Kayleigh rested her head against the orange brick building. Linda sat under the cherry tree, the red fruits scattered on the ground around her, hands folded.
“Is it here, yet?” asked the short girl. They were waiting for the spirit that had told Linda about Kayleigh, about how she had learned of magic and was in danger from who she was learning it from.
“No,” said Linda, opening her eye to look at her friend. “Did your aura fall back asleep again?”
Kayleigh stuck out her hand and curled her fingers together. “Love, honor, beauty, unite.” An oily green-black surrounded Linda, a reminder of her other form. Kayleigh spoke, “I can only keep it awake for like, twenty seconds at a time, but that’s gotten longer recently. That was around the time I started to learn to cast my own spells, actually.”
Linda got up and crawled over to her friend. “So what, it’s like a muscle? Use it and it gets stronger?”
“Seems like,” said Kayleigh. “You really don’t know anything?”
“Like I said,” said Linda, dropping back onto her feet, “I’ve never really paid attention to the others. Beyond, you know, Darkwood being a dumping ground for rich kids.”
Kayleigh shuddered. “Hey, don’t be too hard on Jessica–”
“Why not? She’s left you. That’s why you wound up talking to the kid,” said Linda.
“We didn’t exchange phone numbers, or anything,” said Kayleigh. “We didn’t have away to contact each other.”
“She could have looked you up online.”
Kayleigh had to grant her friend that. She didn’t really understand why she was defending Jessica, it’s not like she actually knew the girl, beyond that one afternoon. Maybe it was an aftereffect of drinking her blood, but Kayleigh still wished she could meet her, just one more time.
“When is your friend going to get here, anyway?” asked Kayleigh.
“Right now,” said three voices coming from above and beside them, just as Kayleigh’s aura died out. She looked around, looking for the voice, but finding nothing without her aura sight.
“Don’t look!” Linda shouted. Kayleigh stopped turning her head, and locked on to her friend’s worried eyes.
“Sorry, she can’t see you right now,” Linda said to no one in particular. She listened to something, then said to Kayleigh, “You can’t hear it either, can you?”
Kayleigh shook her head. Linda glanced to her side, and said, “Okay, do your finger ritual again, and make sure that you keep looking where I am.”
The brunette reawakened her aura, keeping her head turned to follow Linda’s gaze. An aura of light streamed out from the other direction, covering the world in a blanket of gold. Kayleigh wondered just what kind of power would let her see something she wasn’t even looking at.
“Can she hear me now?” said the three voices.
“Yes, for a little while.” Kayleigh had started to glance over her shoulder, only to have Linda grabber face and physically pull her eyes back. “Uh, thank you for warning Linda about the kid.”
“I receive your gratitude, and am happy,” said the voices.
“Um, right,” said Kayleigh, “speaking of which, that kid teleported into my house today. I want to keep him from doing that. Do you know a way?”
“Take two…” The voices faded out, and the light behind her dimmed. Startled, Kayleigh woke her aura back up. “…and say, ‘Manulael.’ In this way, I can aid you.”
“What? What did he say? My aura went out and I missed all that.”
Linda made a face. “That’s going to be annoying. We’ll do a ritual later, and then that thing will help us out, basically. Is there anything else you wanted from him?”
“Wait, yes.” Kayleigh started to turn toward the spirit, but stopped and shielded her eyes from the light. As she blinked away the dark spots, all she could remember of its physical form was an impression of eyes.
“Hey, you,” she said to the spirit, “How did you know about me?”
“I see many things,” said the three voices, “people and places, things and events, some near me, and some far away.”
“Okay, so,” said Kayleigh, “there’s this person I’d like to know about…”
Miss Karas’s office was surprisingly messy, papers and books scattered around, archeological artifacts around the edges, no rhyme or reason or organization apparent. The books were piled so high in some places that the sunlight couldn’t come through the windows, and besides the shelves, the only furniture in the room was a desk and two rather bare chairs.
Jessica had just finished explaining to her teacher about what she had found in the city, the sorcery, the goal of Tohu wa-Bohu, and the invisible girl that had helped her escape. Now, they sat in silence, Miss Karas thinking about her story while Jessica fidgeted. “Is there something else bothering you, Jessica?”
