Chapter XXIV

My mind was pleasantly overloaded with an overwhelming amount of intriguing information that I felt as if I was intellectually lost within an intricate symphony. Just like the opening sonata, my questions formed, shifted, and then faded only to be immediately replaced by a more complicated movement. I was lost in the wondrous implications that hummed in my imagination, but was unable to be sustained within relative reality, so remained purely fantasy. Perhaps the diaries that Mr. Stokes had mentioned earlier that afternoon would provide me with the necessary data required to resolve this personal dilemma. He had assured me that after my parents had returned from their trip, he would bring me to meet the woman who was currently in possession of the diaries and that I would be able to read the documented accounts pertaining to Abigail Williams, my ancestor, myself. The prospect of such an experience excited me to such a point that I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I barely was able to focus the rest of the afternoon as we finished our weekly lessons. If I had been able, I would have found a way to see the diaries that very evening and it frustrated me that I was behooved to someone else’s will, and that because of him, I was required to wait.

Following our usual routine I watched my tutor pack his textbook and iPad into his leather messenger bag as he explained my weekend homework assignment. I acknowledged him with a nod, promising that I would have the assignment done, as I casually walked around the table to join him on the opposite side before escorting him to the front door. We had only taken a few steps into the foyer when I became aware of my Aunt Rachel’s presence; she was standing silently in the middle of the foyer, her overnight bags laid abandoned by front door, which stood agape. She stood facing us, but looked beyond us; her eyes focused on something unseen by Mr. Stokes and me. Her jaw hung opened, as if she had just been surprised by what she had observed, but the rest of her facial expression did not confirm the same conclusion, instead it suggested that she was curious by what she saw. Though the air was usually still in the house, her long floral skirt danced around her ankles while the sleeves of her bohemian style blouse fluttered around her wrists and her wavy, chestnut colored hair moved around her head and shoulders as if she were floating in a pool of water though she stood firmly on the tiles of the foyer.

I had difficultly comprehending the image my eyes were conveying to my brain; the scene was surreal. I glanced over to Mr. Stokes who was standing beside me, hoping for some practical explanation as he was usually realistic and logical about weird or unusual things, but he, too, was seemingly mesmerized by the strange scene before us. Though, I must admit that his expression was confusing to me; he seemed to be troubled and irate. What was making him angry? If I had been more prepared, more focused on the moment and less preoccupied by the idea of reading the diaries, I would have seen the portent for what it was, but in my distracted state I was oblivious and would later experience the consequences of my temporary ignorance. My curiosity was peaked even further as I watched a trickle of blood flow from my aunt’s right nostril onto the pristine foyer floor. I took few tentative steps toward her not knowing what else to do, but feeling as if something should be done.

“Aunt Rachel?” I called as I reached out my hands, intending to grasp hers, which hung limply by her sides. This was seriously freaky. This whole situation felt like something out of a horror movie.

Mr. Stokes roughly grabbed my left arm, causing me to stumble backward. “Angie, don’t!”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, scowling at him then glancing back to the only woman in my family who actually acknowledged and valued me as an individual with unique ideas and thoughts. “I have to do something. She’s my aunt. I can’t just stand here staring at her.”

“You have no idea what you are getting involved with here. That, right there,” he said, pointing to my aunt with his free hand, while glaring at me, clearly hoping to convey how serious the situation was with not only his words but his facial expression, “is a power vastly beyond you, beyond anything you might have inadvertently experienced.” He paused before he continued. “It isn’t simple telepathy, Angie. It’s beyond those immature abilities. Don’t fuck with it. Leave it alone. Let this play out as it should.”

“What?!” I snapped. I felt as if my brain was going to explode. What was Mr. Stokes saying? Power beyond me, beyond what I might have inadvertently experienced?  Really? If he only knew what I was capable of, what I had already done in my relatively short lifetime.  And how did he know what was happening here with Aunt Rachel? Obviously there was more to him than he was offering. Did he possess something as unique as I did, is that how he was able to know what I was thinking just hours ago? Was he implying that it had been telepathy that we had experienced? I would have to question him about these things at a more opportune time, now wasn’t that time. Now I had to do something about Aunt Rachel. I yanked my arm away from him, turned, and approached her.

 “Aunt Ra –, ” my words were jerked out of my throat as my entire body was sucked towards her as if she was a vacuum hose and I was dirt to be cleaned from the carpet. I reached for her hands and held them in my own. The air around us slowly spiraled creating the breeze that I had seen flirting with her clothing and hair; it was now doing the same with my own. I looked for the origin of this whirlwind, but saw that the environment outside our immediate area had become distorted as if I was looking at it under water. I quickly abandoned the search for the source of the air current and focused on my aunt, whose eyes remained fixated on something beyond the strange barrier. I was concerned that she was already somewhere beyond my reach, that perhaps Mr. Stokes’ warning was accurate, but I had to at least try to do something, she was my aunt and I loved her.

The air swirled around us constantly moving, disorientating me.

Round and round.

Encircling the two of us.

Separating us from the rest of the world.

Whirling faster and faster.

Continuously spiraling.

Creating a rhythmic air current that vibrated.

I inhaled deeply, centering myself as I looked into Aunt Rachel’s eyes, intent on communicating with her, but though I tried to speak I was unable to make a sound. As soon as I pushed a word from my larynx it was snatched from my throat by some unseen force. I easily imagined that I was Ariel and that it was Ursula’s glowing magickal hand that had invaded my throat and stolen my voice. And that’s when I heard them … the calliope of sounds … similar to music, but organic in nature, melodic though distinctively different from any music I had ever previously heard.

Wait.

Something about this experience felt vaguely familiar. Was it a dream I had? Or déjà vu?

No, neither of those, but something … something …

And it was at that moment when my understanding of the situation became clear. Raw fear ripped through my entire body as my mind screamed the word my mouth was unable to utter.

NO!

 

Chapter XXIII

Telepathy, as coined by the French psychical researcher Fredric W. H. Myers, is the innate psychic phenomena by which communication occurs between minds of humans, without the use of the usual sensory channels of communication such as speech or body language. It is the direct transference of thoughts, ideas, feelings, sensations, and mental images from one individual (the sender) to another (the receiver). Telepathy is considered a form of extra-sensory perception (ESP) and is often connected to other various paranormal phenomena such as precognition, clairvoyance, and empathy, but it is often difficult to determine whether information is communicated through telepathy or clairvoyance as they are the same psychic function manifested in different ways.

Telepathy is about energetic frequency and the ability to recognize and align with another person’s frequency. Although this is an innate ability all human beings possess it is not usually developed in everyone because as humans were created for life in the physical realm or the third dimension where we attain information through physical senses such as: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound then is translated by the mind. Though the human mind is a physical organ it is more than that, it is an evolved physical matrix for a psychic entity of electrical and quantum impulses. This entity has the innate ability to receive and influence the temporary changes in the energy from other minds, therefore it is understood that telepathy is a natural function of the mind as it is energetically or psychically connected to all other minds which transcends our perceived concepts of time and space.

