Over the Hedge
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.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.