Chapter XXXV

I turned to look at Mr. Stokes as he walked casually into the dining room. I had forgotten that he was still in the house with us. He shifted uneasily as he stood silently with a glass of water near the archway waiting for permission to join us. As much as I was grateful for his assistance in bringing Aunt Rachel back from whichever plane of existence she had been trapped in, I was still suspicious of him. I knew he held knowledge and significant information that was invaluable to me and it frustrated me that he wasn’t eagerly sharing it when I had been abundantly clear about how much I hungered for it. I felt as if he was attempting to keep me in an invisible cage of ignorance, leashed and controlled by how much or how little I knew, but I wouldn’t have it any longer. I would find out what he knew and what he was keeping from me. Perhaps the diaries he spoke of were the answer or maybe Aunt Rachel could be persuaded to share more information with me, it didn’t matter. I would find a way to gain access to what he knew. While Mr. Stokes may be my teacher, one I admittedly enjoyed learning from in the mundane academic sense; he was nothing more to me than a tutor regardless of what Aunt Rachel suggested. He was not my parent. He was not an elder family member. And he would never be my friend. He was a paid educator and as being such had only limited authority over my actions and behavior.

Aunt Rachel held out her hand towards where he waited. “Come in, Gerald.”

He entered the dining room still wearing the wrinkled, light blue button up shirt and khaki colored trousers he had been wearing since yesterday morning when he showed up for our usual Friday tutoring session. So much had happened in the span of forty-eight hours that when I stopped to think about it, it hurt my brain. He sat down in the empty chair next to my aunt and across from me; Daniel’s usual spot when he was home and ate meals with the family. He placed the glass of water on the table in front of him.

Aunt Rachel reached out and gently caressed his hand. “Would you like something to eat?”

“Yes, thank you,” he said, grasping a hold of her hand with his own and kissing her palm.

She smiled at my tutor and stood setting the white cloth napkin that had been lying in her lap on the table.

“Do you need anything from the kitchen, Angie?” she gestured to the glass I was drinking from. “More water?”

“No, thank you.”

I watched her disappear through archway that led into the kitchen. I placed my glass gently down on the table as I studied the man sitting in Daniel’s place across from me at the table. With my fork I pushed a lone piece of broccoli through the scattered remnants of the brown rice that still occupied my near empty dinner plate. I glanced across the table at Mr. Stokes as I considered all that Aunt Rachel had said about him; the fact that she considered him to be a valuable ally for someone like me to have. He could offer me guidance and support, but what was her relationship with him? Why did there seem to be some sort of bond or connection between them? Was it possible they … no, I couldn’t even imagine that … that was just disgusting! Christian’s father was much more attractive than creepy, old Mr. Stokes! Revolted yet motivated by my personal thoughts, I placed my fork next to my plate and crossed my arms.

“So … what’s going on between you two?” I nodded from Mr. Stokes to the archway that my aunt had disappeared through. “I didn’t even know you knew each other.”

“Oh, that,” blushed Mr. Stokes as he cleared his throat before nervously taking a sip from his water glass. Mother would have a fit if she knew he was using a kitchen glass in the dining room. “I think it would be best if your aunt answered that question.”

As if on cue, Aunt Rachel returned to the dining room with a steaming plate of vegetable fried rice for my tutor. She placed the plate of food on the table in front of him along with a set of silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin. It seemed to me that he was incapable of looking at anything or anyone, except her when she was present in the room. I knew he was worried about her, as I was, but she since she was clearly out of danger his behavior seemed overly obsessive to me, and believe me, I was familiar with obsession. Anyone remember Ryan Fuller?

My aunt reclaimed her seat at the head of the table; the seat that Dad usually occupied during our less than frequent family meals, while Mr. Stokes carefully unwrapped the utensils, placed the napkin on his lap, and ate a mouthful of the steaming vegetables and rice. It was clear he was as hungry as I had been.

As he swallowed the generous bite of food, he nodded. “Delicious. Thank you, Rachel.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Your niece has made an inquiry of me that I believe would be most appropriate if you were to address it.”

“Oh?” With her elbows leaning on the table, for which Mother would have a nuclear meltdown, and clasping her hands together, Aunt Rachel turned to me. “What is it, Angie?”

“I was just curious about the two of you,” I said, wiping my mouth with a napkin and placing it on the table next to my plate. “But if it’s private, I understand.”

Aunt Rachel blushed and glanced nonchalantly at my tutor, who was enjoying his food, then back at me. “It’s a fair question and one – you’ll be glad to know – I can answer. You see, Gerald and I have a special relationship.”

“Yeah, I get that. I’m just confused as to why no one told me about the two of you or that I never noticed the … I don’t know … your relationship before,” I commented.

The two of them together just made no sense to me. I don’t ever remember Aunt Rachel bringing him to any of the parties that my parents hosted around the holidays, which was the time that everyone brought their significant others. When she was with Christian’s father, Keith she brought him everywhere; to every holiday party, cookout, picnic, birthday celebration or other family gathering. So, I was wary of this whole situation with Mr. Stokes. Was she embarrassed to be with him? I mean, he was a lot older than her from what I could determine and he wasn’t very attractive. I know, I know, it is shallow of me to consider his physical appearance, but seriously, if you’re going to be physically intimate with someone I would imagine that you would want them to be sexually attractive, right? I mean I may only be sixteen, but even I would rather have sex with Hugh Jackman than with Steve Buscemi. And in this particular scenario Keith is Hugh and Mr. Stokes well … you get the picture. Creepy, right? I couldn’t help but feel as if Aunt Rachel or the two of them were trying to convince me of something that actually didn’t exist or was more illicit than they were implying.

“How’d you two meet?”

My aunt smiled. I could see she cared about him, but not nearly as much as he seemed to care about her; there was a significant imbalance between them, and that made me suspicious.

“He’s been a family friend for many years,” she explained as she placed her utensils across her plate.

“What?!”

Wait, wait, wait, hold up a minute. Did she just say that he was a family friend? Whose family? Our family? Was she seriously implying that Mr. Stokes was our family’s friend? No. No. No. That was impossible. He wasn’t a family friend. Or … was he? Could he be? Was I just completely unaware and out of it? Did I forget? Or was she trying to get me to question my sanity? After our earlier conversation, the one that she made me feel normal … sane, she’s now playing this … what is it? A game. Now she’s playing this game with me? I don’t understand.

I felt myself drowning in confusion while trying to make some sort of sense of something that truly made no sense to me. The familiar doubt began creeping in from the edges of my mind. Perhaps my perception of reality was still fragmented. Perhaps I had imagined everything that had happened or I was imagining everything now in this moment. I’m certain I had missed at least three doses of my medication. Maybe even more. Maybe my mind was distorting everything, altering my memories and twisting my mind so that I couldn’t remember what was real and what was imagined. Could Mr. Stokes really be a family friend? Maybe it was a memory that I had blocked out for some reason.

Maybe?

“Aunt Rachel, I find it really strange that Mr. Stokes has been my tutor for an entire year and no one ever mentioned that he was a family friend,” I countered, trying to gain a sense of what I was experiencing and hoping to determine if I was having a psychotic episode.

