Chapter XLVII

Mr. Stokes walked behind the oak desk in silence as he massaged the mark of an old wound on his forehead. His eyes, obscured by his spectacles, were focused on the items lying upon the flat surface of the desk, though I could tell that he was not seeing any of them. His mind was elsewhere. He did not immediately dismiss my concerns about Aunt Rachel, which was in and of itself worrisome, nor did he discount my lost time or lapse in memory about the previous days’ events, causing a marked increase in my uneasiness about the well-being of my favorite relative and what had transpired during those missing days.

Without a word he pointedly raised his gaze and gestured to the library door while taking his customary seat. I stood from my chair and closed the door, allowing the two of us privacy, although I was certain that Mother would be occupied with the police detectives for a time and would not have the ability to eavesdrop or interrupt us. I walked back to the table and reclaimed my chair waiting for his response.

“I agree with you,” frowned Mr. Stokes.

I was unprepared for his unhindered and simple acquiescence.  I expected my tutor to question me or demand that I explain my feelings because it was usual for him to deem them irrelevant or foolish, but he didn’t and that left me unsure of how I should respond. I was elated to have him respect my thoughts without question, but I was also deeply troubled because this time my feelings were in direct relation to the fate of my aunt, someone I cared about and whose continued absence would cause me great distress.

“Something has happened to Rachel,” he said, his voice cracking with unchecked emotion.

“What is it? What happened?”

“I don’t know,” he listlessly shook his head.

I screamed at him in my head, “You don’t know?!”

I was frustrated and he was doing nothing to soothe my worry, instead he was adding to it.

“Something …,” he struggled with his words, “Something isn’t … something isn’t …”

“Something isn’t right, is it?” I jumped in and finished his thought.

I knew what he was attempting to vocalize. It was more of a feeling than an actuality that could be described with mere words. It was a nagging sensation that originated deep in the gut, but was elusive and refused to be identified. It was a frequent companion to me as a child and would possess me whenever I heard the midnight whispers of The Ancestors. I never fully understood what the sensation was, though it created an intrusive imbalance within my reality, throwing everything askew when it manifested and the overwhelming feeling of dread that accompanied it was recognizable even if the root feeling was not.

He nodded, “Something is very wrong.”

“So what do we do? What can we do to make it right again?” I asked him. “We have to do something. We can’t just sit here. She needs us.”

He nodded and stood from his chair. He looked older than I imagined. Was it possible for someone to age years in just days? Mr. Stokes approached the table and sat himself down in the empty chair beside mine. He visually scrutinized me, searching for something, though I was unsure of what we was looking for and I didn’t have the patience to deal with this usual yet still peculiar behavior.

“You know I hate it when you look at me like that,” I snapped, crossing my arms in front of my chest.

“Yes, I’m aware. I apologize,” he said as he removed his glasses and placed them carefully on the table. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and shifted the chair so that he could sit directly facing me. He pointed to his chest. “Who am I?”

“What?” The shift in the conversation caused me serious discomfort. Where was he going with this? “What does your identity have to do with my aunt?”

“Please Angie,” he coaxed. “Just answer the question.”

“Seriously, Mr. Stokes, we don’t have time for this. What we need to be concentrating on is what we are going to do to about Aunt Rachel.”

“Angie, please,” he pleaded. “Who am I to you? To Rachel?”

I shot up from my seat, the anger expanding within me. Why were we wasting time with this? This was ludicrous. I was beginning to question my tutor’s sanity.

“Look, I can’t sit here and talk to you about who you are or who you aren’t when I know something terrible has happened to my aunt. I know she’s not in Europe. I know it,” I explained as an apparition of my cousin appeared next to me. Did Mr. Stokes see him or was he purely a hallucination my mind had conjured solely for me? “And Christian isn’t with his father. All that’s a lie.”

“I know,” he said, grasping my arm and gently pulling me back into my seat.

We sat in stillness for a moment staring into each other’s eyes. I directed my rising anger and frustration towards him determined to bend his will and align it with my own, forcing him to act as I demanded. We had to take immediate action. If Aunt Rachel was in jeopardy then she needed me and I in turn needed Mr. Stokes. He was my natural anchor and battery, allowing me to use my ability to its full potential. We couldn’t waste any more time sitting in the library doing absolutely nothing, other than discussing ridiculous topics such as his true identity.

Wait a minute.