My parents left for their weeklong vacation on a Friday morning while I was sitting at the desk in the library listening to Mr. Stokes give me a lecture on the historical events that took place in Massachusetts in 1692. They created such a commotion in the foyer with their Louis Vuitton luggage that Mr. Stokes was forced to stop talking. He and I watched them through the opened library door. My Dad casually waved at us as he slung the strap of the duffle bag over his shoulder and with his other hand grabbed the handle of the biggest upright, rolling it behind him as he walked towards the front door. Mother blew me a kiss as she clutched her cosmetic satchel and the smaller upright. I returned their farewells, noting to myself their annoyance and aggravation only slightly hidden beneath the phony smiles they presented to us. A trip to the Bahamas was going to “fix” this? I shook my head in complete disbelief. My parents were clearly in serious denial about the state of their relationship.

With the sound of the front door closing, I redirected my attention back to my tutor who had removed his glasses and was carefully slipping them into the front pocket of his light blue button up shirt. The middle finger of his left hand had instinctively found the scar on his forehead and began massaging it. I was curious about his scar the moment I first saw it, but refrained from questioning him, but now, as I sat there gazing at him, waiting for him to continue with his lecture I pondered the circumstances surrounding it’s appearance on his face. How long ago had he acquired the injury? Did it still caused him pain?

“Perhaps someday I will share that story with you,” he smirked, as he sat on the edge of the desk. His hand now joined his other as they clasped and rested on his right thigh.

How did he know I was contemplating his scar? Was I so blatantly staring at it or did he attain the knowledge of my inquiry by some other means? These silent questions must have been readable in my expression because he chuckled with a slight nod.

“As entertaining as that story is, I must redirect your inquest back to the historical events of 1692. I find that it is pertinent to share some information with you that not only pertains to the events I’ve been discussing, but to your own family as well, specifically your father’s ancestors,” he explained in a tone that I had not heard prior from him. It was solemn with a hint of … was that fear?

My ancestors? This was wonderful! This was the type of information I was craving ever since I had purchased the books from that pagan shop in Bridgeboro, but how much information would he be able to share with me since he was not of my family bloodline? Was this going to be accurate material or pure speculation and conjecture? How had he attained this information? Did he read it in books? If so, what ones? Were there even any books about my family? How had he gathered this information?

He cleared his throat before he began. “You must understand that some of what I am going to tell you may be difficult for you to believe, but I am asking you to listen with an open mind and take time to contemplate even the slightest possibility that there is some truth to the stories. These are stories and rumor; nothing can be verified as there are no factual records to consult when it comes to your family history.”

I nodded. His words were becoming more intriguing as he spoke. To be honest with you though, I couldn’t have imagined anything that he might have told me that would have been difficult for me to believe. I had personally experienced the unbelievable for most of my childhood and because of those peculiar events that no one else dared believed to be true, I was ultimately diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and earned myself prescriptions for Cymbalta and Klonopin. I was excited with the consideration that he had stories of events that were more fantastical than what I had experienced firsthand.

“Your father’s family has a historical reputation that many people are still, to this very day, greatly influenced by,” Mr. Stokes explained. He pursed his lips and tilted his head, as he continued, “And not necessarily influenced in a positive or productive way.”

“Really?” I was impressed. “Dad always tells me that our family bloodline carries clout,” I said, recalling my father’s claim, one which I dismissed because it really had no bearing on my teenaged life.

Mr. Stokes agreed. “It does, but it holds much more than influence, Angie.” He paused as he leaned closer to me. He seemed to be studying my response or lack thereof, staring me directly in the eye, searching for something, perhaps some silent understanding of the words he left unspoken. I held his gaze without blinking, determined not to give away any hint of my own unusual experiences until after he had finished with what he had to share with me. He pulled himself back, adjusting his posture so that he was straight once more as he continued, “There were strange events that transpired in Salem Village during the years 1691 to 1697, many of which were not recorded in court documents because they were not submitted as evidence during the trails, however they were written about in the rare personal diaries of those who were educated at that time. Other accounts were passed on orally from generation to generation as cautionary tales about the Williams family.”

“Are you suggesting that my father is right? That our family is descended from the Williams of Salem?”

“I’m not just suggesting it, Angie. I am confirming it.”

Huh. I assumed that my father was just boasting, trying to impress the important people of the community and state that he and Mother invited to the parties that they hosted around the holidays. I never considered that his words could be truth, but I was beginning to think that this information would be useful to me or at least would illuminate some things about who my ancestors were and what they and Syn may want from me.

“Why did the people feel it was necessary to warn others about my family? I don’t understand,” I paused for a moment trying to comprehend the motives behind the actions. Was it possible that my ancestor’s powers were truly that intimating?  “Did it have anything to do with what was going on with the witch trails or was there something else going on at that time in the village?”

“They believed that it was Abigail Williams who caused the unpleasant events and circumstances that befell Salem, that it wasn’t the people she accused that were witches,” he emphatically explained. “It was her. She was the problem. She was the one that bewitched herself, her cousin, Betty Parris, Ann Putnam, Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, and the other afflicted girls; that she was the cause for the failing crops, the stillbirths and conjured the spirits. The families of the condemned were justifiably concerned of outright accusing her in fear of the retribution she would bring upon them. You must understand that they witnessed their own kin being imprisoned, tortured, and executed all due to the simple point of her index finger in their direction.”

I was in awe. I had never once considered that it was the infamous Abigail Williams that was my direct ancestor from Salem. I had assumed that the women of my bloodline that spoke to me from the darkness and verified the claims that I, along with the other females of my family, who had acknowledged and accepted their birthright as human agents of Syn were humble, unassuming pagan folk who had been the falsely accused by the Puritans. Oh, I had visited Salem once when I was younger. Our elementary school class had gone on a field trip and I recalled thinking that it was amusing that Abigail had the same surname as I did, but then Williams is not an uncommon name in New England; I had met other students with the same last name who were not of my family. This connection with Abigail, such a pivotal individual in the historical events of Salem, Massachusetts, well, this was a significant revelation.

“Was it witchcraft?”

Mr. Stokes frowned and shook his head with a shrug. “The accounts recorded in the diaries and orally passed down insist it was; that Abigail was an authentic witch who had made a blood pact with The Devil in order to gain extraordinary powers, but historical essays deny such a claim and instead portray her as a simple repressed young girl who suffered from child abuse, epilepsy, mental illness or a disease brought on by eating fungus infected rye.”

I sat in silence for a moment, overwhelmed with the amount of information Mr. Stokes had shared with me and what implications it had. I felt kindred with Abigail Williams that I hadn’t before and hadn’t felt with anyone else including my family in my life until that very moment. I wanted to know more about her. I needed to know more, but would Mr. Stokes be able to provide me with anything more?

“The diaries, do you have them?”

“I do not,” he deliberately stood from his perch on the desk and walked to the bay windows gazing out at Mother’s garden.

I was profoundly disappointed. “Oh, well that just sucks.”

“But,” Mr. Stokes continued with his back towards me. “I know the woman who does.”

Instead of feeling elation with the prospect of reading the diaries for myself, I was earnestly annoyed with my tutor. Was he intentionally baiting me? What was his deal? Was he getting off on taunting me like this with the diaries? Any other day I would have enjoyed this verbal parlay, but not today. The information he had just shared with me was momentous and the accounts in those diaries were far too significant to banter about. I stared intently at his back, feeling my annoyance shift into anger. I felt my blood pumping within my heart and flowing through the veins and arteries in my body, becoming imbued with the melody of my frustration and anger. Once he turned around my gaze would fix upon his, allowing the malicious fascination which had reached a crescendo seep into his soul.

