Over the Hedge
31 December 2004
I was out on the fire escape having a smoke while the New Year's Eve party raged on inside. All across my field of vision were sporadic apartment windows with lots of light and moving shadows, and a lot of windows with no lights at all, and only a few that seemed quietly occupied. Out here, though, the night was surprisingly quiet, with distant noise suggesting that calm only extended a couple blocks. I leaned on the railing and closed my eyes, letting my mind drift off in the liminal space of the new year, seeing what connections I make.
Something changed around Christmas. Whatever bond I had with Alethea went cold, but didn't feel like it had been severed. Just like she was gone, but not completely. I couldn't quite make out what to do with that information, and had trouble even interpreting it, but the longer the trail stayed cold the more I worried that I had missed my chance to do any good by Alethea. The Petrovs and I were still working on ideas on how to handle her, and had drawn up a ritual or two that could be used, depending on whether she could be helped or needed to be fought. Now we were trying to work out something that would help us find or summon her. Wherever she was, she was being particularly resistant to our attempts so far.
Nan took me aside the other day to express concern about me. She said I've been obsessive about this situation, to the detriment of all my other studies and hobbies. I wanted to blow her off at the time but the more I think about it, the more I feared she was right. Maybe it was time to start backing off, just a bit. I knew I couldn't give up just yet, and still needed to warn John that I didn't know where she was; but I also knew I had other things to do, and couldn't spend all my time on this one problem.
New Year's Resolution One: Try harder to do no harm. Learn from this experience and grow.
New Year's Resolution Two: Be myself in 2005, don't let people like John or Alethea occupy all my time.
I tossed out the butt of my cigarette and looked up to the sky one last time before heading back in to the party.
16 December 2004
"That was it, wasn't it?" I asked, looking at the newspaper sitting between me and Sergei. "I felt her attacking her father."
"Could be," he replied. "Could well be."
"How are you feeling?" Nan asked.
"I had to lay down the rest of that day. It was too much. But I'm better now." She nodded.
"Now, about these other beings you saw."
"The ravens! Are you familiar with them?"
"These are Odin's," Sergei offered.
"Well," Nan said, giving him a side-eyed glance, "maybe. Their exact nature is less clear, but I did ask some spirits and one said that Huginn has a blue glow in all her forms, one prominent one being a raven."
"And she travels with Muninn," he said, pointing at me.
"Yes, yes. But we don't know if that was her, or Muninn, or what their actual relationship to Odin would be. Huginn and Muninn are hardly the only raven spirits in the world. Though if it was them, it's worth noting that the spirits I met with were very hesitant to invoke their names, or even vague titles, which is highly unusual."
"Maybe it was them, though. What were they doing there? Why did they help me?"
"It's hard to know if what they did really counts as 'helping,' but unless they show up again there's little point worrying about it. We should make a note of it and focus on what we've learned about Alethea." Nan sat down next to me and rested her hand on my knee. "I think we need to consider the possibility that she has become something more like a poltergeist."
"No, no. She has to be someone we can still help!"
"She's killing people, Jackie."
"The abuser who killed her! I think that falls within what can be expected from a ghost."
"What about the Mattesons?"
"We don't know if she actually killed them, but even if she did, we don't know why. But we know she was scared and recently unbound and may not have been in her right state of mind at the time."
"My concern is that we don't really know what the right state of mind for a fifty-year-old trauma ghost even is. And if she did kill them, your friend and anyone else who reminds her of him may be in trouble." I stood up and started pacing.
"I can't. I can't just give up on her. I helped create this situation, don't you see? I have to try to make it right!"
"Maybe making it right means facing her as an enemy instead of a lost soul."
"Are you willing to assume that? To go after her like some terrible spirit instead of the victim of a terrible situation that she still hasn't escaped?" Nan took a deep breath and leaned on the counter. She looked down for a moment, then finally met my gaze.
"All I'm saying is that we shouldn't rule it out. Just give me that much. For your safety." I rested my hands on my hips and stared off toward the drifting colors on the ceiling. Finally, I crossed my arms and looked at Nan and Sergei.
"Fine. We'll consider it a possibility. But I'm not ready to give up on trying to save her." Nan nodded, then turned to the counter and patted the chair next to her.
"Good. Now, let's work on some plans."
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.
18 November 2004
I'm running. I'm jumping. I can hear the large stone sword crack the street behind me. I take a sharp left and feel my foot go out from under me; rather than fall flat, I push out with the other foot so I can roll. Pieces of asphalt fly around me and I shield my face with one hand as I use the other to push off the ground and scramble. I know She's telling me to focus. I can't hear her, but I feel myself trying to process her words. She wants me to know where the statue is, to think through my actions, to begin fighting back. I need to fight back.
