Over the Hedge
1 november 2004
It's hard to describe how it feels to suddenly be in control of your own body again, but it is a very distinct feeling and as soon as I experienced it I knew what it was. John was on top of me, his hand holding my jaw, our eyes locked together.
"John, you...I thought you were going to do it," I answered.
"Sorry," he said, practically jumping off me. He quickly grabbed my towel and handed it to me. "I couldn't let her see what I was doing, with the book you know, and it seemed the only thing that would work." He was looking away as he pulled on his pants. I sat up, pulling the towel tightly around myself and looking over to see the book that had been under my head.
"It's...it's okay, John. Thank you. I was just scared, I guess, that you were going to-" I looked up and realized he was still avoiding looking at me. "I'm covered now. Not that it much matters anymore." He glanced over, then sighed and sat down on the opposite end of the couch.
"It wasn't you. Sorry I didn't see it sooner. But I couldn't do it. Not once I knew it wasn't you." We sat in silence for far longer than was comfortable. "Are you okay?" he whispered.
"No. Not really. But it isn't your fault. I'm just glad you could resist and had this book handy."
"Well, resistance isn't that hard. It's just sex, right?" He gave me a weak smile. I stared at him for a moment.
"I mean, sex, you know? It's fine, but it's not that big a deal." He waved his hand dismissively. "It's just a thing people do."
"It's just--we'll want to talk about that later. I have a lot to process here." We sat in silence again, me hugging my towel tightly to my body and him twiddling his thumbs. The curtains were a mess, his clothes scattered around the floor near the couch, a pair of boxers torn in half. Papers that had been in the room were scattered everywhere, and even a few books from the bookcase by the TV were on the floor and open to random pages. I slowly picked up the notebook and looked at the symbols on the page.
"You did it, you know. My notes were wrong, or at least they were for the wrong thing. That was for a demon exorcism, you changed it so it would work."
"I remember. But how? And why did I stay possessed at all? Shouldn't proximity to you have prevented," I swung my hand to indicate the mess of the room, "all of this?"
"Power freely given." I set the book down.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"My dad was afraid, something he saw in one of his books. When he realized what I can do, he warned me that some of his notes suggested I couldn't break power freely given. I can't, without help, kick out someone that was invited to be there, I can't break a bond that was willfully forged, not without difficulty. Maybe when you gave her unspecified and unlimited power over you, you also shielded her from my...ability. It's why I keep my true name secret, giving it to someone is freely giving them a certain kind of power over me."
"Wait. You have a true name?"
"Dad has always been pretty paranoid. It's not that big a deal, a secret part of my name that was given to me at birth but not written on any records so my full name couldn't be accessed easily. It's not even on my birth certificate."
"Clever. But I was able to cast a spell while...touching you."
"I allowed it."
"You can do that?"
"Apparently. I wasn't sure, but evidence says so now." I chuckled and wiped the hair from my face.
"I was weak," I said. "My mentor...she didn't want you to know, but she's been calling me every night the past few days. Always looking for information on you. I haven't been sleeping and that means Alethea was able to catch me off guard and I had already promised to help and this was all a big mess."
"Look, we're both dealing with something new here, right?" I nodded. "So let's not beat ourselves up over it, yeah? I better start cleaning up. You should get dressed. Last thing we need is to have Jacob find us like this, I get the impression he already thinks we're sleeping together." I stood, slowly, bracing myself against the arm of the couch. I took a deep breath, then started walking to the bathroom.
"I'm a bisexual Latina, John. Everyone thinks I'm sleeping with someone they know." He laughed, and as I stopped in the bathroom doorway and glanced back, I saw him kneel and begin cleaning up the papers scattered around the room. "Hey." He stopped and looked up at me. "Thanks." He smiled, and I slipped into the bathroom to get dressed.
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
We were a couple hours into the party, running a series of horror movies on the tv, when Jacob decided to point a house out to John. He seemed to believe that John's interest in the paranormal would make him interested in living in a place like that. John gave him a half-hearted "yeah, nice" and moved on. While we were out having a smoke later, I decided to poke at it a bit.
