AN ILL WIND
by Dervish, email@example.com
Daria sighed. "I really should be going."
"Are you sure?" Jane frowned in concern. That wind they had walked home in from Pizza King was bad, and had creeped her out for some reason. She didn't want her friend to walk home alone in it. "That wind looks kinda bad out there, amiga." Those winds were rattling the windows of Casa Lane now, accentuating her words.
"It's just wind," said Daria. "I'm a big girl."
"Trent should be home in a few more minutes. Let him drive you home."
Daria stared at Jane. "It's not that far. And he was supposed to be home an hour ago."
Jane shook her head. "I don't know," she said uncertainly. "There's just.... something wrong with that wind. I don't think you should go home in it."
"And what do I tell Mom and Dad?" asked Daria. "That I was scared of a little wind?"
Jane bit her lip. "Just say you forgot."
Daria sighed. "Look, Jane, your concern is touching, but I'll see you later."
Jane walked Daria to the door in resignation. She impulsively hugged her friend before she actually went out, which surprised Daria.
Daria finally managed to get away from Jane and went outside. But she had to admit, she hated hearing that door slam behind her, apparently from the wind.
Daria remembered suddenly that this was the day, according to the Celtic Calendar, that spirits were traveling to their new places: Samhain, though Halloween occurred on the calendar a little over a week later. She fancied she could see some of the spirits in the air above her. Just her imagination, of course, but she was afraid. She desperately hoped that they would not notice her.
Get a grip, she thought. It's just wind.
Suddenly, the wind blew her glasses off. "Dammit!" cried Daria in a bit of unexpected panic. She steeled herself and squatted down to find her glasses.
She gasped as something bumped into her from behind, knocking her down to her hands and knees. Luckily, she found her glasses instead of falling on them and breaking them. When she got her glasses on, she glared up at the shape she saw on a mailbox not far in front of her.
It was an owl. A really huge owl. A really, really creepy owl.
The worst about the owl was its eyes. They looked.... human. It stared at her silently as the wind ruffled its feathers, and Daria was terrified. Then she shook her head, muttering, "It's just an owl."
Then the owl seemed to make a barking laugh. She didn't know owls could make sounds like that. It continued to stare at her, and she felt as if it were mocking her.
Daria saw a rock close by. She threw it. "Get out of here!"
The owl jumped over the thrown rock and flew straight at Daria, a look of fury on its horrid face. Daria ducked, covering her head with her arms, and the owl went over her and kept going.
Finally, it seemed to be gone. She got up and hurried the rest of the way home, trying not to break out into a run. She hated feeling grateful when no goblins molested her on the rest of the way home.
The smell of lasagna, the sound of the TV, and all that was normally her life comforted her when she came in the door. She had to admit that yes, that wind was creepy to make her like the hell that was her everyday life.
Daria was getting into bed finally, but was still creeped out over that wind and that owl. At least the wind had stopped, and now an unusual icy cold had descended on Lawndale while stars glimmered coldly outside her bedroom window. She kept seeing that owl stare at her with its human eyes every time she shut her own eyes. Finally, she managed to get to sleep.
Some time later, Daria was woken up by someone on top of her. Was it Quinn? She hadn't been forced to sleep with her for years.
"Quinn, get off," mumbled Daria.
She felt taloned feet dig in, through the blankets. She opened her eyes.
The owl monster was staring straight down at her with its human eyes, its beak open. Daria opened her mouth to scream when the creature dipped its head down to her face.
Daria felt her scream snatched from her as her breath began to funnel into the creature above her in a barely visible mist. Most of all, it HURT like hell. It felt like the strength of her very heart was being RIPPED from her through her breath into the hellish creature above her.
She gasped for air, but the gasping wouldn't work. She was going to die, not only from suffocation, but from this violent plundering of the breath and... and... life force already within her, necessary for her life and soul.
Then Daria felt that THING try to force its way into her mouth. She screamed at the violation of it, feeling it trying to go down her throat.
Unable to move, she forced herself to concentrate on her right hand in hopes of making it move. Her hand slowly began to tremble, and she noticed then that she was icy cold.
The owl demon now had its entire head inside her mouth, and its taloned feet pushed against her chest, as if trying to crawl all the way in. Daria still felt her breath and life being ripped violently from her heart.
