Chapter XLV

The noise of water rushing out of the shower head has always been a source of relaxation for me; the only other sound that was able to produce a similar response in me was the pitter patter of rain hitting the pavement or other hard surface. Though the noise produced by water and the sounds produced by musical instruments both brought me to an altered state of consciousness my natural responses to each were different. Music seemed to increase the tension or energy within my body and mind thus allowing me to tap into my inherited abilities while the sensations of water seemed to ease the tension and allow me to open my body and mind, encouraging a sense of tranquility in which my intellect could process information with clarity and speed.

I stood in the shower with my head tilted back and my eyes closed, allowing the warm water to hit my face and contemplated what had been revealed to me; five days had passed and I had no memory of what had transpired. Nothing. How was that possible? How did I lose all that time? What the fuck happened to me? Could it have been something so traumatic that I blocked it out so I wouldn’t have to deal with the memory of it? Was it a new mental health issue? Did I have Dissociative Identity Disorder? Could I have fragmented myself to such a degree that I created another personality that was in control of my body for the last five days and that’s why I didn’t remember anything? I tried to make some sense of it, but found that even the water brought no flash of insight or inspiration.

I shut off the faucet, dried myself off, and dressed in my favorite pair of black denim jeans and dark red Wonder Woman tee shirt then sat on my bed, hugging my knees. I considered that it might be possible that I was actually mentally ill and that the revelation I had days ago had been false. I rested my chin on my knees and closed my eyes, attempting to hold back the tears that I felt building inside of me. It was evident that I didn’t have a solid perception of what was real. I still existed and lived somewhere outside of the shared reality and maybe I never knew nor would I ever know the difference between truth and fantasy. When I thought something was real perhaps it really wasn’t and everything that was actually true and real my mind distorted and twisted so that I couldn’t recognize it as reality.

There was a soft knock on my bedroom door. I expected it to be my Mother, but realized I hadn’t heard the click of her shoes on the hardwood floor of the hallway.

 “Come in.”

I considered that my visitor was my Father. Mother probably sent him in to lecture me on the consequences of neglecting to take my Klonopin and Cymbalta as prescribed by Dr. Worth and I really didn’t want to hear it. I just wanted to be left alone, but knew that if I said as such to him the repercussions would be worse than what they were going to be for me. I had hoped that Daniel would be a distraction for them; the fact that he had been expelled from military school presented a huge problem for them to deal with, something other than me for a change and I was hoping it was a big enough issue to keep them occupied for a while so that I would have time to solve my current predicament, which I was convinced was something greater than just skipping a few doses of prescribed medications.

The door slowly opened.

“Can we talk?” my brother questioned, his hand still lingering on the glass doorknob.

I was surprised and slightly annoyed to see him, but I was sure as shit not going to dismiss a chance to question him about his own memories of the prior evening.

“Sure,” I said as I folded my legs, one under the other, and tapped the space next to me on the bed. “Come sit.”

Daniel seemed uneasy as he shut the door behind him and walk over to my desk chair without acknowledging the empty spot beside me on the bed. He wore the same tormented expression that he had earlier, though I was unable to determine whether it was because of me or what was on his mind. I studied his expression as he glanced around my room. It had been years since he had spent any length of time in my room and I wondered what he was thinking as he looked at the various items I had displayed on my walls and book shelf; a collection that held a few pieces some people might find morbid or disturbing, but he seemed unaffected by any of it and lingered his gaze only when he noticed the large heavy book that sat near him on my desk. He reached out and brushed the leather cover with his fingers before turning to me.

“Look, I know things between us have been …,” he gestured with his hands as he struggled to find the right word then shrugged. “Tense.”

“Personally I would’ve gone with ‘nonexistent’,” I offered.

I was curious about where the conversation was going. It almost sounded as if Daniel was building up to an apology, but I was skeptical about his sincerity. And why did his attitude towards me shift? All of a sudden he wanted us to be close again when in the not so recent past all he chose to do was ignore me? Well, I wasn’t ready to let go of my pain, the pain I blamed on his betrayal.

“Yeah, okay. You’re right,” he acquiesced with a nod and rested his elbows on the arms of the swivel chair. “And I accept responsibility for it.”

Huh. I honestly didn’t know what to say in response so I said nothing and sat on my bed in silence, watching him as he leaned back slightly and rubbed his crew cut with his left hand. With a loud sigh, he abruptly stood from the chair and walked over to my bedroom window, paused then returned back to the chair and sat before he spoke again.

“Look Angie, I don’t even know …,” he looked pointedly at me. The anguish that fluttered in his eyes made my stomach flip. I knew that look; I had seen it when I gazed in the mirror this morning. “… I don’t know … I don’t know what’s happening to me. I think I’m losing my mind.”

I repressed a snicker though I didn’t find the situation humorous. I knew Daniel was feeling overwhelmed, but I didn’t understand what lead him to believe that he was mentally unstable and I needed more information from him before I could offer my “expert” opinion or advice on how to deal with his newly found instability.

“Dan, I don’t believe you’re losing your mind,” I comforted.

“Yes I am!” he shouted, jumping from the seat and retracing his steps from the chair to the window and back again.

“Dan … Daniel,” I began, feeling compelled to ease his anxiety, but unsure of how to do so. Intuitively I stood and grabbed his hands with my own, holding them as I continued. “Why don’t you explain to me why you think you’re losing your mind?”

As my palms touched the flesh of his hands my mind sprang alive with a montage of shared childhood memories. Days at the beach, games of tag in the backyard, and forts made of bedding on snow days from school flashed in my head with a speed that prevented me from focusing on any one of them, but the joy associated with each flowed through me like warm caramel. I found the source, the fount from where this happiness sprang and wrapped my mind around it; I pulled the emotional energy into my center and spindled it before sending it through my chest, down my arms, and out my palms to Daniel. We stood together in silence for a few moments before he spoke. His voice was an octave deeper than it had been when he first spoke after entering my bedroom.

“Yeah, okay,” he agreed. I maneuvered him over to the bed so that we could sit side by side while still holding hands. “When I woke up this morning I didn’t feel right. I mean, I sort of felt like I was hung-over, but I know I didn’t drink anything last night. And I didn’t smoke anything either. But I felt … I don’t know … fuzzy? And then I went downstairs to get something to eat and Mom was there. Like what the fuck? I thought they weren’t coming home for five more days, but there she was back from their trip and she didn’t act surprised to see me, which freaked me the fuck out even more …,” he prattled. “I asked her, ‘When did you get home?’ and she said, ‘Last night while you were sleeping.’ and I thought, ‘Last night? No way they came home last night.’”

