Chapter XXXIX

Light is vital to sustain life. It has the ability to create and destroy; to nurture life and bring forth death if it is withheld. Light is power; a power that my friend, Chloe held within her. A power that I was certain she could utilize to manipulate others without them ever truly understanding what exactly she had accomplished. Just as I am one with music, Chloe is one with light. I imagined that the light waves of color echoed through her veins as music did mine.  This fascinated me. It intrigued me. Was Chloe’s power directly tied to her bloodline as mine was? I was a descendent of Abigail Williams and she had said she was blood relative of Anne Putnam. I needed to know more about the connection these women had all those years ago. I searched my memory for any other historical information I had on Anne Putnam, but couldn’t remember anything though the name was familiar to me. And I wondered if The Ancestors had played a part in bringing Chloe and I together or was this growing friendship just a step towards Syn’s impending retribution against me? Was an alliance between Chloe and I as much of a benefit as I imagined it to be or was it one step closer towards my punishment for defying the goddess of my family?

I flipped the pages of the book that I held in my lap until I found page two hundred twenty-eight. I handed the book to Chloe. “Read this, I think you’ll find it very interesting.”

“This is the assumption; what are the facts? On the one hand there are unspiritual, entrenched, too often depraved cowans; a host of sects, and warring factions; reveling in discord instead of unity; wealth and pleasure-seeking individuals possessed by bigotry, perceiving only that which the tyrannical exigencies of respectability demand. On the other hand, there are those spiritually embedded, gifted individuals; singular people, outcasts of, though living within society, who possess an ability beyond the parameters of recognized vision; super-vision; perceiving a range of a hundred million colours for which there are no names; perceiving spirits invisible to even the most accomplished occultist, adept or Seer. We have named them; Tetraprismats.”

 “Invisible spirits?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“I don’t know …,” she frowned. “I mean … I don’t see ghosts.”

“Spirits not ghosts,” I corrected, sounding too much like Mr. Stokes for my own liking. I shook my head in an effort to clear his image from my mind and refocused my attention on Chloe. “Maybe you just don’t understand what it is you are seeing,” I paused as I considered how her powers might mature as mine did. “Or maybe you don’t see them yet, but you will.”

“I don’t know …” she mumbled, handing the book back to me as she sat next to be on my bed.

“Well, I do,” I accepted the heavy tome, closed it, and placed it on my lap, resting my forearms on its cover. Thoughts began forming in my mind; my imagination expanded and gave birth to grandiose ideas on just how much she and I could achieve if we were to work together and join our power. I understood that there were things that we would be able to accomplish that our peers could only ever fantasize about. “And I think it’s fucking amazing!”

She studied me in silence for a few moments, probing my eyes with her own. She didn’t completely trust me and I didn’t blame her. I had similar issues with people. My life had been one betrayal following another, but I was making myself vulnerable to her just as much as I was asking her to be vulnerable with me. I intuitively knew that she and I together could change things in our lives and the lives of other people; not just silly insignificant things, either … important things.

Chloe’s frown slowly transformed into a smile as she acquiesced with a nod, “It is fucking amazing!”

The gentle knock on my bedroom door ceased the melodic laughter of the sonata Chloe and I had begun to compose together. I assumed that it was Aunt Rachel as no one else was currently occupying the house. I placed the book on my desk on top of the pile of other library books I had recently borrowed.

“Come in.”

I presumed that Aunt Rachel was inquiring about dinner plans as I noticed the numerous shadows skulking around the room and the disgruntled vocalization of my empty stomach. Time had passed quicker than I had realized. I glanced at the digital clock on my nightstand: six o’clock. Chloe’s Dad would be expecting her home soon.

The door slowly swung open and Aunt Rachel appeared behind it, but remained at the threshold. Her expression was difficult to read, but I could tell she was unsettled.

“Everything okay?” I questioned.

The disturbing image of her body suspended in the foyer flashed in my mind like a strobe. I jumped up from the bed, the book that had been sitting in my lap hit the floor with a loud thud. Chloe jolted up and stood next to me. I could feel the tension radiating from her body.

Aunt Rachel hesitated a moment before entering my room. She approached us and touched my arm, a weak smile fluttered over her lips. “There’s nothing for you to worry about, Angie. I just wanted to know if your friend,” she smiled at Chloe, “was staying for dinner.”

I turned to Chloe. “Yes?”

She nodded. “Yeah, sure.”

“Is pizza okay?” she asked. When we both agreed, she offered, “The usual peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes? Or are you doing something else this time?”

“Chloe?”

In that moment I realized that I had only surface knowledge about her; you know the basic information, but nothing substantial; not that her favorite pizza toppings was considered significant information, but it was more than who her parents were and if she had any siblings. The only things I knew that she enjoyed on a regular basis were: Benson and Hedges, moccachinos, and Red Bull.

“Could you put pepperoni on half of it?”

“We can just put it on the whole thing,” I suggested. “I don’t mind pepperoni.”

