This is old. Like written in 2005 and rejected by a half-dozen magazines old.

Don't take the anorexia thing seriously, it was an attempt at parodying anti-Sues.

A/N: Please take the survey on my main page so I can know how to serve you better. Thanks.


She couldn't sleep. The new neighbors' kid was being noisy again. Not physicallynoisy, like last night when the boy was playing his stereo at max volume, but magically noisy. Mentally noisy. There was a subtle vibration in the air that screamed 'not good,' and the air around the house—especially that one room in the northwest corner on the second floor—was becoming permanently tinged with yellow.

She knew that the boy was becoming a poltergeist, but she couldn't bring herself to do anything about it until the elf came three nights later. She was curled up under the comforter on her lonely, king-sized bed, stomach aching and throat raw, but she felt happier—lighter and skinnier than she had before she woke up that morning to go to class at BCC.

Despite the fact that she was only five two and weighed ninety-eight pounds, Rachel was constantly forcing herself to throw up whenever she felt fat or spotted a fleshy curve in the bathroom mirror. She was reveling in the feeling of being thin when it knocked on the front door of her house at three in the morning, and when she groggily opened the door after waltzing downstairs like a ballerina, the elf—polite as can be, with an air of punctuality much like that of a lawyer—asked her, "Which house belongs to the Baumsteins?"

It wore a battered black fur cloak and was clad in dirty, torn silks. Its leather boots were scuffed and nearly worn through, and its silver-gold hair was badly in need of a wash. When Rachel didn't reply immediately, it raised one flawless, silver eyebrow. The high, perfectly smooth forehead wrinkled, and curved cheekbones rose as crinkles formed at the corners of its eyes. It repeated the question, frowning slightly, and frustration burned in its green, green eyes.

Rachel didn't blink an eye at the time or the fact that there was an elf on her front stoop, and mumbled a reply that didn't sound at all like "number nine-seventy-one," but the elf curtly bowed and walked back down the path, passing Rachel's new orange Toyota Corolla. It jumped lightly over the small stream that was forming at the foot of the driveway from the backed up gutter and the runoff from the hours-dead rainstorm, and continued onto the next townhouse—number 971—that was less than fifteen feet away. Rachel wondered why the elf didn't just walk over the lawn until she noticed that the elf was carefully avoiding treading upon any kind of life, be it grass, ant, or weed in the crack of the sidewalk.

She stood in her open doorway and let the mosquitoes fly in and watched the elf walk along the sidewalk leading to number 971. Then she noticed that the elf's appearance kept shifting between the one that had been standing in Rachel's doorway and that of a middle-aged man in a blue business suit who had silver streaks at his temple.

Rachel blinked and squinted at the elf, who was now engaged in pulling a sword from a hole in the air and was summoning blue-tinted armor from nowhere as it walked. The silver-chased armor was visible in both businessman form and true form, and looked very odd layered over the blue suit and tie.

It stopped midway up the drive and stared up at the darkened bedroom window of the boy. A slightly maniacal grin washed over its face, and it continued up the driveway to the Baumsteins' front door faster than Rachel's junkie brother after a crate of bars. Rachel stepped slightly out of her doorway to watch its progress, half expecting it to knock on the Baumsteins' doorway as it did hers. Her expectations were voided and replaced with alarm when the elf cut through their front door and kicked the pieces inward, vanishing inside the darkened threshold.

The thought of, Maybe I shouldn't have given him that address, crossed Rachel's mind before she came to her senses, dashed back into her bedroom to grab the bastard sword that her mentor had given her out of its braces on the wall and dashed back out in bare feet, sweat pants and sports bra.

Wasting no time, she ran across the dew-studded bare lawn and with only a slight pause, dove through the destroyed doorframe into the Baumsteins' living room, sword at the ready. Her eyes took a minute to adjust to the light, and when they did, she saw that the living room was untouched. There were no fresh bloodstains on the pristine white carpet, and the peach couch set hadn't acquired a random splash pattern. She looked ahead through the door to the kitchen, and saw no movement.

The staircase was off to the right—the plans for the first floor were all the same on this block and only differed in the layout for the second or third floors—and just as she was about to check the kitchen, there was a thump from upstairs. She changed her direction, ran on cat feet up the beige-carpeted stairs and stopped on the landing. When she glanced upward, she couldn't see anything in the dark shadows—no boy, no parents, and no elf—and abandoned all pretense of silence when there was a muffled scream from the kid's room. She all but flew up the second flight of stairs and down the hallway to the closed white-wood door with the yellow Caution sign saying, 'This is Cody's room. Disaster Area.'

She eyed the obviously hastily stuck-on mezuzah on the right side of the doorjamb and raised her eyebrows at the nine others that were scattered around the doorframe.

