House Hunting (Grey Michael 2)

📅 Published on April 6, 2021

“House Hunting (Grey Michael 2)”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.75/10. From 4 votes.
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(This story is part of the Grey Michael series. For the first part in the series, entitled Grey Michael, click the preceding story’s title)

Let me set the scene for you.

The room is dark, enclosed, underground. The floor is smooth stone, chalked with a dizzying array of strange symbols all arranged in a careful pattern. They form the idea of a cage, an idea so strong that it’s almost visible.

The walls are lined with bookshelves heavy with paraphernalia. Leather-bound books, thick crucibles, strange artifacts and more. Everything is carefully placed. This is not the casual collection one might find in a standard home. It is clear that each object on these shelves holds meaning and use.

There is no dust on anything. It is all regularly used and meticulously cared for.

At one end of the room, adding flourishes to the symbols on the floor, is a man in a sober black suit. His name is Miķelis, and he is an evoker. He is the preeminent magician of his time. He is nearly good enough for what he is about to attempt.

For years Miķelis has worked to perfect his craft. Other magicians may be content with a few small tricks, abandoning their study of magic as soon as they have achieved the wealth or status they desire. For Miķelis, though, the magic is the point. He needs wealth only to fund his research, status only to gain access to the books and tools he seeks. Material possessions do not interest him. He gathers magical power for the sole purpose of being able to gain still more.

Already he is the strongest sorcerer the world has seen in centuries. Still he thirsts for more.

Tonight, he believes, will be his greatest achievement yet. It is the result of over five years of work. Starting from only the merest fragment of a burned book, he has recreated a summoning spell not seen in thousands of years. His work has been immensely thorough, for he understands the dangers involved. The entity this spell conjures could incinerate the globe in an instant. It could alter the path of stars, unmake prophecies, reach through time itself to affect its will. It is, as a rule, barred from our universe, kept out by protections far more ancient than humanity, but this spell weakens those protections enough to allow it to reach through.

Under Miķelis’s direction, it will be a potent tool, an amazing advancement in his abilities. It has been bound before, and can be again. The spell details the steps, the symbols, the sacrifices. Every incantation, Miķelis has practiced, drawing upon the knowledge of the dead to confirm his syllables. Every line, he has sketched over and over, until he can draw them flawlessly, perfectly replicating what was laid out in the reconstituted book.

The scene is set. The cage is prepared. The sacrifice is bound and waiting. All is exactly as the book described.

The book, alas, had an imperceptible flaw.

Miķelis, unknowing, begins the ritual. His voice flows through the wavering notes of the forgotten language. The air thickens and sparks around him. The resonance of the words pours into the chalked symbols. The lines funnel the power to its proper place. The entire space begins to glow with a color unknown to humanity, unknown to reality. It is the shape of the world separating. It is the vision of a reality beyond our own.

This color pours through the gap like syrup, puddling and filling the cage of imagination. It is not what Miķelis has summoned. It is merely a space in which the being he calls upon can exist.

The words of the spell cascade forth from the evoker, almost coming of their own volition now. The symbols on the floor dance with light, flashing out a demanding pattern, a call that must be answered. And within the space, within the blister of anti-reality, something calls back.

Miķelis speaks its true name. He fixes it into place, compelling it to heed his command. As long as his sacrifice is accepted, it must acquiesce to his desire.

The thing within the cage inhales deeply, a charybdian inrush of air. The life is sucked from the sacrifice, and it is here that the book has led Miķelis astray. The symbol that was inked in the book had a single, vital extra line. This changed the meaning from sacrifice, singular and directed—to sacrifices. Open-ended. Unbounded.

Miķelis drops even as the intended sacrifice also goes limp. He is dead before he ever has the opportunity to understand his error. Still the thing in the cage breathes in, drawing forth all that the sacrifices have to give. It takes their lives, their memories, their potential. It takes their hope and their love and their regret. It sucks out every last bit they have to offer before discarding their husks. The bodies crumble apart, too brittle to sustain their own weight.

Finally, anchored and aware, the being takes in its surroundings. It smiles as it comprehends the fate of the one that called it. It presses forward, testing the boundaries of its prison, but aside from the one fatal flaw the spell was perfect. Nothing from its reality can cross the walls constructed here. And until the being is dismissed, it cannot return to its own plane. With the caster dead, it is trapped eternally, unable to go forward or back.