The pale girl played with her lapel. “Well, maybe, I guess, I mean…I think I want to check some things out before I tell you. I don’t want to waste your time if I’m not sure, even if this is something you could help with, but I’m supposed to find these things out on my own, and not tell anyone about—”
“Jessica, Jessica,” said Miss Karas. “It’s fine. You don’t need a reason to keep secrets.”
Jessica exhaled, calm.
“Now,” said Karas, glancing at the clock, “I think you should hurry to the cafeteria, if you are to have time to eat anything.”
Jessica picked at her lettuce. Clouds were rolling over the sun, and it was starting to rain. It could rain suddenly and hard around here, Jessica thought, not like her home. She was used to the weather being a lot more predictable, where a day that started sunny would stay sunny, or at least only get cloud cover in the afternoon.
“Hey, Jessie,” said Emily, from across the table, “You alright? Yer eatin’ even less than usual.”
Jessica looked at Emily, and decided to try an experiment.
“Emily,” said Jessica, looking her roommate dead in the eye, “Go running down the street shouting, ‘I’m a vampire,’ repeatedly.”
The rain had come in hard and sudden. Perhaps the observers on the street would think that was why the student from Darkwood wasn’t wearing anything heavier than her uniform’s jacket as she ran down the street. They would have thought that she simply going out for her own lunch.
Indeed, nobody would have noticed, remembered, or cared that the girl was running down the street in the rain, except for what she was shouting as she did it.
“…I’M A VAMPIRE! I’M A VAMPIRE! I’M A VAMPIRE! I’M A VAMPIRE! I’M A…”
Jessica brought her knees to her chest and curled into a ball in her chair. She tried not to sob. Tears stained the hem of her skirt, and the girl wondered how she looked to the other students.
Her head snapped up at the voice, and turned to it to see large brown eyes, filled with concern. “Oh, hey, Alima,” said Jessica, trying to smile, “what’s up?”
“You’re crying,” Alima said, “and Emily just ran off for some reason, that’s what’s up.” The brown-eyed girl slid into the seat beside Jessica. “Are- are you going to be alright? Can you talk about it?”
Jessica looked away, struggling to collect her thoughts. Finally, she said, “Alima? What would you do if you found out that you could do something horrible to people? And that you might have already done it?”
Alima looked confused. “Like, the evil eye, or…?”
Just then, Emily came back up to the table. “Hey, Alima. Jessie, why did you tell me ta do that?”
“It was the most ridiculous thing I could think of,” said Jessica. “But I think the real question you should be asking is, ‘why did I decide to do it?'”
“…I, I don’t know,” said Emily. “Well, you should listen ta yer friend’s requests, shouldn’t ya?”
Alima shifted in her seat. “Did…did you just mind control her?”
“Yeah,” said Jessica. She laid her face in her arms, and let out a whimper. “I’m sorry, Emily. I had to be sure I could do it. I didn’t mean to do it the first time, and then I found out about that I could, and now I’m using you as a guinea pig, and…”
“Jessie, Jessie,” said Emily. “Yer babblin’. Now, what’s upsettin’ you the most?”
Jessica blinked her eyes clear. “The first time I think I used my mind control powers, I guess.”
“Okay, now, what happened when you used them?” asked Emily.
“I, I think I made someone give me blood. It was the first time I got it fresh, too.” Jessica started to tear up again.
“Hey, Jessie, Jessie. Stay with us,” said Emily, grabbing her roommate’s arm. “Who did you feed from?”
“Eric,” said Jessica, brushing a strand of hair from her face.
“The werewolf? So, don’t you think you should talk to him about this?” asked Emily.
“I guess I should,” said Jessica. She paused, and then, “I hate Izcacus.”
Emily and Alima glanced at each other. “What?” asked Alima.
“I’m descended from a Progenitor named Izcacus. You remember, don’t you, Alima? It’s their genes, or whatever, that gave me these powers. They could take me over at anytime, too, so I have that hanging over me all the time. I wish I could just lock it all away.”
“Wait, what?” asked Alima, straightening up.
“…’I wish I could just lock it all away?’ What about it?” said Jessica.
Alima didn’t answer. She simply sat there, lost in thought, until the bell rung.
The clouds had cleared up by the time school let out. Jessica shuffled out into the sunlight, shielding her eyes.
She turned to see the call come from a tall boy exiting the building. When Eric caught up to Jessica, he said, “We need to talk, don’t we?”
Jessica turned back around. “Yeah, I suppose we do. How’d you hear?”
