Light is vital to sustain life. It has the ability to create and destroy; to nurture life and bring forth death if it is withheld. Light is power; a power that my friend, Chloe held within her. A power that I was certain she could utilize to manipulate others without them ever truly understanding what exactly she had accomplished. Just as I am one with music, Chloe is one with light. I imagined that the light waves of color echoed through her veins as music did mine. This fascinated me. It intrigued me. Was Chloe’s power directly tied to her bloodline as mine was? I was a descendent of Abigail Williams and she had said she was blood relative of Anne Putnam. I needed to know more about the connection these women had all those years ago. I searched my memory for any other historical information I had on Anne Putnam, but couldn’t remember anything though the name was familiar to me. And I wondered if The Ancestors had played a part in bringing Chloe and I together or was this growing friendship just a step towards Syn’s impending retribution against me? Was an alliance between Chloe and I as much of a benefit as I imagined it to be or was it one step closer towards my punishment for defying the goddess of my family?
I flipped the pages of the book that I held in my lap until I found page two hundred twenty-eight. I handed the book to Chloe. “Read this, I think you’ll find it very interesting.”
“This is the assumption; what are the facts? On the one hand there are unspiritual, entrenched, too often depraved cowans; a host of sects, and warring factions; reveling in discord instead of unity; wealth and pleasure-seeking individuals possessed by bigotry, perceiving only that which the tyrannical exigencies of respectability demand. On the other hand, there are those spiritually embedded, gifted individuals; singular people, outcasts of, though living within society, who possess an ability beyond the parameters of recognized vision; super-vision; perceiving a range of a hundred million colours for which there are no names; perceiving spirits invisible to even the most accomplished occultist, adept or Seer. We have named them; Tetraprismats.”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“I don’t know …,” she frowned. “I mean … I don’t see ghosts.”
“Spirits not ghosts,” I corrected, sounding too much like Mr. Stokes for my own liking. I shook my head in an effort to clear his image from my mind and refocused my attention on Chloe. “Maybe you just don’t understand what it is you are seeing,” I paused as I considered how her powers might mature as mine did. “Or maybe you don’t see them yet, but you will.”
“I don’t know …” she mumbled, handing the book back to me as she sat next to be on my bed.
“Well, I do,” I accepted the heavy tome, closed it, and placed it on my lap, resting my forearms on its cover. Thoughts began forming in my mind; my imagination expanded and gave birth to grandiose ideas on just how much she and I could achieve if we were to work together and join our power. I understood that there were things that we would be able to accomplish that our peers could only ever fantasize about. “And I think it’s fucking amazing!”
She studied me in silence for a few moments, probing my eyes with her own. She didn’t completely trust me and I didn’t blame her. I had similar issues with people. My life had been one betrayal following another, but I was making myself vulnerable to her just as much as I was asking her to be vulnerable with me. I intuitively knew that she and I together could change things in our lives and the lives of other people; not just silly insignificant things, either … important things.
Chloe’s frown slowly transformed into a smile as she acquiesced with a nod, “It is fucking amazing!”
The gentle knock on my bedroom door ceased the melodic laughter of the sonata Chloe and I had begun to compose together. I assumed that it was Aunt Rachel as no one else was currently occupying the house. I placed the book on my desk on top of the pile of other library books I had recently borrowed.
I presumed that Aunt Rachel was inquiring about dinner plans as I noticed the numerous shadows skulking around the room and the disgruntled vocalization of my empty stomach. Time had passed quicker than I had realized. I glanced at the digital clock on my nightstand: six o’clock. Chloe’s Dad would be expecting her home soon.
The door slowly swung open and Aunt Rachel appeared behind it, but remained at the threshold. Her expression was difficult to read, but I could tell she was unsettled.
“Everything okay?” I questioned.
The disturbing image of her body suspended in the foyer flashed in my mind like a strobe. I jumped up from the bed, the book that had been sitting in my lap hit the floor with a loud thud. Chloe jolted up and stood next to me. I could feel the tension radiating from her body.
Aunt Rachel hesitated a moment before entering my room. She approached us and touched my arm, a weak smile fluttered over her lips. “There’s nothing for you to worry about, Angie. I just wanted to know if your friend,” she smiled at Chloe, “was staying for dinner.”
I turned to Chloe. “Yes?”
She nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
“Is pizza okay?” she asked. When we both agreed, she offered, “The usual peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes? Or are you doing something else this time?”
In that moment I realized that I had only surface knowledge about her; you know the basic information, but nothing substantial; not that her favorite pizza toppings was considered significant information, but it was more than who her parents were and if she had any siblings. The only things I knew that she enjoyed on a regular basis were: Benson and Hedges, moccachinos, and Red Bull.
“Could you put pepperoni on half of it?”
“We can just put it on the whole thing,” I suggested. “I don’t mind pepperoni.”
Aunt Rachel nodded.
“Great. I’ll order it and let you girls know when it arrives,” she said as she left the room, closing the door behind her.
We both sat back down on my bed. I allowed myself to fall backward and gazed at the ceiling; the smoothness of the surface taunted me with its stark perfection.
Chloe removed the cellphone from her jeans pocket. “I’ll let my Dad know I’m staying for dinner so he doesn’t worry. Ever since Josh disappeared he’s been overprotective. He’s convinced that I’m the next one to go missing.”
I chuckled. “Really?”
