Observer

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Write a story that involves eavesdropping.... view prompt

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LGBTQ+ Horror Urban Fantasy

Not everyone could be an Observer.

It was a heartless job: she would be deployed wherever they thought she would be needed, and no matter what happened, she would do exactly what her job title said. Observe. Hauntings, demon sightings, cryptic sightings, possessions—she’d only been at it for about a decade, but she’d already seen enough to last her a lifetime. 

People of her profession had also reached the status of urban legend. Watchers (a more accurate title, in Annie’s opinion), Men in Black (she particularly resented this title; what about her and the other women, not to mention nonbinary persons, who worked their butts off every week?), an unremarkable homeless person, black-eyed children—townsfolk saw what they wanted to see, which was a part of the magic that was woven into their very clothes and beings. 

It was easier to see someone as an alien-esque being that was already familiar, rather than someone like Annie, a five-foot-nothing thirty-something wearing a forever-exhausted expression and almost always sporting a coffee stain on her white blouse.

Coffee stains didn’t exactly lead to the fear that made people leave her alone to do her job.

This time, her job seemed simple. A witch and her girlfriend had started dabbling in black magic, and the Observers wanted a record of what was happening for future reference. The witch, June Grayson, had come from a long line of powerful magic users, but her girlfriend, Kelsey Oles, was new and heading down a dangerous path.

And her job wasn’t to stop it from having or entering the picture, Annie stressed. It was just to listen and observe.

She pulled up to the apartment complex. It was shaping up to be an easy job: the apartment next to June was empty, the previous tenants moving out only a few weeks early. Annie opened the door to the building, the card reader letting her in with a beep. The lock was open on the empty apartment, and Annie was soon settled in against the adjoining wall to her target’s apartment.

Annie rested her head against the wall, closed her eyes, and listened. After a moment, the image was able to form in her mind of the room and its occupants, picking up on all of the noises with practiced ears. It wasn’t long before she was tuned into the conversation.

“You told me you’d stopped.”

June Grayson. 24. A witch from a long line of witches, and steered clear of black magic. Annie had first heard her voice in the town’s only coffee shop the day before. It was raspy with tears, trembling and on the defensive.

There was no response from the other person in the room, at least not right away.

Kelsey. You told me you’d stopped.”

There was a heavy sigh. “Well, I didn’t, okay?”

Kelsey Oles. 23. Had only been dabbling in magic for a couple of months, and lacked the sense of worry and moral guidelines that June had. She’d been slowly descending into darker and darker habits, snapping and hexing everyone at the smallest inconvenience, and buying questionable spell books from an underworld peddler. Annie had watched her buy the books from the ogre-in-disguise almost a week ago, and her eagle eyes had seen one of the titles involved “human sacrifice.”

“I know you didn’t. You fucking killed the neighbor’s cat for a ritual.”

“It was old and dying anyways, I did it a favor by putting it down.”

June made a wounded noise in the back of her throat. “Kelsey. You can’t be serious right now.”

There was more bickering, rising to a crescendo that ended with the realization that Kelsey was about to leave for a much, much bigger ceremony.

“Why are you doing this?” June asked, voice broken. “You’re addicted. You have to stop.”

Kelsey didn’t respond, choosing instead to finish viciously tying her shoes before storming out the apartment, slamming the door behind her.

For June’s credit, she didn’t break down and cry. Instead, she leaned heavily against wall that Annie was listening on, making the Observer startle. There was a sliding noise as June sat on the floor. Annie’s heartbeat quickened, but she didn’t dare move, lest June heard her and went to explore the noise.

***

New orders from the higher-ups,” the man on the other end said, sounding bored. “Intervention is necessary.

Annie nearly dropped her phone. “What?”

Intervention is necessary,” he repeated. “June Grayson has been selected as a candidate for becoming an Observer.”

Annie opened her mouth to respond, but no sound came out. Seemingly satisfied now that his message had been shared, the man hung up without another word.

Well, that certainly changed everything.

It wasn’t unheard of, but it wasn’t something that Annie had had to deal with. Sometimes, people were Observed because of their potential, either due to their powers or their lived experience; they had to be watched closely to ensure the right choice, lest they be banished to filing paperwork for the rest of their careers. These cases tended to be left for the seasoned veterans, agents who had graduated from Observers to the higher ranks in the organization’s bureaucracy. 

While Annie was confident in her abilities and knew she was a solid Observer, she had never Observed a possible candidate for her. A thrill of excitement and dread went up her spine, because one of the caveats of being a candidate tended to go along with seeing and experiencing traumatic events. A sort of “proof” that they could handle the serious stuff.

Swallowing compulsively, Annie tucked her phone back into her pocket.

This changed everything.

***

It all got messy very quickly, even by Annie’s standards. To be fair, most black magic always ended up messy, but she hadn’t been expecting…this.

June was sitting on the stairs of the cabin, slumped and staring off into the distance. She was covered in blood and only wearing slacks and a T-shirt despite the weather. Annie could already see the bruises blooming on her arms and neck underneath the thick layer of browning blood. Inside the small cabin on the outskirts of town, where Annie had found her, lay the bodies of Kelsey and her friends, ripped apart by the creature they had been trying to summon with June’s death. 

They hadn’t taken into account what would happen when a real witch was entered into the equation, one that had been taught how to manipulate magic her entire life. It had all ended in a bloodbath, June managing to avoid the ceremonial killings and taking ahold of the ritual to set the demon free.

Now, she was alone, blood-covered, and heavily traumatized. Ripe for the picking, Annie thought bitterly.

Annie approached carefully, and her heart leaped in her throat when June’s piercing grey eyes darted into her direction. All of the fight seemed to have left her body, and she didn’t react as Annie came to stand in front of her.

Annie held out her hand. June stared at it with blank eyes before reaching a bloodied hand to take Annie’s. The Observer helped June to her feet, offering a supportive arm without worrying about the bloodstains that were starting to bloom on her already-ruined jacket.

“Let’s go get a coffee,” Annie said, leading June towards her car. “I have a proposition for you.”

November 09, 2021 17:13

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