She could move her hand, and then her arm followed suit. She reached up for the owl and jerked at it. The owl came out of her, shrieking in rage. Daria could move completely now, and breathe, and she did so in great gasps as she threw the ghastly owl as hard as she could away from her.
The owl went back a ways, and then it flew back at her, an expression of demonic rage on its too-human face. Daria covered herself with her blanket and screamed as she felt the demon attempt to tear the blanket from her.
Daria screamed for awhile before she noticed that the light was on. She screamed again as the blanket was pulled from her finally. But she saw a large shape and knew it was her mom.
"Daria?" asked Helen. "Are you okay?"
"Is there an owl in here!?" asked Daria in a panic, before she thought better of it.
"I don't think so," replied Helen. "I can look if you want."
Daria heard the patronizing tone in her mom's voice and hated it. "No," she said embarrased, "it's okay. It was just a nightmare."
"Are you sure you're okay?" asked Helen. "Would you like something to drink?"
"No thanks," said Daria, as she lay back down for sleep.
"Okay, then," said Helen, only a little doubtfully. "G'night, sweetie." She kissed Daria's forehead before she left.
But just as she started to fall asleep, she heard scratching, as if something was trying to claw its way through wall into her room. She frowned in fear, but then fell into restless sleep and unpleasant dreams.
Daria had gotten home from school. It was depressing outside. There was no wind (thankfully), but it was all cloudy and gray, with a light mist cloaking everything. Outside, as it got darker, the mist took on darker aspects, almost looking like a bit of angry clouds that had come down to earth.
And she was in the front room, because her room was unnaturally cold, and she was afraid of it. Not that she would ever admit to that. For some reason, Quinn was down here, too. Daria studiously ignored her, as she looked out the window at the darkening mist.
"Ow!" shouted Quinn.
Daria turned towards her sister in curiosity. Quinn, holding a brush, was looking around, perplexed. Then she turned to Daria with a look of fear on her face. "Something keeps messing with my hair!"
Quinn got mad, but she quickly lost it to the fear. She frowned in thought, but finally put her brush away.
Daria's heart skipped a beat when she heard the scratching sounds again, just as she had in her room last night after that horrible nightmare.
"What's that?" asked Quinn, a bit of fear in her voice.
"Rats, I think," said Daria, her own voice quivering just a little.
"I hope not," muttered Quinn, who trembled slightly. She felt that she almost knew what it was, but her conscious mind couldn't place it.... and that it didn't want to know.
Jake appeared in the front room. "Supper's ready, girls!" He still seemed happy, but somewhat subdued. Daria and Quinn, grateful for the distraction, went to eat supper.
When they were all sitting at the table for a scrumptious plate of lasagna, Helen asked them how their day had been. Daria said nothing, as Quinn prattled on.
Daria, taking a bite, felt something hard hurt her teeth. She spit it out, evoking a shout of offense from Helen. She looked down in horror at what she saw before her.
A pin. How did that get there? She picked it up.
Then Jake spit out his food. There were two pins among the lasagna. "Helen, what did you put in this?" he asked perturbed.
"I... I don't know how that got there!" said Helen. "Oh my god!" cried Helen as she ran a fork through her lasagna. A bunch of pins came out of it. "Nobody eat the lasagna!" she shouted.
Helen picked up the phone on the table to call her Eric to talk about a law suit against the company that made this lasagna, but when she clicked it on, it just made weird beeping and shrill electronic noises at her. She finally clicked it off.
Daria was getting more and more upset. Then she knew she was going to retch and she got up to run. But before she took two steps, it came. Then... she felt almost fine.
Breathing hard, she looked down in stricken horror. She had puked up a bunch of pins and needles. "What's going on?" she asked hoarsely. She looked up to her entire family; they were staring at her in horror.
A couple of hours had passed. Helen wanted to sue the company that made the lasagna, but she despaired over how this would sound in a court room.
They finally all had--very carefully--peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Except Daria, who wasn't hungry at all.
Then the scratching noises began everywhere. Helen and Jake talked about getting an exterminator, but they were obviously scared, and trying to hide the fact from the girls and themselves.
