Darlene stood in a hallway. It was an ordinary hallway. Like
any she might see in an ASU class building—or a dorm.
Except that this one went on forever. Door after door
after door pocked the walls ad infinitam until the walls vanished into a
distant darkness. All the doors had numbers. Darlene couldn’t read them.
She only knew that they were ascending as she moved forward. She was walking
towards the room she wanted.
Somewhere someone was playing the violin. The minstrel
chords lilted and twirled; teased from the strings by an expert hand.
Darlene walked faster. She was getting closer. It was
one of these doors.
Ahead, a door was open. Wan yellowish light pooled out
from beyond. That was it, that’s where she was headed.
A face peeked out at her. Korey.
Korey wait! Darlene wanted to shout, but he vanished
into the room. Unsure why, Darlene broke into a run. She reached the door and
entered the room—
—and emerged into another corridor. Another
hallway. It was an ordinary hallway. Like any she might see in any hospital.
Korey was ahead of her, much further ahead of her than
she expected him to be. Bloody footprints glistened in the yellow light.
Darlene was running. She had to help Korey…
The hallway went on forever.
The faster she ran the further away he seemed—
When Darlene awoke Friday afternoon, after a very long and
disturbed sleep, she discovered police cars flanking the front entrance of
Hayden Dorm. Several RAs whom she recognized were hovering around like nervous
mothers, and cops were strolling about with grim faces. Darlene was certain she
also saw several ASU bigwigs moving among the assembled gawkers. Her curiosity
soon abated when a uniformed cop blocked her from reaching the dorm and directed
her to move elsewhere.
“Crime scene, ma’am,” he said huskily.
To all her questions he just shook his head. He did ask if
she lived in Hayden and where she was that evening and seemed satisfied with both
answers: no, and sleeping.
If it could have been called sleeping. The most perturbing
and twisted dreams twirled in the vacancy of missing memory of that
night. Darlene couldn’t quite shake the feeling that Korey was in
grave danger when she woke only half-an-hour earlier. It had galvanized her
into throwing together her outfit, briefly washing her mouth out with Scope
without brushing her teeth, and rushing outside to discover this.
Whatever must have happened, it had to have been gristly.
The cops were stopping people left and right, even those who lived in the dorm,
the entire place was cordoned off. Yellow tape blocked the entrances and
suspicious gazes swept from every direction like searchlights.
“My friends live in that dorm,” she said to
the officer. “I hope they’re okay.”
“You’ll hear about it on tonight’s news.
Just be glad you weren’t involved.”
Korey and Mary Beth would be seeing her tonight when she
played at the Coffee Plantation on Mill. Darlene could see that she
wasn’t going to be getting anywhere near Hayden without some
fast-talking, and she’d already blown that. There was no sense in
worrying until they didn’t show up to watch her play. At least, that
seemed the practical attitude to take.
Darlene slouched. Her stomach growled.
Practical or not, she hadn’t eaten all day and the
fast food restaurants in the basement of the MU would be closing soon. She knew
that if she wanted something cheap, and soon, she would have to get moving. The
situation at Hayden Dorm would have to come later. Mary Beth and Korey could
tell her all about it when they came to her concert.
Yes, Darlene smiled, they could explain everything…
Practical. Got to keep a practical attitude, Darlene
She shrugged her violin strap up higher on her shoulder
and went to get herself some food.
“After giving you a tarot card reading, he gave you this
card and told you to give it to me?”
“No, actually, he didn’t say who to give it
to,” Megan said. She ran her finger along the outline of a butterfly
drawn on the concrete floor with magic marker. “He just gave it to me and
said to deliver it to the first person it reminded me of. That was the price of
the reading. Did you know him?”
Vex shook her head and pursed her lips. She stared at her
reflection in the large mirror that made up this wall of the Graffiti Shop. Her
lipstick was flaking slightly; she would have to fix that in a moment. The rest
of the store displayed prominently in the mirror as a riot of colorful
drawings, sketched lines, racks of clothing, and glass cases. An overlarge
cloth banner hung up against the back of the store displayed the words: Cradle of Filth. Tangy incense smoke
drifted down from above, where a smoldering stick was
Presently, a pair of girls, flourishing and giggling,
crashed down the stairs and whooshed between Vex, Nathan, and Megan. The lazy
swirls of incense smoke blurred into a hazy pall in their wake. Together they
bumped and jostled their way over to the front counter, where the longhaired
and wise-eyed keeper of the Graffiti Shop sat. He raised his chin and an
“Girls. My key?”