Aunt Rachel nodded.

“Great. I’ll order it and let you girls know when it arrives,” she said as she left the room, closing the door behind her.

We both sat back down on my bed. I allowed myself to fall backward and gazed at the ceiling; the smoothness of the surface taunted me with its stark perfection.

Chloe removed the cellphone from her jeans pocket. “I’ll let my Dad know I’m staying for dinner so he doesn’t worry. Ever since Josh disappeared he’s been overprotective. He’s convinced that I’m the next one to go missing.”

I chuckled. “Really?”

“Yeah,” she laughed with me as she quickly typed out a text on her phone. “I mean, I guess I don’t blame him,” she admitted. “I sort of disappeared before.”

“You did?” I sat up. Chloe was becoming much more interesting to me the more I learned about her. “Did you run away?”

“I didn’t run away,” she scoffed, appalled by the notion that I thought she would. “I’m sure everyone at school believed I did, and maybe my Dad thought so, too, but I didn’t.”

“Well …,” I prompted. “Stop teasing me with it, Chloe. Spill it! Tell me what happened. Obviously there is an interesting story here and I’m curious.”

She slid her cellphone back into her pocket and pulled out the familiar gold colored pack of cigarettes from her hoodie pocket. She glanced at me as she raised her eyebrows. I nodded, walked over to my bedroom window, and opened it. Chloe rested her right butt cheek on the sill as she lit one of the last cigarettes in the pack with a red plastic lighter.

“Wait,” I leaned against the opposite side of the window frame so that I had an unhindered view of her facial expressions, “does this have to do with your abilities?”

“No, at least not that I know of, but I suppose it could. I mean … it’s …fucked up,” she stressed the last two words looking directly at me. “I haven’t told anyone the whole story because no one would believe me.” After taking a drag, she offered me the cigarette. Her dark red lipstick stained the filter. “I wouldn’t believe it if someone told me.”

“And so …” I gestured for her to continue.

She sighed, resigning to my will. “Well … remember I told you about that night that Nick, Jack, and I stole the grimoire and cast that spell?”

I nodded. “Yeah, you were living in Salem with your Dad and it was on Halloween at midnight or something during a full moon.”

“Right. Well, those witches that we brought back … The Pickman Sisters, they cast a transmogrification spell.”

Not what I was expecting her to say. I admit I was skeptical at first.

“Like we read about in Sacred Magick?”

Was it possible? Or was Chloe just as fucked in the head as I was? Didn’t I just say to her that very afternoon that I believed that everything written in that book was real? Yes, I did. Was I now retracting that statement or did I really believe what I had said; that the concepts and ideas within the book were not only possible, but that they were practiced today by people who possessed abilities even if they were obscure or unheard of in modern society. I knew that there were occultists and witches who were able to do those fantastical things. I knew because I had abilities that seemingly defied logic and science.

“Yes,” she whispered, avoiding my eyes and picking at the cuticles on her left hand. I watched her place the cigarette between her painted lips and inhaling before she continued. “They cast a spell and … Nick …” She made a strange noise that sounded like she had choked on the smoke of her cigarette, but when the thin stripes of black marked her cheeks, I realized she was sobbing. “He changed into a rat right in front of me. And then they did something to me, Angie. I don’t know what. I don’t know … but I imagine they did it to me, too.”

I reached over for the tissue box from my dresser and handed it to her. Chloe crushed the end of her cigarette against the outside sill of the window and grabbed a tissue from the box. She wiped her cheeks, smearing the trails of mascara.

“I don’t remember anything from that night in the woods,” she held out her left hand palm up, then held out the opposite hand that was holding the used tissue, “until the morning I woke up at St. Mary’s Hospital. It’s like someone wiped my memory.”

“Wow.” I was stunned. “That is fucked up.”

She tossed the used tissue into the decorative wastebasket next to my desk and reclaimed her spot on my bed. “I know, right?”

My mind churned with numerous questions; some of which I deemed inappropriate at the present moment. Chloe was visually upset by the past events she shared with me; I didn’t want to upset her further by asking too many factual questions that might be perceived as uncompassionate.

“What happened to Nick? The Sisters?” I questioned, “And what about Jack?”

“Nick was still missing when Dad and I moved here. I hope they will find him, but I doubt they will.  And I don’t know anything about the Sisters. I mean, when I was released from the hospital I couldn’t go around asking people about whether they saw The Pickman Sisters walking around town,” she snickered. “Can you imagine?”

I smiled and laughed softly as an image of three young women dressed in Puritan clothing emerged from the depths of my mind.

“But there was no news about a large number of children missing from Salem so I figured someone stopped them,” she continued. “And Jack, well, apparently his body was found in the woods where we cast the spell. By the time I woke up they had already buried him.”

The chime of the doorbell rang through the house, signaling that our pizza had arrived. We eagerly left my bedroom and walked through the hallway. The steady rhythm of Chloe’s combat boots hitting the hardwood floor echoed through the upstairs. The halogen lamps from inside the numerous curio cabinets that lined the wall cast strange shadows on the floor.

