I glance at my phone in surprise because the person calling can’t have left my house more than a minute ago, if that. I answer with a smile in my voice, thinking they had forgotten something. Instead I get this:
“When I was coming out of your house and passed through the gate is slammed a bunch of times and I heard footsteps follow behind me to my car. Then I saw a face in the mirror standing outside my car by the headlights.”
I pause, taking it in. “I’m sorry.” I say immediately because it is a serious issue for a guest to be harassed when leaving my home. I may live on the crossroads but my guests should always feel safe coming to my home.
“Don’t apologize. I just thought you should know.”
I swallow down a second apology and after a few more minutes we end the conversation. I glance towards my window and extended my senses. Yes, something was there, something new that hadn’t been there this afternoon when I dealt with a different, friendly spirit that afternoon. This new thing was aggressive, tumultuous and dark, filled with a confusion of emotions. Not one of mine.
My brother and I are both practitioners. Both of us are mediums and channel spirits at will, we both see them and sense them as naturally as breathing. I have always preferred the non-human spirits but my brother’s craft is that of a necromancer. He works almost exclusively with the dead. Our home is located at the top of hill between two crossroads, one of which is a corpse road. We live directly behind a funeral home and down the street from a swamp. Since we both share a household we split the duties of dual crossroad keepers. I care for the non-humans and tend to the cleansing of the crossroads and keeping the household wards, as well as serving as seer and vigil as needed. He keeps the human spirits, of which we have a great many passing through and serves as backup and exorcist when needed. It suits us and our practices.
Since this aggressive spirit wasn’t one of mine, I climbed up the stairs and tapped on his door. “Test the boundaries.”
I repeated my friend’s story to him. He sighs and has me fetch out his equipment since I was closer. He shifts around his violin and murmurs to himself, checking. He sighs again.
“It’s one of yours, isn’t it?” I asked. “We can’t have it attacking guests. That’s just rude.”
“I don’t know. I think some of my friends could use a spiritual kick in the ass.”
I laugh, because he’s not wrong. We negotiate a price for him taking care of the problem I noticed (rather than me doing it myself) and he gets ready to go cleanse the crossroads and chase the spirit away while I set about doing the dishes. The spirit was being tricky. It kept moving between the front and back of the house, causing my brother to have to cross the house twice to find it. During that time, I dropped my active barriers, offering one room of my house as refuge for the spirits that would be cleansed from the crossroads. I felt the house flood with new energy but the spirit my brother hunted was too distracted to take advantage. Other spirits didn’t take up the offer, including the one spirit I warned my brother against sending away.
Finally my brother stepped outside. I felt him issue a spiritual challenge of sorts followed by a dull response. Then two pulses of energy and the crossroads were cleared. My brother came in and announced it was done. I nodded, thanked him, and we set about making dinner.
A while later I returned to my flat downstairs. Many spirits had slipped back through the hole in the wards to return to the crossroads, to go about their business now that we’re not interrupting them. Others hid. I bent over and glanced under my bed where a small, fat spirit with a large face quivered, just under the blankets.
“Is he gone?” The spirit asks.
I smile kindly, voice soft, non-threatening, and very fond. “Yes he’s done. He’s not that scary. We just needed to get rid of that aggressive guy.”
The spirit understands and I straighten as the spirit comes out. Others move from corners and make their presence fully known. The room plunges into the cold but I ignore it and turn towards the affected crossroad.
“Hm, he did empty it, didn’t he?” I reached out and pushed my energy out towards the crossroad. The cold, empty feeling of the crossroad warms significantly and the spirits begin to move towards it, pleased. No one thanks me but the feeling of gratitude is there. I didn’t expect anything else. The crossroad’s reset and now it’s filled with energy and life, the way it should be.
“You really are a good [redacted].”
I whip around as a different spirit than I expected stood behind me. It was of the same class, so to speak, as the one from this afternoon and the one I told my brother not to cleanse. I drew myself up and nodded.
“I do my best.”
“It’s good enough.” It says and moves towards the busy crossroad. There was a finality to its voice, a hint that I was examined and passed a test, even if I didn’t personally cleanse the crossroads. This was going to be a new thing, clearly. This class of spirits has taken an interest in me. Internally I sighed and sit down to eat my pizza.
[Another episode of living at the crossroads. Commentary paraphrased and certain names and titles redacted but the events and essence of conversation was real.]