Chapter LV

In the spring of 1692, the lives of every resident in Salem Village, Massachusetts were dramatically changed as a small group of young girls and women claimed to be afflicted by evil spirits and openly pointed to their neighbors as the individuals responsible for their fits and unusual behaviors. According to the afflicted it was due to the illicit midnight romps with Satan that enabled these Witches to vex them.

Tituba, a slave from Barbados that lived with and served the Parris family; Sarah Good, a short-tempered beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly bed-ridden woman scorned for her romantic involvement with her indentured servant, were the first to be accused by young Elizabeth (Betty) Parris and her “cousin”, Abigail Williams. Initially these three women claimed to be innocent, though Sara Good readily accused Sarah Osborn, but following repeated examinations by the magistrates, Tituba provided them with a signed confession. She admitted to making a pact with Satan by writing her name in blood in his book where she claimed to have seen not only the names of Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, but the seven unreadable names of other Village residents.

With this confession the wave of hysteria mounted within the colony and other girls and young women (Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Elizabeth Hubbard, Mary Walcott, and Mary Warren) began experiencing similar fits and accused not only outcasts and misfits of the community, but began pointing to the upstanding members, the families of prominence and power, such as Rebecca Nurse. As the number of the accused rose, the local justice system became overwhelmed, forcing the newly appointed governor, William Phips, to order the establishment of a special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) to rule on the pending witchcraft cases.

As a result of the Court’s rulings nineteen individuals were convicted of witchcraft and hanged; the first being Bridget Bishop, who was hung on June 10 at Gallows Hill. Five more people including Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Good were hanged on July 19, five more on August 19 and eight on September 22. In total one hundred fifty women, men, and children, were accused over a span of several months. Seven of the accused died while awaiting trial in jail, including Sarah Osborne. Giles Corey was subjected to peine forte et dure (strong and hard punishment) and pressed beneath heavy stones while repeatedly being asked to enter a plea for his arraignment. He refused and died after two days of this torture.

On October 29, 1692 Governor Phips’ wife was accused of witchcraft; in response he dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer and replaced it with the Superior Court of Judicature, which was instructed not to admit spectral evidence, which had been the predominate evidence in the proceeding cases. Subsequently during the months of January and February fifty-six individuals were indicted, but only three of them were convicted and by May they, along with all others still being reprimanded in custody on witchcraft charges, were pardoned and released. Unfortunately by this time the damage inflicted to the families of the accused and condemned as well as the community at large had already been done.

 

Daniel and I listened as Elizabeth Bennet, the owner of the shop, Luminosity, shared with us her remarkable knowledge of the Salem Witch Trials. Mr. Stokes added clarifying details to her narrative when he deemed them necessary. Though I was familiar with the history, the events became more real and personal as Elizabeth spoke them aloud. This was a part of my story, my family history no matter how dreadful it was when viewed with the modern perspective of morality and basic human rights.

“Hold up,” interrupted my brother as he shook his head and waved his hand, “So are you telling us that Sarah Osborne, one of the first women accused, is your great-great-great-great … however many times, Grandma?”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes.”

“And she was accused by Betty Parris and,” Daniel looked to me, “Abigail Williams?”

He was now just making the connection that I had already made.

“Yes,” confirmed Mr. Stokes with a nod. “She was.”

“Man, now that’s fucked up,” sighed my brother, shaking his head as he lightly tapped the counter top with his fingers.

It was curious to me that I was intricately tied to multiple people in my life in ways I was unaware of until that moment. We were becoming fused in some manner that I hadn’t consciously intended. It seemed that it was as if someone or perhaps something was continuously drawing our bloodlines together, manipulating the circumstances and events of our lives so that we would meet and form relationships, but to what end and for what purpose?

Was it possible that I had the power to do such a thing or was this all Syn’s doing? The goddess seemed to be the obvious source of such a manipulation, though I wasn’t convinced it was her because Chloe didn’t even recognize her name when I mentioned it. Was it possible that her family bloodline was indebted to a goddess that was unknown to them in modern times?

I contemplated my uncomfortable interactions with The Ancestors and quickly concluded that their actions seemed to be in servitude to Syn and not in a position to demand anything from her so if this was the agenda of either spiritual entity, I would wage my bets on Syn … and yet, something just didn’t feel right with the seemingly obvious conclusion. So then what was it that possessed such power to manipulate the lives of so many human beings?

Maybe Elizabeth could provide some insight on the situation.

“I am friends with a girl named Chloe Putnam,” I offered.

The woman’s eyes widened. “Oh?”

“She told me that she’s the descendent of Anne Putman,” I explained as I traced the stitching of the leather bond diary that sat on top of the others on the counter in front of me.

“Gerald, have you verif –“

“I believe her,” I interrupted, recalling the eerie appearance of Chloe’s eyes vacant of pupil and iris when she gazed at me that afternoon in my bedroom. I had no doubt that the story she shared with me about the Pickman sisters and her claim of heritage to Anne Putnam, Jr. weren’t true.

“Do you?”

“I do,” I raised my gaze to meet hers with the knowledge that with this simple nonverbal exchange I would convince her to believe my words. There was a connection present between us that I was unable to fully grasp. I couldn’t determine where it originated and it made no logical sense that it should exist, but I felt it and with each moment that passed it grew more palpable.

“Then I fear for our future,” lamented Elizabeth with a frown.

“Give it a break,” sneered Dan.

My brother was afraid of what this all meant; the past events, this connection we had with not only Elizabeth, but Chloe, too. There was a tension that surrounded the two of us since he arrived home and the energy of it was becoming intolerable for him.

“I can’t listen to her bullshit anymore,” he scoffed as he turned and walked toward the shop entrance. “I’m going to wait for you in the car.”

“I think you know this isn’t bullshit,” Elizabeth called after him as he passed a tall display case holding a variety of unique items. “What about the missing memories?”

My brother stopped midstride without turning around. As Elizabeth shifted her attention to me, I felt like my dirtiest secrets had been revealed.

Missing memories?

Mr. Stokes; how dare he! It was presumptuous of my tutor to share that information with this … this woman. Even if it was obvious that she was well educated about the occult and might conceivably possess abilities herself, beyond reading portents, I was uncertain as to how much I wanted to reveal to her about my own experiences. I didn’t know if I could trust her, and here my tutor took it upon himself to make such a decision for me without my consent or my brother’s. Who the fuck did he think he was?

