Vampires and Lycanthropes

The connection between vampires and werewolves is an accident of history.

Way back in the early days of cinema – the 30’s and 40’s – Universal Studios made a several horror movies, such as Dracula and The Wolf Man. As time went on, Universal made more movies, some of them involving characters from previous ones. Sometimes characters from different series met, in an early example of a cinematic universe.

This early cinematic universe is the reason vampires and werewolves are linked in the popular imagination. However, looking at a list of movies that are considered to be a part of the franchise, I’m not seeing much particular interaction between werewolves and vampires in them. But there are other reasons for the two creatures to be linked.

An element that The Wolf Man introduced into the myth of the werewolf was transmission. The story of The Wolf Man is the story of a man that was bitten by a monster and realizing that he was turning into a monster himself, making it an early example of personal horror. This is similar to how vampires are said to reproduce, an element introduced in the novel by Bram Stoker.

Another thing that was in the novel was Dracula’s ability to turn into a wolf. This wasn’t something Stoker made up; vampires turning into wolves was an element in then contemporary Eastern European folklore, with the vrykolakas of Greece being a notable example. But the thing is, Dracula had a host of magical powers, and his literary descendants have followed suit. So much so, that some works postulate multiple species of vampire, each with their own unique power set, with only the theme of parasitism to unite them.

This parasitism is inherently horrific. Vampires have a need to feed on – and harm – other sentient beings. Even if a writer jumps through the hoops to sanitize vampires, such that they only need a mouthful of blood every few weeks, or even capable of living entirely off of animal blood, the fact that they drink blood from puncture wounds is still a bit creepy. It also gives them a reason to hide their existence from normal people, their natural victims, in much the same way a disease benefits from being asymptomatic.

Werewolves, meanwhile, are defined by their ability to turn into a wolf. Unlike parasitism, this is not naturally horrific. If a man can turn into a wolf at will, painlessly, and keep his mind while he is a wolf, most people would be comfortable calling him a werewolf, even though there’s nothing horrifying about his condition. This is the root difference between werewolves and vampires.

An effect of this difference is in trying to justify why each species would justify trying to hide their existences. As I stated, vampires naturally benefit from trying to hide themselves, in the same way a virus benefits from hiding themselves. Even in worlds where the supernatural is taken for granted, it’s still easy to believe that vampires would try to maintain a fiction that they shouldn’t be.

Werewolves, meanwhile, have the opposite incentive. While it’s understandable that the less dangerous kind of werewolf might go along with someone else’s masquerade, the kind that takes after The Wolf Man wouldn’t. They have every reason to tell people about their condition, so that people know to avoid them on the night of the full moon.

All that said, while vampires and werewolves are held together by historical contingency, I will continue to gleefully use that connection in my work.

Art: A Werewolf Attacks an Amalgam of an Ogre and a Spider


This is the chapter art of Transformation.  I’ve wanted to put up pictures with my stories for months now, but I’ve only just been able to scan things recently.  This is also the first real use of square brushes for me.  It did well with filling out Dave’s shirt, but I think I should have used a round brush for the spiders.

The anatomy is poor, and there are several lines I failed to draw, right behind Eric and Dave’s fight.  David’s spider legs are also transparent.  However, this picture did teach me the importance of pulling with an ink brush, and how to use a sketch on another piece of paper, rather than just drawing over the graphite on the same one.

I need to practice more, and to be more careful with confusing the pencil lines and the ink lines.  Still, even if this picture is bad, it’s still mine.

Occulted: Transformation

AWerewolfAttacksAnAmalgamationOfAnOgreAndASpiderKayleigh almost tripped over herself.  Milly turned and grabber her wrist, pulling her friend along with her.  They weren’t quite sure how they had gotten into this mess, but it was clear that that comment had been a bad idea.

Dark shadows stretched across the streets, even as the nearly full moon rose into the sky.  Kayleigh could hear the swears of their pursuer, surprisingly quick for his size, egged on by the higher pitch of his companion.  They might have been lost, unfamiliar with this part of town, but all they could do was keep moving for the moment and hope they could shake them.

“Hey, you!”  Kayleigh’s eyes snapped forward at Milly’s call.  It was direct toward a man coming out of a building.  He was about six feet tall, with brown hair and stubble on his chin.  He was dressed in t-shirt and jeans, and looked like he had been on a shopping trip and he failed to find what he was looking for.  He looked confused at the call, because Milly had just shouted at him from nowhere.

“Yeah, you.”  Milly saddled herself around him, gripping his arm and hiding behind the rest of his body.  She grabbed Kayleigh, and got her to do the same.  “I don’t have time to explain, so just play along for now, alright?”

He didn’t have time to respond.  A big, big guy, a mountain of muscle and bad attitude, and his scraggly little minion had rounded the corner.  The muscles in the arm Kayleigh was holding onto tensed, and he glared at the newcomers like he recognized them.

“What the hell are you up to, Brone?” asked the man.

“What I’m up to doesn’t concern you, Moonfang,” responded the big guy.

Moonfang? thought Kayleigh.  I’m latched on to a werewolf!

“‘Course, I suppose your white knight gimmick is like honey to suckers like them,” said Brone.

Moonfang shook the girls off and took a step forward.  “So I’m involved now.  What happened?”

Brone made a spiteful smirk at the werewolf.  “Well, me and my friend, here, were had gone out for a night’s entertainment, and as we entered into a particular facility, we found the service was less than satisfactory.  While I was voicing my complaints, I over heard one of those ladies behind you make a disparaging remark about my genitalia.”

“You tried to throw your weight around, somebody called your dick small, and now you’re looking to beat the shit out of someone for an off-hand comment.”

Brone moved to beat the shit out of Moonfang, but his flunky grabbed his wrist.  “Man, that guy is flying way to high right now.”

The larger of the two shot a dirty look at the smaller.  “Well, I suppose we should be making our school look bad in front of public school kids, anyway.  Careful not to get your uniform dirty, frosh.”

As the two turned to leave, Kayleigh let out her breath.  Moonfang was pretty cool there, and now that she could really look at him, he was pretty good-looking, too.  While Kayleigh was figuring out that he was definitely dateable, Milly was realizing something else about him.

“Wait a minute,” she said to the man.  “Are you a freshman in HIGH SCHOOL?”

Eric knew they wouldn’t have been so surprised if he actually shaved, but his skin always felt rubbery without the stubble, so screw that.  Afterward, he had…escorted, was that the word?…well, he had walked them home, which they didn’t seem to mind, although no further problems had appeared.

But that was yesterday, and Eric was still wound up from the full moon approaching.  He needed some way to burn off his energy, and he wasn’t ready to risk the simplest option just yet.  The school would have somewhere he could lock himself up, but…losing control like that was terrifying, even when no one got hurt.

“Jessica?”  The pale girl had been staring at her hand, with her locker still open.

“Oh, hey Eric,” she said, smiling.  “What’s up?”

“Not much, I guess.  I’m just wondering why you look so…forlorn.”  And then there was an awkward pause, because of course she wouldn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering her.  “I’m sorry, you don’t have to–”

“No, no, it’s okay.  Just…can we talk somewhere with less people?”

Jessica Albright was a girl that was bad with sunlight.  Eric met her on the first day of school because of that: The English teacher had wanted to put everybody in alphabetical order, but that would have left Jessica next to a window, in the sun.  When she spoke up, Eric agreed to switch seats with her.

She’d come up to talk to him when class was over, and for some reason, she’d been following him around ever since.  Eric didn’t mind the pale girls company; she was pretty, but more importantly, she acted like he wasn’t dangerous.  It almost made him believe that himself, sometimes.

“Hey, Eric?” said Jessica.  “Why are you so worried about me today?”

“What?  Can’t a guy just worry about his friend being upset?”