Mr. Stokes slowly turned from the windows to face me; his expression held only considerable remorse. He had bowed his head slightly as not to look me in the eyes as he spoke, “Forgive me, Angie. I apologize. I shouldn’t have baited you with the diaries. I have no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive, and I don’t find any sort of pleasure in taunting you with such significant information. You are absolutely correct; the information I just shared with you is momentous and the accounts in those diaries are far too significant to banter about.”

What the fuck?!

Chapter XXII

Last night at dinner, while the three of us were sitting at the dinner table feasting on Mother’s Tarragon Poached Salmon, my parents informed me of their joint decision to work on and resuscitate their dying marriage. They had mutually agreed that to do so successfully they were required to be alone, to be somewhere that neither of them could be easily influenced by outside sources such as work colleagues, friends, or family members. So my Dad had made a reservation for them to spend a week in the Bahamas and had made arrangement with Aunt Rachel and my cousin, Christian, to stay at the house with me while they were away. They explained that they had contacted my brother, Daniel and asked if he would be able to come home for the week to stay with me, but he was unable to leave campus; his demanding schedule and commitment to the summer camp program that the school offered didn’t allow him time for trips home that summer.

It was a challenge for me to stifle a mocking laugh that had lurched from inside my gut. His “demanding schedule”? Really? Were they serious? Did they honestly believe his weak excuse for not coming home? It was evident to me that neither of them followed Daniel on any social media platform because it was clear, at least to me, by his numerous photos and status messages that he was having a very exciting and busy summer so far, socializing with numerous peers and by my own deduction was not even staying on campus this summer. There was no way he was involved or had a commitment with the summer camp program that his school was offering. He had posted plenty of photos of himself holding a variety of alcoholic drinks, Narraganset Beer being his beverage of choice, with a diverse menagerie of girls in countless poses all in social settings that were noticeably not his school campus. He appeared to have a freedom that contradicted the information my parents shared with me, but I wasn’t going to point out the blatant inconsistency. I understood why Daniel didn’t want to spend the week at home even if my parents were in denial or just plain ignorant about it. It wasn’t just because he wouldn’t be surrounded by pretty girls hanging all over him or by the never-ending flow of beer; it was because he didn’t want to spend the week alone with me.

I sadly realized that not only were my brother and I estranged; we were just two very dissimilar people. My personal interests were not Daniel’s and his were not mine. (I dislike large crowds of people and alcohol does nothing for me except make me nauseous.) It was almost as if we were raised in two different households by two different set of parents, which I found to be more than just a tad disturbing. Was it possible that one of us was actually adopted? Daniel was named after Caroline’s father, but I was unsure of who I was named after, if I was named after anyone at all. Is it beyond reasonable consideration to think that perhaps Caroline and Edward were not my biological parents? Could I be the daughter of someone else? Perhaps there weren’t any other members of the Williams’ family who possessed the same abilities as I did. Maybe I was abandoned and left in a cardboard box on the porch of my pseudoparents because I was so powerful at birth and the unusual facts about my beginnings was kept from me for all these years because it could inevitably endanger those around me. Conceivably my feelings of alienation were because I honestly didn’t belong in the Williams clan, these people weren’t my tribe and their ancestors weren’t mine. The answers that I was seeking from them, they couldn’t provide because I simply didn’t belong.

“Am I adopted?” The question flew out of my mouth before I could capture it and regret settled in as soon as I heard my own voice utter the words in the silent pause of the ongoing dinner conversation.

“What?” Mother carefully placed the silver fork she was using onto the table next to her plate and blotted her painted mouth with her cloth napkin. “Why are you asking, Angie?”

Dad was obviously annoyed. With his hand he waved off Mother’s question and glared in my direction. “What does that have to do with what we’ve been discussing here, right now?” He vigorously jammed his index finger against the surface of the oak table as he spoke, emphasizing every other word. He paused, waiting for my response, to which I gave none. I stayed silent which clearly irritated him even more. I winced at the volume of his voice as he continued his tirade. “Have you heard nothing we’ve been explaining to you, Angie? Are you aware that we are informing you about a very serious situation that will affect your future in this family? Are you listening to what we are saying to you? Are you comprehending what’s happening here? Or are you off in your own fantasy world as usual?”

Mother glanced from Dad to me in silence. When I didn’t respond to his bullying, he purposefully dropped his fork onto the table so that it created a loud thud and grabbed his beer glass draining it of the dark ale it had been holding. When the glass was empty he forcefully placed it on the table with a thump; the white foam slowly slid down the inside of the thick glass from the rim to the bottom. Dad was clearly agitated, but I understood that his reaction to my question wasn’t solely in response to my inquiry. I wasn’t the original catalyst that sparked his passionate anger. He had redirected his feelings of inadequacy that Mother’s indiscretion with Peter Morrell had stirred within him to me, an easier target and origin of some of his overall life’s frustrations. I silently wondered if their vacation to the Bahamas was truly a shared decision or if Mother was manipulating the situation so that Dad had no choice but to agree with what she had proposed.

“Edward,” Mother warned, focusing her gaze on Dad as she lifted the crystal water glass to her lips and sipped.

He grunted, stood from his chair, set his napkin on the table, and grabbed his beer glass. “I’m getting myself another ale.” With his free hand he gestured to Mother and me. “Do either of you need anything from the kitchen?”

“No, thank you, Edward,” Mother responded, gently replacing her glass to its place off to the right of her dinner plate.

I shook my head uneasy with Dad’s seemingly quick change of demeanor. He left the dining room quietly as Mother smiled weakly at me.

“Don’t take your father’s behavior so personally, Angie. He’s under a tremendous amount of stress at work lately because of what’s been happening over these last few weeks. He’s had to take on more clients and well, you know, with what’s happened with Mr. Morrell,” she paused as a subtle shadow of remorse appeared. She quickly waved her hand in front of her face as if to wipe away the lingering shadow. “Any way, I’m certain that when we return from the Bahamas everything will be back to normal.”

I nodded indicating that I heard her and understood what she was trying to convey, but not because I agreed with her. Was she attempting to persuade me or herself? She picked up her fork and continued with eating. I studied her expression with confusion and disbelief. Did she really think that a week vacation in the Bahamas was going to fix everything in her marriage? In Dad’s life? With our family? I watched her coral-colored lips part so that the fork full of green beans could find its way into her mouth. The silver metal tongs easily slid back out with a soft tug of her hand. She glanced at me as she chewed the vegetables and smiled, briefly patting my hand that rested on the table near my own fork, reassuring me of whatever she felt I needed comforting about.

I contemplated why she hadn’t responded to my original question and why it had sparked such an emotional response from Dad. Was Mother ignoring my query in hopes that I would forget I had asked? I wondered if I had even spoken the words aloud. Maybe I had just considered doing so within my own mind and hadn’t vocalized my concern with an actual question. Had I even spoken at all during dinner? Did I utter words aloud or had I only imagined that I had?

“Am I adopted?” I asked the woman sitting with me at the dining room table, who I had known as Mother for all the years I could remember.

I made a mental note that: yes, this time I knew for certain I had clearly articulated my question. Was her reluctance to respond because I was adopted and neither parent wanted to discuss it? What was so disturbing about the circumstances of my adoption that they denied it and never wanted to discuss it with me? My curiosity was evolving into something greater, something darker, more turbulent.

Mother swallowed the green beans, placed her fork gingerly on the table, and took a quick drink of water before responding to me.