“Here you go.”
Lawrence lifted the bathroom key from the glass counter
with a caressing motion. “Sweetheart,” he said, “in my
dreams, I get to frisk you for it.”
Vex chuckled and smiled, turning her attention back to the
“Do you recognize the writing?” Megan asked.
“It’s Enochian: the language of the
Nathan snorted disapprovingly. “More heretical
garbage spread by heathen, cloaked in the guise of enlightenment. Everything
mankind needs to know is written in the Good Book. In the beginning there was
the Word and the Word was not Enochian—”
“Nathan?” Vex snapped.
She gestured for him to lean closer. He bent down and she
said: “Do shut up.”
“Right.” With that, he went silent and she
turned her attention back to the tarot card.
“So…” Megan said. “What does it
The letters were written in a spiral starting in the
upper-left corner of the card and scripted clockwise, twirling inward toward
the center. It wasn’t a formation that Vex had ever seen used with
Enochian before, she was used to it being written in ordinary lines by
Westerners expecting to read it like a book. Rotating the card she discovered a
new interplay between the lines above and below. The names of particular angels
emerged from the text; extending from the edges toward the center at certain
angles, much like a crossword puzzle.
“It’s rather complex,” she said finally.
“I think that it’s a warning. This wasn’t written by some
idiot boob reading a book on Wicca. This is the genuine article. I don’t
know how to read it, but I have counted the names of seven different angels.
Seven is a powerful number.”
Nathan shook his head in disgust but remained quiet.
Megan shifted uncomfortably. “Why did he give it to
Vex’s eyes flashed and secret smile crossed her
face, white teeth gleamed between black parted lips. “You mean you
don’t know?” she said. “You’re a witch.”
—Ring… Ring… Ring…
After the twelfth ring, Darlene hung up. The payphone jingled,
clacked, and dumped her thirty-five cents out into the change hopper a few
Darlene rubbed her jaw and hefted her violin. The
answering machine should have picked up after at most five rings. According to
the clock nearby, it was nearly a quarter past six, Darlene knew that she would
be expected on Mill to start setting up before a quarter to seven. There was no
time to worry about why Mary Beth’s answering machine wasn’t doing
The trip to Mill took her past Hayden Library. On one side
was the glass and metal tower of the Stacks and the other the green lawn
covering the underground library. A cylindrical monument rose up out of the
lawn looking like a lighthouse with glass windows near its top. A few students
were lounging on its lower steps. The entrance to the Hayden Library was closer
to the Memorial Union—the building where Darlene had just gotten
dinner—and descended into a pit of tan stone via a wide set of stairs.
Darlene had passed beneath the tan arch at the top of that staircase many
times, even now still covered with broad leafed vines sporting white hanging
Palm trees rose up on one side of the path as Darlene
walked to University, crossed, and turned in front of the chapel there. As she
walked she barely paid attention to the students walking past to and fro, in
mobs, and alone. They wore all manner of styles of clothing, mostly
short-sleeves and shorts because of the warmer climate; it would be a couple
months before people started wearing long sleeves or even long pants as a rule.
Together they moved on foot, passing each other without notice. They had
somewhere to be, Darlene had somewhere to be.
Curious people were already gathering near the setup at
Coffee Plantation. Darren, the operations manager, waved Darlene over to a
black top table to set her things down. She shrugged her backpack off, but kept
her violin. It wasn’t ever a good idea to part with such a thing when on Mill
Avenue, too many people were wandering around and it could easily be snitched
if she wasn’t looking.
“I’ve got all the amps set up. We just need a
mike test. How quickly can you get set up and do that?”
“You have that quarter-inch jack that I asked
for?” Darlene unzipped her violin case, pulled out the bow, and adjusted
the tension screw.
“Yeah, right here.”