“Hey, I’m not complaining.  It’s just that we usually only talk after first period, but you were brooding pretty hard to day.”

Eric brought his eyebrows together.  “I was brooding?”

“You brood all the time, man.  You know, when you glare into the distance and only kind of pay attention to your surroundings?”

“Oh, that.  Uh, I’m sorry about–”

“Hey, man, you don’t have to apologize to me about it; I like having a chance to knock you out of it.  It’s just that I’m usually the one that starts our conversations, so I’m wondering what’s different today.”

As they crossed through the school gates, they turned left, into the houses.  “Well, I guess it was that you were brooding yourself,” said Eric.

“I was brooding?”

“Yeah.  It made me think that you might have flipped out and put somebody in the hospital.  That’s what I think about when I just stare like that, at least.”

Eric supposed he shouldn’t have been talking about himself, but it wasn’t like he knew what Jessica was thinking.  He could only hope that sharing something about himself would make Jessica comfortable enough to talk about what was bothering her, and if it was something similar to his problems, so much the better.  Eric only stopped brooding, and noticed that Jessica had stopped walking after him, when he heard someone being thrown against a wall.

Eric turned, and saw Jessica holding a small, green person up by the neck.  The green person was holding a knife in his hand, but he seemed utterly helpless in Jessica’s grasp.  But as Eric got closer, he recognized both the green man’s smell, and his particular brand of incompetence.

“Johnny?  Is that your monster form?”

Johnny squirmed in Jessica’s grip.  “Yeah.  Uh, I’m sorry about trying to take you hostage, miss?”

Jessica let the short kid down.  Before Jessica could introduce herself, Eric spoke.

“Are you some kind of goblin?”

Kneeling on the ground, Johnny gave him a long, slow look.  “Yes, I am a goblin, was it because I’m a fucking midget or was my aura just that weak?”

“I, uh, is aura that smell that isn’t a smell?”

“What?  Why the hell wouldn’t you know what aura is?  Were you raised on the Surface, or something?”

“Well, my mom is normal, and I was raised by her, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh. Oh! No wonder you got so pissed at Dave when he said we should kill all the normals.”

Eric shifted awkwardly, hoping that Jessica didn’t get curious about that particular event.  Fortunately, she decided to ask about something else.  “So, I’m Jessica, by the way.  Glam up and tell me who this Dave is, would you?”

The goblin returned to his human form.  He grew taller, his ears shortened, and his skin turned from green to pink.  His nose was still long, and he still only barely broke five feet.

“He’s a friend of mine.  Big guy, shaved head and goatee?  Anyways, last night, a couple of public school girls ran their mouths at him, and when he went to show ’em what’s what, Moonfang over there jumped in.  I talked Dave outta doing anything then, but I haven’t seen him all day, so I figured he did something to make things right, and fucked up massively.  I went looking for Moonfang, and I figured that taking a hostage would help me get a straight answer out of him.”

Jessica gave the long-nosed kid a long, flat look.  “Why the hell.  Did you take me hostage.  As your first course of action.”

“Dude, look at his aura!  Those shards coming off of him could pretty much cut me from here.  Your aura’s just a solid pink layer, like there’s nothing can get out of it.  Or into it.  I didn’t think things through, did I?”

There was a moment of silence while Eric and Jessica took a moment to absorb just how stupid Johnny had to be.  “Look, I haven’t seen him all day, and I have no idea where he went,” Eric finally said.  “I guess I could help you look for him.  Sounds like I’m going to want to keep my eye on him, anyway.”

“Oh.  Well, I guess that works.  How are we going to do this, get something of his for you to smell?”

Nodding, they let the idiot go.

Eric paced on the dorm’s porch, restless.  Johnny had gone in to find something for Eric to smell, and hopefully pick up Dave’s scent.  Eric had stayed outside, seemingly to keep Jessica company.

“Why are you coming along, anyway?” he asked.

Jessica stretched her hands above head, one holding the other.  “Guess I’m curious, is all.”

Eric quirked his head.  “About what?”

“About your life.  Who’s this Dave guy, and what’s your history with him?”

Eric shrugged.  “I don’t have a history with him; he’s just an asshole that likes to make bad jokes.  I call him on them, and things spiral out from there.  I try to avoid him.”  Eric muttered something about ‘going out of control, myself.’

Jessica started to make a joke about the time of the month, but the moment passed.  Instead, a silent moment passed between them.  “What the hell is taking him so long?” wondered Jessica.

“I don’t know.  Think I should go check on him?”  Jessica nodded for Eric to go.  It wasn’t long before he came back out of the building, asking Jessica to follow him.  Eric took her around the back of the building, where he smelt Johnny had been dragged down the building and into the street.

“Hey, Jessie?  Can you see a trace of aura?”

Jessica strained her eyes for it, but she could see faint wisps of green and blue rising from the ground.  “Yeah, barely.  Looks like there are two of them.”

“Three, actually, but two of them are real similar.  You think he was dragged?”

“How the hell could Johnny be dragged down the street without anyone noticing?”

Eric had no answer.  They continued to follow the scent, until they came to a building that only existed from one angle.  They could step a little to the right, or a little to the left, and the house just popped out of existence.

“This is magic shit, isn’t it?” said Eric.

“Yeah.  But, we can probably deal with this by being careful.”

Even so, Jessica still hesitated.  Seeing that she wasn’t going to move in, Eric stepped forward, following the scent into the house’s yard.  As the two walked up the path to the door, they saw a considerable number of spiders wandering across the grass.

“Hey, Jessie?  Are you okay?  I mean, I think I remember you saying something about not liking spiders.”

“I said I didn’t like look at close-ups of spiders.  Or maybe something about how I hate tarantulas.  Either way, normal sized spiders like these are al…right…”

Jessica gave a look at a branch she was passing, and there, traveling to the trunk, was a strange spider, with eight legs jutting from its top and bottom, as well as its side.

“Eric? Did you just see that?”

“You mean something that looked like two spiders got fused together?”

Jessica took a deep breath.  “Eric, I think you should know something.  A couple of days ago, I had an encounter with something that might have been three elks fused together.”

“What,” Eric took a moment to gulp, “what kind of encounter?”

“A violent one,” said Jessica.  “It tried to kill me, and I wound up killing it.  It said it needed to shed blood for something it called ‘Icks-cola’ or something like that.  I, I think we maybe should get out of here, it’s getting way more dangerous than just some high-school thug.”

Eric had stopped listening to Jessica, instead staring over her with wide eyes.  “Jess, I don’t think you should turn around.”

“…What’s behind me?”

“Spiders the size of small dogs.”

Jessica stood absolutely still.  She heard light taps on the grass and cement behind her, and then she heard heavy thumps and a crash.  She didn’t struggle when Eric grabbed her and brought her into the house.  Anything would have been better than having to think about too large arachnids with too many eyes.

It was dark in the building’s living room.  If the house had been abandoned, it hadn’t been for long.  The furniture was all still there, couch, TV, books in the bookcases.  Jessica realized that it was entirely possible that the corpses of the previous owners were in the basement, with their blood and guts scooped out and arranged around them.

Jessica heard something coming from the next room inside.  It sounded like whispers and moans, but she couldn’t make out any words.  “Jessie,” Eric said.

“I think that’s Dave and Johnny in the kitchen.  It sounds like them, at least.  Dave doesn’t smell right.” A pause.  Once composed, Eric continued, “I- I’m going to go and meet them.  If things get violent, be careful.  I’m not sure how far things will go.”

Leaving Jessica confused about his last sentence, he strode through the darkness to the other side of the room.  Jessica followed.  Turning the corner, they looked into the kitchen.  There, illuminated by light streaming in through a window in the ceiling, Johnny hung suspended over the stove.  White strings came from the walls, and wrapped around him so thickly that only his vivid green head was exposed.  Standing in front of him, something that appeared to be a large man nearly scraped the ceiling with his head.

