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Chapter XVI: Poetry
Chapter XVII: Hohokam
Chapther XVII: Undone

 
 
 




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Sirens wailed sullenly in the distance, whistling through Tempe on their appointed rounds, as Vex and Patrick strolled through the ASU campus. The sun had risen high, with no longer a single cloud visible from horizon to horizon to mar the unbroken cornflower blue canvas. In the lead, Vex traced a well-trod route that kept to the narrow spaces between buildings where the shadows held back the heat of day. The sandstone browns of the various structures stood square and blocky bringing with them tall and wide shadows and the smell of desert shade.

Only a handful of students moved through the courtyard in front of the Memorial Union, passing over the grey and red tiles without pause. Vex ascended the few steps that lead up to a shallow dais that supported the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Of course, the fountain was empty, a shell of smooth river rocks, covered with dust. Little shade could be had from the stunted trees outlining the four edges of the dais. Patrick sat next to her when she slid herself onto one of the sheltered benches.

After seating himself he regarded her with a raised eyebrow.

“So, what’s next?” he said. “Are we going to go cast a few spells at your Tarot card? Go looking for a tower of bones? Difficult to hide one of those, I’ll bet.”

“I thought we could talk.”

“I thought we were going to get a bite.”

She smiled in spite of herself. “Yes, that too.” Reaching out, she took his hand in hers and lowered her chin slightly. “I feel like we need to talk about last night. At first you were all…talkative, and this morning suddenly you’ve clammed up.”

“It’s not every day you discover your girlfriend can levitate,” he said, “and I don’t mean like from Ghost Busters. I must admit…it was extremely strange. Not that I’m not used to strange things when you’re involved.”

She just sat a moment, silent, trying to think of something to say. Patrick took it as a cue to keep going.

“I apologize for the sarcasm, really. Levitation aside, I’m still not sure how I can believe that Jamie was trying to sacrifice me… What you did last night. That was amazing. This morning, though, I thought I was maybe dreaming. I figured I’d wake up on your couch and—”

“But you didn’t.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said and squeezed her hand. “I woke up next to you and I knew that was real. But, ever since I spent that night with you at Denny’s my life has been strange. You don’t know how many times I answered my phone hoping it was you just because of whatever new oddity you’d be getting me into. New Age shops, gypsies, crystals, candles…all that doesn’t really faze me.

“But until last night it was all safe and distant. And by distant, I mean, I couldn’t touch it. I could imagine it was a movie or the adorable quirk of a Goth girl that I happen know. This morning, for a moment, I wasn’t sure what was real anymore.”

“I’m all real.”

“If I told my father about this he’d ask me if I was dating David Copperfield’s daughter.”

Vex bared her teeth grinning, and shook her head. “You should tell him that I’m one of those city girls he’s always warned you about.”

“I think you’d only be half right,” he said. “There’s no warning anyone about you. You’re something else…” He leaned close to add, whispering in her ear, “Do you think we can do that levitation thing again? You know, now that I know you can do it. Maybe teach me how to do it? Just like the next guy, I want to be the one who sweeps the girl off her feet.”

She kissed him and let it linger for a moment. “Sure, baby.”

“I’m okay,” Patrick said. Letting go of her hand, he glanced across the fountain at the MU building and a patch of sky over her shoulder. “I just need some time to digest all this. Speaking of digesting, up for some cafeteria food?” He fished in his pocket for a moment and withdrew a red and yellow card. “Lunch is on me.”

 

Patrick managed to open the door without letting go of her hand. A few steps in, she whispered in his ear, and together they flipped off the sentry camera simultaneously while skipping past, holding hands. Inside was remarkably chilled compared to the outside. The MU smelled of floor polish and day-old carpet cleaner. Vex’s boots clunked heavily as her swishing strides barely kept ready pace with Patrick’s longer legs. Scattered students, milling about, paused in their conversations to look and she smiled back at them with her best “he’s mine” wolf grin.

“Do you really do that every time you walk past it?” he asked.

“When I remember.” Vex shrugged. “I imagine that somewhere, in their moldy old archives, is a sequence of me flipping that thing off over and over and over, each time I’m wearing a different outfit. Like stop motion.”

The Memorial Union took a place at the heart of ASU campus, providing the daily sundry things that any student might want: food, company, and places to study. Downstairs had pool tables, video games, and some fast food restaurants, which extended their reach onto the ground floor. The upstairs contained mostly meeting rooms of various sizes, a few of which she had seen when visiting various campus clubs and student friends. In earlier times a room could be had with a simple deposit and a student ID card, but recent times had restrictions closing.

The wall nearby caught her attention and she tugged Patrick to a stop. A tall poster displaying a series of white on black symbols dominated with the afterglow image of a girl’s face. The symbols edged slowly outwards from the face and melted into a colorless rain atop some words: The Crüxshadows at The Bash on Ash. Featuring: Torre de Huesos, Knucklecut, and Grim Ritual.

“Very nice,” Vex said. “That’s Tuesday.”

Patrick leaned back away from the poster, trying to take it in. “You know them? Hey, Grim Ritual, sounds like it’s right up your alley—oof.