Yet a loophole exists. The being banishes the material of its reality back through the tear, stands naked and exposed in the painful mundanity of our world. Nothing of its nature could pass through the walls before it, but it is powerful enough even to recreate its own self. It imagines itself slow, weak, bound by restrictions and natural laws. It strips away its magnificence, its terrible beauty, its awe-inducing splendor, and remakes itself in the image of the impossibly limited beings of this realm.

So reduced, it steps lightly through the walls of imagination. They are no longer any impediment, for it is no longer what it was. There is the tiniest of sparks within it yet, a piece small enough to slip through the laws of reality, but for all intents and purposes, its true self has been shorn completely away.

Leaving only me.

I entered this world fully formed, with complete knowledge of what I had once been and no way to access my previous power. I had access only to the magic wielded by the evoker who had summoned me, an amount so paltry that he could barely even bend local space. The spark in my belly burned, demanded that I find and consume more power so that I might again be what I once was.

Miķelis had thought himself driven by the search for power, but his need was merely academic. I literally hungered for it.

Like a slow-moving blaze, I devoured his library. Gemstones crunched between my teeth. Artifacts snapped in my hands, reduced to pieces small enough to swallow. I inhaled greedily as I broke them, catching the wisps of magic that escaped. They were nothing, like sucking on candy wrappers to get the flavor. I pressed on, hoping for something of value in this collection.

I tore pages from their bindings and stuffed them into my mouth, ripping and chewing through thick vellum and brittle parchment with equal ease. Busy fingers tore leather bindings into jerky-like strips, and I swallowed those too. Millennia of knowledge were lost from the world, and still I felt no better. These dabblings did not begin to address my deep-seated need, though they were the best humanity had to offer.

If magic was a lake, then humans were the bugs crawling across the top, unable to break the surface tension. Unaware that other things swam in its depths, things that would gladly rise up and swallow them whole—and that those things, in turn, were food for the true predators.

I was the fisherman, trying to subsist on the food that the bugs found filling. It could never work. I needed fish.

I knew spells to call them up—Miķelis had been a smarter bug than most, able at least to peer into the lake—but I needed a sacrifice. Or, to continue within the metaphor: bait.

That was easy enough to obtain. I uttered a short transportation spell to step from the basement to a nearby city street. A young couple walking by caught my eye. I called out to them.

“Excuse me!”

They turned. Their eyes widened.

“Do you need help?” asked the man.

“Yes, I’m in need of a sacrifice. Would you come with me?”

“A—what? Why are you naked?”

I waved my hand, glamouring myself to appear neatly clad. “Absurd. You must have been mistaken. Will you come with me, please?”

His jaw hung slightly open as his mind concluded that what he had seen made no sense, and therefore discarded it. “A sacrifice? I don’t—”

I twisted his mind, modifying his desires. He continued without missing a beat. “—see why not! Let’s go.”

The woman with him squeaked in shock. “You can’t—”

I removed him from her memories. As a kindness, I took him entirely away. She would never remember him, no matter what others told her, and so she would never mourn him. I am merciful when it suits me. She blinked at us briefly, uncertain what she had been saying or why, then turned and walked away.

Clasping my sacrifice by the shoulder, I spoke the word of returning. The street around us vanished, replaced by the empty shelves of the underground room.

“If you’ll just kneel right there, please,” I told the man I’d taken. He did as I directed, eagerly waiting in his place as I altered key components of the chalked circle to bring up what I wanted. I did not need anything big. Reduced as I was, I did not even want anything big. What I needed was something small, easily handled, easily consumed.

I let the words of evocation roll off of my tongue. They clotted together in the runes of the circle, thickening the lines until the entire shape glowed. My sacrifice died with a smile on his face, excited to be doing his part even as the spell ate him alive.

The creature I summoned was a sprite of this plane, a minor entity with no real power. It far outstripped the simple magics of the humans, though, and I fell upon it greedily as it arrived. With tongue and tail and talons, I tore it to pieces and crammed them into my gullet. It shrieked as I ripped it apart, but the fear only added seasoning to the snack.

In moments, the deed was done. I licked my lips, enjoying the lingering taste. My summoning had been fresh, rich and delicious compared to the sad scraps of the library, but it did more to sharpen my appetite than to sate it.