I should’ve realized that he would tell her things about me and maybe even about Aunt Rachel because it seemed from the brief interactions I witnessed between the two of them, they had some sort of “thing” going on, a relationship of some sort. I wondered what Aunt Rachel thought of it, if she even knew about it. How did that affect his obligation to our family, to me? Wasn’t he in servitude to us?

I was agitated with the thought that he was sharing our secrets with a woman that I barely knew even if there was some unseen bond between her and me. I would decide what she would know and when she should know it.

I glared at him.

He said nothing, but shook his head as he removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose with the fingers of his right hand.

 

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Chapter LIV

Mr. Stokes pulled his vehicle up to the curb directly in front of the familiar shop on East Main Street in Bridgeboro only a short distance from my aunt and uncle’s historical home. It was nestled between two other local businesses; Bay Coast Auto Insurance and Yang’s Martial Arts. As I read the sign above the door and painted gold script on the large glass window, I felt a rush of warmth spread within me. It was if the name of the shop; Luminosity was reflecting the suffused glow of my being. I recalled my previous autumn encounter with the owner, the time when Mother, Dad, and I stopped by to see my Aunt Brenda and Uncle Stephen on our way home from Cape Cod. It was the same visit I purchased the sphere that enabled me to free Aunt Rachel from the vortex that had appeared in the foyer of our home in Rhode Island.

Daniel and I exited the car and followed Mr. Stokes to the door. The emerald green curtains and small white Christmas lights remained the same since my last visit, but the items featured on the display shelves had been altered; the herbal books, Tarot decks, crystal towers, and Egyptian statues were replaced by a large ceramic bowl filled with peculiar looking stones each bearing a naturally formed hole, wooden boxes engraved with occult symbols not only on the lids but also surrounding the sides, amber colored bottles of various shapes and sizes filled with an undistinguishable liquid, and statues of gargoyles and other mythical creatures. Bundles of dried herbs and flowers hung by twine from above the window frame. I was excited to be here again, but restrained myself from pushing aside Mr. Stokes and my brother to be the first of our trio to enter the shop.

The swinging motion of the wooden door awoke the string of small bells that hung from the ceiling and announced our arrival to anyone inside the building. The aroma of spiced incense and sound of flowing water welcomed us. It appeared as if the shop was vacant though I detected the hushed murmur of voices and attempted to distinguish where they originated. It sounded as if there were at least two people engaged in conversation behind the shelf displaying a variety of mortar and pestles, but their volume kept me from understanding the words being said.

Daniel and I followed my tutor and approached the counter where the cash register was located as the familiar middle aged woman with long, curly, black hair appeared from behind the several tall wooden bookcases at the back of the shop, her friendly Siamese cat trailed behind her. As she approached I became aware of the heady scent of roses mixed with a sweet spicy scent of earth, which reminded me of Grandmother Williams’ garden.

“Gerald!” she smiled, embracing Mr. Stokes and placing a kiss on each cheek, “Merry meet and good morning.”

“Elizabeth,” he responded, mirroring her greeting.

“I see you’ve brought friends with you today,” she smiled as she turned her attention to my brother and me and as our eyes met the feeling of kinship washed over me as it did when I first saw her months prior. I found it strange yet somehow comforting. It felt as if we shared an intimate bond; that we were best-friends reconnecting after being apart for years. I wondered if she felt the same way.

“I’m going to assume that since I don’t see a package in your hand that you’re not here to return the sphere,” she winked … or had I imagined that wink?

“I’m not returning it,” I shook my head. “I love it. It’s… well … rather special and unique.”

“Indeed it is,” she nodded. “I think that perhaps it has found its rightful owner. Wouldn’t you?”

I wondered if she knew the power that the sphere held, if perhaps she might be able to access it and use it in the same way I had, or if perhaps she just understood that it held a power that was inaccessible to her. Clearly she held some knowledge that it was more than a mere curiosity.

“We’re here for –” began Mr. Stokes, but Elizabeth finished his sentence for him.

“The diaries,” she said as she walked over to the counter; the three of us following.

Daniel leaned his back against the counter and looked around the shop though I was unsure if he was disinterested or distracted. He seemed to be preoccupied with his own thoughts during the entire car ride and had ignored my numerous attempts at conversation. I hoped that his distraction was due to a girl, but my own insecurities caused me to worry that he was focused on something else, something that would cause him to withdraw from me again. I was pleased with the recent shift in our relationship and wanted to continue to nurture it so that we would become as close as we once were when we were children. I disliked discord in my life especially when it was between Dan and me and I didn’t want anything to threaten our relationship again.

“I have them here,” Elizabeth explained, retrieving the worn leather bound journals from beneath the counter. “I wasn’t sure you were coming today, but I knew you’d be here soon. The portents were undeniable.”

“Portents?” asked Daniel, turning around.

So my brother was paying attention and wasn’t as unfocused as I thought him to be.

“Yes, indications or signs of something,” explained Elizabeth, “Things that foreshadow a coming event.”

“Like an omen?” he asked. His curiosity had been piqued.

“Precisely,” she nodded placing the three leather bound journals on the counter.

I wondered what sort of portents she experienced and whether they were general indications that Mr. Stokes would come to see her or if they indicated that it would be me specifically. It felt as if there was something between us and I didn’t understand it, but knew that if it was an actuality and not something I was fabricating then she would understand it.

“Have you had experiences with omens?” Elizabeth asked.

I watched Dan’s cheeks flush as he took a step back. “Me? No, no,” he shook his head vigorously. “I just watch a lot of movies.”

The shop owner chuckled. “I understand.”

“Why do you have the diaries?” I inquired.

There was a subtle exchange between my tutor and the store owner before she responded.

“Well,” she began, “as you already know, people tend to donate items to me when they find items or books that are occult in nature. These diaries, since they deal with the Salem Witch Trials, fall into that category. But honestly that isn’t the only reason I still have the books in my possession.”

I knew what she was about to say before she spoke the words. I felt it within me;  a stirring, a knowing; the explanation about the bond I felt between us.

“These diaries not only hold information about your descendants, they hold information about mine as well.”