“How did you end up in the hospital?” I asked, as we passed the ornate French styled display cabinet.

“I don’t know. Apparently a nurse found me slumped in one of the chairs in the waiting area and …,” Chloe paused mid-sentence as she watched the gold trimmed glass door slowly creak open. “He recognized me from an AMBER Alert.”

“Oh,” I said. The cabinet’s interior light flickered out as I secured it shut. The familiar insidious fear rumbled within the center of my being. Something big and bad was brewing; I felt it. Apparently Chloe did as well; she grabbed my hand and without further conversation pulled me towards the staircase.

The light of the crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling illuminated the crimson carpeted stairs and spilled into the foyer below. I expected my aunt to greet us in the foyer with a pizza box, but found instead the pizza abandoned on the mahogany side table next to Mother’s Golden Pothos and Aunt Rachel speaking in hushed tones with someone at the front door.

 

 

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Chapter XXXVIII

There are millions of colors within the spectrum of light, but only a limited range of color that human beings can perceive with their eyes and interpret with the brain, but not only are there colors that surround us on a daily basis that we don’t perceive; light waves don’t die, but instead they shift and continue to exist eternally.

The power of vision originates from the photoreceptor cells found within the eye, known as rods and cones. Rods allow the eye to perceive in low-light conditions or gray-scale, while the cones deal with color. The majority of human beings on the planet possess three types of cones, which are triggered by different wavelengths of light impacting the retina located at the back of the eyeball. These wavelengths, short, medium, or long, will determine what signal is sent to the brain; short wavelengths are perceived as bluer, longer wavelengths are redder, and the wavelengths in between and combinations of these wavelengths create the kaleidoscopic rainbow. Each cone holds the ability to distinguish around a hundred shades, which can be calculated to be at least one thousand three or a million combinations of color, however take just one cone out of the equation and the number of possible combinations drops a factor of one hundred to ten thousand.

The cone cells detect just a small sliver of the light wavelengths that pass through the optical window of earth’s atmosphere and do not contain all the colors that the human eyes and brain can distinguish. Ultraviolet rays are invisible to most humans though there are some conditions where children and young adults may perceive them. These waves that human eyes perceive are not affected by Earth’s gravity, but are slowed upon entering a denser medium of the atmosphere, and just as sound waves interfere and interact with each other, light waves do the same, but they also have the ability to gain or lose energy in finite amounts related to their frequency. It is understood by physicist that light is not only considered a wave, but also a particle, though it is neither particle nor wave. It can be described with mathematic equations that are appropriate to particles, but at other times the metaphor of waves is more effectively applied, thus illustrating the elusiveness of light and how it cannot be fully imagined or understood by the human brain.

 

Chloe and I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon sequestered in my bedroom sitting across from each other on my bed, sharing our personal occult and paranormal experiences, particularly when and how we discovered that we were able to do things that other people around us could not. Frankly, at first I was reluctant to share anything with her, not because I thought she would think I was mentally ill; it had already been established that she perceived me as sane, but because I was slightly concerned about what she would do with the information once I shared it with her. I quickly realized that if she did leave my house and directly go tell other people; friends, her father, or even the police, they would most likely think she was as mentally ill as I was since everyone in town knew me as such. So, I rationalized that since she was willing to share her dark secrets with me, then she deserved to hear about mine, though I did not yet reveal to her what treasures I kept concealed on my MP3 player. Well, at least not that particular afternoon.

Chloe had been involved, along with her two “friends” Nick and Jack, who she mentioned earlier that afternoon, with stealing an ancient grimoire from a museum in Salem and holding some sort of necromantic ritual on Halloween that succeeded in resurrecting three witches who had died in 1692. She had been a witness to some authentic and horrific witchcraft done by these witches, including transmogrification, but she confessed with slight embarrassment that her memory of that night and the entire following year was confusing and fragmented. The medical doctors, along with her PTSD therapist, suggested that it was all normal and the confusion and slight memory loss were the results of the trauma she experienced during that time. Her mind was not only trying to heal, but was attempting to protect her from the pain and suffering she endured. As result of the events, her Dad moved them to Rhode Island the following year, though Chloe was suspicious of his reasoning. She believes that while it was true that he thought it better to start “fresh”, as was his usual way of dealing with anything uncomfortable, she was convinced that he was keeping something about that night and possibly the following year hidden from her.

She confessed that it was only within the last six months that she accidently discovered her abilities.

“What sort of abilities?” I was curious to know what she could do.

“I don’t know what it is called,” she shrugged. “And it’s difficult to really describe, but when I look at someone and focus on them I can see waves of … well, like waves of color or … waves of light around their body.”

I was fascinated with her explanation and tried to imagine what it felt like to experience what she had just described.

“Are you seeing their aura?” I suggested, being familiar with the concept and recalling my own experience with Aunt Rachel’s aura.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged again. “Maybe? I don’t know what that looks like,” she explained.

