14 September 1918
PORTIONS OF THE DAMAGED DIARY OF JOANNA WOZNIAK, AS RECOVERED BY THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF ERIE, PA, ON THE EVENING OF MAY 28, 1974.
Yester-day, Jeremiah had some conflict with a child at school and, in his rage, screamed at the other child. There are conflicting reports on exactly what happened next, but somehow the other child was thrown across the schoolyard and broke his arm. I could not help but remember the first time Abe met Rev. Halzberg and accidentally gave him the same injury. I don't need to know whether or not he touched the boy to understand what happened. I can now be certain he has his father's power. I apologized for his behavior, promised to address it, and we left in a hurry.
I spent some time praying at home before we went to the river. I sat on the bank and told Abe all that had happened, and begged him to return and help me. I don't know how to raise a child who can do the things he can do. I don't know how to help him. I don't even know where we can live without fear of condemnation. The river did not stir. No answers came, though we fell asleep on the shore waiting for them.
The other families are avoiding us. I feared this day would come. There had already been rumors, thanks to a few times I was caught talking to the river, but now the people have made decisions about us. We must move, if we are to be safe. I've learned that much. But I cannot leave the river, not yet. We have packed our essentials and my books into the car and I identified a small town further downstream that I hope will be far enough to have not heard about us. I've explained the situation to Jeremiah. He's so bright, that boy, he seemed to understand implicitly and agreed to be more careful in future. I will go back to the river, tell Abe where he can find us before we set out. Lord, please let him respond this time.
27 May 2005
The sunset had not changed in human memory. A constant red sky, with a warm and welcoming sun blazing directly opposite the coastline, hovered over a wine-dark sea. Waves beat loudly against an unchanging cliff face, keeping a steady rhythm that gave structure to the sirens singing on the rocks at the base of the cliff. Rocky crags and cave openings dotted the cliff face, each decorated with nests made from the remains of ships spanning centuries and cultures and inhabited by water spirits and things that almost resembled sea birds; at a distance one could nearly mistake them for albatross and pelicans, but up close they had a form best described as assorted sea birds drawn by an alien armed with third-hand references and an unhealthy exposure to the works of Boris Groh and the book of Ezekiel. The creatures of the sea scattered from a portion of the coast as the water began to swirl and rise, forming a column that stretched nearly ten feet above the top of the cliff and licked against the grass at the very edge. Jeremiah stepped out from within the tower, adjusting his dry suit jacket as he walked over to a shuddering imp and the water collapsed into the sea.
"You're late," Jeremiah said, stopping in front of the two-foot-tall creature. The imp huffed and put its fists to its hips in an attempt to look defiant. A manilla folder was tucked under its arm.
"Well, I had to walk. The things here hunt anything in the sky or sea, you know."
"You poor thing."
"Perhaps if you want speedy favors, you should come to the office next time."
"Perhaps your boss should send creatures that know when to stop next time." Jeremiah held out his hand as the imp snorted. "Is that for me?"
"Yes," the imp replied, jamming the folder into his hand, "but you hardly seem like you deserve it." Jeremiah took the folder and opened it, flipping absently through.
"Your behavior is hardly the sort of professional air I would expect from someone in your position. Your disrespect will be noted."
"And what are you gonna do about it, mortal? You think walking on our side overrides the fact that you're just animated meat?" Jeremiah glared at the imp over the paperwork, then pulled out a copy of John Matteson's birth certificate and began looking it over.
"This folder has everything on the target?"
"That's right. Known addresses, associates, travel history, the whole deal." Jeremiah nodded. "Now, are we done? Or are you gonna ask us to handle this human for you?" the imp asked, sneering.
"No. This is a family affair." The column of water rose again over the edge of the cliff as Jeremiah continued to read. The imp waved his hand dismissively and turned to leave, when the top of the column formed into a massive hand and reached forward. It grabbed the imp and, in one swift movement, dragged it back to the edge of the cliff and threw it over. Jeremiah ignored the sounds of screeching, screams, and tearing as he flipped through the pages. When the air again returned to its normal sound, he took a deep breath and pulled out a driver's license picture of John. "Now. Let's look into what kind of a man Henry managed to raise."
17 May 2005
Bob was standing in front of his open closet in a pair of boxers, comparing two shirts on hangers, when his phone rang. Glancing over and seeing it was Lori, he paused and glanced to the shirts and back to the phone, before setting the shirts down on the bed with a sigh and answering. He answered, expecting to hear from Lori about something Mark had said the night before, but was met instead with Matteson's voice. He put his hand to his other ear to block out the sound of the shower running in the attached restroom, and asked what was going on. After a few moments, his face went pale, and he nearly fell into sitting on the bed.