Helen was upset when she found little puddles of water as if someone had carefully poured it out every few feet or so. But how would she not see whoever did it? "Better call a plumber, too," said Helen out loud.
Daria finally went upstairs to just go to bed and hope tomorrow was a better day. But she hadn't been there long when she felt something sharp bite into the back of her neck.
"Owwww!" shrieked Daria, twisting about and sitting up. "Get off of me, get off of me!" She reached around but felt nothing--only a sharp, piercing pain in a small section of the flesh of her neck.
Her door opened, and Daria saw Helen, still dressed, come in. "OW!" shrieked Helen, right after a resounding slap filled the room. Helen grabbed at her cheek and looked around in abject horror.
Daria started to feel very, very bad.
"Daria?" asked Helen in a tremulous voice. "Are.. are you okay?"
Jake and Quinn, still dressed, came in then. Quinn saw Daria and shrieked, grabbing hold of Helen.
"What?" asked Daria, through her raw throat. She saw her hands then, and noticed they were both greatly swollen and red. She quickly came to realize her entire body was turning red and swelling. "Mom?" asked Daria, very frightened, "what's happening to me?"
Quinn started shouting, "Something pulled my hair! It pulled my hair!" Helen looked as if she were about to have a nervous breakdown. "Wha--what's going on?" she asked of no one in particular.
The scratching noise started in earnest, focused on one wall. They all turned to look, and clearly saw the message as it was clawed there by unseen talons:
YOU ARE MINE TO KILL DARIA
Helen shook her head no. She cried out as she was slapped by the unseen hand again. She fled, and Quinn ran crying behind her.
Jake carefully approached Daria. Daria then fell over and retched up a bunch of new needles. She sobbed then, and she reached out to Jake. There was a sound like a thunderclap that shook the entire walls of the house and Jake turned and fled, leaving Daria alone in her cold room, suddenly full of scratching sounds.
Daria didn't manage to get a lot of sleep that night, most of which she spent on the couch. Whatever foul spirit had invaded their home seemed strongest in Daria's room. But it wasn't confined to Daria's room. And no one really wanted Daria around them, because her family knew that it was after her... and where Daria was, the spirit would be, too.
Come morning, Quinn ran down and shrieked, "It's your fault, Daria! It's all your fault!" She was crying.
"What?" asked Daria.
"My clothes! They're.. .they're RUINED!" She ran back upstairs, crying. "They're all ripped to pieces!"
Later, Daria gladly left the house as she went to school. She couldn't believe that Quinn was staying home. That house was just too damn terrifying. And then her breath quickened as she wondered if that demon would follow her to school.
Jane met her outside the school and instantly knew something was wrong. "Daria, what is it?" she asked, concerned.
That concern instead of abandonment, and the fear that Jane would also abandon her to the demon, made her start crying, as she shook her head.
Jane still didn't know what was wrong, but she could see Daria was too upset for school. She suggested they ditch school and go to her place, and Daria readily agreed.
So it was over coffee at Casa Lane that Daria told Jane everything.
Daria took another sip of her third cup of coffee. "So," she asked, "do you believe me?"
Jane thought only a few moments. "You're obviously upset about something. You're sane. You wouldn't make anything like this up. And I knew there was something wrong with that wind!" Jane resisted saying I told you so and swallowed instead.
"I think my entire family would prefer if I didn't come home," said Daria softly. "And with that... that THING there waiting for me.... I don't really want to go home, either."
Jane touched Daria's hand. "Of course you can stay."
Daria smiled weakly at her. "Do you mind, after the coffee wears off, if I get some sleep?"
"Sure," said Jane. "I might join you."
Daria was too upset to make any comments over that.
Jane cocked her head, thinking. "You know...." Jane twisted her mouth in more thought.
"What?" asked Daria.
"If there's a spirit around you or something," said Jane, a little doubtfully, "maybe I could paint it, trap it on my canvass, and then get rid of the painting and demon both."
Daria shrugged. "It's worth trying," she said, since she didn't have any better ideas.
And so it was that Daria was laid out across Jane's bed while Jane asked her pointed questions while she painted the owl as best she could. When Jane noticed that Daria had fallen asleep, she continued to paint tirelessly. A few hours later, she had a rendition of a demonic owl with human eyes that gave Jane the creeps to look at, and she felt a mad desire to burn it.