“Eh, word gets around, what with how you were acting at lunch today,” said Eric. “And Emily came up to me and told me to talk to you.”
Jessica gave a small snort of laughter. “That girl doesn’t like leaving things to chance.”
Eric scooted around in front of Jessica. “So, you want to go somewhere with less people?
They went to the side of the river. There was a road there, where the trucks would come in the early morning to make deliveries of wares and supplies to the stores pointed in the other direction. The road was abandoned in the late afternoon, so it was a good place to find somewhere quiet to talk.
Jessica stood at the railing, letting the sunlight glittering on the water bother her. She had needed to make sure that she wouldn’t waste time. There was something she had needed to say, and she needed Eric’s response to it. When they were done, then she could step away.
“Jess,” he said after a while, “could you please look at me?”
Well, thought Jessica, that’s exactly what I didn’t want you to ask. Still, she complied. She turned around and looked Eric in the eyes. Eyes that were, strangely, more apologetic than upset.
“I guess I would be angry with you for mind-controlling me,” Eric said, “y’know, if you’d done it on purpose. But, that’s not what happened, was it?”
Jessica looked down. “I didn’t even realize that I was doing it. I just tell someone to do something, and…poof.”
“What does it feel like?” asked Eric. “Using your mind-control, I mean?”
“It doesn’t feel like anything,” she said, “I could use it on anyone, at anytime, and I wouldn’t even know that I did. The only reason I even know I have this power is because someone else felt my aura when I did it.”
“So, isn’t that the only time you’re sure you mind-controlled someone?”
Jessica looked up, and stepped toward the boy. “What? What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t think you mind-controlled me.”
Jessica blinked. “Huh?”
“Er, well, it’s like,” Eric said, scratching the back of his head, “Remember that time I transformed, in that empty house, and you managed to fight me off? Well, it really helped me sleep.” He leaned over the railing. “Knowing that there was somebody strong enough to do that, I mean. So, I figured…If you can help keep me under control, I can help you stay strong. And I heal fast, anyway.” And then, very quietly, “And it’s not like I hated how you fed off of me.”
Jessica felt herself blush. “Thank you,” she said. She looked away, trying to look like she was flirting, “And from the sounds of things, you’ve been thinking about my offer, haven’t you?”
Eric went completely red. “That’s-I mean-well-yes- Oh god!”
Jessica was elated at his embarrassment. It made her feel happy, powerful, in control. Strange how it did that, when directly reaching into his mind and making him do things made her feel like a monster. Well, maybe it would be best for their relationship to be give and take, neither of them dominating the game of check and countercheck. In those terms, it wasn’t too different from Eric’s deal.
Eric managed to collect himself. “Well,” he managed to wheeze out, “if you want to do it again, I’m up for it anytime. Neck biting, I mean! Not, uh–”
“Thank you,” said Jessica, “I’ll definitely keep you in mind. You know, if I can’t find anyone else.”
He made a play of grabbing at her, giving her plenty of time to skip away. They grabbed, skipped and chased, all the way back to school grounds.
That evening, there was a knock at the door of Emily and Jessica’s room. Jessica leaped to the door, Emily following behind, and when she opened it, she found Alima, looking incredibly excited about something.
“Yes, you! I need you, right now!”
Alima took a breath and calmed down a little. “Okay, Jess, it started with what you said at lunch today, about locking your powers away.”
“Yeah? What about it?” asked Jessica.
“Well, sealing is a frequently used and well understood branch of magic, so I went asking around for information. Now, sealing away an Occ’s magic is actually a pretty common practice, usually when the Occ can’t turn something off and it’s constantly draining their reservoir. Now, I figured we could also use the lock metaphor to keep a power from activating accidentally, so I bought you this.” Alima held up a small belt that looked like it was sized to go around somebody’s wrist. Small crescents of gold were attached by chain near the ends, and instead of a buckle, there was a padlock to keep the loop closed.
“Now, right now, this is just a bracelet, we still need to enchant it and bind it to you. Well, call a spirit to do that; I’m not sure how to do it myself yet. We can do it right here, on the ground, I’m already carrying everything I need,” Alima said, gesturing to her bag, “but I going to want you to bleed a bit, to represent your power.”
“Waitaminute,” said Emily, from deeper in the room, “do ya remember what happened the last time you used Jessica’s blood fer a spell? This isn’t goin’ ta make the room explode, is it?”
