Art: Emily’s Skin

I bought a set of skin-tone markers about two months ago, and this is the first time I’ve gotten around to using them. I regret not getting to this sooner, but anyway, I really wanted to color in Emily first. Her variety of skin tones gave me a chance to use every marker I had in the set.

There are six markers in the set. Three were of lighter skin tones, and three were of darker shades of brown, although to my disappointment, the differences between the lighter shades weren’t particularly noticeable. In particular, the lightest shade, which I used for Ms. Frankenstein’s chin, wasn’t quite as light as I hoped.

Also, the marker’s brush tips made the ink come out wonderfully smooth. In addition to the feeling of it coming out on paper, it also gives nice solid blocks of color. I noticed bleeding to the other side of the page, but as this didn’t leave anything on the surface below, I think it’s fine.


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

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.

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.

Occulted: Summation

StudyGroup“They used Plant as an Anti-Idea of Animal, the specific plants all had Purity-type ideas associated with them, and the magic in the blood powered the process.”

Jessica, Emily, Alima, Eric, and Alexandria had all met at Miss Karas’s apartment, to discuss what they knew about Ixxqura, the alien mud that had been causing problems for the Occulted around town.  The mud had first arrived on Earth in 1918, when it had been sealed away by the then-faculty of their school, along with rather significant help from a student of the time.  That student would go on to give birth to Jessica, and although she had forgotten much about the incident in the near century that had passed, she still sent what information she could to her daughter.

“Wait, hold on, how does the fusing thing work, again?” asked Jessica.  Alima started rifling through the papers on the dining table.  In addition to the letter sent by Jessica’s mother, there was also the old notes that had been left at an used-book store in town, and half a dozen interviews with the old Occs that had witnessed the original events firsthand.

“Ah, here,” said Alima.  She began to read off the negative of the old paper, “‘As mud can be the medium by which small pebbles can be joined together into a single, larger stone, the alien entity, whose physical form resembles mud, can fuse together animals into a more powerful creature by using mud as a metaphor to invoke the Idea of binding things together.'”

“It’s weird to think about magical aliens,” said Eric.

“If magic can exist on Earth, is is really so strange to think it can exist in outer space as well?” asked Alex.

“Can we let Alima continue, and discuss any weirdness of our situation later, please?” said Jessica.

Alima nodded.  “‘I believe that it has only members of the animal kingdom because it is restricted to planes other than the Surface.'”

“What the hell does ‘planes other than the Surface’ even mean?” asked Emily.

Alima explained, “‘Planes,’ in this case, refers to the slightly disconnected spaces that are both large enough to possess their own horizons, and have a each point corresponding to a point on another plane, or a set of them.  The Surface means the space that the normal people can live in without becoming Occulted.  It’s also called the root world, or the core, and is, presumably, the plane that the other planes, which the mud can exist on, corresponds to.”

“So when Jessica an’ me went in ta the basement and released the thing, that was another plane?”

“I would call it a sealed space, personally, because it was a closed room and not big enough to have a horizon.  I suppose ‘plane,’ here, could simply refer to any Occulted space, though.”

“Wait, is it possible to slip into another plane on accident?” asked Eric.

“Around here it is.  You would have to be Occulted in the first place, I think, and it’s really only in places where the local geometry is fucked.  I think what the mud being locked to other planes mostly means is that it mostly causes problems for the Occulted, and that because animals are much more likely to only exist on one plane, it has an easier time acting on them.

“Anyways, the notes go on to explain how a girl the writer knew got into a deal with the entity, how she researched a spell to get the girl out of the mud’s fusion, and a copy of what’s needed to preform the ritual, and how the girl reacted to getting taken out.”

“What was the girl’s reaction?” asked Karas.

“Basically, she made this huge apology, because the mud offered the girl a chance to get with a guy she’d been going after, and the mud somehow made that so that she tried to kill this other girl that had also been going after him.  The whole take away is that the mud offers a deal, and if somebody accepts it, it fuses them with a bunch of other stuff and makes them start killing people.”

“What is getting that deal even like?” said Jessica.  “And would animals have to accept the deal, too?  I mean, it’s not like they can talk.”

“Well, I think I actually got an offer from it,” said Alima.

“What?  When?”

“Oh, it would be about a month ago, now,” the brown-eyed girl said.  “I was reaching under the sink of my workplace’s bathroom for a new roll of toilet paper, when I felt something cold on my hand.  Next thing I knew, I was…aware, I think would be the best way to describe it, of the cold spot offering me the power to control my life.”

Jessica asked, “And then what did you do?”

“I tore off my arm, ran out of the bathroom, and told the boss about it.  I’m not dumb enough to accept offers from strange things I can’t see.”

“You tore off your arm?” asked Alexandria.

“Yeah, it grew back,” said Alima.  “Here, look.”  Alima reached up and tore off her left arm.  It crumbled to dust in her hand, the stump dangling from her short sleeve, dessicated on the end.  Everyone else was shocked.  Miss Karas recovered first.

“How long is it going to take for your arm to grow back?”

“A couple of hours.  Why?”

“Because this isn’t a flower shop being swapped around a set of identical cousins.  People are going to ask questions.”

“Oh.”  Alima looked down at her stump.  “Oops.”

“Too late to do anything now.  What can you tell us about the spell Jessica’s mother created?”

“Well, let’s see here,” said Jessica, “In her letter, Mom didn’t explain how she found the spell, probably because she didn’t want me to go looking, but the notes describe the process in detail.”

Anyway, the spell described involves drawing a sigil on the ground, mixing by blood into a cup with the plants and poisons listed in the spell, and reciting the poem while I set the the blood and plants on fire.  The blood’s mostly just there as a power source, I can bleed more if the spell needs more power for some reason.”

“Doesn’t the thing we’re dealing with use blood itself?” asked Eric.

“Blood itself holds a lot of magical energy in it,” said Alex.  “I think a vampire’s blood, like Jessica’s, has even more than usual.”

“Oh, it does,” said Alima.

“Ah.  Anyway, the important thing is the plants and the sigil.  The first two are basic herbs that can be bought just about anywhere, but wolf’s bane is the biggest problem.  The other plants’ toxic properties aren’t going to harm anything much bigger than bacteria, but aconite is really dangerous.  It’s so poisonous, even the famed regeneration of werewolves can’t handle the stuff.”

“So what’s the poison doin’ in the spell?” asked Emily.  “And would the spell work better if we took the other things, not the wolf’s bane, out?”

“I don’t think just taking out the other herbs would be a good idea,” said Alex.  “Their Ideas of a relatively safe poison would be used to stabilize the primary poison from the wolf’s bane.  We would probably have to find something to replace them, and the sigil is mostly to make sure that the power doesn’t accidentally help Ix- the thing.  I think that’s how it works, right Jessica?”

“Yeah, looks like it.  I think that’s what the sigil’s doing, at any rate.  The thing I’m not sure about is how we can make sure that we’re acting on the right plane.”

“Wait, wouldn’t we just need to be on the right plane ourselves?” Eric asked Jessica.

“Well, maybe.  The problem is that there’s seems to be a part that where my mother got help with tracking down the thing.  It doesn’t really explain who helped her, but considering that the school was keeping the thing under control…”

As Jessica trailed off, the students turned and looked at the Latin teacher.  “Don’t look at me, the other teachers aren’t explaining shit to me.”

Jessica let out a sigh.  “And even with the school being no help, there’s another thing to consider.”

“Tohu wa-Bohu,” said Alexandria.

“Yeah.  The kid that attacked Alima, Emily, and me in the basement of the bookstore is still out there, and we have no idea what he wants with the mud.  It would be nice to figure out something about him.”

“So, what’s the summery here?” asked Miss Karas.

“The first thing,” said Jessica, “is that we are dealing with an alien mud that is powered by blood being shed in its name, and can fuse animals together Idea of mud.  We have a spell that can undo the fusion, at least, but it’s slightly incomplete, because the mud could be on multiple planes and we have no way of tracking which one.  This plane shifting, coincidentally, also means that normal people aren’t going to be aware of what’s going on, because the mud can’t enter their world.”

“What else?”

“There’s also a group of Occs called Tohu wa-Bohu running around, and their involved in this thing somehow.  We need to find out more about them, while also finding a way to track the mud and collecting the things we need to perform the spell.”

The oven beeped from the kitchen.  “Sounds like my oven’s done warming up.  How about we take a break while I make everyone dinner?”