True identity … as opposed to a false identity? My anger was clearly muddying my thoughts, causing me to create situations that weren’t really there so that I had some emotional drama to distract me. Things were becoming disjointed. Something was distorting and fragmenting my thoughts. I closed my eyes. I needed to clear my mind and concentrate on my aunt … my aunt … my Aunt Rachel … but my own words echoed in my head.

I reopened my eyes and repeated aloud, “All that’s a lie.”

I analyzed Mr. Stokes’ face and settled once more on his eyes. His irises were the most intriguing hue of green reminiscent of the jade on Mother’s antique necklace that she often wore at Christmas time. I allowed my essence to fall into the color and withdrew into my center, listening for the whispers that I knew would creep into my head. Usually this happened involuntarily when I experienced what Dr. Worth labeled my “unusual behaviors”, but I intuitively knew I had the ability to make it happen intentionally. I probed Mr. Stokes’ thoughts, seeking out the lie, searching for the deception, but when the whispers came, they were too low for me to hear clearly.

“Who are you?” I asked my tutor, allowing the suspicion to ride my words.

“You know who I am.” He gripped my hands with his and asked, “Tell me. Who am I?”

“I don’t know!” I shouted, yanking free. “I don’t know! I’m tired of your stupid game. We don’t have time for this.”

“This is important,” he stressed, reaching for me. “I know it may not seem like we have time and it might feel like I’m playing some game with you, but I promise you; I’m not.”

“I don’t believe you,” I retorted. But the truth was I did. I believed him. Innately I knew that this conversation was important, but I also felt an overwhelming desire to fight with him so that we wouldn’t engage in this discussion. I didn’t understand why I was feeling defiant. Was it possible that I was afraid of what he would say to me; of what I might learn? My emotions were entwined as I struggled to untangle and comprehend them.

“Yes, you do,” he stated. “I understand that you’re worried for Rachel. I am, too, but we absolutely must have this conversation no matter how challenging it is for you. So, will you please sit back down?”

I reluctantly obeyed.

“Thank you,” he smiled weakly as he held my hands. He took a deep breath and looked at me before asking, “Angie Williams, who am I?”

I would answer his stupid questions, but I would do so unenthusiastically.

“You’re my tutor.”

“Yes,” he nodded. “And?”

“And? Seriously? I don’t know what you want me to say, Mr. Stokes. Do you want me to feed you the lie that you’re a family friend? Because that’s what it is,” I spewed. “It’s fucking bullshit. You may be associated with my family alright, but not every member of my family. Huh? It seems that you fancy just specific women in my family.”

“Yes,” he smiled.

“Why is it you’re fond of me, Mr. Stokes? Is it because I’m young?” I accused. “Well, what about Aunt Rachel? You’re in love with her, aren’t you? Did you love Grandma Kathleen and Great-Grandma Lillian, too? And Great-Great-Grandma Catherine, Carrie, Nellie, Margaret, Elizabeth, Emma, Hannah, Mary Frances, Constance, Mary Elizabeth, Anne, Patience, and Abigail … because all of them … they …”

I realized that as I had spoken each name an image of the woman standing beside a man, who I instinctively knew was Mr. Stokes though he didn’t always look like the man sitting in front of me, flashed through my mind.

He nodded. “Yes, please continue.”

“They were more than friends with you, but not lovers, never lovers,” the information flowed through my mind as if I always possessed it. “You were their trusted confidant, a devoted companion, who … because of a bond …” An image of the foyer filled my mind; the crimson carpet rippled as if it was liquid as it cascaded down the stairs. “… a blood bond … willingly serves, attends, and guards his wi –”

“Yes!”

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Chapter XLVI

Within Greek mythology when a human died their soul traveled to the Underworld where they would exist, but with no sense of purpose, for at the moment of death their psyche was suspended. It no longer aged or changed in any sense including experience and understanding. Upon physical death the soul would be required to travel to the Underworld where she or he could be required to bribe Charon, the terrifying ferryman, to guide them across the river Acheron in order to reach the entrance to Hades, therefore the dead were traditionally buried with a silver coin placed over each of their eye lids or one under their tongue. If the deceased did not have silver to bribe Charon he could grimly turn them away, prohibiting them entrance to Hades, and they were left to wander the shores, though he was known to make exceptions for souls carrying a golden bough.

Within the Underworld there existed six rivers; the Styx, the river of hatred, which circled the Underworld, Acheron, the river of pain, Cocytus, the river of wailing, Phlegethon, the river of fire, which lead to the depths of Tartarus, Oceanus, the river that encircled the world, and Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, which boarded Hades and Elysium, a paradise for the souls of demigods or heroes.

