, hypnotized Stevies. Her wrinkled face bore a contented smile, content to let life pass her by in favor of memory.
There's no magic needed when it's time to snap a diva out of a trance.
I've watched enough Dynasty and Dallas to know the fastest way is with a bitch-slap worthy of Crystal Carrington herself! I balanced myself, reared back and slapped Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks so hard my hand throbbed. It was the bitch-slap heard across Fire Island!
She and all the Stevies recoiled as one.
Then, one by one, the lesbian moms, the ferry boat captain and the other Stevies began to move and speak of their own volition. Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks seemed confused and quickly raised her hand to bitch-slap me back.
I raised my hand to bitch-slap in retaliation "Oh. I dare you! Do it."
I was not having it. But Knicki paused. She recognized me. Falling to the stage, Stevie Knick-knacks sobbed, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
A Coast Guard emergency medical response unit arrived less than twenty minutes after the ferry boat captain radioed for help from his bridge. Blood transfusions and dehydration kits were administered immediately to those nearest death. A triage unit was set up for the Stevies suffering from the worst physical trauma and exsanguination. Despite the brutal tick bites and marathon dance session, most of the Stevies survived the ordeal with minor injuries. Nine adults and two children were not so lucky.
Officially, a virulent strain of Lyme disease, introduced by the local tick population, forced the people of the Pines and the Cherry Grove to quarantine themselves inside the Pavilion, where unfortunately some of the infected died. In addition to being extremely wealthy, Pines investor David Addison Waverly is an expert media manipulator. He was very pleased with the minimal (in light of the circumstances) loss of life and paid my services in full, including the bonus for keeping Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks alive during the ordeal.
Kristakos, a demonic tick if ever I saw one, was not so complimentary. As I laid on a triage gurney, a beefy coast guard nurse tending to my wounds, he presented me with an itemized list of cleaning costs, reflooring expenses and even tried to bill me for a new door before Mr. Waverly sternly ordered him to go count disco balls.
Mendelthimble thanked me personally for keeping Knicki safe. She is now being treated at a private rehabilitation facility in an undisclosed location upstate. Before we parted ways, I described to him the memories I saw while she and I shared our astral link, including the ritual sacrifice with the bone dagger and how she dug up an arcane box on the beach. The gnome maintained a grim expression as I described what I'd seen, and seemed relieved this unfortunate incident was behind them.
From what I've recalled from her scattered memories, Knicki's initial intention was to beseech a demonic power for help scaring the investors away. Luckily she chickened out before the deed was signed. Next, she attempted to conjure the BURP plague to quarantine the island, but instead she called forth an infestation of demonic ticks from the local deer population. When the surge of blood-suckers became an issue, the residents barricaded themselves in the Pavilion, where Knicki tried to calm the hysteric crowd, but became a prisoner of her own enchantment. The Void lured her in and fed off her misery. She became it's slave.
The Pavilion is scheduled for demolition this autumn. A few historic items have been salvaged, an antique chandelier, the main bar of Bergen oak, the remains of the door (at Kristakos' insistence, apparently the door was a treasured artifact of Fire Island history -- now sadly destroyed, how I HATE him) but mostly everything will be razed and rebuilt for Fire Island's new diva, LadyBoy Gaga.
I feel razed and rebuilt, myself. The past few days have been spent resting with Oreo-kitty and preparing myself for the next assignment from Sam Hain.
And finally, it turns out a few additional artifacts were also salvaged from the Pavilion. A bulky package arrived yesterday sealed in brown wrapping paper. I'd been sent a familiar wooden chest carved with sigils and bearing a golden lock in the likeness of a leering demon's face. The lock had been forced open. I opened the box and inside found a blood stained, bone dagger and the arcane text titled Magia Muerto, the same book Knicki used to summon the plague of ticks. There was also a small card.
It read, Please put to better use -- Mendy.