“I admit that I could have been more forceful in trying to teach her, I believe that being to insistent carries the risk of frightening her away from us.”

“Hm.  I understand why you wish for the girl to drive her own training, she is not inquisitive enough for that.  If given the option, she would simply wade in the shallows of the stream, not even caring that the depths even exist.”

“True.  I guess there’s nothing for it, I’ll have to go to her next time.”

“Very well.  As the next order of business, I should inform the Assembly that a minor customer of mine, Fivi Karas, seems to be looking into our activities.  Of particular note about Miss Karas is that she is in the employ of the Headmaster.”

“Do you believe that the school has decided to act against us?”

“That’s the odd thing.  When she visited me, she brought along a girl with her, seemingly a student.  At first I had believed that she had merely been taken under Miss Karas’s wing, but my customer told me that she was looking into this matter for her sake.”

“This girl, did she have black hair and pale skin?”

“Yes, what of it, Child?”

“I suspect that that girl was Izcacus’s descendant, the one it used to release the entity.”

Muttering, muttering, muttering.

“Lord of the Blacksmiths, would your customer be willing to aid us?”

“I do not know.  I only know that she is interested in the past, and learning what really happened in it.  I have not spoken one word to the girl, either.”

“Nevertheless, would it do any harm to signal them?”


“Why are we dealing with this, anyway?”

Eric had gone out for a walk while Miss Karas made supper, and Jessica had joined him.  She hadn’t particularly needed the fresh air, but it was a chance to be alone with him.  Although that might have worked better if they hadn’t found themselves on the busiest street during the busiest shopping hours.

“What do you mean?” asked Eric.

“I mean why are bunch of high schoolers making plans to take out an alien that looks like mud.”

“Well, it’s not like we wouldn’t be involved if we weren’t pushing into this.  We’ve all been affected by the thing, one way or another.  Right?”

Jessica glanced into a store window as she passed it by.  “Yeah, Emily and I got attacked by an elk thing, and before that we released the thing.”

“When you interrupted the ritual, you mean?  Why did you even do that?”

“It wasn’t something we really had a choice in,” said Jessica.  “I got taken over by an ancestor of mine- they only exist as some kind of mind virus that takes over their descendants occasionally- and it made me walk over to the ritual and throw Emily into it.  We didn’t even know that the ritual was there.”

“And this ancestor, what’s happened to it?” asked Eric.

“Well, nothing really.  I started to look into it, but I’ve gotten distracted by this whole thing with the amalgams.  And to think, the public schoolers are worrying about grades and dances.”

“Yeah, midterms are coming up, aren’t they?” said Eric, as he looked down the street.

“Hmph.  Can’t say I’d be worried about that.  What about the other thing?  Do you have your eye on anyone?”

“Nah.  I’d feel weird about asking somebody out, anyway.”

“Really?” said Jessica, turning her head to him, “Your never going to get used to it if you don’t try.  And besides, it’s not like you have to really worry about girls turning you down.  Hell, Alexandria’s been eying you all evening.”

Before Eric could respond, the press of people shoved the two of them into a side alley.  Jessica looked over to her tall classmate.  He gazed out into the crowd, like he was thinking about his place in the world at large.

“Hey, Eric,” she said.  He turned and looked her dead in the eye.  “Let me feed on you.”

“Okay.”  Jessica stopped, surprised it was that easy.  Before the chance could escape, she threw Eric against the wall.  She let her tongue explore the side of his neck, both spreading pain-dulling saliva and searching for the right spot to sink her teeth into.  She let out her fangs, and broke the skin.

The coppery taste of blood spread into her mouth.  She moaned from the sensation, shoving her body into his, trying to feel every swell and dip through the fabric of their clothing.  After a too short eternity, she broke off her feeding, letting the puncture wounds heal.

“Wow, Eric, that was great,” Jessica said.  “I feel like I should do something to thank you.  You want to go somewhere private, or should I just suck your dick right here?”

The werewolf stumbled over himself.  “Wh-what?”

“I’m joking, of course.  But seriously, I’m going to fantasize about you later.”  Jessica turned back out to the street, happy with the knowledge that she had left the boy both drained and excited.  She nearly skipped through the crowd, as she started to make her way back, letting Eric try to catch up to her.

Then, while she was starting to walk through the crowd, she was suddenly pushed back, like a windstorm appeared from nowhere.  A line of light had appeared in the windward sky.  Jessica stumbled backward, only keeping her balance because she had managed to fall into Eric’s chest.  And then, all was silence.  Nobody else on the street seemed to have noticed the phenomenon, or even been affected by it.

“Was that- was that something on another plane?”


Linda blinked away the dark afterimage the light had left on her eye.  “Hey, Lin?” said Milly.  “Are you okay?  You’re just kinda…staring off into space.”

“Yeah, I do that sometimes,” said Linda.  “Haven’t you noticed?”

Milly nodded and looked away.  “So, about Kayleigh…”

Linda shrugged.  She hadn’t known the girl nearly as long as Milly had, so she wasn’t really sure if Kay had gotten quieter recently or not.  But the three of them were still friends, even if they had only fallen in together because they all thought running around and shouting seemed like fun, so it was the least Linda could do to hear Milly’s thoughts out.

“Yeah.  All we can really do is be there.  It just sucks that we’re growing apart.”  Milly jumped off the jungle gym.  “Will you be okay on your own?  I think I just need to stew for a while.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Linda.  “Just stay safe on the way home.”

As Milly turned to leave, Linda finally addressed the spirit that had been lurking behind her for most of that conversation.  “Alright, now what do you want?”

Linda didn’t turn to face the spirit.  She had glimpsed its eye-covered foot earlier, and that was enough to tell her that looking directly at it would be bad news, just like every other spirit that put too much emphasis on eyes.

“That conversation invoked an Idea you should know about,” the spirit said.  It sounded like it had three mouths.  “That girl has fallen beneath the Surface, and has come into the influence of eyeless men.”

“Which girl?  Milly or Kayleigh?”

“The one not present.”  Among other unpleasant habits, spirits weren’t willing to just come out and say what they meant.

“These eyeless men, do they mean her harm?”

“They are dangerous to her.”  That would be code for the eyeless men, whoever they were, were going to hurt Kayleigh through stupidity, rather than malice.

“Thanks for the warning.  Got anything else on these eyeless men?” asked Linda.

“Look for the many-pointed star.”  With that, the spirit left, leaving Linda to figure out what the hell it was talking about.

Apparently, Linda really had seen flashes of magic around Kayleigh.  They didn’t last for very long, they were always gone by the time she had really looked at her.  Linda wasn’t sure how that had happened, or where they went afterward, but the important thing was that Kayleigh was in danger.

Linda didn’t remember anything about ‘eyeless men’ from the spirits.  They usually just showed up and started yammering at her about whatever it was they felt like bothering her about.  But the spirits weren’t the only source of magic in the world.  There were others like her, and her mother and grandmother, living their lives, and some of them could be eyeless.

And so, for the first time in her life, Linda had to care about the glowing people beyond her immediate family.

<<Previous                                                                                                                               >>Next


I liked reading my characters just talking to each other.  I didn’t need to herd them anywhere specific, I didn’t need to show anything specific about them, I was free to just let them be.  Anyway, because of that, this chapter went quickly, even though I decided to change the title.  This is good, because the next chapter is going to be a doozy.

Art: Trapped

TrapSuccessfulTrapFailed

I’ve got two versions of this week’s chapter art.  The one on the top is what I ended up using.  It’s a picture I first sketched in pencil first, then inked over with ballpoint.  I then used a brush to fill in some of the dark areas, like the eye’s and Alima’s shirt.  I found that the way that I do brush inking (dipping the brush in water at the beginning, and then dipping the brush every other time I need more ink, to make sure the ink goes on smoothly) dilutes the ink over time.  This creates an unevenness in application, noticable on Alima’s shirt in the top picture.  This unevenness comes from the dilution, which is why the left side of Alima’s face is darker than the right.

The bottom picture is version I started to draw using only ink brushes, using the original sketch as a guide.  I stopped when I realized that the brushes didn’t give me the control over the lines that I wanted.  I couldn’t really us a straight edge, because only one side of the line would be straight, and I couldn’t really change the picture if I realized that what I was drawing wasn’t working, which is why the line between the floor and the wall is visible through the masked kid.  I also had difficulty controlling the expressions of the girls in the jewel.