My aunt stood with her plate and utensils in hand and reached over to collect mine. “It’s really not a big deal, Angie. There are more important things going on right now than worrying about how long you’ve known Gerald, don’t you think?”

I wasn’t giving up on this that quickly. They were keeping something from me and I was going to figure out what that something was … because this wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t making any sense. I looked across the table to Mr. Stokes, who was staring at Aunt Rachel.

“Is that why Mother and Dad decided to hire you, because you were a family friend?”

He smiled and chuckled. “You could say that.”

I was suspicious. Why was he laughing at me? I abruptly stood from my seat causing it to tip and fall backward. “What aren’t you telling me?”

My aunt startled by my outburst, stumbled backwards. The dinner plates she had been holding broke as they collided with the hardwood floor. “Angie … I –”

I shook my head holding out my hand, deflecting what she was about to say.

“I don’t want your excuses, and I don’t want to hear about your respect for my Dad,” I spat at her as I jolted over to the other side of the dining room table. I confronted Mr. Stokes, who had jumped up from his own chair when I did. I pointed my index finger in his face. “If you’ve been a family friend for years then why didn’t I ever see you before you were hired as my tutor?”

He sighed as he absently caressed the scar on his forehead. “You did see me, Angie, you just don’t recognize me.”

“I think I would remember if I had seen you before,” I scoffed.

He casually slipped his hands into his trouser pockets as he looked at me in the eyes. “Are you certain?”

 

 

Chapter XXXIV

A familiar spirit is an emissary of power and is of great significance, granting the occult practitioner the ability to travel between the Planes of existence while serving as her eyes and ears, easily sensing the presence of other spiritual entities, while recognizing the shifting of the energetic tides with a knowing possessed by no human being.

Lodged into a family tree by the Devil after the first born female of a chosen family bloodline went through The Initiation Rite, the familiar grows a special fondness for that female and attaches itself to her bloodline. This bond is inherited upon her death by her first born daughter; there is always a female born of the family bloodline once the familiar is gifted to the family, however it is speculated by some occultists that in order for the matriarch to die in peace, she is required to bequest her familiar spirit to another female of her bloodline in the “proper manner”, and if it is not done, the familiar will bring upon the family a curse causing them great pain, suffering, and misfortune.

In their ethereal form, familiars are described as forms with intense color and animated with movement and sound, while in their corporeal form they appear as a long deceased relative or intimate friend of their human partner. This is to ensure that the members of her family become acquainted with the familiar and trust it as if it were one of their own blood relatives; in fact most family members are unaware that the familiar is not a human being at all and will treat it as if it were human. While most familiars willingly serve and are devoted to their human partners, it is important to note that some familiars are deceitful and will harbor their own agenda regarding the future of the bloodline they seemingly serve.

I was famished by the time Aunt Rachel had finished preparing the food. The mixture of curry powder, ginger, and cinnamon that she added to the collection of vegetables, egg, and brown rice was not only aromatic and visually appealing, but was delicious. We both were hungry and ate our food in comfortable silence for the first ten minutes of our meal at the dining room table. My aunt had attended numerous family dinners and was acquainted with where Mother kept the napkins and silverware that were to be used in the dining room. She was also aware of the unspoken rule concerning which dinner plates and water glasses were “allowed” at the dining room table and which were strictly used exclusively in the kitchen.

I still had so many unanswered questions for my aunt, but I was certain she was unwilling to discuss them with me since she was unyieldingly determined to remain loyal to my Dad’s decision “about his family”; whatever that meant. I still wanted to know where she was trapped? Was she on The Elemental Plane? The Astral Plane? Did she contact Josh, or Ryan, or Mr. Morrell while she was there? How much did she know about my abilities? Did she know The Ancestors? What did they want from her? Was her being trapped my fault? Did Syn demand that they trap her because of my defiance? The questions swirled in my brain as we sat together at the table eating our meal.

I felt Aunt Rachel watching me eat, my own eyes focused on the dinner plate before me, examining each piece of brown rice that remained; some of them had attached themselves to the florets of broccoli that lay among them, refusing to let go, finding solace with their unlikely ally in the reality of their pending death. I placed my fork on the table beside the plate and reached for my water glass.

My aunt was the first to break the silence. “Angie, I can only imagine the frustration you feel sitting here alone with me knowing that I know that you have abilities, but refusing to discuss them with you.”

I choked on the mouthful of water I had taken, spraying some of it into the food remaining on my plate. I clumsily replaced the glass on the table as I wiped my mouth with the napkin that had been lying in my lap.

“Well, yeah. Honestly it is,” I said.

I watched her glance from me to the empty plate before her on the table then back up at me. I appreciated that she was experiencing an internal struggle. The fluttering of expressions that played across her face indicated that she was clearly torn between her loyalty to my Dad and some unspoken allegiance to me. Was it more than our blood bond that bound her to me? Her hazel eyes found mine and held them.

“Believe me; it’s frustrating for me too. Your father just doesn’t see the connection between his actions and the negative environment that has created for you here,” she gestured dramatically around the room with her arms, “in this house, in this family.”

I was intrigued by her words. On some level she clearly understood my frustration. My curiosity about her visits with my Dad grew exponentially. What did they discuss in the library behind the closed door? I assumed it concerned my aunt’s financial status and that Dad was giving her his professional advice, but perhaps that wasn’t the situation at all. Perhaps it was Aunt Rachel giving Dad advice about me! About my power! Was it possible that my aunt was more of an ally to me than I ever imagined?

She sighed, and cupped her head in the palms of her hands, her elbows resting on the table. She mumbled, “He does his best to forget about our own childhood, and I suppose it’s much easier for him to do so than me.”

I watched her, expecting her to continue, but she stayed in that position for a while. The antique walnut longcase clock struck nine. I was convinced she had drifted off to sleep when she abruptly raised her head and took a drink of water from her glass.

“When I was a young girl I had an imaginary friend named Jerry,” she began, her right hand still holding the glass as she stared into the water it held. “I would talk with him and play with him outside, building forts made with long sticks and old blankets. I would share my secret desires with him; both the good and dark.” She smiled briefly as she stared into the glass. “My father, your Grandpa Tom, once told me that Jerry wasn’t an imaginary friend, but that he was my guardian angel and that his job was to protect me. But I knew that Jerry wasn’t an angel. I knew he wasn’t really imaginary either, even before my father said anything, but I had no better label for him. You see, Grandpa Tom never believed the stories the women told in the parlor over a pot of tea and cookies or when sharing a bottle or two of Riesling on the back porch during the hot summer evenings.”

Well, now wasn’t this interesting? “So, if Jerry wasn’t a guardian angel or an imaginary friend, what was he?”

She deliberately placed the crystal glass back on the table, and looked at me. There was something in her eyes that I had never seen before, a glint or flash of … electricity? Of power?

“Something much more, Angie, he was something … effective,” she explained, a smirk had crawled onto her lips. There was something happening with Aunt Rachel that enthralled, but scared me. “Jerry would sometimes appear to me as a little ball of light, like a firefly, other times something more physical like a mouse, but it wasn’t until my sixteenth birthday that he first appeared human. I’m sure it had something to do with my birthday wish. I wished him to be real … like a real person.” She laughed. “I remembered that story about the marionette that was turned into a real boy by a fairy and wanted that to happen with Jerry.”