I'm four years old and running through the trees with the roar of death behind me. I need to get away but I feel Her, even here, nudging me. Know your enemy.
I'm six years old in the desert with Abuela. She's tired and thirsty and trying to find words in a new language. I see a military uniform and try to run. She isn't as fast as she used to be and uses magic to catch me. I want to know why she didn't use it to save them. I scream.
The ground buckles under my feet. I jump. I can see it, now. The statue is staring right at me and I meet its gaze. She is beyond it, watching. Waiting. I know she isn't going to save me. I need to see the path myself.
Abuela teaches me to open my eyes and see the way. I'm afraid of the Hedge. The thorns only bite if you push against the Hedge. Let them guide you, learn to move with them instead of against them.
The world is breaking apart. I have trouble finding my footing. The flowing energy of the Realm is like a strong wind that refuses to slow down and be caught in the lungs. It bites to push against it. I'm not listening.
I take a deep breath and reach out with tiny hands and run my palm slowly along a thorn. I know which way it goes. I look at the other thorns and begin to see a path between them.
The statue is full of energy but not life. It moves without knowing how to move. I'm moving without remembering how to move. I see it struggle to turn the wrong way. I know what to do.
Abuela rests her hand on my shoulder and points. I see the path. I see the house in the clearing away from the soldiers. I see the way the world flows. I throw myself along the path. I reach out with adult hands and run my palm through the wind. The statue spins when I'm not where it expects. It raises its sword but not this time. This time I bring the storm with me. The roar of death follows me but I know this time it does not come for me.
I exhale, and close my eyes to feel the way. I know my enemy. I know what force I bring with me. I scream.
Nan looks at me in silence for a few minutes, then smiles.
"Saying it out loud helps, doesn't it?" I nod. "Do you know what you need to do?" I sit up, when did I start leaning forward? I sit up and look her in the eyes.
"I think I do. Thank you."
18 November 2004
"The problem," I said, laying the book down on the counter, "is that I have no idea what I'm looking for." Sergei was standing on the other side of the counter, looking through a newspaper while Nan counted the money for the day in the back. The shop had closed twenty minutes earlier, but she had invited me to come by and work on 'our project,' as they called it. We were still trying to find Alethea.
"And this girl, she is for sure problem?" he asked.
"I don't know! I mean, maybe? She certainly was when she was trapped at the apartment. But I mean, I still feel like I owe it to her to help, you know?"
"Is good of you. But how long do we give?"
"She waited fifty years for John to turn up. I don't think we can assume she's in a rush now."
"And you are looking where he is?"
"He says he is, but I don't know what he's doing about that." Sergei gave a concerned hum and turned the page of his newspaper. "To be honest, though, I suspect she's still in Chicago. Or nearby."
"It's like...it's almost like a gut feeling, you know? That she's not too far away."
"This is real sense, or worry?"
"I don't know yet."
"And your Mistress? Would she know?"
"She...I haven't seen her all month."
"This is odd?"
"Yes. I don't know what's going on with that, usually I'd see her at least a few times a week."
"She is busy, maybe?" I gave him a tired look and he laughed.
"I'm concerned it's about John."
"Your little night together?" I nodded. "Is she..." He waved his hand, as if trying to remember the word.
"Jealous?" He nodded and pointed at me. "She hasn't been in the past, but...I don't think she much likes him, personally. But I mean, I had just had a terrible day! I was dealing with some shit, you know? I just...I couldn't do another of her games, not that night. I had to try to get a break, just for one night. Sometimes I wonder if the gods really understand what they're doing to us."
"You trust her, though."
"Well, yeah. Yeah, I do."
"Ever since that statue."
"You know, I've been dreaming about that lately. Probably trying to deal with not getting any summons."
"Maybe. Nan!" She peeked out of the office.
"What?" He yelled back something in Russian and she held up a finger and then went back into the office. He nodded at me, then turned back to watch for her. When she emerged, she had her binder for dream interpretation, and walked straight for the counter.
"Oh, no, that's not necessary," I started, but she waved me off as she set the binder on the counter. Sergei rested his hand on her shoulder as he leaned in and kissed her cheek, then headed off to the office.
"Your magic attunes you to the universe, Jackie; and sometimes when it speaks, only our subconscious can hear it. It's worth the little bit of effort to interrogate our dreams a bit when we're wrestling with a big problem." I sighed, and hesitantly nodded. She was right, I just didn't really want to admit it. She gave a single definitive nod and opened her binder. "Now, darling. Tell me all about it."
