Somewhere in the city, a man with pale skin and red eyes realized that the world was shaking. This wasn’t the earth’s crust moving, this was a quake in the fabric of reality itself. He’d seen shit like that before, and it was never a good idea to stay close; even if there was someone you were worried about, it was better to make sure they had somewhere safe to escape to first.
He got dressed, drank a packet of blood from his fridge, and headed down the stairs. He got into his car, and drove out into the street. Some kind of mud was flowing between the cracks of the buildings, and most of the people didn’t notice, even when it landed right on them. Some people, though, the ones with auras, they noticed. Some of them panicked, and others calmly tried to escape, the same as he was. A few even seemed to welcome being carried away in the flow.
And then the monsters appeared. Out of the mud, they splashed out. Some of them resembled something, a cat, a bear, a human. Others didn’t look like much of anything at all, just a mess of limbs and body parts. These monsters grabbed at the people they could, the Occs getting dragged off into the flood, the normal barely noticing, except when somebody disappeared on them. The damn things even tried to smash up his car, but he just flared his aura and smacked them away, letting their shattered bodies smash into the ground.
So it went, at least for a little while, at least until he wanted to turn left, and signaled right. He tried to reach up to switch the lever the right way, but he found that his hand didn’t respond. He tried to move the steering wheel, and step on the brake, but his body just kept on going the way they wanted. Whoever was driving, it sure as hell wasn’t him.
Jessica ran over to the edge of the slab, taking in the writhing mass of the muscle and bone, the result of…whatever it was that Angelica did. It seemed that there were animals of nearly every species in there, birds, spiders, even a few people. Unfortunately, one of those people was a girl with hair that was either brown or green, depending on how the light hit it.
Jessica ran over to Alima and grabbed the front of her tau robe. “We have to do the separation ritual now!”
Alima looked around, panicking. “Okay, um– you two!”
Kayleigh pointed to herself.
“Yes, you. Do you know what’s going on with the diagram?”
Kayleigh collected herself. “The grid is a filter. The symbols in the grid are the things you want to pull out.” Kayleigh ran over to the dais, to take a closer look at the diagram. “Somethings missing. You’re going to need more power than this thing can contain.”
“True,” said Alima. “I’m going to get the power from Jessica’s blood, and I’m going to use a chant to control the rest.”
“And how are you going to prevent the interference of outside forces with only three corners?” said the bald man. He was dragging that black-haired Occ up by the shoulders. She was still in monster form, even as she found her feet.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. If either of these girls knows what to do, we can have them take Lexa’s place.”
The principle looked the two of them over. His eyes scanned down the Occ he had just lifted to her feet, taking in her aura and her attitude, then he turned to Kayleigh, and Jessica saw something that she had never heard of.
“Kayleigh, did your aura just gutter?”
The short girl looked at her hand. “Ah, dammit!” She curled her fingers together, muttering something underneath her breath, and light flared back up around her. “Sorry about that. My aura’s kind of…unstable, I guess?”
Jessica had no idea how that happened, but she had other things to worry about at the time. “So, Principal Darkwood, what happened to that kid you were fighting?”
“He ran off once he realized that he couldn’t do anything of note,” said the principal. “But never mind that right now. Miss Bey, what do you plan?”
“Right, right,” the girl said. She looked at Linda. “You.”
“What, me? I’m not the one that knows what you’re doing.”
“Ah, that’s fine,” Alima said, “You just kind of need to stand…” She guided Linda onto the dais, and made her stand in a particular place. “Here, and think protective thoughts while making your aura into a shell. You can do that, can’t you?”
“Is…is that really all it takes?”
“It will have to be.” Alima turned to the others. “Alright everyone, get in position!”
Linda still needed a little coaching to get her aura to line up with the others, but in the end, they still managed to seal off the ritual from outside interference. Eric stood across from Linda, the principle stood across from the teacher. Jessica and Alima stood in the middle of the dais, facing each other, while Emily and Kayleigh stood on the slab outside, watch for dangers of a more physical nature. The ritual space so composed, Alima began to move through the motions of the spell.