She made a valid point; how could she relate to what an aura looked like without ever having seen one. I decided to explore her ability in a different way.

I gestured to myself with both hands, “Use your ability to look at me and tell me what you see.”

“Okay,” she nodded with a weak smile. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable, but willing to humor me.

She inhaled, filling her lungs with air while she focused on me; her eyes remained opened, then slowly exhaled. She repeated this a few times, while I remained silent. I studied her closely and wondered if she was executing the same sort of relaxation exercise I did before I proceeded to manipulate someone else’s energy. What was happening inside of Chloe? What was she thinking? Feeling? Seeing?

After a few more breaths, she subtly tilted her head backward and closed her eyes. When they reopened the pupils and irises had vanished.

I gasped unprepared for her eerie appearance. The noise of my sharp inhalation caused her to lose concentration. She blinked, returning her eyes back to their normal condition.

“Oh fuck! Fuck!” she exclaimed. “Are you okay, Angie? Did I hurt you?”

This ability was clearly all very new to her. She had yet to build up the confidence I had, probably because she hadn’t been forced to pull a loved one from a paranormal vortex that had appeared in the foyer of her family home to save that person’s life.

“No. I’m fine,” I dismissed her concern with a wave. “I’m sorry. I guess I was just unprepared for your …” I pointed at her mesmerizing green irises, “Eyes to do that. It’s kinda freaky.”

“What?” She jumped up from the bed and rushed over to the floor length mirror attached to my closet door. She pulled down the bottom lid of her left eye and examined her eyeball then proceeded to do the same to the right. “What do my eyes do?”

I shifted my position so that the soles of my Mary Jane’s touched the floor. “They go completely white.”

“No shit!” She shifted her gaze to my reflection. “Seriously? For reals?”

I nodded.

“Should I try again?” she asked as she turned to face me.

I shrugged. “Why not. I’m really curious to know what you see.”

She focused on me, her eyes staring while I stared back focusing my own eyes on her. As she inhaled so did I. As she slowly exhaled, I did, too. Our breathing fell into resonance. She slowly titled her head backward closing her eyes. I lazily blinked and when I reopened my eyes Chloe’s white eyeballs had returned, but my attention was no longer on the appearance of her eyes. My own vision had blurred as images flashed through my mind with a swiftness that prevented me from comprehending what I was seeing; but the emotions associated with them poured over me like a warm sultry liquid; drenching me, drowning me, and spewing forth from the fount of my power. I desperately attempted to surf through the waves of complex emotions, searching for the center, where this excess of emotions sprang.

What was happening? I felt myself begin hyperventilating.

Fuck!

Chloe had triggered my own ability!

If I didn’t gain control of it quickly, I instinctively knew that I would do something that I would later regret.

I frantically located my center of power and coiled my mind around it, drawing the emotional energy into itself like a whirlpool of living energy. I spindled that sparking and vibrating mass of power and harnessed it. I found that this was not a difficult task; however I was at a loss as to what I should do next. The last time I had done anything similar to this, I had intuitively given the energy to Aunt Rachel in order to strengthen her weakened energetic vibration, but what was I to do with it now? Should I attempt to pass it to Chloe? Would she be able to handle it?

As I silently contemplated my next action, my vision cleared and I focused on Chloe who stood just a few feet away, and though I visibly saw nothing with my physical eyes, it was clear to me that my friend did.

“It’s beautiful, Angie. My god! I’ve never seen anything like this!” she said breathlessly, as she slowly reached out towards me with her hands.

I watched in fascination as subtle waves of energy that reminded me of heat rising from the hot pavement in August emanated from her palms and moved towards me. As the strange waves enveloped me I felt their heat and vibration, and heard a whispered hum.

“What do you see, Chloe?” I asked.

“All around you … there is a purple, no, not purple, more like blue? It’s a glow that … moves around you,” she described with joy.

I knew what she was describing; it was the evanescent radiance that had mesmerized me as I worked on Aunt Rachel’s doyens. The warmth and tingle I felt from Chloe was exactly when I had experienced then as well. At that moment I understood that as I was able to distinguish hidden voices within music and sound, she was able to see the hidden colors of light within our environment that other humans could not.

 

Chapter XXXVII

Chloe and I walked through the foyer; the soles of her black combat boots rhythmically hitting the floor tiles setting the tempo for the duet we had begun. We passed the open door way to the morning parlor where Aunt Rachel was still peacefully engrossed with the issue of ArtNews she had opened on her lap. With her left elbow bent and resting on the arm of the Queen Anne sofa, she held a blue ceramic mug from which she sipped coffee as she intermittently turned a page of the magazine with her free hand.

“We’ll be up in my room,” I offered to which she smiled and nodded.

