"I don't want to alarm you, Porter, but something smells really bad."
Typically, opening with "I don't want to alarm you," was a great way to alarm a person, especially if that person was my wife.
"It's not bad."
"It isn't?" I pointed my nose to the air and took a few cautious breaths. "I'm thinking we might have a rodent."
"No, Dad, we have a ferret!" My five-year-old son came flying through the kitchen as only five-year-olds can do. At his age he'd mastered the ability to both fall forward and keep his legs moving fast enough to keep his face from making contact with the floor. It was a life accomplishment for Kris, and it meant the stringy noodle of rat-like fur in his hands didn't suffer a catastrophic squishing incident either.
At least not yet.
"We have a what?"
My wife used her years of high school athletics to guide the human pinball and his almost-weasel right back out of the kitchen. "We do not have a ferret. We are fostering a ferret."
She said these words like they would completely address the situation. They did not.
"Porter, you know how I feel about–"
"It's a ferret, Gene. It's not the end of the world."
I tilted my head around her to catch those beady black eyes from my son's shoulder. I wasn't exactly sure I agreed with her.
My name is Eugene Law, and I'm a Magician. I don't pull rabbits out of hats, or saw women in half, I deal in real Magick, cosmic powers of the universe sort of thing, and all the terrible that comes with it.
Ferrets were on that list.
It wasn't that I hated animals. I wasn't that sort of guy, but ferrets occupied a strange positon in the hierarchy of creatures that had a toe hold in the world of Magick. Those little bastards, aside from being basically furry noodles with teeth, had a penchant for getting into things, and Magick being chief among them. Most normal people couldn't sniff out cosmic power if it crawled up their nose, but those damn almost-weasels were exceptional at it.
I could almost see the gears going in his little marmot brain. He was keen to chew my Shirt of a Thousand Holies, or pee on the rug that hid my Seal of Ariadne.
"Gene, he's only here until we find him a new home."
I hadn't made it more than a few feet out of the kitchen before the furry little jerk bounced out of my young son's hand and made tracks for the garage. That made perfect sense, seeing as that was where the most trouble was in the house.
"Oh no, you don't." I tried to block Captain Inquisitive with my foot, but, being a ferret, he climbed right over it.
Thankfully, my son scooped him up before he could get into the garage and screw with the major project I had going on in there.
It wasn't every day one trapped a negative energy beast.
"Just don't let him in the garage. You got it?"
My son clutched the little fur-monster to his chest. "I won't."
"Good, cause there's sharp yard tools and stuff in there. I'd hate for him to get hurt."
"Okay." My son padded back into the room, the ferret giving me the evil eye from his shoulder.
"Gene," Porter swung her head out from the kitchen, "was that really necessary?"
"Yes. I'll be in the garage until we no longer have a non-zero number of near-weasels in the house."
My wife looked like she was going to say something, but a crash from the living room drew her attention. "No, Kris! Don't put the ferret in the china cabinet."
I took the opportunity to slip into the garage and confirm the trap was holding. Negative energy beasts were a challenging breed, not quite as bad as rug marmots, but still demanding of considerable attention. I'd trapped one in a modified mason jar from back when Porter had tried to make jam. The sugary concoction she'd managed to create had basically been diabetes-in-a-jar, so a few days later, after we'd all come out of our sugar comas, my wife had dumped the rest of the unused jars in the garage, because why not?
Still, a few loose nails, the jar, and a grease pen to draw Velgrim's Modified Positivity Prison, and voila, instant energy beast holder.
I'd had a couple of run-ins with those soul-draining bastards as of late. The most recent one now resting uncomfortably in this jar, ready and very much unwilling to be helpful. Negative energy beasts didn't really so much speak, as much as they communicated through colored lights, and swirling sparkles. It was like keeping a living fireworks display that wanted to melt your face off in a jar, so, basically a Tuesday.
"Dinner in five!" Porter shouted from inside the house. My wife was a midwestern transplant to the sunshine state and still used her ancestral farm voice for communication. I was reasonably sure the neighbors were looking at each other right now, wondering if that was meant for them.
The jar dweller sure thought so, multi-colored sparkles pressed themselves against the glass walls. They shifted colors three times, from anger, to hungry, to annoyance, and then back again. Having a negative energy beast was a lot like having a teenager.
It made me wonder if I could keep mine in a jar, or maybe just the idiotic boys that came to the house to take her out.
Speaking of my daughter, Cathy pushed the door to the garage open and popped her head out. She had her Mom's hair and face, and her Dad's sarcasm. It was a lethal combination. "Dinner, padre."
"Right." I tossed a rag over the jar just as it shifted into a decidedly amorous color combination. "Be right there."
Cathy left and as soon as she did, I ripped the rag back off and tapped on the glass. "Don't even think about it. In fact, just focus on answering my questions. I'll be back."
