VOLUME INDEX



Chapter XXII: David
Chapter XXIII: Korey
Chapter XXIV: Mary Beth

 
 
 




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There’s angels in the attic, or at least that’s what Korey’s grandmother used to tell him. The house would creak terribly during the night, the aches and groans of old wood. Sometimes, it sounded like tiny feet dancing on the roof above—pattering out loud waltzes keeping him awake, deep into the mirthless dark.

Today it seemed like there were angels everywhere.

Classes went on as usual. He woke up early—before Bethany, he thought, but she had already left the small room—and attended a test in his math class. Even though his alarm clock told him he was early, he arrived late. Without looking at him, his professor gestured to the single remaining exam on his desk. He walked through the faceless rows of hastily scribbling students to find a seat.

None of the answers came. Even simple questions plagued him with doubts. Still, he persevered. This test wasn’t that important anyway. He could make it up later.

Korey felt as if everywhere he went he walked in shadow. As if the sun had been eclipsed and turned the day into a simmering gloom. The towering Bateman Sciences Center buildings creaked and groaned like the old attic as he passed. An eerie chill wind fluttered his hair and made him shiver. Nobody else noticed these things.

Even though Bethany and he had been going steady for over a year now, Korey still liked to enjoy looking at the ladies. One with a particularly nice butt happened to be walking in front of him right then. All pleasantly hipped and round in her faded jeans. Her upper body swung lithely along with her stride, showing off all sorts of flexible motion as she chatted with her overweight companion.

He lost himself in thought, imagining his hands running along her midriff, slipping his fingers beneath those tight jeans…and moments later he discovered himself standing in the hall that led to his next class.

The lack of transition left him unfazed; campus life was like that at times—a gushy rush from one class to another.

Angels in the wall nearby creaked at Korey. Another place spread around him, not the campus anymore. Birds twittered high up in the redwood trees; their green tipped branches splayed out against a dimming twilight sky scraped with the white of steamy clouds. All the scents and smells of his grandmother’s cabin came to him, from the loam in the spongy forest floor to the smell of her tea steeping on the stove.

Wondering how he’d gotten here from his classroom, he walked up to the door, found it unlocked, and went inside.

Korey found himself in Mary Bethany’s dorm room; the angels warped the air. He could feel them, like caresses barely touching his skin holding themselves just out of reach, just out of sight. “Bethany?” he asked nothing, glancing towards the rumpled covers he had vacated earlier that morning. “Sweet mama honey, I’m back…”

She lay in the bed, unmoving, and there was blood on his hands.

 

“You cannot save this one, child,” Mamman Brijit said in Vex’s ear, her voice rustled like chill wind through dry leaves.

“How long do I have?”

“Not long.”

Vex had been watching Korey stumble blindly through his limbo for what seemed like passing hours. Unlike with David, she couldn’t find an easy way to contact him. He had little stability and the chaos in his mind ate at the fading world of his psyche like an insidious fungus. So little of him persisted in the buildings and places around ASU, it was almost as if he had only barely been there.

Even now, in the twilight of his existence, she could only barely make out the guttering flame of his soul. All the other lights, twinkling in that vast bleakness, had drawn themselves to that one focus. It had been like watching a man preparing to move pack up all his belongings and slowly stow them in a truck. Each delicate memory passing from his hands into oblivion.

Mamman Brijit lifted a cupped hand to Vex’s chin. A silvery white fog suffused there; it smelled strongly of rum and hot peppers. “So drink, child.”

Vex hesitated a moment, an old wariness stretched in the back of her head. She breathed it into herself and stepped into the dark.

 

He found the woman in black standing next to the ritual circle when he entered the room. At first Korey didn’t think she’d noticed him, so intent her gaze. She had a cute enough face, but what really caught his attention was the way her dress wineglassed about the middle and, lower down, split across a smooth, white leg. He enjoyed the curvature of her hips and the swell of her breasts beneath the material. This chick sure did have some nice tits.

“Hello, honey,” he said.

When she looked up, he noticed her makeup. It surrounded her eye like an Egyptian brand, and swirled in radiating rays across her cheek. It made him think a little bit of a circus performer, but on her it looked good.

“You’re one of David’s friends?” she asked.

Korey threw his head back and laughed. “You can’t be one of that geek’s friends. Can you?” He shrugged. “Yeah, I know David. What’s a sexy woman like you hanging around little nerd like that? No offense, but you don’t look like you’re his type.”

