1 November 2005
The ride to Lori's place was awkward and quiet. I didn't know what to say or how to begin saying it, and she seemed to only be interested in holding the blanket tight around herself, leaning away from me, and looking out the window. The only words exchanged the whole time were right when she got in, when she said he had a splitting headache and asked me to turn down the music; I just turned it off. I couldn't exactly blame her, I couldn't imagine what she'd been through these past few months. So we rode along, in silence. When I pulled up to her house, I put on the brake and we sat for a moment.
"Do you...is there anything you need? I can help you inside, or run to the store, or-"
"No," she said, in a very definitive tone. She sighed and looked down, then turned back to me. "But thank you."
"Of course." She turned back to the window, but neither of us moved for another minute. "Oh, um, I should tell you. We were able to summon Alethea, and you, because of stuff I stole from that...shrine in the broom closet. I'm sorry, I can bring it back."
"Right." She sighed, opened her door a little bit, and then closed it again before turning to me.
"What's your deal, John?"
"...I think I need you to be more specific."
"Why you?" I hummed and leaned back in my seat.
"I don't know. I think it's because, somehow, she saw me in her last moments?"
"Yes, I know all that. But why? Why are you important to all of this?"
"I don't know. I don't think I am." I tapped on the steering wheel a few times as I stared at the motionless speedometer. "This story might not even be about me." She exhaled hard and looked out the windshield, for a few moments, then shook her head.
"No. There's something about you. I don't think you take this all seriously enough to notice yet, but things are converging on you. And until you learn how to see them coming, more people are going to get hurt." I looked down and scratched the back of my neck.
"I'm sorry, Lori."
"I know." We sat for another minute in silence before she opened the door. She paused.
"Do you need some space?" She laughed and looked away, then took a sharp breath as she shook her head and held her fist up to her mouth.
"John, I...I never agreed to any of this. You must realize, it was never me. Not even the first time we met, it was always her. We're not..." She trailed off, then got out of Alpha and held the door as she looked at the sky. "Yeah. I need some space." I nodded. "Thanks for the help. And for the ride. See you around." She closed the door and made her way inside. I watched her go, until she was inside the building. Then I leaned back, lit a cigarette, swore at myself a bit, and then took a deep breath and drove to Denny's.
1 November 2005
Everything around us melted back into a normal sort of silence and it was just the two of us, sitting in the aftermath of a poltergeist's rage on the only scrap of undamaged ground in the clearing. I barely noticed Alethea changing as she continued to weep and softly protest the way things turned out, pressed against me, my arms wrapped around her and lightly rubbing her back. It had been so long since I saw her in that bathtub that I didn't even register how different she had looked, the decades of death and isolation and obsessive pain warping her into something larger, angrier, more wild and inhuman. When she finally pulled back a little and I saw her again, I was nearly startled by the forgotten realization that this was just a sixteen-year-old girl with soft cheeks and warm eyes and a button nose whose life had been destroyed before it had ever really had a chance to be enjoyed.
"I'm so sorry," I said, wiping her hair out of her eyes and behind her ear. It was the first time I'd ever seen it obey gravity. She wiped spectral tears from her cheeks.
"What do I do now? I don't know how else to fix this."
"There...Alethea, I was never going to be able to fix this. No one can." She sniffled a bit and looked at me with pleading eyes. "What happened to you was terrible, it was unjust, it was horrendous; and nothing I or anyone else can do will change that. You have to decide what to do with it." I took my hoodie off and slipped it onto her, and her acceptance of it let it stay as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and wrapped them around herself.
"I don't know how to move on from this."
"I don't think you ever really do. It just becomes a part of you that you have to give a healthy outlet. You were robbed of the chance to get the help you needed, and the metaphysical realm isn't kind to souls that linger long. But you've seen where this path leads, right?" She teared up again, but nodded. "Lori, and Jackie, they deserved better. But so did you. You didn't deserve any of what happened to you, do you know that?" Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she nodded again. I stood, took her hand, and helped her to her feet.
"I don't want to become that again. I don't...I can't stay here, can I?" Once she said that, a white door appeared about ten feet away, glowing bright. We both looked at it. "Is that...is this when I go?"