Chapter LIII

I sat at the table in the library and stared out the large windows at Mother’s flower garden, which was bare of all color except the occasional shade of brown due to the early winter season that had set over New England. As I waited for the arrival of my tutor I contemplated the last couple of weeks and the events I remembered, which were very few. I was unable to determine why I was missing such a large number of memories from my life. Usually I would assume that the memory lapse was a side effect from the drugs I had been prescribed, but I knew that in this instance the medication wasn’t to blame. I had purposefully stopped taking all my medication prior to the missing time. And even if it were the drugs, it wouldn’t explain why my brother Daniel also had no memories of the prior week. There was this memory void for both of us that I could not explain. It felt as if someone had snatched the memories right out of my head and left behind a pit of dread. Should I consider that maybe we were both drugged as Daniel had suggested to me earlier? If it were true, if Daniel and I were drugged so that we would not remember what happened, who did such a thing? And why? Why did that person not want us remembering what had transpired?

Fuck. I hated this. I hated this feeling of helplessness. My mind was a chaotic storm of distressing thoughts and fragmented images of Chloe with white eyes leaning over me, Christian standing beside me gripping my forearm, a funnel of energy swirling above me, Aunt Rachel sitting in the morning parlor staring at me, and the statue of my cousin in my aunt’s studio. Which of these were actual memories and which were just hallucinations or dreams, I was uncertain. My intuition told me that The Ancestors had something to do with the lost time, but I possessed no clear images validating my hypothesis. An undercurrent of fear constantly gurgled within me. I was afraid; afraid for myself, my brother, but mostly for Aunt Rachel. Was it possible that I had blanked out my own memories because the events that unfolded were just too traumatic for me to effectively deal with? It was possible, but why did Daniel also have the same missing time?

I sighed and glanced at the antique carriage clock that Mother had placed on the top shelf of the breakfront bookcase. Mr. Stokes would be arriving shortly for our lessons, perhaps he’d be able to help me sort through the problem. He was proving to be more helpful than I ever imagined a tutor would ever be to me.

The trip to Aunt Rachel’s house revealed no mundane evidence to suggest that my aunt hadn’t gone on a trip to Europe, but Mr. Stokes and I knew otherwise. The Ancestors had finally succeeded in claiming her, and though previously their motivation for wanting her to remain with them was unknown to me, I now understood she was retribution for a serious error she made, a lapse in judgment. She misused her powers and that action was viewed as a betrayal to the vow that she made to the ancient handmaiden of Frigg, she who protected our family during the dark time in Salem. It was the same vow that many of the Williams’ family women took with the intention of repaying the old Williams’ family debt. It was the same vow I made, the vow to be a Valkyrie, a Secret of Syn.

I was upset that Aunt Rachel had been taken from me and I still intended to find a way to bring her home, but I finally understood the reasoning behind the actions of The Ancestors. She had unintentionally tapped into her ability and used her powers on an innocent, someone wrongly accused by my aunt herself. Mr. Stokes had witnessed the discretion, he attempted to interfere, but in the throes of anger she merely swept him aside without any momentary consideration of his warning. It was only after her intention had manifested that the realization of what she had done descended upon her in tandem with the hefty weight of guilt and sorrow. She knew she would be required to pay for her discretion and she hadn’t intended to fight The Ancestors when they came for her and would instead willingly accept her fate. All had been revealed to me when my essence had probed the caverns of Mr. Stokes’ thoughts and memories the day we went to my aunt’s home seeking answers to her disappearance. He had intentionally buried the memory, but I forced it to the surface against his wishes. I wasn’t certain what I was meant to do with the information, but I knew that my missing time was directly connected to Aunt Rachel; I just couldn’t seem to find the link.

I opened the notebook that sat on the table in front of me and flipped through the pages searching for the notes I had taken of the previous week’s lectures that Mr. Stokes had presented. I hoped that reviewing them would trigger something in my brain and allow my lost memories to resurface thus bringing forth some helpful information I might be able to use to explain the missing time and perhaps to use to find a way to appease Syn and negotiate Aunt Rachel’s release from wherever she was, which was not Europe, regardless of what my parents seemed to believe.

I reached the last of pages containing my handwriting and scowled. I flipped through again only this time working backwards. I carefully scanned each page making a mental note of the date I had scribbled at the top. Something just didn’t add up for me. Why wouldn’t I have taken notes on those days? I always took notes even if it were just a paragraph or two. The door to the library slowly opened.

“Hey, Ange,” my brother said, as he shut the door behind him. “Isn’t your tutor late?”

“No, Mr. Stokes is never late. He’ll be here soon,” I responded. “What’s going on with you today?”

My brother shrugged then gestured to the opened notebook. “What’cha working on?”

“I’m not really working on anything. I was just looking for the notes I took last week,” I explained turning my attention back to the pages. “But I can’t find any.”

“Is that weird?” he asked, sitting across from me on the table so that he could lean over and look at the pages as I flipped through again. “Do you always take notes?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?” he raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “Shit! I never take notes. You’re a better student than me. Mom and Dad must be prou -”

I glanced at him before he could finish his thought. We both knew our parents would never be proud of me for being anything, but I appreciated his unfiltered response.

“Honestly I really use the note taking as a way of staying focused on Mr. Stokes’ lectures,” I admitted. “He has this way of speaking that sort of lulls me, encourages me to get lost in my own thoughts, so if I want to learn anything I really have to stay focused.”

“Maybe that’s why you don’t have any notes those days,” my brother suggested as he leaned back. “Maybe you didn’t pay attention and daydreamed instead.”

“The whole week?” I was skeptical. “I don’t know. That really doesn’t sound like something I would have done for every lesson … and I don’t think Mr. Stokes would have permitted that sort of behavior either.”

There was a soft knock on the door as the antique clock chimed the hour. Mr. Stokes opened the door and entered, his leather messenger bag hung from his shoulder, but his usual composed demeanor had been replaced with a subtle tension I knew indicated that his was troubled by something. He pointedly looked at me as he approached the desk.

“Good morning, Angie,” he nodded at me then my brother. “Daniel.”

“Good morning,” we responded in unplanned unison.

I stifled a giggle as I glanced at my brother. It felt good reconnecting with him. I knew I missed him, but I had to admit if only to myself that I had missed our relationship more than even I realized.

Mr. Stokes walked behind the oak desk, but instead of removing his wool coat and unpacking his messenger bag as per his usual routine, he remained standing with his hands casually leaning on his bag.

“At your parents’ suggestion, since your brother,” my tutor gestured towards Daniel, “was expelled from Saint John’s, he will be joining us in our lessons until they make different arrangements.”

