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A Black American man's view of Ottawa.

"No. I couldn't really bring myself to tell them that. I was also vague about when I...How it reminded me of being on the painkillers."

"During the orgasm?" Skye asked.

"Yes," I said, massaging my left wrist. "It's just like I remember it, Skye. The waves of euphoria and relief. Exactly like it was after the surgery."

"Does it make you want the real thing?" she asked, watching me closely.

"No. Yes." I ran a hand through my hair, and watched the color turn fiery in the sunlight. "Sort of. I never stopped wanting the real thing, but no, it doesn't make me want to go hold up a pharmacy or bribe a doctor. But it does make part of me hope for the dreams, or whatever they are." I laughed shortly, "Or it would, if it wasn't usually so terrifying."

I leaned back in my chair, relishing the safe warmth of the sunlight. "I mean it, it's not just how scary it looks. When I can feel it approaching, unable to move...I wouldn't wish that feeling of helplessness on my worst enemy."

Skye shuddered, and sipped her tea as though bracing herself to continue. "On the subject of how it looks, you said you made a sketch."

I nodded, and drew my large messenger bag onto my lap, lifting out a binder full of my work.

"Is all of that new?" asked Skye, watching me flip through the plastic inserts that held my pieces.

"Yes. Since this began, I've barely had a single day where I wasn't able to get lost in at least a sketch or two, and I've finished three paintings in the last two weeks."

I drew out a piece without giving it more than a glance and handed it to her. "Admittedly, some of my work has gotten darker in the process," I added wryly.

I knew the sketch by heart, even if I avoided looking at it after it was completed. I had done in entirely in charcoal, with a dozen different degrees of shading. The eyes were the only thing left white in the image, and the effect was very nearly as disturbing as the real thing.

Even so, I hadn't anticipated Skye's reaction. She went pale as she studied the sketch, as though by the same dark entrancement that held me in thrall every night. And when she lifted her eyes at last, she took a sharp, shallow breath, her eyes straying to a point over my shoulder.

Something in her eyes made me feel cold, distressed and half-panicked. "Skye?" I whispered.

Her gaze cut back to mine. She took a deep, steadying breath. "It's a Lilin spirit," she said, with an expression that was braced for disbelief. "A night demon." she shook her head. "Sometimes they call them incubi or succubi and they might more accurately be labelled storm spirits. The lore is full of confused etymology and strange gender disparities."

I was past the point of disbelief. "What does it want?"

"It might want to feed on your life force, your creative or positive energy," Skye replied. "Or it might want a child."

"A child?"

"It could be, or it could be a form of possession, a way to experience the pleasures of our world without having to let go of its power over that world. I'd suggest staying over at my place, but this isn't a question of where."

I nearly asked how she could be so sure, but I felt too numb, and very much like I didn't want to know.

Instead, I asked, "Is there something we can do?"

After a moment's hesitation, Skye nodded. "There's something we can try."

~*~

"That should do it," said Skye, scrutinizing her work with her chalk in hand.

I looked up at her from the center of a pentacle design on the floor, surrounding by candles and jagged pieces of black obsidian, trying not to imagine what my mother would say if she could see me.

I resisted the impulse to ask her if she was sure this would work.

We were in the center of my living room. Or, what would have been a living room were it not half-filled with canvases, easels, and a large table covered in painting supplies.

"This is a banishing pentacle," Skye said, and she handed me the charcoal sketch, tightly rolled, and a length of black, silk ribbon.

"Alright," she said, circling me.

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