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.