I ventured a guess as to what he was going to say next, “And then when I asked she said it was Saturday.”

“YES!” His eyes looked like they were going to pop out of their sockets. “What – the – fuck?!”

I squeezed his hands with mine. So I wasn’t the only one who was unsettled by the fact that it was Saturday when I was convinced it should have been Monday.

“Do you remember anything after having pizza with Chloe and me last night … or whatever night it was?” I asked hoping that maybe he had more memories than I did about what might have happened between then and now.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “But there isn’t anything weird. I mean I came upstairs and put my stuff away and then I called my friend Jacob. We talked for maybe an hour then I showered and went to bed.”

“That’s it? That’s all you remember?” I questioned.

He nodded. “Yeah. You?”

“Not much more than you,” I confessed. “Chloe left, you went upstairs, and I looked for Aunt Rachel. I found her sitting in the morning parlor, but after that my memories get weird. I remember feeling dizzy … but I can’t be sure of anything after that … I have images, but I think they’re from a dream I had.” I shrugged. “I don’t know. But I know that something’s very, very wrong and I think part of it has something to do with Aunt Rachel.”

“Aunt Rachel?” he paused. “Well, how are we gonna figure this shit out?”

I wasn’t used to him looking to me for leadership and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

“Do you think we were drugged?” he asked.

I thought the idea was ridiculous, but I wasn’t about to humiliate my brother by dismissing his suggestion, at least he was attempting to solve the riddle of our shared missing time. I had no deeper insight to the puzzle than he did, but it was comforting to me on some level to know that I wasn’t the only one who was missing a large chunk of time from their life and that the chunk of time missing was the same for both of us. For the first time in years I wasn’t alone dealing with the dissonance of my chaotic life and I found solace in that.

 “We need to talk to Aunt Rachel,” I suggested. “She would’ve been the only other person in the house with us that night. Maybe she knows what happened.”

Daniel agreed. “Call her.”

I grabbed my cellphone from its charger on the desk and called her. I allowed the phone to ring a number of times before the call was sent to voice mail. I frowned as I left a message informing her to call me back as soon as she received my message. I chose my words carefully and spoke with enough urgency to encourage her to call me, but not too much that I would cause her to be alarmed about my well-being. As I finished speaking there was a loud rapping on my bedroom door. I could tell by the force and cadence that it was probably my Dad and welcomed him into my sanctuary.

“Just checking in,” he smiled as he swung the door opened, but remained standing at the threshold.

“Welcome home, Dad,” I said as I placed my phone back on its charger. “How was the Bahamas?”

 “I’m going for a run,” Daniel said, standing from the bed and walking towards the door.  He paused as he turned to look at me. “Wanna come? It would do you some good.”

I intuitively understood that physical exercise did for Daniel what the sound of water provided for me; time for undisturbed contemplation, though I didn’t imagine he would describe it in such a way.

I raised an eyebrow. “Are you insinuating something about my weight, oh dearest brother of mine?”

“What?” He gestured to himself with feigned shock. “Would I do that?”

I threw one of my bed pillows at him, but it missed and fell to the floor with a flop as Dad chuckled at our playful exchange.

“Let me know when Aunt Rachel calls you back,” my brother said, picking up the pillow and tossing it back at me.

“Well, I wouldn’t expect a return call any time soon,” cautioned Dad as he patted Daniel on the shoulder. “She has a flight to catch early tomorrow morning and mentioned a list of things she had to get done before then.”

“A flight? She never mentioned a trip,” I frowned. This new information felt dissonant and strange. I looked over at Daniel. He was standing just inside my bedroom next to our Father, who still held the door knob with his left hand. By my brother’s expression I could clearly surmise that he was experiencing feelings of apprehension after hearing the news of Aunt Rachel’s trip as well; similar uneasiness to that which I felt.

“She goes to Europe every year to do her annual gallery visits,” stated Dad as he eyed me quizzically. “Don’t you remember?”

“I …,” I shrugged. “I guess.”

“You always beg her to take you,” continued Dad. “Frankly I’m surprised you didn’t ask this year because she probably would have. I think she’s been sort of lost lately and your company would have been welcomed.”

No. This wasn’t right … wasn’t right at all. Aunt Rachel wasn’t lost; maybe she was preoccupied and even sad, but not lost. Why was my Father lying to me? An image of my cousin standing beside me with his fingers gripping my forearm flashed in my brain as a profound feeling of grief weighed upon me.

“What about Christian?” I countered.

“He’s staying with his father while she’s gone just like he does every year,” he said before turning to my brother and nodding. “Enjoy your run.”

My brother and I stared at each other in disbelief.

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Chapter XLIV

The concept of time has long been a subject of study in many areas of philosophy, religion, and science. The Greek philosophers were concerned with understanding the concept of eternity, while Christian theologians considered time to be linear and directional, beginning with God’s act of creation and ending with the “end time”, while physicists around the world agree that time was one of the strangest properties of the universe.

Time itself is a paradox, an illusionary human construct. It is a structure of measure that human beings experience in a linear fashion though its nature is fluid without any true boundaries. The separation of past, present, and future is imaginary as all events occur simultaneously though at different vibrational frequencies. It is only the shifting of an individual’s perspective that creates the linear timeline, the boundary between what occurred, what’s occurring, and what will occur. It is only the individual’s thought that creates time itself and the moment in which that individual ceases thought; time also stops.

It is due to the natural fluidity of time that allows individuals to slip from one point in linear time to another; from present to past or from present to future. This traveling happens spontaneously when the individual blanks their mind at the precise moment they touch something that holds the echo of a past memory. It is important to note that there are some individuals more inclined to experience these time slips than others and that there are places on the planet that possess the precise conditions and setting to trigger the appearance of a vortex or doorway to another time and place.

The perceived barriers that have kept humankind locked into their reality are more easily broken than one might imagine, it just takes one individual to recognize the ease in which the boundaries can be removed, and to embrace the ability to do so that will grant them a power the rest of humanity can only fantasize about.

As I opened my eyes the light from outside filtered in through the window sending playful rays of sunlight dancing across the carpet. I kicked the bedcovers off and sat up. Lifting my head off the pillow took effort and as I sat upright in bed the room seemed to tilt and spin so I allowed myself to fall back onto the bed. What time was it? By the light spilling in from outside I surmised that it was morning; a glimpse at the digital clock on my bedside table confirmed it: 8:10. I closed my eyes and lay motionless on my bed. I felt groggy and my thoughts were jumbled. I couldn’t recollect what had happened the night before. I searched my mind for the last memory that was skulking in the recesses of my brain. After a few moments an image of Chloe leaning over me, her eyes white and completely absent of an iris or pupil, along with the sensation of her hands gripping mine flashed through me. Above us, where the ceiling should have been, swirled a funnel of energy and sound; the voice of the Ancestors’ chanting in an ancient language and just moments from reaching the crescendo of their spell echoed within my head.