Instead, she lay down next to Daria in hopes that her company would keep Daria from having nightmares. Soon, Jane Lane also fell asleep.
Jane woke up and instantly knew something was wrong. She couldn't move a muscle. And out of the corner of her eye, she could see that the owl she had painted was struggling to get off the canvass.
She tried to shout to Daria, but she could barely even breathe. The painting, now an entity of some kind, dropped off the canvass onto the floor.
Jane heard its footsteps, and then saw it jump up onto the bed with her and Daria. The thing crawled on top of Daria and started sucking in her breath.
Daria! Jane mentally cried out, wake up!
Daria coughed, but otherwise didn't move. Tiny bits of mist moved from Daria's mouth into the owl demon on top of her. It seemed to be growing more vital, more real.
Suddenly, it dove into Daria's mouth, crawling all the way in, while Daria barely struggled. Finally, it was all the way in. Jane wondered what that meant when Daria jerked her head towards Jane. Her eyes were now the eyes of the owl. With a horrible, inhuman expression, Daria rolled over onto Jane and leaned her mouth down to hers. And began sucking out her breath....
Jane came to suddenly and realized the room was not only dark but very cold. She quickly fought off the lethargy and got up off the bed. She walked over to the door when she remembered Daria should be on the bed, too.
Turning on the lights, Jane gasped when she saw Daria's eyes were open and she was apparently struggling to breath.
"Daria!" shouted Jane, running over to her friend. "Wake up!" When Daria didn't respond, Jane slapped her.
"OW!" yelled Jane, as an unseen hand slapped her. "What the.... leggo!" Something grabbed her hair and yanked her off onto the floor. She got up to see Daria sitting up, breathing hard.
"Jane?" she asked uncertainly.
Jane gasped a few times, looking around crazily for the invisible assailant. "It's okay, Daria, we're fine."
Daria shook her head. "No. We're not." Then she started crying.
Jane sat beside Daria, hugging her for awhile, all the while looking around for whatever this thing that was trying to kill her friend might be. "Let's go get some more coffee," said Jane after awhile.
"Okay," said Daria huskily as she got up.
Later, down in the kitchen, Jane asked Daria for what had happened to her.
"I'm not sure," said Daria. "I was asleep, when all of a sudden it was like I was in my old room. And the owl was on top of me again. It said... it said it wanted to kill me. I couldn't even ask it why!"
Jane shuddered, recalling her own nightmare about Daria--an evil, vampiric entity that wore Daria's body like a glove.
Daria shook her head a bit. "I don't know what it is. I've read some faeries often took the form of an owl. Some of these spirits could be exceedingly dangerous, even hostile, to humans. Maybe I have a goblin pissed at me." She looked to Jane and added, "Unless you have a better idea."
Jane took in a breath and said, "I think it might be a vampire spirit, Daria." She told Daria of the nightmare she'd had. Daria shuddered.
"Folklore is often very dreamlike," said Daria. "Goblins, demons, faeries, vampires, hags, even gods could all be interchangeable. It was for the things that make no sense in our rational world, and yet seem to exist anyway."
Jane pursed her lips, thinking. "Penny was telling me about the Chupacabras down in Mexico...."
"The what?" interrupted Daria.
"The goat sucker," said Jane seriously.
"Oh, yeah," said Daria. "There was something on Sick, Sad World about that."
Jane nodded. "Yeah. Well there have been things killing animals for a long time. Something is always blamed, based on society's explanation of such things. In America, it's even thought UFO's are going around doing it. But there's always something doing it, and the truth is, we don't know what."
Daria was skeptical, but she knew she didn't have a rational explanation for what what was going on. So she just asked, "What does this have to do with my, uh, problem?"
"Well, Penny was saying that these attacks were more common around Halloween, Beltane, and other days popular for sacrifice. Horses were often used then, and horses are among the most commonly found slaughtered now." She shrugged. "It seems to be cattle in America, but they were sacrificed, too, and the first case of cattle mutilation here was actually a horse ripping."
"So?" asked Daria.