She nudged him gently in the ribs. “Don’t know them, sorry. But the Crüxshadows, them I know. If you’re going to have a Goth girlfriend, you’re going to need an education in the music. Want to sweep me off my feet?” She pointed her finger at the poster. “Busy Tuedsday night?”

“No.”

“Baby, you are now.”

He stood for a moment, looking long at the poster as she walked away, clomping down the hall towards the steps that would take her up to the cafeteria level. Noticing that he wasn’t following, Vex looked back. “Coming?”

The “bite to eat” ended up resolving itself as some Taco Bell. Barely defined bits of ground meat mixed with almost-vegetables and wrapped in tortilla shells. Having totally skipped any form of breakfast—much to Patrick’s dismay when he informed her that she had nothing left in her fridge—Vex felt happy to be eating anything, even if it was from a place she oft referred to as “Toxic Hell.”

The T.V. droned on in the background; she barely listened, until Patrick spoke up.

“That explains the choppers,” he said.

—the police have not made a statement at this time but from what we can see here there are at least twenty dead in what will likely become the most gruesome massacre ever to strike the heart of Tempe.” The images of the screen flashed between the stupor-shocked faces of onlookers behind police cordons on a street—it looked like Mill Ave—and helicopter shots of the ‘A’ on A Mountain. The same sequences repeated over and over as the toneless commentator rattled off names and numbers. “From what information we have now, the Sun Devil Social Club may make up most of the victims, they were scheduled to hold a morning vigil at sunrise at the ‘A’ on the mountain. Back to you Ann.” “Thank you Frank, what a terrible tragedy, have the police said anything about suspects?

As she watched the screen flickered, all the rest of the room darkened as if to allow the television more light. The dark-against-light faces of the news anchors remained the same but the rest of the image wobbled, afterimages peeling away. The commentators looked at one another, at profile to the camera, as they spoke. One of the afterimages, a T.V. signal ghost, didn’t quite match the woman it reflected. The broadcast went freeze-frame like someone hitting pause on a VCR and the ghost turned to face Vex.

This is not your errand, daughter, it said.

She reached up and touched the Eye of Isis painted around her left eye. It was intact. Her teeth clenched as a wave of anger rushed up her spine, giving fire to her thoughts.

“What the fuck do you want?”

Images swept her then. A rushing deluge of dreadful imagery: bodies strewn like so much chaff; entrails snaked, glistening like red leather in the Arizona heat; limbs broken and shattered, bent akimbo into ghoulish angles—some of the disembodied arms even held candles. Blood dripped over faces slack with death, eyes clouded and white, mouths open, still screaming. The bodies, she could not count them, were dismembered and reassembled into a gristly diagram of twisted flesh.

Further, we cannot see. The single voice had become a chorus, echoing into itself with an endless reverb. As it continued to speak the multiple voices melded again into one melodic throat. You cannot save them, those who were lost. Do not bear the burden of that grief. If you must understand, go where I bid you. You must give up this path.

“I’ll do what I want.” Anger swelled in her chest like a living fire, burning her insides as she reached for her power.

The ghost afterimage stared, a pained expression stretching its features. It warped strangely over the face of the anchorwoman, as if straining to remain corporeal. The eyes that were not eyes searched her face; the lips that were not lips parted to speak.

You have all you need in your possession. Go to the stones.

“I hate you.”

With those three words she let loose the hounds of her power, the fury inspired force of her will unleashed thunder into the world. The sound of a portcullis gate slamming boomed. On the TV screen, ghostly vision ballooned outwards violently; the whole of the universe seemed to suddenly expand, fiercely shoved away from her. The ghost’s chin dropped and it vanished and the television screen itself disappeared into the ever-widening distance. The darkness fell away.

In a blur, the world snapped back into focus like a rubber-band snapping. Vex had dropped her food; and her ears rang like the inside of a school bell on a Friday afternoon. Tears dripped down her cheeks in part from the exertion and part from the content of the visions themselves. One hand slowly extended to brace herself against the table.

“Jesus-fucking-christ.” Patrick had also set down his food. His eyes were rapt on the television screen. “My floor RA…the girl who got murdered in the room next door to mine, she was something big in that club. Covered her door with their butt ugly bumper stickers.

“They were some sort of holier-than-thou social club that did community service, knocked on your door on Saturday afternoons, and gave most Sororities a run for their money…”

He trailed off, eyes descending from the screen to look at Vex. Suddenly, she wished that she could hide. Absently, her hand lifted to wipe away one of the tears. She didn’t touch the other eye; she couldn’t remember if she’d used the waterproof makeup or not—a smudge now would have terrible consequences.

“Jesus, I’m sorry,” he said, reaching across the table. “Did you see someone you know?”

Vex didn’t have the heart to say that in fact, she did, instead something he’d just said stuck in her mind. She hardened her heart and her voice.

“What did you just say?”

“Did you know someone in that club?”

She shook her head. “Before that.”

“Uh,” he said. “Well, this Sun Devil Social, the club they just now mentioned on the news, the girl who lived next door to me belonged to it. The one who was murdered… Her club.”

“Something’s not right about this,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry about what?”

“I’m amazed I never said this earlier.” Vex dropped the napkin onto her tray. “Patrick, take me to your room.”

 
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