“Please,” Jennie sobbed, inasmuch as her disembodied spirit was capable of such a gesture without tear ducts or a mouth. “Just stop.”

The Zaar cocked its head, which Jennie perceived to be like looking in a twisted mirror. “I suppose I could,” it said, using what sounded like a mixture of her voice and the nasal cackle it had used before. “I suppose that I could find another trinket that would work just as well, another group of guileless souls to torment with their own meaninglessness. That would be rather noble of me, wouldn’t it?”

“Please-” Jennie began.

“But I’m not,” sneered the Zaar, twisting the lip of Jennie’s possessed body cruelly. “And do you know why? Because you want it so very badly. I can see it in every fiber of your spirit, and there’s nothing more joyously side-splitting to me. Look at you! Whining and weeping over a worthless trinket just because grandmammy touched it? Pathetic! Nagging at me like a dog after a pile of garbage with your little gang of cast-offs and misfits? PAH-THETIC!”


“Enough! You could’ve just been a good little girl and let me go about my business. You might even have survived what I’m planning to do! You might have only lost a limb, or your sanity! But no, you had to be…difficult! You had to fight back! And because of that, I’m taking time out from my busy, busy schedule of–spoiler alert–ending as many lives as I can all at once, just to run you and your little troop into the ground.”

Jennie watched as the Zaar opened her hand and lashed out, snatching a fly from the air and crushing it to goo in her palm.

“Life is a meaningless parade of kicks to the stomach and bullets to the head, girl. You think there’s an ounce of meaning in the molecules that make up your pretty little trinket? It’s just wood for a bonefire to me. You think that your ridiculous midway of an entourage means something to this cold and unforgiving orb we’re all hanging onto by our fingernails? I will relish the opportunity to show you how wrong you are by slaughtering them in particularly amusing ways while you watch, helpless. Or not! I’ll happily off them when you’re not so you can know the exquisite agony, as you fade away into spiritual nothingness, of not knowing. It’ll be a time and a half, you’ll see, and I’ll think nothing more of it than if I were writing a dirty word on a bathroom wall.”

The Zaar cackled at each misery it listed, but its next words were delivered in a low, menacing tone that was more a growl than any human speech.

“This is why you leave a Zaar to their business, girl. To trifle with one of us is to see your own pathetic notions reduced to atoms and stars in front of your face, until you’re left with nothing but the pain.”

Jennie reached futilely for her body, but the Zaar backed away, wearing a wide grin and cackling anew.

“Who knows? In time, perhaps your spirit is potent and miserable enough to become a Zaar itself. Wouldn’t that just be the greatest punchline to end this grand joke I’m in the middle of telling the universe?”

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“You have no idea what you’ve got there, do you old one?”

Whelk looked behind himself, and saw what he had previously dismissed as a trick of shadow–the Zaar, the very same one that had nicked Jennie’s pendant in the first place.

“You dare speak to me thus in my own shop?” snarled Whelk. “I’ve a mind to banish you from that husk and contain you in a jewel of my choosing to sell to a couple of fat American will o’ wisp tourists.”

“Ah, but how can you cast the spell if you’ve forgotten the words?” the Zaar laughed.

Whelk defiantly moved his lips with the incantation he knew well, one which he used to banish pesky hobgoblins and pixies on a weekly basis, trapping their tiny souls in geegaws he sold for a quid apiece. But no sound came–the Zaar had stolen the very words from him.

“Is it any wonder that my master would send a Zaar to collect this trinket?” The Zaar leered, cackling with glee–an effect all the more unsettling to see on the serious and bespectacled waxwork face of Eamon de Valera. “You think it a shiny bauble, a thing to be bartered and sold, but I know its true potential. And I mean to have it.”

“You are no ordinary Zaar,” Whelk choked.

“Oh, figured that all out by yourself did you? Was it the glasses? Or the suit and tie? Or the fact that I can banish your feeble incantations with just a passing thought?” The Zaar licked its lips hungrily, a gesture that could have had no meaning in its waxy form other than intimidation. “Give me the bauble, now, old one, and I’ll let you off after having a bit of fun. You might even live! The scars might not be noticeable after a few years, and the limp might fix itself!”

“You don’t scare me,” Whelk said.

“Nor should I,” laughed the Zaar. “I should terrify you, old one! The very thought that I might make you my business ought to have you squealing for your life like a veal calf before the slaughter! I am like the last page of a good book, because we both spell the end for you.”

Whelk was not a fool, but he did not suffer intrusions in his affairs lightly. “You waste your words on one who has shrugged off better intimidation before breakfast,” he sneered. “Begone, ordinary or not, or I’ll find a way of dealing with you that requires no words.”

“But what fun is there in the world without words?” Eamon de Valera’s waxy features drew closer, his marble-eyes wide and malignant. “How else might I tell you of the very special doom I have set out for you like a sumptuous banquet?”

The sword-stick Whelk had hidden in a corner for intruders flashed through the dusty air. He had taken it from a seraphim on credit for a loan never repaid, and it ought to have rent the wax asunder easily with the keen meteoric iron edge alone, notwithstanding the many powerful enchantments thereon.

The Zaar grinned, even though its head was now on the floor. Picking it up and setting it back, the wax melted together seamlessly. “You expect a simple trick like that to banish me, old one?” The laughter grew in intensity, in pitch, becoming a monstrous parody of an insane cackle.

Whelk’s eyes widened.

“A snack, really, an appetizer for the birthing cry of a new god. The death of rationality and order! The howling of madness from the rooftops! Laughter everywhere at the black joke that is life!”

The old one’s soul was as dust upon the Zaar’s howling wind.

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