Sketchbook: Philip J. Darkwood

Here’s a study I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and I felt like capping of a series of essays with a picture of the principal would be appropriate. I like how I managed to get color across in the full body sketch, how you can tell his clothes are supposed to be dark, even when you can see the white of the page through the lines. I made the feet to small again, though, I really need to work on that.

I get less happy with the faces as you go down the page. The top portrait is Darkwood’s default expression, an alarming smile, like he’s happy that something’s about to happen to you. The second face is what happens when he’s angry with someone. The last face was supposed to be what happens when everything falls away, and he sees someone’s soul, and they see his, but…I made the bottom face too angry. It’s the eyebrows, really, I made them too slanted inward. Just need to do better next time, I guess.

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Sketch: The Bemused Stare of Philip J. Darkwood

The first time I’ve tried to draw the principal. I didn’t even have much of an idea what he looked like until recently, but that’s true with most of my characters before I draw them. There’s a fundamental transformation between my mind and the paper. I cannot say that I am merely translating when I draw; there is a fundamental act of creation there.

With this piece, however, I think I over-completed the drawing, like I put down more lines than I should have. I’m thinking of the cheeks, mostly, although I definitely spent too much effort on the ears. Still, it was a worthy experiment, and I can use what I’ve learned going forward.

As for the title of the piece, I had wanted to give the subject a piercing look, like he was about to reveal just how foolish someone’s beliefs have been up to this point, but I drew his eyes too wide, and now he just wants to know what on earth the people he just stumbled on are doing.

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?”


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: Preparation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Didn’t I already say no?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I suppose…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What circumstances?” asked Linda.

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

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

“So, what does the diagram tell you?”

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

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

“Really?  Not even after I saved you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh!  It’s you!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am,” said Alima.

“‘S me,” said Emily.

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

“I am with you,” yelled Karas.

“I’m okay,” said Eric.

“Me too,” said Linda.

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

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

Occulted: Frustration

“So Darkwood’s lock replacement failed, then.”

“Yes.  It seems that one of the students had her body taken over by Izcacus and she was forced to interrupt the ritual.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate.  The Imprisoned exists on far too high a plane for us to use, so we can only sit down and wait out the storm.”

“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen.  I believe that this event can be made to serve our purposes.”

“Oh?  And how do you propose to do that, Child of All Ages?”

“We can erase the barrier between dimensions at the moment of the Imprisoned’s final escape.”

“So what?  The barrier will reform itself, and the timestream will alter to remove the erasure from the Surface.”

“Have you forgotten my Great Work?  Do you think I would propose anything if I didn’t believe I could stop that alteration?”

“How?  Surely you can explain something of your methods here.”

“It involves a wall walker I’ve met recently.  It’s going to be a second degree connection, but, well, perhaps it would be best to explain in writing.  We have some time before the Imprisoned actually escapes, after all.”

“It will take some time for the cage to actually break apart, yes.  I believe that you will have time to send us materials and we can discuss your proposal when next we meet.”

“Excellent.  I will contact everyone here some time in the coming week.”

Jessica sat in the middle of the room at a bare desk.  The only illumination in the room was a cone of light from the light bulb that hung above her.  Around her, in the darkness, the various faculty of Darkwood Academy surrounded her, and although they had returned to their human forms, Jessica was still a bit frightened by the situation.

At least, she felt as if she should have been frightened.  She didn’t think she was supposed to be able to see into the darkness.  She was more worried about how her body had been taken over than anything the teachers would do to her, anyway.

The principal’s voice came from somewhere in the shadow.  Jessica could see the outline of his bald head, peering out from behind his eye-hiding glasses.  “Miss Albright, would you please describe what had happened during the incident from your point of view?”

Jessica summarized the events of that afternoon, clarifying things when asked, save for the odd thing she didn’t know, like why Emily decided to follow her, or the significance of Emily crossing a barrier that she could not.

“Have you ever experienced a loss of control of your body before?” asked the principal’s.

“No, sir, I haven’t.”

There was a small pause after that.  “Fivi Karas, will you please give your version of events?”

Miss Karas appearance from the dark was quite stunning, her white skin contrasting with her black hair and dark clothing.  “Very well.  I was standing guard, as ordered, when the two girls came to my post.  I told them to stop, but Jessica did not comply.  I tried to force her onto the ground, but she proved to strong to simply pin.  As I tried to figure out another way to keep her from moving, something ordered me to stop and to let her pass, using Jessica’s voice.  I did so, despite my wishes to do otherwise.  While I was forced to let Jessica through, I asked Emily for an explanation, and she seemed to be confused by the situation as well.  We were interrupted by Jessica grabbing Emily and throwing her into the room, and here we are.”