"Well," continued Jane, "a director at a zoo in Mexico City had made a public comment that the attacks on animals there by what was believed to be the Chupacabras was done as if by a single instrument. It appeared the animals had been sacrificed as per instructions of an old rite described in a Biblical text called Leviticus."
"Hmph," said Daria intrigued, "I am finding this interesting, but I still don't see what it has to do with my situation."
"Well," said Jane, "Penny went on to point out that a lot of weird stuff, from the Chupacabras to UFOs, were attracted to blood, and all would have been recognized by our ancestors." She shrugged. "Penny was thinking that these things, even the UFOs, were the old gods and spirits that still required the blood to feed. Since they weren't being fed anymore, these spirits or gods or daimons.... well, they took to just taking it where they could. They often gathered at certain sites which would be visited by disaster. Penny didn't know if they caused these disasters, or if they were just drawn to them. They seem to exist outside of time, at least as we understand it."
"Okay," said Daria. "So you're saying that this thing that is attacking me is trying to feed itself. It's an unknown entity that can match many other unknown, possibly unknowable, entities reported, be they goat suckers or greys or vampires."
"Yeah," said Jane, "and if that's so, then there are things you can do to protect yourself."
Daria blinked at that. "Um, you mean pray to God or something?"
Jane scrunched her face up a bit. "That may not be a good idea, since we're not religious. Penny says that even the gods that are worshipped are vampiric entities called archons. They act like the standard spirits, in all the good and bad ways, only on a much bigger scale. They can be exceedingly dangerous themselves. Penny says you can find this from the ancient Hindu texts to the Gnostic mystics to modern mystics today, like that so-called astral traveler named Monroe."
"So the big gods don't like competition?"
"They don't seem to," said Jane. "It seems belief and rites were important, and many of these spirits found that the more people they could get to worship them, the more powerful they became. And the more hostile they became to other spirits."
"Hmm. Why would they care about other spirits?" Daria wondered.
"Well, it's curious, with the Chupacabras," Jane said, "it started out as a little, local thing. But when the killings got picked up on the news circuit, the Chupacabras spread to everywhere people had heard about it, leaving dead animals in its wake."
"Hmph," said Daria neutrally.
Jane sipped at her coffee. "Mom has a book by Charles Fort that says that there seems to be an invisible power or principality or whatever that was trying to stop people from talking about the strange things, or even knowing of them. It wasn't done to protect us. It was so that it could keep exclusive exploitation rights to us."
"So we're the cattle then?" Daria shuddered slightly after she asked that.
"Some think so," said Jane. "I wish Penny were here now, or that I could get in touch with her. She'd know a lot of things you can do. She said she used them herself and they worked. And she refused to call on any god, even the Christian one or that Virgin Mother Goddess that the locals in her area did. Penny also said that didn't always work anyway."
If Daria hadn't been scared out of her mind, she would've enjoyed this. But as it was, she just wanted help. "Do you remember anything she claimed to do?"
"Cold iron seems to help," said Jane. "It is often used as protection against all kinds of evil spirits. What's interesting is Penny said people have stopped their own abductions by UFOs by carrying it."
Daria asked, "Why would that work?" If she could make some sense out of this, even if it were a crazy sense, she might feel better about this.
Jane shrugged. "Supposed to be that iron was first discovered as having fallen out of the sky. It was more than one element, having power over all others. Later, it was made into weapons and armor, often using fire which was another important force, and so represented humanity's mastery over the unknowable forces, darkness, and evil around them." Jane shrugged again before saying, "But I honestly don't know."
After a moment, Daria asked, "So do we have any?"
"Yeah," said Jane. "A skillet and some pans." Jane looked up a bit. "And there's a few pokers near the fireplace, too."
"Okay," replied Daria, "anything else?"
"Salt water," said Jane. "Flowing water could be good, but salt water in an iron cauldron or skillet of some kind under the bed could keep away nightmares. Salt was good protection all by itself. Those are the universal ones. There are herbs, too, but there's a lot of disagreement there. Maybe it depends on how or when they're harvested or something."
"Sage is good if harvested during the waxing moon, but not the waning or something like that?"
Daria yawned. "Okay, we have iron, salt, and water from a flowing source, if the tap counts as flowing. We can see if any of that stuff helps or not. And we can see pretty soon," said Daria yawning again, "because I am so tired."