From this drawing, I’ve decided to only use ink brushes to do an area fill, and use pen to make lines.  I might want to invest in colored ink, but I could also use colored pencil for that.  I should also think about learning how to use layers in GIMP, and see where that gets me.

Occulted: Amalgamation

TrapSuccessful“So what if a couple of idiots bit off more than they could chew?  It’s got nothing to do with me.”

The older girl stormed off.  Jessica was left stunned.  She had presumed that nobody spoke of the two missing students because they had been forgotten or erased somehow, but now she was forced to consider that students disappearing was just something that happened.  More than that, the girl she had just spoken to didn’t even seem particularly surprised by Dave’s metamorphosis.

Bit off more than they could chew What the hell did that mean?  That girl seemed to expect Jessica to know.  Not knowing made her feel like she was just being pulled along, unable to even see where she was being taken.

“Yo, Jess.”

Jessica was startled out of her thoughts.  She had been so out of it that she hadn’t noticed her roommate walking up to her.

“Hi, Emily.  What’s up?”

“You find anythin’ on yer end?”

Jessica shrugged.  “Just that nobody seems to think people randomly growing spider legs from their back isn’t anything weird.”

“Well, I suppose that coulda been from a curse,” mused Emily.  “Well, if askin’ around isn’t doin’ us any good, we should hit the books.”

Jessica swept her hair back over her shoulder.  “I’ve checked the library already.  Mr. Campbell didn’t let me look at anything.”

“Libraries aren’t the only place ta get books, Jess,” said Emily.  “Hell, I jus’ a bulletin asking fer workers for a local bookstore.”

“Like, from Darkwood specifically?” asked Jessica.  “Is this a bookstore for the Occulted?”

“Damn straight,” demanded Emily.  “‘S only a few blocks from here, whadya say?”

Jessica looked into Emily’s eye, and smiled.  “Let’s get going.”


The rubber-masked boy squeezed the tweezers into the air around Kayleigh.  “Hm.  Could you activate your aura for me?”

Kayleigh began to curl her fingers together, and said, “Love, honor, beauty, unite!”  The gap lit up with aura, the clock face pattern of the boy’s energy standing out against the blue-green of the space around them.  Kayleigh’s own pink light had been threaded through with streaks of orange, which is what the tweezers were grasping.

The boy pulled, and an orange thread followed, unwinding from around Kayleigh.  As the last of the long strand emerged from her aura, it dissipated, breaking apart into the world’s aura.

“So, did somebody cast a spell on me?” asked the girl.

Her teacher tapped his tweezers on his bottom lip.  “What does ‘spell’ mean to you, again?  That’s only the big, complicated stuff, right?”

“Yeah, the stuff the Occulted can just do ‘superpowers,’ and the stuff that they need to chant and draw circles for are ‘spells.’  Um, what’s the real word for them?”

“Words are just signs, as long as your meaning gets across, that all that matters,” said the kid.  “Did we go over what the chanting and drawing that spells use actually do?”

“No, we didn’t get that far.  Why?”

The kid pulled out another thread from Kayleigh’s aura.  “Well… The first thing you need to understand is that Occs do not talk to each other, at least about things like this.”

“Why not?”

“We just don’t like talking.  Anyway, because of that, I’m not entirely clear on the details myself, and this isn’t helped by the almost subjective nature of ritual magic.”

Kayleigh scrunched her eyebrows.

Noticing her confusion, the child continued, “It’s like language, I guess?  Spells have rules, but these rules can be bent, or even broken, by certain people under certain circumstances.  For example, somebody imbued with the Ideas of ‘gaze’ and ‘curse’ looked at you, and then your aura was messed up, and I fixed that using the tweezers as a Metaphor for removing something.”

“Wait,” said Kayleigh, “What do you mean by ‘Ideas’ and ‘Metaphor?’  I don’t think you brought those up before.”

The kid blinked, or at least Kayleigh thought he did.  She wasn’t sure underneath his mask.  “Ah, right, you’re completely new.  Well, Ideas are abstract objects, and they can be imbued into an aura and have various effects.  A Metaphor is something that’s used to manipulate Ideas.  The Ideas imbued into a particular Occ’s aura define their superpowers.”

“So a vampire would have Ideas of ‘fang,’ ‘darkness,’ and ‘blood,’ while a werewolf would have ‘wolf’ and ‘moon?'”

“Something like that, yeah.  Spells are mostly about manipulating Ideas you don’t have, meaning that they can do things an Occ’s superpowers can’t.  Even somebody like you can cast spells, as long as you wake up your aura first.”

“Really?” said Kayleigh, leaning forward.  “Does that mean you can-”

The world stopped.  When it resumed, Kayleigh was standing up.  The kid was too, and he was sliding a panel on the side of a box he was now holding back into position.  He looked at Kayleigh, nervous.  “Sorry, miss.  It seems that I have another appointment.  I wish you luck on your studies, and I apologize for being unable to aid you at this time.”

The kid shoved Kayleigh back into the normal world.  Curious at his panic, she hid, and watched him in secret.  The masked boy left his gap, walking along until he met two girls.  One had chin-length brown hair and glasses, and stood like she was trying to disappear into her coat.

The other was Angelica Spritz, who had once almost killed Kayleigh.


Nothing in the glass windows of the bookstore were particularly interesting, but it was the nature of the Occulted to hide themselves, even if it was in plain sight.  Jessica and Emily stepped through the door, ringing a bell set above it, and behind the counter was a girl with enormous, brown eyes.

“Ah, hello, what can I do for you this afternoon?” asked Alima, clearly recognizing both of them and not quite sure what to do with that.  Jessica remembered their first encounter, how it had ended in violence, despite of how well they had got along together at first.  Seeking to spare the clerk at least a little awkwardness, Jessica decided to scan the rest of the store.  Paperbacks and hard covers covered the walls, and the sloped displays in the middle of the room showed the front covers of books.  Two other people were in the store, girls about her age, one with spiky blonde hair and the other with a brown bob.

Emily pulled Jessica up to the counter.  “Okay, Alima?  I didn’t know you worked here.  If I did, I wouldn’t have brought my roommate here.”

“You two are roommates?”

“Yeah, I guess I didn’t mention that when we met.  Anyway, the important thing is that we’re both serious about lookin’ into the ritual now.  So I’m gonna ask ya to stay calm, and try to get along with her.  Alright?”

Jessica saw Alima suck air through her teeth, and then release it and the tension in her shoulders.  “Alright.  Now, what are you looking for, in particular?”

Emily nodded.  “We’re lookin’ for info on somethin’ called Iksh-”

“Don’t try to pronounce its name.”

Emily was taken aback by Alima’s interjection. “Ah, right.  ‘Speak a’ the devil,’ and all that.”

Alima said, “Good.  I haven’t actually heard the name myself, but I’ve actually looked into the books we have here, and- how much money would you be willing to spend?”

“About forty dollars,” said Jessica, “Why?”

Alima turned and poked her head into the back.  “Hey, boss,” she said, “a couple of girls from school might be interested in something downstairs.  Can I show them?”

Apparently receiving her response, Alima turned back to the customers.  “Follow me, please.”

The girls went to a door in the corner of the store.  Alima unlocked it, and led her customers down the stairs behind it.  “So, how much money do people have to put up before you show them the good shit?” asked Jessica.

“There’s nothing down here that’s worth less than twenty,” said Alima.

Suddenly, Jessica halted on the stairs, confused.  She had an odd sense of emptiness in her surroundings.  “Jessie, what is it?” asked Emily.

“Huh? No, it’s nothing.”  Jessica continued down the stairs.  She tasted the cold tang of a controlled climate on her tongue.  At the bottom of the stairs, shelves stacked with dozens of plastic bins were lined up across the room.  As Alima finished turning on the lights, she said, “Gloves,” and gestured at box of rubber gloves near the stairs.

As the three girls put the gloves on, Jessica asked, “What are the gloves for?”

Alima shrugged.  “These books are old and fragile.  We can’t let people’s fingerprints damage them.”  She went to a particular bin, and pulled it open.  Carefully, she took out a book, and set it down on a desk near the wall of the room.

The Draconic Almanac, 1919,” Jessica read off the front of the volume.

“It’s a collection of articles, published by a newspaper that used to serve the Occulted community around here,” explained Alima.  “It’s defunct now, of course, but the important thing is an article right around…here.”

