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Abyzou, taker of children

The Vicar received a call two days ago from a close associate - one might even say "family" - who began the conversation thus:

"Hey. Define creepy, man."

"That which gives you the creeps," I replied. And knowing a thing or two about the caller, the Vicar decided some further investigation was in order. "I thought nothing could scare you now. Weren't you in Afghanistan?"

"I'd rather be shot at by [omitted for gratuitous racism] than this. Hell, I told you, they can't hit shit over there anyway. More likely to be killed by friendly fire. But this..."

The report that followed involved a veteran's intensity and a backwoods Midwesterner's vulgarity - admittedly not universal to the species, particularly where religion is a factor. But the Vicar's compatriot has not been a religious man for some years. Extensive exposure to Catholic schooling does that to some people.  Fighting religious wars also is likely to have some impact in this regard as well.

When you're a wizard, you want to be this guy. But it doesn't always work out that way...
The Vicar's family member (let's call him Cousin for the sake of expediency) is head of the midnight security detail at a fair-sized and well-respected hospital in a major metropolitan area. The hospital has a mental health ward, properly divided between outpatient, low-risk inpatient, and the dimly descriptive "transitional", by which the Vicar's fellow mental health practitioners mean, "bat shit crazy and about to transition to somewhere they ain't never leaving". The Vicar has opinions regarding the nature of clinical psychology and the psychiatric industry, but it were best if he leaves these aside.

Cousin reported the following, in quotes for the sake of it although this cannot possibly be that precise. It is, however, as near as I could get to the spirit of the thing. Certain words have been omitted, since the Lamp is not a place for unchecked coarseness of language. A bit is okay, but let's not take it too far...

"Okay, so basically I come in last night and it's [omitted]ing quiet as hell. Which is a bad sign. When nothing is going on early in the night, that usually means something [omitted]ed up is about to go down. But we stayed quiet until about 3 when we got a call to escort a dude out who decided he wouldn't leave even though it was a 7th floor admission. Any other floor and they might have let him stay, since it was his girlfriend he brought in and she was pregnant, but that time of night they won't let anybody hang out in the loony bin."

"We prefer 'inpatient ward' in the business."

"[Omitted] the business, man. Those people are [omitted]ed up crazy. This was some bull[omitted], anyway. She's pregnant and depressed and acting goofy per the boyfriend, but they both seemed pretty stable when me and [Omitted] get up there. He just didn't want to leave her. But you know there's that crisis checklist where if they're pregnant..."

"All the rules change and they get prioritized."

"Right. So we're coming in the room and he's getting really cooperative and the girlfriend is telling him she'll be fine. The baby is fine, she says, everything is fine. Pretty girl, seems nice, good shape - you can't even tell she's pregnant yet so she can't be that far along. I figure, he'll listen to her since she's clearly the hotness and the brains of the operation. Okay, so we're on our way out of the [omitted]ing room, when this other nutbag we brought in the day before comes tear-assing out of her room down the hall headed straight for us. Now, this is a special kind of FUBAR because they are pretty heavily medicated that time of night, for the most part. When we brought her in Dr. [Omitted] put her on a [omitted]-ton of librium because she had evidently been on like a two week long drunk. This [omitted] should have been zonked out of her skull. Instead, she's off and running, bare-ass hanging out of her gown. Remember, this is the one I told you about with the tattoos head to toe..."

"Borderline and Bipolar or maybe Schizoaffective, does a lot of cocaine and drinks a lot."

"Right, right, the one you explained about why all the tattoos. With the huge-ass snake tattoo."

"Pretty normal so far, Cousin. She get's lots of tattoos when she's manic. I see it a lot. The behavior you're describing is consistent."

"Okay, but running around at 3 AM on librium?"

"She obviously didn't take it."

"Yeah, okay genius, you just wait. They don't get a lot of [omitted]ing choices with that [omitted] on that floor. Anyway, she runs up to us and I'm like, 'Get the [omitted] back [omitted],' only not out loud, obviously."


"She looks at dude and at dude's girlfriend all scary as hell. You know when they get that wide-eyed stare going and look like they're about to have to get the [omitted] beat out of them if they don't back the [omitted] off. So I have [Omitted] break off and engage her, and he's got her arm and is like, 'Okay, take it easy, be cool, you need to go back to your room.' Which she all of a sudden decides to cooperate with. So I'm letting dude say goodbye to his girlfriend and we're like ten steps down the hall then and I look back for [Omitted] and he's not there. But the crazy tattoo [omitted] is talking to pregnant chick. So I'm getting dude out the door and he's all 'Okay, I understand I need to go, but what's up with that crazy woman?' when [Omitted] comes running back out of her room up the hall. He said tattoo chick gave him the slip, like he turned around from getting her into her bed and then she was gone. Meanwhile he's coming back toward her and the boyfriend and I walk back and I'm telling him to be cool and not cause any problems. [Omitted] I can see is already calling for back up, but this has all been retarded enough already. I mean, I'm like, can we all just go where we belong at this point without all the bull[omitted]?"

"I believe I warned you about all of this before you took that job."

"Yeah, well, you didn't warn me good enough. Because the pregnant chick starts crying and going pale and freaking out, and tattoo [omitted] is looking like she's about to pass out. I get there in time to catch her and she's still saying what I know she was saying to the girl right before we got to them. She's going, 'The baby's dead, the baby's an abortion, it's dead, it's dead. Your baby's dead.' Like over and over and I'm pretty much done with her bull[omitted] at that point."