She looked me directly in the eyes as she replied aware that her response was meaningful, “No, Angie, you are not adopted.”

“Is Daniel?”

She shook her head. “No. Neither of you are adopted. You are both our biological children. You know, when you were younger the resemblance you had to your Aunt Rachel when she was the same age was uncanny. You could have easily been mistaken for twins. There are some old family photos in the big album that I keep on the bookshelf near the fireplace in the living room. If you’re curious you should dig them out and look through them.”

I was overwhelmingly disappointed with her reply. I had been convinced that I was adopted and the idea had brought me hope of finding someone else who I could relate to, someone who could understand the  lonely life I was living, and the elation my abilities bestowed upon me, but with her reasonable words Mother demolished that hope. I picked up my fork and stabbed the piece of salmon that sat untouched on my own dinner plate.

Chapter XXI

In ancient Norse mythology, the Valkyrie, “Chooser of the Slain”, was originally a group of nine sinister spirits of slaughter, corpse goddesses, and dark angels of death who soared over battle fields like birds of prey and were represented in carvings as carrion-eating ravens. The original Valkyries were purely immortal beings who possessed the power of malicious magick, which they used to cause the death of the warriors they did not favor; while others guarded the lives and ships of those dear to them. They would intimately weave the fates of mortal men with the loom, weaving victory and defeat with the intestines of slain warriors for their thread, severed heads for weights, and swords and arrows for beaters, all the while chanting their intentions with ominous delight. They possessed the art of the war-fetter, which allowed them to bind a warrior with terror, or release a favored warrior from those same bonds. In this capacity, the Valkyrie were worshiped as demigoddesses and offered sacrifices. There were also references made to mortal Valkyries, who were beautiful, young maidens, possessing supernatural powers and armed with helmet, spear, and shield, while riding winged horses onto the battle fields. Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty, was often depicted as their chieftain. Although the Valkyries were most often portrayed as battle maidens, they were not warriors.

Between the third and eleventh centuries, the perception of the Valkyries changed and they became associated with Odin, The All Father of the Norse pantheon, whom they served as bodyguards and messengers. They would dispense out warriors’ fate in his name, but their primary role was to select the most heroic of slain warriors to become the deathless Einherjar, the soldiers who would fight at Odin’s side during Ragnarok, the final battle between the gods and the giants. The Valkyrie escorted the new Einherjar across Bifröst, the rainbow bridge that linked Midgard to Asgard, and on into the great hall of Valhalla and Fólkvangr, the home of Freyja, where the Valkyrie served the Einherjar fine foods, such as wild boar, and sacred wine made from honey. They would remain the Einherjar’s servants until Ragnarok.

Mortals in Midgard witnessed the Valkyrie’s flickering armor and streaming light from their spears whenever Odin sent them out. In the Middle Ages, Scandinavians believed the northern lights were the Valkyries flying across the night sky.

“Good afternoon, Angie,” the man smiled, nonchalantly peeking around me into the foyer clearing searching for someone other than the person who answered the door. What the hell was this guy doing here? There was clearly no logical way that he thought my Dad was home, I mean, since he worked at the same place with the man, so what was he doing here, at our house? I scrutinized his casual appearance: denim jeans, blue V-neck sweater, white collar shirt, and tweed jacket. He was not wearing a business suit, which had to mean that he was not coming from the office. Okay, so I will give him the benefit of doubt, maybe he didn’t know whether Dad was home, but the intense focus he had on the interior of the foyer was a bit unsettling.

“Hello, Mr. Morrell. If you’re looking for my Dad, he’s not home,” I volunteered, addressing his blatant voyeurism. He’s at work where you should be, I added in my head.

“I’m not here to see your father,” he clarified, removing his sun glasses and placing them into the interior front pocket of his jacket.

What? I was momentarily confused. I must have misheard him; he did tend to mumble slightly when he spoke. It sounded as if he said that he wasn’t here to see my Dad.

“I’m sorry; did you say that you’re not here to see my Father?” I asked, wanting to be certain that I accurately heard him. It was possible that my medication was screwing around with my hearing, sometimes I had strange side effects and diminished hearing wouldn’t be the worst I had experienced.

He nodded. “Yes, that’s what I said.”

I wished that Mr. Stokes hadn’t left because I was annoyed with Mr. Morrell and he had only been standing there for a matter of seconds; his clothes irritated me, his body language bothered me, and the way he was looking at me with lecherous arrogance aggravated me. “Then why are you here?”

Smiling, he slipped his hands into his trouser pockets as realization hit me like a hammer. Seriously? Fuck me! No, this was not happening.

“Is your mother home?”

“No. No, she’s not.”

“But that’s her car, isn’t it?” he asked, cocking his head to the side and gesturing to the blue Cadillac coupe parked in our driveway. “Please tell her that I am here to see her.”

This was not acceptable. While I was fully aware that Mother and I didn’t have a happy or even functional mother-daughter relationship, she was still the only mother I had even when she was being an idiot and I wouldn’t allow Mr. Morrell’s actions or hers to fuck up our family. I may complain about the distance between us or the lack of connection, but I’ve come to rely on my family just as it was. No one was going to change it; not Mother and certainly not this shady character standing before me smirking at me, visually fondling my breasts.

“Come in,” I said, stepping out of the way, as I pulled open the front door wide enough for Mother’s visitor to step into the foyer. I felt him staring at my butt as I lead him to the living room. I pointed to the sofa that was situated across from the pair of Queen Anne chairs. “Have a seat. I’ll let her know that you’re here.”

“Great. Thank you, honey,” Mr. Morrell said, touching my lower back as he passed by me and into the living room. Confidently and without hesitation, he walked over to the corner bar and helped himself to a glass of my Dad’s eighteen year old Scotch Whiskey.

“I’m not your honey,” I stated flatly from the threshold of the living room.

Chuckling, he turned to me, holding the crystal glass filled with alcohol, and took a long slug. “Lighten up, Angie. I think you might need to find something to help you relax a little. You’re always so serious.”

“Oh really? What might help me relax, Mr. Morrell?” What was he going to advise? I’m sure it wasn’t going to be something as innocent as meditation. Was he going to offer me some of my Dad’s expensive whiskey? Or suggest I take a hot bath, preferably with him? I was curious as to how far he was willing to go with this situation. Unfortunately I could tell by the bulge in his trousers that he was raring to venture rather far with someone. “I’m sure a man like you has some ideas he is willing to share with someone as stern as me.”

He drained the rest of the glass and poured himself another. What a freeloader!

“Yeah, I have a few ideas I could share with you,” he walked over to the sofa and sat down, inviting me to sit next to him with a pat of the cushion. “Let me share them with you.”

I refrained from joining him on the sofa, but took a few steps into the room so that I could see more than the back of his head. “Do you like music, Mr. Morrell?” I asked. My fingertips traced the edge of the MP3 player that I had concealed in the pocket of my cardigan sweater. The hard plastic triggered my heart to beat just a bit faster than usual. The wires of the ear buds twisted around my hands like baby garden snakes.

“Call me Peter,” he urged as he waved his hand in the air in front of him, the whiskey beginning to affect his gross motor skills. “Mr. Morrell is too formal.”

“Okay. Peter,” embracing the intimacy he suggested. “Do you like music?”

Smirking, he held the glass of whiskey just inches from his mouth, the same lust dancing across his face that I had witnessed on Ryan Fuller a few weeks prior. “I do.”