We hastily ascended the stairs, my bare feet caressing the crimson carpet as I climbed, intent on reaching the sanctity of my bedroom as swiftly as we could before continuing the conversation we had begun on the front porch. This was the first time that Chloe showed interest in my copy of Sacred Magick. Usually I would be the one to find something fascinating to share it with her, but today was different; her request to look through the tome was tainted with an anxiousness that unsettled me. Our casual conversation outside had taken a drastic turn after we had discussed the police investigation into Josh’s mysterious disappearance and Brittany’s unforgiveable betrayal of me. Chloe had tactfully brought up the topic of my diagnosed mental illness through questions about my experience with nightmares. She had wanted to know how I was able to determine what was a terrifying dream and what was a psychotic hallucination. As if it was something I could easily determine for myself. It seemed to me as if the last few days were indistinguishable between the two; reality and fantasy were merging and it was terrifying.

As we entered the private sanctuary of my bedroom, I pointed to the large heavy book sitting on the desk beside my computer monitor. Chloe sat in the swivel chair and eagerly opened the heavy tome as I secured the door. I wasn’t concerned that Aunt Rachel wouldn’t respect my space or that she would overhear a conversation that would convince her that I was mentally unstable, I just felt that Chloe would be more open with me if she knew that my aunt couldn’t hear our forthcoming discussion. My friend briefly consulted the table of contents in the front of the book and then began flipping through the delicate pages, obviously searching for a specific page number. I sat on my bed silently observing her, studying her facial expressions with curiosity.

Up until that moment she had always been reserved when I shared bits of occult information from the book with her. She never asked questions or offered opinions so I had been convinced that she was uninterested, but now as I watched her frantically search the text, I pondered what she had been thinking during those exchanges. Was she listening and storing all the information I shared with her? And if so, for what purpose? She stopped turning pages and concentrated on the text in front of her. As she read, the index finger of her right hand glided along the page. I had the overwhelming feeling that she held secrets of her own and I was intrigued. I inched forward on the bed trying to catch a glimpse of the text she had been reading.

She frowned, closed her eyes, and bowed her head for a moment before carrying the opened book over to me.

“How do you interpret this, Angie?” she turned the book so that I could read the written words and pointed to a paragraph on the top of page two hundred one.

“It has been recorded in numerous ancient texts that transmogrification has been widely valued by various religions; within occult practice it should not be discounted. The importance of the degree of knowledge and ability to completely shift the physical shape and form of a being to another is difficult to master, but when it is achieved through magick the occultist’s ability is tenfold more noteworthy, than when, accomplished by the intervention of divine or profane powers. The list of the Sages that have endeavoured transmogrification is long; those who have succeeded are few indeed.”

“How do I interpret this?” I repeated, confused as to what she was actually asking me. The text seemed rather clear and easily to comprehend. Was Chloe asking if I thought transmogrification was possible? Was she suggesting that she had the ability to shapeshift? I didn’t understand what her implications were so I asked. “What is it you really want to know, Chloe? Are you asking me if I think transmogrification is possible?”

“I ….,” she hesitated, the pupils of her eyes dilated with what I only could interpret as fear.

“If that is what you’re asking then I have no hesitation in telling you that I believe a lot of the concepts and ideas within this book,” I tapped the open pages with the tips of my fingers, “are not only possible, but that they are practiced today. I believe you can find people who possess these abilities and skills, but the average person doesn’t want to believe it or they dismiss it with medical terminology like paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder or some other mental illness, but in reality they are just misunderstood.”

“I agree,” she said, sitting on the bed next to me. She adjusted herself so she could comfortably face me crossing her legs beneath her. “There are things that I don’t share with others because if I did, if I told people about the experiences I’ve had they would think I was just talking crazy,” she nervously pinched her face. “No offense.”

I smirked, shaking my head. “None taken.”

She continued, “I mean, I’ve seen how people mock others who claim to have encountered demons or ghosts or other paranormal things. Even when Dad and I lived in Salem I could tell that a lot of the witchy stuff was just plain bullshit. Witchcraft is so commercialized in Salem. Most of the self-proclaimed witches aren’t even authentic so why would I share my experiences with them or anyone else? No one would believe me anyway so I’d rather just keep them to myself than be treated like I’m just a wanna-be or fake. You know?” I nodded, but said nothing. She picked at the bed quilt. “I’ve made friends before with people I could share stuff with, or so I thought, but those friendships didn’t end well.”

“Maybe you just chose the wrong people,” I suggested. HA! Listen to me, giving advice about friendship. Who was I pretending to be? If Chloe possessed any common sense within that head of hers, she wouldn’t listen to any advice I attempted to give about any type of relationship, after all I was the mentally ill one here.

“Possibly. But the last two friends,” she pantomimed quotes when she spoke the word friends, “I had, ended up convincing me to –.”

She stopped mid-sentence as she probed my eyes with her own. Her pupils were no longer dilated and the deep green hue of her irises drew me in, mesmerizing me. I knew she was searching for a reason not to continue, estimating how much she should or could tell me without being ridiculed, but she wouldn’t get that treatment from me. It would be a comfort to finally find someone to share my experiences with, someone who wouldn’t tease me, someone who could discuss them with me without breaking any promises made to my father.