"So, you didn't like that house, huh?" He snorted.
"That's some white nonsense," he said, laughing.
"You won't catch my black ass around anything demonic if I can help it."
"No? That too paranormal for you?" I asked, smiling and nudging him with my elbow.
"Yeah, that's it," he joked, nudging me back. "Nah, but, It's just, I deal with ghosts because I have to, you know? I can't not interact with them. And I've grown to find all that stuff interesting, so I'm cool with a bunch of spirits. But demons? True fae? Absolutely not. They're too dangerous. My dad made sure I knew the difference."
"Your dad deals with the paranormal?"
"To some degree. He has books, some of which were handed down, some he got. I don't know what he does with all of it, but I know he does enough that my mom left when she couldn't deal with it anymore." He took a drag from his cigarette and looked out at the alley for a moment. "He's always made sure I knew how dangerous some of this stuff was, and that I knew how to handle it. I could probably hold off a demon, if I needed to, but it's rarely worth it."
"What about gods?"
"There's something beyond the spiritual realm, where souls go and never return. I like to think there's a decent god over there."
"I meant more like, here. The gods."
"What, you mean like Greek and Egyptian and shit?" he asked. I nodded. He shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, they're probably around. Can't say I'd trust them, those stories were not flattering." I laughed. "Why, you know some gods?" he joked.
"Well, something like that, yeah." He shook his head. "I promise I'll be careful, okay?" I offered him my hand and he looked at it for a moment before shaking it.
"Deal. Can't lose all the good nymphs in this world."
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.
29 october 2004
Went downtown with John and Jacob yesterday. It was fun, John and I got to explore a bunch of alleys and corners of the city that I never get to check out with anyone else. After everyone else went to sleep and it was just us on our couches, we talked for a while about magic. He showed me a book in his bag, he said it had various exorcism notes and a couple circles. I asked how that works, if he breaks magic and can't use it, and he explained that he seems to be able to push things out of the physical realm (or at least away from physical things), and he's not sure if that counts as magic so much as enforcing a world without magic. Which makes sense, I guess, if in a terribly frightening way.
How many people are there like him out there? Are they why magic is so hard to do? Did they create the divide between the worlds? There's stories that it wasn't always this way, that spirits used to walk among us so much easier, and that there are still places around the world where they still can. I was still sorting that out when I went to sleep, and my thoughts on the matter must have caught my Mentor's attention because I found myself standing beside my body and the black dog waiting for me. It was time to go to the Crossroads.
Over the years, as I've come more in touch with the element of water, this place has changed. It probably hasn't, not really, but I'm seeing it in a new way. The crossroads itself still looks about the same, but above us, rather than void or sky, is a great sea. It's like standing beneath the ocean, like really beneath it and not just in its depths, or maybe upside down above it. The shimmer of the water reflecting on the ground comforts me, makes everything we do so much easier.
"What troubles you, child?" She asked when we arrived. The dog went and laid down next to Her, as it usually did.
"I've--I've encountered someone who claims to break magic. Is that possible?"
"An Anchor." She remained silent for a moment, looking off at the distance, before her faces turned back to me. "You must be very careful. If this one is what they say, they 'ground' your world to physical laws. When Anchors fail to understand their purpose, they take and kill and destroy and never look back. Unchecked, they are a blight upon the world."
"What's their purpose?"
"The realm of spirits, the true world you've been learning to explore, has chaos, vibrant life, unlimited power flowing endlessly. But it also has structure, rules, a certain kind of order. The Two embody these traits for the realm. Anchors and Warlocks are liminal beings, and as such they are Mine to do with as I choose; but their basic function is to serve that balance. Warlocks bring the chaos of the spiritual world to the physical, Anchors bring the order of the physical back to the spiritual." She stepped forward and lightly touched my chin, raising my eyes to look into hers. I took a deep breath of her scent and focused on her central face. "But enough about that now," She said. "Be wary of this one, find out their intentions, but for now I have much to teach you."