There was a pause as the principle considered something.  “‘Using Jessica’s voice,’ Miss Karas?  Not Jessica herself?”

“I’ve seen something like this before, while I was studying in Hungary.”  There were more mutterings from around the room, but Miss Karas continued.  “Another vampire had his body taken over by something, and I was forced to obey that thing’s commands.  That vampire called that something ‘Izcacus.'”

“Do you believe that this ‘Izcacus’ will interfere with us again?”

“I suppose it’s possible.  If we were to take precautions, I would recommend trying to guard against any vampire.”

“Very well.  I think we’re done for now.  For the faculty, I think we will have a meeting tomorrow morning at eight.  Miss Albright, you are free to leave.”

A door opened, and people started to leave.  As they were shuffling into the hallway, Jessica caught up to her Latin teacher.  “Miss Karas, what happened to me today?”

Miss Karas gave her student a long, considering look.  “Have you ever looked into your bloodline?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Oh, it’s nothing, I’m just wondering if you know who your progenitors are.”

Jessica scowled.  “Miss Karas, I asked you a question.”

“And I’m not going to answer it.  There are somethings, particularly some facts, that have to be earned, not given.”

“How the hell am I supposed to earn knowledge?  Isn’t it your job to teach me things?”

“I suppose that I would say that I teach skills, not facts.  Look, you’re a bright girl, Jessica.  You should be able to piece things together on your own.”

“It’s not like I’ve ever had to piece anything together before,” Jessica muttered.

“Well, let’s have a bit of a practice session then.  Why could your roommate, Emily, get through a holy barrier you could not?”

Jessica was annoyed by her teacher going around the subject, but she turned her mind inward and thought about the question, what she knew about Emily, herself, and holiness.  The answer arrived like a lightning bolt.  “Emily’s existence trespasses on the divine.  She wouldn’t have same problems with churches, or church-like spaces, I guess, that I would have.”

“Well, now you know how to find an answer.  If your looking to do research, the school library is always a good place to start.”

Jessica’s supper had been a dull, lonely thing that night.  Usually, she would trade comments with Emily, either about the events of the day or about the people around them.  But Emily was staying in the hospital, so instead, Jessica could only eat her food and listen to other people’s conversations, and even those seemed trivial compared to having her body stolen from her.

Speaking about that, it seemed that this ‘Izcacus’ had made her pay for the use of her powers.  Tired from the day’s exertions, Jessica went over to her mini-fridge, and took out a small packet of blood.  On one side of the flattish rectangle, there were two shiny discs about an inch and a half apart.  Jessica punctured these discs with her fangs, and sucked the packet’s contents through them.  The anticoagulants made the blood taste like crap, like they always did, but it was much more convenient that finding a donor.

Throwing the empty pack into the wastebasket, Jessica thought about her mother.  Miss Karas’s hints had implied that the whole ‘Izcacus’ thing was genetic, and it would be nice to talk to her anyway, so Jessica took out her phone and dialed her mother’s number.

“Hello?” said the voice at the other end.

“Hey, mom,” said Jessica, feeling tension falling from her body.  “Something bad happened to me today.”

“Well, I’m listening.”

Breathing deeply, Jessica began her story.  “So, today after school, my feet decide that they needed to be somewhere and took me with them…”

“Oh. So that happened to you.”

Jessica stopped.  Her mother’s voice was flat and somewhat amused, as if what Jessica was forced to do was of no importance.  “I’m sorry, what?”

“Look, pretty much every vampire has something with ridiculously powerful magic in their ancestry.  They’re called Progenitors.  Ours just happens to like taking over their descendants for laughs.  It doesn’t happen that often, hell, the only time it happened to me was back in the thirties.  It’s not really anything to worry about.”

“So, you’re just okay with the fact that our bodies could be stolen from us at any time?”

“Like I said, it’s rare, and when it does, it only last for a few seconds.  You should just live your life, and not worry about it.  It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it, anyway.”

Jessica scowled, and gripped her phone so hard that its casing started to bend.  “You…You idiot!  You fucking lazy piece of shit!  You can just lie on the couch drooling, for all I care!”

Jessica threw the phone into the wall.  As it entered the plaster, the already stressed casing broke apart, and the circuitry inside began to come apart in layers.  As Jessica began to calm down, she began to realize that she would have to tell the school about the broken wall, and to ask her parents for a new phone.