I felt my eyes widen. “And you believed it did?”

She nodded. “Your Grandparents thought he was a classmate and eventually assumed that he was my boyfriend because we were always together. Even the guys at school who were interested in me felt threatened by him, thinking that he was competition for them, but he wasn’t. He was just Jerry; always around, my best-friend and I loved him,” she paused. “Actually I still do and always will, but not in a romantic sort of way.”

“You mean, he actually became real? Flesh and blood, real?” I asked. I was shocked with her story, not because it made her sound as crazy, which it did, but because of the implications it carried if the story was true.

“Yes, Angie, flesh and blood real,” she confirmed.

Chapter XXXIII

Aunt Rachel returned the hefty tome to me as she stood from the bed, suggesting that we find something to prepare for dinner. It was already close to eight o’clock in the evening and I couldn’t remember the last time I ate food. The uncomfortable cramping inside my stomach and dry mouth made it difficult for me to oppose her suggestion and continue our discussion. She reached out for my hand with her own indicating that I should take hers. Without hesitation, I took it and abandoned my book. As I stood she leaned into me and enveloped my shoulders, her left arm embracing me in an unusual, but comfortable side hug. I gripped her hand with mine, as an insidious fear rumbled inside of me like a timpani. Something was not right.

We walked in silence through the upstairs hallway, the hardwood floor pressed against the soles of my bare feet as we passed Mother’s treasured museum-like collection of glassware, ceramics, vases, and figurines she had displayed in the numerous cabinets that lined the wallpapered walls. The light of the halogen bulbs spilled softly through the glass panels of each cabinet into the unusual darkness of the corridor, casting peculiar shadows of the items held within them. With Mother away no one had considered turning on the house lights once the sun set so we walked in blackness. Mother was compulsive about ensuring that there were always lights on in the house. Until then I had assumed that it was due to her unfounded fear of home invasions, but now I wondered if it was something more personally rooted in her experiences with me and my abilities. Perhaps there were hidden details that I have yet to unbury about the midnight whispers of The Ancestors and other childhood nightmares I experienced that incited Mother’s reservations about the darkness of night.

As we approached the top of the main staircase Aunt Rachel paused, released me from her embrace, and slowly retraced her steps. Curiosity motivated me to follow her back to the most ornate of Mother’s cabinets. The French styled Louis XV display case stood with one bowed glass door opened. My aunt gingerly reach out her hand and closed the gold trimmed door, turning the key to secure it. She glanced at me.

I nodded. “Yes, it was closed.”

We peered inside at the Royal Doulton and Dahl Jensen figurines. I wasn’t sure what we were looking for, but assumed we’d know what it was if we spotted it. The halogen light inside the cabinet flickered and went out. The familiar rumble within me returned. I grabbed my aunt’s hand. Her palm was moist. I heard her exhale loudly as she abruptly walked towards the staircase pulling me behind.

“Everything okay?” I asked, knowing that it was not, but wanting to hear what she was thinking.

She didn’t respond, but forced herself to smile at me reassuringly, though it did nothing to comfort me. I considered that The Ancestors were rebuilding their power in an effort to reclaim my aunt in the same way that they had previously, but I didn’t know how to defend against them because I had no idea as to how they originally trapped her, and Aunt Rachel had made it clear that she felt uncomfortable discussing the topic with me. I decided to approach the subject from an angle that she wouldn’t be expecting.

“Do you remember when Grandma Claire died?” I asked, turning the dial that controlled the chrome and crystal chandelier that illuminated the foyer and staircase.

We began our descent down the carpeted stairs still hand in hand.

“Yes. You were four or five, right?” she prompted.

“Right. And my parents didn’t want Daniel or me at the funeral,” I explained, feeling the smoothness of the banister against the palm of my left hand and the skin of her hand against my right. “But for some reason we were brought to the funeral home and my cousin Ashley watched all of us kids in another room.”

“I remember,” she replied. The light reflecting off the crystals above us created abstract patterns on the crimson carpet. “But you snuck in.”

I snickered. “Daniel helped me get by Ashley, which wasn’t even difficult, and snuck me into the viewing parlor.”

“You were precocious even at that age,” my aunt chuckled.

“I walked up to the casket and looked down and I remember thinking that she was so beautiful then feeling really strange; sort of dizzy, but tingly like a gentle electric current flowing through me. That feeling you get when you pinch off a nerve, like when my arm or leg falls asleep.” I explained. We reached the bottom of the stairs and continued through the foyer, which had been tidied, towards the kitchen. “It’s the same sort of feeling I get when I listen to music.”

“Inspiration?” suggested my aunt, pushing open the swinging door and walking through. “That’s the best word I’ve been able to come up with. I feel something like that when I sculpt.”

“You do?” I was pleased, but a tad guilty that she took the bait. The guilt wasn’t strong enough to stop me from talking. “I felt that even when I was pulled away from the casket and dragged out of the room. I kept staring at the casket because I saw Grandma Claire standing next to it.”

My aunt didn’t appear surprised. She opened the first cabinet, the one closest to the kitchen door and started rummaging through its contents for ingredients she could use to prepare dinner for us.

“Aunt Rachel,” I stressed her name to ensure that she was listening. “She spoke to me. She said something curious. Something I can’t really understand and I was hoping you’d be able to sort it out with me.”

I heard my aunt sigh, though her face was obscured by the opened cabinet door. “What did she say?”

“She told me that I was special, then she warned me about something …,” I paused as I sat on one of the three counter stools, waiting to see if Aunt Rachel would look at me, but when she didn’t – I continued, “An omen … The Blood Omen. Do you know anything about that?”

This was the question that ceased her search and although I couldn’t see her face, I knew the expression that she wore. That was the reaction I anticipated. Silently she removed a glass container filled with brown rice and placed it on the counter. With contrived focus she closed the cabinet and opened the one next to it, distracting herself with Mother’s collection of dried herbs.

“The Omen has something to do with how I was born, doesn’t it?” I prodded relentlessly.

She waved her hand around her head in a motion that could easily be perceived as swatting an invisible fly. “I can’t talk about that, Angie.”

Well, I wasn’t giving up. I was going to force her to admit that my supposition was accurate. I stomped through the house, retracing my steps back to the guest bedroom and retrieved my abandoned copy of Sacred Magick from the bed. I carried it into the kitchen, flipping through the pages as I walked. My aunt had placed a pot with rice and water on the stove to boil and was cutting a variety of colorful vegetables at the island counter facing the stool I had recently vacated. As I reclaimed my seat, I placed the opened book on the counter; the text positioned so that Aunt Rachel could easily read it and slid it towards the glass cutting board where she was actively slicing through a dark green zucchini. Only then did she look up from her task.

I pointed with my index finger to a very familiar paragraph on page ninety-three. I had read it numerous times since I had discovered the book at the library. Aunt Rachel followed my direction and read the entry to herself.