"Don't go to sleep on me, yet," said Jane. "I'm not ready for another round with that thing again."
"Me neither," said Daria. After a moment, she asked, "Mind if I borrow your phone?"
When Jane motioned towards it, Daria went to it and called her mom. But the phone kept making weird bleeps and wails. She finally gave up. "Damn," she said.
"Can't get through?" asked Jane.
Daria shook her head. "It did something weird to our phone last night, too." Shaking her head, she added, "I think they're very glad to have me out of the house anyway." Daria looked up. "Anybody else here, like your mom?"
"Nope," said Jane. "Mom's still at her retreat. Dad's in Madagascar. And so on and so on." She brightened slightly. "But Trent should be back from his gig soon. Can you wait long enough for him to come home before you go to sleep?"
"I'll try," said Daria, "but won't Trent just fall asleep as soon as he gets here?"
"Maybe," said Jane, "but we'll wake him up if we need, too."
"Huh?" asked Daria in some shock.
"We're sleeping together in the front room."
Daria blushed, but she didn't refuse. She wasn't about to argue that she was sleeping alone or with Jane for fear she might win. Then another thought struck her. "Jane, do you think this thing can tell that we're plotting our defenses?"
Jane shook her head. "I don't know. Thing is, these things don't seem to be knowable. Sometimes, they don't seem able to understand us anymore than we can understand them."
Soon, they had a skillet filled with salt water, some salt, and a poker by both of them. They got a fire going as it gave them something to do, and because fire was a holy force in regards to these creatures (though Jane remembered some of these things were known to start fires). It would also be useful for light and heat if the power went off. It was surprisingly cold both in and out of the house.
Trent came home while they were getting the fire bigger, and Jane explained the situation to him. Trent accepted this stoically, with a "cool," and all three soon had their own blankets to lie between on the floor near the fireplace.
Eventually, all three drifted off to sleep.
Daria woke up in her old bed back in Highland. She was very thirsty, and decided to get a drink of water. She yawned a little as she moved to get out of bed.
And then she stopped. Mr. Bloody Bones might be under her bed. She knew sometimes he was there. He would wait to grab her feet and then pull her under the bed. Then he would devour her, leaving only her bloody bones behind. Mr. Bloody Bones had done it to many other children, and their pictures were put on the back of milk cartons.
Her mom said that there was no Mr. Bloody Bones, but she also said a lot of other things didn't exist that Daria knew were real. Not the least of which was that she and dad didn't have any problems with her. So Mommy was probably lying about Mr. Bloody Bones, too.
Still, every time she got out of bed (jumping as far as she could), nothing ever came after her. Mr. Bloody Bones was a lot like Santa Claus. He could show up in any child's bedroom, but only for a few moments. What were the odds of Mr. Bloody Bones being under her bed right now?
Daria listened very carefully and heard nothing. Then she carefully got up on her bed and reminded herself that nothing ever happened. Taking a deep breath, she jumped as far as she could towards her bedroom door.
Whew! thought little Daria, Mr. Bloody Bones isn't here.
She froze as she heard a horrifying shriek that filled her bedroom with a wall-shaking cacophony. Too late, she tried to run, but something grabbed her ankle, and she fell, tightly held by her unseen assailant.
Screaming, she turned, and screamed again as she nearly passed out from terror. Mr. Bloody Bones was here for her. Little Daria now saw there was another reason for his name: he looked like a huge bloody skeleton, impossibly long, with claws and fangs. The black pits of its skull seemed to glare at her with utter malevolence, while it continued to shriek in a deafening yell. Even worse, she could smell the dried blood all over Mr. Bloody Bones, and it filled her with nausea.
"Mommy, Mommy!" shrieked Daria, but it was no use. She could never be heard over the cacophony of Mr. Bloody Bones. She shrieked wordlessly in mindless terror as Mr. Bloody Bones began to drag her under the bed.
Daria awoke to Jane's front room. She lay by Jane, and she sensed Trent on the other side of Jane. But her attention was focused on the owl above her sucking her breath. This time, Daria knew, it intended to kill her.
But something was different. Daria realized her right arm was barely touching the poker she had taken to her makeshift bed with her. And that arm wasn't frozen.
