Shapeshifter Vicky Vaughn is Boston's only professional demon exterminator. In Bloodstone, Vicky's aunt, Mab, leaves her home in Wales and travels to Boston to help Vicky stop a serial killer who has things much worse than murder in mind. Here, Mab offers her top five tips for avoiding demons.
My name is Mab Vaughn, and I know a thing or two about demons. I've been fighting demons longer than you've been alive. (No, it doesn't matter how old you are.) I trained my niece, Victory, to fight the beasts. And though she still has some things to learn, after seven years of apprenticeship and ten years in the field, I must say she's coming along quite nicely.
Of course, most people have neither the time nor the inclination to study demon slaying in depth. Yet nearly all are troubled by demons at some point. To understand how best to hold the demons at bay, keep in mind the five points that follow.
1. Understand what demons are. You may have heard that demons are fallen angels who've been cast out of heaven for some transgression. Utter nonsense. The vast majority of demons are personal demons. These creatures have no independent existence. Rather, they are conjured in some way, usually by the person to whom they are attracted. That may sound counterintuitive; after all, who would willingly torment him- or herself by summoning a demon? And yet it makes perfect sense. Demons are a manifestation of hungera hunger which feeds on us. And who better knows the things that can prey on you than the deepest reaches of your own subconscious mind?
Personal demons are as complex as the human psyches which generate them. However, as you'll find in Russom's Demoniacal Taxonomy (an essential textbook for novice demon fighters), most personal demons fall into these main categories:
- Drudes are dream demons that gorge themselves on fear. If nightmares frequently disrupt your sleep, you're likely dealing with a Drude infestation. These demons search a victim's mind for terrifying thoughts and images, and then take on those shapes to maximize fear.
- Eidolons feed on the emotions rooted in anxiety, particularly worry and guilt. Eidolon victims often suffer from insomnia, feeling as though a giant maggot is gnawing on their innards.
- Peccata, whose name comes from the Latin word for "sin," encourage bad habits and baser instincts. A Peccatum resembles an octopus, but with seven tentaclesone for each of the seven deadly sins. When the victim indulges in some sinful behaviour, the Peccatum enwraps him or her in the corresponding tentacle and feeds through it.
- Glitches are anti-technology demons. They eat electricity and data, and they delight in the frustration humans feel when their machines go wrong.
- Harpies are revenge demons. Rather than being self-conjured, they plague people whose enemies have the money to pay an unscrupulous sorcerer to send these demons on the attack. A Harpy has the body of a large vulture and the serpent-haired head of Medusa, but with a sharp beak in place of a mouth. Harpies, which usually attack in threes, feast on the victim's guts all night long. In the morning, the victim is whole and healthy, a prime target for a repeat attack that night.
2. Avoid attracting personal demons. If you wanted to keep cats out of your garden, you wouldn't plant a bed of catnip. Similarly, if you don't wish to invite demons into your life, you should live in a way that doesn't attract them. Avoid excess, meditate, get sufficient physical exercise, and be pure of mind and heartsuch actions are your shield against demonic infestations.
3. Do not show fear. Different personal demons feed on different human emotions. Yet there is one emotion upon which all demons will glut themselvesfear. The moment you betray fear in the presence of a demon, that demon hooks its talons deeper into your soul. So whistle, laugh, be sarcastic (I believe the current term is "snarky"), fill your mind's eye with fluffy pink bunniesanything to push down the fear and keep it from rising to the surface.
4. Starve, don't shoot, your demons. Bronze is lethal to demonsanyone with even a superficial knowledge of demonology knows that. Yet you need not arm yourself with a bronze-bladed dagger in order to face your personal demons. The best method for driving out demons is to starve them out. Cut off their food sourcethe fears, emotions, and behaviours that sustain themand the demons will leave.
There's a reason that apprentices don't even begin to handle weaponry until the fifth year of their training programmemucking about with blades and guns is far more likely to result in self-injury than trouble a demon. If you cannot starve out your personal demons, it's time to move on to #5 below.
5. When necessary, get professional help. If the infestation is sufficiently severe that you're certain you cannot banish your personal demons on your own, it's time to turn to the professionals. First, enlist the help of those who may be able to help you starve out the demons: members of the clergy, therapists, pscyhologists, and so on. If they are unable to help, you may wish to seek out a professional demon exterminator such as my niece. Such professionals have the knowledge, training, and experience to obliterate an infestation. As Vicky likes to say, "My job is sort of like a psychotherapist's, but instead of a couch I use a flaming sword."