Over the Hedge
1 November 2005
We watched as Matteson and Alethea/Lori continued their fight, as Matteson took one hit after another and started to stumble. I was growing afraid that he was falling when he suddenly stepped forward, but instead he caught her on a pass and screamed as his back was slammed against the stones and wood that had formed a small wall behind him. The wind around us died, and we took cover from the things that suddenly weren't being pulled into a circle anymore. There were trees breaking and one of Alpha's windows was taken out by a stray rock as we hid behind the car. We waited a moment to make sure it was over, then heard what sounded like an explosion as another volley of rocks and dirt and wood erupted in every direction. We glanced over the hood and trunk to see Lori laying in the grass next to Matteson, who was kneeling on the ground. I didn't even have time to say anything about it before the guard was off, running directly into the middle of everything. I stood, ready to help him if Alethea attacked while he was out in the open, but he lifted Lori without incident and started running toward his SUV. I realized he likely had a first aid kit in there, and ran over to meet him there and help.
He set her down, sitting on the road with her back against his tire, and asked me to check on her while he ran around the other side to get the kit from his glove compartment. I sat down next to her, and she turned and looked at me for a moment before breaking down. I wrapped my arm around her, and she buried her face in my neck as she cried. The guard returned and asked her if she was ready for him to tend her wounds, and she sniffled and wiped her cheeks and nodded. I kept my right arm around her shoulders, and held her hand with my left hand as the guard went about his work.
"I...I knew what she was doing, Jackie. I couldn't stop her."
"No one could have expected you to. I'm so sorry we didn't realize it sooner."
"I can still feel her. It's like...and I can remember. I remember her memories, the things that happened to her, the decades in isolation, the..." she trailed off and started crying again, and I asked the guard if he had a blanket for her. He told me where it was in the SUV, and I got up to grab it and wrap it around her. We looked over toward Matteson who seemed to be talking to, we presumed, Alethea, but we were too far away to hear. We were still watching when a bright light engulfed him and forced us to turn away.
1 November 2005
We didn't know how much damage Alethea could actually do, but I had proposed that we treat her more as a poltergeist than a true ghost. Whatever had happened to her since she was released from that bathroom in Chicago had clearly changed her, made her more powerful, more angry, more meticulous. To carry on a months-long possession and trick Matteson into a relationship with someone who he had never seen outside of possession was something that didn't line up with what I had learned of her before; neither her personality nor her power could quite account for it. I feared I had all the answer I needed for that when I saw the small altar Matteson had retrieved from her apartment. If Hecate was involved, and that was certainly an altar designed for her, this must be far larger than I had realized. I kept most of those concerns to myself for the time being, though, as Matteson needed to focus on the immediate threat instead of getting distracted with the big picture. It was hard enough to keep just me from wondering what she could possibly want with this situation, let alone both of us.
True to my concerns, the power she unleashed when she arrived was terrifying to watch. There was lightning setting fires in the grass that slowly started to spread, trees being torn apart by what seemed to be a very localized tornado, rocks and dirt and broken shards of wood flying everywhere. I was, for the moment, far enough away that there was no immediate threat to me, but I didn't know if Matteson would get control of the situation before her anger grew to consume the whole park. I also learned that his power was not as passive as I had expected. It was not simply that the wind and lightning weren't reaching him, which was notable enough, but the objects being carried by the wind were suddenly taking a dive into the ground a few feet away from him, leaving a ring of debris perfectly surrounding him. In the midst of everything, I almost didn't notice the park guard pull up in his SUV and get out near the trees, watching with his mouth and eyes wide.
"You don't want to be here right now!" I screamed to him, he looked over at me, then back to the flying woman divebombing Matteson and raining down destruction around him, then ran over to me.
"What the hell is going on here? You people can't be doing this!"
"We're trying to stop this! We couldn't do it anywhere else, could you imagine this happening in someone's yard?" He grumbled, and pulled out a radio, and I reached over and put my hand on his arm. He looked at me, and I silently pleaded with him to stop. With a huff, he put the radio back, and turned to watch.
"I'm gonna have a hell of a time explaining this in the morning."