The next day after school, Jessica went to the school library.  She had visited Emily that morning, who was going to stay at the hospital for a few more days.  The school library was quite familiar to the students, or at least the main reading area was, but each and every last one of them suspected that the staff-only areas held books of a much more interesting and dangerous nature.  The public parts certainly didn’t have anything that couldn’t be found on the Surface.  The administration didn’t seem to really mind students trying to find out if the rumors were true, simply announcing who was caught trying to break in during morning announcements, but Jessica had received hints from a teacher to go to there, so she didn’t think she had any reason to not to take the front door.

Jessica entered the library, and floors of bookshelves surrounded her.  There was no one at the desk, but looking around, she saw an aura like leaves falling in autumn, up on the second floor.  Jessica climbed the stairs around the edge of the building to meet its owner.

“Can I help you with something?” asked Mr. Campbell, the red-headed, green-eyed man that the phantom leaves followed around.  He spoke with an English accent, or perhaps it was Scottish, Jessica was never quite sure.

“Yes, sir.  My name is Jessica Albright, and I want to look up information on some kind of crazy super vampire called a ‘Progenitor.'”

Mr. Campbell was silent for a moment.  “If you had simply said you wanted to know about your ancestors, I would have known what you were talking about.”

“Well, it’s ‘Progenitors’ that I want to know about, and I’m in far too bad of a mood to bother with being subtle.”

“Well…follow me, please.”  The two of them walked down the steps at the back of the library, and Mr. Campbell led Jessica to a vending machine in an alcove of the wall.  “Now, Jessica, I want to ask you a question.  If you wanted to get a box of candy out of this machine, what would you do?”

Jessica turned the question over in her mind, unsure of what the librarian wanted her to say.  “I suppose that I would put money in it and make a selection.”

“Show me.”

Confused, Jessica followed his orders.  As the box fell into the slot at the bottom, the librarian grabbed it, and started to eat the candy.

“Um, sir?  What was that all about?”

“That was me getting you to buy me candy.  The money’s your penalty for not considering why I was asking you such a ridiculous question.”

Jessica watch Mr. Campbell walk off, stupefied.  She only began to move when she realized that he made a gesture to her to follow him into a restricted area.  As she walked into the dark room, she was somewhat disappointed to find that it was simply filled with tightly packed bookshelves with no room to sit and read.  Even the titles were uninteresting, with things like Metaphysics and De Bellum Caelorum.

“Well, this is kind of disappointing,” said Jessica, “After all of that speculation and people trying to break in here.”

Her guide turned around and looked at her.  “Oh, Jessica, these is the parts the librarians happen to work in.  You don’t think we’re going to leave the really interesting books just lying around, do you?”

Jessica smiled.  “Well, I suppose I should be thankful that I don’t need an ‘interesting’ book, at least.”

“Should I take that to mean that you aren’t?  Thankful, I mean?”

“Perhaps you should take it to mean that we should keep going.”

The librarian smiled.  “And what makes you think we need to go further?”

Jessica looked at the books around her.  “These books all cover things that the Surface would have no knowledge of, or at least, could only speculate on.  Even the Occulted would have a hard time studying any of these things directly.  I’m looking for something that lived in this world, or possibly still does.  Either way, we should be heading for the history and genealogy section.”

“Well done,” said the librarian, and then took a bite of his apple.  As he walked off, Jessica thought, Where did he get that apple?  As she followed him between the bookcases, she tried to focus on finding the book she needed, and not wonder about how the librarian seemed to pull food from out of nowhere.  As they reached the third row from the entrance, they turned and moved a few shelves over.  Here the books were things like List of Surnames in Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1653-1658.

“So, Jessica,” said Mr. Campbell, “What are you looking for?”

“Well, I’m looking for book on vampire ancestry.”

“It should be around here somewhere.  Go look for it.”

Jessica wasn’t sure why he wouldn’t just show her where it was, but she looked around anyway.  As she read the titles of the books, she noticed something rather wrong about the subject matter.  Picking up and scanning a few pages of a book on Hungarian heraldry confirmed her suspicions.

“There’s nothing here about things that only exist in the underground.”

The librarian took swig from his can.  “That may be true, Jessie, but I will tell you this right now: as far as I know, the book your looking for is in this aisle.”

Jessica considered his statement, what it meant for a book to be ‘in’ an aisle.  She looked down, and pulled her fist back to smash the floor.

“NO, STOP!  Ah, I did not mean that the book was hidden in the physical structure of the aisle.  I meant that it was on the shelves.”

“Well, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere for the book to hide.”  The metal shelves were stuck end to end, and each one was almost completely packed with books and papers.  “Unless you can hide something inside the books.”