“So, do I.” I really did love music probably more than the average person. I mean, how many others had the connection and felt the power to create and destroy as I did when listening to a composition? Music brought me great joy and was my constant companion regardless of my many unusual behaviors that seemed to be an issue for people. Music never deceived me or broke a promise. “Do you think it might help me relax?”

He took a gulp of the amber alcohol and wiped his mouth with the back of the hand holding the glass. “Yes, I do.”

“I could play something for you,” I offered. “Or maybe I should go get Mother.”

“I think that you,” he pointed to me then to himself, “and I should listen to something together before you get her.”

Of course he did, this man was beyond redemption. I walked over to the sofa as I removed the MP3 player from my pocket along with the two sets of earbuds. I crawled onto Mr. Morrell’s lap straddling him so that we were positioned face to face. I was aware that he probably perceived my actions as an attempt to seduce him, however in reality it was simply a strategic move for me to ensure that the ear pods were fitted in his ears correctly. I took the glass from his hand and placed it on a coaster on the coffee table and placed the second set of earbuds in my own ears as he rested his hands on my hips. I could feel how much he was excited by this turn of events, but I knew he really wasn’t prepared for what was about to transpire.

“Let me play this for you …” I said as I chose a piece titled The Shadow’s Bride.

The piano set the rhythm that began us on the unforgettable experience we were about to share. I leaned my body against his torso as the cello began to play, their notes vibrating in our ears. He firmly gripped my hips, subtly rubbing me against him as his gaze became distant. I pushed his head against the back of the sofa and gently placed my left hand over his eyes encouraging him to close them. He did so without struggle, the whiskey had removed any resistance, becoming my liquid accomplice. He inhaled deeply, settling into a steady breath. I carefully stood, removing myself from his lap and creating a spatial distance between our energetic vibrational bodies. His hands gently fell from my hips to the cushion and rested palms up. He was intoxicated not only from the whiskey he had consumed, but from the melodic soundwaves that caressed his body, which had now become still as if he were asleep.

I inhaled deeply, closing my own eyes and eased into the notes of the piano. I found resonance with the sounds as the familiar whisper became clearer to me. The soft haunting notes of the cello caressed my psyche along with murmurs of encouragement from Syn, the goddess of my ancestors. Her voice mingled with the piano and cello, washing over me, instructing me, guiding me, allowing me to harness the power held within my veins. I slowly opened my eyes as Mr. Morrell’s physical body slowly levitated above the sofa. Like a lover, the music seduced him, creating a resonance within him, coaxing his essence to move in unison with it. I smiled and raised my arms preparing to begin the required gestures. I effortlessly guided him through a complicated dance, a series of movements with turns and dips. The volume steadily decreased causing his energetic frequency to visibly become weaker, less physical and more ethereal; fading it seemed, into nothingness.

I closed my eyes as the calmness enveloped me, cradling me in the depths of profound satisfaction. I removed the ear pods from my ears and retrieved the abandoned set from the sofa cushion. No one will change my family. No one will fuck up what I have, even if it is dysfunctional. I won’t allow it.

Chapter XX

Clairaudience is a field of parapsychology meaning clear hearing. It is a form of extra-sensory perception wherein an individual acquires information in thought form by auditory means from another realm. It is considered a form of channeling and is one of the four major ways to receive intuitive information, the other three being: clairvoyance, clairsentience, and claircognizance. The manifestation of clairaudience begins with a change in ear pressure accompanied by ringing, popping or buzzing noises. This psychic ability can appear in an individual at any time during their life; some individuals are aware and attuned with the ability at birth, others take years to discover they possess it and may have been using it without realization, while some may not comprehend they were clairaudient until moments before their death.

Some psychics may be required to attain a controlled altered state of consciousness, such as achieved through meditation, in order to access their clairaudient abilities while others will experience it while in a mundane conscious state. When under duress or experiencing an emergency situation, the ability may be inadvertently accessed as this is a time when all other physical senses are heightened and prepared for impending danger. Human beings are always connected to the other realms however their focus is usually keenly aligned on the physical with a disinterest in the non-physical. It is within these other realms of existence that the beings speaking to the clairaudient originate from: the dead, ancestors, spirit guides, angels, demons, deities, avatars, disincarnate entities, astral noise (static), or aliens.

The information and messages that the psychic receives are not only words, but are phrases, music, and evocative sounds originating outside the normal scope of awareness. Sometimes the voices and sounds are clear, other times they are muffled, but clear distinctions can be made by determining the frequency signature, as each being has its own note or vibration. Just as with telepathy, the messages are most commonly heard internally, inside the psychic’s own head and in the psychic’s own voice thus making it problematic to discern if it is the psychic’s own thoughts or a foreign entity’s message. This is not to say that the messages may not be given externally or in another unique sounding voice because that is also a possibility.

Clairaudience and mental illness, though both may superficially appear similar, are in fact different. While they both consist of hearing voices either internally or externally there are no other shared characteristics. Clairaudient psychics learn to control the voices they hear and the voices tend to be sporadic, concise, and direct. The tone is usually kind, rational, and compassionate while providing answers, insight, and rational advice about a current situation that the individual is engaged in. The messages will encourage spiritual growth without harmful behavior. While the voices heard by those suffering from mental illness tend to be uncontrollable, constant, verbose, and meandering. The tone is usually irate, irrational, and callous, providing nothing, but confusion, paranoia, despair, and illogical thinking about the individual, their life circumstances and their fears. The messages will often encourage harmful behaviors and facilitate spiritual stagnation.

Mr. Stokes had been my tutor for close to a year and in my opinion he had been the one most qualified to instruct me. Believe me when I tell you that it is no small accomplishment for him to still be in the position as my private tutor; there have been a slew of others who have failed in their attempts to do what Mr. Stokes is currently flourishing at. There was one tutor, a woman named Miss Penniman, who came highly recommended by Mother’s acquaintance, a professor at Johnson and Wales University, who quit after only spending two hours with me. Yes, I admit Miss Penniman was a rare occurrence, the average amount of time holding the position as my teacher, prior to Mr. Stokes, had been a week. And you are absolutely correct in thinking that it is a challenge for my parents to find someone who has the ability to not only academically instruct me, but who can also skillfully and efficiently deal with what may be perceived as abnormal and often morbid behaviors. Mr. Stokes apparently has the mandatory talent, which is wonderful because I actually like the man. He is well educated with a wide spectrum of knowledge ranging from mathematics to philosophy; in addition I find him most amusing with his idiosyncrasies and social awkwardness, so I do my best to restrain my own freakish behaviors. I believe that I intellectually challenge him and he seems impressed with the quality of questions I ask concerning his lectures. We have come to a mutual place of respect and no matter how bizarre my behavior has been, he has never been rattled and has always responded calmly and unemotionally, which I find most intriguing.

