A Chilling Smile

by

nifirin

Chapter 1: Never Drop Your Smile

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“Alright see you later.” As I am leaving the store, I smile and wave to my coworker.

“Make sure you’re not forgetting anything just hanging around.” The older woman, Barbs, says in a good humoured but quite bitting remark about an incident earlier today. I had lost the keys to the store’s storage room and started looking through everything, only to realize they were on the hook next to the door. Barbs is probably not going to let this down for awhile. These old women can be quite catty.

“Don’t worry. I got everything.”  I give her a good natured grin and pat my pockets in an exaggerated manner. “Now don’t accidentally lock yourself in. I won’t be able to get you out if I can’t find the keys.” I really wish she would let my moments of idiocy go, but she is having fun and I should be able to take a joke. It was all my fault really.

“Drive safe!” she yells at me as I reach the door, the last threshold between work and temporary freedom. No longer having to deal with the customers that see you more as set dressing than a person. A wonderful passing liberty.

“Never do!” I yell back into the store, in our usual farewell routine. I am the second last to leave. Barbs will lock up in a few hours. I head to my car in the coming twilight. The setting sun playing with the shadows that will soon engulf the world in its absence and rest, only to come back and cruelly stur the land again in the morning. 

Hopping into my sedan, my forehead makes connection with the steering wheel.

“I am an idiot.” After a bit I pick myself back up, and put a smile back on my face.

---

Not wanting to cook today, I stop for some take out on my way. I am a bit of a regular at this place. Decent, cooked, and well priced food is tough to beat. Walking in I see the nice girl is working today, I can never quite remember her name though.

“Hey long time no see, the regular then?” Leah at the counter gives me a slight grin, but I can only give her a confused smirk.

“Um, I was here two days ago. Also I don’t have a regular.” She appears to be taken aback by this.

“Are you sure? You aren’t Tristan who always order a number 4?” I have no clue who that is.

“No my name is Eric. And I try to mix it up.” I keep a smile on my face to attempt to reassure her that I take no umbrage with the mixup. I know I would be worried if I got people mixed up, and I cannot remember her name either.

”Sorry.” She says in a kind of off tone, like she does not believe me. “So what will it be?” She draws away from the conversation and drops her smile. I give up on trying to start a conversation and smile as I place my order.

---

“Maybe I should go out on my next day off” I say into one of the sparse rooms I call a home. “A movie maybe? But who with?” I look through my phone contacts, only to be reminded of the current state of my social group. Most contacts are coworkers, with a majority of these being people who have already left their employment at the store, and I haven’t seen in months. I always make sure to grab the new employees contacts, but never delete them when they leave. And the ones that still work there probably already get enough of me.

After that is family, which I have never invited any of them out before. It would be bad if this came back to bite me at a gathering somehow, even if I do not know how a simple invitation would cause me any trouble, they will find a way.

After that is my friends. Three contacts of which I have not messaged any in over a year. Each one has their own reason. While I could try to reignite these relationships somehow, I probably should not call randomly for a movie. 

“These excuses are stupid.” I hear the words. Wondering for a moment where they came from, before realizing that I had been the one to say them. I try not to think about it, and put the smile back on my face. I had let it drop somehow.

“I have other things I need to catch up on anyway.” I pick up a book I have been reading for a bit. It is quite good but my eyes seem to glaze over, and I find myself unable to finish a page.

Putting the novel down, I turn on the game console and begin riffling through my games. Nothing seems to stand out and I fruitlessly launch a few games only to quit them in the menu.

I pull up some videos online. Nothing too exciting, just stuff I know I would watch with autoplay keeping them going. Just need some background noise. And that is just what it is, background. I pay the video of someone dubbing over cats no heed, and lay back in my desk chair. Staring at the ceiling and the little faces my mind creates in the paint, as my smile leaves my face.

“I want to kill somebody.”

“I wonder who it will be.” I mutter into the emptiness of my apartment.

“It will probably be myself.” I state in a mostly joking voice, but some underlaying tone causes worry. I should not be thinking like this.

“Things aren’t so bad. Everything could be worse. Just keep smiling.” Trying to put back on my ‘Everything’s fine” smile, I stand upright and promptly a bout of nausea knocks me off my feet to the ground. 

---

The fall is not as hard as I thought it would be, but that was because I landed in some soft grass. Grass, still warm from a long day, much more comfortable then the expected flooring. I open my eyes and all I see is a thick fog enveloping me. The obvious conclusion is that this must be some sort of dream. 

I stretch myself out to get a better resting position on the ground and feel my hand brush something disturbingly sticky and wet. When I pull my hand back and look at the fluid, I see a deep red color coating my fingers. Slightly darker than fresh blood. Probably has been sitting out for a bit.

Standing up, the fog begins to thin out. The water vapor appears to function more as a wall than a cloud. Completely opaque, and existing on some boundary that seems to be widening. Suddenly the cloud disappears, and I stand facing a strange man in a blood stained hooded robe. 

“What the... “ The man in the robe looks more confused than me. 

“Okay, what did Harry mess up!” a voice from behind me says. Turning around I see four more confused cloaked figures, standing each beside a more confused normally dressed person.

