Alima’s Favorite Food

Alima unsheathed her knife, cutting into the animal’s flesh. “Now, it gets below freezing in the desert at night, but that isn’t nearly enough to keep the flavor from coming through.” Putrid gas exploded from the cadaver’s innards, the sharp metal blade slicing into the rotted skin.

Jessica shook her head. “Okay, now your just being gross for the sake of gross.”

Art: Alima’s Aura

This piece came out darker than I wanted.

Part of this was me not waiting for the black marker outlining the aura-trendils to dry.  I knew that the ink would smear and get into the orange, but I thought taking the brightness out of the orange was worth trying.  It came out darker than I wanted, and at any rate, I now realize that I was envisioning a much brighter orange in the space between the lines.

The other reason the picture came out too dark was Alima’s skin.  When I was working in colored pencil, I was using a very specific shade of light brown for Alima’s skin; specific enough that it wasn’t shared between to brands, each with a pencil labeled ‘light brown.’  Naturally, the six skin-tone markers that I use didn’t have the right shade, but I went with what I had that was closest.  It worked out okay, I guess.

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Art: Alima, Black and White

Once again, I had issues with black ink dilution.

I used India ink to fill in the wide spaces on this picture. If you’ve never used India ink, it’s basically particles of black pigment suspended in liquid. This means that it can come off the brush in little grits, like powder was sprinkled on the page.

To prevent this from happening, I dip my brush in water before I load it with ink. Unfortunately, this means that instead of turning into particles, the ink simply dilutes into a gray instead of a solid black. I tried to use the result to represent Alima’s dark skin, but the results were uneven.

Maybe I should have just used markers instead.


If you like this picture, please support the House Apart on Patreon.

Sketchbook: Ink Sketching

InkSketching

I tried sketching using a pen, because I noticed that the ink could be as gray as my hard pencil sometimes.  Ballpoint pen can’t really do filled in areas, unfortunately, and I’m still learning to accept that.  One thing about sketching in ink is that there’s no way to convert it to a finished picture, so I just have to accept what I did the first time.  This means that I have to actually learn how to sketch, without worrying about what the end result would be.

I took the opportunity to practice my proportions, especially of the hands and the head compared to each other and the body.  I also zoomed in on the woman from last week’s picture.  I’m a bit happier with her hair this time.  All in all this was a good learning experience for me.

I drew the snake at the bottom because I felt like drawing a snake.

Occulted: Destruction

ChaosConfusionAndOrderSomewhere 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…”

“We control.”

“By the power you seek…”

“We liberate.”

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?”

<<Previous


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.

Art: The Shadows Draw Near

TheShadowsDrawNear

The picture for this week’s chapter depicts Alima preparing for the ritual to separate the amalgams.  I think I should have made the dais taller, and I definitely should have used a template to draw it.  I like the foliage effect of the roof, I did it just by making random brush strokes, but it gets across the kind of randomness I wanted for the stone branches.

Unfortunately, I had issues with the shading.  I tried to make gray shades by diluting a single drop of ink into varying amounts of water, but they all came out as the same pale color.  I panicked, and dipped my brush into undiluted ink, which caused the uneven messes at the sides of the drawing.  Something I haven’t tried is using multiple drops of ink with the jars of water.  That might get me the even gray colors I’m looking for.

Occulted: Preparation

TheShadowsDrawNearKayleigh crossed the sticks over each other, cried “Manulael!”, and poured her aura into them.  She set them on the ground, and closed her eyes as the aura of the spirit washed over her and the grass around her.  The many-eyed being entered her house, to seal it off from the kid, and others that would teleport into it.

As the light faded from the yard, the short girl heard Linda walk up to her.  “The sealing’s going to take a while.  You wanna go some where while we wait?”

Kayleigh stretched her arms over her head, letting her spine pop.  “Yeah, sure.  Let’s go for a walk.”

She opened her eyes and turned, seeing the auras of the world, of the houses and the pavement, the subtle transparencies that made the familiar surroundings seem so alien.