When I was in the eighth grade my parents were forced to remove me from public school, at the compelling recommendation of the school superintendent after a rather violent episode that transpired upon our return to class following Christmas vacation. At that time Mother, with a business degree from Cornell University, had recently been promoted at her job with Taylor Foods, a local food distributor. She was actively climbing the corporate ladder, finally having the freedom to focus on establishing a successful career for herself without the constant worry of being an attentive mother. Daniel and I were independent and mature enough to tend to the basic of our needs, but unfortunately once the school recommended that I be removed, she was obligated to quit her job and stay home with me, while the family’s financial responsibility was carried solely on Father’s shoulders. My Dad never faltered in his obligation and we proceeded to live the life we were accustomed without noticing the shift in the family income. Our family wasn’t considered wealthy, however we weren’t destitute either. Father graduated two years prior to Mother from Columbia University with a degree in finance and it took him less than a month after graduation to find an entry level analyst position with a local Fortune 500 company and less than a year to be promoted to senior analyst. However it required him to spend a significant amount of personal time and energy on work; this practice established a routine for Father, enabling him to become more focused on his career and less focused on his family, which over the years never changed, though Mother’s life was drastically altered once my behaviors became less than appealing to the teachers and principal of my middle school.

My parents are surrounded by many people, but I’m not certain as to how many of them, if any, are truly people they trust or would consider their friends. I know Mother’s social circle has grown over the last few months. She has been elected by the members of her women’s group to be their unofficial leader and with that has gained some powerful influence over our community; while my Father’s social interactions have vanished. With the exception of regular visits from Aunt Rachel, he doesn’t seem to have anyone resembling a friend. Peter Morrell, a colleague of Dad’s, and what I assumed was his friend for close to a year, abruptly stopped coming by the house. Whether or not Dad continually met him elsewhere I can’t be sure, but it was clear to me that the dynamic between them had changed. I attributed the shift to an argument I overheard on New Year’s Day between my parents. Dad accused Mother of engaging in some inappropriate behavior with Mr. Morrell at the party he and his wife had hosted the night before in their home. Mother adamantly denied the allegation, calling it outrageous, pointing out that Dad had been intoxicated and must have misinterpreted what he saw, but Dad didn’t agree. Perhaps it was the lack of time that my parents spent together that had destroyed any sense of intimacy that they once shared or maybe they had just fallen out of love with each other, but for whatever the reason, it was clear to any observer that their marriage was faltering. I often wondered how much of it could be ascribed to me.

Mother had found sanctuary amidst the chaos of life, within her favorite flower, the dahlia, of which she had numerous different species blooming in the backyard. Her gardens were not only a hobby, they were her obsession. She would often spend hours pruning, watering, and nurturing the plants, ensuring that her gardens were the most spectacular in the neighborhood. Come spring she would spend more hours with her flowers than she would with people, even her weekly social club meetings would be held outside under the garden gazebo so that she could admire them while socializing with the women. Over the years numerous photographers visited our home to capture the beauty of Mother’s dahlias, their images prominently featured in Country Gardens. She took pride in that fact and kept numerous copies of the magazines conspicuously placed on the various coffee tables in different rooms of the house. At times when Mother angered me with her foolish rules or threatened punishment for what she perceived to be my inappropriate behavior, I would fantasize about pouring gallons of white vinegar throughout her precious flower gardens and it brought me just a touch of satisfaction when I envisioned just how devastating that experience would be for her.

As I listened to Mr. Stokes’ lecture on contemporary realism, my focus shifted from the scar on his forehead near his hairline, to the image of Mother tending her dahlias. I watched her through the library windows as Mr. Stokes’ voice droned, lulling me, seducing me, to the border of a trance. The chime of the doorbell echoed through the house, startling me back to the present moment and stopping Mr. Stokes’ midsentence.

“I suppose we can stop here for today,” my tutor explained, as he began packing his textbook and iPad into his leather messenger bag. “You have your assignment, which I expect to be completed by Friday. If you have questions, email me.”

“I will,” I said, closing the spiral notebook I had been taking random notes in. I was pleased that the lessons for the day were over; I didn’t think I could have endured listening to any more about Neil Welliver and his paintings. I casually walked around the table to escort my teacher to the front door as was our usual routine. Serenity was our typical companion as we walked through the foyer, but today something had the old man jittery, as if he had something awkward or important to share, but he was uncomfortable broaching the subject with me.

“Angie.” Mr. Stokes stopped as he said my name and turned to face me, looking me directly in the eye, which wasn’t difficult since we were almost the same height. “I know what you think of me, at least what your impression of me is, so I hope you take a moment to consider what I am about to share with you.”

The doorbell chimed once more. With his statement, Mr. Stokes enticed my interest even more than he usually did with his unemotional responses to my own sometimes peculiar conduct. I couldn’t imagine what he was going to say, but the quivering within me indicated that it was going to be something poignant. Perhaps he would say something insightful that would provide me with ideas to contemplate during the rest of the week. I had been suffering boredom as of late and would thoroughly enjoy a hefty intellectual distraction, preferably something dealing with the occult. I watched my tutor’s face contort into a flurry of expressions as he seemed to consider the best way to vocalize his thoughts.

“Your father’s family has a historical reputation that …” The doorbell flooded the foyer with its musical sound cutting Mr. Stokes midsentence. Annoyed and exasperated, I walked to the front door, grabbed its handle and opened it wide enough to receive the visitor standing on the other side of it. I was surprised to be greeted by the appearance of my father’s work colleague, Mr. Peter Morrell.

Mr. Stokes cleared his throat as he approached us from behind. “I will see you, Friday, Angie.” He politely nodded at Mr. Morrell who was waiting patiently to be allowed entry into our home.

Chapter XIX

Nordic Runes are written letters that were used by the Norse people before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. The symbols used are eternal and powerful forces of the cosmos. The letters or runes allow an individual to access, interact with, and influence the great forces that they symbolize therefore when the Norse god, Odin sought the runes he wasn’t merely attempting to acquire a set of symbols, but was uncovering an extraordinary potent system of magick.

At the center of the cosmos stands the great tree Yggdrasil. It grows out of the Well of Urd, a pool whose fathomless depths hold the most powerful forces and beings in the cosmos including the Norns, three maidens who exert more influence over the course of destiny than any other being in the cosmos. One of the ways they do this is by carving runes into Yggdrasil’s trunk. These symbols carry the intentions of the symbols that were written throughout the tree, thus affecting everything in the Nine Worlds.

Odin envying the power of the Norns became determined to gain the power for himself. Since the runes only revealed themselves to those who proved themselves worthy of such fearful insights, Odin hung himself from a branch of Yggdrasil, pierced himself with his own spear, and peered into the Well of Urd calling to the runes. He hung from the tree for nine days and nights without the aid of any other gods, and without even a sip of water. At the end of the ninth night, he perceived shapes in the depths of the Well of Urd. The runes had accepted his sacrifice and revealed not only their forms but also the secrets that were held within them. Odin is the one who imparted the runes to the first human beings.

I recognized the ancient symbols immediately when I spotted them carved in the inside lid of the wooden box that sat on the third shelf in the tall glass case near the entrance of the shop. Elizabeth, the shop owner and I stood before the display peering inside at the variety of unique items.

On the top shelf sat two statues; one was of a bronze figure sitting on a cube with odd engraved glyphs covering it and the other was an angel like figure standing with wings spread opened. The first statue appeared to be a human form, a man covered in scales with long, narrow wings on his back and claws where his hands and feet should have been, but the strangest characteristic of the statue was that the bald head reminded me of an octopus. The second sculpture, the angel like form was made of a bright yellow resin and wore a hooded robe that covered its face and feet. It was rather a beautiful unsettling piece of art.