“What! Why is this my fault!” the presumed Harry protests from my immediate right, standing in front of a rather large book. 

“You insisted on reading the incantation. We said George should do it but noooo!”

The five hooded people continue to bicker and try to assign blame onto the hapless Harry. The other four normal people, each looks like to be in their early 20’s, are hammering their fists on invisible walls. Screaming but no sound can be heard. Our capturs seem fully unconcerned with their distress. 

An inspection of the ground reveals thick lines of blood drawn in a giant pentagram, with a circle about two meters wide at the points of the star, each holding a captive. Me included. I reach out and feel the same invisible wall holding me back at the edge of the crimson circle. The barrier is slightly spongy, probably the reason the others can bang against it without injuring themselves. 

“Enough of this, Harry I am coming over to check the book.” The man in front of me finally speaks.

“George you can’t just leave your spot! The barrier could weaken!”

“It will be fine. I can power it a bit as long as I am still around, and the barrier is made to hold demons. People should be easy. Mine isn’t even doing anything. Just standing there with a stupid smile on his face. Probably slow in the head.” George leaves with a chuckle as I quizzically reach up to inspect my face with a hand. Sure enough my “everything’s fine” smile is there. A constant companion in times of trouble. Even now, it has yet to abandon me. 

“Harry, are you a idiot! You used the wrong succubus summoning chant. This is for midnight under a full moon, not twilight under a waxing moon.” George exasperatedly palms his forehead as he looks at the book.

“So what, it should still work.” Harry folded his arms as the other stared incredulously at him. He looked to be taking a hard stance, but if one paid attention they would note he was purposely not looking any of them in the eye.

“Haa, maybe you could get something, if you read it perfectly! But what does it say here?”

“Venere.”

“And what did you say?”

“Venerate... But listen, there is like a dozen different languages in these stupid chants. How am I supposed to get them all right? It’s just one stupid mistake.”

“Looking at this there were others as well.”

“Fuck you Harry, you fucker! I could be having sexy times with my sexy succubus by now!” One of the other cloaked figures, the shortest one, yells at the increasingly defensive Harry.

“I’m quite happy with what I got. But I am not sharing with the rest of you lot.” One of the other cultists, which I suppose is an appropriate term, licks his lips, and causes the woman trapped in front of him to draw back in fear.

“Everybody! Shut! Up!” George seems angry. “We just now need to find a new ritual with human sacrafi-” Then his brain exploded out the back of his head. 

Everyone was silent, not just the ones in the circles that let out no sound. All eyes turn towards the man who was still trapped inside Harry’s blood ring. Both his arms were extended, clasping onto a chunk of metal. A familiar and deadly chunk of metal.

“A pistol?” I say, trying to project my voice but it is snuffed out by the ring. I can feel the words in my throat, but as soon as they leave they are gone. 

“He had a wand!”

“No! No! Magic would need to break through the wards! Even if silent casted!”

“Then what the fuck is that! IT’S NOT A FUCKING BOW!” The short one is swearing again.

“KEEP CALM! HE PROBABLY CAN’T- ARRRGH!” Another silent bullet is loosed from the gun,  Harry impacting on the arm. The trapped man with the gun is screaming, but no one can hear him. He is probably shouting to let him go or some such nonsense.

The gunman is maintaining his shooting posture, but his legs are shaking. His skin has paled and entered a state of flush, with waves of sweet pouring out from him. Personally, I would not be surprised if he vomited. He looks like he really wants to.

“Idiot is entering shock. Do this after all the enemies are dead, not after the first kill.” My silent critique goes unheard by all except vaguely by me. The cultists, the captives, and the gunman are all panicking. Yelling, some incoherently, others unheard. 

Harry stands back up after a minute. Blood dripping down from one of his sleeves he looks both angry and slightly scared. This is not the type of unknown he was hoping to deal with today. He vaguely mutters something and a blue shimmer washes over his body.  The gunman retrains his gun on the cultist. Cultist Harry holds his good arm up, hand and fingers outstretched as if grasping for something just out of reach, and shouts “Ice Spike!”

A light blue crystal flies from his hand and embeds itself in the gunman. Piercing his chest and causing blood to fall out in globs from the new opening. The gunman’s face has stopped moving, but he is not dead yet. 

“Ice Spike!” the second ice spike penetrates the heart. I believe however the gunman had managed to get a shot off between spikes. I am unsure, it is hard to tell without the distinctive sounds of a gun. But as the gunman collapses, Harry kneels down clutching the palm that he had used to launch his ice. 

“Well looks like I need to try something.” While I know nothing about magic, George the one who was holding me is now dead so I should be able to just walk out. An untested hypothesis, but I should at least try. 

“Here goes.” I tell myself, and step into the barrier. The force field that once held me is still there in some capacity, but I make my way through the strange pressure that assaults me from all sides. And out into freedom I step.

But, immediately all eyes turn to me. Both cultists and captives have this wide eyed look about them. This is kind of awkward as I do not like groups staring at me. Raising my hand, I give them a friendly wave.

“Hello.” I say with a smile.

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