“Hey, your aura’s lasting a lot longer now, isn’t it?” asked Linda, as the girls walked down the street.

“Yeah,” said Kayleigh, “The exercises have been helping a lot.  Especially once I figured out how to do the finger-curling thing in my head.”

After rescuing her friend from the Child of All Ages, Linda had helped Kayleigh figure out a way to train her aura.  She had asked her mother, looked in the old books, and just plain helped her when Kayleigh was practicing.  Between the two of them, they had gotten Kayleigh’s magic to stay awake for several minutes at a time, which could even be extended if the awakening ritual was preformed before time ran out.

“I still need to do it in real life if I’m just starting it though,” said Kayleigh.  “You know, it’s kind of freaky how much I was missing before.  It’s like I was only seeing half the world.”

“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic,” said Linda, “The only thing you were really missing were things like that little nook over there.”

Kayleigh turned and looked down a pathway that she had never seen before.  That’s not to say that it hadn’t been there, merely that she had been unaware of it.  But with her eyes now open to the other half of the world, she saw the the space, wreathed in an aura of red, olive, and blue.

And then she saw a flash of light move over the path.  She looked closer, and saw that the light was the aura of a strange creature, like an inflated sack moving on bat wings.

“Is that…one of those things that have been attacking people?” Kayleigh asked her friend.

Linda peered at the creature, as it moved into a hole in a hill.  “Yeah, looks like it.  Well, it’s not like we have to worry about it.”

Kayleigh stopped, and made a decision.  “Kay?  Where are you going?”

“To kill that thing,” the short girl said over her shoulder.  “Before it can hurt someone.”

Linda stared after her friend.  “You don’t need to worry about that, you know?  It’s not like its going to hurt anyone right now, except for whoever’s in that hole I guess.  And I’m sure that somebody else will deal with these things…”  Linda sighed, and went after her friend, fully aware that she had no idea who that ‘somebody else’ would be.

Kayleigh looked into the cave.  It was dark, of course, but in the fading daylight, she could barely make out a series of uneven steps leading down into the ground.  It looked like it would be pretty easy to climb down and back up, if there wasn’t a huge drop somewhere deeper.

“You’re really thinking of going down there, aren’t you?”  Kayleigh jumped a little, and turned to Linda, who already had her black hair draped over her face.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ll back you up, but…well, I climbed down a hole like this before, when I was little.  It was the freakiest goddamn thing.”

Kayleigh nodded.  “Thank you.  I’ll be careful.”

She climbed into the cave, her jeans scrapping across the bottom of the opening.  Slowly, carefully, she got to her feet, using the wall to push herself up.  She found that even she couldn’t stand up straight; her head would scrap against the roof, otherwise.  Leaning on the wall, she slowly began to walk down the steps.

Kayleigh looked over her shoulder, checking that Linda was following.  She had decided to crawl, staying on her hands and knees, even as the tips of her hair caught the kicked up dust.  That dust was just loose enough to slide on, just a little, which cause Kayleigh some worry with the unevenness of the steps.  Worse than that, however, was how the floor suddenly stopped existing.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!”

Kayleigh screamed as the cave opened up beneath her.  She fell, every split-second stretching out to a forever, the new floor rushing up to meet her face before she stopped, something pulling on her arm and wrapping around her chest.

The short girl looked back, into the black locks of her friend.  She was holding onto the ledge with one of her claws, two of the talons over the edge and the thumb buried horizontally into the wall.  Her other claw was grabbing on to Kayleigh’s wrist, and her legs were clutching the brunette’s body.  The creature’s green-black aura was reaching backward, like it was grabbing on to the wall to help support their body weight.

“Kay, I’m gonna have to let you down,” Linda said.

Kayleigh looked at the floor.  It was about a foot below her.  She sucked in a breath.  “Go ahead.”  The legs loosened, letting her slide down through them.  Her feet found the ground, and once she was carrying herself, Linda let go, releasing her arm and dropping onto her feet.

