There are things magicians don’t involve themselves in, for all sorts of very good reasons. Magic is a poem responding to the world, wishes and desires calling, answers being answered – and the dead have needs that magicians know to leave well enough alone. You learn not to see ghosts quickly, or at the least to ward yourself against their desires – and a ghost is nothing but desire, a selfish scream against the ending of their own life. And often their desires are ugly things twisted by death.
Dying concentrates the mind wonderfully. Someone famous said that: they never said in what directions, or to what ends.
But there are exceptions, bendings to every rule I have. I wouldn’t be a magician if I didn’t get around rules even I impose on myself. I’m ambling down a street while Dana is doing fae things – mostly the fae version of a census of monsters they put glamours on, though it’s generally more violent – and I’m letting the magic out in soft whispers. Fixing tires, easing strain between family members in buildings I pass. Helping in small ways to make suburbia become what it always tries to be.
The house in question doesn’t have a white picket fence. It does have siding that was spray-painted black and a disused hearse in the driveway whose hood is covered in a red and silver glitter sign announcing it is the home of Mama Fortune, Soothsayer and Truthspeaker. There aren’t many psychics in the world: almost all of them learn, very quickly, to hide themselves. I have made some able to actually speak with the dead in moments of pique before; this time I’m just walking by when the needs of the building reach out, whispering and begging.
Everything has a voice, if you know how to listen for it. I slow, then stop and turn to face the house, staring into the present and the past in the same moment, letting the feel of its future wash over me. Séances. At least one a day to call up the dead; almost none work, since ‘Mama Fortune’ is only good at cold reading people, but sometimes her need to make money off a mark and their desire to speak to the dead is strong enough to half-open ways into the Grey Lands, to pull ghosts through for a moment. Ghosts who speak words none of them hear.
Ghost after ghost, at least one a weak, slowly drowning the voice of the house under their weight like rivers flowing over a bank back into the ocean. There are ways to kill the voice of a place, sometimes for very good reasons, but to smother it under madness, to drown it slowly entirely unknowing: that is something else altogether. I reach out, making a ward from power lines and children’s playsets, things grounded in the normal world, and walk across the lawn to the wall, running a hand over the siding.
Mama Fortune is inside with a customer; an old man who is too deep in grief to want a way out of it. I ignore them, pressing my fingers to the side of the house, drawing its voice up, pulling echoes of ghost voices out, undoing their smothering with an act of will that leaves me trembling a little – magic works best on things of the universe, and the Grey Lands are harder to reach than the normal world I grew up in – but I am not without resources. I whisper the name of a ghost I know, and the ghost who is a ghost-eater reaches out from the Grey Lands and pulls the voices away between one moment and the next.
I whisper a mental thanks to Dyer for his aid, consider the house and what Mama Fortune is doing. And then I smile softly, and weave magic into the house. Giving it strength to exert its own will, power enough to haunt Mama Fortune and drive her from it if the house so desires. To smother her in the lies she lives, if she pushes the house that far. I weave wards and protections into the making and then walk away, whistling softly to myself.