"Let me guess," I said, not really wanting to be right but already knowing how these things go, "The baby was dead."

"[Omitted] yeah, the baby was dead. They ran some tests on her because the girl would not calm the [omitted] down at that point, and who can blame her? Spontaneous abortion. Racked up to her state of mind, since her drug screen was negative on all panels. Breathalyzer when she came in was triple zero, too. And now she's completely trippin', of course, since she thinks the crazy tattoo [omitted] killed her baby."

The Vicar has a variety of forms of training in his past, having done work in a number of fields in the hopes of advancing his understanding of the Way. Everything in the case reported makes perfectly good sense from a clinical standpoint - it is possible for a couple to lose a baby if they are not prepared for it and the woman has enough anxiety and depression in connection with the pregnancy. This is not the official explanation in these circumstances, of course, but it's privately held by many obstetric professionals that state of mind has an influence in these matters. Being told creepy things by a crazy person cannot be helpful when one is already in a disturbed state of mind.

All of this pales in comparison to the beliefs among the ancients and in many medieval communities that demons wandered the earth causing miscarriages and still births. One version of these myths is that of Abyzou or Gylou, a rage-filled spirit who kills the children of other women because of her own barrenness. Through much of this experience, the Vicar felt as though he was torn between two worlds: The clinical world on the one hand tells us that these things are a matter of biology, hormones and sometimes psychology. The Way, on the other hand, agrees with this but goes a step further, into the realm of causes. There are, after all, the Others out there, and there's no specific reason to believe that Abyzou isn't one of them.

At the request of his Cousin, the Vicar paid a visit to the hospital in question. This is not as surprising as it might otherwise seem; in his day job this wizard occasionally has very non-mystical business at the facility along with other hospitals in the region. He is on good terms with several of the psychiatric professionals that work there and he has been known to perform certain therapeutic services on site.

The Vicar met his Cousin in the lobby - who insisted that the Vicar owed him lunch for making him come in on his day off - and they went up to the seventh floor to speak with Dr. [Omitted] in order to see if anything could be ferreted out regarding the woman with the tattoos. This is on the order of quasi-unprofessional, since there is no official reason for the Vicar to have been poking around, but consultation between professionals is not uncommon and the patient in question sounded very familiar to the Vicar. As it turned out, Dr. [Omitted] was more than happy to spare five minutes (psychiatrists working in these environments do not get much free time) because the patient was precisely who the Vicar thought she was, and the pre-existing clinical relationship was a matter of record. The Vicar's cousin was of course not permitted to be present for the consultation, since security guard does not equal clinical professional anywhere in the United States to the Vicar's knowledge. He waited outside the nurses' station instead, after reminding the Vicar that he definitely owed him lunch for wasting his free time like this.

We decided to conduct a brief interview with the patient to see if she would prefer to leave the hospital and be admitted to one closer to her home. She had not committed any crimes beyond public drunkenness and was evidently not going to be charged; the metropolitan police had felt it was sufficient to deliver her to the appropriate hospital and let the matter drop. The Vicar was a bit mortified to find synchronicity so heavily involved in this particular scenario; there again, while on clinical business he often has to remind himself that statistical likelihood becomes very skewed when one is dealing with a limited population and a limited range of available facilities for said individuals to go when they find themselves in trouble.

The Vicar cannot of course provide any specific details and recognizes that he has already been extremely vague about all of this, but the confidentiality of the wizarding business is nothing next to the restrictions placed upon clinical professionals. The upshot of the affair is that the patient declined to be transferred to her hometown hospital in order to avoid dealing with her family but was otherwise pleasant and appeared to have normal interactional patterns, but for a certain drowsiness that set in quickly due to the librium. This was a matter the Vicar raised with Dr. [Omitted] when the patient drifted off.

"I'm told that she was up at 3 in the morning and caused some trouble. I assumed she hadn't taken her librium."

"I heard about the circus act," Dr. [Omitted] said. "I'm not sure how she managed that. I had ordered chlodiazepoxide administered i.m. [meaning intramuscularly - a regular injection] because she was resistant when she came in. She must have been very manic."

The psychiatrist excused himself at that point, and the Vicar was about to leave when the patient opened her eyes. She did not look disturbed or troubled at all, but was just sleepy - an effect of the drug we had just discussed. The Vicar let her know he would be leaving and she smiled. Then her smile faded.

"She killed that baby, you know," she said. "Not the mother, I mean. But the killing spirit did."

The Vicar had about a million questions at that point, only one of which was "How do you know that I know the details of last night's incident?" But the Vicar is also used to the quality sometimes common to the mentally ill that we call "hypervigilance" in the business. People with this characteristic are often very capable of figuring out what others are aware of, privy to, or paying attention to simply by watching for non verbal cues. There's also a tendency to connect dots that don't rationally connect for the average person. Of course, in this case, however the tattooed woman was reasoning, she happened to be on the mark - I did know precisely what she was talking about.

The Vicar decided to ask instead, "What killing spirit is that?"

"The one that took my babies," she said, in a flat voice. "That's what she does. She takes babies away. She took my babies and now she took that girl's baby."

The Vicar was going to do some clinical probing at that point, but the tattooed woman drifted off again within a few minutes. Somehow, the Vicar felt not only therapeutically useless, but also a touch out-wizarded.

Outside, my Cousin reminded me again about lunch.

"Fine," I told him. "You eat and I'll watch. For some reason, I'm not very hungry right now."