"I think that's up to you."
"What's over there?"
"I don't know, kid. But I like to think it's better than this. Maybe you'll find healing there." She pulled close, wrapping her arms around my arm and squeezing it against her.
"I think you've already been through the worst of it." We stood in silence for a moment, before she nodded.
"Tell them I'm sorry?"
"Can you...will you come with me?"
"As far as I can." She let go of my arm and pressed herself against my side, and I wrapped my arm around her as we started to walk forward. The door swung itself open as we approached, and on the other side I saw only bright white light. It was silent for me, but she smiled like she saw or heard something familiar. When we reached the threshold we stopped, and she turned her face toward me.
"I guess you were what I needed, after all." I smiled, let go of her, and rustled her hair a bit.
"What you needed was to remember who you are. Good bye, Alethea." She gave me a quick peck on the cheek, took a determined breath, and stepped forward.
1 November 2005
I had never taken the time to do anything about my rib from my previous encounter with Alethea, and I definitely felt it when I started trying to dodge her. She was coming at me with far greater fury than before, but she was limited in space. As soon as she entered the area Jackie had laid out with that powder of hers, she was unable to leave it, but didn't seem to have any restriction on height as she continued trying to fly and strike me as she passed. This seemed worse to me, as the lag between Alethea's actions and Lori's was increasing and their conflicting desires were becoming more pronounced. If she lost control of Lori while in the air, I wasn't sure I would be able to catch her safely, especially with everything flying around us. I had to make my move.
She was diving at me again. Nearly every time, she would aim to curve up again either just before or just after she hit me; this one looked like it would be just before. I timed it as best I could and took a single step forward, catching her right before she expected me to be there. My hands hit and clamped down on her shoulders and her momentum pushed me backward until my feet made contact with the wall of stones and branches that had been gathering around me. I braced myself against that and stopped us both, pushed against her until her legs were on the ground, then pressed my right hand against her forehead. She screamed, both voices screaming, loud and shrill and painful. The powder in the grass was suddenly glowing, and all of the wind beyond it suddenly stopped and sent everything it was carrying flying to the ground. All of the energy she had been spending gathered at the edges of the circle, whipping into a wind storm that sounded like a hurricane. I held her in place for a few moments, focusing on bringing order to the metaphysical realm just like Jackie had said, and then pushed forward with my right hand. It passed directly through Lori, who slumped to the side. In my hand was the top of Alethea's head; she was scared, crying, on her knees and staring up at me. The wind broke and sent out a shockwave that shattered the wall around us and put out all the fires.
I let go, and Alethea rocked back and forth, her head in her hands. I looked down at Lori, half conscious, bleeding from the small cuts and abrasions she'd picked up in the two encounters today. I knelt down and suddenly there was someone else, a park guard, running into view. I was still catching my breath and didn't manage to ask him what he was doing before he picked up Lori and ran in the direction of Jackie and Alpha. I watched them go for a moment, then turned back to Alethea.
"You...you were supposed to fix this," she said, softly and between sobs. I told Jackie I'd had a plan for what to do once Alethea was out of Lori's body, but that was at least partly a lie. I was planning to find something in my notebook, but I realized shortly after this started that I'd forgotten it in the car. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say.
I wrapped my arms around her, pulled her close, closed my eyes, and sat in silence as she wept on my chest.
1 November 2005
Jackie went to the hospital to get her burn and cuts cleaned up, which was enough of an excuse to get her out of work, and she left her backpack of supplies in Alpha's trunk. While she was there, I slipped over to Lori's apartment, hoping that whatever Alethea had her doing would keep her busy elsewhere. I had to slightly break in, but no one seemed to notice, and I had time to look around for something useful. It didn't take long; in her broom closet I found a whole shrine to me, with some paraphernalia that was probably tied to some mystical origin or another. Deciding I should quit while I was ahead, I grabbed whatever I could carry and slipped out the fire escape without looking elsewhere.