This was unexpected, though I wasn’t sure what I was expecting them to do about the situation with him. I hadn’t really considered what their actions would be other than a serious lecture about his lack of discipline. I liked the idea of having him with me during my lessons with Mr. Stokes. It would be a treat to have someone else there. It could be fun. Daniel looked surprised as well though I couldn’t imagine that he expected them to allow him to wander around the house all day with no purpose, no job, or without attending school.

“So with this being our new arrangement, I suggest that the three of us take this opportunity and go on a field trip.”

Oh, now this sounded promising.

“Where?” I asked.

“To see a woman about some dairies,” Mr. Stokes winked.

Chapter LII

From an occult perspective our ancestors pass on to us more than just our physical characteristics. Each human being inherits the essence of their blood relatives, which is a collection of the ancestors’ own life experiences. When considered, the occultist can better understand and explain the natural talents an individual would appear to be born with or predisposed towards. In conjunction with the soul’s memory of the lives it has lived, this genetic factor is a vital part of the retaining and transmitting process that the consciousness undergoes through reincarnation.

Reincarnation is a blending of the memories of previous life experiences that the soul has retained along with the genetic imprints of experiences carried within the DNA of a human being. The soul chooses the next vessel or human body to integrate with by accepting birth through a specific set of parents whether or not these individuals are of an ancestral lineage that the soul has already experienced. If the chosen parents are not of the same ancestral lineage, the soul will access the genetic memory held within the DNA of the bloodline to obtain the ancestral information and apply it to the current life experience.

 

We sat on my bed facing each other as I spoke. I began slowly describing the things I discovered about the voices I heard since childhood; who and what they were and how they enabled me to manipulate the vibrational energy. Though Daniel supported me all those years ago I knew he was skeptical about the reality of them and I wondered as I watched his facial expressions shift if he still held onto those doubts.

I shared the narrative of how Aunt Rachel had been trapped in a vortex by The Ancestors and the events that led to her freedom. From the back of my closet I retrieved the sphere I had purchased from the occult shop in Bridgeboro and handed the wooden box that housed it to my brother, believing it to be tangible proof that what I had said was true and not just some fantasy I had created in my mind. He opened the container and examined the iridescent sphere with both of his hands while I described the ordeal it had been for me to free our aunt.

I could see that he was considering my words and I knew he underestimated me and had being doing so since we were children. He was probably thinking that my claims were too fantastical and even beyond what I claimed I was able to achieve and perhaps he was torn between wanting to support me and enabling what he believed to be my delusions. I knew that as he grew older he became embarrassed about my behavior and it was possible that he still held onto the feelings of shame that I am certain I had brought upon him, but perhaps now he could understand why I acted as I did and be the support I desired from someone in my own family. It frightened me to think that he had the power to send me to the hospital, the place where I endured painful torture and humiliation, but I knew I had already shared too much information with him even if I had any inclination to recant.

“We’re descendants of Abigail Williams, direct bloodline relatives and it’s because of this that I can do things that other people can’t.” I hesitated for just a moment before continuing, “I can manipulate the vibration of sound in a way that allows me to do these amazing things.”

Daniel said nothing. He listened without interrupting.

I gripped onto the hope that he believed my words. I wanted him to believe me. I needed him to, and I hated myself for needing someone like I did in that moment. I felt more lost than I had in a long time, even though Mr. Stokes was proving to be an ally, it just wasn’t the same as having family on my side.

“I use this power to repay the family debt owed to the goddess that protected us during the Witch Trails in Salem,” I explained. “I act as her Valkyrie here on Earth.”

Daniel replaced the sphere in its box and set it on my bed beside him as I opened the draw in my nightstand and tossed my MP3 player to him. My brother caught it in his hand.

“What’s this?”

“Manipulating the vibration of music allows me to shift the energetic frequency of a person,” I said as I reclaimed my spot on the bed next to him. “That MP3 player holds more than music.”

He didn’t respond and I was convinced that he was thinking that I was experiencing a psychotic break and that at any second he was going to stand up and immediately go downstairs to speak with our parents about my claims. Surprisingly he remained where he was sitting on my bed.

“I don’t really understand how this holds more than music,” he said, turning the MP3 over in his hands a few times before handing it back to me. “But what you describe about possessing skills you were never taught, well, that sounds like the definition of Genetic Memory to me.”

I didn’t understand what he was saying. Did he believe me? Was it possible?

“What do you mean?”

“Having a skill, knowing how to do something without ever being taught how to do it, that’s called Genetic Memory. It’s a memory that’s been passed to you from your grandparents or other blood relatives, even as far back as your ancestors, it’s knowledge passed through your DNA,” he explained. “I did a paper on if for my Psychology class last semester.”

I was intrigued by the concept. Was it possible that I had always possessed the expertise to manipulate the vibration of sound successfully? Was it possible that I had been born with the knowledge and skill to do so, but that it lay dormant within me, concealed until I unconsciously triggered it?

“So you think that my abilities can be explained by Genetic Memory?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I do.”

“So, do you have genetic memories, too?”

“No, not me,” he shook his head. “You’re the special one, Angie. You’ve always been.”

I laughed. There was no possible way that he was being serious. I’m not special and I’ve never been special; different, yes, definitely, but not special.

“I’m not joking,” my brother said bitterly as he walked to my bedroom window and looked out at the driveway while he continued. “I can’t do the shit you can. I can’t free people from vortexes or manipulate sound. All my stupid ass can do is get lit and get expelled; that’s the extent of my amazing abilities.”

I finally understood the reason for Daniel’s expulsion from private military school. The numerous photos of him with his following of attractive girls at what appeared to be parties and other social events holding beer cans or plastic cups filled with what I only imagined was alcohol in some form were indications of how my brother was entertaining himself while at school. Were his social activities his answer to boredom or were they distractions from something more? I couldn’t help but contemplate the possibility.

“I’m not paranoid schizophrenic,” I confessed. “Mother thinks I am, Dr. Worth thinks so too, but I’m not.”

Daniel shrugged. “I know.”

“You know?”

He turned around to face me, but refused to look me in the eye instead he allowed his gaze to wonder around my bedroom finally settling on the carpet at his feet.

“Angie, I’m sorry.”

I was confused. “Sorry? For what?”

“I know those whispers you heard at night when we were kids were real. I tried to talk to Mom and Dad about them, to explain that you weren’t just hearing things, but they wouldn’t listen to me,” he paused as he lifted his gaze. “I think it was just easier for them to believe that you were mentally ill than to believe you.”