Size wasn’t the only thing that was unusual to the man.  The oddness continued with the eight, jointed limbs that emerged from the sides of his back.  Long and spindly, to thin to support any weight, Jessica could see no reason for them to be there.  Perhaps she was just disturbed by their resemblance to spider legs.

Johnny saw Eric, and made a strange barking noise in his direction.  The giant turned around and looked to the entrance of the kitchen.  As Jessica peaked out from the side of it, she was horrified by his appearance.  Eight black, unblinking eyes covered the upper part of his face, and though his nose was human, where his mouth would be was covered by a pair of mandibles.  Jessica wasn’t even sure he even had a jaw anymore.

“So, the knight has arrived,” the giant said.

Eric visibly forced himself to be calm.  “Hello, Dave.  You mind explaining what the hell is going on here?”

Dave gestured towards the bound goblin.  “This one seems uninterested in the power of Ixxqura.”

“Ikscara?” repeated Eric under his breath.

“I would offer the same to you, but I don’t believe you’d be interested.  You have already spoken against cleaning the world.”

Both Eric and Jessica stopped for a moment to figure out if Dave just said what they thought he did.  Jessica vaguely noted the streams of cold blue aura coming from the giant.  It was Johnny that finally spoke out.  “Dude, I thought you were joking.  I didn’t think you actually wanted to do it!”

A spindly limb struck the goblin across the face.  “Although you will not become one with us, you, or rather, your blood, can still be of use.”

Dave stood there, doing nothing in spite of his threat.  Tense, Eric said, “What, you’re not coming after me?  Are you scared, or something?”

“The same could be said of yourself.  You don’t attack, even when an enemy is right before you.”

“Heh.  That’s out of fear of myself, not you.”

Through this all, Jessica had been straining herself, trying not to think of the many eyes on Dave’s face.  As she strained her ears, she heard something like a window opening, and plaster being slowly scrapped away.  Thinking of the rays of Dave’s aura, Jessica finally realized what it was for.  “They’re here!  He called the spiders here!”

As she spoke the words, the first of the spiders thumped into view.  Each of its eight black eyes were bigger than Jessica’s entire head.  Its mandibles moved independently of each other, and it raised its front legs, supporting its weight on six, far too thin legs.  Something like that, thought Jessica, shouldn’t exist.

Jessica fell to her knees, clutching herself.  Eric looked over his shoulder, and saw her breakdown.  Surrounded, with no one else he could turn to, Eric let loose his transformation with a howl.  Fur sprouted from his skin, and his face deformed into a snout.  Everywhere, he grew, ripping apart his clothing and leaving it in tatters on the ground.  Jessica supposed it was appropriate for an abandonment of humanity to bring with it an abandonment of the trappings of humanity, anything to keep herself from thinking about those damn giant spiders.

At the end of it, Eric stood on four clawed paws, his tail high.  His shoulders would have stood taller than Jessica, had she the presence of mind to actually stand up.  The werewolf lunged at the giant, and Jessica heard a meaty thwack as the beast was shoved away.  Unfazed, Eric attacked again, this time his throat was pierced by three of the spider legs growing from Dave’s back.  Eric swung his head around, snapping the legs off, and they were shoved out of the wounds as they closed.  Eric sunk his teeth into Dave’s arm, quickly recovering from whatever blows landed from the ogre’s other fist.  Again and again Eric bit, only interrupted when the spiders finally reached the two.

Venomous fangs raked Eric’s side.  Turning to face the new attacker, he tore it apart with his bulk and maw.  More spiders came, and they were left in tatters as well.  Slowly, as the number of spiders fell and the got further away, Jessica found it within her to stand up, and watch the savagery of Eric’s transformed state.

He was mindless.  The werewolf was driven to kill and destroy not out of fear, but out of anger and a desire to hurt.  An aura like a thousand crescent moons came off of him.  Each bite, each tear, brought out more aura, more fury, battering away reason until only rage remained.  Only when the spiders made a wound did the aura shrink, being channeled away to heal whatever gash formed.

When the last of the spiders were struck down, the werewolf turned to Jessica.  He still had a desire to kill in his eyes.  Jessica raised her fists.  I know you’re a monster, Eric, Jessica thought, but I’m a monster, too.

When the beast attacked, he was met by a right cross to the face.  Teeth were scattered everywhere, and Jessica saw new ones grow in Eric’s mouth.  While he was still recovering, Jessica moved in, and released a series of punches.  Each one shoved him back further, eventually hitting a wall, which one last strike pushed him through completely.  The wall broke, and Eric sailed through the air, returning to his human form.  He hit the ground and rolled limply over it, coming to a rest on his front.

No, thought Jessica, no, no, no, no, no!  She ran to Eric’s body, afraid of what she had done to him.  It was bad enough that she had to hurt a friend, but if she had killed again…She stopped at his side.  Slowly, she dropped to her knees.  She held out one hand, preparing herself to reach out and touch him.  Eric stirred, and turned his head to face Jessica.  “Oh, thank god,” she laughed in relief, even as Eric groaned at the soreness of his body.  And then it occurred to both of them that Eric was butt-naked.

Even if it was a nice butt, Jessica was aware of his reluctance to stand up.  “Hey, uh, Eric?  I’ll, uh, I’ll just leave my jacket here and turn around.  Is that alright?”

“That’d be great.”

Eric and Jessica walked back in silence.  Dave and Johnny had disappeared, and they were in no condition to continue looking for them.  Eric should have been worried about what happened to them, but for some reason, his mind just kept wandering to how he was naked except for Jessica’s jacket wrapped around his waist.

At least he wasn’t likely to be seen, and talking to the teachers about their missing classmates could wait until he was wearing pants.  That wasn’t a conversation he was looking forward to having, even if they were going to believe him.  But the dorm was coming into view, so awkward conversations were coming.

“So, uh,” said Eric, “I’m sorry about making you beat the crap out of me.”

“That’s a weird thing to apologize for.”

“I know, but…I should have better control of myself.  I have to stop putting the people around me in danger.”

Silence passed.  “Well, bye.  I’ll get your jacket back to you tomorrow.”

Eric turned to the dorm.  As he walked away, Jessica called out, “Hey, Eric!  You’re not the only one that’s afraid of your own strength.”

Eric stopped, fear, annoyance, and gratitude swirling within him.  Finally he said, “Thank you.”

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I always regretted not getting Eric’s POV into the rough draft.  I was barely figuring out how to get anybody’s voice into the narration, actually.  Between my months of practice and having Kayleigh around to introduce character’s, I’m much happier with this version.

Speaking of Kayleigh, I’ll finally have a reason to pick up her storyline again next chapter.

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.”


“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.”


“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?”


“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: Malediction

Jessica closed her books.  She leaned back and stretched in her chair, enjoying the relief of being done with her recent translation.  Said translation was in an open notebook laying on the table in front of her, her small handwriting filling several pages.

Suddenly, Jessica felt someone’s gaze on her.  It was odd, because she was sitting in one of the empty rooms scattered around the school, a quiet place she could work on her personal project without distraction after class.  Jessica looked over to the entrance, and saw a girl her age with brown skin, straight, black hair, and enormous brown eyes, accented by eyeliner.

But the oddest thing about her was that she was wearing her uniform exactly to code.  Her skirt fell just above her knees, her shirt was tucked in and her jacket was worn perfectly straight, with the lapels folded over neatly, she even had her tie knotted perfectly.  Jessica had never seen someone that didn’t wear their uniform at least a bit off from the rulebook.

“Hello?” said Jessica, “may I help you?”

“Ah,” said the girl, “I’m sorry, it just that I was surprised at that book you have there…”

“What about it?”