The second shelf held numerous daggers and knives of various blade lengths all with ornamental hilts, some had gems fixed to the handles while others had strange symbols carved into the blade itself. Some of the knives had matching sheathes while others without a sheath were displayed on a black velvet mat. A small handwritten sign indicated that these were all ‘Ritual blades’; whatever that meant.

Elizabeth pointed to a sphere sitting in the wooden box I had first spied when we approached the case. It sat on the shelf below the blades with the lid opened so the familiar symbols were clearly visible. The sphere seemed to be made of opaque glass though it looked iridescent with slightly shifting colors, but I wasn’t sure if it was my own perception or an illusion created by the lighting inside the display case.

“What is it?” I asked, mesmerized by the unusual object.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve tried to do research on it but I came up with nothing. I even brought it to the local college’s anthropology department to see if they could identify it but they were at a loss too.”

“Weird,” I commented without taking my eyes off the object. “Do you know what it’s made of?”

“No. Maybe quartz crystal but I can’t be positive. It has some strange characteristics, nothing I’ve ever seen in any other crystal or stone. And granted I don’t claim to be an expert on rocks but I do know enough to know that this sphere,” she explained pointing to the object in the case. “Is unique.”

“Like how? What sort of strange characteristics?” I didn’t know the first thing about crystals or stones but this thing was becoming more interesting to me the more she talked about it. What the hell was it?

“Well,” she paused, crossing her arms and gazing into the case with me. “I’ve had a few people try and purchase it from me and …”

“What?” I cut her off. The way she said the word ‘try’ was odd. I turned to look at her with a raised eyebrow. “What do you mean ‘try and buy it’?” This lady had to be joking; either that or she was doing her best to hype up the sphere so I would spend my own money on it. She probably tagged it at an exorbitant price and it was undoubtedly just made of common glass. Though I had to admit to myself that she did seem genuine but wasn’t that the key to a successful con? Maybe she wasn’t as genuine as I first thought. Maybe she was a simple charlatan. I mean look at this place. I’m sure there was a bottle of Snake Oil somewhere on one of these shelves.

“Yeah, try and buy it. But,” she shrugged, “They ended up returning it to me the very next morning. They couldn’t wait to give it back. Each time the customer was already waiting outside my shop in their car for me to open so they could return it.” She held up fingers of her right hand. “Three different people at three different times and each of them had the same complaint.” She paused. “They said that it was too loud.”

“Too loud?” I laughed. “Too loud?”

“I know,” she nodded. “It makes no sense to me either. They said that it would hum and buzz all night keeping them awake and giving them a headache,” she explained. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard it make a sound and I’ve had it in the shop now for over two years.”

I turned back to the display case and pointed to the lid of the box. “Are those Runes on the inside of the lid?” I honestly didn’t know much about the symbols but I knew what they looked like. I had seen them in a few places: books, movies, documentaries, and other television series but I didn’t know what those particular ones were, what they meant, or what their purpose was.

“You have a good eye,” Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, they are. Othilia, Dagaz, Laguz, and Ansuz.”

“What do they mean? Why would someone carve them into the lid of that box?” I wondered aloud.

“Well, the first Rune, Othilia represents an heritance, and Dagaz means transformation, Laguz in that reversed position warns about overreaching or exceeding your own abilities and the last one, Ansuz in that position refers to Loki, the trickster from the Nose pantheon of gods.” She paused in thought. “I guess someone could have been leaving a message about the sphere. Reminding someone that it was their inheritance and when they received it, they would also undergo some sort of transformation. There seems to be a warning about not using it beyond their limits or Loki would manifest in their life.”

I wanted that sphere. I felt as if it was calling to me, that it was mine. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things that I was finding here in the shop, things that seemed to be meant for me to find and purchase. Was it possible that I was lead here, perhaps by my ancestors, by Syn, to discover more about myself and about my birthright and my role as Syn’s human agent in Midgard?

“But that’s my interpretation. Someone else might get a different meaning from the Runes. Would you like me to take it out of the case so you can see it up close?” Elizabeth asked me.

I nodded. “Yes, I would.”

Chapter XVIII

Synchronicity describes a governing dynamic which underlies the whole of human experience. Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity to describe what he called the “acausal connecting principle”. He explained that the underlying connectedness between mind and matter manifested itself through meaningful coincidences that could not be explained by cause and effect. These synchronicities occurred when a strong need arose in the psyche of an individual. They may manifest as the people, places, or events that the individual attracts into his or her life experience to aid in their spiritual awakening or enlightenment, or to place an emphasis on something that was happening in their life. Not all synchronicities were people, places, or events but may be flashes of insight to a particular situation or circumstance that the individual was encountering; similar to intuition it may be a feeling or sudden information perceived by the psyche and experienced as a truth. Synchronicity seemed to appear at times of personal crises and at such points in life as birth and death.

Little did I realize how much my life was about to be affected by synchronicity. Looking back on it now, perhaps if I had been able to piece together all the fragmented parts of my life experience up to that moment and plotted them on a linear timeline, like I had seen in my history textbook, I might have been aware of what was going to transpire and been more prepared for it, however since I was ignorant of what synchronicity was and how it impacted humanity, I was blindsided by the events that I experienced that weekend in September.

The weekend following Labor Day, my parents always closed up the family cottage on Cape Cod for the season. Usually it was a short journey, sometimes done in one day, but this past September my parents decided to extend the trip and stop to visit Mother’s sister, Aunt Brenda and her husband, Uncle Stephen, who lived in the town of Bridgeboro, which was about half way between The Cape and our home in Rhode Island. When they bought their house seven years ago they had major restorations done so that it closely resembled the original design and decor. A historical house marker given to them by the Bridgeboro Historical Society hung near the front entrance, which indicated that the house was built in 1883 by Enoch Pratt. My Aunt Brenda took pride in the fact that they were granted the plaque and happily shared the history of the house with each new visitor they had. I think I had heard the historical lecture at least twice already. Their house was located on a quiet road just off of East Main Street where a few number of the other houses built in the same area also bore a similar historical house marker.

While my parents visited with my Aunt and Uncle I took the opportunity to get away after being stuck in the car with them for hours. I wanted some time to myself, to be alone with my own thoughts so I decided to go for a walk. I strolled down to East Main Street and turned left heading towards the nearest intersection with a set of traffic lights. I scanned the numerous store fronts on either side of the busy street for anything that seemed interesting, though I never imagined that I would find anything worth my time here in Bridgeboro. There were all the usual businesses you’d expect to see. I considered crossing the street and heading over to the convenience store to purchase a soda when a small shop ahead caught my attention; it was nestled between Bay Coast Auto Insurance and Yang’s Martial Arts. The emerald and gold drapes that hung in the window concealed the contents inside of the shop, however the items featured on the display shelves of various heights intrigued me. I peered intently through the glass at the herbal books, decks of Tarot cards, large pink and white crystal towers, Egyptian statues, silver amulets, and other ornamental things that I didn’t recognize. Small white Christmas lights framed the large window on which the word Luminosity was written in gold script lettering, clearly the name of the shop. So, yes, I would concede that surprisingly my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to know more.