31 October 2005
I tried to lift myself off the floor, but as soon as I put weight on my right arm it collapsed under me and I fell back into the broken table and shattered glasses. I cried out in pain and used my left arm instead, slowly working my way to my feet. I checked my right arm and found a large burn covering much of it. It was a minor burn, I knew it would heal soon enough, but in the meantime that arm was feeling very weak and I knew I wouldn't be able to throw energy like that without a lot of preparation again any time soon. I winced as I pulled a few pieces of glass out of my side and leg, and then limped into the living room.
Lori/Alethea was gone, the room looked like a bomb had gone off, and Matteson was sprawled out on the floor under a cracked and dented area of the wall. I made my way to him and shook him awake, and as he groaned and rolled over I dropped onto the couch.
"Fuck," he muttered, rubbing his head, "that was really her, huh?"
"Yeah, mister 'I'm watching for her,' that was her. Probably this whole time! Which would explain some things..."
"Look, I didn't know, I-"
"That was the one thing you said you'd do! You were supposed to be able to see her coming! I did everything I could to warn you, and you couldn't even piece it together while you were actively fucking her?!" He punched the floor, then sat up and leaned back against the wall, staring at the ceiling.
"She said I ruined everything."
"Well, I'd hate to agree with her, but right now I'm kinda feeling-"
"She was trying to have a kid, Jackie. And she didn't react that way any of the months when she didn't get pregnant." I stopped and looked at him as a tear trickled down his cheek. "She had asked me a few times to buy her pads, but I hadn't really thought about the fact that she hadn't for the last few months."
"Oh shit. John, I-" He wiped the tear from his cheek and turned to me.
"We have to save Lori."
"Look, you're clearly going through something right now."
"It'll have to wait. She needs us, Jackie." I saw in his eyes that he was committed to seeing this through now, which I have to admit was somewhat comforting. I wasn't really ready to face her alone. I nodded.
"Okay. Let me get my stuff. I have an idea, but if this is how she's handling things now," I said, waving my hand to indicate the state of the room, "we'll need to draw her out into the open. Somewhere close, so she can find us, but where there's no people."
"Will it take a while to set up?" I nodded. "Then I have an idea."
7 July 2005
I had been here for a month and found nothing so far. All of my cursory searches had turned up no sign of Alethea, surprisingly few ghosts in general, and I was digging deep into my notes to find any last resort tests. I didn't want to be desperate about it, but I also didn't want to feel like I'd up and moved halfway across the country for no reason.
I called Nan and got some input, and she dug around the shop and called me back later with a test I could do that would turn up any ghost activity that had happened in the last couple months. It was complicated, a ritual and some herbs and a questionable potion, but she assured me that if it didn't turn up anything, there was nothing to find. She also warned me not to drink the potion on an empty stomach.
It took me a couple days of looking to find all the ingredients, and I finally started the ritual this morning. After a hearty lunch, I knocked back the potion, inhaled the smoke from the herbs, and finished the last few steps of the ritual with my eyes closed. When I opened them, I nearly fell out of my chair.
The entire house was glowing, to the point where it was almost painful to look at. I made my way through the house, clutching my head as the brightness stabbed into my eyes, and tried to take in everywhere the ghost had been. It was easier, in the end, to note where it hadn't been: our roommate's bedroom was the only place untouched by the presence. I stumbled back to the living room, the sheer energy of everything beginning to overwhelm me, and fumbled in my bag for my kit. I had to know whether it was Alethea or not. I had to know why this was all so well hidden, how I hadn't seen any trace of it before when it had clearly been absolutely everywhere. I groaned and tried to shake the fog from my mind that was beginning to grow as the light continued to assault me. I finally found the kit, but apparently passed out from the stimulus before managing to use it.
When I woke on the couch, it was because Lori was shaking my shoulder and asking if I was okay. The kit was spilled open on the floor under my hand. The spell had worn off, but my eyes were still blurry and the sun was coming in the window and it all made Lori look like she was faintly glowing. I jerked back, rubbed my eyes, and when I looked again she seemed perfectly normal. I told her I was okay, now, but thanks, and she went to go find Matteson who had apparently come home while I was out and thought I was taking a nap. I spent the rest of the day debating about whether or not to try again, but just the thought of how strong that sensation had been turned my stomach.