Clasping her fingers around the poker, she took only a moment to steady herself, and then struck out at the demon.
What happened wasn't entirely expected. Being that she was under covers, she managed to bring the covers over her arm up, and the blanket ended up going over the evil owl. The creature bucked and tried to escape, and Daria instinctively grabbed it. A horrible stench came from the covers as the thing twisted desperately to escape.
"Jane! Trent!" shrieked Daria, "Help me!"
Jane came to, blinking sleepily at Daria struggling with her blanket. Then her mouth dropped in fear as she realized Daria had something inside it.
"Trent!" yelled Jane, hitting him, "get up and help us!" She moved quickly to help Daria to hold whatever it was inside the blanket, gasping and holding her breath against the horrid stench.
"To the fire!" shouted Daria.
The fire had died down to embers, but there was some lighter fluid not too far from the fireplace. Jane nodded, and tried helping Daria to get the blanket and its prisoner to the fire.
But a real problem was the thing seemed to have no constant shape. It was more like gelatin that could flow back and forth, taking all their effort to keep it under the covers. Yet despite this, the thing was HEAVY!
"TRENT!" shouted Jane at the top of her lungs, and Daria shouted his name, too.
"Huh, what?" asked Trent confused, "It's only tobacco."
"TRENT!" shouted Jane and Daria together.
"Huh?" Trent blinked at them. "Oh." He blinked again. "What's in the blanket?"
"TREEEEENNNNNNNTTTTT!!!!!!" They both shouted again, struggling with the thing in the blanket.
"Oh," said Trent again. He moved closer to them and picked up the poker between Daria and Jane. "You want me to hit it?"
"NO!" shouted Daria. "You help me hold it in, Trent! Jane, get that fire started again!"
After Trent got a good hold on it, the thing emitted a tiny but definite screech and renewed its struggles. Jane tossed some papers and kindling in and squirted lighter fluid on it all until the fire was burning brightly again.
All the while, Daria and Trent inched the horrid-smelling creature closer and closer to the fire. Despite the intense cold, both sweated with exertion, and both grunted with the effort of it all.
Finally by the fireplace, Jane squirted lighter fluid on the fire one last time, and then started pouring it on the blanket while Daria and Trent turned their face away.
"Jane, help!" Daria finally shouted.
Jane put the lighter fluid down and jumped behind them, and gave the blanket and its occupant a huge shove, finally getting it into the fire. As the blanket caught fire, Trent gave it a final kick as Daria picked up the lighter fluid and squirted more in. Jane ran back and grabbed the poker.
"HERE!" shouted Jane, handing Trent the poker. "Keep it in!" As Trent used the poker to keep the blanket in the fire while Daria grabbed at the fire screen, and Jane took off running for her room.
Some deep instinct told Jane she needed to burn the painting, too, or it would provide a means of return for the entity.
In her room, she was horrified to see the image she had painted beginning to smoke. She grabbed the canvass and ran back down the stairs. Daria and Trent were holding the fire screen against the fireplace. She yelled, "I need to burn the painting!"
As she said this, the image on the canvass actually began scorching, sending up more smoke. Daria took up her poker again and Trent let her pull the top of the screen back enough to poke the blanket with the poker until Jane could get her painting inside the fire place.
Then they put the fire screen back. Inside, they heard a strange screeching, and the smell was the most horrible they had ever smelled.
The fire eventually burned down. The painting had been completely obliterated, but there were pieces of the blanket left. Jane threw some salt on it, and they kept the screen against it, using their backs to hold it in place, once it had cooled down some (which it did very quickly). There they stayed, talked, and dozed until dawn.
With the rising of the sun, they gathered up the ashes and what was left of the blanket and put it in a bucket. Outside, Trent dug a hole in which they buried the remains, Jane throwing just a bit more salt on it before they all took turns filling the hole back up.
When they were done, Daria asked, "Do you think that did it?"
"I don't know, amiga," said Jane. "I hope so."
Apparently it did, for the creature never troubled Daria again, and all the poltergeist effects had ceased to be. But for the rest of her days, Daria found herself unnerved by windy days and never went out into them for fear of seeing another owl with human eyes.