We arrived at Buhl Park shortly before it was scheduled to close, and pulled Alpha behind some trees to hide in the dark. After we saw the patrol go through to check for people and lock up, we slipped out and made our way to one of the lesser-used fields and got to work. She had a pouch of something she had gotten from a friend in Chicago, and spent some time spreading it in a specific shape, hidden in the grass. I kept watch as she spent time in preparation, using various things from her backpack. She said she'd been burned by magical backlash too much recently, and wanted to make sure she had everything she would need in place to do what we came to do and then clean up with as little risk to herself as possible. We only had to dip back into the trees to hide once, but the need to be constantly ready for it slowed her down enough that we weren't ready until after midnight.
Once everything was ready, Jackie went over to the car and began her rites as I walked to the center of the ritual. She had told me specific places to set the things I had taken from Lori's apartment, and seemed very interested in some of it; she said we would need to talk about that later, though. I laid the things out, stood in the spot she told me to stand, and prepared to wait. It did not take long.
Near the perimeter of the ritual area, the air started to crackle shoot lightning into the grass. I watched as reality warped and bent at a spot about six feet off the ground, the source of the lightning, until Lori appeared with a loud crack. She was floating above the ground, her eyes glowing, her hair flowing out as though she was underwater. Her arm raised to point at me, first Alethea's spectral arm and then Lori's physical one. The lag told me Alethea was losing her hold on Lori, and the look on her face told me that battle was incredibly painful for her.
"Matteson!" both of their voiced cried out, as they floated closer. At the same time, Alethea cried out threats against me while Lori begged for help. I stayed in place and waited as they continued to approach. The wind around them picked up, quickly becoming a whirlwind that was lifting rocks and branches and tearing apart the blackberry bushes nearby. The edge of the whirlwind reached and then passed me, but everything within about five meet of me remained unaffected.
"Come on!" I yelled. "Is that all you've come to do?" She screamed, both of them screamed. The whirlwind picked up, ripping up dirt and cracking the trunks of the closest trees. Lightning shot out in every direction, setting small fires in the dry grass; and then she stopped floating and instead flew at me like a dart.
31 October 2005
"You couldn't request the night off?" I asked, setting the bags of liquor on the counter to begin unpacking from our run to the brew thru.
"It's Halloween, and I work at a haunted house," Jackie answered. She was setting up various sized glasses on a table we'd set up in my study, leaving room for the pizzas I had ordered for tonight. "Besides, if what I hear of your house parties is true, there will be plenty for me to enjoy when I get back." I agreed that was fair, and went to dig the paper plates out of the cabinet when I heard the front door open. I went out and found Lori, who looked like hell. She had clearly not slept, her makeup was smeared as though she'd been crying, her hair was wild and tangled, and she was barefoot. She snapped her attention to me with crazed eyes, then lunged forward.
The first punch caught me off guard, and I heard a rib crack as she made contact with my side. I started trying to dodge as she continued punching and kicking; I was slower than usual as the pain spread from my side and having trouble catching my breath, but she was obviously unskilled at what she was doing and I mostly avoided further contact as I tried to back away.
"You son of a bitch!" she yelled as she continued her onslaught. "You were supposed to fix this!"
"What are you on about?" I demanded. Jackie came out of the study and froze in the doorway, clearly unsure how to handle the situation. Lori's eyes started to glow, and then she buckled over and grabbed her gut as she stumbled backwards. I saw Alethea's head rise out of her back and scream, cracking the windows and forcing me to cover my ears. Lori's face tilted up slightly, tears streaming down her face, as she mouthed, "help me."
"Alethea!" I yelled. Lori snapped back upright and fell backwards against the wall as Alethea vanished back into her. Jackie stepped forward, calling out something in another language, and sent a bolt of energy at Lori. Lori ripped the front door off the hinges and blocked the shot with it, shattering the door. Her arms her shaking under the strain, and I saw cuts open in her clothes and skin as the pieces of the door flew against her. I ran toward her, not really thinking of what I would do when I got to her; but before I got very far she rose off the ground, screamed one more time, and sent out a shockwave through the room. My tv was destroyed, the windows blew out, and Jackie was thrown backwards into the study. I didn't feel it, and it didn't slow me down, so when she suddenly vanished from in front of me I was going too fast to stop. I slammed into the wall and blacked out.
The blog of John Matteson.