“It has been stated in numerous ancient texts that the Blood Omen is a significant portent not to be overlooked. The importance and the presentation are difficult enough to understand when taken singularly; but the interpretation and the realization of the omen itself become tenfold more noteworthy, when, instead of being comprehended, is witnessed. The list of Seers who have endeavoured to interpret the Blood Omen is long indeed. They have discovered with trepidation that the child, usually female though on rare occasion male, associated with this portent is the signifier of the advent of great change, not only for the bloodline from which the child sprung but for the community as well. The child harnesses within a timeless and everlasting power that is irrefutably attributed, in the minds of the ancient Seers, to Spirit within blood. This merging of the two into a unity becomes thereby significant when that power is recognized.”

She frowned.

“I was born in a pool of blood,” I told her. “When we were little Daniel would talk to me about it. He said that it was a secret, but that he had overheard Mother talking with Aunt Brenda about how difficult it was for me to come out and that Mother almost died giving birth to me.”

She placed the knife on the counter and reached out grasping both of my hands with her own. “Yes, I know.”

“Is there a connection between the Blood Omen, my birth, and my ability?” I asked practically begging her to answer the question.

“Oh Angie, I can’t.” She released my hands as if she realized they were dirty or hot. She picked up the knife and continued cutting the squash into half circles. “I can’t discuss that with you. You really should ask your Dad.”

I laughed exaggeratingly.

“Ask my Dad?” I mocked. “Ask my Dad? Really? If I ask my Dad it will inevitably lead to a change in my medication. And I don’t want to increase the fucking dose or change the prescription. I don’t want it. I’m done with it! I’m not taking it anymore!”

She nodded.

“None of it!” I yelled with tears forming in my eyes.

“I don’t blame you, sweetheart,” she said walking around the counter.

I allowed her to embrace me. I wasn’t really angry with her specifically. I logically understood why she wouldn’t talk to me, but I was upset. I was frustrated with the situation, with my parents, with my fucking life. I slowly returned her hug, sobbing quietly into her shirt as she stroked my hair. We stood like that for a moment as I listened to the bubbling of the rice on the stove.

“Will you at least answer me this,” I asked still holding onto her. “Was I able to free you from wherever you were because we are bonded by our blood?”

She gently pulled away from me, but held onto my upper arms and looked directly into my eyes. I could see her considering if she should answer me and how much she should say if she did. But how was she going to deny that the past forty-eight hours didn’t happen without undoing our bond? If she did deny that she was in some sort of supernatural vortex, that she had been trapped on another plane of existence, then she was going to imply that I had actually hallucinated it all and infer that I was schizophrenic as my parents and Dr. Worth have said, which would contradict everything we had shared earlier that evening. We had nonverbally agreed that I was not mentally ill, but that I possessed an ability or talent.

She inhaled deeply and still looking at me directly simply said, “Yes.”

I knew it. I felt good about my ability to come to accurate conclusions about what was happening in my life so I ventured forward with another question hoping that she would continue to respond and verify what I already concluded on my own.

“Why was Mr. Stokes so annoyed when we first found you in the foyer?”

“I can’t go into that with you,” she responded, returning to the vegetables on the counter.

But I persisted. “Does it have anything to do with the vision I saw of Christian when I was trying to free you from that vortex?”

She located a large frying pan from the rack above the island counter and placed it on the stove. She turned on the burner beneath it and retrieved the bottle of olive oil lining the bottom of the pan. “Yes.”

“Then tell me, Aunt Rachel. Tell me,” I begged, handing her the cutting board covered with sliced vegetables. “Dad doesn’t have to know. I won’t tell him. I am an expert at keeping secrets from my parents. They have no idea who I am.”

“No, Angie,” she shook her head as she added the vegetables to the pan. “You may be an expert at keeping secrets, but I will know that I shared information with you that your Dad made me promise not to. There are things that really are not a burden meant for you to bear.” I watched her move the vegetables around in the pan with the wooden spoon, the colors creating an abstract design as she did so. She continued, her voice trembling with each word. “I made choices and I take full responsibility for those choices, but unfortunately sometimes things don’t go as we expect and the consequences are painful.”

“Aunt Rachel …”

She put her left arm around my shoulders and pulled me against her as she leaned her head on mine. “I appreciate that you want to help me. I do. And I believe that you are capable of dealing with serious issues, but this isn’t something that you need to deal with. It’s all on me.”

“Okay,” I conceded. She made a valid point.

Chapter XXXII

The comfort of silence embraced us as we sat side by side on the double bed. The soft light of the Daffodil Tiffany lamp that sat on the bedside table illuminated the guest room. I allowed my eyes to follow the pattern of the Ushake carpet and was drawn into its luminous gold, cinnamon, and terracotta colors as my mind contemplated the many questions I wanted to ask, but knew that they would be left unanswered because Aunt Rachel would refuse to respond in fear of disrespecting my Dad. Regardless of her unyielding loyalty to her brother, I felt comfortable sitting in the stillness with her, which was unusual for me, not because of who she was, but because I was generally uncomfortable sitting in stillness with anyone – including myself.

“Aunt Rachel,” I said in a volume just above a whisper. “I know you don’t feel that it’s your place to explain things to me and you don’t want to ignore my Dad’s request, but do you think it would be possible to ask you questions about stuff you might be able to talk to me about without violating his trust?”

She considered my suggestion for a moment then nodded. “We can do that.”

We both shifted our positions on the bed so that we were facing each other. Aunt Rachel grabbed one of the fluffy bed pillows and placed it on her lap so that she could lean on it with her arms for support. I crossed my legs under each other and rested my elbows on my knees. As I looked into her eyes I noticed that they were the same light shade of hazel as my Dad’s.

I figured it would be best to begin with asking the simplest questions I had filling the space in my brain.

“Does Mother know about my,” I smiled weakly. “What did you call it? A talent or ability?”

“Honestly, I don’t know,” she shrugged. “She’s heard the family stories. Many times she’s sat in the morning parlor or on the back porch with the Williams’ women, but I don’t think she believed that there was any truth in them. To be fair, if you aren’t part of the family and lived through some of the stories, they do sound fantastical.”

I agreed with my aunt. Mother was logical, practical, factual, and if she didn’t see it then it didn’t exist and even when she did see it there was some sort of scientific explanation for it all.

“Right, I can’t imagine Mother would.” I knew she heard the disappointment in my voice, but I didn’t care. As much as Mother and I were at odds, I still held the tiniest hope that she would someday try to understand me, but maybe it was just beyond her capabilities.

“Angie,” my aunt leaned over and grabbed my hand. “I know that she’s concerned about you. She constantly worries about your well-being, but I think she attributes your unusual behavior,” she indicated quotation marks when she spoke Mother’s phrase, “to mental illness instead of seeing it for what it really is.”

And that was the conundrum, wasn’t it? Aunt Rachel had stated the issue simply. It was the same mystery I continuously pondered about myself. Do I have abilities or am I really just paranoid schizophrenic? Aunt Rachel seemed to be convinced that it was something other than mental illness and I wanted to hear her label it.

“What is it really?”

“What do you think it is?” she asked as she eased back and gestured to me with a nod and open palms.