Had I been paying attention I would have noticed how warm the glass was, or how the grease pen sigil wasn't nearly as distinct as it had been, but I was far too busy being irritated at the ferret in my house to see much of anything else.
Ferret stink can do that to a guy.
We settled around the kitchen table for one of Porter's signature dinners. Cooking wasn't exactly my wife's strongest card, but all of it was edible, which was a huge improvement over anything I could have produced.
"Where's the weasel?"
Porter frowned and passed a bowl of green beans. "In his cage, right, Kris?"
My five-year-old nodded. "Yep."
"Did someone check? I mean, I love Kris, but he did try to clean his teeth with a white crayon."
"I'll do it." Cathy jumped up from the table far too quickly for any normal teenager, plus she'd managed to get her phone in hand in the process.
"Nope. Phone. Give it to me. You know the rules. No phones at dinner."
I accepted the device from her, its screen flashing to life with some boy's face end to end.
Cathy tried to get the phone back, but I answered for her like only a dad can do, equal parts embarrassing and succinct. "Cathy can't come to the phone right now, Mark. She has to eat green beans with her brother."
I shoved the confused kid's face in my pocket, then pushed away from the table. "I will go check on Major Marmot. You two eat your dinner. I'll be right back."
Porter took care of any of the associated bickering from Kris and Cathy in expert mom fashion, while I beat a path for the living room. It was just like I expected. The furry little near-weasel was halfway out the cage already, my son not quite understanding that you had to lock the little bars.
I gently pushed the fur noodle back in his prison, and made a mental note to wash my hands a few dozen times before I sat back down to eat.
The ferret sat back on his haunches and sniffed at the air, that tiny head tilting from side to side.
"Yeah, that's Magick, buddy. I know you are just dying to get out of there and screw it all up. Not gonna happen." I put a single finger on the bars. "In Cincinno..." The magick wasn't much, but it would be enough to keep the little monster busy, and stuck in his cage for the foreseeable future.
"Sorry, pal. That's just the breaks of the game."
Those little black eyes stared up at me, confused and oddly concerned. "Yeah, yeah. Try it on someone who cares."
I rounded the corner and returned to the kitchen. Sadly I didn't make it more than a few feet before I found my family surrounded by the very excited and highly charged cloud of negative energy.
Typically negative energy beasts don't get to come into the house. I have sigils to protect against exactly that sort of thing, but Belbick's Double Negative only works when you actually use it. Wiping it off so you can sneak a mason jar of terrible into the garage isn't going to offer much help.
My family didn't move, in fact, they didn't do much of anything. They remained completely silent, staring forward, and enraptured by the rapidly swelling blob of colors, sparkles, and light.
"You don't want them. You want me."
The living color of unpleasantness shifted from blue to purple.
"Yeah, I know they look tasty, but trust me, they're nothing compared to me. I mean, look at the youngest one? He's like a pole bean, and the girl has so much teenage angst you'll get indigestion trying to consume that hormone-ridden lifeforce."
The swirl of living light shifted as if thinking through my words.
"Totally. Trust me. You should see the boys that come to the house."
The sparkly cloud turned its attention toward my wife. Tiny bolts of lightning struck the table like some diorama of spring on the plains.
"Oh no. Keep your... your whatevers off Porter. You hear me? I can make this really bad for you. If you thought the jar was bad, just wait until you see the–"
They may have looked like tiny lightning, but they hurt like sticking your finger in the socket. A rapid-fire series of zaps knocked me on my butt, and slid me right back to the living room, where I crash-landed into a ferret cage.
Both me and the furry noodle monster tumbled end of over end, coming to a stop only to find the Neggie directly overhead. There wasn't enough time to get a new sigil going, and I was at roughly zero in the way of positivity. The cloud swelled like a summer thunderhead, but instead of rain, it appeared to be ready to unleash an electric storm on my head.
The near-weasel squeaked in his cage, rattling at the tiny bars.
I'd locked the tiny creature in there, maybe I could use the same Magick to seal up the cloud of sparkly pain, at least until I could properly banish it.
I leaned over to undo the Magick on the cage, but took a blast of lightning for my efforts. The juice sent my Magick off the rails, popped the lock, and put a considerable amount of zip on the ferret's backside.
The furry noodle spun around, flashed his teeth, and launched all twenty ounces of ferret fury at the negative energy beast. Who needs positivity when you have an angry ferret?
"Sorry, Kris, you have to say goodbye to Ferocious Ferret."
My five-year-old clutched the cage to his chest, unwilling to hand the little monster over to his rightful owners. "But, Dad."
"No buts. It's time to go."
My son grudgingly handed over the cage, then beat a path to his room. I shook the owner's hand, then dropped a pair of rubber gloves on top of the cage. "You might need these. Oh, and try to stay positive around him, he might have picked up a little negative energy."