Satisfied with what she saw she continued, the remorse in her voice was palpable, “To do something that I shouldn’t have done; that no one ever should‘ve done.”

I wanted to believe everything she was telling me, but I couldn’t help be skeptical. She sounded overly dramatic, which was rather out of character for her. “Was it really that bad, Chloe, or is it possible you might be exaggerating a little bit?”

“I’m not exaggerating,” she explained, choking back tears. Beginning with her face, shame manifested like a wave throughout her body. “I will never forgive myself, but I don’t know what to do because it feels like it’s getting out of control. Maybe I am mentally ill!”

I contemplated what I knew about my friend and considered that she had secrets as dark as my own. I had done things in my recent past that others would consider unforgiveable, but though they would judge my actions in such a way they didn’t share the history I had with those now “missing” individuals. Was it possible Chloe committed similar offences? Were we more alike than it appeared?

As I leaned forward, I reached out for her hands, and whispered in complete seriousness, “Did you murder someone, Chloe?”

“Angie, there are things worse than murder,” she said flatly. “Sometimes death is a blessing.”

I was surprised by her rather unemotional response and leaned back, creating some distance between us. I had never considered death to be a blessing and the concept of it being such intrigued and captivated me. In that moment I felt more kinship with Chloe than my own family, even Aunt Rachel. I began seeing the possibilities that my friendship with Chloe could create for both of us, but I needed to know more about her and have full understanding of what she was suggesting. I recognized that I had made bad choices in friends before, Brittany being the prime example of such poor judgment of character.

It was time to blatantly ask her what she was hinting around at and if she listened to me and was thereafter convinced that I was mentally ill as everyone else around me did, except Aunt Rachel and perhaps Mr. Stokes, then so be it, but the possibility of having someone understand me in a far greater degree as Aunt Rachel ever could, well that was far worth the risk.

“I am a descendant of Abigail Williams, a direct bloodline relative,” I began. “And a human agent, a Valkyrie, of the goddess Syn. I have the power to trap souls on The Astral Plane through the vibration of music and sound and I’m sure I can do other things, like manipulate time, but I haven’t learned how to use that power yet.”

Chloe listened and didn’t respond for what felt like minutes. I berated myself for saying anything in those long drawn out minutes. I convinced myself that she was going to stand up and leave my room, uttering some spiteful comment about my mental condition, but instead she stayed sitting next to me.

“I don’t know what an agent of Syn is, but,” she smiled weakly. “Anne Putnam is my blood relative and I have abilities, too.”

Chapter XXXVI

It was close to ten o’clock in the morning when I finally left the sanctity of my bedroom and proceeded downstairs with a compelling desire for a cup of coffee. I glanced through the opened door of the guest room that Aunt Rachel had claimed, but found it empty. I remembered that she was usually an early riser and was hopefully already downstairs drinking a mug of hot coffee she had brewed. As I walked through the hallway I enjoyed the sensation of the cool hardwood pressing against the soles of my bare feet, it reassured me that I was grounded in reality and not trapped in the nightmare of yesterday. I paused at Mother’s Louis XV display case and peered through the glass at the porcelain figurines, contemplating the experience Aunt Rachel and I had the day before, but nothing about the cabinet’s contents seemed unusual or out of place.

I eagerly descended the main staircase anticipating a mug of the imagined coffee Aunt Rachel brewed. My imagined beverage became a reality as the aroma of Columbian Roast beaconed be from the kitchen. I was distracted by Aunt Rachel’s voice calling my name from the morning parlor. The mug of coffee I greatly desired would have to wait just a few more minutes.

Aunt Rachel was sitting alone on the beige Queen Anne sofa in the middle of the room. She brought a multi blue colored ceramic mug to her lips and sipped what I only imagined to be coffee as she gazed at an opened issue of ArtNews in her lap. The late morning sunlight filtered through the large windows in the parlor, Mother’s favorite space in the house, casting a warm glow over everything including my aunt, giving her an ethereal appearance. She looked up from her magazine and smiled at me as she motioned for me to join her. I was reluctant. The relentless, yet skillful, dodging that both she and Mr. Stokes did the night before as I questioned them about his relationship with our family was still prevalent in my mind; the memory pricked at my intellect as I entered the room and approached her.

She pointed to a mug sitting atop a coaster on the table positioned between the matching sofas. It matched the one in her hand and held steaming coffee. As I walked toward the mug, I felt my eyes widen and lips slowly turn up.

“Thank you,” I said, grasping the handle and bringing the hot coffee to my mouth. The liquid caffeine soothed my ragged psyche as I gratefully drank it. It tasted smooth and possessed a hint of hazelnut? No, not hazelnut. What was that? It was familiar to me, but not a flavor I expected to taste in the coffee. I sat down on the sofa opposite Aunt Rachel as I pondered the unusual flavor. “Is that cinnamon?”