“I don’t know.” Gah! I just wanted her to tell me. I didn’t want to play guessing games.

“Sometimes I am convinced that Dr. Worth is right, that I am mentally ill, but other times, well, other times I’m not sure.”

Aunt Rachel nodded. I decided that the warm up was complete and we would move to more difficult topics for discussion. I was determined to learn something from my aunt.

“Can I show you something?” I asked, jumping up from the bed.

With distinct apprehension she agreed, “Yeah, sure.”

I hurriedly left the guest room, returning seconds later with my treasured copy of Sacred Magick clutched to my chest. I reclaimed my spot across from her on the bed and handed her the large, heavy book.

She accepted it with eyes that seemed to have grown twice in size and placed it on top of the pillow on her lap. “Where did you get this?”

“I bought it in Bridgeboro. Mother and Dad brought me with them when they went to close up the cottage and on the way home we stopped to visit Aunt Brenda and Uncle Stephen. While they were talking about their usual boring shit, I went for a walk and found this little shop that had all sorts of great stuff. I bought a few things from there.”

“I know that place,” nodded Aunt Rachel as she admired the book in her lap. She slowly caressed the cover with her finger tips, tracing the embossed circles and spirals in the leather. She briefly smiled at me as she opened the book and inhaled deeply. The sweet aroma of the old book drifted up into her nostrils. I knew the scent: a combination of vanilla, almonds, gardenias, tobacco, with a hint of staleness. After a few minutes of basking in the heady aroma, she gently turned the thin pages. When she came upon the title page she studied the scribble of black ink as I had when first spotting it at the shop.

“I think that says: ‘With loving devotion, on this a special day, your mother, Savannah Rae Williams’,” I offered.

“Savannah Rae Williams?” Aunt Rachel squinted her eyes and brought the book closer to her face. She shifted the book into a different angle hoping to gain a better perspective of the penmanship. “Yes, it certainly does look like Savannah Rae Williams. What are the odds of that?”

“Odds of what?”

Aunt Rachel looked up from the page. “Don’t you know who Savannah Rae Williams is?”

“No, but I was going to ask you or Dad if you had records of our genealogy,” I explained. “So that I could check to see if she was someone in our family.”

“She definitely is, Angie. This is your Great-great-grandmother!” She smiled, shaking her head as she gingerly turned the pages. “This is amazing. This book … what a wonderful heirloom you’ve got yourself. Have you shown this to your Dad? He’d love it,” she paused as she considered the text. “Does he know you’re reading this?”

“No.”

She grunted. “Yeah, he’d probably be concerned if he knew you were reading about the occult. How much of this book have you been able to comprehend? It’s pretty dense.”

“Quite a bit, but yeah, some of it gets confusing,” I admitted.

“Gerald, I mean, Mr. Stokes, could help you with those denser sections. He possesses some impressive occult knowledge,” Aunt Rachel recommended as she continued to flip through the pages.

“I noticed,” I snarled. This was the perfect time to interrogate her about my tutor since she was the one to bring up his name. “So, what do you know about Mr. Stokes? He told me that he was here to give me advice and to ‘heed his warnings’. I mean, I realize that my parents hired him as my tutor, but he seemed to imply something else. Do you know anything about that?”

“Well, he is your mentor, Angie,” she explained, closing the book and resting her hands on it. “He’s a valuable ally for someone like you to have. He can offer you guidance and support, and he might even in time become your friend.”

“My friend?” I laughed. “I highly doubt that, Aunt Rachel. He’s old and creepy. And I just don’t trust him. I feel like he’s hiding something.”

“The trust will come, and when it does you will realize that you can tell him anything, share anything with him without fear of judgment or scorn, unlike what you receive from members of your family who judge you a little too harshly, if you ask me.”

I shrugged. “But he gets paid to be my mentor and teacher; that’s his job. He’s a tutor.”

I was willing to consider her words. I had come to the conclusion on my own that Mr. Stokes had knowledge of the occult far beyond what I had learned on my own and maybe he would be willing to teach me. Perhaps after the events that he witnessed earlier that day he would stop underestimating me and my abilities and treat me with the respect I deserved.

“If what you’re telling me is in fact true and he has more to offer me than just his academic knowledge then what will he ask from me in return? There’s always an exchange to be made, always a price to be paid. Nothing is ever free,” as I spoke I was reminded of the story about the mermaid who paid for a set of legs with her voice.

“That’s true, but sometimes what we experience in our lifetime is the direct result of an exchange that took place years prior to our birth. What we are experiencing is the price paid for a favor or service an ancestor provided,” she pointed out.

What was she trying to tell me?

Chapter XXXI

Astral projection is the ability to journey to other realms of existence where worlds such as: the heavens, hell, the Underworld, the Otherworld, Summerland, and other spheres of existence reside. Aligning with this plane of existence allows the individual to gain access to visions of the past, present, and future through the Akashic Records because the space time continuum that is experienced in the physical realm does not exist here. These realms are populated by beautiful, horrific, and neutral entities possessing agendas and desires independent from that of humanity. The part or layer of a human being that journeys and experiences these realms is the second doyen or the astral body. This doyen, as are all doyens, is ephemeral; but the second doyen grows and develops as the physical body does. It is an etherical duplicate of the physical body.

The Astral realm is parallel to the physical realm. It is the substance of etherical energy and works in cooperation with all other realms of existence as the bridge between matter and energy, transmitting the energy waves from the Mental realm to the Physical realm. The Astral realm is where the second doyen resonates when an individual intentionally astral projects and what the fifth doyen or ego reaches entrainment with after physical death of the body. When individuals contemplate and discuss the idea of “crossing into the light” or “parting the veil”, it is the Astral realm that is being referred to as the destination.

Aligning with the Astral realm can be achieved intentionally through deep meditation, but is often done unintentionally when dreaming. The consciousness and physical body must be comfortable and completely relaxed allowing the consciousness to shift focus from the physical vessel and surrounding environment to the non-physical realm and vibrational frequencies that every human being is continuously connected to, but are usually unaware of. Because it is impossible for the consciousness to actually leave a physical body without the vessel experiencing brain death or biological death, Astral projection would be more accurately described as a “phasing into” or “resonating with” another realm of existence or vibrational energy instead of the more common description of “out-of-body experience”.

The physical vessel is not protected from physical harm, injury, or death while Astral projecting and will react as it normally does when the consciousness is fully engaged with the body. If the physical body is disturbed, the doyen would be yanked back into the body in order to protect it from the threat of danger, propelling the consciousness back into resonance with the energetic vibration of the physical realm.