Most interesting within the Underworld is the Lethe River, which flowed through the cave of Hypnos where no light was cast by the sun or moon, a grotto where night and day met and no sound dared ever enter; where at its entrance a vast number of poppies and other hypnotic plants flourished. The lulling murmurs of the river induced drowsiness in the souls who drank from its sluggish waters, the souls required to drink prior to their rebirth to ensure that all memories of previous lives lived were forgotten. The only exception were the initiated, who were taught to seek the waters of the river Mnemosyne, the river of memory, thus securing the retention of their memories of previous lifetimes and ensuring the end of the transmigration of their soul.

The weekend passed without a return call from Aunt Rachel, though I left numerous messages on her voice mail, and each time I attempted to contact Chloe to question her about the events preceding the gap in my memory, her cellphone rang endlessly without any redirection to voice mail. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement of the level of stress I was experiencing. Daniel and I spoke, but only briefly about the shared memory loss not because either of us were avoiding the other or the topic, but because most of his time was spent evading our parents, who apparently had not forgotten about his expulsion from school and my energy and time was consumed by assuring both Mother and Dad on separate occasions that I was faithfully taking my medication as prescribed, though I lied. I wasn’t. I needed to be unmedicated and as clear minded as possible if I was going to solve this perplexing situation.

I thought of Chloe and the story she told me about her and two of her friends stealing The Pickman Sister’s grimoire and wondered if our situations were similar in any aspect. She mentioned that she had no memory of what had transpired after that night in the woods and suggested that it was as if someone wiped her memory. Was that possible? And if so, was it possible that someone did the same thing to Daniel and me? Maybe my brother’s idea that we were drugged wasn’t as far-fetched as I might have thought.

The chime of the doorbell echoed throughout the house announcing the arrival of who I assumed to be my tutor. I was completely unprepared for our lessons today … I wasn’t even certain of what I should have been prepared since I couldn’t remember our last five days together. I peeked out my bedroom window expecting to confirm my assumption of the identity of our visitor with the sight of Mr. Stokes’ car in the driveway, but was startled to see a dark SUV with government plates parked there instead. Instinctively I knew the occupants of the vehicle were detectives and assumed that they were revisiting us about Josh’s missing persons case.

The doorbell chimed an additional time as I left the sanctuary of my bedroom and walked through the upstairs hallway. Every door to my Mother’s antique curio cabinets stood opened; a bottle of glass cleaner and microfiber towel lay abandoned on the floor close by. I glanced at Mother’s multiple collections of pretty items and considered the pleasure they brought her. Was there anything that I held in my own life that brought me such delight? As I reflected on my own collection of occult books and paraphernalia I smiled. Of course. But how different our tastes were; my Mother and I, and yet, how similar our desire to fill the void within our deficient existence.

As I descended the stairs leading to the foyer I observed Mother opening the heavy wooden front door. The sunlight spilled through the entryway from outside and onto the Oriental rug. If my Mother was surprised by the appearance of detectives Moore and Walker standing on the opposite side of the door her expression didn’t reveal it.

“Good morning, detectives,” she smiled, methodically dissecting the two men standing on our front porch. “What brings you to our door so early in the day?”

“Good morning, Mrs. Williams,” nodded Detective Moore. “We are looking to speak with Mr. Williams. Is he home?”

Mother shook her head. “Unfortunately no, Detective Moore, he’s already left for the office and won’t be returning until around six this evening. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Well, I suppose you might be able to help us with our investigation,” he began, glancing at his partner who shrugged with a nod. “Would you have a few minutes to answer some questions about your husband’s coworker, Peter Morrell?”

Peter Morrell? I didn’t see that one coming though I should have anticipated that at some point someone who knew him would have reported him missing and that the police would send someone to have a conversation with Dad since they were colleagues and at one time close friends. I wondered if they already knew about my Mother’s affair with the repulsive, lewd man or perhaps that was precisely why they were at our home so early on a week day when most people were at work. From my previous interaction with the detectives I knew they were capable and had probably already calculated the best time to speak with my Mother without Dad around to hinder her responses.

“Of course. Come in.” My mother didn’t hesitate. She stepped out of the way as she pulled the door wide enough for the men to step into the foyer. She gestured to the archway that led to the large formal room. “We can talk in the living room.”

