Authors: Sydney Bristow
“They’ll present themselves in due time.”
“Grams, I love you, but you’re not helping me. Can you tell me anything? Are there more demons out there?”
Darius nodded. “They slip past the veil when there’s a power vacuum.” He eyed Grams then remained silent.
“What?” I asked Grams. “Say it.”
“Nothing could prepare you for what’s coming. I’m sorry I didn’t do things differently.”
To see Grams second-guessing herself cut me up inside.
“There is a sword in
The Antique Boutique
. You need to find it. It’s important for what you need to accomplish.”
“A sword? We’re not in feudal Japan. Samurais don’t walk the street. I don’t need a sword.”
“It’s the same one you practiced with during your martial arts training. I gave it to Master Nakamura the day you first entered his studio.”
“That reminds me of all the weapons in the secret room. Why are they there? Why did you collect them?” My bedroom doorknob rattled, so I stopped speaking.
“I’ve got to go,” Grams whispered. “Pretend you never saw me.”
I reached out for her, but my hand went right through her as though she were nothing more than a projected image.
“I’ll see you soon,” said Grams. Then she vanished.
I glanced around for Darius, but he too had disappeared, having obviously gone through the window.
I lay on my bed, popped the earbuds into my ears again, grabbed an issue of
off my nightstand, and began flipping through the pages.
The door opened, revealing
. “I thought I heard voices.”
Since I hadn’t hit play in a while, the MP3 player had turned off to save the battery. I pretended to hit the pause button. “Yeah, sorry about that. I must have been singing Maiden too loudly.”
Puzzled, the phony Grams stared at me for a long moment. “Maiden?”
My nerves throttled under my skin, so I worked on calming my pounding heartbeat. “Iron Maiden,” I said. “They’re a heavy metal band.”
Now she glared at me.
“You sang to a song…that is captured inside that tiny box?” she asked, motioning to my iPod.
She looked suspicious. “Am I to believe the music travels through the wires and into your ears?” She snickered with disbelief. “Which song last played?”
“Huh. What song? Oh, um, ‘Number of the Beast.’”
A smirk split her lips. “That sounds like a pleasant song.”
Yeah, it was about the Devil, so of course, this lunatic impersonator would love it.
“Well, carry on then,” she said, turning back to the door. When she reached it, however, she spun around again. “And Serena?”
“Be careful, darling.” Her warning came with a severe glare. “I would hate to see you on the receiving end of a spell gone wrong.”
left, I expected to lay awake for hours, contemplating a new reality that contained the various creatures I encountered. I must have fallen asleep though because soon enough, I felt my ears ringing as whooshing sounds passed by me, my body feeling heavy as it vibrated at a different frequency than I’d ever felt before. A green haze obstructed my view as I passed through walls and crossed streets. Soon enough, I felt light as a feather and moved quicker than I thought possible until panic set in, and I somehow returned to my room. I stood on the floor near my bedroom door…watching my body resting peacefully on my bed.
Unable to comprehend what had happened, I waved my right hand towards my left, only to watch it pass through my left forearm without the least bit of resistance. Confused, I turned around and reached for the doorknob, only to have my hand go right through the knob.
What the hell?
I reached for it again, but once more, my hand passed right through the doorknob and the door itself without the least bit of pain. Had I died? I spun around, ready to run over to the bed. But I didn’t need to run. I simply appeared there a moment later, looking down at my body, breathing steadily, lost in a deep sleep.
I listened for
, expecting her to have put a spell on me, but silence greeted me. I imagined her outside my bedroom door, an ear propped against it, listening intently. A second later, I stood exactly where I’d envisioned her standing.
Disoriented, I turned one way then the next, but I didn’t see or hear
in either direction. It occurred to me that I was in one sense of the word a ghost, despite having not died, since I left my sleeping form in my bedroom.
Then I recalled Grams in this same state. She’d called it astral projection. It seemed I’d discovered my first gift! It made me feel special to know that Zephora was the only other witch in our line to have this ability. I decided to see if
was asleep, so I started in that direction. A half-second later, however, I found myself across the hall, standing before her bedroom door.
I reached out to grab the knob and once more watched my hand slip through the circular piece of brass. But in this instance, since I expected to turn the knob and push the door open, my body followed my hand right through the door and into Grams’s room.
I stood before
and watched her sleep. It was such a creepy sight, knowing someone else had invaded Grams’s body. I expected to feel nauseous, but this phantom version of myself wouldn’t let me feel any particular body part. That actually made sense since my body lay inside my bedroom.