A stifled squeak came from the boy on the other side of the door, and she summoned up her courage, held her sword at the ready, opened the door and charged in.

The first thing she noticed was the bright, bright light. The second thing was the flying objects that were throwing themselves against the walls—clocks, toys, pencils and their attendant tin—the third thing was the elf, who was on top of the thirteen year old boy on the bed in a grotesque parody of a lover's embrace. The Elf was looking a lot cleaner and healthier than he had before, while the boy was looking wan and stretched. Drained, even.

With a yell, Rachel raised her sword and swung at the elf on top of Cody. The elf snarled and raised his sword to counter hers, but when they met, her blade glowed like a blacklight, and his sword emitted gold and green sparks and folded around her glowing weapon. The elf snarled again and then screamed something in Gaelic, which Rachel wasn't too proficient in. It whispered something in Cody's ear, then vanished in a swirl of magic.

The toys and pencils dropped to the floor, and everything seemed silent. Too silent.

She staggered over to Cody's bed, suddenly feeling exhausted. She reached out one shaking hand and shook his shoulder.

"Hey, you all right, kid?" she was shocked that her voice had been reduced to a paper-thin whisper.

"Mmph."

It's amazing how parents can deduce that their child is in danger. It's even more amazing how long it takes them to react. Within seconds, Susan and Paul were in the room, shoving her aside, exclaiming over their child, and threatening to call the police (that last one was mostly Paul.)

After much fussing, Cody finally managed to catch his parents' attention just as Paul was about to dial the last 'one' on the phone.

"It wasn't her!" he protested. "It was the dybbuk!"

Both of his parents suddenly stopped yelling, and his mother let out a thin wail.

Cody's father stared at Rachel, who was still holding her sword, which still had a few slivers of smoking blue metal wrapped around it.

"Miss- uh…" he said uncertainly, staring at her with a mixture of awe and suspicion in his eyes.

"It's Tyrrell," Rachel supplied. "Rachel Tyrrell. Hi. I'm your new neighbor."

#

"So you've had this elf stalking you for five months, now?" Rachel asked calmly, nibbling on a chocolate croissant. Once Cody's parents had calmed down, they'd all gone downstairs to the kitchen, and Rachel was sitting at the kitchen table listening to Cody's parents explain about the dybbuk.

"Yes. Six months ago, Cody complained of having nightmares of something calling to him in his sleep, begging him to walk out of the house and into the fields—mind you, at that time we lived on an old farm out in Minnesota for the peace and quiet, and it wasn't that far from Morris, which was where I worked— but luckily we caught Cody before he ever got anywhere. He started hearing whispers during the day, but we put Susan's father's blessed yarmulke on his head and they stopped. Then one day—day, mind you, not night— I came home early to find him wandering in the cornfield, dazed and very weak. His mother had been visiting her sister in town, and Cody was home alone. We thought he was safe. Then I found him naked outside in the middle of the day, staggering about the field. He said that something had lured him out there and sat with him—bespelled him—and stolen his strength away, and that the thing had been— well, dead— but frighteningly attractive to a thirteen year old boy."

Mr. Baumstein paused, looking gray, and his wife picked up the tale. "We thought that it had to be a spirit trying to seduce our son, so we had Rabbi Cohen come and bless the fields and the house. The thing went away for a week, but then Cody just started screaming in bed one night, and begged us to tie him down lest he run out to that thing again. We knew for sure that it was a dybbuk, and Rabbi Cohen told us to get as far away as possible, that maybe we'd lose the thing with distance. That very night, Nathan quit his job. We moved to Paramus, New Jersey, and started a new life with some cousins of ours. I got a new job in one of the malls as an accountant, and Nathan started working with his cousin— who we were living with— and all seemed well. Then Cody started seeing things. Not things, like people that weren't there, or little Christina Aguilera monsters, but events. Events that hadn't happened yet. He was seeing into the future."

She stopped, looking askance at her son, who was staring at the floor, looking ashamed. Rachel knew why. Most religions claimed that any supernatural power was the work of the devil. No wonder the kid looked ashamed.

From what Rachel knew, the dybbuk was the tortured spirit of a usually male sinner who was forced to wander the world in an in-between state, neither dead or alive. The spirit would take refuge in a body—usually that of a woman— who would then begin to speak in the dead person's voice—talking, mocking, cursing, or accusing observers— and at times would provide either great strength of a kind of second sight to the host. Other times, however, it would simply cause great pain.

However, it didn't have a physical body. Especially not one that looked like an elf from legend.

