It didn’t take long for things to get arranged to Benita’s satisfaction.
With a portal to who knew where open and a ring of chanting acolytes around it, Benita signalled to Maria and grasped Magnus by his thin hand. Maria pulled the mask over her face and dropped gently into the tank. It creeped her out bit when the giant cephalopod crept out of his bed and wrapped his tentacles gently around her body. She had seldom been so thankful for a wetsuit in her life, but she steeled herself to pat the creature on one of his sinewy ‘arms’. He made a small mewing noise and Maria felt pity for him.
“It’s okay, boy. Tia Benita is here. She gonna send dat bad magic right back where it belong.”
She made the thought as strong and positive as she could, and the creature relaxed a little.
The first awareness of anything happening came with a strange vibration in the water, it was disturbingly just off-kilter enough that the human mind couldn’t catch the rhythm. It made Maria feel nauseated and Big Orange cringed as he curled himself tighter around her. Maria found herself stroking him as if he was a crying child.
“You hushabye now. Tia Benita not gonna let no bad happen to you.”
The vibration stopped, and even through the water Maria could hear the mambo singing in her strong contralto voice. As she sang, bits and pieces of something floated to the top of the pool, where the bravest of the maintenance guys appeared to be collecting them in a piece of fine white cloth. The water around Maria and Big Orange started to heat up, but Tia Benita was having none of that and she spoke a word of so much power that the panes of glass in the roof high above the octopus tank rang like bells.
Maria was beginning to think this was going to be a straightforward clearance job when the sand in the bottom of the tank started to move. It circled on itself like a maelstrom of yellow particles, and then it became a pillar of spiralling sand. When it reached the surface of the water a creature shouldered itself out of the whirlpool to stand on the surface of the water.
“Hey, mambo woman,” it called derisively, “you think you big enough to content with PaPa himself.”
“You ain’t no PaPa. Fact you ain’t even a pup. You gonna go back aisy or do I gonna hafta send you.”
The creature on the water swelled indignantly. Once again, Maria felt heat, but it was quickly quenched. And then a very strange thing happened. Big orange grasped her in his tentacles and rose to the surface right beside the hulking figure that must have been the soul of the muppet that the strange crew threw into the water. The dark thing looked at the huge octopus out of deep-set red eyes.
“This ain’t your fight sea monster.”
Big Orange swelled his chest and began to sing, with Tia Benita and her acolytes joining in immediately. As the song swelled Magnus stepped forward.
“By the spirit of my Viking ancestors I bid you return from whence you came. Lest all of Valhal come forth and punish thee for thy transgression.”
The creature made as if to sneer, but even as it curled its lip the skinny director swelled to an immensity to match the dark soul. The northman’s shoulders were like those of an ox and his huge hands swung a war axe as if it was no more than a blade of grass. His piercing blue gaze bored into the red depths of the eyes of his adversary and he laughed a deep and booming laugh.
“Leave now, little draugr (demon). Leave and fight another day or meet dauða bræðrumaður (death bringer) here and now.”
The dark thing licked it’s lips with a thick, red tongue. “I will leave. But I was summoned and I am owed a life.”
Tia Benita laughed, although it was the sort of a sound that bodes ill for somebody. She crooked a finger and almost at once the air thickened while the sound of cursing bounced off the water like waves of foul-smelling bodily fluid.
The dark thing rolled back its lips in an approximation of a smile, before eying Maria in a fashion she found disturbing. She wasn’t Benita’s niece for nothing, though. She raised her hands and concentrated briefly. The muppet that appeared in her hands was a tiny, perfect version of the dark creature. The summoning snarled at Maria and the muppet grew hot in her fingers.
“Stop that,” she said firmly, and showed it the hat pin she held in her other hand. The muppet cooled. “Behave yourself and you shall take this with you. Anger me and I will keep my hand about your heart forever.”
Magnus laughed deep in his chest. “We may want to talk when all this is over.”
“We may,” Maria replied primly.
Whatever they may have been going to say next was interrupted by the arrival of a woman Maria recognised as being the one who dropped the simulacrum into the water. Big Orange made a sound that would have been a snarl in a creature that possessed that sort of a throat. The woman saw who had summoned her and made to move on Tia Benita with her hands clawed. She didn’t get to within twenty feet, however, because the dark entity reached across and grasped her by the throat.
“How dare you touch me Giglamel. I made you,” she hissed, “and I can unmake you just as easy”.
“I think not. I think you stole me. Dragged me screaming from the place where I belong. Enslaved me. Held my soul in a pot.” The creature shook her like she was a rag. “Now you owe me.”
It bent and rolled back its lips before biting the fat woman’s neck. Maria could see its throat work as it swallowed the blood that would bind the woman to its will. After a moment it lifted its head and let the woman go. She ran, but she would now go only where the creature allowed her to.
It laughed harshly, showing bloodstained teeth, before bowing and holding a hand out to Maria. She shook her head.
“Oh no, my friend. Not until you are actually leaving.”
It made a grab. But Maria was watching for the move and stepped back. The dark entity snarled and snaked its hand towards her unprotected throat. But she stabbed its groping hand with the hatpin. It screamed, high and thin, and brought its injured hand to its mouth, before beginning to spin widdershins. Faster and faster and faster it spun and when it slowly descended into the vortex Maria threw the muppet in after it.
For a few seconds disembodied and guttural laughter filled the air then it was gone, and the atmosphere felt fresh and clean again.
Big Orange uncurled himself from around Maria’s body and slowly descended to the bottom of his pool. Tia Benita smiled at her niece.
“Well done chile. You go get outta that suit while I seals up the portal.”
There will be more from Big Orange and the Mambo Woman next Sunday…