lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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Hi everybody!  This story was prompted by [livejournal.com profile] kitrona, who wanted home as established through rituals, and sponsored by SittieKitty of Manboobz!  Though this story is stand-alone, Reverend Alpert has appeared before, in Pornathon's Exorcism. (NSFW) This story is SFW, but a warning: it contains the maltreatment of children.

EDIT: [livejournal.com profile] rolodexaspirin reinterpreted the illustration!  Check it out!

The Monster Under the Bed

Home is where the wards are.

Reverend Alpert knows that most people would disagree, but he travels too much to view ‘home’ as a building. Sometimes it’s a tent, or a cave, or a burnt-out concrete skeleton from the old times. But always, always warded.

Even when he’s sleeping in a proper room, like today. The inn is warm, smells of black beans and peppers, and the owner is smiling and friendly. It would be a pleasant, homey place, but for the owner’s children. They lurk like unhappy shadows, and every time Alpert turns to look at one, they dart away.

“Exorcist, eh?” The owner says as they go up the stairs. “Don’t get much of them down here! What do you use? Chalk? Well, that’s fine, no mess. And here’s the room—used to be my oldest’s. Maybe you’ll catch that monster under the bed I kept hearing about!”

It’s an old joke, but Alpert laughs politely.

One of the younger children creeps in with hot water and clean towels, a tray of food. She sets the things up, shoulders hunched, and she stares fixedly away from Alpert the entire time. Alpert keeps a respectful distance, and decides to set his wards immediately. The atmosphere troubles him.

He sheds his black coat and jacket, rolls up his sleeves, and reaches into the belt around his waist to pull out a large stick of white chalk. Then he gets to work drawing diagrams on the bare wood of the door.

He’s finished that and is on his hands and knees on the floor when he notices that the child has finished her work and drifted nearer, trying to catch a better look at what he’s drawing without getting too close. Unable to see past his back, she then edges to the door and cranes her neck to peer at the eleven-pointed star there and moves as though to poke it.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” Alpert says from the floor, and the child flinches and hastily withdraws her hand. “It won’t hurt you, but I’d have to redraw it.”

“What’s it for?” Her voice is hesitant, almost a whisper.

“Protection.”

The child exhales, seems to relax a little bit. “You won’t need that.” ‘You’ is subtly emphasized.

Alpert keeps working. “Would you like me to make one for you? It’ll keep you safe from monsters.”

The child goes rigid, stares at him with sudden fury. “No!” She shouts, then claps her hands over her mouth and flees the room.

Alpert watches her shadow go, and his eyes narrow. He shuts the door behind her, closes the curtains, and after carefully looking around the room, he bends over to complete his floor ward. He’s not at all surprised when it goes off the moment he finishes. The monster-under-the-bed is an old exorcist joke for a reason.

With a grunt of effort, Alpert gets to his feet, drags a trunk over, and sits down where he can see comfortably under the bed. The shadow seems unnaturally solid. Taking his chalk again, he begins to draw on his long, dark sleeve.

“You belong to the children, I presume?”

Silence.

“I can compel you, but I’d rather not. I just want to talk.”

He still can’t see anything, but from under the bed, a surprisingly high, childish voice says, “I didn’t think they had chalk exorcists anymore.”

“We’re out of fashion these days, but I assure you, my dear, we’re still around.” He licks his thumb, erases a line, and changes the diagram. “You’ve been here longer than I expected, if you recognize that. What is it you do?”

“I… take care of the children.”

Alpert pauses in drawing. He frowns. “Elaborate, please.”

“No. You’re a Gestaltist, aren’t you? So you worship the power of belief. Well, I have three generations’ worth instilled in me, and I believe I can withstand you.”

Alpert bows his head, suddenly tired. “Three generations.” He shakes his head. “This runs in the family then, does it?”

“It’s a longstanding tradition.” And the voice sounds, for a moment, deeply sad.

He adjusts the diagram again. “The father, then? That’s who you protect them from?”

“And the grandmother. The middle child appears to be going the same way as well. As I said,” it adds with bitterness, “it’s a longstanding tradition.”

“Is there no one else the children can turn to?”

“The uncle is mayor. No, there isn’t. Only me, and I am limited to the bed. Fortunately, that covers a lot of it.”

“And they can’t leave?”

“This is their home. They will not abandon me.”

Alpert nods, surveys the drawing on his sleeve, makes some final adjustments. “Would you like the power to move freely?”

“Oh, yes, please!” Pause. “But only if I maintain my primary allegiance to my children.”

“Of course. Let’s begin.”


As Alpert is paying for his stay, the innkeeper asks him, “So, did you find that old monster under the bed?” The jovial tone hides a cold, hard edge.

Alpert looks him in the eye. “Yes,” he says, “and I know exactly why it’s there.”

The innkeeper looks unsettled, but he lets Alpert leave unmolested. A block or so later, he’s not entirely surprised to hear a, “Wait!” and see the child who watched his wards, rushing down the road to him.

She’s holding a bag of cookies. “These are for you. Will we be safe now?”

“Thank you, my dear. And yes, you should be. If your monster needs fortifying, feed it your favorite food and tell it your dreams at night. If that doesn’t do the trick, send a letter to any of the Gestaltists and ask for Alpert; word will get to me. I’m sorry I can’t do more.”

“It’s okay,” the child says with a shrug, and her expression is disturbingly blasé. “The monster takes care of us.”

That night, Alpert sleeps out in the desert. It’s cold, and clear, and sometimes he hears coyotes, but his wards keep their constant vigil, and he sleeps peacefully.

Date: 2013-06-25 11:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rolodexaspirin.livejournal.com
ghat damn i love alpert

Date: 2013-06-26 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That was beautiful. I love the twist. (This is kitrona... I'm on my phone's and can't remember my password.) Lovely. I'll have to read the other one, too; I really like Alpert.

Date: 2013-06-26 07:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed! I really hope to make more Alpert stories; he's a good character in a fun world, much fun to write.

Date: 2013-07-05 03:45 am (UTC)
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