I shivered as I reopened my eyes and swung my legs over the side of the bed. Glancing down at myself I noticed that I was wearing my favorite black “Ew, people” tee shirt and flannel pajama bottoms, but when had I changed? How had I gotten into bed? I couldn’t remember; it was as if someone had wiped my memory, but although I was at a loss as to what had happened, I had an overwhelming feeling of dread. I knew something terrible had occurred. I knew I had experienced something awful, something I never wanted to experience, but something I was incapable of stopping. The memory was there … a wisp of a thought, like the memory of a dream hours after awakening. Well, perhaps it was just a dream. Could it be that I was just searching for something that was illusionary and not an experience in reality? Was that at all possible?

I gingerly placed my bare feet on the carpet, but made no move to stand. I was missing something. Whatever happened was significant and it was essential that I remembered. Okay Angie, think. What do you remember?

Chloe! Yes, Chloe! I remember that Chloe was over the house and we were hanging out and talking. We were sharing secrets about our abilities. Yes, right. And then we ate pizza. But it wasn’t just her and I, we were with someone else … who was there with us? Someone … oh, right Dan. Yes, yes, I remember! Daniel came home because he was expelled from school. Good. Okay, this is good. I’m getting somewhere with this … okay so then he went upstairs and Chloe went home and I was looking for something … no, not something … someone. Right. I was walking through the foyer and into the morning parlor looking for … Fuck!

I jumped up from my bed, yanked opened my bedroom door, and escaped the confines of my bedroom. My mind was whirling with distressing images and thoughts as I scampered through the upstairs hallway passing Mother’s numerous antique curio cabinets. The thumps of my inpatient foot falls shook the glassware and delicate figurines that were set on the shelves inside the cabinets, but fortunately nothing tumbled over and broke because if anything had I would have never heard the end of it from Mother. As I passed my brother’s room I glanced through the opened doorway attempting to validate the memory I had of his return home, but the room was vacant. Had it been a false memory, a hallucination?  I held my breath as I stepped over the threshold and peered around the room searching for any indication that he was actively staying there. The bed was neatly made, appearing as if no one had slept in it, and there was the absence of dirty clothing on the floor; no shoes near the bed. The dresser stood as it had since Daniel left for school lacking any personal items, but tucked underneath the straight back chair near the window was the cardboard box I recalled him carrying upstairs, and sitting on the chair was his neatly folded duffle bag. Though the items confirmed my memory they threw me into a deeper panic. If the memory of Daniel being home was a truth and not a dream then was what I feared about my aunt true as well?

I raced down the stairs forcing myself to take only one step at a time, knowing that in my frantic state it would be easy for me to miscalculate a step and stumble down the staircase, possibly breaking a bone or two. I was reluctant to visit any hospital at the moment in fear that I would be admitted against my will. It was possible that I had completely lost my grip on reality … again. I cleared my mind and focused on my breathing, allowing the caress of the banister against the palm of my hand and the sensation of the carpet against the soles of my feet to calm me. By the bottom of the steps I was feeling less hysterical, but still unsettled. I walked through the foyer with the expectation of discovering some ghastly indications that an unspeakable event had occurred, but found that nothing was out of place. I walked by the open door way to the morning parlor. The room was vacant; there was no one sitting on the Queen Anne sofa. I felt my eyes water.

“Aunt Rachel?” I whispered into the silent room. There was no response.

A lump formed in my throat as I attempted to hold back my tears. Fear gripped my insides and twisted. I knew that I wouldn’t find Aunt Rachel in the parlor, but I couldn’t remember how I knew. Something was not right, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was that was so wrong, but there was something. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t remember what had happened the night before, but the feelings associated with the lost memories lingered within me. My head was cloudy and the fact that I couldn’t recall events scared the shit out of me even more. Was it possible I blanked it out because it was so traumatic?

I turned away from the parlor and walked towards the sound of the voices I heard coming from the kitchen. Someone was having breakfast, perhaps it was Daniel. Hopefully he knew what had transpired and could tell me what it was I didn’t recollect. I pushed open the swinging door and walked through. I felt a sense of relief as I saw my brother sitting at the counter with a bowl of cereal and glass of orange juice in front of him. He loudly chewed a mouthful of shredded wheat and looked up at me as I entered the kitchen. Our eyes met and for a brief moment I saw something there … anguish perhaps?

“Dan,” I said as I approached the counter eager to interrogate him.

“Good morning, Sweetheart.”

My brother wasn’t alone in the kitchen.

“How are you feeling?” his kitchen companion asked me.

“I’m …” I began, but the words that followed caught in my throat.

What was she doing here? I didn’t understand. I looked over to my brother hoping for some indication that I was a hallucinating her or that I was trapped in a lucid dream, but he didn’t look at me, his focus was on the contents of the ceramic bowl in front of him. His spoon loudly tapped the bottom as he scooped up the cereal and shoved it into his opened mouth. I pinched my arm hoping to regain consciousness, but everything in the room remained unchanged.

“Angie?” she asked with apprehension.

“I’m groggy,” I admitted.

I didn’t have to lie. It was true. I strained to make sense of her appearance in our kitchen, but my brain was having difficulty in rectifying her identity with her presence as it attempted to fit together the pieces of some absurd puzzle that I had been given by the universe to figure out. What was she doing here?

“Rachel warned us that you might sleep later than usual,” she explained before sipping from the blue ceramic mug she held in her hands. “But it’s a nice surprise to see you up and about before noon.”

I was overwhelmed with relief at the mention of my aunt’s name.

“Aunt Rachel. You saw her?” I asked. “Where is she?”

I walked towards the archway leading to the dining room hoping to find her sitting at the table having breakfast. I had so many questions for her and I knew that she’d be able to help me sort through this morning’s craziness. She had been there with me and Daniel and Chloe yesterday so I assumed that she would be able to clarify what had transpired in the evening, which would easily fill in the gaps of my memory.

“Well, I imagine she’s home by now,” explained my Mother as she set her mug on the counter and retrieved a clean glass from the cabinet. “She left a few hours after your father and I arrived home.”

“Oh.”