Alima opened the book to a particular page.  There, Jessica began reading aloud:

“It seems that the meteor that struck down on the Sanders’ farm this June brought with it a visitor.  Unfortunately, it seems that this guest of ours has decided to take undue advantage of our hospitality.  The amalgamation of lifeforms and the attacks that follow will continue for the foreseeable future, but you should be safe if you only go out in daylight.

Jessica turned to look at her host.  “I’m sorry, are you saying that we’re dealing with an alien?

“Looks like it.  This book is one of the first things I stumbled on, but ‘amalgamation of lifeforms’ sounds like our problem, doesn’t it?”

“I guess it does,” said Jessica.  “What does ‘only going out in daylight’ mean?  Was it weaker back then, so it only attacked at night?  Because both times I met the amalgams was during the daytime.”

Alima looked down on the words on the page.  Emily was standing nearby, her face screwed up like she was trying to figure out what bothered her.  “I think it means that it only attacked Occs,” said Alima.  “Maybe it needs magic for something, or maybe it’s on a higher plane, so it can’t even interact with the normal.”

“Oh, great.  We’re dealing with a magic-hunting alien that can’t be seen by normal people,” said Jessica.  “At least that explains how they could drag someone down the street without anyone noticing.”

“The door took too long to close,” said Emily.

The other two stopped and stared at her.  Emily herself scanned the room, her arms at her side, ready to be attacked.

“What are you on about?” asked Alima.

“Somebody held open the door after we came in, so it took longer than it should have to close.  I just realized that.  Somebody is down here with us.”

Alima glanced around the room, and sighed.  “Damn it.  Could you to help me look?  I’ll have to throw them out anyway.”

But before Jessica could even look into an isle, she glimpsed a child holding a ring in his hands standing at the foot of the stairs.  At least, it looked like a child.  On closer inspection, the child wore a rubber mask under his hood.  Jessica didn’t get a good look at the mask, but she did get a glimpse of it’s eye-holes.  She could see only darkness through them, like there was Nothing behind the mask.

The kid was muttering something.  It might have been gibberish, or it might have been a language that Jessica didn’t know, she wasn’t sure.  But as the muttering continued, she felt like she was being pulled towards him.  The ring in his hands had a large, orange gem set in it.  Jessica realized that it wasn’t the kid she was being pulled towards, it was the gem.  No, not towards, into.  When she came to a stop, an orange, faceted dome was above her, and Emily and Alima were lying at her side.

“How did you get down here before me, Mal?” Jessica heard a high-pitched voice say from beyond the faceted dome.

“I used the front door.  Had to erase the time I spent in the store, though.”  Another voice came from beyond the dome.  This one was also high-pitched, but it was like a child’s, rather than like a woman’s.  As Jessica got to her feet, she saw shapes moving across the facets.  Eventually, the shapes resolved into a face of a young woman, with spiky blonde hair.

“Oh, hey, Albright, right?  Can you here me?”

“Angelica Spritz!?”

“Good, you remember me,” said the blonde, “How about your thug of a friend?  Does she remember the last thing I did to get her after me?”

Emily folded her arms.  “Way to many people have shat on me fer me to remember particulars.  Sorry.”

“Oh, that’s cold,” said Angelica.  “Anywho, for the benefit for our third guest, my name is Angelica Spritz.”

“We’ve established that already,” said Alima.

“Well, it’s still polite to introduce myself.  I should feel bad about getting you mixed up in this, but…nah.  I suppose your family’s going to worry about you, but it’s not like your the first person I’ve made disappear.”

“Hey, Angie, if your done mocking them, help us find that manuscript, would you?”

Jessica jumped and slammed her fist into the dome.  She bounced off of it, landing on her back on the smooth stone floor.  Looking around, she saw that the walls around her looked like they had been smoothed off by years of flowing water.  Getting to her feet, the girl saw Alima and Emily approach.

“Don’t bother trying to get out of here with physical strength,” said Alima, “we’re in a sealed space.  We’re either going to have to wait for it to dissolve on it’s own, or cast a spell to bust it apart.”

“‘Sealed space?'” said Jessica.  “What the hell are you on about?”

Before Alima could answer, Emily cut in.  “Do you know the spell?  ‘Cause I didn’t hear nothin’ about how long we’d be here otherwise.”

“I only understand the principles, not the spell itself,” said Alima.  “I can guess that it uses the Concepts of imprisonment, space, time, or whatever, but if I’d need time to study it if I want to unlock it.”

“We don’t have time for that shit,” said Emily, “I don’t think the spell’s gonna dissolve on us anytime soon, and I didn’t hear anythin’ about getting supplies in here.”

“Oh, come on, do you really think she’s let us just starve?” asked Alima.

“Yes,” said Emily and Jessica.

Alima swallowed nervously.  “Well, I think I know away to brute force it.  The only problem is that were going to need a shit-ton of power from somewhere, like, like…vampire blood,” she said, looking at Jessica.

“Well, blood is a thing with me,” said Jessica, “so I guess it would make sense that I could refine all the blood I’ve taken in and concentrate the power in it…”

“Well, yes,” said Alima.  “I see the logic of it, but if you’re not sure, I’m just guessing at random. Nothing to do but to try, though.  We’re going to need a needle, though.”

Jessica walked over to a wall, and used her strength to break off a chunk of it.  She hit this chunk on the edge of the wall’s new hole, until a sliver of rock flaked off of it.  This sliver had to sharp points at both ends of it.

“That should work.”  Alima took the sliver.  “Alright, Emily, you stand here, and Jessica stands here.”  Alima had positioned them so that they stood underneath the dome, with Emily to the side of the others, while Jessica stood in front of Alima, arm in her hand, with her sleeve being pulled up to her elbow.  “Just so we’re clear, I have no idea how much blood your liable to lose trying this.  If I think you’re going to lose to much, we stop, alright?”

“Okay.”

“Fine by me.”

Having gotten everyone on the same page, Alima stuck her hand out over Jessica’s arm, holding the vampire’s wrist with the other.  In her first hand, Alima held the splinter above the backs of her middle and ring finger, holding it in place by wrapping her pointer and little fingers over it.

And then, noises started to come from Alima’s throat.  Jessica didn’t think anything human could make sounds that deep, much less a short teenage girl.  It reminded her of something like a animal’s growl, or the kind of sound you would hear at the gates of the underworld.

But, as she listened closer, she realized that there were words in those noises.

“…take us into the wild desert
take us beyond the dome of the sky
Lord Set, shatter our prison,
and accept this red sacrifice.”

As the sharp point of the sliver neared her skin, Jessica forced herself to relax.  Her aura opened for the puncture, and a small drop of bright red blood appeared on her skin.  Alima turned Jessica’s arm, so that the drop drooped and fell.  And when the drop reached the ground, the world exploded.

Jessica felt the top of her head impact a jaw.  The person it belonged to fell backward, and as Jessica scrambled on her hands and knees, she saw a set of black-and-red striped leggings. Looking up further, she realized that the legs belonged to the yellow-haired bitch that taunted them while they were in the ring.  Looking around, Jessica saw that they were back in the basement of the bookstore.  Plastic containers and bits of paper were scattered across the ground, shelves were overturned and kicked about.  Behind her, Jessica heard a clicking, like gears grinding against each other.  And suddenly, the room was back in order.

“Now, now, there’s no reason to go around messing up the place,” said the kid, playing with a box in his hands.  He shoved it into his pocket, and went back to taking notes on whatever was on the desk.

Angelica scrambled over beside him, trying to mask her fear behind smugness.  “Hey, kid.  Looks like your spell wasn’t as strong as you thought.”

The kid didn’t look up from his notes.  “Maybe.”

“Well, on the bright side,” said the blonde, “This gives me a chance to see those sorcerous powers you were bragging about.”

Now the kid turned around.  “What, you want me to help you get out of this mess?”  He took out his box, pulled out and turned a part of it, and a white circle appeared around him, like lightning caught in an instance of time.  “Sorry, I hang around the mall way to much to actually trust you.  I’ve got what I came for, so I’ll see you around.”  Gears ground against each other, and the boy disappeared in a flash of light.

Angelica turned back to Jessica and her companions, terrified.  It was Alima who spoke first.  “Ouch, that was pathetic,” she said, “How about we just let you go?  You know, because your having such a bad day.”

And so, the would-be captor ran from the building tears streaming down her cheeks.  “Wasn’t there another girl?” asked Emily.

“I saw her disappear when we broke out of the ring,” said Alima.  I mean, she just kind of faded from view.”