“No,” she smirked as she took another sip from her own mug and flipped the page of her magazine.

I drank from the mug again, but this time I closed my eyes. As the liquid filled my mouth I felt my mind quickly search for the identity of the flavor my taste buds were experiencing. Slowly an image began to take form as I heard a whispered echo of my aunt’s voice inside my head.

I opened my eyes as I swallowed.

“Cacao,” I repeated the word her voice silently uttered to me.

“Yes!” she exclaimed with a giggle.

It was good to see and hear my aunt laugh. It was surreal to think that just forty-eight hours ago she hung suspended in a vortex that had materialized in our foyer just feet away from where we currently sat together drinking our morning coffee. How had my already peculiar life become even more bizarre? When did it metamorphous into a symphony of cacophony and discord? Even my usual psychosis seemed to be experiencing a disconnection from its usual perception of reality. How could I continue to discern what was reality and what was fantasy when reality seemed to be mimicking my schizophrenic hallucinations?

Aunt Rachel smiled and nodded. “I didn’t think you’d get it. I’m impressed.”

“It really wasn’t difficult to figure out,” I shrugged before enjoying another gulp of the coffee she had brewed for us.

“Yes, it was,” she argued, looking at me instead of the magazine. “It was tricky. Don’t underestimate yourself, Angie. Too many people already do. I don’t want to hear that you’re buying into their disbelief, especially when it comes to your skills and talents. You know yourself better than anyone else does. Anyone.”

And this was the intrinsic essence of who Aunt Rachel had always been to me. Her compassion and unwavering belief in who I was and what I could accomplish gave me such inner strength and confidence; sadly it was the same support that I constantly sought from my own parents, but was unable to find. I silently hoped that my parents would never return from the Bahamas. Maybe then I would no longer doubt my experiences and my life would become something valuable and worth living. I was certain that with Aunt Rachel’s constant presence in my daily life I would be able to piece together the disjointed perception of reality that my parents and Dr. Worth considered my mental illness and once my awareness had been realigned I could concentrate on my reconciliation with Syn, the Norse goddess of my bloodline; the bloodline that Abigail Williams, the infamous witch of Salem begat back hundreds of years ago. My unapologetic defiance of the vow I made to her needed to be atoned for, but I had faith that I would be able to reclaim my position as her Valkyrie, here, in Midgard. Perhaps in the process I could help Aunt Rachel with whatever it was that drove the Ancestors to target her to begin with. I knew that I had the power within me to help her and I wanted to support her as she did me. It was only a matter of time before the Ancestors had raised enough energy to attempt to grab her again.

I studied her face, attempting to determine how much she actually knew about the skills and talents that she was actively encouraging me to have confidence about. Did she realize that being blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, she held the same power within herself that I did? Maybe it hadn’t been revealed to her yet or maybe she knew that she was different, but didn’t know how to effectively harness the power.

“Jerr… ald, I mean Mr. Stokes,” she blushed, stumbling over her words, “wanted me to tell you that he’d be here Monday at the usual time for lessons and that you should just take today to rest and relax, spend time just enjoying yourself with something fun,” she explained closing the magazine and placing it on the table between us. “So I was thinking –”

The chime of the doorbell echoed throughout the house like an unwelcomed scream. Aunt Rachel and I looked at each other, waiting to see which of us would volunteer to greet our unexpected visitor. I don’t know who or what we were afraid of, but our fear was undeniable, hanging in the room like a specter. Reluctantly I took the initiative and stood from my seat as Aunt Rachel watched wide-eyed and on the verge of hyperventilating.

“I’ll get it,” I offered, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm myself. This is ridiculous. Why am I anxious? The Ancestors wouldn’t ring the doorbell. Anything that I should be concerned about wouldn’t be so damn polite.

I walked through the foyer, passing the side table that held Mother’s house plants and forgotten mail. The afternoon sunlight filtered through the sidelights and fanlight above the attractively carved wooden door casting shadows on the Oriental rug. The doorbell chimed an additional two times before I reached the entranceway and pulled it open without first looking through the peephole, a practice Mother would have lectured me on if she had been aware of it. Her persistent discourse about the growing number of deranged men with malicious intentions towards trusting vulnerable females was nauseating. Whenever she was nearby I would mimic peeking through the hole before opening, but if she wasn’t around I lived perilously and took my chances. In all sincerity, you and I both know that I am neither trusting nor vulnerable, so unless our unexpected guest had a gun cocked and aimed at the door in preparation to shoot me, he is the one with the greatest disadvantage.

As I opened the door for our uninvited guest, I was genuinely surprised to discover Chloe Putnam, who I hadn’t seen in several weeks, standing before me. After sneaking out of my house that influential night in September and meeting Chloe, she and I would spend most Sunday afternoons hanging out. Sometimes she would come over to watch movies or listen to music with me and other times we would just casually stroll around the neighborhood or hang at the park where we first met, smoking cigarettes and complaining about the unfairness of our lives. My Dad’s unyielding encouragement about my friendship with her would sometimes leave me ambivalent about continuing it, but Mother’s distain for Chloe’s unconventional style and “fuck-you” attitude urged me to sustain the friendship.