Shit! I was disappointed that I was unable to speak with her, but decided that I would call her later in the day. I walked over to the counter and slid myself onto an empty stool as my Mother filled the glass with orange juice and placed it before me on the counter.

“When did you get in?” I asked, before taking a gulp of the tangy juice.

My parents had left Friday for a week vacation in the Bahamas so I was curious as to why they were home so early. Two days was not nearly enough time for them to work on and resuscitate their dying marriage. They had a lot shit to work through: Dad’s feelings of inadequacy, Mother’s affair with Mr. Morrell, her lack of compassion about my Dad’s burden as sole financial support, and the stress I brought to their marriage. I had my doubts that even a full week would have been enough time to set everything right between them.

“They came in last night,” Daniel mumbled through a mouthful of cereal.

Last night? Really? They were only gone for two days? That hardly seemed right. In fact it seemed like a colossal waste of time. The flight from T.F. Green to Freeport must have taken close to six hours, which really didn’t leave much time for them to spend in the Bahamas if they were already home. Something must have happened between them.

“Our flight from Charlotte was delayed otherwise we would’ve been home earlier,” she explained as she brought her mug to the sink and rinsed it out.

“Where’s Dad?” I questioned, curious as to his demeanor and hoping he wasn’t too angry. I wondered if this was truly the end of my parents’ marriage, and if it was, what would that mean for me? I really wished Aunt Rachel was still at the house. I glanced over at my brother who was staring back at me in the most peculiar way. What was his problem?

“He’s upstairs sleeping in,” explained my Mother. She gestured to Daniel’s bowl. “Would you like some cereal?”

There was no way I could eat anything, my stomach was churning and the orange juice wasn’t settling well. I shook my head, “No.”

Daniel stood from his stool and brought his empty bowl and glass to the kitchen sink. I studied him as rinsed off his dishes under running water and loaded them along with Mother’s mug into the dish washer. I wondered if he had spoken with our parents about his expulsion from school, but realized that he might not have had an opportunity. As I observed the interaction between them I could almost guarantee that he had yet to disclose the damning information.

“So, why did you and Dad come home so early?” I asked.

It was an honest question and I wanted to be able to prepare myself for any unpleasantness that might be lingering on the horizon. I didn’t adjust well to changes in my routine. I find solace in structure and the unknown makes me extremely anxious. I already could foresee unconformability and stress once Daniel informed our parents of his expulsion and I wanted some understanding of what I would be dealing with if my parents were estranged and their marriage was inevitably ending with divorce.

Mother crossed her arms and glared at me. “How many doses of Klonopin have you skipped?”

“Why?” I demanded. “What does that have to do with you cutting your vacation short?”

“Angie!” she slammed her palms down onto the granite counter top. Her multiple rings clicked against the stone. “I don’t have the patience to go through this again with you again. You cannot skip any doses of your medications. Do you understand me, Angie?”

Daniel looked at me from his position by the sink. Our eyes met and as he held my gaze I saw the same look in his eyes that I had seen when I first entered the kitchen. I realized that I was missing some important piece of information that I should possess.

“What day is it?” I questioned ignoring my Mother’s demand for a response about my medication.

“It’s Saturday,” she stated. “Now go upstairs and take your medication.”

Saturday? But how could that be? How could I have no memory of the last five days?

Chapter XLIII

“Angie! Angie!”

I heard my name repeated numerous times, which reminded me of one of my Dad’s vinyl records skipping on his vintage record player that he kept in his study. The thought made me giggle. I wondered where the voice was originating. The timber and pitch was familiar to me. I considered that perhaps it was my own voice calling to me. No, it definitely was not my own voice, but it was the voice of someone with whom I was closely acquainted. I knew her, but struggled to recall her name. I wanted to inform her that I heard her and that I was right there, but I wasn’t certain I knew how to respond. It seemed as if it was something I should know how to do, but for some reason I couldn’t remember. It was odd. Something was not right. Something was … very, very wrong; I just wasn’t able to identify the issue.

“Angie! Open your eyes!”

Open my eyes? Why? Why must I open my eyes?

I didn’t wish to obey the command of the disembodied voice. As much as I understood that something was odd, or wrong even, I wasn’t overly concerned. I didn’t want to be disturbed. I was content and relaxed and at peace. My only desire was to remain right where I was even if I didn’t understand exactly where I was. It didn’t matter because the place was simultaneously both fascinating and comforting.

I was surrounded by an alluring dark indigo radiance that vibrated with continuously shifting images, the luminosity of which warmed me while the vibration tickled me. The constant murmurs and hum that accompanied the images pacified any uncomfortable feelings that I might have experienced and overlapping the fluctuating images were beautiful delicate ethereal figures that danced within their brilliance, which comfortably embraced me. I observed these figures with curious fascination as they entertained me with what was reminiscent of the childhood game “peek-a-boo”.

“Angie! Angie!”

The disincarnated voice summoned me again, more aggressively. It yanked me towards the space where it seemed to originate and as it did my feeling of serenity faded, revealing an underlying terror that I had hidden from myself. I visualized the one individual that I felt was always supportive of me.

I silently beckoned, “Aunt Rachel.”

After a brief pause the voice responded, “Angie, it’s not Rachel. It’s Chloe.”

“Chloe?” I wordlessly questioned.

“Yes, Angie. It’s me,” she answered with a smile that I couldn’t see, but could definitely feel and it eased my fear.

“Where are you? Why can’t I see you?” I asked as the murmurs crashed around me one on top of the other …

“That’s not important right now,” she explained. “Focus on my voice, Angie. Come find me.”

“Alright,” I conceded, but as I maneuvered through the luminosity, my essence moving in unison with the environment, towards the location her voice originated, I was coaxed back into a state of exhilaration. I was at ease with the vibration of sounds that swirled around me and realized that I had forgotten what I had been attempting to accomplished. I was muddled. Whatever it was I understood it to be important, vital even, but what was it I needed to do? I ceased moving and allowed myself to drift.

“Angie,” a disembodied voice called to me. “I’m here. I am right here.”

Who did that voice belong to? It was familiar. I knew who it was but had difficulty identifying them. It was as if I knew, but had forgotten.

“Who are you?” I asked without vocalizing a word.

“It’s Chloe, Angie.” She sounded frustrated. “Focus on my voice. This is very important, Angie. Concentrate.”

I didn’t understand what was happening. “Where are you?”

“Focus on my voice, Angie,” she urged. “Come find me.”