My brother knew the voices were real. He believed me. An overwhelming sensation of relief engulfed me and I welcomed it with a smile. Someone other than Mr. Stokes and Aunt Rachel believed me, so either I wasn’t mentally ill or the four of us were.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you say that, Dan.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. It’s comforting to know that you believe me, because right now, with Aunt Rachel missing, I need someone to be my support,” I explained. “And I’m glad that person is you.”

“I’ve always believe you. I never stopped,” he slipped his hands in the front pockets of his denim jeans. “Because I heard the voices, too.”

What? Did Daniel just say that he heard the whispers of The Ancestors when we were children, too? I didn’t understand why my parents didn’t treat him like they did me forcing him into therapy, hospitalization, and pumping him up with Klonopin or some other drug. If they didn’t believe my claims why did his have validation? If they believed that I suffered from mental illness then why were we treated differently, why didn’t they believe that about him?

“At first it was easy to ignore them,” he began, “but once you started listening to them and paying attention to what they were saying, the louder they got and the harder it was to ignore their constant murmuring. And when they got louder – they got scarier.”

I felt a mix of emotions erupt within me.

“I don’t understand. If you knew the whispers were real then why did you leave? Why did you leave me alone here with them?”

I wanted to understand his motives, to get a sense of his perspective of what occurred during our childhood, because I felt betrayed by my brother and the rage associated with his choice to leave me alone was threatening to overwhelm me. I thought that if I could understand his perspective perhaps I would be able to forgive him for abandoning me.

He took a step closer to where I sat on my bed.

“Mom gave me a choice; go away to military school or get evaluated by Dr. Worth,” he sat down next to me and reached for my hand. “I saw what you were going through. I’m not strong like you, Angie. I never was. I knew I couldn’t do it. I ignored them again any way I could. I took cold medicine or Tylenol PM to help me fall asleep and sometimes I would sneak downstairs and drink Dad’s whiskey. And I stopped talking about them with you. I pretended I didn’t hear them anymore and it worked. Once I got to St. John’s it was easier.”

I nodded. I understood.

“The further away from this house,” he paused. “And you, the better it was for me. Honestly being in this house with you now … it scares the shit outta me, Angie. It really does.”

Chapter LI

I looked across the dining room table at my brother as he poked at the salmon on the plate with his fork. Mother had taken great care to arrange the food on our plates so that the piece of fish was balanced by the crisp green asparagus spears and small pile of roasted red potatoes that accompanied it. Neither Daniel nor I had eaten anything, instead we pushed the food around with our forks, glancing at each other waiting for a cue as to the proper time to request to be excused from the table. Manners were paramount in our home and we both knew the consequences of asking to leave the table sooner than would be expected or appropriate. I was anxious to finish our earlier discussion concerning our shared missing time and what I had discovered at Aunt Rachel’s house when we were interrupted by Mother summoning us to dinner.

I listened to my parents discussing the annual fundraiser that was held at Arkham Waterfront Hotel that they attended every year. The date of the gala was fast approaching and Mother was enthusiastic as she prattled on about their required attire; black tie for Dad and an evening gown for her. Dad nodded his approval though he was clearly bored with the topic. He drained his beer glass of the dark ale and replaced it on the oak table with a gentle thud before gently wiping a hint of white foam from his upper lip with the cloth napkin that had been sitting on his lap. Mother described the evening gown that she would be purchasing for the gala in the next few days and though her tone sounded jovial as she spoke, her facial expression held a glaring contradiction. Their interaction felt strange to me. The usual underlying animosity between them had shifted and become something else; something akin to compliance or indifference. I wondered if Mother had told Dad about the detectives’ visit to the house that morning or if they had come to a compromise within their marriage while on vacation in the Bahamas. Whatever it was that had occurred between them it caused me discomfort; I sensed the energetic disharmony and desired to rewrite their symphony.

I set my fork on the table and drank from my water glass. I felt disorientated, misplaced, and everything about that moment of my life as I sat at the dining room table with my dysfunctional family felt surreal. It was as if I was watching a version of my life as I had once wished it to be while possessing the knowledge that it was just a fantasy, one that would never become reality. As I gazed at my plate of untouched food I felt a burst of hysterical laughter threaten to explode from me and it became a challenge for me to stifle it. How could any of them believe that this moment was reality? How was it possible the only one sitting at that table diagnosed with a mental illness was the one who saw through the absurdity of this moment? I felt as if I was losing my grip on sanity. I needed to be anchored in a reality based on truth and the only person or thing that was able to accomplish this and that was available to me was Daniel. How unexpected was that? For so long he and I were at odds with each other. We were as distant as one could imagine siblings to be. I had been convinced that our relationship was beyond repair, but now sitting across from him at the table I felt as if he and I were the only two individuals in that house that understood the gravity of our current predicament. We were the only ones who knew the truth of our situation; that someone or something had managed to steal time from our lives and manipulate our reality so that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. With Aunt Rachel missing I considered that Daniel might be a replacement for her in my life and considered telling him about my abilities.

“I’m getting myself another ale,” Dad said as he stood from his chair. “Do any of you need anything from the kitchen?”

“No, thank you, Edward,” Mother said as she stabbed a spear of asparagus with her fork.

Daniel shook his head, “No, thanks Dad.”

I stood from my chair, picked up my dinner plate, utensils, and water glass from the table.

“May I be excused?”

“You hardly ate anything, Angie. Are you feeling ill?” she asked examining the uneaten food sitting cold on my plate.

“I do feel a little nauseous,” I replied. It wasn’t a lie. The anticipation of revealing the truth about myself to my brother made me feel a bit queasy.

“Maybe it would be best if you laid down to rest,” she suggested.

I nodded and exited the dining room following the path my father had taken into the kitchen. I glanced over my shoulder hoping that my brother would follow my example.

Dad smiled and patted me on the shoulder as he passed me on his way back into the dining room with his beer glass filled with ale. I felt like shaking him and asking him all the questions I had in my head concerning Aunt Rachel, Mr. Stokes, and my abilities, but I understood that if I did, if I pounced on him with such unusual and bizarre questions, I might be giving him cause to believe that I had lied about taking my medication. Dad would be concerned about me and would promptly speak to Mother and that conversation would most likely motivate her to call Dr. Worth, who would have me checked into the hospital under his care; something I didn’t want to occur, so I refrained from saying anything; instead I just looked into his eyes, returning his smile.