The cave had opened into a maze of brick walls, with the even dustier floor made not of brick or stone, but of smooth concrete.  Even stranger than that, however, was the ceiling, which seemed to be made of some kind of rocky foliage.  Light streamed through the branches, coming from small, crystalline nodes nestled within.

“So, where to?” asked Linda.  The three paths before them had no indication what was down them, not even tracks in the dust.  And though the thing they were looking for was floating, they would still need a way to find their way out.

“Well, you know that trick with holding your hand on the side of a maze?” said Kay.  “Let’s try that.”

And so, they walked down a path, with the wall on their left side.  Turn, turn, straight, open chamber, turn, straight, turn.  They went on like this for a while, barely even noticing the spider webs.

“We’re wasting our time,” said Linda, “Let’s just head back.”

Kayleigh sighed.  “Okay.”  The girls turned around, finding a spider that was bigger than they were.

Kayleigh didn’t scream; her throat was blocked off by her heart.  In that one, perfect second, the spider raised its forelegs, waving them as if to feel something in the air.  It took a step forward, legs curling and stretching as it moved, as petrification slowly spread out from its eyes.

The stone traveled across the body and down the legs, leaving a perfect, unmoving statue in the arachnid’s place.  At least, until the legs snapped, leaving the body to roll around on the ground, with small, rocky sticks scattered around it.

Kayleigh looked at her friend, as Linda’s hair fell back over her face.  “You work pretty fast, don’t you?”

“I suppose I do,” said Linda, “but it isn’t like there was much to for me to deal with.  Now, if there were hundreds of the things, I might have a problem.”

On cue, hundreds of spiders entered the tunnel, dropping from the branches, crawling on across the concrete, or even tearing through the bricks.  Some were smaller than a fingernail, others were larger than a horse, all crawling across each other, legs clicking against backs, a wave of exoskeleton and fangs, advancing on the girls.

“Run!” shouted Kayleigh, grabbing her friend by the wrist and pulling her deeper into the maze.  They lost themselves quickly, all thoughts of keeping track of the walls lost in their rush to escape immediate danger.  Something skittered over their heads, and dropped down to cut them off.

“Blood for Ixxqura!” the green-faced thing screamed.  Kayleigh stopped, letting Linda snap past her.  Hair flew, and the Linda gazed at the thing.  Dozens of spiders were streaming out of its mouth, crawling up its face and covering its eyes, even as they dropped, petrified.

“Shit,” Linda cried.  But even as she did so, Kayleigh saw something coming behind them.  It looked like a large, bald man, except for the eight, spindly limbs stretching from his back and the black eyes and mandibles hiding his face.  Linda attacked the enemy in front of her, swiping and dodging with it, unaware of the danger behind her.  Kayleigh wished she could have done the same, done anything as the fusion of man and spider reached out to her and…stopped.

In fact, the whole world had stopped.  Motes of dust hung in the air, trapped in the air, perfectly still.  Kayleigh could move, but sluggishly, like whatever had stopped everything else had decided to only slow her down.  As the short girl shifted and looked around her, she saw her tall friend moving in the same manner that she was, like they were forcing themselves through thick air.

“What the hell is going on?” Linda asked from behind her dark hair.

“To put it simply, I stopped time.”  Linda and Kayleigh turned to the speaker, stepping out from behind a wall.  He was a child, wearing a sky blue hoodie and a rubber mask over his face, and in his hands, he held a puzzle box, with one of the corners misaligned.

“You?” said Kayleigh.  “What the hell are you even doing here?”

“I’m here to request your help,” said the kid.

“Didn’t I already say no?”

“I suppose you did,” said the kid.  “But if you want to take your chances with the amalgams, well…”

The arachnid monsters still loomed around the girls.  “You son of a bitch.”


Vanessa had snuck into the room.  She knew that Angelica was basically grounded, and not allowed to talk to anyone outside of class hours, but this was important, and Angelica deserved to know about what was happening Underground that night.  It involved Dave and Johnny, after all.

The blonde girl’s eyes somehow tracked something invisible.  “Van?  Is that you?”