1 August 2002
I gasped for air as she pushed the sphere into me, the world spinning wildly around. I couldn't concentrate on where I was or what was happening, and could barely make out anything but swirling colors and blinding light. I felt the ground under my hands, and as my vision began to clear I realized I had fallen to my hands and knees and was barely holding myself that far up. I felt Hecate's hand lightly grasp my chin and raise my face to look at her. I could, for the first time, clearly see her three faces. The crone, the mother, and the maiden all looked at me from one place, and it felt natural. She seemed to be the night sky given life, deep and dark and illuminated by the soft light of an invisible moon. Flecks of light, like stars, seemed to pass through her, but it was nearly impossible to identify them individually. I felt like I could fall into her, and somewhere in the great void of her being find my way anywhere I would ever want to go. I knew in that moment that the Crossroads was not where she lived, but a true expression of her self, a form that was both within and outside of her, where all things meet within a darkness that makes all visitors equal beneath her.
"What do you see, child?"
"I think, if I could see deeper, I could see everything," I answered in a near whisper, staring at her. She smiled, then turned my head slightly until I could see the statue. I realized that it looked as much like stone as it ever had, the only thing here that looked the same, but beneath it flowed two great streams of energy. I inhaled sharply and rose to my feet. The movement of the energy was almost intoxicating, and as I walked closer I could see that they met under the place where the statue had been built.
"Do you see them?"
"Are those...ley lines? Is this statue a nexus?"
"Very good." I felt her hand rest on my shoulder. "It was one, once. Look closer." I knelt and examined the base of the statue, and realized that there was a wellspring of energy rising from the intersection of the lines that was being blocked by something within the statue itself.
"What's this blocking it?"
"That is the remnant of a great work of unbelief," she explained. "There are things in this world that work against us, Jacqueline. The forces that erected the walls between worlds have not died out, they've only changed. If you are not careful, you will find yourself opposed by enemies who would see all the magic left in this world die. One such enemy was here, years ago, and what should have been a source of magic for everyone in this area has instead become a burden on those sensitive to what it was meant to be."
"What can we do?"
"I am here to observe. You are here to do." I turned and looked at her, concerned.
"I...are you sure I'm ready for this?"
"You're no ordinary beginner, my dear. You've been dealing with magic all your life, you've seen the true nature of the world, and you have power available to you right now that even an experienced mage would struggle to muster on one of the nights when the worlds are primed to collide. I have stacked the deck in your favor as much as I can without doing the work for you. This is your test. Free the energy, let it flow into the statue, then use that statue to share the magic with your world."
1 August 2002
For a couple weeks Hecate summoned me, four nights a week, sending her hound to rouse me from my sleep and travel to the Crossroads. She showed me an entirely new perspective on magic, methods and avenues I never would have encountered on the track I was already on. The first thing she taught me was a brief spell, something simple with low cost, that would allow me to see over the hedge that divided the worlds. She told me the walls between worlds used to be thinner, and in most of the world didn't exist at all, until certain European notions pushed old ideas aside and enforced their will around the world. The hedge, she insisted, was a development of that sensibility, and so many of the old ways had failed to adapt to its presence that they were growing unreliable.
On the other side I was able to see so much of what I had always known to be true. The world of spirits, as Abuela had described it, was still intact; just farther away, less accessible, than she had been taught. Hecate condemned the Greeks who had stolen her from her people, and the cultures they inspired who ripped the world in two. She encouraged me to continue with the ways I knew, and to use what she taught to supplement the old ways or help them find their way through the hedge.
The more I learned, the more the statue bothered me. It was becoming obvious to me that whatever was wrong with it was something I was growing more sensitive to. It was on this night, when the hound came for me, that I finally had some answers.
We walked the same path to the Crossroads, but my mentor was not there. When I stopped to ask why, the hound continued down a different path, and I had to run to catch up. After another long walk, we emerged in the square under a full moon in a clear sky, the sharp lines of Hecate's features glowing in the silver light as she stood looking at the statue. For a moment, it was hard to believe she wasn't one herself.
"You've been spending a great deal of time considering this monument," she said, not turning away from it but lowering her hand to scratch behind the hound's ears as it sat down at her side.
"Yes, mistress. It's...wrong, somehow." She nodded, then raised her hand until it was open, her palm a few inches from her face, her fingers cupped toward her. She breathed out a line of shimmering energy, which pooled into a rough sphere in her hand. When it was about the size of my fist, she stopped and began rolling the ball around in her hand until it was perfectly round and glowing bright. She turned, finally, and looked down to me.
"Open your eyes, child. Tell me what you see."