“So, what?” said Jessica.  “The invisible girl hold the door open for the others, and they do, what?  Look for books?”

“A manuscript, I think they said,” said Alima.  “I think they found it and left it on the desk.  Let’s see, ‘A stem of rosemary, the roots of thyme/a mere two petals of wolf’s bane/Revolting…’ it’s too faded, I can’t read anymore.”

A branch of rosemary, the roots of thyme
a mere two petals of wolf’s bane
Revolting mud, I seal you up with rhyme
I ignite my blood, you pain

After reciting the stanza from memory, Jessica went over and looked at the page on the desk.  “This is my mother’s handwriting.”


“So you’re as clueless as we are?”

Alima’s boss had been pissed, of course, but not at Alima.  He spent much time ranting about ‘Tohu wa-Bohu’ and ‘the Child of All Ages,’ but in the end, he gave Alima the rest of her shift off and asked her to come back next week.  Without anything better to do with her sudden free time, Alima had decide to walk down the street with the roommates.

“Well, I knew that my mom went to Darkwood in high school, but she never mentioned fighting alien mud.  The only reason I even know the poem was because she liked to recite it.”

“Goddamn,” said Alima.  “Well, you’re going to at least ask her about this, right?”

Jessica glanced into a nearby store window.  “I suppose,” she said, “I guess I should be making up with her by now, anyway.  I’ve got a new phone and everything.”

They passed down the street in a lull.  “I don’t know much about our world,” said Jessica.

“What?”

“There’s so much I don’t know and it’s bothering me.  I don’t know what the hell that blonde girl or that kid were, I don’t know why nobody cares about two of the students at school disappearing, hell, I’ve never even cast a spell.”

“Well, that’s not unusual,” said Alima.  “Lots of Occs don’t delve that deeply into high magic.”

“Well, I feel like I should,” said Jessica.

“Well, I’m not going to teach you.  There’s too much I don’t know myself.  I think if you ask our teachers, someone will be willing to help.”

Jessica snorted.  “The teachers at our school aren’t going to explain shit to me.  If they won’t explain what the ritual was, why would they explain anything else?”

“Well, if yer lookin’ fer someone to break ranks…” said Emily.


“Is there something I can help you with, Miss Albright?”

Jessica jumped out of her reverie.  She had spent some time standing outside of Miss Karas’s office, thinking about how to word her request.  Apparently, the Latin teacher had gotten sick of her hovering around and had decided to come out and start the conversation herself.

“Something involving translation, perhaps?”

“Wait,” said the student, “you mean the school’s copy of the Progenitor book?  I translated that weeks ago.”

Karas looked surprised, and then annoyed.  “I expected you to ask for help with that.”

“Oh.  Well, at least I can let you look over my result?”

“You don’t need to pity me.  It’s just frustrating to have a student that too damn smart.”

“Well, there are still things I don’t know.  You could tell me about them.”

“That depends on what your asking about.”

Jessica swallowed her nervousness.  “Have you ever heard of Tohu wa-Bohu?”

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>


Finally managed to get Kayleigh back into the story, but nothing too major for the rewrite this chapter.  I was never really happy with the next one, though, so I won’t be able to say the same for that.

Occulted: Aberration

“Emily, raise your hands above your head slowly, please.”

Emily did as she was asked.  She felt that the ligaments in her shoulders were still a bit tight where they were sown back together, but Emily’s Azoth had allowed them to heal nicely.  As the doctor walked her through the other stretches, she felt relieved as her other joints had moved as if she had never been injured.

“Very good.  I’ll let you get dressed and then we can check you out.”

Thanking the doctor as he left, Emily brought out her normal clothes and got out of her hospital gown.  As she pulled it over her head, her black, lustrous hair fell down her back in a flow of spikes, the remains of scars from her recent surgery somewhat disguised by the blotchy, almost patchwork, color of her skin.  Slightly different shades of brown covered the various regions of her body, with almost clear boundaries appearing between the lightest and darkest places.  This dissonance of color extending even to her eyes, the left of which was green, and the right, purple.

Once she was dressed, she walked down the hallway and went to the school hospital’s desk.  There, she met the receptionist, asked for supplies for her first aid kit, and dealt with the last of her paperwork.

“I wish you good health, Emily M. Frankenstein.”


Jessica met her roommate just as Emily was stepping out of the hospital.  Even if it was sunny out, she was glad to have someone to talk to again.  Doing research on the entity that took over her body and threw Emily into the stone box had filled much of her time, but it couldn’t really take the place of an actual person to talk to.

“Hey, Jess,” called Emily as she looked over to her roommate.

“Hey,” said Jessica, panting from running in the sunlight.

“Can I borrow yer notes? Fer the classes we both have, I mean.”

Jessica moved her eyes away from Emily’s.  “Oh, I so sorry.  I don’t take notes.”

“What?” said Emily, irritated.  “Why didn’t you take notes?”

“I don’t need them,” said Jessica.  “I can just keep everything said in class in my head.”

“Pch,” Emily exhaled, “I’ve got the worst damn luck.  You should take notes anyway, jus’ in case you miss somethin’.  That’s why I take notes.”

“Well, can I buy you ice cream to make up for it?”

Emily raised an eye brow at that.

“Okay, so I’ve just been wanting ice cream all afternoon, but you did just get out of the hospital, so I thought it was worth celebrating.”

“Yeah, sure.  You need ta eat more, anyway.”

Jessica snorted as they turned to move.  “Most women would kill to have my figure.”

“Yer scrawny, Jess.  And pale like a corpse.”

“My skin is porcelain.  It’s so smooth and clear you can almost see through it.”

“Nobody wants ta see yer guts, Jess.”

Jessica burst into laughter at the last comment.  “Fine, you win.”  The girls reached the edge of the school grounds and started along the path through the forest.  Sunlight streamed through the trunks of the trees beside it, and leaves, just starting to brown, still provided a shade that Jessica was grateful for.

“Hey, Jess.”

“Hm?”

“Didja get anything done with yer thing?”

Jessica sighed and brushed a lock of hair back.  “Well, I’m done with the translation of a book I found, at least of the parts of the book I’m interested in.  Actually, something weird happened as I was finishing that.”

“Oh?”

“I met someone just as I was finishing the translation.  She was looking into what happened, too.”

“What?  Why?”

“Apparently, she was interested in the ritual that thing broke us into.  She got really pissed when she found out that I was looking into whatever took me over, rather than the ritual itself.”

Emily stepped closer in inquiry.

“I don’t know why that was.  She got angry about a bunch of random things, actually.  Anyway, she cursed me when I told her about my reasons, and we got in a fight.  I won, even with the curse.”

“What did the curse do?”

“It kept me from using my strength, mostly.  It might have also made me fall on my face a lot.  Anyway, I got her to break the curse, and she seems pretty chill when she wasn’t getting angry for no reason.”

“What was her name?” asked Emily.

“Alima.  Her room’s on our floor, on the other side of the building.  Wait, do you smell that?”

Emily smelled nothing, except for the late summer fruits and the decaying wood of felled logs.  But Jessica had the scent of something else, something that made her taste buds quiver in anticipation.  Sniffing the air, she began to look into the wood, hoping to find whatever it was that was causing that pleasant sensation.  She pulled her head above a ridge, and saw a three-headed elk mutilating the corpse of a bear.

The elk was hollowing out the stomach of the bear, scattering blood across the ground as it worked.  It scrapped its hooves around the carcass’s ribs, bringing the last bit of the organs out into the air.  Jessica, vampire that she was, was both horrified and excited at the sight.

The right head of the elk caught sight of the girls.  It swung itself around, revealing that it was either unusually short or unusually broad.  The middle head, which had only had the antlers visible from behind, was revealed to be skinless, just a mass of exposed bone, decorated only by the tendons and ligaments holding the jaw in place.  But perhaps most disturbing was the pair of seemingly human arms attached to the shoulders, between the front legs, hanging limply before the thing’s too-wide front.

Jessica and the beast stood their and stared at each other in silence.  The vampire was vaguely aware of Emily tensing up behind her, like she expected that she would have to move quickly soon.  She was even more awkwardly aware that the sun was falling on her back.  Finally, desperate to cut the tension, Jessica decided to speak.  “Hi.”

A strange, squawking voice responded from with in the skinless middle head.  “Hello.”

“Uh, w-what are you doing with that bear?” asked Jessica.