"So we moved to Sacramento, California, into a large community of Hasidic Jews. We thought we would be safe there, among all of the devoutly faithful. We lived there in peace for almost three months. Nathan had begun to clothe himself and keep his beard in the Hasidic style, and I began wearing skirts and headscarves. Cody was very happy, and we thought the dybbuk was gone. It wasn't. In the middle of a shul, the congregation leader was just beginning the Borchu blessing when the dybbuk came again. It came in the form of a distinguished looking brown-haired man in a blue business suit."

The disguise! thought Rachel.

"He was new to the congregation, but he hadn't done anything overtly wrong, and I thought he might be a convert. The—man—lurched out of the men's section and ran to the Ark on the sanctuary wall that contained the Torah. He- he took the Torah out, spit on it, tore it into three pieces, cursed at God and screamed obscenities at the ceiling, and- pulled down his pants and urinated on it."

"The ceiling?" asked Rachel, momentarily confused.

"No, the Torah."

Cody's face was bright red and tinged with gray, and it was obvious that he was thinking, 'I attracted it there.'

"Yeah. . . I can see why that might be a problem," Rachel said dryly.

"Then he ran over to Cody and grabbed him by the neck—screamed something in a language that no one knew—and ran back out the door before anyone could call police."

She stopped, and Rachel knew that they were at the end of the story. The only thing that could come next was, "And then we moved here, to Florida."

"Umm. . ." Rachel wasn't sure where to begin. "I see that you've moved… a lot… to try and avoid this thing of yours."

"Dybbuk," Cody supplied helpfully.

Rachel shook her head. "That was no dybbuk. It's an elf."

"Do they bake cookies?" Cody asked, with a hint of childlike hope in his voice and eyes.

"No. Elves. . . they used to be good, but most of them are bad, now. I think this one has been poisoned by the pollutants in his Wood and probably by the close proximity of Cold Iron. Elves are linked to their native Wood, and if the Wood is destroyed, the elf dies. If the Wood is contaminated, however. . . the elf goes crazy. Mental crazy. Judging by this one's behavior. . . I think it may be obsessive."

"As much as I hate to break it to you, that isn't something that's going to go away simply by exorcising it."

"We know," Susan said plaintively. "We've had Cody exorcised three times. None worked."

"Exorcism won't work. Listen; I know this is going to sound kind of weird, but I know how to solve your problem, or at least give you a temporary solution so I can get a permanent solution."

The Baumsteins leaned in, interested.

"I'm a telepath, but I'm also a practicing pagan. Do you have any salt?"

#

"Okay," Mrs. Baumstein said, looking slightly nervous. "I circled the house three times with the blessed salt. Now what?"

"Now you go inside and wait for me to ward your house. And remember; tomorrow, go buy iron horseshoes and put one over every door and window in your house. And. . . for good measure, buy some mace and put iron filings inside the can."

When Susan was inside, Rachel knelt on the circle of wet dirt that had been revealed when she pulled up the sod and clasped her hands together. The Baumsteins stood inside the living room, watching her through the window. Rachel took the candle that had been given to her and placed it in the dirt, then lit it with a match. She touched the bowl of water once, touched her tiny juniper tree in its pot next to her, touched her sword, which was currently standing on its own where it was driven into the dirt, passed her fingers through the flame, and breathed in the damp air.

"Lady of Fire, I pray to you,

Lady of Wind, I pray to you,

Lady of Wood, I pray to you,

Lady of Water, I pray to you,

Lady of Metal, I pray to you,

Lord of Fire, I pray to you,

Lord of Wind, I pray to you,

Lord of Wood, I pray to you,

Lord of Water, I pray to you,

Lord of Metal, I pray to you."

She made sure to name all of the Japanese elements; they were her patrons of choice, even though they weren't really deities. Rachel kept her wish simple.

"Protect this home.

Protect this family.

Protect this boy."

She repeated the mantra nine times; thrice for weaving, thrice for setting, and thrice for binding.

She sagged, feeling weaker than before, but as she stood up she felt more at peace than she had in a long time. Now all she had to do was put shields on Cody until she could figure out what he was.

She reached a thought-tendril through the wards on the house—she was pleased to note that they were very strong—and Touched Cody's mind.

:Cody, I'm going to shield you so you don't have any more visions of the future for a while, okay?:

There was a startled reaction of shock, then a fearful feeling of reluctant acceptance. Slowly, she constructed diamond-faceted shields around Cody. Unlike her early shields, which looked more like lopsided bubbles, these were cleaner, stronger, and went below the surface of the earth, so they could protect from mental attacks from below. Then she shielded his room, and finally, the house. She stepped back and smiled with satisfaction. Nothing was going to get through that.

She smiled and waved at the people in the lit window, then pulled her sword out of the ground.

Then she loped home in her soaked and dirty pajamas to clean herself off and hurl up the croissant.