The detectives followed my mother through the foyer. Detective Moore checked his cellphone as he walked behind her, but Detective Walker offered a greeting as he passed by me. I smiled and returned the pleasantry while contemplating whether I should follow them and offer my personal insight as to the asshole that Peter Morrell truly was behind the V-neck sweater and aviator sun glasses and to inform them that whatever might have happened to him was the justice he deserved, but before I could be so impulsive our doorbell chimed again and I was forced to answer it.

I casually approached the entry way and scoffed at the peephole in the door. If there was a stranger on the other side with devious intentions they would unlikely be able to carry them out considering there were two able bodied, gun carrying detectives sitting in our living room just twenty-five feet away, questioning my Mother. I opened the door and was met by my tutor, Mr. Stokes. I opened it wide enough for him to enter the house unhindered.

“Good morning, Angie,” he said as he passed by me carrying his messenger bag in one hand and a Styrofoam cup presumably filled with hot coffee. “How are you doing today?”

“Honestly, Mr. Stokes,” I said, shutting the door and walking beside through the foyer towards the library. “I’m not sure.”

“Does your uncertainty have anything to do with the unmarked police car that’s parked in the driveway?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah …,” I slipped my hands into the pockets of my cardigan sweater. “Well, not really.”

I glanced into the living room as we passed the archway. Mother sat on the sofa with her hands clasped in her lap, facing the detectives who sat in the matching floral printed chairs across from her. Upon her face lingered a look of shame as she nodded in response to a question from Detective Moore that I could not hear clear enough to understand, but presumed by her expression had something to do with the illicit affair she had with Mr. Morrell. I sighed and hurried to the library exasperated with my Mother’s behavior. Honestly if she hadn’t involved herself as she had with that nauseating man, Mr. Morrell would still be alive, well, not that he was actually dead, but he was definitely gone and the police wouldn’t be in our home disrupting our lives.

“So, if it isn’t those detectives that are bothering you, then what is it, Angie?” my tutor questioned once we had entered the library.

I stood by the table and decided in that moment that I was going to just tell him. Tell him everything … well, almost everything. I wouldn’t reveal what I had saved on my MP3 player. But I would tell him everything else. He already knew how different I was, he knew about the bloodline, and knew to some extent the power of my abilities. And even though I was still unclear as to who he was to our family or to Aunt Rachel, I still didn’t believe that he was a longtime family friend, I was going to trust him. I didn’t have many people I could actually trust and I needed someone to work through the missing time with, so I was going to take a chance with him.

“I don’t know if you’ll believe me, Mr. Stokes, I hope you do, but I don’t know if it really matters, but I need someone to sort things out with me, someone who understands my perspective, you know, someone who knows what I am and can appreciate what I am capable of,” I began to explain. “And since Aunt Rachel is currently unreachable I figure you’re the next logical choice. Right?”

After placing his bag on the desk he said, “Right.”

“Okay so since I last saw you … or wait …,” I began again. “Since the last time I remember seeing you, some really weird things have occurred.”

“Weird?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the desk. “Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘weird’?”

“Yeah, of course,” I pulled out a chair and sat at the table. I inhaled deeply and explained the situation. “So, I feel like something’s seriously ‘wrong’, like I’m out of synch with … I don’t know … everyone else …,” I paused and considered the other people I was currently in contact with in my life. “Well, except for Dan and you.”

“Are you taking your medication?” he asked, as he removed his glasses and cleaned them with the handkerchief he had retrieved from his pocket.

I was tired of responding to that inane question that every adult I spoke to felt the need to ask.

“This isn’t about my medication,” I stated louder than I intended. I took a deep breath before I continued. “It doesn’t have anything to do with mental illness. Mr. Stokes, seriously, you of all people know I don’t need that fucking medication. I’m not schizophrenic.”

“Alright,” he conceded, as he replaced his spectacles. “Can you explain to me why you feel like you’re out of synch?”

“I’m missing time. I don’t have memories of anything that happened since the Sunday after my parents’ left for the Bahamas,” I looked at him hoping that he had some idea of how to explain why I couldn’t remember and how to regain the memories I had lost because I had the strong feeling that there was important information for me to possess within those lost memories, perhaps even something to do with Aunt Rachel. “I do remember you leaving Saturday night and everything that occurred Sunday, but then there’s nothing after my memory of Daniel coming home Sunday night, well nothing until two days ago.”

Mr. Stokes frowned as he massaged the scar on his forehead.

“And I think something terrible has happened to Aunt Rachel,” I added.

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.

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.”