The thing started to step toward Jessica, scratching its arm.  Seeing it closer, Jessica could see that the hands didn’t have nails on the fingers, instead terminating in claws that were almost indistinguishable from the flesh.  “Ixxqura needs blood to be shed.  You understand the power of blood, yes?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Jessica, “I definitely understand it better than most.”

“Then you understand why I need to kill you.”  The three-headed beast lunged at Jessica, who only avoided being hurt by Emily shoving her out of the way.  Claws had clipped at Emily’s arm, leaving flecks of yellow-green fluid running down the elk’s fingers.

It looked at the liquid, confused, for a moment.  Then the beast threw aside the Azoth, letting it splatter on to the ground.  Emily tried to keep Jessica on her feet, as shaken up as the vampire was.  The sun was pouring through the gaps in the trees, keeping her from focusing.  Once again, the thing charged, and Emily tried to get her friend out of harm’s way.  But this time, antler’s caught one of Jessica’s arms, and there was a snap as it was tangled and twisted around.

“AAAAAAAHHHH!” Jessica screamed.  In desperation, Emily attacked the beast, jamming her thumb into one of its six eyes.  As it pulled back, Emily grabbed the crying Jessica, and ran off deep into the forest.


“Okay, yeah, that’s definitely broken.  Lemme make you a splint, try not ta move.”

Emily broke two dead branches off of the tree she had put Jessica under.  She took out her first aid kit, and wiped the eye goop from her thumb.  She put on rubber gloves, and began to wrap the sticks in gauze with Jessica’s arm, keeping it from moving and strapping support to her neck.

“Okay, that should do it fer now.  We should get you looked at by a real doctor, but it’s not an open wound, and you should heal in a few hours, anyways.”

Jessica looked down at her arm.  It hung there, throbbing.  The shade of the tree was pleasant, but there was a question that she really needed to ask.

“We’re lost, aren’t we?”

Emily gave one look around, and said, “Yeah.”

“Well, at least nothing’s trying to kill us.  Wish I had some blood, though.”

There was a reason Emily was Jessica’s roommate.  The vampire needed to drink blood regularly, usually gotten from the school hospital and kept in the small fridge in their dorm room.  If she didn’t, there was a chance that she would go berserk and start biting people in order to get what she needed.  There was even a chance that she could take too much, and kill whoever she fed from.

Emily didn’t have to worry about that, however.  The Frankensteins didn’t have blood in their veins, instead, they had a substance known as Azoth.  Azoth acted as a replacement for blood in most respects, carrying oxygen and other things through the body.  Jessica couldn’t use it the same way she used blood, though.  Emily had let her taste the Azoth at the start of the year, just to see what would happen.  Apparently, Azoth tastes like cardboard.

“Well, let’s try ta find ourselves.”  Emily helped Jessica to her feet.  As they began to orient themselves in the forest, Jessica saw a flash of light in the distance.  She stopped, and strained her sight to see if it was a normal light, or a hint of aura.  Again she saw a flash, this time it came from, or rather through, a tree.

Carefully, the girl leaned over to catch a glimpse of what was producing the light from around the tree.  A fair way into the distance, she saw the three-headed elk, prowling through the forest, sniffing the air, and its aura was like shimmering scales in the sunlight.

“Emily,” whispered Jessica, fearful of drawing the thing’s attention.  The patchy-skinned girl turned to her roommate.  “That elk thing is following us.”

Emily went up to the tree and looked around it.  “Figures,” she said.  “Well, whaddo we got?”

“Huh?”

“We gonna need a plan to kill that thing, girl, so we should figure out what we can use.”

“Um, kill it?” said Jessica.

“‘S already followed us this far, and I don’t think we can outrun it forever, so our best bet is kill it, or at least cripple it.”

“Well, I guess I can still throw a punch with my good arm, but I’m pretty sure your going to have to do most of the fighting.”

“Okay, then,” said Emily, running her hand over her mouth, “so what do I got?”

“Actually, I think it might be better to think about what you don’t have.”

“Whadya mean?”

“You have no aura.”  Emily stared at Jessica blankly.  “There’s nothing around you that marks you out as Occulted.  Did you notice?”

Emily guided the two of them to a new location, trying to buy a little more time.  “Yer telling me, that you Occs can see a bunch of lights comin’ offa each other?”

“Well, I see it as lights, but I’ve heard that some of us feel it as a pressure, or maybe a smell.  Don’t you sense anything like that from me?”

“No,” Emily said.  “Figur’s that I’m missin’ out on the ability to see monsters from a mile away.”

“But, the fact that you don’t have one is a good thing,” said Jessica.  “Even if you can’t see it coming, it can’t see you coming either.  Between my strength, and your stealth, we can beat this thing.”

“True.  But we still need a plan.”


Emily moved around the tree, sneaking around behind the elk.  She had to be careful, the thing had broken Jessica’s arm, even if that was in partial sunlight.  Tightening her grip on the branch, she moved in, and smacked it in the back.

It stumbled, and turned around to point one of its heads at Emily.  “There’s no need for you,” the elk said.

“Oh?  You think I’ll let you ignore me while you kill my friend?”

The elk’s three heads paused.  Slowly, it turned all the way towards Emily, its arms tensed for action.  As it began to move towards her, the girl started to back up, the sunlight of the afternoon dancing across her skin as it streamed through the trees.  As she continued to lure it further, it came slowly, like it was considering something.

Emily whacked it further, to goad it along the path.  “You aren’t hitting me for real,” it finally said, in its strange, creaking voice.  “You’re bringing me towards your friend.”

Emily smiled.  “That’s where you want to go, innit?  You want her blood for your…whatever the hell it is, don’cha?”  The thing stepped back, its antlers low and covering its body.  Emily stepped back into the foliage, and disappeared.  The elk waited a moment, then raised its heads to sniff the air.  Slowly, it moved to where it last saw its enemy, and as it neared the break in the leaves, an end of a branch came out and slammed into the jaw of the skinless head.

Emily followed, and hit the elk several more times, each one placed to actually hurt.  The elk grabbed the branch with its hands, its claws digging into the wood and splintering it apart.  Now weaponless, Emily turned and ran.

She did not look over her shoulder.  She kept her eyes pointed in front of her, to see where she was going and what was in her path.  She could here the thing crashing through the woods behind her, and she was heading into a darker part of the forest.

Emily kept running until she heard a massive crunch behind her.  Turning around and catching her breath, she saw Jessica standing over the shattered carcass of the elk.  The punch Jessica threw had so much impact that a small crater had formed under the body, and the vampire stood there, with her eyes wide.

“Haha, I just killed someone.”

Emily approached her roommate, worried that she was going to start freaking out.  “Someone?”

“He could talk.  That makes him a person.”

Emily put a hand on Jessica’s shoulder.  “Jess, it was him or you.  He wanted to kill you.”

“I- I know,” said the pale girl, as she stared at the blood on her fist.  Emily heard the faint sound of someone approaching over dirt and twigs, and she turned to see a pale woman with wild, dark hair walking up to them.

“Hey, have you seen–Gamate!!”


Miss Karas, who was apparently a teacher of a class Emily didn’t take, but Jessica did, had quickly led them back to the school hospital.  Emily had told the doctors and the teacher what had happened, and now, while Jessica was being looked over, she had some questions to answer of her own.  She had brought Miss Karas to an empty side office.

“What is Ikshkala?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The thing we killed mentioned somethin’ called Ikshkala.  Said it needed blood ta be shed.”

“I can’t actually tell you-”

Emily glared down into Karas’s eyes.  “Don’t fuck around.  Somebody’s gonna get killed over this.”

Karas sucked air between her teeth.  “I can’t tell you because I don’t know.  This is the first time I’ve heard the word.”

Silence passed, then Emily spoke, “Could this have somethin’ to do with the ritual?”

“It could.  That ritual is performed every few years in order to keep something contained.  I don’t even know why it has to be preformed at school, just that what ever it was that the rite was to keep imprisoned is powerful and dangerous, and by now its power should be felt.”

Emily looked at the teacher.  “So, what are you doin’?”

“Me?  I’m going to do some looking around of my own.  The principal and the other teachers have been rather reluctant to speak of the ritual, but I’m sure there’s something around town that can point the way.  If you find anything yourself, I’d be happy to know about it.”

Karas left the room, leaving Emily to think.  So, the principal’s tryin’ to keep things underwraps.  Jus’ my luck that my friends are the ones that are getting hurt by it.  I can’t leave our survival up to anyone else.  If that means I have ta tangle with some god or whatever that elk was followin’, then that’s what it takes.