I approached the bed, looking closer, trying to get a better angle of the person inside the woman I’d loved all my life.
She lay on her left side, eyes closed, breathing quietly.
A second later, without needing to walk to her bed, I materialized right beside it, looking down at her, seeing her deep wrinkles, her thinning white hair.
Grams opened her eyes and stared right at me. Taking an even breath in through her nose, she said, “I know you are here.” She didn’t look the least bit worried. If anything, she seemed amused. “I can sense you.” She lifted her head from the pillow, propped herself up on an elbow. “I
you are here,” she said. “Do you think you are the only one who can astral project?”
Grams had mentioned that only one other witch in our line had the ability to astral project: Zephora. Fright swept through my spectral form, since my body wouldn’t respond likewise, given that the woman who had entered Grams’s body was my ancestor and not a demon. I felt only a little bit safer. Given that she planned to rule the world, and just happened to be the most powerful witch to walk the Earth, I couldn’t help but feel unprepared to deal with such a crafty practitioner of magic.
Still, the question remained: why had Zephora inhabited Grams?
There had to be a logical reason. But try though I might, I couldn’t find a rational explanation as to why she’d want to take over Grams’s body, other than the aforementioned intention to rule the world. That aberration haunted my mind, just as Zephora haunted Grams’s body.
A harsh cackle erupted from her throat. “Yes, you
here!” She scanned the room with that freakish grin, shifting her head ever so slightly in either direction. “I can feel your presence, your power.” She drew herself up higher in bed. “Good! You have discovered your first ability.” Another cackle slid through her lips. “
Very, very good
I imagined myself by the window at the other side of the room, only to find myself there a moment later.
“You must know it is impossible to leave this body, lest I allow Lorraine to retake control.” Quite the crafty one, are you not?”
I hadn’t known that, but I appreciated the tip.
“Why have you visited?” she asked. “To discover why I took control of your grandmother’s body?” A hoarse chuckle followed. “Ah yes, that is the reason.”
I remained by the window, hoping she might answer other questions I hadn’t asked.
“All will be revealed soon enough,” she said, as that demented grin widened. “Yes, darling: you shall discover your fate…only too soon.” She tilted her head 90 degrees, and then she twisted her shoulders to match the position of her body. “I sense your presence.” Her eyes brightened. “I can
your power, however limited it may be.”
Seeing those hideous eyes protruding from Grams’s face persuaded me to approach the bed, not because I wanted to, but because I needed to get past the image of Grams…in order to see Zephora.
“Oh, what a grand occasion: to discover your abilities. Hmmm.” Phlegm rattled deep in her throat. “Unfortunately, your strength does not compare to your mother…your sister…or your niece.” She slipped out of bed, got to her feet, and took two steps. “The untapped power: so much potential.” She sniffed the air, hoping to catch a scent that didn’t exist, scanning left, scanning right, notching her chin higher. Then she turned toward me and settled her gaze onto mine…as though she knew I stood opposite her. “Hmmm. No, I misspoke. I did not detect your power. I sensed…your spirit.” An ugly grin formed. “Yes, undiluted. Pure. Much more potent than your feeble powerbase.” She clasped both hands together and rubbed them together.
I presumed that her ability to astral project allowed her to detect when I did as well, while also honing in on my exact location, which in turn, led me to believe I could do likewise.
“Oh, this will be lovely…” Zephora’s expression turned dark and grotesque. “Shall we speak on equal terms in bodily form? Yes, that will do quite nicely.” She spun around, stepped through the doorway, and made her way down the hall, toward my bedroom.
I visualized myself in my room and appeared beside my bed within a second.
A few seconds later, Zephora entered the room, stood over my body, and stared at my peaceful form, as I looked on right behind her. “So young,” she said. “So inexperienced.” Then she craned her neck toward me, once more not bothering to spin her body along with it until a moment later. “So…” She didn’t finish the sentence. Maintaining eye contact with me, she said, “I am waiting.” She lifted her hand toward my face. “Return to your body!”
Zephora enjoyed toying with me, but I sensed that she wouldn’t mess with my physical form unless my spirit inhabited it. As much as I wanted to see only Zephora when I looked at Grams, I couldn’t disassociate the two of them just yet, so I pinned all my concentration on my next most confounding problem: dealing with my mother and sister.