I took a deep breath and went to check my pockets, to find I was holding a sewing needle in my hand despite never seeing it before. I clutched the needle, began muttering the ritual she had taught me, and as I neared the end I dug it into my left arm to draw enough blood to power the sight. When I opened my eyes, I could see the statue, cold stone with almost a complete absence of magic hanging on it. Most things have something, some trace of spirits interacting or magic that was stored in it some time in the past. This, however, was like it had been drained, completely dry in a way I couldn't quite explain. I tried, I fumbled over my words and pointed out the contrast with the rest of the square, but nothing I said seemed to hold the full power of how devoid of power the statue was. She stepped forward, kneeling down in front of me.
"The realm of spirits has a depth," she explained, when her face was at the same level as mine. It was the closest we'd ever been, and I could feel my pulse quicken. "There is the border between the worlds, but there's also a distance away from it to each. There are things in your world, things so physically real that even we gods may have trouble discerning them. And there are things in my world, so ethereal that they look nothing like what you know and cannot be accessed without a source of true power. Do you understand?" I nodded, keeping my eyes locked on her. "Good." She brought her hand forward and slowly pushed the ball of energy into my chest.
13 July 2002
There was something off about the statue. I could feel it ever since I'd moved to town, like it was somehow...wrong, that it interacted with magic but not in the way it was intended. I couldn't shake the nagging thought that there was something that needed to be done, and I just knew I had to be the one to do it.
None of the rituals seemed to be working quite like they should, and I could remember nothing in Abuela’s teachings that could help me figure out why. There had to be something to the nature of magic, or the spiritual realm itself, that wasn’t covered by the rituals and practices I knew. I considered the possibility that other traditions had explored this aspect of magic, traditions where the basic maintenance of mystical energy was seen as something in which humans could participate rather than a purview of the gods.
I had spent seven months digging around in what I could find, and while some avenues seemed promising, nothing had produced fruit. I found a small magic shop, got to know the owners a bit, but when I asked if anyone knew anything about the statue they just gave me mundane history. I passed out last night surrounded by books and notes. As the information I had gathered bounced around in my head, trying to find a place to land, I was approached by a black dog, strong and long-haired with a glimmer of intelligence in its eyes. As my mind fixed on it, everything else seemed to melt away, until I felt I was standing with it in a real space.
"You wish to know how the worlds meet," it said, as though it were answering a question rather than asking one.
"Can you tell me?" I asked.
"I am a guard and a shepherd. My mistress gives answers." I saw now that the dog sat at the edge of a road which seemed to stretch on forever beyond it. The closer I looked at the road the more it resembled a river, but it never lost the sense of being solid. I turned back and saw a forest behind me.
"Is this a dream?"
"Does it matter?" I turned back to the dog and exhaled sharply to brace myself.
"Lead, and I will follow."
We walked the road for a long time, neither speaking to the other, with no landscape in sight. It seemed the road just existed, surrounded by void, and even the thought of looking at it for any length of time was painful. Finally, some land began to appear, empty but for rocks and craggy trees. Then we reached an intersection, where three roads met in the midst of a field, barren but for small plots of wild grass. Standing in the center of the intersection was a woman in a black, finely-tailored suit. Her black hair was in a tight braid riding her brow like a crown, and she held a torch that provided the only light to this place. When I tried to focus on the details of her face, it began to seem as though she had three, and I found it difficult to maintain the focus long. Her features were strong, bronzed, and I would later learn they betrayed an eastern Mediterranean origin. She had to have been eight feet tall, with finely-crafted muscles and eyes that burned with a restrained passion that almost hurt to stare deeply into. I felt my breath catch at her form and turned my eyes down and my attention to centering myself again.
"Welcome, child," she said, extending a hand as though to lead me further. I stepped slightly forward as the dog sat by her side.
"Thank you. Where are we?"
"The Crossroads. This is where all things meet."
"Who are you? Is this your realm?"
"I am Hekate, Goddess of the Threefold Crossroads, Lady of the Liminal Spaces, Mistress of Magic, Keeper of the Night and Its Ghosts. This is one form my realm may take." I shuddered at the title and took another hesitant step forward.
"I understand you have answers."
"Yes. If you will become my disciple, I can reveal the flow of magic itself to you." I looked at her hand, still open to me, but now I saw it held a key. I looked into her eyes and knew she could deliver what she promised. I took a deep breath before reaching out and taking her hand.
"If you will have me, Mistress." She smiled.
"I would not have invited you otherwise. It will be some nights before you have the answers you seek; rest, for now. We shall meet more in your dreams."
I opened my eyes to daylight, surrounded by books and notes.
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.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.