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>


I was already happy with this chapter, just had to clean up some awkward exposition and Emily’s thoughts at the end.  Adding anything else would just weaken the piece as a whole.  I’d still like to know if I’m using Greek swears wrong.

Occulted: Instigation

Nunc vos libero.”

“Now I free you.”

“Yeah, the teachers have something to do this afternoon, so get out of here.”

Jessica was surprised by how fast class had gone. She had known that class would end early that day, but she still thought that time shouldn’t have passed so quickly.  Then again, worrying about that she fed blood to while also trying to pay attention in class had taken up a lot of time.

As the student’s began to pack up their things and leave, Jessica found herself ogling her Latin teacher.  Miss Karas was a beautiful women, with marble-smooth skin and black, black hair, and a body she clearly spent hours every week taking care of.  So distracted, Jessica had to hurry to gather her things.In her rush, she let a piece of paper fall from her desk, and she watched as went under the teacher’s.

The teacher’s desk was a heavy, metal thing, and the part the paper fell under was barely an inch off the ground.  With a quick look around the room, Jessica saw that it was empty, the other students eager to use the long afternoon to goof off.  Even Miss Karas had left, but Jessica had no idea where to.

“Well, if I’m the only one that will see it…”

Jessica stooped down, and grabbed a lower edge of the teacher’s desk.  Her aura flaring around her, she lifted it, careful not to let anything slide off the top as she reached down beneath and retrieved her paper.  Setting the desk where it had been, Jessica stood up, and saw that Miss Karas had been watching use her power.

“Well, this is embarrassing,” said Jessica with a blush.

Karas made a small smile.  “Don’t be to embarrassed, Jessica.  This isn’t the first time I’ve walked in on a vampire using her power.  Just be more careful the next time you do something like this, okay?”

With a quick, silent nod, Jessica brushed off her school uniform, and rushed out of the classroom.


“So, that’s what happened just now.”

Jessica was leaving the school building with her roommate Emily. Jessica had been reluctant to step out into the bright afternoon sun.  She had never been good with sunlight, her almost pale skin had always burned easily, and her ears tended to stick out from under her hair.  But with no real reason to stay after school, the two of them made their way down the front steps.

Well, it happens,” said Emily.  “Everybody’s expecting to see weird shit around here, anyway, so they’re more on edge about these things.”

“And people can detect aura around here,” added Jessica.  “But, it could have been worse.  It’s not like I got attacked by birds.”

Emily smiled and shrugged, deforming the wounds on her face.  “Don’ worry ’bout it.  ‘S just the price of trespassin’ on the divine.”

Fearing that the conversation was veering of into the theological, and already aware of the bad luck of Emily’s family, Jessica decided to change the subject.  “Well, we both have things we want to get our minds off of, so let’s go to the mall.”

Emily raised an eyebrow.  “Tryin’ to find that girl again?”

Jessica’s smile dropped.  “What’s happening to her is my fault.  Somebody should explain things to her, and I don’t want to incriminate myself…”

Emily nodded.  “True.  It’s somethin’ you should deal with now rather than later.  Even if it does keep you from makin’ time with that boy from English.”

Jessica laughed.  “Well that’s fine.  I’ll just sleep with both of them!”

Emily chuckled herself.  “Well, if ya think you can swing it.”

“Alright, let’s get going to the mall!” said Jessica, as she turned and broke away from the stream of students heading for the gate.

“Uh, Jessie, the mall’s offa school grounds.”

“I know; my feet are moving on their own.”

Jessica walked off through the school’s yard.  Her feet tried to keep her in the shadow of the scattered trees, she was relieved to find, but the girl had to wonder why she was being taken around the school building, and what she was being taken for.

Emily chased after her auto-ambulatory friend.  “Hey, are ya being moved, I mean, is somethin’ pushin’ on ya, or is this under yer own power, you know, like yer muscles are jus’ contractin’ automatically?”

“Uh,” said Jessica, “it feels like my legs have been highjacked and my muscles are being forced to move them, yeah.”

Emily nodded.  “Alright, let’s try this.”  Emily got in front of Jessica, and threw the vampire over her shoulder.  She was a tall girl, and she could easily keep a hold on Jessica’s body until it stopped struggling.  “Jess, are you alright now?”

“Not really.  I can’t seem to move my arms or legs,” said Jessica.  Grumbling, Emily started to carry her back towards the main path, but when they crossed through the shadow of a tree, Jessica’s arms turned and pulled Emily’s nearly out of their sockets.

“AAAAAHHH!”

“Emily!  Are you going to be alright?” asked Jessica, as she tumbled out of her roommate’s arms.

Emily tried to move her fingers.  “Eventually, I think.  Ain’t gonna be able to lift anythin’ today, though.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Jessica, tears welling up in her eyes as she was forced to continue on to wherever her feet were taking her.  Emily followed, apparently more worried about her friend than her arms.

Eventually, the two girls made their way around to the back of the main school building, where a cellar door lead into the ground below.  Jessica’s hand tried to open the door, but it seemed to be locked.  She found her eyes looking for something, even having her tears forcibly stopped by…something.  What the hell, she thought, is happening to me?

“Jessie,” shouted Emily, “what’s going on now?”

“I, I don’t know,” said Jessica, “it’s looking for something.”

“What’s lookin’?”

“Whatever’s controlling me.”  Jessica’s head stopped, and she didn’t know why.  Her body moved over to a tree, and picked up a large heavy rock that was laying beside it.  Emily scuttled out of Jessica’s line of sight, her eyes wide with fear.  Carefully staying in the shade of the tree, Jessica’s body threw the rock at the cellar door, breaking it down and sending the stone tumbling down the stairs beyond it.

“Why didn’t you–uh, your body jus’ punch the door open?” asked Emily.

“Probably because I still lose my strength in direct sunlight,” said Jessica, as her body went down the stairs.  Her eyes adjusted to the gloom quickly.  Around her, it was like a boiler room had expanded into a universe.  All around her, metal pipes ran from floor to ceiling, some branching off and some connecting to each other, and Jessica could not see the walls of the room in any direction.  Electric lights ran along the the ceiling, making a pattern on the glossy cement below her.  The only break from the endless expanse of pipes and lighting was some kind of thick black cylinder, punch up through the floor and the ceiling.  Taking a chance to look over her shoulder, Jessica saw that Emily was chasing after her, arms uselessly dangling beside her, and that there was still light streaming down stairs behind her.  Jessica’s head was force to look forward, and around the side of the black cylinder, she saw a young woman with pale skin and dark, dark hair.

“Jessica?” asked Miss Karas, “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know,” said Jessica.  As Jessica’s body rounded the cylinder, she found a door in the side of it.  Between the Gothic arch of the frame and the intricate carving on the surface, Jessica was reminded of a church.  It seemed to be the only opening in the black stone.  As her hand moved to open the door, Miss Karas grabbed at Jessica’s wrist.  “Stop!”  Jessica’s body tried to shove her teacher away, but somehow, Miss Karas leaned away just far enough that her leg could stick out and pull Jessica off her feet.  Jessica’s hand stuck out beneath her, and caught her fall.  Jessica felt her body’s momentum swing her feet up, and her leg moving around to kick the teacher in the head, but the foot sailed through the air, letting Jessica’s body flip over and land on her back.  Miss Karas pinned Jessica to the ground and said, “Alright, now will you please tell me what’s happening?”

“My-my body’s moving on its own,” Jessica began, before her arms lifted her up and took Miss Karas with her.  The teacher managed to land on both feet, but her student’s body turned and moved in to strike her.  Jessica didn’t feel her fists hit anything but air, Miss Karas deflecting her at the forearms as streams of aura sailed past her into the air.  Jessica found herself staring into Karas’s black eyes and saying, “Don’t interfere with this girl’s actions.”

Miss Karas backed away, like her body moved on its own.  Jessica heard the teacher turn to ask an explanation from her roommate as her body moved to the church-like door.  It was locked, but with a flare of aura, Jessica’s fist smashed the door open.