Darlene took the lead and the jack from Darren and looked
at it carefully. It gleamed in the sunlight for a moment, burnished like gold. Only
expensive leads, like this one, were gold plated. “Good,” she said.
“This is what I needed. I can be ready for a test in about five
Darren glanced down at his watch. “Great. I’m
going to grab myself a glass of water inside. I’ll be back for the sound
As he left, Darlene reached inside of her case, flipped up
the front compartment and pulled out her rosin. The rosin was packaged inside
of a small box, and then wrapped with a soft cloth that was useful for cleaning
the bow and strings. Darlene cleaned her violin every time she put it away, so
there was no need for that now. She laid the rosin on the table and unwrapped
it with her free hand.
When the last of the cloth was free from the rosin a jolt
went up Darlene’s arm, like a static shock had struck her. She winced;
her arm tingled and ached like she had struck her funny bone. The world blanked
for a moment and a ghost-white whisper of a mist fluttered up, out of the
rosin, and evanesced into the air.
“Ow,” Darlene said. She massaged her aching
arm until the pain subsided. “I should really be more careful.”
A small shard of glass glittered atop the rosin. Darlene
picked it up, shrugged, and dropped it into the nearby trash bin. With the help
of a bit of sandpaper, Darlene scraped the rosin lightly before rubbing the bow
along it seven times; she quietly and carefully counted each stroke under her
breath. It was a ritual she had inherited from her first violin teacher: seven
strokes makes the grace. With the rosin applied properly, she completed her
ritual by unbinding the violin and lifting it out of the case.
Five minutes had passed, or at least the time it took
Darren to get a glass of water had passed, because he was back with his water.
“Ready for that sound check?” he asked.
“Check away,” Darlene said, plugging the gold
lead into the violin.
The sound test was short and simple. Darlene played a few
notes on the strings, and Darren adjusted some of the knobs on the amp to match
the sounds. During her little test, Darlene played a petit glissando and
decided that she needed to get the violin into slightly better tune; she could
hear a reverberation between the A and E strings.
The problem was easily fixed with a gentle turn of the
“What time is it?” Vex asked suddenly. The
conversation had gotten too interesting, she was losing track of time. She
kicked herself mentally for that. Despite her weakness for banter and knowing
that she didn’t have a good sense of time, she had forgotten to pay
attention. Megan and Nathan had already gotten into a spat about religion, and
the girl didn’t take Vex’s mention of witchcraft very seriously.
Not that it was easy to take anything seriously coming from someone wearing
pale foundation, black eye makeup, and black lipstick.
Megan pulled a tiny cat clock from off her backpack.
“It’s seven oh three,” she said.
“I’m late,” Vex said. “Patrick
really should have shown up already, I have a concert I need to attend.”
“A concert?” asked Nathan.
“At the Coffee Plantation, a girl is playing the
violin. I meant to go listen.”
“Oh, I didn’t hear about that,” Megan
Nathan quirked an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you
had any interest in the arts, Pagan. I thought you were all about that loud
devil music that you blasted in your cab the last I rode with you.”
“It’s purely business, I assure you,”
Vex graveled. She rose onto her feet and balanced herself against the mirror.
The incense smoke was beginning to make her heady. Vex knew that she needed to
be clear headed when meeting this girl. She could be the witch in the group who
was trying to steal the other’s souls.
“I’ll come with you,” Megan said and
pulled on her backpack.
“I’m not being left behind,” Nathan said
when Vex glanced at him.
She shrugged. “Sure thing, come along both of you, I
suppose I could use the company.”
She waved to Lawrence where he stood behind the counter.
He was with the customer, but spent a moment to nod back. Vex made her way
through the store, weaving between the racks of clothing, and ascended the back
stairs. The smell of grease, car exhaust, and recently smoked cigarettes
replaced the gentle incense. Rumbling music from a nearby car stereo with too
much bass echoed from the walls, and gravel crunched under her boots.
Vex turned to say something to Nathan when the most
peculiar sensation fluttered in her chest. A voice whispered in her ear—
No, daughter, you cannot have her. The Old Ones are
calling her name. She is spoken for. She is not for you.
—and then the music hit her.