His eyes looked different to me. Something about them had changed. Was it his eye color? No, that’s impossible. They were always hazel colored; the same as Aunt Rachel’s, the same as my own, but something was different about them. There seemed to be something abnormal happening to them, a haze clouding them, keeping him hidden from my own prying stare. Strange, I hadn’t noticed it before. Had something happened while he was away with Mother to cause this?

“Dad, are you alright?” I asked. I was concerned for him and began to wonder if there was something darker occurring within the walls of our home and family relations.

He held my gaze for a beat before he wrapped his farm around my shoulders, gently kissing my forehead, something he hadn’t done since I was a young girl.

I heard him whisper, “I’m so sorry, Angie. I love you.”

What? I was confused. The gesture was out of character for my father and it caused me distress. I felt my heartbeat quicken and my body tense. I was unsure of how much longer I could deal with the level of stress I was experiencing without my medication.

I was rinsing my dinner plate when Daniel entered the kitchen carrying his dish and utensils.

“What the fuck is going on?” my brother whispered, pointing to the archway behind us that lead to the dining room. “They’re acting weird.”

I nodded. “I noticed. Dad kissed me on the forehead.”

“Seriously?” my brother chuckled, handing me his plate so that I could rinse it with water. “Maybe he’s drunk. He’s been downing those ales like they were water.”

“Maybe,” I shrugged as loaded the dishes into the dishwasher and shut the door.

As we walked through the foyer my body became tense.

“Still no call back from Aunt Rachel?” Daniel asked.

“No.”

“Well, maybe she’s in Europe like Dad said,” he proposed. “I mean since she wasn’t at home and her house didn’t seemed jacked up and her car was in the garage it seems likely. Right?”

“No Daniel, it doesn’t. Nothing is ‘right’. Nothing’s been right since you came home. Something happened here in our house that night and it affected us; you and me and Aunt Rachel,” I paused as I considered our relationship to each other before adding, “and maybe even Mr. Stokes.”

“Mr. Stokes?” Daniel raised an eyebrow as he approached the staircase that led to the second floor. “Mr. Stokes as in your tutor?”

I nodded.

“Why would the old man be involved?” he laughed. “He wasn’t even here that night.”

The crimson carpet tumbled down the staircase spilling into the foyer as it always did, but as I reached out for the banister with my hand and placed my foot on the first step the sensation of dread overwhelmed me. My vision blurred as disembodied sounds filled my mind. I blinked numerous times, attempting to clear my eyes, but my sight remained distorted, everything appeared to me as if I were looking through water. I reached my hand out toward where Daniel was standing and immediately found his hand. His presence gave me strength and braced me against the wave of vertigo that washed over me.

“Angie?”

I heard my brother, but I couldn’t respond. I had no ability to speak. I opened my mouth, but nothing happened. My head tingled and I felt as if I were falling into myself. The crimson carpet beneath my feet shifted and rippled becoming a warm thick liquid that rose to my ankles. I gripped my brother’s hand tighter. What was happening? Could Daniel see what I was seeing or was this a personal hallucination?

I turned to where he should have been standing, expecting nothing, but hoping to see him and not something else, some strange apparition attached to the hand I held tightly in my own. As I focused my eyes I was relieved to see my brother standing next to me though he was clearly concerned about my well-being. He reached over to support me with both his arms and I allowed him to guide me up the stairs and into my bedroom; only then in my private sanctuary did my vision return to normal.

I allowed myself to fall onto my bed as Daniel closed the door to my room.

“Are you ok?” he asked. “What happened to you?”

If I was seriously considering revealing my secret to him then this was the opportune time to do it, but I was hesitant. I was afraid that once he heard the truth of who I was and what I was capable of doing he might think that I was experiencing some sort of a psychotic episode and feel compelled to tell our parents, and I knew with certainty that they would contact Dr. Worth and off to the psychiatric hospital I would go. I knew that my claims sounded mad and I wasn’t sure if he would believe me.

Chapter L

As I walked through Aunt Rachel’s studio I marveled at the number of pieces she had in progress, even in the early stages her sculptures held lifelike characteristics and once completed were easily mistaken for living people. Walking through her studio was similar to strolling through a hectic bus terminal or other crowded public space, each of her sculptures possessed the uniqueness that human beings did; some were plump while others were skinny, some were tall and others were petite, some bore scars, freckles, or tattoos, while others possessed unblemished skin. Each had their own hair texture and complexion capturing the diversity found within the human race. She had numerous examples of adults that were all within a wide age spectrum, but as I ambled through the congested area towards her working space I found only a single example of an adolescent.

Approaching the lone sculpture, which stood facing my aunt’s workbench, it was easy for me to determine by its posture and form that it was a male. It stood just a few inches taller than me, though his physique suggested that he would have been more athletic than I was ever inclined to be if he had been an actual incarnated person and not just a piece of art created from resin. Aunt Rachel had bestowed him with dark brown hair styled in a modern faux hawk, similar to the cut favored by her son, my cousin Christian.

I circled to the front of the sculpture and felt my stomach flip. My throat tightened as I gazed at the lifeless features of the statue. The statue was a synthetic duplicate of Christian from his light brown colored irises to the scars on the fingers of his right hand, a permanent reminder of when he punched his fist through the glass of his bedroom window. My aunt’s precise attention to such personal details astounded me and gave credence to her inherent talent as an artist and why her patrons willingly paid the hefty price tag to own one of her sculptures.

I took a few steps back to appreciate her craft and bumped into a wooden stool. I found the position of the sculpture in relation to the stool to be somewhat peculiar as the piece looked to be finished. I wondered why it wasn’t with the rest of the completed pieces across the room closer to the double doors. I gazed at the convincing replica of Christian’s face, gazing into its haunting eyes until I had convinced myself that it was no longer a molded piece of resin, but a living breathing person that could speak if he so desired.

“Angie.”

“Yes?” I peered into the golden eyes that were fixedly staring back into mine.

“What are you doing?” questioned the voice. It sounded as if the timber of his voice had become deeper, more mature; if that was possible.

“I’m looking for you,” I responded, reaching out to touch his cheek.

“I told you that I was going to check the garden.”

“What?”