I had proof, though. I knew something was going on. I just needed another way to find out what it was.
17 May 2005
Nothing I tried gave me the clarity I wanted on what had happened. I knew it was something real, but the glimpses I got were mixed with the environment in the apartment, flashes of personal memories, something that I'm pretty sure someone else in the apartment was trying to contact, and general feelings of dread. The one thing we were able to establish with our rituals was that it wasn't local; attempts to trace the source came from somewhere around the Pennsylvania/Ohio border. I knew it was time to call John. He seemed distracted at first, until I told him that I needed to talk about Alethea.
"Look, Jackie," he said, "this is really not a good time."
"I'm telling you, I sensed something near you and the only sympathetic links I have in that area are you and possibly Alethea."
"You have a sympathetic link to me?"
"I don't know! But those are the only options."
"Okay look. My girlfriend's best friend died in car accident last night. I need to be focused on her right now."
"I...okay, first off, I'm so sorry for that loss and you should definitely be there for her. But the bits that I know about what happened do line up with an accident like that."
"Okay, well, I was asleep when it happened, but maybe you picked up a message meant for me or something. But I'm just standing in Lori's apartment talking to you when I should be grabbing things she'll need."
"She's staying at my place for a bit. Bad memories associated with hers right now."
"Oh, right. You have room for that?"
"I mean. There's an unused bedroom in the house, but I figured she'd just, you know, stay in my room."
"Well, so, with everything going on with Alethea, I was thinking of moving over that way. It would be a lot easier for me if I could maybe rent that room?" I heard him sigh and pause.
"Okay. Probably. Give me like a week to deal with the funeral and everything, and then maybe we could talk about this?" I agreed, and then he was gone. I looked around the room, and considered the fact that I was suddenly thinking of leaving Chicago and was only partially convinced of my own reasoning. Is my fear about Alethea showing up enough to warrant moving to a place that I know nothing about and where I only barely know exactly one person?
Well. I guess I have a week to figure that out before anything will come of it, anyway.
13 December 2004
I was standing across the street from an apartment building in Rogers Park, where the newspaper in my hand said a married couple named Matteson had been killed. I closed my eyes and took slow, deep breaths, trying to sense the bond between me and Alethea. I didn't have high hopes, being that I couldn't guarantee she had killed them and if she had it was two days earlier. But if she had been there, and I could pick up some trace, maybe I could use that to clarify my sense of her. After a few moments I managed to slip into something like a light trance, and I knew she was close. I still couldn't tell how far, exactly, but I could feel this tug as though there was a rope tied to my ribs and leading across the street. It was far stronger than I expected. Was she still there? Why would she still be there?
I reached into my bag and clutched a dried eagle's eye and began to whisper an incantation. I opened my eyes to find the street much more busy than before. Waves of emotion and thought rippling out from every human being made it hard to focus, and the ghosts and spirits walking around seemed like they were avoiding the larger flows. I could still see the cars and buildings, though their movement past me left fleeting echoes of where they had just been that I needed to separate from the things that were still there. I did not see the connection I felt in my chest, but took that to mean that it was on a different level than the one I was observing. I watched for a couple minutes, trying to get a sense of how to navigate it all, with the back of my mind wondering if this is what people like John see all the time.
Once I was sure I could safely cross the street, I made to do so. I had only taken one step, though, when a flood of powerful emotion hit me like a brick wall, too strong to even try piecing together what emotion it was. I fell to my knees, and when I looked up I could see spirits scattering from the area and bursts of light from a few windows all next to each other on an upper floor. Each burst was met with another wave of emotion, and I couldn't get my bearings enough to stand or step forward. The wind was knocked out of me with one burst, which felt like it actually pushed me backward.
Feel it, Jackie. Explore it. You will only gain control of it when you can understand it.
I didn't recognize the voice, a feminine one. I could tell it was meant to be coming from beside me, but it felt like it was strictly inside my head. I tried to catch my breath and turned my head, to see two ravens on the sidewalk. One looked normal, if a bit large, and was intently watching the building. The other looked almost normal, but for the blue light faintly glowing from under its feathers. It was staring at me, its beak only a few inches from my face.
"Who...who are you?" I asked.