“The ancient occult teachings have taught that the disappearance from sight of a flame does not imply its actual extinction. The flame has only passed from the visible spectrum of sight to the invisible realm, and thus may be perceived by the inner sense of vision, which is designed to sense things of that realm and the more authentic cosmos. This same rule applies to physical matter. Because physical matter vibrates at the specific degree of motion, rate, and manner necessary for manifestation, an adept whose interior senses have been developed can take the energetic vibrational frequency of that matter and sense its presence in the astral realm. The adept requires no wires, gauges, or sensors; his will-power is all-sufficient.”
– page 178, Sacred Magick

 I closed my favorite book, as I glanced at the digital clock on my nightstand; six twenty-one. I allowed the heavy book to drop next to me on my bed. Three hours had passed since I had pulled Aunt Rachel from the vortex and I desperately wanted to speak with her. I had numerous questions requiring answers that only she could provide me, but it was because I honestly cared about her that I didn’t bombard her with them as soon as she opened her eyes. Mr. Stokes urged me to give her some time to recover from her ordeal before I began questioning her and though I wanted to remain compassionate, I was deeply concerned that the longer we waited, the greater the chances of Aunt Rachel’s memory fading or of her forgetting the details of her experience and those details are what I wanted most to hear.

Why did the Ancestors want her to remain where she was … and where the hell was she? Had she been on the Astral Plane? The Elemental Plane? Did she even know where she was? Was it the Ancestors who created the vortex? And if it was, why did they do it? Was it my fault that they trapped her? Was her ordeal the cost that Syn threatened I’d have to pay for my “grave mistake”? Or did it have to do with that feeling of sorrow concerning my cousin, Christian, that I experienced from her when I was trying to free her from that place? And these questions were just the beginning. I knew Aunt Rachel knew more about occult things than she had ever suggested to me before and I wasn’t going to allow her to distract me from learning about what knowledge she possessed.

I was anxious to speak with her and with determination I stood, crossed the room with only a casual glance out my bedroom window, and exited my sanctuary, resolute to uncover the elusive answers to all the questions that relentlessly bombarded my brain. I imagined that the answers Aunt Rachel would provide me would allow me to put my mind at ease and give me a deeper understanding of the true nature of who I was, where I came from, and why I was born with such a debilitating mental illness, that according to my parents and others in positions of authority, required medication to regulate.

I swiftly navigated passed Mother’s numerous antique curio cabinets positioned in the upstairs hallway, pausing only when I approached the opened door of the guest room where Aunt Rachel sat silently on the unmade bed; the bottom of her bare feet just scarcely touching the Ushake carpet. Just for a moment I stood in bafflement. Aunt Rachel appeared to have reversed time, shedding years from her physical appearance. She sat alone in the bedroom, gently rocking back and forth with her arms wrapped around herself; an occasional sniffle breaking the otherwise silence that permeated the house. My determination to interrogate her eroded as I mutely watched her from the threshold. Not wanting to intrude, but concerned for her overall well-being, I softly knocked on the opened door.

“Aunt Rachel?”

“Hey, Angie,” she said, as she glanced toward the opened door, hastily wiping the tears from her cheeks with the fingers of both her hands. “Come in, sit.”

I walked into the room and over to her, sitting in the spot she indicated by patting with her left palm. She looked different to me, though I wasn’t exactly certain what it was that shifted in her physical appearance, it was more than just the change of clothing that profoundly affected me as I sat next to her. The long skirt and blouse, which had been stained by the blood from her nose, was replaced by a pair of comfortable looking wide legged pants and an embroidered tee shirt.

“Are you feeling alright?” I didn’t want to cause her more distress, but I was curious as to what she was feeling and thinking.

“I’m okay, Angie,” she smiled weakly, pulling her hair back from her face and into a low pony tail. “What about you? Are you feeling alright?”

“Me?” I couldn’t fathom that she was concerned about me with what she had just experienced. The confusion must have been evident on my face, because she reached out with her hand and placed it over my own, which had been lying motionless in my lap. The prickling heat radiating from her palm felt comforting on my skin.

“You are my niece, Angie. And I worry about you, probably more than you realize,” she stared into my eyes as she continued, “I know how special you are and even if your parents are honestly unaware or if they refuse to acknowledge your,” she paused as she chose her next word, “talent? Gift? Ability? I’m not even sure which word is most appropriate here … but regardless, I am aware. I acknowledge it and I think I can understand it, which is why I tend to be concerned about you.”

I felt myself smile, then impulsively reached over and embraced her. I felt her wrapped her arms around me and squeeze. This was the first time that anyone vocally acknowledged to me that they believed that I was different in a way that wasn’t unhealthy. Aunt Rachel didn’t refer to me as delusional or paranoid or mentally ill. She didn’t suggest that I possessed an overactive imagination or that I had lost touch with reality. She didn’t refer to me as anything but special and not in a way that made me feel guilty or ashamed or badly about who I was.

“Thank you,” I whispered. Her words were a gift; they gave me an inner strength that radiated deep within my center of being that I didn’t ever remember feeling before. She validated the belief I had that she was the only family member who valued me as an individual person with ideas and thoughts. I loved her more in that moment than I would ever love another person. I gently pulled myself from her embrace. “What happened to you?”

“Oh Angie,” she frowned and shook her head. “I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know how much you know or understand about …,” she spread her arms wide and gestured to the space around her. “All of it. And it’s really not my place to explain it to you.”

“Oh …”

I was disappointed. I thought we shared a moment and had an understanding with each other. I falsely believed that she would reveal to me what had happened, that she and I would be able to discuss the things that no one wanted to acknowledge or discuss with me because they thought my ideas and perceptions were just symptoms of my paranoid schizophrenia. Apparently I was mistaken about our connection.

“It’s not that I don’t want to, Angie. Please do not think for a moment that I don’t want to tell you everything I know and show you some truly wondrous things, but I have deep respect for my brother, your father, and I can’t blindly ignore his decision about his family, about you, even if I believe that his choices are the wrong ones to make,” she paused. “I owe your father my life.” She did not use the words to exaggerate or emphasize a point, as many others commonly did; no, her words held meaningful weight. It was clear that my aunt and Dad shared a history full of experiences that bonded them beyond usual sibling rapport. This was understandably the root of the close relationship they shared. “So, you see, I’m caught in the middle of something that I’m not entirely sure how to navigate through. I see what your Dad’s poor judgement is doing to you and I’ve spoken with him numerous times about the consequences of his actions, but he’s obstinate. He doesn’t listen to my advice.”

I nodded. “He’s stubborn.”

I wondered if this was why Aunt Rachel was a constant visitor and in regular communication with my Dad. Were all their conversations about me? The realization brought with it a wave of anxiety that left me uncomfortable.

“And he’s afraid,” she explained. “He’s afraid for you, Angie. He doesn’t want any harm to come to you and he believes that his choices will ensure your safety, but I think, and tell me if you agree with me, that you have long passed beyond the point where he has any ability to protect you.”

I studied her face attempting to determine how much she knew about my ability, what I could do, what I had already done, and if she, too, held that same power within her. She was blood of my blood, which according to the knowledge given to me by The Ancestors meant that Aunt Rachel held the power within her even if she hadn’t yet found it or harnessed it. I wondered if it manifested within her the same way it did within me. Did she hear the voices of The Ancestors within music as I did? Did they show her the power that the Williams women of Salem held within them since ancient times? Could she trap souls on the Astral Plane through music as I did? Or … or perhaps her medium wasn’t music at all, perhaps it was something else.

I decided that even if Aunt Rachel couldn’t share with me what she knew because of her respect for my Dad, it would be nice for me to have someone to share my thoughts and experiences with, someone who didn’t dismiss them as fantasies or delusions, and someone who understood what I was sharing even if they didn’t personally experience it.