I was confused by not only by the vocal response, but also by the firmness of his skin as my fingertips made contact with the surface of the figure standing before me. I had been convinced that I was going to feel the warmth of living flesh and not the hardness of molded resin. The voice I heard did not belong to Christian as I imagined; it belonged to my tutor.

I looked over my cousin’s shoulder towards the studio doors to see Mr. Stokes approaching me with Heimdall meandering behind him. I frowned. My mind was surely playing tricks again, but was I experiencing delusions or was there something peculiar occurring here in my aunt’s house? I glanced from the statue of my cousin to my tutor.

“Have you seen this piece?” I gestured at the inert figure.

Mr. Stokes stopped just behind the sculpture and crossed his arms with a nod.

“What do you think?” I asked as I leaned against the stool inspecting my aunt’s work for any imperfection. “You know, it’s weird. I get the impression that he has something to say to me. I mean, I’ve always felt that Aunt Rachel’s sculptures had something to share, but this time it’s different. Maybe it’s because I’m off my medication and can tell when I’m having an auditory hallucination and when I’m not.” I shrugged. “I don’t know. But when my parents took me to Aunt Rachel’s opening I would stand in front of each piece and just listen. I honestly believed that I was actually hearing them speak to me,” I chuckled as I tapped on my skull with my index finger, “in my head. I desperately wanted to know what they had to say, but now I’m not really sure if it was their voices or The Ancestors or just hallucinations.” I paused and leaned closer to the piece before me. “But this one … I swear … it’s breathing …”

My tutor glanced at the sculpture out of the corner of his eye and scowled. “We don’t have time for this, Angie. We’re here to find your aunt or clues to her whereabouts.”

I nodded. “I know. It’s jus –”

“Angie,” a strangled whisper echoed in my head. I watched as a furrow appeared on my tutor’s brow. Curious. Was his expression a reaction to the whisper or just coincidence?

“Let’s go,” he urged, moving towards the double doors. “This was a waste of time. There’s nothing for us here.”

“Wait!” I exclaimed, convinced that it wasn’t mere coincidence and that there was something he wasn’t sharing with me. I caught his arm and forced him to stop midstride. “I know you heard that. You heard that whisper. It called my name.”

He roughly shook off my hand and continued towards the exit without looking back. He cautioned, “Angie, leave it alone.”

I wasn’t good at heeding warnings from anyone whether written or spoken so why would my tutor expect me to do so now? I sprinted after him and positioned myself between the doors that lead to the front hall and where he stood in the studio. It was obvious to me that he knew something and was attempting to avoid sharing the information with me. I wasn’t going to stand for it, not again. Transparency was a priority to me, the more information I had the more comfortable I felt.

“You’re kidding me, right? When have I ever listened to your warnings, Mr. Stokes?”

“Well, I really wish you would just this once,” he explained, caressing the scar on his forehead. “As usual, you have no idea what you’d be getting into if you were to engage with that. Back there,” he said, gesturing behind him with his thumb, “is a power that you shouldn’t try to manipulate. It’s something even your aunt knew to leave alone.”

Instead of instilling restraint or fear within me, he was intriguing me even further. I was fascinated and wanted to know more. I needed to know more. Maybe the power he alluded to had something to do with my missing time. It probably had something to do with Aunt Rachel.

“What power? What is it?” I questioned.

Mr. Stokes shrugged. It was clear he was tired of fighting me and acquiesced to my appeal for more information. He removed his glasses carefully sliding them into the pocket of his light blue button up shirt before reaching for my hands and gently but firmly holding each of them palm to palm with his own. The connection created a lemniscate symbol with our arms.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, instructing me to do the same and when we reopened them we stared into each other’s eyes. It took just a moment for my essence to tumble into the seas of green that were his irises and to withdraw into my center. I listened for the whispers that I knew would eventually creep into my head. I probed Mr. Stokes’ thoughts … his memories … all of which were submerged beneath layers of murky emotion. The shadows concealed, shrouding that which Mr. Stokes desired to keep hidden from prying minds such as my own, but after sweeping aside the darkness his center gradually opened like the petals of a flower revealing within what I was unconsciously seeking … the whispers gifted me the knowledge.

“I … I …,” I stammered, overwhelmed by the secret I had just learned. “I don’t understand … how?”

“Because we are bonded,” he sighed, releasing my hands and pinching the bridge of his nose before replacing his glasses. “Your aunt must have performed the binding ritual sometime after I left your house on Saturday night. She bequeathed me to you, which bestows upon you power and abilities that you would not usually have access to.”

“She must’ve known,” I said.

“Yes,” he nodded his sad agreement. “She probably did.”

 

 

Chapter XLIX

Necromancy is the art and science of conjuring the dead, either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or by resurrection, for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events, discover hidden knowledge, or to use the corpse as a weapon. The practice supposes belief in the survival of the human spirit after physical death, the possession of superior knowledge by the disembodied spirit due to being free of the limits imposed by the earthly plane, and the possibility of communication between the living and the dead. The circumstances and conditions of such an exchange would depend on the nature of the departed spirit, its relation to the earth, the body in which it previously possessed, and how long it aboded.

The practice of necromancy is found in every nation of antiquity and has always been a practice within paganism and in all countries on the globe, but nothing can be determined as to the place of its origin. Each culture possesses specific rites and incantations that are used when establishing communication with the dead. Some evocations are complex and elaborate, while others are not, and all vary one from another, though many include an act of blood sacrifice, a form of equivalent exchange, and reciting specific incantations.

Necromancy is an extremely dangerous practice and precautionary measures should be taken to assure the spiritual welfare of the practitioner. It is understood that the astral corpse of a human being has an intense desire to return to a physical life and holds the ability to prolong its grip on the earthly plane by absorbing energy from the living, making it strongly advisable that only the Initiated need attempt an evocation.

 

From the outside of Aunt Rachel’s modest two story house everything looked normal. The driveway was vacant of any vehicles, which didn’t directly indicate that no one was home since there was an attached garage with its door closed. As soon as Mr. Stokes shifted his car to park I flung the passenger’s door open and leaped out, running towards the house as soon as my feet hit the ground. The wooden stairs of the porch proved to be somewhat of a challenge for me as I tripped numerous times, losing my balance and almost slamming my face into the rail. I skipped knocking or ringing the bell; instead I gripped the door handle and pushed it opened. The force I exerted against the unlocked door caused me to stumble across the threshold.