I reached out towards the disembodied voice of … who was it that spoke to me? Aunt Rachel? No. No. It wasn’t Aunt Rachel, it was … Chloe? Yes, Chloe!  I sought to energetically connect with her with my own spirit, the essence of who I was and attempted to locate her energetic frequency, but the haunting sounds continued to stroke my psyche persuading me to relax and succumb to their influence, promising me that in doing so I was fulfilling my own greatest desire, but it felt untrue.

“I can’t. They don’t want me to.”

I ignored the enchanting invitation of the entities that caressed me and continued to energetically search for my lost friend within the dark indigo illumination, but as I did the energy flared. The glow that had warmed me became scorching and the vibrations that once tickled violently pinched; the sound of the humming murmurs that had been gentle grew louder and more forceful. I was no longer comfortable and found a desire to escape the subtle torment. A distinguishable voice rose above the chorus of the others and gently, but firmly, encouraged me to yield to the energetic embrace of the otherworldly entities that surrounded me.

I rejected the counsel. It felt flawed. My surrounding environment became harsher the closer I aligned with Chloe’s vibrational frequency. The ethereal figures ceased their graceful dance and began darting erratically as the overlapping images moved in an agitated fashion, flashing around me like bolts of lightning; disallowing any opportunity for comprehension though I inherently knew their subject had shifted. The haunting sounds that had soothed me transformed into a myriad of peculiar wails, growls, and shrieks in an attempt to intimidate me from reaching out towards the images. But their efforts failed. I drew in the images closer to me until we were one and the same. The sentiments associated with the foreign memories saturated me, covering me in molten emotional energy; exciting me, provoking me, and activating my power. I allowed the thick mire of complex vitality to cover me, dissolving the sheen of ennui that had beguiled me. The spell was broken and the memories that had been withheld from me crashed through the weakened barrier and I remembered.

The ethereal beings that had been swirling around me, who I now recognized as the Ancestors, parted with a shriek, their primordial energy dissolving into a chaotic garble of roars, sneers, and mutterings. The established rhythm of their force decayed, enabling me to reach out for Chloe with my own essence.  I anxiously waited for the moment when I fell into resonance with her vibration, that divine moment when our energetic frequency signatures began vibrating in sync with each other.  Once we did I knew that it would be a great benefit for me and that in succeeding with the entrainment we would be bound to each other.

Tentacles of energy emerged from where the pool of sound waves originated and I pulled them towards me. I recognized their heat, vibrational frequency, and whispered hum, and so wrapped them around me. I felt my own energy shift and become denser, heavier. I allowed our merged energy to flow through my entire being, sending charges through my essence, empowering me and bringing clarity to my psyche. I understood where I was; this strange realm consisted of pure vibrational waves of sound and light, a realm that the Ancestors were and were part of, it was a realm in which I wouldn’t remain, didn’t belong, and refused to remain.

“Who?” She questioned; her voice a blanket of anxiety. “Who doesn’t want you to find me?”

“The Ancestors.”

 

Chapter XLII

I was unsure of how long I had been laying there on the floor of the morning parlor. I was confused. My mind was jumbled. Was I awake or was I dreaming? I had difficulty recalling what had happened after Chloe left our house. I had no clear distinction between events that occurred days ago and hours or minutes previously. Time no longer held linear structure; it moved with inconsistent fluidity, leaving me jumbled and distressed. I frantically grasped for clarity, which intuitively I understood was vital to possess, but it remained elusive to me and slipped through my fingers. I reluctantly ceased any attempt to differentiate my memories from reality. It honestly didn’t matter because the panic and fear I was experiencing as I lay there sobbing on the floor was real. I rested my forehead on my arm, the cuff of my sweater was wet with the tears it collected, the tears that determinedly squeezed through my closed eyelids and ran down my cheeks. I pressed the sweaty palms of my hands against the hardwood floor and pushed, forcing myself to sit upright, but kept my eyes closed.

I didn’t want to see. I was afraid. Though I couldn’t recall what had happened in that room I knew I was scared of what I wouldn’t see much more than of what I would. I instinctively knew that if I looked at the Queen Anne sofa where Aunt Rachel had been sitting at some point during that day I would find it vacant. I was unsure of where she went … or was taken to, but I knew she was gone – and that was bad.

The haunting moans, gurgles, snarls, and murmurs of the primordial chorus that thrashed around my physical body also stung my brain; their obscure phrases and arcane words tickled my ears and pushed against my flesh causing my bones to vibrate. I recognized the sounds and knew they were the voice of the Ancestors casting a spell, but I was unable to decipher the intention of the spell. I supposed it could have a few outcomes; none of which were pleasant. As I sat on the floor considering what my next move should be, a familiar screech emerged from within the organic dissonance and called out to me, demanding that I stand with opened eyes.

“No,” I croaked; my throat was raw and my mouth dry.

Her voice with its unnaturally high pitch pierced through my defiance and demanded my obedience.

I wanted to be sleeping, to find that the events unfolding weren’t real, but instead were a terrible dream, a nightmare that I would wake from at dawn, but I understood that I wouldn’t be able to deny her much longer. I may have been born of the bloodline of Abigail Williams, the infamous witch of Salem with a resilient will, but I had neither an ancient weapon, like the sphere I had used before, to wield nor another person to bind my essence with, and she, well, she was a goddess and held not only her own power, but the combined powers of the Ancestors and the Æsir who resided in Asgard. How could I, a mere human being, compete with that power? While I recognized that there had been times in my life when I was reckless and eagerly sprinted towards dangerous situations, I knew that there was no possibility of victory for me if I forced another confrontation with her so soon after our last, so I conceded.

I slowly opened my eyes and as the light filtered into my pupils the uncomfortable throbbing in my head grew. The disembodied orchestra of sounds saturated my body causing me intense pain, blurring my vision so that the grain of the floor beneath me appeared as if it were underwater; the boundaries between the individual floor boards were indistinguishable. I blinked a few times in an attempt to gain clarity of vision, but nothing changed and it occurred to me that there might be nothing wrong with my perception, perhaps she was altering the appearance of the physical environment. Just the possibility that she might be able to accomplish such a feat terrified me.

Trembling, I pulled myself up from the floor and endeavored to gain control of my breathing, which had become shallow and quick. I felt my stomach churn and forced the partially digested food to remain within it. I wiped away the lingering tears with the sleeves of my sweater. I was scared. I knew that there was no escape for me this time. I had no innovative plan, no clever strategy to outwit her. I knew I had miscalculated and made a serious mistake when I chose to alter my aunt’s future and pull her from the vortex. I knew my fate. She told me that I would pay dearly for not obeying her command and I understood that she would show me no mercy. When I chose to disobey her I denounced my vow to the ancient handmaiden of Frigg. I betrayed her and now would pay dearly for that treachery. She would absorb my essence and leave what was left of me with Josh, Ryan, and Mr. Morrell on the Astral Plane.