"...how?" he asked. He sat in silence, listening for a bit. The shower turned off. "Do we know about the services yet?" He nodded as Matteson explained, then thanked him and hung up. He was sitting on his bed, holding his phone with his back to the restroom door, when the door opened. Charles walked out, wearing a towel tied around his waist.
"Okay, so, I know I said I'd tell my family this weekend, and I'm sorry, but-"
"Charles." Charles stopped and watched as Bob set the phone down and turned around. He was crying.
"Hey!" Charles said, rushing over to sit beside him. "Hey, what's going on?"
"It's Mark. He...he..." Bob trailed off and wrapped his arms around Charles, crying into his shoulder. Charles hesitated for a moment, then reached around and slowly patted Bob's back.
"Take your time, okay? Just let it out for now, you can tell me the details later."
16 May 2005
Trivia night had wrapped up around 10, and Mark had spent the next fifteen minutes staring into space and rocking in his chair. Matteson and Lori left as soon as it was over. Mark overheard Matteson tell her he had something to do in the morning and would just be dropping her off. Beth leaned over and tapped on his shoulder.
"Hey," she said. "What's on your mind?"
"I'm just...sorry, I'm just concerned," he answered.
"Look, we get it," Bob said. "She seems obsessive about him. Like, beyond what you would expect."
"I've been afraid to mention it, you know, but...something really does seem off about them," Beth said, softly.
"And she's changed a lot since meeting him," Bob added. "And not all of it for the better."
"Has she said anything? To anyone?" Mark asked. The other two shook their heads. "She promised she would talk to one of us, months ago. Said she was going through a rough patch, swore it wasn't his fault, but..."
"It hasn't gotten better." They all sat in silence for a moment, then Mark slapped his hands down onto the table and stood up.
"I have to try again."
"Mark, wait-" Beth began.
"No! There's something wrong and I think it has to do with him. We can't keep sitting by and watching it happen!"
"Just...just be careful, okay? It's going to be difficult to handle this well," Bob said.
"Are you sure we can't just go, all together, and do this tomorrow?" Beth asked. Mark shook his head and grabbed his jacket, then tossed some cash on the table.
"If that doesn't cover me I'll pay you back tomorrow, alright?" The others reluctantly nodded, then watched as Mark vanished out the door.
Mark arrived at Lori's apartment a few minutes later, checking the parking lot to verify Matteson's car was gone. When he knocked on the door, it fell open, and he jumped back. He waited a moment, then poked his head in to look around. Everything looked normal, and he thought he could hear the shower running. He stepped inside and closed the door, making sure it latched this time.
"Lori?" he called out.
"Matteson? Is that you?" he heard back.
"I'll be right out, just wait there!" He went to answer, but decided instead to just wait for her. He took a deep breath, started muttering to himself what he would say, and began pacing around her living room. As he focused on what he was saying, he lost track of where he swung his hands, and accidentally knocked over a glass of pop. He swore softly to himself and dove down to pick up the glass, then looked around for a paper towel. When he didn't see a roll out, he decided to check the broom closet. He opened the door to the broom closet and froze.
There were no cleaning supplies in the closet. Instead, he was faced with dozen of pictures of John Matteson. Most looked recent, but some looked like they had been printed off a website somewhere or pulled out of wherever his childhood pictures were kept. A small altar consisting of a bowl and supported by three women's faces, was set up on a low shelf, with a bag of incense on one side and some ashes in the bowl. The pictures of Matteson were surrounded and interspersed with moon and death imagery.
"You're not supposed to be in there!" he heard Lori yell, and suddenly realized the sound of the shower had stopped. He stepped back from the door and faced her. She was wearing one towel over her body, and had another one coiled up on her head, her legs still dripping water on the carpet. "Mark?!"
"Lori, I was trying to clean up a spill, and-"
"What are you doing here?!"
"We're all concerned, okay? Something about this, this...thing you have with Matteson didn't seem healthy! And this? THIS?" he yelled, pointing at the closet. "This is proof! Lori, something is terribly wrong here!"
"Get OUT!" she screamed. Her eyes flashed white and Mark stumbled backward. Before he could say anything else, she was at his side, holding his arm so tight he screamed and felt his hand growing numb. She threw him, and he crashed into the wall next to the door. When he looked back, she was floating a few inches off the ground, her hair out in all directions and the towel from her head crumpled on the floor. She started to move toward him, and he threw the door open and ran out on all fours, only able to push himself to his feet and run once he was in the hallway. Other doors were opening, but he didn't wait to see who was watching him. He jumped into his car and started the engine, his heart racing, his breath quick and shallow. He punched the gas and tore out of the parking lot down the street, trying to piece together what he'd seen. He barely registered it when the radio station cut to static.
