VOLUME INDEX



Chapter VII: Kel the Bosh
Chapter VIII: Incantations of Incarnation
Chapter IX: Friday Night on the Ave

 
 
 




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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.

Darlene shivered.

“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 chided herself.

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 eyebrow.

“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 conversation.

“Do you recognize the writing?” Megan asked.

“It’s Enochian: the language of the angels.”

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.

“Yes?”

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 say?”

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 me?”

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 moments later.

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 its job.

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 flowers.

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 minutes.”

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 check.”

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 peg.

 

“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 said.

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.

 
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