25 June 2007
We had informed John that we didn’t see any way forward in our search for Rick. He’d asked a few questions, if Jackie had checked with Hecate, if we were certain we’d tried everything, if Jackie’s vision of the future could have been wrong, that kind of thing. By the time we finished our dinner, he had to concede that he knew of nothing more we could try, either, beyond just wandering the metaphysical realm indefinitely. This was, Jackie explained, beyond our capacity. Even if we could survive there long term, time got weird in the Deeper Realms, and the Realms were unfathomably large, and spending too much time there risked the chance of changing whoever went into something that could never really return. “It’s a romantic thought,” Jackie had said, “risking my soul and humanity for the slim chance that I could maybe find him, and have him be something recognizable when I did, but it just isn’t realistic without at least some idea on where to start.”
That hit me in a way I’m still trying to process. I’ve been turning it over in my mind, on and off, ever since, and I just can’t shake something about it. Maybe it is a romantic thought, I’m not sure if I’m convinced of that; but it certainly isn’t something I would want someone to do for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be found than lost forever, but I can’t reasonably ask anyone to go that far. It’s too much. But that made me wonder what I did expect. What was my baseline? What were my reasonable expectations in a world where things like this can happen? I realized that this was what I’d been trying to sort out ever since Rick threw himself into that portal. John had warned me about the dangers of the things he dealt with, and Roderick had affirmed those concerns, but when I had the danger right there in front of me, I balked. And I had to decide if that was the best reaction. John had been honest with me all along, and even when he tried to apologize for not telling me about his first encounter with Jeremiah, I had to admit that he really hadn’t had time to tell me before he did. Was I holding him accountable for what happened to Rick? He’d tried to keep Rick and me safe, and in the end, it was Rick’s choice to do what he did. What was I holding against John in this?
When I was able to let go of holding John accountable for something he hadn’t even done, something I’d known he hadn’t done all along, I was able to really, honestly, examine my feelings for him. And the fact is, I love him. I want to be with him. I want to face the life he lives, together. So I went to his house today, and I told him everything. I confessed what I’d been holding against him, I told him about my fears, I told him about the warnings I’d received from Roderick. I asked him if he could forgive me for being unreasonably angry at him for something that wasn’t his fault. If he thought there was still a future for us. And he did! He had been waiting, hoping that I’d come back, and he immediately told me he wasn’t going anywhere. We sorted some things out, we made love, and now he’s making dinner for us and Jackie and I’m thinking about what comes next. And, for the first time in nearly two months, I’m not afraid of whatever that may be.
Mandy and I had been with Jackie most of the day, and decided it would be best to get out of the room for a while. We hadn’t really spent much time together that wasn’t completely wrapped up in being at the hospital, and her condition wasn’t changing, so we slipped out when a small crowd was there after lunch. We had a nice day out, walking around New Castle while the day was warm and sunny, slipping into a couple shops here and there. We decided to check in with John after he got out of work and ask if he’d found anything yet, then maybe do dinner with him on our way back to the hospital.
What we actually found when I opened the door was John and another man actively fighting. The living room was completely torn apart, the recliner was knocked over, the television was broken, the couch cushions and almost every decoration in the room was knocked down or strewn about the place. I could only just barely see that the dining room hadn’t fared much better, but my sight in that direction was caught up with seeing the man get a hold of John by the neck and slam him against the wall. I called out, instinctively, and that drew the man’s attention. He threw John aside and came at Mandy and me, and I barely had time to process what was happening before he was just gone. I didn’t see what happened to him, he was there one moment, and then not there the next. John came limping toward us as a book appeared on the floor in front of me, and John insisted we needed to go immediately and asked me to bring the book.
“Is someone going to tell me what’s going on!?” Mandy demanded as she started the car to head back to the hospital.
“Jackie’s under a spell,” John said, trying to catch his breath. “It was put on her by Jeremiah to get my attention.”
“You said this was your grandpa? What the fuck is going on with your family?”
“That would take longer to answer than we have right now.”
“His grandfather Jeremiah is the son of a river god, he turned evil over some daddy issues, John’s dad couldn’t stop him, so he raised John as a weapon to use against Jeremiah, and apparently Jeremiah has now come for him,” I said.
“Uh…yeah, that’s the gist of it.”
“Okay so what are we doing at the hospital?” Mandy asked.
“Not we,” John answered, “Alice.”
“What can I do?” I turned to John and held up the book. “You know I can’t cast any of these!”
“You don’t need to cast anything. You just need to manipulate a spell that’s already there.”
“And how do I do that?”
“Does the book explain? Check the section it was open to?”
“Where’d the book come from!?” Mandy yelled as I started reading the pages.
“My library. There’s a Brownie at the house now doing research—”
“You have a Girl Scout at your house?!?”
“No, the spirit. A Brownie is a house spirit from Scotland. I don’t know why he’s here and right now I don’t care. He apparently found what we need to deal with the spell on Jackie.”
“Why don’t you just, you know,” Mandy asked, waving her hand in a circle, “just unmagic it away?”
“It’ll kill her.”
“The spell is a combination of different spells that are all connected and set up with a trap. The trap is that the whole thing will collapse and kill her if you don’t unravel the spell the right way.”
“No pressure or anything,” I muttered.
John placed his hand on my chin and turned my face to look into his eyes. “You can do this, Alice,” he said, softly. “I believe in you, and Jackie trusts you.”
“I don’t know how.”
“You just need some guidance. Read the book, think about what it’s telling you to do, and we can walk through it together when we get there. Okay?”
I nodded, slowly. He smiled, and I returned to the book.
“So we’re rushing to the hospital to fix this?” Mandy asked.
“To fix it before Jeremiah gets there,” John answered. “I threw him deep into the Deeper Realms, it’ll take him a while to make his way back and be a threat to her, but I don’t know how long.”
“I am literally incapable of navigating the Deeper Realms. It takes magic to go there.”
“Or whatever it is you do.”
“Or whatever it is I do to spirits, yeah. But the point is, it may take him twenty minutes or twenty years to make his way back, I really have no way of knowing. So we can’t take any chances.” He sat back in his seat and rubbed his side and Mandy turned her focus to the road. I thought about all the effort Jackie had put in trying to teach me magic, and threw everything I had at understanding what I was reading.
Biology major on the edges of the 'burgh.