Vanessa was startled.  She knew that her invisibility wasn’t perfect, that she could be found by the signs her motion left in the environment, but it was dark in the room, illuminated by little more than the desk lamp that Angelica had been working under.

“Uh, yeah,” said Vanessa, letting her invisibility fall, “how did you know it was me?”

“I have my ways,” said the blonde.  “What did you come to visit me for?  I mean, I appreciate the break in my boredom, but you’re risking your neck for this.”

Vanessa sighed and walked over to sit on the bed.  “There’s no one out there.  Watching the room I mean.”

Angelica sat up straighter.  “What?  Where did everybody go?”

“Well…”  Vanessa went over to her friend and grabbed her hands.  She didn’t pay attention to the grime that passed between them.  “You feel aura, like I do, right?  Can you feel how all of the teachers are gathering in the basement?”

Angelica moved her eyes in thought.  “Oh, yeah, now that you mention it.  What about it?”

“Well, Albright and her group went down there, too.  I can’t feel them anymore, but if they’re helping out, we should be allowed to, too, right?  I mean, it’s our friends that are stuck in the mud.”

Gears turned in Angelica’s head, as she fingered the lock on her neck.  “You can get me out of here, right?  And through the teachers?”

“I suppose…”

Angelica looked up and smiled.  “Let’s get ready.  This is a big job, and we can’t pull it off with out preparation, now can we?”

Vanessa nodded, and tried to ignore the offers rapping on the back of her brain.


There was a black dais sitting in the middle of the chamber, the glimmering lights of the crystals in the stone foliage illuminating the girl drawing on it.  Dragging the chalk across the surface, she made a design clearly meant for a magic ritual, a fact made even more obvious by how the people around the platform were running about, preparing for something.

“So, what are we doing with them?” asked Linda, eager to be done.

The kid looked at her and Kayleigh, who could just about see the smile underneath his mask.  “The first thing you need to understand is what those kids are doing.  What’s your best guess?”

Kayleigh peered down, looking into the bottom of the bowl.  “Kids?” she asked.  “Are…are those students from Darkwood?”

“Yes, actually,” said the kid, “I’m not sure how the hell they talked the teachers into helping with all of this, but I do know that there are…unusual circumstances.”

“What circumstances?” asked Linda.

“Well, that girl drawing the diagram is some kind of genius, apparently,” he said.  “And do you see the pale girl with the black hair, wearing the white robe?  She’s the one that released the entity.  That means her contagion link is even stronger than yours, Kay.”

Kayleigh strained her eyes, and saw that there was someone with black hair wearing a simple, white robe.  She seemed kind of familiar, but from that distance, she couldn’t be sure that it was anyone she knew.

“So, what does the diagram tell you?”

“It’s, um,” Kayleigh began, “it’s a grid, that’s like, a filtering symbol, yeah?  And there a symbols of animals and people in the grid, I think?”

“So they’re going to use the grid to filter out the animals and people from something,” continued Linda.  “Not sure why, though.”

“Really?  Not even after I saved you?”

“…Those were people.  Those things were made out of people, and they’re trying to make them normal, again.”

Très bien,” said the kid.  “Now, how can we use this diagram for our purposes?”

Kayleigh’s eyes trailed from the diagram, to the kid, and to the Darkwood students.  She said, “We won’t,” and made a dash down into the bowl.  Gravity lent her speed, pulling her forward even as it tried to trip her.  Careful not to fall over, she followed the curve of the ramp, managing to scream at the group at the bottom, just as she was snapped back to the top.


Jessica snapped her head around, her raven-black hair brushing on the collar of her white cotton robe.  “What was that?”

“Sounded like a scream,” said Emily, “like sum’un jus’ tried to cry fer help and got choked off.”

The principal looked at Emily from behind opaque glasses.  Fear and aggression played across the twins’ face, as Miss Karas stood up straighter, alert.  Alima kept drawing her pattern, when Eric, straining his ears, spoke.  “I think I still hear something.  Up there.”