The girl went over to Jessica’s table, and sat down.  “Okay, so the omens around here – I’ve been doing divination, just for practice – anyway, I’ve been seeing omens recently have been showing concepts of ‘god-monster’ and ‘bloodsucker.'”

“Well, the only thing I really know about divination is that you’re not going to get much more than that.  My name’s Jessica, by the way, what’s your’s?”

The girl was startled, like she had been surprised by something.  “It’s, uh, it’s Alima.  Anyway, I started looking for books that connected the two concepts, and that book, right there,” she pointed at De Progenitores Vampirum, “was the only book in the school’s library that even looked like it combined the two.”

Jessica frowned.  “Is there a list of books in the back parts of the library?”

“Well, yeah.  I mean, it’s basically on index cards still, but it’s not like the most of the books in the stacks are actually dangerous.  Haven’t you ever looked?”

“Well, it’s- it’s not like I ever had to, and you would have to ask a librarian to help you find it anyway, so if you knew what you were looking, you could just go up ask them, like I did…” rambled Jessica, thinking about the trouble she could have gotten around had she actually known the title of the book she was looking for.  “And anyway, the book’s in Latin, for some weird reason.”

“Oh, so it’s an origin book.”

“A what?”

“Sometimes, the full meaning of a book has a chance to be lost in translation, and there are subjects that the Normal have no reason to know about, so sometimes an Occ just republishes a book’s original text in a dead language using modern techniques.  These are called ‘origin books,’ or at least that’s the name I’ve always known them under.”

“Oh.  Well, I wouldn’t know things like that, because my parents raised me on the Surface, away from magic and the like.”


“Yeah,  they never really saw a need to actually explain these things to me, for some reason.  I’m pretty sure they barely have contact with others like us, or no more than they have to, at least.”

“Well, I don’t think not explaining things is really unusual,” said Alima.  “I don’t think I would tell somebody about magic if I wasn’t asked about it.”

“True.  I guess that’s kind of part of the reason I came here, to this school, I mean.”  Jessica turned her eyes out the window.  “Once I realized what I was, it was like there was a wall between me and the other kids.  I thought it would be easier to get along with a bunch of people that had the same kind of thing going on in their lives.”

“Was it?” asked Alima.

“Not really.  Everyone around here is so quiet.  I’ve only been really able to talk to my roommate, but she’s been in the hospital ever since I got taken over by that Hungarian blood god.”

“…I’m sorry, what?”

“Oh, yeah, that what I needed this book for,” said Jessica.  “I heard the name ‘Izcacus’ like, twice before I did any real research, so it was one of the first things I looked for.  The internet said it was the name of some kind of vampire deity from medieval Hungary, and that was all I found, really.  This book has actually helped me find stuff out about them, even if it doesn’t have any names, just titles, like the ‘Progenitor of Life’ or the ‘Progenitor of Flesh.'”

“Wait,” said Alima, “how do you know it’s the same thing if the book doesn’t call anything ‘Izcacus’?”

“Because what it does have is some highly detailed descriptions of the Progenitors.  The Life one, for example, is a woman that could be torn apart, burnt to ashes, and had those ashes scattered in a river, and then be walking by the next full moon.  Anyway, the one I’m interested in is the Progenitor of Mind.  The description is actually pretty detailed, with a recounting of several events where they took over a vampire’s mind and made them do things, just like I was force to interrupt some kind of ritual the teachers were doing by throwing my roommate into the middle of it.”

Jessica felt more than saw Alima’s body tighten.  The thin, orange streaks of her aura shrank toward her skin, as if frightened.  “Jessica,” said Alima, “what kind of ritual were they doing?”

“Well, I’m not really sure.  It was in some kind of chapel, there was a box with some kind of goop in it, there was chanting and incense, that kind of stuff.”

“Did you think to ask any of the teachers, Jessica?”

“No, I didn’t.  I don’t think they would tell me, anyway.”

“Well, why did the Mind Progenitor want the ritual stopped?”

“No idea.  That’s something I’m curious about.  Why are you so interested in the ritual, anyway?”

Alima took a moment to tap her forefingers together in front of her mouth.  “Because the ‘god-monster’ concept I saw might not refer to the ‘bloodsucker’ concept.”

“Oh,” said Jessica, “so you’re worried about whatever will happen from the ritual going wrong?  Well, to be honest, I’m more worried about getting interrupted when I’m trying to get laid.”

Alima gave Jessica a stare that was filled to the brim with ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’  Orange threads emerged from her left eye and wrapped themselves around Jessica, constraining the usual magenta chaos of the vampire’s aura.  That aura was pushed in near the skin, as if it couldn’t escape from the girl’s body.  “What did you just do to me?” asked Jessica.

“Simply put, I cursed you.  The evil eye binds you to an unfortunate fate.”  Having said that, Alima left.  Jessica jumped up from her seat to follow, and tripped over the leg of the table.  She was unhurt from the fall that followed, the impact bouncing off of her aura, but she found unusual difficulty in getting back up, like she was in sunlight.

Once Jessica got back on her feet, she went out into the hall and caught a glimpse of the dark girl turning further into the building.  Jessica chased after her. “Hey, wait!” she called, before slipping on the polished floor, falling on her face, and sliding her way down the hallway.  When she got to the corridor Alima went down, she stopped and righted herself, seeing that the other girl had turned to watch her, dismayed.

“Why did you get angry with me?” Jessica asked, standing up.  “It’s not like I know what the ritual was about, and the teachers are probably going to be better at dealing with it than I am.”

Alima took a few deep breaths.  “Honestly, I was just angry that your life is so empty that you feel the need to find someone to fill it up.”

Jessica gave her a flat stare.  “So what?  Are you jealous of the fact that I actually have the courage to go out and get dick?”

A golden figure emerged from Alima.  As it did so, Alima herself seemed to shrivel and dry out.  White bandages appeared and covered the exposed skin on her legs and hands.  More bandages came and wrapped around her head, leaving her eyes, mouth, and hair exposed.  The golden figure moved too quickly for Jessica to see it clearly, but she felt a series of blows on the front of her body.  The vampire collapsed in pain.

“No, I just hate vapid little sluts like you.” The mummy-girl strode over to the now prone vampire, and pulled her up by the hair.

“Hey,” Jessica asked, “what was that gold thing?  Some kind of spirit?”

“Why do you care?”

“Because that thing’s attack actually hurt.  Your hair-pulling just let’s me do this.”

Jessica pushed into the ground with her feet as she threw a straight punch into Alima’s gut.  As Jessica’s fist reached her opponent’s spine, Alima’s body crumbled to dust in the middle, her legs teetering over without the counterweight of the upper body and crumbling themselves, as the chest, arms, and head fell almost straight down, barely dangling for a moment before the arm holding Jessica’s hair broke apart under the weight of the remains.

Looking down at what remained of the other girl, Jessica said, “Looks like you shouldn’t let your enemies get to close to you, that punch was only human strength.  Now, are you going to uncurse me, or do I have to destroy your body further?”

“Screw you!” spat the one-armed half of a torso.

In response, Jessica picked up the hem of Alima’s shirt and reached up into her chest cavity.  Feeling around and finding something warm and squishy, Jessica pulled it out, and what remained of Alima’s body also crumbled.

“So, I guess this is your true form.”  What Jessica held in her hand was a pulsing organ, resembling a heart, save for the single eye peeking out from the left side, and the mouth-like opening running along the bottom.  “This is the only actually important thing, isn’t it?”

“How?  How did you know?” asked the organ.

“Well, it’s pretty obvious that you have mummy powers.  It’s a well known fact that the heart was the only organ that the Ancient Egyptians kept in the body during mummification, but what was more telling to me was how you only seemed annoyed when your body was broken in half.  That must have meant that I didn’t really hurt you, and I’m guessing that your body will reform if given enough time, right?”