Our Saturday routine continued for years, but eventually dwindled as I spent more of my leisure time exploring the occult books shelved within the public library. As I gained the courage to earnestly explore my own spirituality without guilt or fear, the friendship with Chloe seemed less important to me. Frankly, how could she be expected to understand who and what I was, when even I found it to be confusing and daunting at times?

“Hey!” I smiled, bewildered by her unexpected visit. “How’s it going?”

“Okay.” She gestured to me. “What about you? It’s been like a minute since we hung out. How come you haven’t returned any of my texts or voice mails? Did I do something wrong? Are you mad at me?”

“No, no,” I shook my head. “I’m not mad. You didn’t do anything.”

I was intrigued by the disappointment on Chloe’s face and realized that I missed spending time with her and as much as I told myself that our friendship wasn’t important to me, I could feel that I had been lying to myself.

Chloe was the only child of Jeffery and Faye (Tucker) Putnam. Her Dad was a Professor of English Literature at RISD and her Mom had been a kindergarten teacher. She was a few years older than me, but had been retained in school twice due to the multiple traumas she experienced prior to moving to Rhode Island, one of which was the death of her Mom in some sort of accident that Chloe never went into detail about and which I didn’t pry. I assumed that her appearance was the way in which she dealt with the pain she had experienced in her life, a rebellion against the shallowness and normalcy that society tried to maintain, especially in our town, even though life itself was a true complex mixture of profound chaotic energies. She always had her hair cut short and dyed some shade of blue, though I noticed it was longer now than I remembered ever seeing it.

“I like the new length,” I commented with a smile. “It’s cute.”

Chloe shyly reached up and touched the hair at the base of her neck. “Thanks. Do you like the color? The girl at the salon called it ‘mermaid’.”

“Yeah, I do. It’s a nice subtle change for you. It works.”

She nodded, dropping her arm. “I thought so, too.”

We stood in silence. It wasn’t awkward; it was our usual comfortable silence and I missed it. There was no one else, other than my Aunt Rachel up to the last days’ events, whom I could be in that quiet space with. I leaned against the door frame and watched Chloe reach into the pocket of her hoodie and remove a gold colored pack of Benson and Hedges. She lit a cigarette with a red plastic lighter and took a slow drag. She flicked the spent match onto the cement walkway that lead to the driveway where Aunt Rachel’s red Nissan was parked.

“So, what have you been up to, Angie?” she asked as she exhaled; the smoke of her cigarette lingered in the air between us and briefly formed into a cloud that resembled the face of Mr. Morrell.

I shrugged and waved my hand, dispersing the uncomfortable smoke apparition. “The usual.”

She flicked the ashes of her cigarette onto the porch and passed the butt to me. “Same. Any more with the Josh thing? “

“No. Nothing. Have you heard anything?” I inquired, glancing over my shoulder for Aunt Rachel before placing the cigarette between my own lips when I was confident she hadn’t entered the foyer.

I was curious about the investigation, but whenever I asked, Mother claimed not to have any new information; I knew she was lying to me, most likely with the misguided belief that in keeping the details from me, she was protecting me from the ugly truth about the world and would prevent me from experiencing a psychotic episode. Even the internet searches I did revealed no new information. It appeared to me that the investigation had reached a dead end.

Chloe accepted the cigarette from me and took a drag. “My Dad said something about the police being convinced that Josh had run away from the hospital.”

“Weird.”

“I know, right? The whole fucking thing is kinda sketchy. I mean if he was really in a coma,” she inhaled a lungful of smoke and exhaled as she continued speaking, “how did he leave the hospital without anyone seeing anything? I mean someone would’ve had to move him in his bed or something. Right?”

“Well, yeah,” I said in agreement though my thoughts drifted to my MP3 player sitting on my bedside table upstairs.

She offered me the cigarette again, but I waved it off. She shrugged and took another drag as she looked directly at me. “Brittany’s been talking shit about the day she saw you at the hospital. She’s been throwing some serious shade, Angie.”

“I’m not surprised,” I said dismissively, recalling the betrayal that skulked into the cantata that she and I once sang and what my actions were in response to it. “Did you know they were fucking? Josh and her?”

“No. Wow. That’s really messed up.” She shook her head. “Someone really should put that bitch in her place. She’s always acting as if she’s better than everyone else when she’s just not. You know? And I have tried to be nice to her for you because I know you are … or were close to her, but every time she looks at me I can see what she’s thinking. And it seriously pisses me off. I just want to wipe that smug look off her face.”

“No need to hold back on my account,” I offered. “I hope she gets everything she deserves.”

Chloe dropped the butt of her cigarette on the porch and crushed it violently with her boot.

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.