Jessica looked up the ramp he indicated.  There was movement there, like people were talking.  As she wondered who to ask to look closer, the principal made the decision for her.

“I’ll go.”


“Huh?” she said.  “Linda, why didn’t you stone him?”

“I did,” Linda said, “it’s just that…he suddenly wasn’t.”

“Setting up something to let me skip the hour I spent petrified was a pain,” said the kid, “but well worth the effort.  Now, I’m going to have to ask you to never do that again.”

“Don’t worry,” said Kayleigh, “I think they already heard me.”

The reason she said this was the man that had landed behind the kid.  He was an old, bald man, wearing a black suit and glasses that hid his eyes with their glare.  The kid slowly turned around to face him.  “Headmaster.”


Alima stood and stretched.  “Alright, everyone.  The diagram is done.”

“So, do we do the purification now?” asked Andrea.

“Soon, just let me change and let the feeling come back to my legs.”

As Alima walked down the stairs of the platform, Jessica decided to have a word with her teacher.  “Hey, Miss Karas?  What do you think the scream was?”

Karas shrugged.  “I have no idea.  Maybe the mud’s making plans against us.  Maybe it’s the result of an old sin, coming back to haunt us at the worst possible time.”

Jessica tried to keep her face calm, like she didn’t have any old sins that could come back to haunt her.  Although it would be kind of funny if the girl she had abandoned to deal with the whole Ixxqura thing did show up just as she was about to put it away.

The facade cracked when Kayleigh, the girl she had brought into the Underworld and possibly turned into a vampire, made her way down the ramp.

“Oh!  It’s you!”

The short brunette was followed by a friend, who Jessica didn’t recognize, but she was tall, with long, straight black hair, and an dark aura, that hung around her like a blanket of oil.  This friend, hearing Kayleigh’s exclamation, looked at Jessica and narrowed her eyes.

Jessica withered under the glare.  “Ah.  I suppose our mutual friend told you about me?”

The girl prowled forward, shifting to her monster-form.  The black hair fell over her face like a curtain, leaving only a hint of her left eye visible.  Her fingers fused, thickened, and the nails grew and sharpened into wicked claws.  She spoke, and there was an odd rumbling beneath the sound of her words.

“Yeah, I’ve heard of you.  You mind telling me exactly what happened when you met?”

Jessica backed away, her hands up in warding.  “Ah, well,” she started glancing over to her teacher as a clash like lightning resonated through the labyrinth.  “Well, we were just walking along and hanging out, when this other girl, started bothering us, see?  Well, this girl, she did some things, and we wound up trapped in this-”

“Did you feed on her?” asked the tall girl.

“Linda!” Kayleigh called out, as another boom suffused the world, closer now, rattling Jessica’s teeth in her jaws.

“Well, it’s not like I broke the skin, or anythi-”

The girl lifted her right claw, poising it to come down and cut into Jessica’s flesh.  Painfully slowly, the pale girl began to step backward.  Whether or not this would have been completed fast enough to avoid the attack, Jessica would never know, for her teacher had jumped in to the fight, holding the other girl, Linda, at the elbow.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I can’t let you fight my student.  Not right now.”  Another wave of sound echoed in the air, shaking the breath in Jessica’s lungs.

Linda stared at the teacher beneath her hair.  “What do you mean, ‘right now’?”

In response, Karas just pointed.  There, above the dais, the principal and a kid in blue were fighting each other, their blows making echoes like thunder as the others desperately tried to keep the ritual space, the markings and the materials, in some semblance of order.

The kid screamed over the noise.  “You believed once!  You saw how much good could come from breaking down the wall between realities!”

The principal shot back, “It was a delusion!  Enlightenment can’t be forced on others!”

“We can still try!  The amalgams, the Entity can bring the world together!  We can figure out how, if we experiment!”

“Well, you aren’t going to get that far,” said a new voice.

Everybody stopped what they were doing to look at its source.  It had come from a girl with short, spiky, blonde hair, dramatically posed on top of a piece of rubble.  She was wearing sleeves and leggings striped red and black, and she had a lock dangling from her neck.  The expression on her face was rather…unhinged.