"Not now. Focus." It was the same voice, coming from the blue raven, whose beak moved unnaturally like a pair of lips. I took some deep breaths, and closed my eyes again to focus. I could feel the energy, like a fire burning at my skin, and it took all my willpower to lean into it and let it reach farther into me. I held back a scream as it surged through my body, and suddenly I knew. It was rage, and pain, and vengeance. It was Alethea's fury, informed and shaped by all she had experienced in life and death. I knew her sense of violation, of fear, of loneliness. I could feel the way her pain and desire to create a new life, for herself or someone else, consumed her for decades. I leaned in farther until I feared I may get lost in it, in what she had become over all those years trapped in one room.
Then, suddenly, it stopped. I gasped and opened my eyes to find myself laying on the sidewalk, my cheeks wet, my vision blurred.
"What are you doing here?" Alethea asked. I wiped my face and looked up. She was floating just above the sidewalk, water still dripping from her body, her hair flowing in unseen currents. The spirits were all gone, even the ravens, and everything in the physical realm seemed like it was nearly frozen in time. I looked closer at a car and could see it was just barely moving, but any change to the people was too slow for me to notice. I stood, slowly, until I was face to face with her.
"I came to find you. What have you done?"
"What is that to you?"
"Look, this, this thing that's happened to you, you can't let it control you. Please! We should not use magic to cause harm! The weight of that-"
"Oh, that's rich coming from you. Is that what helps you sleep at night, after tearing away the only thing I need and banishing me from my own home? You tell yourself that you did no real harm?"
"John wasn't what you need, Alethea. Please, you have to understand-"
"No more! You broke your word and failed me, witch. And now that I'm free, I intend to fix this mess myself."
"No, please, listen!" I stepped forward as I reached out to her and suddenly everything was back to normal. The spirits, the ripples, Alethea, all of it was gone. The people and cars were moving at normal speed. I almost stumbled over as everything snapped back into place, and felt a terrible headache hit me. As I reached for my face, I noticed my hand brush something wet. As I looked at the stain on my hand and realized my nose was bleeding, everything started to go dim. I stumbled to the side of the nearest building and leaned on that, getting my breathing under control and digging around in my bag for some aspirin. As soon as the world came into focus, I left.
2 november 2004
I had the best sleep I'd had in a week last night, completely uninterrupted by ghosts or gods or anything between. Jacob wanted to talk about finding me in John's arms this morning, but I had brushed him off. He wanted a story I couldn't, and wouldn't, give him. Nothing had happened, and that was exactly what I was hoping for.
When he wasn't around, John and I exchanged numbers so we could keep in touch about Alethea or other spiritual matters one of us might need from the other. I went with them to the airport to send John off, and now Jacob and I were on the L on our way back. I excused myself at an early stop, telling him I needed to look into something before work, and slipped out while he waved.
I transferred to another train, which would take me closer to work and near a shop that sold ritual supplies. I didn't know what I would need, not yet. But the people there had been a valuable resource ever since I'd moved to Chicago, and the only people I'd met who knew anything about the Crossroads. Or, at least, had some notions about it. Sergei, who lived above the shop and ran it as much for somewhere to practice his beliefs as to make money, thought it was the same crossroads the Blues singers talked about, and associated Hekate with the devil who dwelt there. I was unconvinced, but had to admit there did seem to be some similarity in how seriously she took deals made with her. Deals that were, near as I could tell, always made at the Crossroads. He was still trying to convince me and would occasionally pull out a timeline he was working on to explain what happened to the old gods and what names they may have used through the years as found in assorted legends and folklore. Where he didn't know the English yet, he wrote in Russian and breezed over to get to what I would understand.
It was always very interesting, but I was relieved to find his wife, Nancy, behind the counter instead when I arrived. She looked over the edge of her magazine when the door chimes softly rang. Her eyes lit up and she closed the magazine, setting it down on the counter as she stood from her stool.
"Jackie! Where have you been?" She came around the counter and gave me a hug, then held her hands on my shoulders and looked me over. "Are you okay?"
"It's been a hell of a week, Nan." I smiled at her as best I could. "I came by a couple weeks ago to prepare for the full moon, but I guess you were out."
