Her world was silver and glass and cold as ice. It hadn’t always been like this. Sometimes, she could remember the feeling of the sun on her skin or the warmth of another’s touch. These days, she barely remembered what it was like to have skin. She was a nightmare monster given substance and forced to haunt the slumber party set. She was blood red eyes and terror sealed between silver and glass. She was the specter of midnight and thrice spoken names.
She was a promise in the dark and a crossroads. The words of the game were a key to her prison and the players were her sustenance.
The forms were nearly observed and soon she would feed. Soon, the little sweet sixteen who dared challenge her memory would be nothing more than a statistic and a mystery.
The girl opened her mouth a third time.
The man stood on the bridge with the sunrise behind him. This day was a long time coming, this day when he would leave everything he had ever known. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed at the miniature portrait he held with gentle fingers. To never see her again. It would be a tragedy, but it was no longer a tragedy he could avert. He tucked the small painting into his jacket and let his gaze fall to the still waters below him. No one would know him, could know him. Not if this plan was to succeed. But there would be peace and he would have his works. He produced a small vial and looked it over, almost dispassionately. Then he uncorked it and drank the yellow fluid. It tasted vile and metallic, and burned its way down his throats until it settled in his gut like so much lead. But it was lead no longer. It was gold and life and the future. Tucking the vial back into his pocket, the Count of St Germaine turned and strode down the street out of one life and into another
The child would have powers. She had promised herself that when he had been born. This child would have powers one way or another. No matter what it took, she would not let her son be one of the few Normals of Scuttle Bay. Even if she was, even if her husband was. The question was how. It wasn’t in his blood, that much was clear. That left magic and science as her options. From the day he was born, she started in with everything she had. Vitamibe, spellwork, offerings left for Faeries and gods alike. None of it worked. Finally, she took her infant son to the coast. A pirate wreck lay deep under the water still and she could just barely see the shadow there. Holding the child by the ankle, she held him in the water. He would have powers. He would be a hero. He would make it in this place. Of that, she was convinced. The boy stopped moving. She pulled him out, a mad gleam in her eye. What great powers would he manifest? But his eyes were glassy and dull and he didn’t move
“Danny? Hey…um…Danny? I know it’s late and all…but…”
Danny rolled over, wishing he could just ignore the trio on the floor and go back to sleep. But he knew what happened. Last time he decided sleep was more important than helping a spirit, he’d spent the next month being stalked by a….thing. He couldn’t even remember the proper word for it. Well, Mom had had to cleanse his room, him, his little brother and the dog before the stupid thing finally left. So he listened.
“Yeah, I’m awake. What’s up, guys?”
The three glowing hedgehogs climbed up onto his bed and stood on top of the blankets.
“Well…we’re kind of lost…” said the center one.
“You’re lost. Wait a second, aren’t you guys stars?”
“Yeah, that’s the problem.”
He sighed and started to sit up.
“I’m gonna need to get dressed and leave a note for my mother. Can one of you guys tell the Crow out in the tree to keep an eye on my brother?”
“Yeah, sure, I got it.”
One of the hedgehogs floated off the blankets slightly and ran out straight through the window.
“I really hate it when you guys do that. Can’t you at least pretend to be corporeal?”
The quill scratched across the surface of the paper, the sound echoing in the long hall of the library. Knowledge poured from the mind into the book. All the while, screams hung silent, floating in the air. Waves of color and fear played throughout the room, emanating from where the prisoner hung on the wall. It was his knowledge that filled the book, his blood that formed the ink.
The librarian watched the pages as they filled until finally the book fell closed. Then, slowly, inexorably, he turned towards the holding cells.
“Bring forth the next.”
Meredith smoothed her hands over the swell of her stomach and frowned, deep in thought. The closer they got to her due date, the more she was afraid. It had only been a dream, hadn’t it? So many years ago… It had to have been. That blithe childhood promise couldn’t have been real. Dennis put an arm around her shoulders, never knowing that his own thoughts intersected hers so well.
She leaned back into his grip and smiled.
She looked down for a moment and then smiled.
“Of course it is.”
She ignored the lingering fear as she went and opened the window to try and bring the heat down some.
The leaves were falling as they came home together with their son in the backseat of the car. The little boy was fast asleep, tucked in with his little white blanket in his little tiny green onesie.
“He’s so quiet…”
Meredith glanced back and smiled.
“He’s sleeping, Dennis. Let him stay that way.”
When they got home, Meredith carried their son inside in her arms, a huge smile on her face…until she heard the voices arguing.
“Listen, you old hag, I was here first.”
“Old hag! Who are you calling an old hag, swamp thing.”
There were two old women standing together in the living room, glaring daggers at each other and periodically shooting glances at the `it’s a boy!’ banner over the fireplace.
They turned to face the terrified new parents with twin expressions of glee.
“You’re finally home. Time to settle up, dearie.”
She had always known where her family’s money had come from. Even as a child, even when they thought she was too young to truly know what her father’s business was, she had known. She had seen it in the shadows in his eyes, in the way he always made sure to trundle the whole family off to church every Sunday, and in the way he never looked at graveyards. So when Isabella’s father was murdered when she was fifteen years old, she wasn’t too surprised. She missed him, of course, but she wasn’t surprised. When you lived outside the law, you died outside the law. But when her mother and older brother both followed shortly after and in the same gruesome ways, Isabella DiBenedetto began to worry.
With all the money from her accounts in a bag on the passenger’s seat, Bella split town alone. She had only gotten a few miles past the city limits when her phone rang. She hesitated for a moment, then answered.
“Gattina, I know why you’re leaving, but that won’t make it stop.”
Bella winced and pulled her car over to the side of the road. She wasn’t really surprised that her Great Aunt Maddalena knew she was gone. Everyone in the family knew that she was a Strega. More importantly, everyone knew that they should listen when Great Aunt Maddalena spoke.
“What do I need to do, Zia?”
Bella’s tone was full of respect and resignation, but her hands shook.
“You have to appease the spirits. Keep driving, go to the coast and buy a house. One that isn’t finished mind. Once you’ve done that, let me know.”
“Grazie, Zia. I will. I promise.”
“I know you will, Bella. It’s that, or wait for the Shadow Men to come for you too.”