“Blood. It all begins with blood.” Having said that, Alima stepped from Jessica’s front to her side. There, she took a knife and cut the insides of Jessica’s forearm, silver-edged steel easily cutting through aura and flesh alike. “Blood is the source of power, both your’s and mine,” said Jessica, as Alima walked around her back, to take her place on Jessica’s other side. There, she cut the other arm, in the same manner as the first.
Then, Alima stepped back, to watch the vampire’s blood as it fell to the ground. The sticky, red liquid began to run through the pattern, forming symbols of power, contained in the circle, contained in a grid that brought to mind both a filter and a prison. “It’s working,” breathed Alima, too excited to contain the words, despite their potential to interrupt the spell. Seeing Jessica’s wide eyes, the spellcaster quickly moved on to the next part of the spell.
“By your name…” began Alima.
“We bind you…” finished Jessica.
“By your name…”
“We deny you.”
“By the power you seek…”
“By the power you seek…”
Now, both girls began to recite the word together. “Three times we bind you, three times we deny you. Three times we control, three times we liberate. Ixxqura, Ixxqura, Ixxqura.”
The mass of creatures let out a hiss. Slowly, the mud began to recede, and some of the smaller animals, flies and worms, began to break away. Jessica felt a chill move up her arms as heat was carried away by her draining blood. Each drop of the red liquid that fell to the ground added to the pattern, the lines growing into symbols and symbols growing into power. More creatures broke from the mass, these ones larger than before.
“Keep bleeding, Jess,” said Alima. “It’s only going to take a few minutes for enough blood to collect, and then everything will be out of there!”
At least it seemed that way, until a sound like shattering glass echoed through the sealing space. A car descended through it, a slowly falling meteor into the sea of beasts. Out of the window, a white and black blur jumped. The blur sailed though the air, slowly resolving into the shape of an albino man in black clothing.
Emily approached him, yelling at him to stay still, but he didn’t listen. Instead, he punched her in the gut, throwing her aside like a rag doll, and moved on to those forming the barrier. He went after Linda first, kicking her in the back leaving her lying on her face. The barrier was broken, then, so Miss Karas and the principal went after the intruder.
The Latin teacher reached him first, going after him with a flurry of strikes. He blocked the worst of them, letting the weaker blows bounce off of his aura. He counterattacked, forcing the woman back with a single, heavy strike, and then hitting her with his knee, while she was distracted with the first attack. Miss Karas crumpled, clutching her arm like it was broken.
White chains emerge from the ground, wrapping around the albino. He turned and looked at the principal, the bald man chanting something and clutching something on a change. The intruder looked the principal dead in the eye, and said, “Do not interfere with my actions.”
And the principal stopped. He simply stood there, like he couldn’t even try to disobey. Satisfied, the albino man turned to the middle of the circle, slowly striding towards Jessica and Alima.
“Wh- what the hell?” said Jessica. “Why the hell did you decide to break in here?”
“It’s that lock around your wrist,” said the man. “You really over did it. Not just cutting off you own power, but me as well.”
And then, Jessica realized who she was talking to. “Izcacus.”
“In the flesh,” said the Progenitor. “Well, I’m actually borrowing this body, but you understand what I mean.”
Jessica swallowed a breath. “Why? What do you get out of all of this nonsense with Ixxqura and mind controlling me?”
“A break from my boredom, mostly,” said Izcacus, “things were getting damned dull, you know?”
Something launched itself over Jessica’s shoulder, bringing a lock of hair over her shoulder. Eric attacked Izcacus’s host, white fangs gleaming, sinking his claws and teeth into a white-skinned arm. Calmly, the host’s other arm came up and broke into the werewolf’s skull.