"Yes, yes, he told me you said hi." She let go of my shoulders and waved me over as she went to the couches where they do consultations. "What happened this week? You want some tea?"
"I'm alright, thank you," I said, following her over and sitting down. "I have a little time before work. I just, I had a situation with a ghost."
"One situation?" I chuckled.
"Maybe I would take some tea. If you don't mind." She slapped her knees and then stood, heading into the back.
"Nonsense, child! You're family." I leaned back on the couch, looking up at the shards of colored glass hung from the ceiling that spun slowly and cast the sun from the windows all over the room. They had always been comforting to me, a thing I could fix my attention on that was alive enough to connect with, calm and warm enough to ease my mind. The first time I walked into this store I was nervous, and lost, and just starting to look for any knowledge that I hadn't picked up at home. The slow, patient rhythm of the colors flowing through the room were what made me feel comfortable to stick around and finally ask for a little bit of advice, which Sergei and Nancy had always been gracious to provide.
She returned with my tea and I thanked her, then began explaining the events with Alethea. I meant to give an overview, but found myself spilling everything, and I began to cry when I described the feeling of helplessness and distance when I was possessed. Nan scooted over and held me, waiting until I was ready to continue. When I finished, she rested her hand on my shoulder.
"So, this Alethea, you have no idea where she is now?" I shook my head. She nodded, looking off into the shop. "Okay. Okay, this is going to be difficult, but we may have something for it." She got up and walked over, shuffling through stock and muttering to herself. I sat for a moment, then tried to take a sip of my tea and found it cold. I sighed and stood, walking over to her.
"What are you looking for?"
"It's a powder, mixed it up a while ago but haven't needed it really. If I did it right, it should hold a ghost in one place, which would hopefully give you a chance to do...something to help, I guess."
"I have to find her first."
"We can work on that. But we want to know what to do when we find her before he go charging in again, yes?" She was half buried in a cabinet by this point, yelling out to me. I leaned on the edge of the cabinet and lightly ran my hand over the display case on it.
"Ah! Here it is!" She pulled out of the cabinet and leapt up to her feet, holding out a burlap pouch tied with twine. "Yes, this stuff, probably won't need all of it, just enough for a perimeter, really." I held out my hand and she set the pouch in it, then closed the cabinet and walked over to the counter.
"I should pay for this and get going. I still have to work today."
"It isn't inventory, just take it. But come back soon! I'll look for something we can use to find your ghost. In the meantime," she said, leaning on the counter toward me as I approached, "I suggest avoiding this new friend of yours, at least until you have an idea on what to do about her, okay?"
"That'll be easy. He flew back to Pittsburgh an hour ago."
"Good. But listen, if she's so keen on him, keep an eye out for people who may remind her of him. That might give you your trail."
"Thanks," I said, putting the pouch into my bag. "I hadn't thought of that."
"You haven't had time yet to think, dear. Be safe out there." She gave me one more hug and then sent me on my way, both of us waving as I went through the door.
1 november 2004
Everyone was at work except John and me, and I decided to take the opportunity for a nice relaxing bath to recover from the party while he did some reading out in the living room. I was in there until the water cooled down too much to be comfortable, and was in the process of drying off when I felt a chill down my spine. I was alone in the mirror, but I could feel breath on my neck before Alethea's voice whispered in my ear.
"You said you would help me," she said. I tried to turn in hopes I'd be able to see her, but found that I couldn't move. I began to panic.
"I did. What do you want from me?"
"Time for wh--" I hunched forward and grabbed the edges of the sink as I gasped for air. It felt like I was drowning, my lungs stung and my eyes were going out of focus. There was a growing pressure, cold and heavy, pressing on my entire body as if from under my skin.
"I've waited so long for this moment," I could hear her, but it didn't sound like the voice was coming from behind me anymore. It almost felt like it was my own thoughts, but in her voice. "Ever since I saw Matteson at my death, I've known he was the key to fixing this." I tried to catch my breath, but it felt like it was being squeezed out of me. Instead of blacking out, as I expected to, I began to feel distant. Like I was moving away from my body, falling deeper into myself. I was still seeing through my own eyes, but from a distance, like watching a security camera from an office. I could do nothing but watch as I fell into a sense of peace and my body regained composure, stood, and smiled into the mirror.