Alima managed to scowl and look away, despite being little more than a single organ, basically admitting that Jessica was right about everything.

“Alright, now that I’ve got you in the palm of my hand, what are you going to do about this curse of mine?”

“I, I need my hands and my tools to break it.  We can do it this evening, actually.  I think I can get my roommate out of the room for long enough to do the make the preparations and do the ritual.”

The girls quickly arranged a meeting time and place.  As they finished, Jessica said, “Now, how do I know that you’re going to hold up your end of the deal?”

Alima said, “I hereby swear an Oath to break your curse that I gave you.”

“Good, that should be magically binding.  Now, it looks like your body’s starting to reform, and your clothes are still intact, so I’m guessing you’ll be naked when you’re done regenerating.  Do you want me to take you somewhere private so you can get dressed when you’re ready?”

“Just leave me in a bathroom stall.  The bandages cover everything, anyway.”

“You’re translated the book with only a couple weeks of Latin?”

“Yeah.  The language is pretty regular, so I only really needed a dictionary for some of the more obscure words.”

Alima and Jessica had met in Alima’s dorm-room for the final steps of the curse-breaking ritual.  They were surprised to find that they were both freshmen, even if they had no classes together.

“So, uh, what am I doing with this paper?”

Said paper had a large, geometric image on it, and was laying on the ground in the middle of the room.  On the arm of the couch, right beside the paper, a bowl of dry earth rested.

“You’re going to sit on it cross-legged, looking in the same direction as the TV.”

Jessica did as she was instructed.  Alima walked around behind her, and Jessica could hear some kind of harsh whispering, though she couldn’t make out the words.  The vampire felt some powder fall on her head, and the curse was broken.  The orange streaks that had been running through Jessica’s aura all afternoon were gone, and once again energy whirled freely around her.

“Okay, that did it,” said Alima.  Jessica got up, removed the bowl of earth from the couch, and lift the end of the sofa one-handed.

“Indeed it did.  Why did my aura still protect me from damage, anyway?”


“I mean when you pulled my hair, it didn’t hurt.  Why did my aura protect me when could us it to make myself stronger?”

“Well,” said Alima, “I suppose it could be because using your aura to apply force involves your aura getting away from your body.  Protecting yourself doesn’t, so my curse didn’t effect it at all.”

“Oh, that makes sense.  But why could I be hurt by that spirit?  And what was it, anyway? And aren’t you like, half way to being a spirit, you know, because your body’s pretty much made out of Solidified aura?”

A moment of tense silence passed between the girls.  “Jessica,” Alima finally said, “I want you to understand that we are not friends.  We may not be enemies, but I think it would be best if we avoid each other from now on.”

Jessica was taken aback.  “I, I see.  Well, if you think it’s for the best, I’ll follow your lead.”

Jessica left Alima, filled with the bitterness of a friend almost made.

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>

I couldn’t fit Kayleigh into this chapter, but I guess that what happens when you go back to redo something that already works fine.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get her into the next chapter, but that’s Emily’s story, so that’s fine.  Looks like every other week is the schedule I’m trying for right now, so you can see the new version in two weeks.

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.”

<<Previous                                                                                                                               Next>>

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.

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.


“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?”


“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?”


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?”


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Occulted: Initiation

She was artificially beautiful.  Modifying a photograph to remove the flaws of the subject was a practice as old as photography itself, but did ‘artificial’ mean ‘fake?’  Art itself is the creation of human hands, and it is, in many ways, the process by which civilization comes to define beauty.  But there was no beautiful work of art that ignored its medium.  And if her face could be considered part of the picture’s medium, would the image manipulation be ignoring it?

“Ogling pictures of pretty women again, Kayleigh?”

Kayleigh sputtered and turned around to her pig-tailed friend.  “Milly, I was just– I mean, I was contemplating beauty…”

“Oh?  Is that something you do often?”  Linda towered over Milly, her orange, almost yellow skin contrasting with Milly’s brown.  Ziggy, shorter than either, poked her head around Linda.

“It’s something she’s been doing since seventh grade,” said Milly.  “She’d catch sight of a pretty woman, start undressing her with her eyes, and say she was contemplating beauty to cover it up.”

“Stop making me sound like a closeted lesbian, Milly,” said Kayleigh.  “You’ve seen me make out with guys, and even if I did like women, I’d be comfortable with myself enough to admit it.”

“I’ve never said you only like women, Kay, just that you wouldn’t mind if a particularly pretty one asked you out.”

“You can’t just decide what people are like, Milly,” said Kayleigh, crossing her arms.  “Even if you have known them since third grade.”

“Oh, come on, Kay,” said Ziggy.  The Asian girl stepped out from behind Linda.  “If anyone knows whether you like girls, it’s going to be the one you take on dates.”

“Ah, screw you guys!”  With that, Kayleigh stormed off.  The afternoon crowds of the mall swirled around her.  She didn’t bother to look around to see if she recognized anyone in them, to concerned with her own problems to bother looking.  Lost in her irritation and thoughts, she couldn’t stop herself from running into somebody slowly meandering through the crowd.

“Oh, whoops, my bad,” said Kayleigh, sweeping a lock of her short, brown hair back into place.

“No, no, the fault is all mine,” said the other girl.  She took off her shades, and continued, “I just bought new sunglasses, and I was too eager to try them out.”

She was stunning.  Her pale, almost white skin was flawlessly smooth, a fact made all the more noticeable by the black hair framing her face.  Dark red lips stood out against her light face, matched in color by a pair of long-lashed eyes.  But the thing that caught Kayleigh’s attention the most was her light blue shirt and navy skirt.

“Wait a minute,” said Kayleigh, “That’s Darkwood’s uniform your wearing isn’t it?”

Jessica looked down at herself.  “Oh, yeah,” said the other girl, “I guess I was too lazy to really change after classes today, so I just dumped the jacket and tie in my dorm room.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Kayleigh said, “It’s not like public school kids always have time to pick out an outfit after school either.  It’s just that I’ve never had a chance to talk to someone from Darkwood, even though I’ve lived in Desmond my entire life.  I’m Kayleigh, by the way.”

“I’m Jessica,” said the girl from the boarding school, offering her hand, “and it’s not just the normal people we’re reluctant to talk to.  The halls are practically silent between classes, just some murmuring between the students.  It’s like they’re afraid of somebody intruding on their conversation.”

“Oh, that must be hard for you,” said Kayleigh.  “You don’t even have sports to take your mind off of things, do you?”

“It’s not all bad,” said Jessica, “I’ve been able to talk to my roommate over…there…Oh, dear, I think I’m lost.”

Kayleigh patted Jessica shoulder.  “Yeah, the whole town’s hard to find your way around in.  Want me to help you find your way around?”

Jessica looked at the other girl, and smiled.  “Yeah, that’d be great!”

Emily sighed as she peered through the crowd.  Dammit, Jess, where did ya go?  Her roommate had wandered off while she was paying for her new sunglasses, and had probably gotten lost on accident.  Even if there was no malice in Jessica leaving, it was still a sign that things were Going Wrong.

Relax, Em.  ‘S not like anybody’s gonna start shootin’ at ya ’cause you look like someone else today.  Desmond was more of a town were people killed themselves than each other, and even if it wasn’t, she was wearing her school uniform.  Being a student of Darkwood Academy implied Things about her.

Steeling herself, Emily stepped out of the store and into the main area of the mall.  The space didn’t seem to be as twisted as it was around school, fortunately, which meant that it would be easier to use landmarks to find her way around.  That fountain with the rough stone pyramid in the middle would be a good one to start with.

“Worried about getting lost, frosh?”