I began to speak the transportation spell again, but a wave of weariness washed over me. To my dismay, I realized I had overexerted myself. I was so used to having infinite potential that although I knew that was not the case in my lessened form, I had not thought to account for it. I was of course aware of the concept of limitations. They had simply never applied to me before.

I made my way back upstairs to Miķelis’s living space. I prepared food for myself, then lay down to sleep in his bed. I dreamed a nightmare of shackles and bondage, of vital necessities dangling in sight but out of reach.

I woke in a cold sweat. The goosebumps on my skin stood in stark contrast to the insistent fire burning inside of me. It demanded that I find more power, that I restore myself to my full and awful glory. It gripped me like an addiction. I had no choice but to obey.

I needed a better technique. In such a frail body, I would never be able to summon entities of enough strength to satisfy my need. I would spend nearly all of my time sleeping to recover, and waking to find myself ever more ravenous. It would form a loop from which I would never escape.

Fortunately, Miķelis’s memories held the answer. He knew of a place where a creature ran wild, a house possessed by a spirit. It was perfect. I would not have to expend any energy summoning it. It was already here; all I would have to do was corral it.

I nearly began the transportation spell before I remembered that I was attempting to conserve energy. It was possible that Miķelis had exaggerated the abilities of this creature in his memory. It would not do to spend as much power on travel as I gained from consumption.

Instead, I called up a cab and waited—waited!—for it to arrive. I do not think I had ever waited for anything in my eternal life before. It was not, I found, an entirely unpleasant experience. I was able to reflect, to consider, to plan instead of simply reacting. Planning had never been in my nature, but then again, I left my nature behind when I entered this reality. It was time to develop a new self.

The cab driver dropped me off next to the dingy “FOR SALE” sign next to the house. Smaller signs hung below the name of the brokerage, extolling the reduced price and the motivated sellers. Despite these, it looked like the house had been on the market for quite some time.

“Realtor meeting you here?” the cabbie asked as I exited. “You want me to wait until he gets here?”

“No, I’ll be fine,” I said. I paid the man using actual money, neither trick nor forgery. I found the experience refreshing, play-acting at being human. I was in good spirits. Even from the street, I could feel the malevolence of the house. Something dark squatted within, something with the power I needed. The hunger inside me growled. It sensed the meal soon to come.

The front door should have been locked, but it swung open as soon as I touched the knob. I could feel the house’s anticipation. It wanted visitors. It was calling me in, practically dragging me across the threshold.

I smiled. It was nice to be invited. I stepped inside.

The front room was spacious, well-lit and pleasantly appointed. The canary-yellow walls put me in mind of a bright, hopeful sunrise. It was warm and comforting. I pretended not to notice that the door I had entered through had disappeared.

I continued into the house, entering a wood-floored dining room. This too seemed nice at first glance, but as I glanced around, I began to spot subtle indicators that all was not well. There were scratches on the floor that looked as if something had clawed its way out of the vent—or as if someone had been dragged against their will into it. There was a scorch mark in the corner that had not been fully scrubbed away, showing that something had burned there. Looking at it, I felt as if I could hear distant weeping.

I moved on to the kitchen. The wallpaper here was a busy pattern that did not quite manage to hide the spots of mold. The grout in between the tiles on the floor was cracked and blackened. The clock on the wall ticked in sync with my heartbeat. The room seemed to breathe as I did, growing imperceptibly larger and smaller. I felt anxiety settle over me like a net.

A person might have thought the feeling their own and begun to panic, feeding it. I, on the other hand, seized the psychic strands and yanked. I felt a sharp surprise from the far end, then a skittering sensation as the emotion tried to squirm through my fingers. I clenched my hands and wrapped the invisible threads around my fists, refusing to relinquish my grasp.

The thing occupying the house was not bright. It had its little tricks, but when they failed to work it had nothing to do but try them again. It doubled down on the decay, hoping to frighten me into letting go.

The wallpaper peeled around me. The cabinets warped and sagged open. Ants and maggots drooled from the openings, spilling onto the counters in confused disarray. The clock’s tick sped up, dragging my heartbeat along with it. The tiles cracked under my feet, tumbling away to reveal treacherous holes into the basement below.

I laughed and hauled on the strings I had caught once more. They pulled free with a visceral rip, like flaying skin from a deer. The thing in the house screamed. I felt its pain and dread wash over me. I reveled in it.