Within a second, I found myself inside a different home. I had no idea how far I’d traveled, but I stood in a one-story rustic home. It was completely dark. I didn’t need to wait for my eyes to adjust; they did so automatically, which I guess made sense, since I traded one murky environment for another. Then again, I was still thinking as if I inhabited my corporeal form. My eyes didn’t need to focus; the spirit world had different boundaries than the physical world. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long to realize that I’d found my way here due to the signatures of my mother and sister.
The hall light flicked on. Delphine walked through the corridor and into the family room, which contained a matching sofa, loveseat, and recliner, opposite a flat-screen TV. Alexis followed at a leisurely pace. The walls were as bare as my mother’s heart…at least when it came to me.
“Wait,” Delphine said, coming to a halt behind the sofa, which separated us, since I stood in front of the television. “Do you sense that? The air feels different.” She notched her chin high and scanned the room. “Do you sense anything?”
Alexis glanced around, disinterested. “Nope. Nothing. You’re just paranoid.”
The idea that Delphine felt my presence concerned me. If Zephora had sensed my spirit because of her powers, what allowed Delphine to do likewise? But then, if I could sense her signature, why couldn’t she sense mine? Mystery solved!
I liked the ability to travel outside my physical form, but it raised questions I couldn’t answer: how long could I travel? How far could I travel? How often could I travel? Regardless, even if Zephora and my own mother could sense my presence, they couldn’t
me, so I had nothing to worry about.
Delphine swung her gaze to Alexis. “We can never be too cautious. Now that your sister knows that she has three abilities, who can tell when they might reveal themselves.”
Alexis snickered. “Are you kidding? You think she can astral project?” She chuckled again. “Gimme a break. She’s a total wuss.”
Delphine ran over to her and placed both hands at Alexis’s temples. “Don’t be ignorant. We still don’t know if she’s my first child.”
“She didn’t know anything about magic until today. And now you think she’s Gandalf? I’ll knock Serena on her ass any day, any time.”
“I’m telling you, the house feels different.”
Alexis went into the kitchen, opened the fridge, pulled out a bottle of strawberry flavored vodka, and took a couple swigs from it. “More refreshing than a bottle of Pepsi.”
“You dull your senses with that poison,” said Delphine. She glanced around suspiciously.
“You’re one to talk.” My sister glared at our mother, but only for a moment before her expression flattened.
What did Alexis allude to? Did my mother have substance abuse issues as well? I stayed in place, unwilling to allow my essence, in whatever form that might take, to travel throughout the house. I didn’t want to give either of them reason to suspect my presence – at least, any more than Delphine had already speculated.
Alexis guzzled down more liquor. “I’ll end her…the first chance I get.”
“That won’t make you any more powerful. Eliminating her won’t make you my first child.”
“Little Miss University?” Alexis’s upper lip curled in anger. “She’s a waste of space.”
Delphine laughed. “That may be, but she’s accomplished more than you…without any powers. And to think I wanted you on my side because I thought we had so much in common. If that were true, you would have married a sports star or a movie star. But here I am…waiting for my
daughter to get married.” She shook her head. “You disgust me. Sometimes, I want to forsake you.”
“What’s stopping you?” asked Alexis, obviously already feeling the effects of the alcohol. “If you think you can do better with Little Miss University, go right ahead. Me and Celestina will be out of here in five minutes.”
“You wouldn’t dare talk to me like that without that crutch in your hand.”
Alexis looked at the bottle. “You think I need this to get the stones to tell you the truth? No, I need it to deal with your craziness.”
“I know what I’m talking about. Do you think I was born yesterday?”
“Well, no, because you’re old.”
Delphine disregarded Alexis’s insult. “Do you think she knows about
The Book of Souls
“How could she? I only know about it because you’ve been talking about it…forever. And we still don’t know who has it, where it is, or hell, if it’s even real.”
“It’s as real as you or me.”
“Whatever. You haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it. Until we do, it’s a myth.”
“It’s not a myth,” Delphine said, stomping over to her daughter. “Because you’re sloshed, I’ll remind you yet again: I saw my mother looking inside an invisible box, so it has to be real. It exists!”
“Okay,” said Alexis, backing off and raising her hands to ward off Delphine’s verbal assault. “If you say so. Fine. Whatever.” Then she gave it some thought. “But what’s in it? Why’s it so important?”
Delphine set her eyes downward, obviously disinterested in answering her daughter’s questions. “Lorraine has it somewhere. And when she passes,” she said, glancing up at Alexis with manic energy, “it’ll belong to me. It’s my birthright. I’m the next in line.”
Alexis stared at her. “Delusional much?”
“Don’t look at me like…like I’m some kind of lunatic. That item has secrets.”