Emily nearly felt her bones fly out of her skin.  She spun around to look at the girl who had spoken those words.  It was someone working the ice cream booth Emily had been passing by, about 15 or 16.  The fact that she had called Emily ‘freshman’ probably meant that she was a student at Darkwood, too.  “Sorry, miss, I don’ think we’ve ever really met.”

The girl raised her hat.  “The name’s Angelica.  We’ve seen each other around school, haven’t we?”

The blonde spikes and the red-and-black banded sleeves under her work uniform did ring a bell.  “Ah, yeah, now that you mention it, I do recognize ya.  Well, I suppose I am still findin’ my way around, but I think I can look after myself, so I’ll jus’ let ya get back ta work.”

Emily turned away as quickly as could be considered polite.  She might have just been bored, or even trying to be helpful, but the fact that this Angelica was a student at Darkwood meant that she was Occulted.  God knew what she was capable of.  And talking to someone you didn’t even have a class with?  The Occulted didn’t get that extroverted.

Emily nearly tripped.  She looked down, and there was a red-and-black banded tentacle wrapped around her ankle.  A red-and-black tentacle that lead back to the ice cream counter.

“Sorry, pitch bird,” said Angelica, “you caught me in a bad mood.”  She lifted up a piece of paper, showing some kind of picture on it.  Emily looked around, and saw that no one seemed to notice her, like she had simply disappeared from their minds.  A strange pattern formed in front of her eyes, diamond shapes expanding around her, and then, all was blackness.

Jessica ran her fingers through her black, black hair.  Standing next to her was making Kayleigh feel self-conscious.  She knew she wasn’t bad-looking, she never had any problems with her weight, and she only had the occasional zit, but she just looked so…normal next to Jessica.  She kept her brown hair short, chin-length, and she was still growing outward, even if she had stopped growing upward far too early for her tastes.

“This is where you bought your shades, right?”

Jessica looked into the store.  “Yeah.  Looks like my roommate left already.  Care to show me around more?”

And so, Kayleigh and Jessica went, arm in arm, through the building around the fountain with the pyramid rock, idly chatting about their schools.  As they rounded the corner into the food court, Kayleigh realized that she forgot to ask a rather important questions.  “So what does your roommate look like, anyway?”

“Oh, Emily’s rather easy to recognize,” said Jessica, “She’s got this spiky mullet thing going on with her hair, she’s got this weird, patchy skin, the way she walks kind of makes people uneasy, and she’s going to be wearing the boy’s uniform.”

Kayleigh took a moment to try to draw a picture in her head, and failed.  Instead, she asked about the last part of that description.  “So, uh, girls are allowed to wear the boy’s uniform, then?”

“Yeah, the only really hard and fast rule is that teacher’s aren’t allowed to wear the student’s uniform.”  Jessica paused for Kayleigh’s confusion.  “I don’t know why that’s a rule, either.”

“Have you seen our music teacher?  She looks younger than most of the students.”

Kayleigh looked up at the voice.  It belonged to a girl about her age, maybe a little older, working at one of the counters of the food court.  Sitting above the multicolored buckets of ice cream, she was wearing the dark blue, short sleeved shirt that came with her job, with red-and-black banded sleeves covering the part of her arms that her shirt didn’t.  She was also wearing a cap to go with that shirt, covering short, blonde hair.  When she looked up at the girls, Kayleigh saw the worker’s iridescent eyes, shifting from pink to blue to green.

“Oh, are you a Darkwood student, too?” asked Kayleigh.  “I didn’t think I’d meet two in one day.”

The girl smiled, and turned back to the paper in front of her.  It was up on counter, so Kayleigh couldn’t see what she was doing, but by how her pencil moved, she seemed to have been drawing.  Jessica said, “You know, I’ve seen you in the hallways, but I don’t think we’ve properly met.  I’m Jessica, by the way.”

“Angelica,” the worker said, nodding.  Before either of the other found something to say, Kayleigh jumped in.

“What’s that about your music teacher?”

Angelica shrugged.  “She’s tiny, looks about ten.  Don’t know what her deal is.”

Kayleigh turned to her new friend and said, “Wow, Jess, your school keeps getting weirder and weirder.”

“Uh, yeah,” said Jessica, “Anyway, Angelica, can you help us find someone?  Tall girl, boy’s uniform, has patchy skin and a mullet?”

“She came by here a while ago, actually.”  The blonde seemed to consider something for a moment.  “Actually, she went right into this picture.”

With that, she lifted up the picture she had been working on, and the world changed.  The food court was empty now, except for Kayleigh and Jessica on one side of the ice-cream counter, and the blonde worker on the other.  Kayleigh looked around, and it seemed that the doors to the mall just…didn’t open to anything.

Jessica pushed Kayleigh away from her, and held her clenched fists at her side.  “What the hell did you just do?”

“Nothing much,” said Angelica.  “Just a bit of magic.”

Kayleigh was utterly confused.  She wasn’t quite sure what had happened to all of the people, or what was up with the second mall, but Jessica seemed really angry for some reason.  Maybe they wouldn’t be able to get out?

Jessica snorted.  “If it’s magic shit your doing, you should leave the normal people out of it.”  She jerked her head at Kayleigh.  “At least let her go.”

“Nah,” said the blonde, “I’m not going to give you chance to leave with her.  Not until my friends show up, anyway.  Besides, you’re as much to blame for her being here as I am.”

“Don’t fuck with me!” screamed Jessica.  She jumped onto the counter, dug her fingers into Angelica’s arm, and pulled.  Kayleigh was horrified by the result.

“Ooh, temper temper,” said Angelica, backing up around the cash register.  “You’re not going to do yourself any favors by getting violent with me.  Especially not in front of-”  Angelica’s gaze had moved over to Kayleigh, and she noticed her stare.  She followed it the bloodless stump where her arm used to be attached.  “Ah, son of a bitch!”

She looked around, and found her arm lying on the ground some distance away.  Her other arm, the one still attached to her body, twisted and extended, becoming some kind of red-and-black banded tentacle, reaching out to grab the first.  Pulling it back to her, she pushed her arm back on to her stump.

Jessica stepped off of the counter.  “Hey, wait a minute.  You said something about Emily being in here, didn’t you?”

“Oh, she’s around,” said Angelica, flexing her fingers to make sure they worked right.  “Had to bring her in first so she could be a seed for the space to form– Dammit!”

Angelica slapped herself.  Jessica stalked forward, smiling at the blonde.  “Worried about letting something slip?  Well, if you don’t want to tell me, I suppose I’ll just have to ask your limbless stump.”

Kayleigh wasn’t sure what happened next.  She felt like Angelica had reached out to grab her from ten feet away, and then she was flying through the air and crashing into a store window.  She didn’t feel pain, she didn’t feel much of anything.  She was looking at her shoulder, and saw that shards of glass was poking through it.  Red blood was running down her arm, and she realized that her concussion was messing with her mind, and Jessica had come over to her, and there was the taste of blood in her mouth…

Suddenly, feeling returned to Kayleigh’s body.  Starting at the base of her head and running through the rest of her body, it was accompanied by the world exploding into a riot of color, blacks and reds and yellows, with a magenta haze surrounding Jessica.

Then, the pain stopped.  And the colors stopped, and Jessica checked Kayleigh’s eyes.  “Are you alright?  You’re not going to flip out and attack anyone, are you?  No craving for more blood?”

“Uh, no.”

“Okay, good,” said Jessica.  “Do you feel good enough to try moving around?  I honestly have no idea what effect my blood will have on you.”

Slowly, Kayleigh sat up.  She felt fine, her arms were moving like they should have, and her legs bent in the right places.  Looking down at herself, she saw that her clothes were covered in dust and bits of glass.  Worse, blood was still running down her arm.  Fortunately, the wound had closed, and she had worn a sleeveless top that day, leaving her arms bare, but is was still a mess.