“Yeah,” she laughed with me as she quickly typed out a text on her phone. “I mean, I guess I don’t blame him,” she admitted. “I sort of disappeared before.”
“You did?” I sat up. Chloe was becoming much more interesting to me the more I learned about her. “Did you run away?”
“I didn’t run away,” she scoffed, appalled by the notion that I thought she would. “I’m sure everyone at school believed I did, and maybe my Dad thought so, too, but I didn’t.”
“Well …,” I prompted. “Stop teasing me with it, Chloe. Spill it! Tell me what happened. Obviously there is an interesting story here and I’m curious.”
She slid her cellphone back into her pocket and pulled out the familiar gold colored pack of cigarettes from her hoodie pocket. She glanced at me as she raised her eyebrows. I nodded, walked over to my bedroom window, and opened it. Chloe rested her right butt cheek on the sill as she lit one of the last cigarettes in the pack with a red plastic lighter.
“Wait,” I leaned against the opposite side of the window frame so that I had an unhindered view of her facial expressions, “does this have to do with your abilities?”
“No, at least not that I know of, but I suppose it could. I mean … it’s …fucked up,” she stressed the last two words looking directly at me. “I haven’t told anyone the whole story because no one would believe me.” After taking a drag, she offered me the cigarette. Her dark red lipstick stained the filter. “I wouldn’t believe it if someone told me.”
“And so …” I gestured for her to continue.
She sighed, resigning to my will. “Well … remember I told you about that night that Nick, Jack, and I stole the grimoire and cast that spell?”
I nodded. “Yeah, you were living in Salem with your Dad and it was on Halloween at midnight or something during a full moon.”
“Right. Well, those witches that we brought back … The Pickman Sisters, they cast a transmogrification spell.”
Not what I was expecting her to say. I admit I was skeptical at first.
“Like we read about in Sacred Magick?”
Was it possible? Or was Chloe just as fucked in the head as I was? Didn’t I just say to her that very afternoon that I believed that everything written in that book was real? Yes, I did. Was I now retracting that statement or did I really believe what I had said; that the concepts and ideas within the book were not only possible, but that they were practiced today by people who possessed abilities even if they were obscure or unheard of in modern society. I knew that there were occultists and witches who were able to do those fantastical things. I knew because I had abilities that seemingly defied logic and science.
“Yes,” she whispered, avoiding my eyes and picking at the cuticles on her left hand. I watched her place the cigarette between her painted lips and inhaling before she continued. “They cast a spell and … Nick …” She made a strange noise that sounded like she had choked on the smoke of her cigarette, but when the thin stripes of black marked her cheeks, I realized she was sobbing. “He changed into a rat right in front of me. And then they did something to me, Angie. I don’t know what. I don’t know … but I imagine they did it to me, too.”
I reached over for the tissue box from my dresser and handed it to her. Chloe crushed the end of her cigarette against the outside sill of the window and grabbed a tissue from the box. She wiped her cheeks, smearing the trails of mascara.
“I don’t remember anything from that night in the woods,” she held out her left hand palm up, then held out the opposite hand that was holding the used tissue, “until the morning I woke up at St. Mary’s Hospital. It’s like someone wiped my memory.”
“Wow.” I was stunned. “That is fucked up.”
She tossed the used tissue into the decorative wastebasket next to my desk and reclaimed her spot on my bed. “I know, right?”
My mind churned with numerous questions; some of which I deemed inappropriate at the present moment. Chloe was visually upset by the past events she shared with me; I didn’t want to upset her further by asking too many factual questions that might be perceived as uncompassionate.
“What happened to Nick? The Sisters?” I questioned, “And what about Jack?”
“Nick was still missing when Dad and I moved here. I hope they will find him, but I doubt they will. And I don’t know anything about the Sisters. I mean, when I was released from the hospital I couldn’t go around asking people about whether they saw The Pickman Sisters walking around town,” she snickered. “Can you imagine?”
I smiled and laughed softly as an image of three young women dressed in Puritan clothing emerged from the depths of my mind.
“But there was no news about a large number of children missing from Salem so I figured someone stopped them,” she continued. “And Jack, well, apparently his body was found in the woods where we cast the spell. By the time I woke up they had already buried him.”
The chime of the doorbell rang through the house, signaling that our pizza had arrived. We eagerly left my bedroom and walked through the hallway. The steady rhythm of Chloe’s combat boots hitting the hardwood floor echoed through the upstairs. The halogen lamps from inside the numerous curio cabinets that lined the wall cast strange shadows on the floor.
“How did you end up in the hospital?” I asked, as we passed the ornate French styled display cabinet.
“I don’t know. Apparently a nurse found me slumped in one of the chairs in the waiting area and …,” Chloe paused mid-sentence as she watched the gold trimmed glass door slowly creak open. “He recognized me from an AMBER Alert.”
“Oh,” I said. The cabinet’s interior light flickered out as I secured it shut. The familiar insidious fear rumbled within the center of my being. Something big and bad was brewing; I felt it. Apparently Chloe did as well; she grabbed my hand and without further conversation pulled me towards the staircase.
The light of the crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling illuminated the crimson carpeted stairs and spilled into the foyer below. I expected my aunt to greet us in the foyer with a pizza box, but found instead the pizza abandoned on the mahogany side table next to Mother’s Golden Pothos and Aunt Rachel speaking in hushed tones with someone at the front door.