I slowly raised my head so that I could look upon the face of my executioner. I was in awe. She appeared before me in the morning parlor like an apparition with waves of energy surrounding and emanating from her. She wasn’t real. How could she be? This apparition clearly was a hallucination manufactured by my drug deprived mind or the result of my overactive imagination. I rubbed my eyes, but the figure didn’t dissipate; she remained standing beside the vacant Queen Anne sofa.

Her long crimson hair was loosely twisted into two thick braids that cascaded over shoulders and lay against the deep brown leather corset she wore, which was embossed with intricate knot work that appeared to shift and change as I gazed upon it. The same mesmerizing pattern was tooled into the bracers that protected her arms and the belt she wore around her waist. Hanging from the belt was a pouch with a polished brass clasp, the condition of the pouch suggested that it was well used, though the leather remained sturdy enough to protect whatever it held within. Beneath her corset she donned an ankle length linen tunic trimmed in burgundy and upon her feet she wore boots crafted from a darker leather than that of her other hide possessions. Fastened over her left shoulder by an ornate raven clasp was a gray wool cloak. She firmly grasped a hefty wooden spear, the pole of which reached the top of her shoulders and bore a metal point that twinkled in the dim light of the room, held in her left hand upon which she bore a dark blue inked tattoo of a symbol I didn’t know by name, but had seen before in the book, Sacred Magick.

She wordlessly compelled me to look at her face. Each of her brilliant cerulean eyes was ringed by a thick line of black coal that extended from the outer corners to her temples and from the middle of the bottom rim down to mid-cheek, upon which she possessed numerous faded scars of varying lengths and shapes. Her gaze pierced my flesh like the tip of her spear. Being ever vigilant, she was not only able to read my mind; she read my soul as was her responsibility in Asgard; to judge the warriors who approached the doors to Fenislar allowing only those who were invited and worthy to enter the palace of Frigg. Syn saw through my flesh, my bones, and traveled through my veins flowing with my blood until she found my core, the fount from where all my emotional memory and power originated. I felt her coil herself around it, like a snake, agile and cunning, before striking with her sharp fangs. My mind sprung alive with a collage of memories. The images flashed with a speed that prevented me from grasping each, but the emotions associated with the moments filled me with an oppressive liquid; suffocating me, overwhelming me, and hemorrhaging from me; rage, contempt, jealousy, remorse, guilt, shame, despair, grief, loneliness, and dread. Surely she would judge me unworthy, a defiant Valkyrie who had defied her.

I felt dizzy as she began siphoning my power and wondered if this was the same sensation that Josh felt when I played my musical compositions for him in his hospital room. Was it the same for Ryan; did he feel his grip on reality slipping away as we danced in my bedroom? Was the process as painless for Mr. Morrell as it was for me?

I was drowning within myself, the crimson sea of my emotions and memories of what once was crashed over me, dragging me deeper and deeper. I was sinking.

I was drifting further away from physical reality.

The dissonant voice of the Ancestors became rhythmic as they manipulated the energy of the space within the morning parlor. I knew that this was my end, but I no longer cared. I was numb as the unseen entities tugged at my soul disengaging me from my physical vessel.

Chapter XLI

Déjà vu, which translated means “already seen”, is the sensation of experiencing or witnessing a current event or situation as something that was previously seen or done. It has been suggested by theorists that this human feeling is due to the existence of multiple Universes that exist parallel to each other within which there are an infinite number of human experiences being had by multiple versions of each individual; some of these Universes are similar while others are drastically altered, but all are different and are unfolding simultaneously. This concept is commonly known as The Multiverse Theory.

When the cosmic wall which separate one Universe from the next is weakening, an individual may experience what has been labeled: déjà vu. This experience is outside of our linear understanding of time and can be something as recent as seconds prior or as distant as years because each Universe exists on a different energetic frequency. Each Universe consists of multiple energetic frequencies, though the whole of humanity is tuned into one frequency, the frequency that corresponds to our physical Universe or reality, with which we all share and are intimately familiar, however this does not discount the existence of the other frequencies or Universes.

The majority of human beings are only able to align with one frequency at a time, however the Universe consists of atoms that are oscillating at all times at unique frequencies that other Universes are not, making them available for alignment at all times by anyone possessing the ability. These Universes or realities coexist even if they are not perceivable by the majority of humanity. They don’t align on the same frequency due to the division caused by time, but when the Universes do align, it is theoretically possible to move between the realities. Déjà vu is the result of those times, the moments when the Universes are vibrating in entrainment with a parallel Universe or reality.

 

After Chloe left our house to return home and Daniel retrieved his box and duffle bag and brought them upstairs presumably to settle in, I walked through the quiet house searching for Aunt Rachel. I was hoping to have that conversation about Mr. Stokes and his relationship with our family that I had wanted to have with her since I woke that morning, but also to discuss my new concerns about my brother and his role within our family, both in a purely mundane sense as well as in a … not so mundane sense; was there a possibility that he might also possess some uncommon abilities? Was it possible? Maybe Chloe’s instinct to ask him about it was valid. Perhaps I should have engaged in the conversation with him regardless of whether it would have pushed us further apart. And if he didn’t have abilities perhaps he had information that might be important for me to know. I really wanted to talk with my aunt.

After searching throughout the house I found her sitting on the beige Queen Anne sofa in the morning parlor where she had been earlier that day. At first glance it appeared to me as if she hadn’t moved from her original position though I knew she had; she had answered the door for the pizza guy and had been at the front door when Daniel had come home earlier that evening. She had briefly spoken to Chloe and I in the foyer and had gone to the kitchen after we had finished, but as I stood there in the doorway my perception shifted and the memory of what had occurred earlier in the day was confusing me. It felt as if that morning’s experience and the current moment were somehow intertwined.

I reached out my right hand and braced myself against the wave of vertigo that threatened to drown me. My head tingled, my eyesight blurred and cleared, blurred and cleared. I felt myself sinking, spinning, and floating as I saw each moment shift from one to another, morning to night, like a strobe light flashing in a night club. It continued until both experiences I had with Aunt Rachel fell into entrainment so that they existed simultaneously allowing me to perceive both moments, one overlaying the other.

I stared at Aunt Rachel who was both drinking a mug of coffee and looking at a magazine while concurrently sitting motionless and staring ahead towards the opened doorway where I stood studying her, attempting to discern if I was actually upstairs in bed dreaming about an actual experience from my day or whether I was here downstairs experiencing a new moment I had yet lived. Confusion and hallucinations were both side effects from taking and withdrawing from Klonopin, but I was having difficulty determining what it was I was experiencing.