I thrust my hands into the peeling wallpaper, bypassing the actuality of the house to seize the infestation within. I grabbed a double fistful of something slimy and pustulent and drew it forth. A thick bubble rose from the wall, fighting me every inch of the way. I plunged my face into it and bit down. It was ripe and juicy on my tongue, and its fear was delicious.

The bubble popped, leaving me holding a thick, fleshy strip torn from the mind of the creature. The kitchen snapped back to normal. I could sense the thing fleeing, abandoning the house it had possessed to a superior force.

Unfortunately for it, I had not come for half-measures. I raced it to the front room, where the door had reappeared, and snatched that portal away again. The invisible thing slammed into the wall, its egress denied. Snarling and trapped, it turned back on me.

The floor buckled and broke under my feet. The yellow walls raged like a forest fire, waves of heat billowing forth. The air turned to a choking miasma and filled with the sounds of screams.

I gathered it all in, absorbing it as fast as it came. Everything it threw at me only fed me, making me stronger even as it was ripped apart. Periodically it turned to flee, but I chased it relentlessly, tearing windows and doors out of its grasp. Each new wave of its attacks was weaker, more desperate. Each one left it with less and less of itself remaining.

Finally it was nothing but a mewling thing in the corner of the attic. I towered over it, enjoying its abject surrender and utter terror. I picked it up, cradled it in the palm of my hand, and popped it into my mouth. The final bite tasted like triumph.

I ran my tongue sensually over my lips, enjoying the new feeling of strength within myself. I was not remotely satiated, not anywhere close to what I had once been. But I was more than I was an hour before, and I was riding high on the thrill of the chase.

I sauntered outside, leaving behind me an unblemished, untainted, utterly normal suburban house. As I pondered where to go next, my eye fell on the weathered real estate sign. A delightful idea popped into my mind.

I spoke a few words and found myself outside of the headquarters of the agency selling the once-possessed house. I gave a pleasant wave as I passed the receptionist and entered the office of Oliver Daniels, the agent whose name had been on the sign.

“Can I help you?” he asked, looking up from a pile of paperwork.

“I have excellent news,” I informed him. “That house you’ve been unable to sell? You’ll find it is now free of issues.”

His brow furrowed. “Sorry, are you a seller? Which house are you talking about?”

“You know which house. The one that was haunted.”

His face blanched. “There’s no such thing.”

“Not anymore, no. Not for that house. I have resolved the issue. Would you like to come look?”

He turned whiter still. I wondered briefly if he was about to pass out. “No! No, if you say so, it’s…you’re sure it’s safe now?”

“Completely,” I assured him. “I was very thorough.”

He breathed out a long sigh. A bit of color returned to his face, though his eyes were still wide. “I was in there, you know. For days. I don’t know how I got out. I was just on the porch one day, the open door behind me. I had my freedom! I could see my car. And yet I turned to walk back inside. A neighbor saw me, ran over to get me before I could go back in. If it hadn’t been for them, I would have.

“I tried to take the sign down, but somehow it kept getting put up again. I even burned it one time, but it was there in the yard just a day later. Every once in a while a new client will ask about the house, and every time I can feel it calling me back.

“This…this is the first time in months I’ve been able to think about the house without feeling an urge to go there. You really did it, didn’t you? You really took care of it?”

“I really did.”

Tears welled up in his eyes. “Thank you. Oh my God, thank you so much. Anything I can do for you, ever, let me know.”

I smiled. I took a business card from his desk and ran the nail of one finger over it. I handed it to him. “This is my card.”

“Grey Michael,” he read, the name I had put in place of his own. He blinked at the card. “You work here?”

“Just down the hall. The next time you find a problem like this, just come knock.”

“I…I’ll do that.”

“And do let others know as well. I do like to keep busy.”

I left his office and moved a short way down the hall. At a convenient spot of blank wall, I pressed an extra space into the building, a room that did not properly fit within its dimensions. I opened the solid wooden door to reveal an office with an imposing desk, a comfortable chair, several tall bookcases and a large picture window.

I smiled as I closed the door behind me, feeling it vanish from the wall of the real estate agency. It would be there when it was needed. For now, it was time to get settled in my new domain. I had plans to make.

That was quite some time ago. These days, rather an array of business cards bear my name, and a startling number of overlooked doors open into my office. I sit in my chair, practice my smile, and listen as voices whisper my name.

“Grey Michael.”

It’s nice to be needed. And really, the work is its own reward.

Rating: 9.75/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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