"Yes, mistress." She smiled and drew back her hand, and we began.
When I returned, I found I couldn't get back into my body. She does this sometimes, to remind me that I do not rely on myself for the things I do. Normally, I would go into Jacob's dream, and ask him to wake my body, which tends to do the trick. But John was so much closer, so I decided to try him this time.
29 october 2004
There was no ritual this time, no blood, no candles. I laid in the water for a long time, enjoying the privacy, the time to think. There was a shift in the air recently, I could feel it, but for the life of me I couldn't see what to do about it. I was out and dry and putting my toothbrush back when I finally looked into the mirror and saw her standing behind me.
"You're going to help me."
"You promised. You said you were going to help me."
"Yes. I'm going to help you."
"It's almost time."
"Time for what?"
"It's almost time. After all these years."
"What are you-" I asked, turning around, only to find the room empty. I looked in the mirror again and didn't see her. "Time for what?" No answer came, and after a few minutes of waiting, I got dressed and returned to the living room where everyone else was playing cards.
27 october 2004
Jacob had told us a little while earlier that a friend of his from out of town would be staying with us for a week, so I shouldn't have been surprised when I awoke to find a new man sleeping on the other couch. Still, it had been a rough night, and it took me a moment to remember what was happening and calm down. Matt and Judy came to the living room while I was calming down, and I had to assure them that I was just surprised and that nothing was actually wrong.
I learned that his name is John Matteson, and we talked a fair bit over shared smoke breaks on the fire escape. The conversation that stands out the most to me, however, happened later that night. We had been watching some new ghost hunters show, and while we were smoking after an episode I decided to ask what his views on the matter were. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew everyone else in the apartment was some form of pagan, and held to views fairly similar to mine on the existence of ghosts and the means to contact them. John had been fairly open so far about who he was, but there had been little discussed about his beliefs except that he was not in any of our communities.
"How would you take the idea that not everyone needs rituals or special devices to see ghosts?" he suggested. I took a long drag and thought about it.
"I...would be interested to hear more of that." When I turned to look at him, he was staring up at the few stars visible in the city.
"I don't normally advertise it, I got a lot of crap for it growing up, but I can see spirits."
"What. Just like, all the time?" He nodded. "Are you sure?"
"Yes." I looked up at the sky with him for a minute in silence.
"What do you see now?"
"Stars, mostly. The things that tend to be up there are really far away. There's also a pretty pissed off ghost going down the street yelling about all the buildings, but I'd rather he not know I can see him. I'll never hear the end of it if he knows someone is listening." I wanted to know if he was telling the truth, but knew I probably didn't have time to run inside and grab supplies, so I bit my arm to draw just a little blood and tried to open my eyes to the spiritual realm. What I got instead was a sudden, painful static in my mind that felt like it was physically pushing me away from John. I must have winced because he turned to check on me and then sighed, touching my arm next to the bite. "Right. Sorry, I should've probably mentioned."
"Mentioned what?" I just managed to hiss as the static got worse.
"Stop trying to cast the spell." I opened my eyes and focused on the physical world. The fire escape, my cigarette, the man trying to clean the spot of blood off my arm, the light breeze coming off the lake a few blocks over. The static died down and I took a deep breath. He let go of my arm and turned back to the sky.
"What the hell was that? How did you know how to stop it?"
"I break magic. That's what happens when you try to do it too close to me." I flicked my cigarette into the alley and tried to gather my bearings.
"I, uh...I think I'm gonna go back in." He just nodded. As I went to grab the doorknob, though, I stopped and turned back. "Have you seen her?"
"The ghost in the bathroom. She's why everyone else uses the downstairs one."
"Everyone except you."
"Not yet, but thanks for the tip. Who is she?"
"I-I don't know yet." He made a 'hm' sound and turned to me.
"Are you asking for help?"
"Okay. I'll be in in a minute." I nodded and went inside. I'll have to look into this. Who the hell breaks magic?
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.