Was this reality or was it all my own creation? Was I awake or asleep?

My perception of past and present was obscured and my thoughts had become scattered as I tried to reconcile what I was experiencing in the morning parlor. I felt as if my knowledge of what reality was had fragmented from a shared understanding and expanded into something greater, but my brain was incapable of comprehending such a grand concept and thus was unable to reveal to me the truth. It was strangely exhilarating and perplexing.

I took a few tentative steps toward Aunt Rachel, not knowing how else to determine whether I was awake or sleeping.

“Aunt Rachel?” I called as I slowly approached her, feeling as if I was reliving a moment of my life.

“Angie, don’t!” a familiar male voice called out to me.

I spun around expecting to see Mr. Stokes standing behind me in the foyer, but found it empty. Anxiety crept through my body. It felt as if my mind was shattering. In one moment I had a single cohesive thought and the next it dissolved into utter confusion. Perhaps it was unwise for me to stop taking my prescriptions. I was losing touch with reality and was drowning within my own delusions.

Daniel. I should call my brother. He would be able to help me. He was always able to protect me when we were children; perhaps he could help me now.

“Dan!” I screamed as loud as I could.

Sitting in the dimly lit room Aunt Rachel brought the multi-blue colored ceramic mug to her lips as she looked up from her magazine and smiled at me, motioning for me to join her while simultaneously sitting motionless with her hazel eyes focused on something or someone standing next to me that I was unable to perceive, unaware of my presence at the doorway.

“Are you kidding me?” I whispered aloud to no one, feeling completely overwhelmed. I glanced over my shoulder towards the crimson carpeted stairs willing my brother to hear me and come to my rescue.

“DAN!”

I waited, listening for some indication that he had heard me and was coming to help. I gripped the doorframe as I was overwhelmed by another wave of vertigo followed hastily by its companions; anxiety and fear. I felt a familiar lump form in my throat and my eyes water.

Aunt Rachel continued to stare in my direction for what felt like minutes, until her eyes shifted and met mine though the rest of her physical body remained motionless.

She saw me!

Comforted and strengthened by her acknowledgment, I released my grip on the doorframe and entered the room approaching the matching sofa across from her position. I watched as the air around her shifted, moving strands of her hair that had fallen from the top of her head to frame her face. It appeared as if there was a subtle breezing blowing in the parlor. The vision before me pricked at my intellect.

I was startled by the grip of fingers on my forearm and turned to see my cousin Christian standing beside me.

“You have no idea what you are getting involved with here. That, right there,” he said, pointing to his mother, “is a power vastly beyond anything you might have experienced. It’s beyond your immature abilities. Don’t fuck with it, Angie. Leave it alone. Let this play out as it should.”

“What?”

I was confused. My head was muddled. How did Christian get here? Everything felt too familiar. Different, but recognizable. I attempted to yank my arm away from my cousin. I turned back to my aunt, who was simultaneously pointing to the mug on the table in front of her, speaking wordlessly to me and floating above the sofa, the air around her spiraling creating a wind that I felt from where I stood beside Christian. The image before me was surreal and familiar. I glanced at my cousin hoping that he would act as an anchor to reality, but something about his expression and presence was odd.

It occurred to me that I hadn’t heard him enter the house.

The pressure in the morning parlor dropped as the calliope of organic murmurs emerged from the corners of the silent room. In that moment I gained clarity and understood what was transpiring, but I doubted my ability to confront them again so soon. I didn’t think I had enough mental power to fight. I could barely keep hold of my perception of reality, how could I stand alone against the Ancestors? I had no one with me, well, except Christian and I wasn’t even sure he was actually there.

The familiar screech pierced my brain, “Time for the reckoning.”

 

Chapter XL

“Who is it?” I asked as I descended the last few stairs and approached Aunt Rachel who obstructed my view of the opened front door.

Chloe followed me, but kept some distance between us. Whoever it was obviously wasn’t the pizza delivery guy since the box sat abandoned on the side table. So who was it that stood outside on our front porch? My mind flashed briefly to the night that Ryan Fuller stopped by to pay me an unexpected visit, and though I knew there was no possible way that it was him standing there speaking to my aunt, the scenario I was currently experiencing felt all too familiar and caused a slow wave of fear to wash over me, threatening to pull me out of my current state of stability.

My aunt stepped aside, not with the intention of permitting me to see our visitor, but to allow whoever it was entry into our house. I stopped myself from screaming out my impulsive objection as I knew I was in a state of heightened alertness, considering everything that had occurred over the last forty-eight hours. It was possible, even probable that our visitor meant us no harm, but I remained suspicious.

I forced myself to blink a few times unsure of the accuracy and validity of my eyesight since the world of reality and unverifiable phenomenon had crossed boundaries. Was our visitor a mirage or was he real? Was it a vision of what I secretly desired or was it an actuality? I was confused, annoyed, and angry; if what I was seeing was in fact reality, then what I predominately felt was rage.

“I thought you were too busy to come home,” I crossed my arms in front of my chest as I hurled the accusation at the dark haired male who shared more than one of my own physical characteristics. “According to Mother you had a ‘demanding schedule’, which didn’t allow you any trips home.”

My brother shrugged as he entered the foyer, shutting the door behind him.

“Yeah, well, I guess things changed,” he glanced at me then smiled feebly at Aunt Rachel. “And my schedule freed up.”

“Lucky for us,” she said as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. “It’s so good to have you home.”

“Yeah, lucky for us,” I repeated, ensuring that my tone carried the biter note of sarcasm. “We get you all to ourselves.”

“Looks like it,” he nodded, placing a cardboard box on the foyer floor and dropping his canvas duffle bag next to it. “Do I smell pizza?”

I knew he didn’t really want to be home. He would much rather be spending his time with the entourage of pretty girls, who in his photos on social media, were always hanging on him or with his friends drinking and having fun, than being at home with Aunt Rachel and I for company. I wouldn’t be fawning over him or getting drunk with him. I knew he’d be counting the days until he could return to campus. Something other than our parents must have forced him to come home otherwise he wouldn’t be standing there awkwardly in the foyer with us asking for food.

Aunt Rachel walked over to the side table and grabbed the abandoned pizza box. She handed it to my brother with a smile, “I hope you like pepperoni.”