"You won't ruin this for me, Mark!" a strange woman's voice called out from the radio. He screamed and glanced over, only to see the radio still reading 101.1. He felt his entire body go cold.
"Who are you? What do you want?" He cried.
"No one gets in my way ever again!" A bolt of electricity sparked from the radio and shocked his hand, causing him to yank his hands away. The wheel turned sharply, and as Mark reached out to correct it the car spun sideways. The rear wheel caught a pothole at high speed and the car flipped onto its roof, sliding about twenty feet. Mark only briefly heard the sound of the truck's horn as his car landed directly in front of it.
Lori was kneeling in front of the altar, a bit of incense burning. She sat perfectly still, her eyes open and fixed straight ahead and glazed over. Suddenly, she took a deep breath, and fell backwards. She stood, cracked her knuckles, and blinked a couple times until her eyes were back to normal. She heard a knock on the door and, making sure her towel was fixed, she went to answer.
"Hey, is everything alright?" It was one of her neighbors, she recognized him from the hallway. "We heard a lot of noise, and then this guy-"
"Everything is fine now, thanks," she said with a smile. "It was just a misunderstanding."
"Are...are you sure?"
"Yes. Thank you, and sorry for all the noise. Good night." With that she closed the door, then walked back to her altar, and resumed kneeling. "Very soon," she whispered, looking up at the pictures, "all of this will be sorted out for good."
15 May 2005
Jackie Veracruz arrived at the Crossroads, led by Hecate's hound, as Hecate sat on an ornate throne made of the still-moving limbs and occasional head of the undead. The Queen of Magic waited silently, sipping from a goblet of wine and looking out over her realm. As the hound made its way to sit beside the throne, Jackie hesitated.
"Welcome back, Jacqueline." Jackie took a deep breath and looked up at the goddess, who was now so large that the mortal had to keep a bit of distance just to see up and over her knees.
"Thank you, mistress. I was growing concerned."
"As you should. You're fortunate I called you back here at all, after you hid from me in the arms of that Anchor."
"Don't bother, child. I gave you power, and knowledge. I invested in you for years, turning your feeble attempts at magic into a force that has changed lives. I watched you grow from a scared child to a formidable young woman. I warned you about the greatest danger to magic that exists in this world when it was right in front of you, and you repaid it all by using him to hide from me. There is nothing you can say that will make that action acceptable to me." She glared down at Jackie, who was now trembling and looking down at the ground in front of the throne. "But, there is something you can do that I will accept as payment." Jackie slowly looked back up to meet her gaze.
"What is it?"
"You will bring him to me."
"You...you mean John? The Anchor?"
"I told you that Anchors and Warlocks are mine. He is a liminal being, and as such under my purview. I have use for him."
"Right, yes. But, how?"
"You must go to him. Nudge him, guide him. Make sure that he finds his way to me."
"What if he doesn't want to?"
"He is mine, child, just like you. I will use him while he is useful and discard him if he is not, do you understand?"
"I...but that-" Hecate snapped her fingers, and Jackie froze. Her eyes glazed over and she stood, upright, staring blankly forward.
"I have waited too long for someone as useful as him to come along, and don't have time for your hesitations." Hecate held out her hand, palm up, and as she curled her fingers in Jackie began to float up and toward her face. When she was finally hovering at eye level, only a few feet from Hecate's face, the goddess smiled. "Now then. You will go to live near John. You will watch him, you will guide him to me, and you will do it all without delay. Do you understand?" Jackie slowly nodded. "Good. And to make sure you behave, you will not remember anything from this visit except that you have been welcomed back. Is that agreeable to you?"
"Good. Now go. You have much to do." Hecate flicked her hand, and Jackie went flying. She landed softly, as if the road were made of cushions, and then slowly stood and continued to stare in her daze. The hound moved forward and led her slowly back down the path from which she came.
"You're very interested in this boy, Hecate." She growled.
"And you're very interested in trespassing on my realm, Muninn." The Two, in human form and as tall as Hecate, stepped out from the shadows behind her throne and made their way around to face her. Muninn, the man, smiled.
"All realms are our realms. All roads are our roads."
"What do you want?"
"She is of interest to us," the woman said, glancing down the road. "And I wonder if you aren't a bit harsh on her."
"I should wish I could be as harsh with you, Huginn. What business do you have with her?"
"That is our business. But I would advise you to not let your distrust of ravens make you forget your place."
"I assure you I have never forgotten my place. But it has changed before, and it may yet change again."
"Yes," Muninn said, turning away. "I'm sure it will." With that, the two visitors became ravens and flew out of the Crossroads. Hecate threw her goblet in their direction, then leaned back in her throne to think.