I grasped the handle and opened the door. The swinging motion jingled a string of small bells that announced my arrival to whomever cared to know. A middle aged woman with long, curly, black hair smiled and nodded at me then continued her hushed conversation with an older woman holding a red human shaped candle. Both the scent of incense and the sound of steady flowing water from the stone fountain on the counter near the register immediately eased the tension from the stressful car ride. The walls and ceiling were decorated with richly colored tapestries and drapes, giving the shop a Middle Eastern ambiance. I had to admit I liked this place and wished that we had a shop like this near home. As I glanced around from my position by the door, a tan Siamese cat sauntered out from behind the counter. It approached me and rubbed its lithe body against my leg. I chuckled silently and leaned over to scratch the friendly feline behind the ears, it purred its approval. I noticed several tall bookcases standing in the back of the store and smiled: books. I walked over to them intending to spend hours examining the collection. Each shelf held at least twenty-five books, some of which were duplicates of each other, those being the seemingly most current popular books, but others were older with less recognizable titles, while still others shelved in the furthest bookcase from where I stood looked to be leather bound, hard cover versions of what I only imagined were very old editions of obscure or rare books. I was saving those for last. I glanced over a few of the titles on the shelf I stood in front of: Complete Guide to Astrology, Discovering Your Psychic Self, All One Magick, In Light and Dark, before pulling out the next book on the shelf and skimming the back cover.

The jingle of the door bells tickled my ear as the female customer that had been holding the red candle exited the shop with her purchase secured in a paper bag. The long haired woman that had nodded at me just moments before came from around the counter where the register was and approached me with a genuine smile across her face, the friendly Siamese cat trailing behind her.

“Merry meet! Good afternoon,” she greeted as she pointed to the book I was holding. “Now, that’s a wonderful book. It really approaches magick and witchcraft from a practical perspective and shows how both can be incorporated into a mundane or daily life.”

I flipped the book over and looked at the image of a wizard’s wand and witch’s stereotypical pointed hat on the front cover: A Practical Guide for Magicians and Witches.

“It takes the,” she gestured with her hands, holding them at shoulder height and shaking them, “Whoo-whoo out of magick.”

I couldn’t help but laugh aloud at her choice of words. “Whoo-whoo? Really?”

Her smile widened as she laughed, nodding her head, “Yes, whoo-whoo.”

“Have you read it?” I wondered if she was just a great salesperson or if what she was saying was her honest opinion of the book I was still holding. She seemed like an honest woman and something about her was attractive to me, or maybe it was more like a familiarity. I couldn’t determine whether she reminded me of someone or if I already know her. Maybe she might be friends with my Aunt Brenda and Uncle Stephen and I had met her at one of their summer cookouts.

“Yes, I have. I don’t sell books that I haven’t read. I think it’s important to be able to give my customers honest opinions about them if they ask. And well, honestly, I really enjoy reading so I’ve read a lot of books,” she offered.

I nodded and placed the book back on the shelf. It wasn’t a book I would actually buy for myself or anyone else. Magick and witchcraft? I don’t know. While I did believe in extraordinary things, and yes, I am, according to my Father, a descendant of the Williams of Salem, I don’t know what I believe about magick or witchcraft. They seem so … ha, “whoo whoo”.

I was impressed with the fact that this woman had read all the books in her shop because there was quite a few. I strolled over to the farthest bookcase, the case that held the older looking books, the ones I imagined were the best ones there. These were the books that I really wanted to spend some time with but I was slightly anxious that the owner wasn’t going to allow me the curtesy of just looking through them all without purchasing. I hadn’t planned on spending money even though if I really wanted to, I could. I stood in front of the shelves, skimming my fingers across the leather spines of the books at my eye level. There was something mystical about old books, something even I had trouble articulating. They provided me with a wonderful sensual experience that nothing else could offer.

“These are the most interesting books in the shop,” the woman said. She had followed me over to the shelves and now stood watching me appreciate the books.

I enjoyed the feel of the leather beneath my fingertips and stopped at each book reading the titles aloud, savoring the sound of the words as I spoke them, “Esoteric Magick, Occult Remedies, The Witches’ Sabbat, Secrets of Ancient Rituals Revealed, Sacred Magick ….”

I gasped as my fingers paused and rested on the spine of the book with the recognizable title. I glanced at the shop owner as I pulled the large heavy book from its place on the shelf. This was clearly an older version then the one from the library that currently sat at home on my desk. I gently caressed the cover feeling the embossed design of circles and spirals. I couldn’t believe this book was for sale and I wouldn’t even try to fathom how much she was asking for it. If there was a possibility that I could purchase it, then it was coming home with me. I guess I might be making a purchase after all.

“Now that book is one of my own favorites,” the woman nodded in approval of my choice. “It’s out of print. It has been for years. It’s a shame really. I think it’s one of the most comprehensive books on the occult. And believe it or not, it was written by a woman.”

I listened to her words as I opened the book carefully turning the first few pages searching for a copyright date but unlike the copy from the library which was dated 1951, this book had none. I turned another of the thin pages and came to the title page still unable to locate any sort of indication as to the age of the book. My eyes were drawn to the scribble of black ink across the title page. At first glance it looked like a child had gotten a hold of the book and attempted to write in it but after examining the inked lines for a moment longer I realized that someone had purposefully written in the book though their penmanship was not easily read. I squinted trying to decipher the handwriting. Frustrated I held it opened to the shop owner who had been observing me in silence.

“Do you know what this says?” I held a hope that she did. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would defile their books in such a way. Was it some old bizarre custom that I was unaware of? I handed her the opened book.

“Not exactly,” she took it from me and studied it. She angled herself next to me so I could also see the writing from where I stood. “The best I’ve ever been able to come up with is, something like,” she pointed at the words as she read them aloud. “’With loving devotion, on this a special day, your mother, Savannah Rae Williams’.” She shrugged and returned the open book to me. “Maybe, or something close to that. The writing is really slanted and the ink is faded but I think it’s close to what it says. What do you think?”

I looked at the script. Williams? Savannah Rae Williams? What? Was this lady fucking with me? Did she know who I was and decided to play a game with me? I peered at the handwriting closely trying to distinguish if that really was what was written but I couldn’t tell for certain.

“Where did you get this book?” I glared at her accusingly. If this book belonged to the daughter of a Williams what were the chances that it was my Williams family? How many different Williams families were there, and if we traced our ancestry back far enough were we all related? My mind raced through the possibilities of finding out if there was a Savannah Rae in our family tree. I wondered if my Father knew or maybe Aunt Rachel had some idea or kept records of our genealogy.

The owner didn’t even acknowledge the harshness of my question and responded with the same pleasant tone she had been using with me the moment she spoke. “It was in a box donated to me by a friend of mine who had an estate sale after a distant relative died. There were so many old books from the house, though a lot of them were donated to the town library. But since my friend knew I had a keen interest in all things occult he gave me that book and a few more along with some other interesting things,” she happily explained. “But that’s the only book with an inscription. I already checked.”

“Which other books?” I was curious.

The owner began pulling out a few books from the shelves. I looked at each title as she handed them to me: The Ancient Tome of Myrddin, Grimoire of the Necromancer, The Gospel of Syn, and Mysteries of Avalon. Well, look at that! Another interesting book brought to my attention today. I had never heard of The Gospel of Syn but I knew that I wanted to read it and perhaps even own a copy. How could I not? It was a reference to Syn! It was meant to be mine. I looked at the spine curious about the author and noticed that it was written by a man named Levi Williams. Another coincidence or was it synchronicity? Obviously I was meant to own it. Now what else did that friend of hers donate from the estate sale that I was meant to take home?

“Can you show me the other things that you received from your friend?” I asked eager to see what she had in the shop.