“Yes, I agree,” I nodded. “Dad has no way of protecting me, and honestly, I don’t think he ever could.”

Chapter XXX

The voices of the Ancestors, organic and disturbing, thrashed around Mr. Stokes and I like the Atlantic during a perfect storm. The sounds had grown steadily in volume and force once the ancient sphere was removed from the sanctuary of its wooden box. The ancestors recognized the artifact and were threatened by it. And justifiably so, it held arcane power that was inherently mine to wield for the sphere was created by and for the women of my bloodline, and they were cognizant of that fact, some may have even used it when they resided on this earth plane. Their chorus of howls, shrieks, gurgles, snarls, and ravings in an ancient language that I didn’t comprehend, but instinctively knew was a spell, not only intended to bind Aunt Rachel’s essence to theirs, but mine as well, seemed to become larger than the available space in the foyer. The eerie sounds reverberated through my physical body. I could feel the sound tug at my spiritual essence, struggling to yank it from its corporeal vessel. With my free hand I reached for Mr. Stokes, who stood just a few feet behind me on my left. Joining the energetic frequencies of our physical bodies, we would be bound to each other and anchored to the physical plane, enabling me to greater withstand any energetic attacks the ancestors threw at me.

“Are you ok?” I had to yell to be heard over the din.

“I am,” he assured me as he gripped my hand with his. “Are you?”

With my eyes still closed, but face turned toward him, I nodded. “Please, don’t let go of my hand, Mr. Stokes.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, Angie,” he shouted.

My hair whipped around my face obscuring my physical line of vision, but I didn’t need to open my eyes in order to know what was enfolding around me. Though the Ancestors had come into entrainment with multiple frequencies and were manifesting on the physical plane, they were still visible to me on the other planes, which is where my focus was at the moment seeking Aunt Rachel’s detached doyens. The shimmering opaque sphere I held in my right hand possessed an internal primordial glow, which I instinctively knew meant that it was prepared to be utilized. I directed the spindled energy I held within me into the sphere, just as I had done when boosting my aunt’s energetic vibrational frequency. The sphere felt familiar to me, as if I was connected to it, that it had been in my possession and I had used it countless times before. Had I always possessed the expertise to manipulate it successfully? Was it possible that I had been born with this knowledge and skill, but that it lay concealed, dormant within me until I unconsciously triggered it?

Once the intense flow of energy had been established, I slowly opened my eyes to find that not only were there visible waves of sound and bright light churning around us, but scraps of paper, leaves from Mother’s house plants, and random small items from the side table in the foyer were also now whirling around us as well, momentarily confusing and disorientating me.

I looked back over my shoulder at Mr. Stokes. “Ready?”

He nodded, shielding himself with his free hand, from the random projectiles that bombarded us as they passed. Round and round. Continuously spiraling, creating a rhythmic air current that vibrated with the odd noises and ancient chant that assaulted our ears. We were running out of time. Intuitively I knew that the Ancestors had almost finished casting the binding spell, the energy was moments from reaching its crescendo.

The feel of Mr. Stokes hand in mine and the warmth of the sphere brought me comfort and strength as I stared into the middle of the foyer just a few feet before me where Aunt Rachel’s body laid, the same spot where she had been standing just twenty-four hours prior. I saw that her overnight bags still remained abandoned where she left them by the front door; a reminder of a mundane life that seemed foreign and unattainable. I slowly inhaled and with the next exhalation, I willfully projected a visible stream of radiant energy from the sphere towards the area near my aunt’s body. The energy first gathered a few inches above the floor tiles and took the form and size of the sphere I held in my palm, but then continued to expand until it was a large sphere, big enough in diameter to engulf Aunt Rachel’s body, which it did, extending her upright and suspending her a few inches above the floor. The sensations accompanying the energy stream were enthralling, giving me a high that no prescribed medication ever did or could. In the fringe of the energy stream, I noticed the things that I had seen when Mr. Stokes and I worked on boosting Aunt Rachel’s energetic vibration, but they appeared more condensed and uniform, less fluid, and as I studied them I watched as they metamorphosed into ethereal beings of light and sound encircling my aunt, separating her energetic essence from mine, which was now imbued with the energy of the archaic sphere.

“You can’t have her. She doesn’t belong here, she belongs with me!” I screamed, though I wasn’t entirely certain if I shouted with my voice or with my mind.

I pushed forth a burst of dark indigo energy that created a ripple of vibration, forcing the ethereal beings away from Aunt Rachel, so that there was no longer a barrier between us, enabling me to reach out for her with my own essence. Because I had been intently focused on her, reliving our shared moments, and tapping into our family bond, I easily found resonance with her vibration and gently tugged at her, loosening her from the primordial frequency of the ancestors that she had been entrained with. I psychically compelled her doyens to fuse and encouraged her spiritual being to reestablish the bond with her physical body. The energy flowed through my entire being sending charges through my essence, empowering me and bringing clarity to my psyche.

The dissonant voice of the Ancestors distorted, becoming garbled and chaotic. The archaic language chanting the spell was no longer audible and the howls, shrieks, and snarls were nothing more than hoarsely corrupted murmurs. The established rhythm decayed as the force and sound of the whirlwind faded. The ancestors’ influence over Aunt Rachel diminished until it was nullified. I carefully severed the energetic bond between her essence and my own, allowing her to reestablish resonance with the vibrational frequency of the physical realm. Her feet touched the floor and she collapsed as gravity was established again. We rushed to her side, Mr. Stokes reaching her a moment before me.

“Oh, Rachel, Rachel, Rachel,” he cooed softly, as he cradled her like a child. He gently brushed the chestnut strands of stray hair away from her closed eyes. His actions expressed a great affection he held for her that would be undeniable after that day. I was baffled by my lack of awareness of his feelings considering the amount of time I spent with him, though it was true that with me, he was usually reserved when it came to discussing his personal opinions or facts about himself. I wondered if my aunt reciprocated his feelings. It was something that I was going to ask her when things returned to whatever normal was for our family. “Please open your eyes, darling, and look at me.”

Aunt Rachel’s chest heaved once as she coughed. A foamy substance escaped her parted lips and spilled down her chin, Mr. Stokes gently whipped it away with his fingers as she blinked her eyes numerous times before focusing on his face. She sluggishly turned her head to look up at me. I caught her gaze and smiled. It was a relief to see her conscious and moving, but something … something in her eyes … the way she was looking at me, something just seemed … not exactly right. Something was fallow. Never breaking our gaze, I squatted so that I was closer to her eye level, hoping to get a better understanding of what had shifted, but before I could do or say anything, Mr. Stokes pulled her against his chest and hugged her, sobs of relief and words of endearment spilling forth from him as she weakly returned his embrace.

Chapter XXIX

AIt was clear that Mr. Stokes was uncomfortable not being the one in control of our plan and actions to bring return Aunt Rachel to her body, but since he seemed to be lost with how to handle it all and I had become the one who was focused, it seemed logical, at least to me, that I take the leadership role. I was determined that nothing was going to stop me from accomplishing the goal of returning my aunt to us.