“What’s this? Healing already?” Izcacus said to Eric. “Well, I still can’t have you interfering anymore.” With that, he threw Eric aside, limbs splaying and head bleeding.
Behind her Jessica heard Alima chant, that strange guttural sound she made when trying to control more than her own power. The aura around her, of herself, the diagram, and the blood, took shape, driving into the amalgams, separating them, pulling them apart, returning them to their original forms.
There was no way Izcacus wouldn’t have noticed. Aura flared, and white hand clutched at Alima’s jaw. It clenched, and her lower face disintegrated, leaving the back of her mouth exposed. Desiccated flesh surrounded the empty hole leading to her throat, and dust came off it with her breath. “Do nothing but watch what’s happening,” the Progenitor commanded.
And through this all, Jessica caught Kayleigh’s eye. Kayleigh had been to stunned to move when Izcacus made its appearance, only standing there with a wide-eyed stare. She watch the violence, watched what it did to the magic of the ritual. When she saw Jessica’s glance, a plan formed between them.
Jessica grabbed the silver-edged knife from Alima. She turned attacked Izcacus’s host. “Oh? Trying something crazy, now?” said the controller. She was getting desperate, but she didn’t need to win; she just needed to make him bleed. She slashed with the knife, taking care not to look into his eyes. He stepped back, and Jessica threw a left hook, to control where he could go. She spent some blood to improve her reflexes, and when he stepped back, she stabbed, and–yes, it sunk into his arm! He was bleeding!
“Well, that’s going to be a mess in the morning,” Izcacus said, letting more blood fall out. “But now you’re unarmed. What are you planning on now?” Jessica smiled, as behind the host, Kayleigh walked up the dais, and recited,
“Covered in filth, I am still I,
Recall you place, beneath the sky,
Your heart and mind are yours alone
So please, see us and come back home.”
The magic of the symbol, of the ritual, of the blood, was shaped by Kayleigh’s poem. It swooped up, then back down, tearing into the amalgam, tearing apart the muck and the creatures within. They sailed away, up through the edges of the sealed space, freed from Ixxqura and able to return to their lives.
And then the magic reached the platform, pushing it up and nearly tearing it apart. The forces brought them upward, even as the ground beneath them shuddered and knocked them down, and all was enveloped in a horrible light…
Kayleigh sat outside, enjoying the cool air of the fall. She turned to the sound of footsteps on the floorboards, seeing Jessica’s pale face in the moonlight.
“So, uh,” she began, “Sorry about abandoning you after we first met. I had wanted to talk to you again, but all of…this happened, and I’ve been dealing with that.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it,” said Kayleigh. “These last few weeks have been hectic for me, too.”
The conversation had a lull after that. Kayleigh would have found the silence awkward, once, but now it was just kind of comfortable. She still broke it, however. “How’s your friend?”
“Alexandria?” said Jessica. “She’s going to be alright. I mean, she’s still shook up, but she’s going to be alright.”
“I’m glad. She was so nice when she sold me flowers. Confusing, but nice.”
“You…you met them?” asked Jessica.
“Oh, yeah.” Kayleigh ran her finger across the ground. “Actually, I’ve met a lot of the people back there. Just a single meeting, here and there, but still, it’s pretty amazing how close we got to meeting.”
“Yeah, it really is.” Another lull descended. “So, uh, we can get you a ride home.”
“Oof.” Kayleigh clutched her stomach. “Mom’s going to be so pissed when I get back. What am I going to tell her?”
“Tell her that you ran into some friends and you lost track of time.” Jessica flipped a lock of hair over her shoulder. “That’s pretty close to the truth, isn’t it?”
“She’s still going to be angry.” A lull, and then Kayleigh stuck out her hand. Jessica helped to her feet, and they turned to leave. “Wait!”
Jessica stopped, and looked back.
“Can I get your phone number?”
Have you ever want to just phone something in, but something inside keeps making you make too much effort? That how I felt while I was writing this chapter.