Ugh, why was she so happy to see him? The kindness pouring from her was nauseating. I couldn’t tolerate the way she was overly accommodating and I looked to Chloe hoping to see that she too was uncomfortable with Aunt Rachel’s behavior. She knew how I felt about my brother so I expected to find some show of support, but instead I witnessed her staring at him pensively.

What the fuck?!

She glanced at me and blushed. I caught her ogling betrayal.

She shrugged as she pantomimed with her mouth, “He’s hot.”

Daniel enthusiastically grabbed the pizza box from Aunt Rachel and walked towards the kitchen.

“Off to the kitchen with you,” my aunt chuckled, gesturing for us to join him.

I glared over my shoulder. How could she not know how unwelcomed he was by me? I spoke to her about my feelings numerous times, but it seemed as if none of that mattered. It was clear to me that she didn’t understand that once a composition was written and had been played successfully by the orchestra there was an expectation that every time it was played by that orchestra again, it would sound the same. Yes, there would be varying inflections and an emotional quality dependent on the musicians’ disposition and the composer’s direction, but once that symphony was played badly and the dissonance was experienced by the audience, it took relentless effort and work by the musicians to convince that audience of the beauty and harmony the composition honestly possessed. Audiences are known to be stubborn and unforgiving. I wasn’t convinced that the symphony Dan and I had penned together years ago, that was once a harmonious sounding composition was worth reworking.

“Angie, give him a chance,” she urged. “He’s your brother.”

“So?” I scowled at her before stomping after him.

“Sometimes you act like such a baby,” Chloe whispered to me as she walked beside me towards the kitchen.

“Do not!” I pouted.

She raised an eyebrow.

I opened my arms with an exaggerated. “What?”

Shaking her head, she entered the kitchen.

She had a point even if I wasn’t going to admit it to anyone, but why didn’t either of them understand my feelings about this entire situation? My brother had been my best-friend when we were younger and I missed that relationship. I wish I could change things and rewrite the past. But I can’t. He broke a promise, a promise to protect me from whatever it was that threatened me in the night shadows. He abandoned me years ago and now we’re nothing but strangers; two solitary individuals with nothing in common. Blood relations held no meaning between us; it was just a coincidence that we were born from the same set of parents, because we were nothing alike. In fact, if you looked on his social media profiles he has no mention of siblings. He doesn’t even acknowledge that I exist in his world! So, I’ve abandoned any and all hope of mending our relationship. It’s clear that it isn’t what he wants from me. He desires the distance. He likes his privacy – as do I. He is clearly enjoying his freedom from the living nightmare that he was forced to share with me for so many years as a child. And I don’t blame him, well, not for that; I blame him for leaving me to fend for myself when he said that he would be there beside me forever. But he did and without the simplest “good-bye”.

Daniel stood at the far end of the island counter with the pizza box opened; a half-eaten slice in his right hand and a can of soda in his left. He loudly chewed a mouthful of food as he watched Chloe and I enter the room and approached the counter. Chloe casually slid onto the stool closest to him and grabbed a slice of the semi-warm pie for herself as I walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water and a Coke. I slid the can over to my friend and twisted open the cap on the water bottle. I took a sip while studying my brother.

He looked different from the last time I had seen him in person. When was the last time? I couldn’t remember. Days, weeks, months; they all seemed to blend together in my mind. It was a side effect from the Klonopin that I had been prescribed by Dr. Worth, but that I had stopped taking within the last forty-eight hours. Whether or not that was a “good” idea was still left to be determined, but regardless I was done taking it. I was tired of being medicated, of going through life in a chemical fog, unable to really experience what was happening to me, to accurately feel the changes occurring and my honest emotional responses to these changes. I decided that I would allow my parents and Dr. Worth to assume I was still taking the prescribed dose and I wouldn’t feel badly about the deception. It was important for me to be able to remember my experiences. I needed to remember. My thoughts needed to be cohesive. I needed to be conscious and aware of my surroundings. Often times I found it difficult to discriminate between reality and pure hallucination. I was never entirely sure, but with the unfolding of the last few days’ events it was imperative that I be as mentally clear as possible. I assumed that my parents and Dr. Worth wouldn’t understand, perhaps the only people that would were those who experienced the same events as I.

Chloe snapped open her Coke and took a gulp. She carefully placed the can on the counter with a loud burp before she addressed my brother.

“So Dan,” she winked at me before continuing. “What abilities do you have?”

“Abilities?” He swallowed a large bite of pizza and washed it down with a gulp of soda. “What do you mean?”

What was she thinking? This wasn’t a conversation we should be having with him. He wouldn’t understand, or worse, he would inform my parents about what we said when they returned from their Bahama trip. She frowned then took a bite from the slice of pizza she was holding.

“Nothing,” I said, reaching into the opened pizza box that sat between the three of us on the counter. The pizza was already cold. And I really hated cold pizza. I carefully peeled a pepperoni off my chosen slice and popped it in my mouth.

“By abilities do you mean talents? Cause I have a lot of those,” Daniel grinned at Chloe.

She giggled.

What the fuck was that? I had never heard her produce such an irritating sound. It was disturbing. What was wrong with her? Was she suddenly possessed by a spirit? Did she need an exorcism?

“Really,” I glared. I felt certain that I was about to vomit all over the remaining pizza.

“What?” she asked, attempting to portray an innocence that I knew didn’t exist within her. “I’m just playing.”

As if that was the justification that would make her nauseating behavior acceptable. It didn’t. It just made me more annoyed with the situation. The three of us sat in silence. Daniel stole glances at Chloe while pointedly ignoring me. I could tell that she was enjoying the attention, and while I was happy she felt appreciated, I was irritated that my brother was there as a distraction. The last thing I needed was my newly established bond with Chloe to be destroyed by my estranged brother’s fascination with her. I had to stop this, whatever this was, before it evolved into something more threatening and potentially damaging.

“Why are you here?” I threw the pepperoni stripped slice back into the box. “I know you don’t want to be. So, why are you?”

For the first time since he had stepped foot into the house Daniel looked at me directly.

“Because I have no choice,” he answered. “I have nowhere else to go.”

“Why do you have to go anywhere? Why didn’t you just stay at school?” I countered, staring at him directly, demanding an honest answer from him.

“I wasn’t allowed,” he said without dropping my gaze. Where those tears forming in his eyes?

“Wasn’t allowed?”

He nodded, “I was expelled.”

He glanced at Chloe then back to me. He shook his head while bringing his hand up to his forehead; the realization of the serious consequences must be overwhelming. “Mom and Dad are going to kill me.”

He was right. While killing was a hyperbole, they weren’t going to be pleased; Mother especially. He fucked it up good. I couldn’t have done it better myself.

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.