Jessica saw a swirl of leaves around Mr. Campbell.  The man himself gave no response, but it was possible that his aura was giving his excitement away.  Jessica started to go through each book, searching for false covers or other ways of hiding a book within a book.  She heard a rhythmic thumping sound, and turned to see that the librarian was bouncing a ball on the ground, the leaves of his aura completely still.

Jessica frowned as she wondered what he expected her to do.  She had a series of hints that she was looking for a book inside of a book, but she had no idea what that meant.  Abandoning the question she was asked, she thought about what had happened when she was going to use her strength to destroy the floor.  He was frightened by that, like he didn’t expect her to try.  She supposed she would get into trouble with the school if she actually did it, but there was something in doing what she wasn’t expected to.

Can I force him to reveal where it’s hidden?  She seemed to be expected to use her mind to connect the dots, but it would feel good to upend the entire puzzle after having the librarian jerk her around for the afternoon.  Now that Jessica had a goal in mind, she could start to think of a way to achieve it.  The ball was gone now.  Did he get that from where he hid the book?

Jessica looked around Mr. Campbell, searching for where he was hiding his things.  As her eyes slid back over him, she saw that he had gotten the can again.  “Hey, Mr. Campbell?”


“Can you go and check if anybody has been looking for me out in the main room?  I kind of destroyed my phone recently.”

Mr. Campbell raised an eyebrow at that, but did as Jessica requested, leaving his drink behind.  “Don’t move any of the books too far, alright?”  Jessica waited for him to leave the room, giving him enough space to not feel her aura.  Then, she picked up the can the librarian left behind, and jumped over the bookshelf it was on.  She left it on a shelf on the other side, and jumped back over.  As her guide came back, she acted like she had been examining the books the entire time.

Mr. Campbell paused when he saw his drink was gone.  Jessica watched him from the corner of her eye, and saw him disappear into a book.  It hadn’t even opened all the way, he just slid right in between the pages.  Jessica went and looked at the book.  She realized that it didn’t have a title, and the entire volume was just a description of a room.  As she was flipping through the book, Mr. Campbell popped out from between some of the unopened pages.  “Where did my drink go?”

Jessica smiled with fake sweetness.  “Well, I could tell you that, but I think I would rather know what you did with this book…”

“Oh, fine.  Tricking me into thinking you already knew…”  The librarian took the book from her, and closed it.  “This is a bit of Complicated Thinking.  Words can be a gateway to another world, so all you have to do is to slide between them, just like this.”  As he spoke, he slide his hand between two pieces of paper, and the rest of his body soon followed.  The leaves of his aura were blown about as he did so.  Jessica pick up the book after he was gone, and tried to do the same.  Once she tried to use her aura to open the way, she soon found herself standing in a room, with shelves built into the walls, and a wastebasket and a table with various things on it by the door.

The librarian went to a shelf and handed a book to her.  “Since your already here, I’ll just go ahead and give you what your looking for.”

Jessica flipped through the book, De Progenitores Vampirum.  “Is this in Latin?”

“I suggest you get cracking at it early.”

Jessica screamed in frustration.  “Now, Miss Albright, my drink?”

As soon as Kayleigh stepped out of the library, she made a noise.  “Bleeaaagggh!”

“You don’t need to sound so happy, Kay,” said Linda, stepping out into the evening air behind Kayleigh.

“I can’t stay cooped up in a quiet room for half an hour like you, Linda.  I need to mo- why hello there.”  Kayleigh twisted herself around to stare at a cute intellectual-type guy passing by.

“Come on, just try to- the hell!?”  Linda stopped and stared at something, or rather, some one.  She had brown skin, straight, black hair, and enormous brown eyes, accented with heavy eyeliner.  For some reason, she was glaring at Kayleigh.  “What the hell are you staring at?”

The eyeliner girl snapped back to reality, blinking away her glare.  “Oh, sorry.  Just frustrated that I haven’t found the book I was looking for.”

As she turned to walk away, Kayleigh though, Is that girl Occulted?

She called out after her, “Hey, what are you looking for?  We might be able to help.”

The girl didn’t even bother to look over her shoulder.  “Unless you’ve heard of De Progenitores Vampirum, not a chance.”

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Not much different with this one.  I’m surprised it works so well.  Managed to get Kayleigh a cameo, mostly because I’m going to need her for something next chapter.  Also managed to get a part of Alima’s personality through that I didn’t the first time.  Next chapter shouldn’t need to much rewriting, so expect it in a couple of weeks.