Inside, a chamber was filled by the sickening smell of incense.  In the middle of the room, a stone box lay, filled with some kind of gray sludge.  To the left side of the box, the geometry teacher stood, his eyes turned upward as if in a trance, while to the right, the principal looked downward, praying and muttering to himself.  Around them, a strange green light emanated from the ground, and other things stood at the walls of the chamber, a giant, three-headed snake on one side, a gigantic head with a gaping mouth on another, a bird, a child, other, much stranger things, chanting, screaming, swaying.  Jessica could feel the holiness of the scene before her, denying access to the profane.  This, it seemed, was the end of her journey, with whatever was controlling her body not allowing her to trespass on the divine.

But at that thought, Jessica found herself turning, taking away her hope to regain control of her body.  Instead, she found herself walking up to Emily, who was still talking to Miss Karas.  “Jessie, wha-”  Jessica’s arms picked up Emily, and carried her to the door.  Miss Karas just stood there and watched.  “Jessie, what the hell you doin’!?”  Jessica felt Emily struggle against her, kicks landing on her body, but unable to punch through her aura.

“Emily, I’m sorry, I can’t-”  Jessica’s body stopped in front of the chamber door.  Her arms shifted Emily around.  Carefully shifting it’s weight, Jessica’s body pulled back Emily’s, and threw her into the room.  “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!”  Emily sailed through the air, and eventually stopped when she flew into the stone box in the middle of the ritual.  The box tipped over onto its side, the gray sludge it held falling out and spreading across the chamber floor.  The chanting stopped.  The motion stopped.  Even the feeling of holiness stopped, like even whatever god was there was as shocked by the interruption as the others in the room.  After a few seconds of still silence, the principal finally turned to Jessica and said, “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?”

“No,” said Jessica, “I don’t have the slightest idea.”


Kayleigh sighed and stretched.  The sound of the fountain’s water bubbled behind her.  She felt weird about leaving her friends behind to go to the mall by herself, but she had to meet that girl again, to ask her about magic.  There was something in Kayleigh’s head stopping her from talking about it, like there was a wall between the normal world and the magical one.  And for someone like Milly, to know a secret she couldn’t talk to anyone about would destroy her.  At least, that’s what Kayleigh told herself.

As Kayleigh scanned the crowd, she once again kicked herself for not getting Jessica’s number.  Or a picture, or even her last name.  She had looked around online, but that had been no help.  Apparently, the Occulted keeping to themselves even extended to the internet.

Eventually, Kayleigh got bored and simply sat on the edge of the fountain.  The sound of water flowing was rather soothing, and eventually, the chatter around her became a singular haze of words.  The world began to slow to nothing, and as it did Kayleigh felt her consciousness expand.

This was something that had been happening since that day.  Learning about magic, it seemed, had some odd effects by itself.  Not only had her mind been doing this weird crap, Kayleigh had found herself talking less, simply sitting there and contemplating her hand, or something.  Milly had noticed.  All the more reason to find Jessica again, and soon.

Suddenly, Kayleigh heard yelling.  “Goddammit, asshole!  What the hell is different now?”  Feeling a vague, thick-headed curiousness, she looked around for the source, and found it in a small hallway, between two stores that shared a wall.

“Nothing for it.  I’ll try it again.”  There was only a kid in the hallway.  He was crouched over something, it looked like one of those gyroscope things.  The kid set the gyroscope on the ground and made it spin, like a top.  As it wobbled on its base, the object began to glow, like it was hot, rather than like it had lights on it, or anything.  It spun, wobbled, and glowed for a second or two, until it shattered, sending shards of itself all around.  The kid didn’t seem hurt, or even surprised.  Instead, he simply sighed, and stood up, stretching, to look around.  “Oh.  You can be in here.”

Kayleigh looked around, and realized that the kid was talking to her.  It seemed that she had stumbled into the wall/gap.  Kayleigh looked back at the kid.  A boy, about ten years old judging by his height, wearing a powder blue sweatshirt, with the hood up.  He wore gloves, not winter ones, but thin ones, the kind that let the knuckles show through them.  The gloves weren’t the weird thing about him, though.  The weird thing about him was that he was wearing this expressionless, rubber mask, like from a bad Halloween costume.  The mask hid his face well, though, even his eyes were lost in shadow.

“Yeah.  I guess I can.  Is that weird?”

“Hmm.”  The kid walked up to the teenager, looking at something that wasn’t there, but was there.  “Yeah, no doubt about it.  Your aura is completely inert.”

Before Kayleigh could ask what that meant, the kid was talking again.  “Tell me, have you ever been in a space like this before?”

“A space…?”  Kayleigh moved her eyes from side to side, thinking.  “Well, there was this one time I got warped this weird version of the mall.  I was hanging out with a vampire, and we got into a fight with another girl from her school.”

“When you say ‘her school,’ you mean Darkwood Academy, right?”

“Yeah.”  There were only two high schools in town, and only one of them was filled with monsters.

“I see.  Did you ingest anything while you were there?”

“Ingest?”

“Eat.  Or drink.  Did anything go into your mouth?”

“Not really,” said Kayleigh.  “Are, are you trying to find out some kind of magic thing?”

The kid stopped short.  “What?”

“Like, are you trying to figure out what kind of magic I got?  I mean, I haven’t been able to do anything, but it seems like the kind of thing that would be good to know.”

The kid tapped hid front fingers together.  “Would you like to learn?  Magic, I mean.”

“Um, well…” Kayleigh began.  “I guess, it would be a bit of a waste if I didn’t, wouldn’t it?  I mean, I’ve stumbled into this huge secret world that the world doesn’t know about, so I might as well explore it, right?”

“And?”

Kayleigh blinked.  “And…I really want to be able to talk to someone about this.”

The kid nodded.  “Very well then.  What are the three most important things in life?”

“…What?”

“Humor the mysterious entity that knows about magic, would you?”

Kayleigh shrugged, and looked inward.  What were the three most important things to her?  As she turned the question over in her head, she felt her consciousness expand once more.  The first things she went to were her friends and family, but there were too many of them to choose just three.  So, she decided that the most important thing to her was the thing that connected them to her, and her to them.

“Love.”

Kayleigh palmed the first finger of her right hand.  What was the second most important thing in her life?  The first was the people inside of it.  The second would be living a life that would make them happy, without ever disappointing them.

“Honor.”

Kayleigh brought the middle finger of her right hand to her palm.  With the first two things down, Kayleigh found herself scrambling for the third.  The first two things were the people in her life, and being able do right by them.  Could the third thing be something just for herself?  It would be the thing she found herself thinking about, when she had time for herself.

“Beauty.”

Kayleigh brought her right thumb over the the tips of her first two fingers.  Now that she knew what the three most important things in life were, all that was left was to bring them together.

“Unite!”

Kayleigh turned her right hand into a fist, and she saw the world anew.  A blue-green light suffused the hallway, sun and shadow turned alien and sublime.  She looked down at the kid, and saw a similar blue-green surrounding him, with black marks streaked through it, like a clock face.

“Congratulations, wall walker.  Your intuition has allowed you to see both sides of it.  Turn around now, and see how the first side looks with your new knowledge.”

The girl looked out of the hallway, and saw the world she knew.  It wasn’t quite different, the crowd was still the crowd, and the shops were still shops.  But, there was something around every object out there, like the light in the hall and the image around the kid, lying inert, with only the potential to grow into something like Kayleigh’s pink aura.  As she stared at the transparent invisibilities surrounding everything in the mundane world, she was attacked by something with too many mouths.

Sharp teeth and claws tore at Kayleigh’s skin.  Blindly, she grabbed at whatever it was that was attacking her, trying to push it away, but one of the mouths shot out from it, biting into Kayleigh’s face, just above her eye.

Suddenly, the thing vanished, along with the blue-green light and the inert auras of the outside world.  Kayleigh shook her head to clear it, reaching up to her forehead to stop the blood.

“It’s not a spirit, but it appears as a spirit.”  Kayleigh looked over to the kid’s mutter, watching him struggle with something she couldn’t see.  Oddly, the kid was simply standing there, like nothing unusual was happening to him.  Finally blinking away the blood from her eye, Kayleigh said, “What, what just attacked me?”

“Sorry,” said the kid, “I don’t have the slightest idea.”

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>


The true rewrite starts now.  I’m actually mostly happy with Jessica’s part of the story, so all I had to do there was clean up the Latin, and move things around to characterize Jessica a bit better.  Kayleigh’s part is totally new, of course, and I’m really happy that I managed to end it with the same line as Jessica’s.  Makes them feel connected, rather than just happening to be taking place at the same time.

I’m going to be back on twelve-hour days when this is posted, and I really want to think about the next chapter’s role in the overall story, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while for me to continue the story.