I called my aunt’s name hoping that she would immediately respond to the sound of my voice and ease the unnamable sensation that had possessed me since I had awoken that morning. I waited motionless; listening for her response. The air around me was stale and heavy. When no one replied I took two tentative steps further into the house, enabling me to peer through the opened sliding doors of her art studio.

“Aunt Rachel?” I summoned, but was disappointed by silence in return.

I continued further into her home walking through the archway that led to the rest of the first floor. Everything appeared neat and tidy; no food was left out on the dining room table, no dirty dishes were neglected in the sink. I saw no indications that anyone had even used the stove or dishwasher recently. I walked through the opened floor plan, searching for anything that seemed out of place, whether that was a physical indication or something more ethereal, but discovered that nothing was out of the ordinary.

As I entered the hallway I opened the door leading to the garage. I flipped the switch on the wall, immediately illuminating Aunt Rachel’s red Altima with the overhead lights. It sat parked in its usual spot. I was uncertain as to whether it was a good sign that her car was there or a bad one. I retraced my steps back to the front door where I was joined by Mr. Stokes. We ascended the stairs intending to search the bedrooms for any sign of my aunt or my cousin, but the stagnation of the air within the stairway was almost unbearable. It felt as if the oxygen was slowly being sucked out of the atmosphere. I coughed a few times and considered turning back and explore her art studio instead, but Mr. Stokes urged me forward. The numerous windows in the house provided us with more than an adequate amount of sunlight, but I felt the discomforting sensation of a sinister presence lurking within the abnormal shadows being cast around us. I felt as if they were gathering and attempting to forcefully persuade us to leave the house. I considered that it was my own paranoia that caused me to feel and think this way, but I knew that the sensations originated from more than my own disturbed mind.

We approached the guest room first and found that it was orderly with its bed made and other furniture and décor undisturbed. The sun’s rays filtered through the curtained window and cast interesting shadows on the papered wall. My aunt’s Maine Coon cat sauntered out from the closet and jumped onto the bed with a loud meow.

“Hey there, Heimdall,” I cooed, reaching over and scratching him under the chin. His orange fur was soft to the touch. “Where’s Aunt Rachel?”

“He won’t tell us anything,” Mr. Stokes scoffed. “He’s always been uncooperative and rebellious ever since he was a kitten. Loki would have been a more fitting name for him.”

Heimdall hissed and growled at my tutor before jumping from the bed and running out of the room.

I raised an eyebrow at Mr. Stokes before moving onto the next bedroom, which was my cousin’s.

Christian’s room was filthy and disorganized. How anyone could live in such chaos baffled me. I would not characterize my cousin as a neat freak, but the disaster we discovered in his bedroom appeared overly messy for even him. The bed was unmade with the blanket, sheets, and comforter twisted around each other and hanging off the side of the bed; random items of clothing were scattered around the room with a pile of what I assumed was dirty laundry leaning against the hamper. The contents of his closet were spilling out of the partially closed doors and into the middle of the room, which was carpeted with an assortment of candy wrappers, empty chip bags, scraps of paper, and from what I determined by the illustrations were pages from a few different comic books. I located at least one greasy pizza box with some uneaten pieces sitting on his computer desk along with empty plastic bottles of soda.

“Disgraceful,” frowned Mr. Stokes as he turned and headed to the closed door across the hallway. He was clearly uninterested in looking beyond the mess, though I briefly entertained the idea of rummaging through the chaos for clues, but changed my mind as I spotted Heimdall following my tutor towards the last bedroom.

Mr. Stokes knocked on the door and waited for a response. I knew she wasn’t inside, but hoped that maybe my intuition was mistaken. He glanced at me over his shoulder before turning the knob and opening the door. The aroma of herbs and burnt wood drifted out of my aunt’s private sanctuary and into the hall. Heimdall weaved his way passed my tutor’s legs and darted through the opening, disappearing into the room before we were able to take a step over the threshold.

Her room was a complete contrast to Christian’s. Her bed was made with the two sleeping pillows tucked in shams and the smaller decorative ones carefully placed in front of them and the nightstand held only a lamp and small digital alarm clock placed an arm’s length from the edge of the bed. The top of her antique dresser was immaculate with her perfume bottles arranged according to their height. The only area in the room that was disorganized was her desk, which was covered with numerous books some laid opened while others were stacked.

The books caught my attention so while Mr. Stokes walked towards the door leading to the private bathroom I approached the desk and pulled out the chair. I sat, scanning the text of the opened book hoping to gain insight into what my aunt was doing or at least thinking the last time she was in her room. I allowed my fingers to travel along the page as I read the words written in the same dialect as my favorite occult book, which held a place of honor in my bookcase at home. I flipped shut the cover searching for the title of this particular tome. I ran the tips of my fingers over the worn burgundy leather. My fingers easily found the grooves of the embossed title and slowly traced each letter of the title; Grimoire of the Necromancer.

Why was Aunt Rachel reading this book? What knowledge did she hope to acquire? Was her research connected to me or The Ancestors in some way? Did this lead to her current situation? As I sat in contemplation my head began to throb. The atmospheric pressure in the bedroom had dropped, causing a familiar insidious fear to rumble within the center of my being like a timpani and I knew that in moments I would be overcome by a wave of vertigo. I stood and searched the room for the origin of the imposing and threatening presence that had manifested in my company, but saw only that Mr. Stokes had appeared at the door way to the bathroom wearing his customary mask of trepidation. He, too, felt the presence.

Our eyes were fixed on each other as we waited. I stood by the desk motionless; he at the threshold between the bedroom and bathroom. We each knew that something was about to occur, but neither of us knew what. With a distressed sounding meow, Heimdall darted out from under the bed and through the open door into the hallway as it slammed shut behind him nearly catching his tail. The noise should have echoed through the house, but it didn’t. The air in the room had become so dense that the sound was muffled.

I took a step towards my tutor as the double doors of the large wooden wardrobe slowly opened with an inhuman moan, revealing that its contents were not clothing as one might assume, but what could only be described as a shrine. I changed direction and approached the welcoming cabinet. Mr. Stokes wasn’t far behind.

“What is this?” I whispered. My eyes were drawn to the lone statue prominently set in the center of a table, which extended the width of the interior of the closet. The figure was distressingly familiar yet even recognizing that I was scared I couldn’t fight the compulsion to touch her. I extended a trembling hand towards her cold metal cheek.

Mr. Stokes grabbed my wrist before I made contact.

“I wouldn’t,” he cautioned.