“None taken,” she said. “My name is Vex.”

“Korey,” he said, as he strode towards her he rolled his shoulders back. The motion should have given some definition to his pectoral muscles, even through the T-shirt. From the shift in her eyes, he could tell she noticed. “Are you interested in magic, Vex? I happen to be an expert.”

The girl shifted her weight subtly and inclined her head in such a way as to look up into his eyes. She held his gaze for a moment before speaking.

“Really,” she said it almost teasingly. Her hands slid to her hips. “An expert? Yeah, I’m into magic. What can you tell me about this?” One hand swept the symbols drawn on the floor.

He smiled, enjoying the way her body looked. Her breasts weren’t quite the as large as Bethany’s but from the way she moved, he decided she had a more pleasing curvature to her hips. She walked very slowly as she traversed the sigil on the floor, each motion displaying and hiding different enticing parts of her pale legs. Korey entertained the thought that maybe she was bi and he could convince her to share a bed with him and Bethany—she had once told him that if he found a girl she could appreciate she could get into that.

“Yeah, my girl and I used it for this ritual we did last week,” he said, trying to pick his words carefully. She didn’t react when he mentioned a girlfriend, so he forged on. “She practices a lot of different types of magic. Some are more fun than others. Have you ever heard of Tantric?”

Vex shook her head. “This type of artwork isn’t used for Tantra,” she said. “What did you, and your girl, use it for?”

“Well,” Korey said, walking over onto the circle. He couldn’t remember much about exactly how it went together, but she did sound impressed; maybe if he could remember some of the stuff that Darlene and David had talked about. “It wasn’t just me and my girl, Mary Beth. David helped us out and so did this other girl named Darlene.

“The circle on the floor is supposed to draw the energy of our emotions and focus it. We put candles at all the watchtowers, and put down a circle of salt to keep the magic inside. I chanted and Darlene played the violin. Bethany led the whole thing, but David and Darlene put it together… I—well, I consulted on this one. I lent them my formidable magical prowess.”

She seemed raptly interested and didn’t move when he walked closer to her. But when he’d crossed the entire ritual circle and stood only a few inches away from her, she dropped down and ran her hand along the painted lines and across the symbols that Darlene had so carefully designed.

“What were you guys trying to do?” she asked.

“Beginning of the year all of us got eighteen credit hours. Huge amount, I know. The whole ritual is going to let us breeze through and come out with all A’s,” he said. “Been taking tests all day. I’ll bet I aced every one! Are you a student? I’m sure that Bethany and I could come up with a way to help you out with your classes too…” And maybe out of your clothes too, he finished in his head.

One of the windows nearby groaned and the echoes of the angels pattered a slow minuet on the ceiling. Korey frowned and tried to ignore them, but there was something uncanny and familiar about the rhythm of the sounds. Like a song he’d heard played on the radio too many times before.

“The whole ritual went off without a hitch, too,” he said. “Well except for the end part…”

“End part?” The girl stood and moved closer to him.

He let his eyes linger for a long moment before answering. “Yeah,” he said. “Must have been a freak wind or something because at about the end we’re winding down and suddenly all the windows are open or something. Darlene screamed, or maybe it was David—always did wonder if he screamed like a girl. Anyways, it only lasted a moment. Afterwards David said something about a paraffin flare. The candles had relit themselves.”

Vex watched him for a long moment, her eyes lingered on his face almost in the same way he had stared at her earlier. Her gaze made him feel uncomfortable and he moved away.

“You four kids did something very stupid,” she said, her voice sounded hard, unforgiving. Those dark eyes bored into him.

“What?” Korey backpedaled and she advanced after him.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what was going on here when it happened,” she continued, “but it hasn’t been easy to piece together. One of you sabotaged the ritual. The candles were loaded.”

He continued to back away, but he soon reached the limit of the light. Though it had been broad daylight when he had first walked onto this floor of the library, darkness now filled the extremities of the room. He couldn’t see the windows, the walls, or the bookshelves that he knew were there. Even during the midnight ritual, the light of the candles had been enough to illuminate them. Now there was only a blank dark—empty and hollow, except for the angels.

Their music rang in his head.

“Who bought the candles and drew the circle, Korey?”

“Darlene and Bethany got them from Michaels,” he said. “David and Darlene made the circle.”

Vex shook her head. “Well, David isn’t the one who did this to you. That leaves the girls, unsurprisingly.”