“Angelica Spritz?” said Principal Darkwood,  “What the devil are you doing here?”

“This!”  Angelica turned her arm into a red and black tentacle, and another girl up from the rubble.  Vanessa wiggled in her friends grip, as the blonde’s other arm stretched and deformed, becoming another feeler, its newly formed tip reaching for the back of the bespectacled girl’s head.  When the tentacle withdrew, gray muck covered the end of it.

Suddenly, Angelica barked out,  “AN BATU, AL LAKU, AB NINSU!”

A gentle wind began to blow to the blonde.  Amalgamations emerged from the cracks and valleys of the sealing space, moving toward the mud on Angelica’s tentacle.  More and more emerged, and the wind grew stronger.  Soon, the wind wasn’t merely moving with the amalgams, but picking them up and carrying them into a swirling vortex.

Angelica stood at the center of that vortex, with her muck covered tentacle raised high above her head.  She was smiling, as she disappeared underneath the swarm of amalgams.  Those amalgams began to fuse and combine, becoming a single mass of animals and people, thrashing out at everything around them.

The ground shook, and the layers of the sealing space began to break apart underneath the feet of the students, the teachers, and the sorcerers.  The walls of the bowl shattered and fell away, revealing the amalgams that had been collected by the rituals before.  Mud and flesh flowed around them, gobbling up Angelica and her friend.

The slab of concrete at the bottom of the bowl was carried by a wave, slamming Kayleigh into Jessica.  They rolled around on the ground together, until the vampire enhanced her strength so that she could bury her fingers into the concrete beneath her, grabbing the short girl with her other hand.  The slab pitch and yawed, but the young vampire managed to keep them in one place, until the slab came to a relative rest.

Jessica got to her feet, and yelled “Who’s still here?”

“I am,” said Alima.

“‘S me,” said Emily.

“I’m in one piece,” said the principal.

“I am with you,” yelled Karas.

“I’m okay,” said Eric.

“Me too,” said Linda.

Jessica was glad that so many of her friends were okay, but she soon became afraid, as one question arrive in her head.  “Where’s Alexandria?”

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>


I don’t have good feelings about this chapter, but a lot of this is just because it’s part of the ending.  I’m not happy with a lot of what came before, partially from the weaknesses of my first draft, and partially from trying to wrap another plot line around one that was meant to stand on its own.  But I still want to finish this draft of the story, if only to have something to show an editor.

Occulted: Liberation

AtTheRiverKayleigh 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.

“Jessica?”

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.

“Hey, Jessie?”

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!”

“…What?”

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?”

“Oh.  Okay.”

“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.

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>


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.

Art: Study Group 2

StudyGroup2

In the spirit of revising my work, I decided to go back an learn how to use the filters properly.  I managed to get rid of the black spots speckled over the page, but now the picture feels a bit washed out for some reason.  I also still had to do a ton of manual erasing, especially on the shadows.

Also, if it looks like I’m being lazy, it’s because next weeks chapter is going to need a complete rewrite and I want to have as much time possible to work on that.

Art: Study Group

StudyGroup

I used two dilutions to make the gray this time, but I think I left the water out for too long (I let the water I’ve been using to dilute sit in an open jar for several weeks, using it for multiple picture) and something got into it, which made the pigment separate, causing the uneven colors you see on Alexandria’s shirt.  Still, at least I now know that two dilutions should be enough.

I also messed up the filters this time, so instead of a uniform white background, I got a bunch of gray spot on the page.  Still, at least it’s a learning experience.  I also used the eraser tool to get rid of the pencil marks for the first time on this drawing.

The wall scroll says “three men make a tiger,” a Chinese idiom warning against believing something just because most people do.  Architecturally, I was thinking that the wall behind the viewer had a window, with the wall opposite being shared with another apartment.  The doorway to the left leads to the kitchen, and the wall on the right isn’t shown enough to have features.  But now that I think about it, it could very well block off the public hallway.