“I’m only using the blood as link, not a power source, so no, not this time.”
Emily was quiet, lost in thought. “Well, Jess? How about it?”
Jessica said, “I’ll…I’ll try it. It’s not like it could hurt, really.”
With Jessica’s approval, Alima took out a small folding table, so low that the only way to sit at it was crossed-legged, and set it up on the floor of the room. Alima sat on one side, and Jessica sat at the other, with her forearm resting on the table so that the Alima could put the belt on her wrist. Emily stood, watching the proceedings.
With the bracelet locked, she lifted her arm for the paper towels that would keep her blood from spilling. The arm rested on the towels, palm up, as Alima took out a pair of sticks, like chalk or crayon, and drew two circles on either side of Jessica’s arm, one red, one blue. In the red circle, the large-eyed girl drew a flag and a kneeling man, while in the blue, she drew a feather and an eye.
“Okay. Jessica, Emily, be ready.” Emily shifted, and Alima took out a scalpel. Jessica relaxed, and forced her aura to let the blade through to break her skin. As crimson fluid began to well through the small cut on her forearm, noises, deep and guttural, came from Alima’s throat. Using the scalpel, she lifted some of the blood and smeared it on the padlock, the strange sounds still emerging from her mouth. The orange streaks of the Egyptian girl’s aura streamed into the blood and the lock, as if to push and sew them together.
Suddenly, Alima stopped, both voice and body. She dropped the knife, crossed her arm above Jessica’s, and shrieked, “Manulael“. Her aura withdrew, snapping back into her and leaving a void around the lock and the bracelet. The emptiness stayed there for a moment, but slowly, a light started to creep through the room, washing the surroundings in gold and stabbing Jessica in the chest.
Jessica heard herself choke. She stopped breathing, pain coursing through her every time she tried to move her lungs. The light was like the sun, or a church, an existence hostile to her own, penetrating her body and tearing apart her insides.
Emily stepped between Jessica and the source of the light, her shadow letting the vampire breathe. Blessed darkness covered her, letting her strength return, even as Alima stared at her in horror.
“I am lucky that you were here, O one born of pieces,” said three voices from behind Jessica, beyond Emily. “And I apologize for being incautious with my aura.”
Jessica felt Emily start to step away from her. “You-”
“NO! Don’t step away from her!” the voices cried. “You’re the only thing keeping that girl safe!”
Emily stopped. Jessica gasped, “You…can you finish things?”
Jessica’s arm and bracelet were still lying in the auraless void. “Yes. Just let me be careful and try not to move.”
All three of the girls stayed very still as the light twisted around and landed on the lock. The blood dried and disappeared, absorbed into the metal. Jessica felt a force on her wrist, squeezing it and making her arm feel heavy. Doubly strange, because its actual weight was supported by the tea table.
There was a clash like a cymbal, and the force disappeared. The light stopped twisting around. Jessica lifted her hand to look at the charm.
“You, wearing the lock,” said the voices. “Are you Jessica Albright?”
Jessica turned, wincing as the light hurt her eyes. Before she could respond, Emily said, “What’s it to you?”
“Hm,” said the spirit. “Somebody who’s life was changed by Jessica Albright asked me to look for her.”
“Oh,” said Jessica and Emily, “oh, shit!” Jessica turned around, back to the table, where Alima just looked.
“Uh, hey, Ally? I know this is interesting, but…this is my problem, you know?”
“I will take my leave now,” said the voices. “Please, stay safe.” The light dimmed, and disappeared. Emily and Jessica relaxed.
“I’m really sorry about that,” said Alima, “I should have made sure about what I was calling to.”
“True,” said Jessica, “but I survived and got what I wanted, so I’m not to angry.”
Alima sighed. “I guess the only thing left is to make sure that the lock works.”
Jessica smiled, stood up, and turned around.
“Emily,” said Jessica, looking her roommate dead in the eye, “Go running down the street shouting, ‘I’m a vampire,’ repeatedly.”
“Fuck off,” said Emily.
I actually rewrote a lot of this one, despite how happy I was with it. I added in Kayleigh’s part, took out a bunch of pointless summarizing, and rewrote Eric’s dialogue. I don’t like the personality I gave him the first time around.
But the biggest change is that I actually went through the sealing ritual. I actually know how ritual magic works now, and my original version was just lazy, anyway. I still have misgivings about this chapter, but that’s mostly how it links up with what comes before and after.