“Did what to me?” The image of Bethany motionless in the bed—covered with glistening red blood—flickered back to him. Blood slicked his hands. A face, twisted with malice and hunger stared at him from above her body. Korey’s breath caught in his throat; he lifted his hands into the sourceless light. They were clean. “What’s happening?”

A cool hand laid over his and cupped against his palm. Vex pulled him away from the edge of darkness and closer to the center of the circle. The black encroached from all sides, consuming the sigil as it came, rolling in like an inky tide. He found himself shivering, almost quivering uncontrollably.

Shh,” the girl soothed. “Don’t be afraid. Just tell me anything that you remember.” He glanced around at the rapidly closing black; her hand touched his cheek and turned his eyes back to her face. He could see how intricate the design around her eyes was drawn, almost like something he had seen Darlene draw before. “Tell me.”

“I saw something,” he said, unable to look away from her face and unable to keep himself from talking. He wanted to know what was going on. Suddenly, Korey wasn’t interested in sex, and he wasn’t interested in what she might look like under that dress; he found himself only interested in being told what to do. He wished Bethany were here with him—she would know what to do.

“What did you see?”

“After the candles relit themselves…and the screaming started. I saw faces emerge from the walls, they wrapped around us like ribbons of eyes. Coiling like a snake. It had thousands of arms, all reaching, and a thousand mouths, all screaming. I could feel this hunger.

“I wanted to run. I needed to run so badly, but Bethany clutched my hand and held me—and Darlene screamed that nobody go near the edge of the protection circle.

“It wanted in, wanted us, but it couldn’t get through.”

He paused breathlessly, but he dared not look away from her face.

“When it all ended everyone else was shaken, terrified, but nobody else acted like they saw what I did. And I didn’t tell them about it… Not even Bethany.”

As the light receded, a new ritual circle had appeared beneath them, glowing lines of phosphorescence, shining against the vast dark. Crisscrossing and weaving beneath his feet, those lines were the only thing keeping them from falling into that eternal, gaping black.

Finally, Korey recognized the music of the angels—it was the song Darlene played on her violin.

“You can’t do anything, can you?”

“I’m sorry,” Vex whispered.

Korey touched her face, thinking of Bethany as he did so. He did what he would do when she cried. He touched his forehead to hers, caressing her hair, and said: “It’s ok.”

The darkness swallowed everything and he could see the angels.

 

Returning to her body felt less traumatic this time around. The bright contours of the astral vévé once again became the ash and birch lines under her feet. Vex could still feel the burn of the pepper and rum on her lips and in her throat.

“Who was the old woman?” Megan asked.

“Dat be Mamman Brijit,” said Doctor Moungeaux, “she be da oldest of da honored dead.”

Patrick just stared at Vex. She looked back at him and examined the strain in his taut features. His breathing had become shallow and his eyes sunken. Megan’s tears from earlier had dried on her cheeks and made her eyes swollen, but she seemed no worse for wear. Andre, as Doctor Moungeaux, glowed with manic energy; he had already set about grabbing the new components for the final vévé.

Vex touched Patrick’s shoulder. “Are you okay? I need you to stay with me for one more. And this last one is going to be a little rough. I won’t put you through any more of this tonight after that, I promise.”

“I’m sorry I scoffed at your friend, the gypsy,” he said.

“I already told you not to worry about that.”

He made a dismissive gesture. “It’s just that. This is so real. I couldn’t have believed this before. My mother didn’t raise idiots, you know? And I don’t do drugs. And I reckon you wouldn’t lie to me about what was in that shot of rum we all drank…”

“Patrick,” Vex said. A smile teased at the corners of her mouth, she liked the way a Southern accent crept into his voice when he stressed. “What is it?”

“That guy we just saw,” he said. “He and his girlfriend were the people killed in the room next door to mine. I recognize him… I’ve met him. And now he’s dead.”

“I don’t like this,” Megan said, shaking and hugging herself. “Isn’t this… It’s not right. I feel like we’re torturing them.”

“I suppose,” Patrick said before Vex could reply. Megan frowned at his words. “But we’re trying to save them from whatever that is. I have a feeling that both those kids are worse than dead now and if Vex can stop it. I say she should try.”

“One more,” Vex said. “I need to try to find one more. Can I count on you?”

“You can count on me.”

“Then we be ready,” said Doctor Moungeaux as he set clay cups filled with hot, spiced rum in front of each participant. “Drink and tonight we will walk with the lwa one last time.”

 
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