As I had sat in silence after communicating with my aunt it felt as if I had wiped the grime from an old window and was finally allowing the light of the late morning sun to illuminate the interior of my mind and the obvious solution, as if each piece of the puzzle had easily fallen into its rightful place bringing me the revelation I required. It felt simple and obvious and I wondered why I hadn’t been aware of the solution before since it seemed as if I had been in possession of the knowledge and skill all along.

I walked into the library searching for my bag and once I located it on the floor by my favorite chair, I plunged my hand into its depths and retrieved the wooden box I had purchased from the occult shop last month.

“I have a plan and I can execute it myself, but I could use your help, Mr. Stokes. Would you to be my anchor?” I asked him, confident that he would be willing since I could see that there was something between the two of them.

He nodded without hesitation. “Yes, of course, but Angie, how do you know what needs to be done? As you can see for yourself our previous attempt to boost her energetic vibration seems to have failed. How can you be certain that what you have planned will work?”

“It didn’t completely fail,” I said, retracing my steps back to the living room with the box in my hands. I glanced from Mr. Stokes, who walked beside me to the object. “And I can’t explain it, I just know.”

He didn’t seem convinced, but didn’t outwardly challenge me. I gestured to the sofa. “We need to bring her body back into the foyer. I will only be able to reopen an existing portal and her vessel needs to be nearby so that her doyens can reunite with it.”

Mr. Stokes carefully bent over, lifted her body and cradled it in his arms as he carried her into the foyer. He gently placed her onto the cold tiled floor where she had fallen the previous night once I had freed her from the vortex. He took a few steps back closer to my position and looked to me, waiting for whatever was going to happen next.

“Let’s bring her home.”

***

As I stood barefoot in the middle of the foyer, I closed my eyes and exhaled, clearing my mind of all extraneous thoughts and focused solely on Aunt Rachel, summoning forth the numerous memories of her that I held within me, allowing them to seep into my mind bathing me with their warm, soothing emotional liquid, causing me to smile as I re-experienced each one. I allowed them to evolve and even though I was tempted to rush the process along, I knew it was more beneficial to allow it to proceed organically. I carefully sorted through the pages of our shared history in search of the nexus, the shared mere of power, and once I located it, I delved into its murky waters with my consciousness, drowning within it and drinking in the inessential energy from the rest of my being. I was filling myself with the energy and spindling it. I intuitively knew that this vibrant and living energy would be required to power the reopening of the vortex.

“Aunt Rachel? Aunt Rachel? It’s me, it’s Angie.”

There was silence. With my eyes still closed, I inhaled deeply and exhaled, repeating this action a few times as I allowed the energy to wash over and through me.

“Aunt Rachel,” I called, in the quietness of the house, my voice sounded louder to me that it probably was. Mr. Stokes stood beside me, his irregular breathing audible to only me.

“She’s being restrained,” I explained.

I had located Aunt Rachel’s vibrational energy signature that was concealed within the sounds that constantly swirled around everything on the earth, but hers was not freely flowing as it had been just hours ago. It was being restrained by other energetic entities, entities that I was intimately familiar with.

“I can hear them,” I informed Mr. Stokes, who was unable to hear the organic musical sounds as I did. “They’re attempting to keep her from me. They are aware that I am going to reopen the vortex and bring her home.”

“Who? Who is restraining her?” he demanded.

I inhaled and exhaled slowly before responding, distancing myself from his agitation and maintaining my internal focus on Aunt Rachel and the cocoon of energy that embraced me. “The Ancestors.”

“Who?” he paused. “What? Why are they restraining her? Why would they do that?” distraught, he screamed at the unseen accompanying us in the foyer. “Release her!”

If they truly were our ancestors, I understood that they had some motivation for wanting her to remain, but their reason, their purpose for keeping her with them was unknown to me. Only Aunt Rachel would be able to provide him with the answer. But frankly, my friends, between you and I, I didn’t care what the Ancestors’ motive was or what justification they had to keep her with them, I rejected it.

“I don’t know.”

I felt their looming presence, surrounding me in an attempt to create a barrier between Aunt Rachel’s essence and my own. I wasn’t sure if in her current condition she was strong enough to break free of their grasp and breech the wall, but I hoped that our earlier attempt to boost her energetic vibration with our own had not been in vain. I felt sweat bead across my brow and even though I had my physical eyes closed it was so bright within the recesses of my mind.

“Rachel!” he screamed, unable to keep a meditative focus. “Rachel! Can you hear us, Rachel?”

Moments passed with no response. The energy barrier, invisible to the human eye, swirled around me as I endeavored to reach beyond it with my essence, searching for a way to psychically connect with my aunt. It seemed as if Mr. Stokes’ patience had dissolved and he had lost hope, which only fortified my determination and focus. I heard him drop to the floor behind me and weep.

“Gerald?” her whisper surrounded us. “Is that you?”

My tutor jumped to his feet. “Yes! Yes it is.”

“Where are you? Why can’t  … “ her voice faded into murmurs.

“Rachel!” he yelled at the nothingness.

“Aunt Rachel … focus on my voice. Find my vibration,” I instructed. “I’m here. I am right here.”

“They are … all … around …”

The sound of the murmurs that were once shrouded within the air current grew, becoming louder and more forceful. They reached entrainment with more than one vibrational frequency including that of the physical plane. The chorus of haunting moans, high pitched screeches, and myriad of peculiar organic sounds pushed at our human bodies.

Mr. Stokes furrowed his brow. “What the hell is that sound?”

“That,” I clarified, “Is the Ancestors.”

If Aunt Rachel listened and followed their instructions, she would fall into resonance with them and never to return to her body. Their whispers cajoled and persuaded her to push me from her mind, to create a gap of frequency between us, but I was counting on the power of our shared memories and her energetic vibration to empower her resistance.

“Don’t listen to them,” I encouraged. “Listen to me, Aunt Rachel, hear only my voice. My sound. Block them out. Focus on me. On my voice speaking to you, connecting to you. Focus on our memories, focus on us, on our bond.”

“Angie … Angie, oh, Angie,” she whispered, her voice becoming stronger. “… you have always … always been … a … a special girl.”

Out of the pocket of my sweater I removed the box I had retrieved from the library and opened it. I had studied the runes that were skillfully etched into the wood weeks after I had purchased the item and hadn’t been able to discern their meaning until a few hours ago while I sat alone in the living room. Othilia, Dagaz, Laguz, and Ansuz were the four Elder Futhark runes that were carved inside the lid hundreds of years prior to my current birth date, as a personal message and warning meant for me:

Your inheritance: the ability to transform (alter) the planes of reality, create portals between the planes. Be warned: do not exceed that which you have the ability to do, for if you do, you shall summon Loki, god of chaos.

The sphere’s loud humming that previous customers complained about, that I had not heard for myself until that moment, filled the foyer, overpowering the odd energetic sound of the Ancestors. I felt the vibration not only from the hum, but also from the physical sphere itself, shifting my own energetic frequency just as music could. With my eyes still closed I handed the empty box to Mr. Stokes who obediently took it from me.