“Oh, damn.  Hey, Jessie?”  The pale girl’s eyes snapped back to Kayleigh’s.  She had been watch the blood flow across the brunette’s skin.  “Can you help me clean this up?”

Jessica jumped onto Kayleigh, her mouth descending on the blood.  The sensation of the rough tongue on Kayleigh’s skin, the moans of pleasure echoing through the air, the weight pressing down on her, it was all…weirdly sexy.  Kayleigh didn’t want to think of it that way, but it was the only thing that came to mind.

Finally, Jessica lifted herself back up.  She was blushing and panting, but Kayleigh’s arm was completely clean.  Sitting there, in some kind of parallel universe with a girl that just lapped up her blood, Kayleigh’s brain finally caught up to her mouth.  “Are…are you a vampire?”

Jessica smiled, nervously, showing her sharp, elongated eyeteeth.  “Well, I’m…Occulted.  That’s what we usually call ourselves, anyway.”

“Holy shit, I’ve been hanging out with a corpse.”

Jessica glared at Kayleigh’s outburst.  “I’m not a corpse.  Look, I’ve got a pulse and everything, see?”

Jessica pushed two of Kayleigh’s fingers into her neck.  There was a pulse there, even if there was something off about it.  Like there was a second pulse, behind the first one.

“So,” said Kayleigh, pulling her fingers back, “what are you?”

“Like I said, I’m Occulted.”  Jessica stood up, and helped the other girl to her feet.  “Everyone at Darkwood is, actually.  As for what that means, well, all you really know is that actual magic is a thing, and that every monster from folklore has some basis in reality.”

“Wait, magic exist?” said Kayleigh.  “And you go to some kind of monster school?  Oh my god, my hometown has a goddamn monster school.  I’m going to…I’m not going to tell anyone about this, why am I not going to tell anyone about this?”

Kayleigh had grabbed a hold of Jessica’s arms.  Jessica had scrunched her eyebrows in confusion.  “I’m not sure what you mean?”

“There’s some kind of block in my mind,” said Kayleigh.  “It’s stopping me from even wanting to tell people about this.”

“Oh, well,” said Jessica, shaking Kayleigh off, “I honestly have no idea.  Telling normal people about myself just, never occurred to me, I guess.”

Shaking her head, Kayleigh changed the subject.  “Well, what about that Angelica girl, that trapped us in here?  What’s she?”

Jessica shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I’ve never even talked to her before today.”

“So what, she’s just shitting on you for no reason?” asked Kayleigh.  “Guess your school’s more normal than I thought.”

“I suppose somethings cross all boundaries,” said Jessica.  “But anyway, we need to find a way out of here.  Angelica said something about Emily being used as a seed for the space.”

“So,” said Kayleigh.  Jessica’s eyes snapped to her.  “Did this empty mall grow out of her like a plant, or…”

“Uh, no.”  Jessica reached up to scratch the back of her neck.  “I think that she just meant that the space needed something inside of it to grow around, like a seed crystal.  If we find Emily, we should be able to get out of here.  Let’s look for—AAAHH!”

Jessica jumped backward, through the window that Kayleigh was thrown through.  She was clutching her face, and by her breathing, she might have been crying.  Kayleigh went to her, stumbling over broken glass and scattered clothes to do so.  Placing her hand on Jessica’s arm, she managed to calm the vampire enough to reveal her face.

An angry red mark crossed her face.  Extending from the right of her forehead to her left cheek, flecks of skin were starting to peel off of it.  Blinking the tears away, Jessica said, “God, that bird is like the sun.”

Kayleigh raised her head and looked around.  “What bird?”

“The bird that just attacked me,” said Jessica, confused.  She got to her hands and knees, and crept to the window.  Cautiously, she lifted her head above the edge, and she looked at…something.  All Kayleigh could see was empty space.  “That thing is made out of aura.”

Kayleigh tried to see what Jessica was seeing.  “What do you mean, it’s made of aura?”

“I mean that it’s made out of the same stuff as those things that surround everything, that the Occulted use to do magic, that’s why you can’t see it.”

“So, what your saying is, this is some kind of magic thing?”

“Yes.”  Jessica sat down, her back to the window.  “Kayleigh?  We’re going to have to split up.”

Jessica felt bad about sending the normal girl off on her own, but hey, only one of them knew the mall’s layout.  Besides, an inert aura like Kayleigh’s would do jack and shit against something made of aura, even if she could see it.  Well, it had a power like the sun, so Jessica’s own aura would also fall inert if she got close, but it wasn’t like finding a way around that needed actual thought.

“Hey, asshole!” said Jessica, raising herself up from behind the window’s edge.  “Did you notice me, or has the sun burnt away what passed for your brain?”

It wasn’t the best taunt ever, but it got the thing’s attention.  Spreading its golden-feathered wings, it rose into the air, and dove with it’s talons forward.  Fortunately, with her eye on it and burning a little blood for her Reflexes, Jessica could track it easily as Kayleigh got out of the shop.  Just as the bird’s talons and sharp beak would have ripped through her Armor, the vampire used her Strength to leap out of the way.

“Come on, sun!  Are you a hawk or a slug?”

It was a better taunt, even if it was completely unnecessary.  The sun-bird was already giving Jessica its full attention, it yellow shape standing out against the riotous black and red aura of the space itself.  It was awkward on the ground, and its fumbling gave Jessica plenty of time to pick up a nearby manikin.

The manikin, like everything else Angelica’s sorcery had created, had its aura swirling around it, fully active and shoving against damn near everything else.  Just as the hawk seemed to be ready to take off, Jessica threw the dummy at it, using every ounce of her blood-powered Strength to make it sail as hard and as fast as possible.  The sun-bird didn’t have nearly enough time to dodge, of course, so it was broken by the manikin’s aura on impact, the aura that made up its body dissipating and reforming into a small, round egg.

Jessica didn’t let herself get too happy, though.  She remembered Angelica saying that her friends — plural — were going to show up.  That meant that whoever was controlling that bird, there were more of them running around, even if only one of them had shown up early.

Stepping outside, Jessica saw two more of the sun-birds flying towards her.  She grinned.  “Come one, come all,” she said, “come see Jessica Albright’s Thrown Crap Death Show!”

Kayleigh felt bad about leaving the vampire to face those things on her own, but hey, only one of them could actually see them.  Her task wasn’t much, Jessica had said to look for things that were different from the normal mall, and the pyramid in the fountain being smooth might have been the most obvious difference ever.

Kayleigh ran toward the fountain, vaguely aware of the sound of something thudding on the ground.  By the time she had made it to the water, Jessica was screaming something about some kind of ‘death show’ and hurling more crap into the air.  These didn’t arc naturally to the ground, instead, they hit something mid-flight, and dropped to the ground right there.

Kayleigh certainly hoped that the whatevers were being chased away from her, but there wasn’t much she could do if they weren’t.  To keep her mind off of that fact, she waded up to the shiny surface of the fountain’s rock.

It wasn’t her face that was looking back at her.  Instead, it belonged to someone wearing the Darkwood uniform, complete with navy blazer and gold striped tie, with spiky hair on the top of their head and trailing down the back of the jacket.  Their skin was a patchwork of browns, like they had received skin graphs from a dozen different people, with no attempt to match neighboring pieces.  It wasn’t difficult to realize that this was the face of Emily, Jessica’s roommate.

Alright, I’ve found her!  Now I can…something.

Kayleigh banged her forehead against the stone surface as she realized that they didn’t think that far ahead.  She had absolutely no idea how the reflection-prison-trap thing worked, whether Emily was in the pyramid itself or if it was just showing where she was.

“Ho!”  Jessica ran up to the side of the fountain, throwing things at invisible targets.  “Tell me you’ve found something.”

A thought occurred to Kayleigh.  “Hey, Jessie?  Can’t you like, feel Emily’s aura?”