31 october 2004
John and I talked less than I think he expected while out yesterday. It seems he's grown comfortable openly discussing these things in public, but I'm still a little wary. That, and talking about it made me recall what Alethea had shown me, and I'm still trying to emotionally process it all. It's hard to tell if John was unaffected, or if he was just pushing it aside to deal with the task at hand. I'm not sure which I'd prefer. The end result, however, was that he agreed to let me know if he finds anything else, and I'll try to come up with a means to help her move on before he leaves. His alleged knack for exorcism may be helpful, but I don't see how we'd both be able to do anything at the same time unless we're fairly far apart.
The black dog came for me last night. At the Crossroads, Hecate asked what I had learned about John. I tried to use his meeting Alethea to steer the conversation toward ways to help her, but She seemed largely unconcerned. This is the second night in a row She's wanted to talk about him. Given her previous statement that Anchors are her property, I'm growing concerned about this sudden interest in him. I should tell him, but I seem to have trouble remembering it when I'm talking to him. So here I am making a note of it, for next time.
For now, though, I need to get ready for the party tonight. We have a lot of work to do around the apartment before people arrive.
30 october 2004
Last night was the final night of the new moon, so Matt and I had gone out to the lake to meditate. A couple other people went for company, including John, who kept his distance to avoid interfering. He seemed tense afterward, though, and when I asked about it he expressed concern about the spirits kicking around.
The guy bringing our paychecks got there after I left yesterday, so I had to go back today to get mine. I decided to invite John, partly because he was nice to hang out with and partly so we could talk about last night, and he agreed. While he was getting his shoes on and heading to the fire escape, I went downstairs to talk to Matt. We hadn't had a chance to really touch base about our meditations afterward, and I hated to wait too long.
I've been trying to figure out how the spiritual realm works, and my conversations with Matt tended to help. As a druid, his experience was generally a little different than mine, and the perspective gave my own experiences focus.
I was planning to just go through a few thoughts with him, but he was pretty shaken when I brought it up. He explained that he had concerns about John, that having him there was enough to cause difficulty for the whole thing, and he wasn’t sure why. I realized we’d never talked about the idea that John was an Anchor, or asked him to avoid Matt during the event, so I had to sit Matt down and explain what I knew. That did not go over well, Matt wanted him out of the house immediately out of concern for what he’d do by staying, and I had to remind him that he’d only be a few more days. It took a good bit longer than I expected, and I finally came upstairs fully prepared to apologize to John for the delay.
When I got up there, I didn’t see him anywhere, and I asked Jacob if he’d seen John. He explained that he just got in from the store, and didn’t know, so I went and looked outside. When I didn’t see John there, either, I came back in and checked the open bathroom, the kitchen, and the living room. There was no sign of him. I told Jacob to send him outside when he shows up, and went outside to wait. I lit my cigarette and stared off into the alley, trying to figure out how I was going to tell him that he’d caused a disruption last night. I was about halfway through my smoke when I heard a noise from inside, and then the door opened. I turned to see John walking out, rubbing his head and slightly limping. His eyes were huge, like he’d seen something.
“John, hey, where have you been?” I asked. He charged over and grabbed my shoulders, staring wild-eyed at me.
“I know what happened to Alethea!” I slipped backward, sliding out of his grasp, and took a deep drag.
“Where’d you get that name?” I asked after letting the smoke out.
“I saw her. I saw everything! I know what happened!”
“...what do you know?”
“It was abuse, Jackie.”
“I...yeah,” he said, looking confused. “Wait, I thought you said you didn’t know.”
“I did. Look, John, she was cautious, and she seemed to be hiding from you, and she asked me to keep things quiet, and everything pointed to keeping you in the dark. I don’t know what you did to see that, but I can’t have known that she would show you.” John turned away with a sigh, pulling out his cigarettes and lighting one. He took in and let out his first drag with his back to me before turning around.
“Okay. Fine, I get it. But we’re both in this now. What do we do with this information?”
“I don’t know. We’ll talk about it on the bus, okay? It’ll be here soon.” He nodded and we headed down the stairs and made our way to the street in silence.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.