“Marv. This is an intervention.”

Marvin looked up at his flatmates from his dining-room chair, shaking and twitching. Eli stood above him, voice grave, a hand resting on Marvin’s shoulder. Across the table sat the third flatmate, Cyril. His jaw was rigid, his fingers drumming the old, hewn table, tapping mere inches from the crudely-painted pentagram.

“I didn’t want things to reach this point,” said Eli, “but this has gone too far. It’s time we got to the bottom of this.”

“Yeah, Marv,” said Cyril, drawling out Marvin’s name with unabashed derision. “I’m sick of your bullshit.”

“Cyril–”

“No, Eli,” Cyril interrupted, gesturing about the desecrated room. “It’s bullshit. He’s fucked up the walls, he’s fucked up the table, he’s fucked up the carpet–”

“Cyril, you promised me–”

“How the fuck are we going to get back the deposit now, hm? What, are we going to–”

“Cyril. You’ll get your chance to speak. But we need to do this calmly and rationally, as friends.” Eli spread his arms in an open gesture, as if to bring them all together. Cyril folded his, closing himself off with a flinty glare. They stayed in silence for a moment, the low rotating hum of the old refrigerator the only noise in the drafty, ramshackle apartment.

Unseen, Malphas groaned. He would have screamed at Eli, if there was any chance the mortal would have heard it. He settled for an obscene gesture and a head-shake towards Abraxas, who had buried his face in his tentacles.

“Marv,” said Eli, “I’m no saint. I’ll not pretend that I wasn’t angry with you at first. What with the constant door-slamming and the Ouija board, and that time you acted like you were possessed, I thought it was just more pranking.” He shook his head, apparently at himself. “I hope you’ll forgive me that – it just seemed like something you would do.”

“Yeah,” said Cyril, “like that time Eli came out as a vegetarian and you put a cow’s head in his bed.”

Adremmelech gave a loud, rumbling laugh. That had been pretty funny.

“Yes,” said Eli, raising an open palm towards Cyril. “Like that. And that was wrong, but we’ve talked about it now and it’s all in the past. Tonight we’re here to talk about the future.”

“Guys, please,” said Marvin. “I promise, it’s not a prank. I’m not screwing with you dudes, I’m telling you–”

“I know, Marv,” said Eli, patting Marvin on the shoulder. “I know. And that’s why we’re not angry with you…”

Cyril snorted.

“…and we’re not here to have a go at you,” he continued, shooting a glare at Cyril. “We’re here as friends. We want to help.”

“Eli, look,” said Marvin. “I know you mean well, but there’s only one way we can stop this. We’ve got to get the demons out, and the only way we can do that–”

“We’re not going to sacrifice a chicken, Marv,” said Eli, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, but I can’t let that happen. We have a real problem here, and killing a helpless animal isn’t going to solve it. There’s no such thing as demons, except the ones in our own minds. You’re a smart person, Marv, you know that.”

“Maybe,” said Marvin, the doubt in his voice obvious. “But it’s not me. I’m not doing this, and I’m not crazy.”

“Nobody’s calling you crazy, Marv,” Eli reassured him. “We just think you might be having a rough time – you know, after the break-up and the firing and all – and maybe that’s manifesting as a resurgence in your other issues.”

Marvin lowered his eyes. “You’re saying I’m crazy.”

No, Marv. Absolutely not,” Eli said. “But…well, you’ve had dissociative episodes before, and we can’t ignore that. We need to recognise the possibility that you’re undergoing relapse, and if that’s the case, then you have our support, one hundred percent.”

“It could be Cyril,” said Marv. “He’s been–”

“Cyril was in Florida the week the first blood message appeared on the wall, remember?” said Eli, raising a warning hand as Cyril’s eyes flared. “He couldn’t have done that, could he?”

“Well…no,” said Marvin, turning his eyes further from Eli as his voice dropped. “But…well, but you–”

“Marv,” said Eli. “You remember that weekend, when I asked you to tie me to the bed at night and free me in the morning, and I wouldn’t tell you why?”

Marvin nodded, slowly.

“Well, I have a confession. That wasn’t for a fetish. I actually wanted to experimentally test whether I might be doing these things while under the influence of some unconscious fugue state. And the third night was when the second blood message appeared.”

This time, Melphas screamed anyway. They could not have been more clear with those messages. Sure, the first one was a bit vague – BLOOD, BLOOD, BLOOD could have been misconstrued – but the second had contained explicit directions on what precisely they required. They’d drained half the dullard’s blood, covered two entire walls, and even provided directions to a local chicken farmer. They had provided proof of their identity in the form of a codex that the idiot couldn’t possibly have had access to, that when applied to the Bible would have given the precise date and location of the Rapture. What the fuck did this guy need?

“Guys, please. You’ve got to listen to me. You’ve heard the screaming.”

“Yes,” said Eli, “and that was something only you could have done. It was the work of a master, the way the voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. You might have heard evil voices, but I heard the work of a talented sound engineer who’s fallen on rough times. And that sound engineer has friends, who only want the best for him.”

“But–”

“Marv. Marvin. You remember that story you told me, from back when you were a kid? When you were young, there was one animal on the farm you were terrified of. All the others, you were fine with. But this one, every time it saw you, it came charging. It screamed and it pecked, and you didn’t know what to do. And every time it saw you, it attacked. You had nightmares about that creature for years, and you’ve never been comfortable with them since. What was that animal, Marv?”

“It was…” Marvin’s voice trailed off. Eli’s hand squeezed his shoulder, and he took a deep breath.

“…it was a chicken,” choked Marvin. And just like that, he broke. He pressed his head onto the table, hands threaded through his hair, and his shoulders began to heave. Great sobs began to escape him, the tears of the shattered.

“Oh, God, guys, I’m so sorry. I need help.”

“It’s okay, Marv,” whispered Eli, wrapping his arms tightly around Marvin, tears of his own beginning to leak. “We’re here. We’re going to get everything right again. I promise.”

Melphas roared to the heavens that had condemned him, unleashing a storm of brimstone which Eli would no doubt attribute to Thai food.


Prompt: “A rational person encounters a problem he can’t handle”

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