“No, she doesn’t have one.”  Jessica threw a pole like a javelin.

“What!?  How!?”

“Well, it’s a bit complicated, but she isn’t really Occulted.  She’s only in Darkwood because–AAH!”  Jessica jumped out of the way of something.  She scrambled backwards, looking for something to pick up and throw, before finally deciding to tear up a chunk of the ground.  “Well, never mind that, have you found anything?”

Kayleigh sighed.  “Well, I’m seeing Emily reflected in this rock over here, but I don’t know what it means.”

Jessica had to dodge away for a bit, pick up a few things from around the mall and throwing them.  When she found time to get back to Kayleigh, she sucked her thumb and said, “Where are all these birds coming from?”  Looking around, Jessica stopped short when she realized she was next to Kayleigh.  “Oh, right, reflection.  Well, I guess it’s possible that girl would do something that obvi–oh, shit!”

Kayleigh screamed.  She had been picked up by a force unseen, carrying her away down the mall.  She saw Jessica reach out a hand after her, too late to do anything.  Helpless, Kayleigh watched as her friend shrank into the distance, her field of vision bouncing around as she went low across the floor.

Kayleigh screamed, frustration and powerlessness welling up her throat.  It looked like Jessica felt the same, standing there, only able to stare as the other girl was carried off.  Then, the vampire squared her shoulders, and jumped into the middle of the fountain.  Her fist crashed into the pyramid, shattering it, and then, the world began to break up.


That yell and screams like death were the last thing Kayleigh heard before the world broke open like an egg.  Then she was lying on the floor of the real mall, the people around her trying not to step on her as she got up.

“Hey, Kay!”

Milly was running up to her.  Behind her, Linda and Ziggy were discussing something that was happening in the direction of the fountain.  “What the hell is that?” said Ziggy.  “Just Darkwood kids being idiots, just ignore it,” said Linda.

“Woah, Kayleigh, are you okay?” said Milly, checking her friend over.

“I’ve been having a rough time, I suppose.”  Kayleigh didn’t feel like going into to much detail.  Her mind was too occupied by the thought of magic existing, and the fact that she wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.

“We lost three of us to your incompetence.”

Angelica backed away from the spirit’s anger, more because it was expected from her than because she was actually afraid.  The anger was sour, but the anguish causing it was fruity and just a bit sweet, so the overall effect was something like a green apple.  Except that it was an emotion, not food, so it was nothing like a green apple.

“Well, they knew the risks going in, didn’t they?” said Angelica, with her best fake-apology look.  “You knew what would happen if Emily got out.”

“Keeping the aberration contained was your job,” said the sun-bird, “And the only real risk we took was trusting the likes of you.”  With that, he took wing, and threw a mass of aura at the blonde.  This aura hit her own, and formed into a cross on her back, with all of the weight it would have if it was made of wood.  It would go away eventually, but in the meantime, Angelica was stuck dragging it around.

Sighing, she walked out of the trailer and into the alleyway.  She liked the alley, there were never any people around, and the only security camera was just for show.  It was one of the few places a girl could go to enjoy the air alone, which is why she was surprised when her arms and legs were ripped off.

Really, getting kicked in the gut was a pretty logical follow up to that.  “Hey there, nalt,” said the auraless thing standing over her.  Angelica had no idea how the hell Emily functioned without one, or how she could kill spirits, or much of anything else about her for that matter, but stuffing her in a box should have gotten the sun spirits to beat up Jessica, who would be a pretty good source of suffering, if Angelica could get her around to suffering, at any rate.

“‘Sup.  Want another place to chill out some time, cause I can totally set that up, ya know?”  The second kick was completely unsurprising.

“Nah.  This right here is just punishment for the normal girl.”  Emily had stoop down to start punching, but that last sentence was a confusing one.

“What?  What normal girl?”  A punch.

“The normal girl you sucked inta yer sorcery and almost killed.”  Second punch.  “We’re not gonna tell anyone ’bout that, gettin’ her out would be too hard ta explain.  Lucky you.”

As the pummeling continued, Angelica reached out her aura, looking for Jessica.  The vampire was standing a bit behind her roommate, worry rolling off of her like bitter chocolate.  She’s worried for someone else?  Why would she…oh, oh, she made that girl eat her blood.  I’m going to have to remember that for later.

“Now,” said Emily, “We’re gonna give you a limb back, and we’re gonna tell the teachers ’bout that other shit you pulled.”

“Wait, what?”

Emily shrugged and stood.  “Like I said, this shit’s jus’ fer the girl.  Trappin’ us in sorcery, sending somebody ta attack Jessica?  That shits another thing entirely.  If you don’t wan’ anybody ta know you were almos’ a murderer today, I think you should be ready to tell people you fell down the stairs.”

Angelica let out a pained laugh.  “Are you really-”

Kick.  “You.  Fell down.  The stairs.”

Reluctantly, Angelica nodded and said, “I fell down the stairs.”

“Good.  Let’s go, Jess.”  The two girls turned to leave.  The school would be pissed at her, true, but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t recover from.  As Angelica wiggled toward her nearest limb, she giggled at the fact that Jessica had a potential moroi running around somewhere.  That was going to cause her some headaches, even before Angelica made things worse.

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So, this is the first chapter of the rewrite.  It’s gotten out of hand, it’s long, with every word seeming necessary, rather than meandering, it’s mostly told from the point of view of a character I created to have things explained to her, but might be able to carry her own story, and it took me nearly three weeks to write, counting the rough draft.  I’m going to need some time to think about what I want to do, so don’t be surprised if I post some musings instead of stories over the next few weeks.

Wizards in Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy is a genre consisting of fantasy stories set in the modern world.  Exact definition of ‘modern world’ aside, a common part of the setting is that supernatural creatures are divided into specific species: goblins, vampires, etc.  One odd quirk of such settings that I’ve noticed is that wizards, even if their powers are inborn, have a tendency to be classified as a type of human.

I think this has to do with the D&D tradition.  ‘Wizard’ is a class, not a race, so wizards powers are described in the Player’s Handbook instead of the Monster Manual.  Of course, in the earliest editions, ‘elf’ and ‘dwarf’ acted like classes instead of races, but that was because races, as a concept, didn’t really exist.

There are a few things that are implied by a character being a wizard.  The first, is that their powers required years of academic study.  Most of a wizard’s spells are kept in books, which they tend to surround themselves with.  This is another hold-over from the D&D tradition, where a wizard’s spells frequently felt less like they were pulling something out of themselves and more like they were manipulating the laws of the universe for an effect.

The second is that a wizard’s power is very flexible.  That is to say, a powerful enough wizard can implicitly do anything, as long as they have the right books.  This is definitely a result of D&D’s influence.  The writers of that game took inspiration from every wizard in fantasy fiction published at the time, took their powers, which were frequently mysterious and more likely to cause problems than they were to solve them, and codified them into a set of rules that the players could learn and manipulate themselves.  This resulted in a class with an absurd potential to completely nullify any number of stories.

I shouldn’t be attributing too much to D&D, however.  Much of how magic was portrayed in twentieth-century fantasy fiction is based off of the practices of real life occultists, particularly the natural philosophers that lived in medieval period and into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, where magic and science weren’t quite differentiated.  I still blame them for the absurdly broad powers, though.

But while a tabletop RPG’s influence on fantasy fiction is interesting, it’s not entirely relevant to my own work.  For Occulted, I’m mostly interested in wizards being somewhere between the world of everyday people and the world of the supernatural.  They way things are set up in my mind, there’s really no need to differentiate between people with innate powers, and people who’ve acquired all of their powers through study and learning, at least for ritual magic.  And so, the word ‘wizard’ can apply equally to people that only use ritual magic, and to people that can use ritual magic period.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to blur a line.

Thank you for listening to me ramble.