And we’re back with the next segment in our story, Revis and I. We hope you enjoy. I know I enjoyed writing my half… And that’s not half bad? I shouldn’t be allowed to write these intros after a certain point.
“He called them the ‘dark arts’ but,” Jake’s mother stated after a few moments, her voice no longer quivering, “that was more of a joke, a play on words, than actually being related to what most people think of when they hear that term. He wasn’t summoning demons. He wasn’t doing blood sacrifices or anything like that. There was no dancing naked in the moonlight. Well, I mean, not related to any of this.”
She added that last bit in a whisper and then looked away, a wistful smile on her lips and a faraway look in her eyes.
Without looking back to her son, she continued, “He called them the dark arts because it was dark when the spirits liked to come out and magic is definitely a kind of art. It takes practice and patience and skill…”
She paused again. Based on her expression, Jake guessed she was still reliving some memory of her time with his father.
Jake had a million questions but he knew the pause would be brief. His mom needed this mental break and then she would gather her thoughts and spill the rest of her tale. He took the moment to settle on the floor next to her. He was tired and had a feeling that it was going to be a long day ahead. There was an undercurrent of excitement bubbling in his thoughts. I’m going to learn magic.
“Again, I only know a few things. I’ll show you what I can, but it’s not much. If your father was here…”
There was pain in her voice. It was the first time she’d displayed any emotion other than anger when she talked about his father. He’d had many questions about his father when he was growing up, but he rarely asked them because she’d react angrily when he did. Back then, he thought she did that because his father had done something horrible to her. Now he thought she reacted that way purposefully, so he’d stop asking questions.
“I wish I could tell you what happened to your father, Jake,” she said as she tried to hold back tears. “I really do, but the truth is that I don’t know what happened to him. Right after he showed me the fire trick, he started acting strange, kind of paranoid. When I asked what was going on, he’d either brush it off or tell me that something big was coming, but he didn’t know what it was, only that he had a bad feeling about it. Finally, one day, he just never came home.”
“Did you go to the police?”
She smiled sadly. “And tell them that my magic man was missing because he had a bad feeling about something? No. They wouldn’t have believed me. I was tempted to go a few times anyway, but each time I was about to walk out the door, I’d get a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Eventually, I just gave up.”
Jake opened his mouth to retort his disbelief that she could just give up on looking for his dad, for her husband, but thought better of it. He’d only been living with the idea that magic was real for a handful of minutes and he knew there was no way he’d take any of what had just happened to the police. They wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t help. If anything, it would make the situation worse because extra scrutiny would be put on him and his family.
His mom was studying him and seemed to be following along with his thoughts, because when he closed his mouth she nodded. There was nothing more she could have done.
“Okay, you know I love fire, so let’s get started,” Jake said, trying to lighten the mood a bit while also getting back on track. The spirit, or ghost, or whatever it was would be back soon and he wanted to be prepared to help fight it.
His mom laughed and shook her head, “Oh, you don’t get to start with that one. You have to earn it.”
She pushed herself off the ground and moved next to the sink, setting the fire extinguisher on the counter nearby. She ran two handfuls of water and splashed them into her face and then turned to look at her son. “First, “ she said, “you have to learn the cadence of magic.”
Jake sighed. He hoped that he’d be able to jump right into it, especially given the circumstances, but it seemed like his mom was starting off with the boring stuff. It also sounded a lot like something she’d said to him many times before, “It’s not just what you say. It’s how you say it.” Throughout his life, he’d heard her say that to him a lot and, even though she was using different words, he was hearing it again. They didn’t have much time until the ghost, or spirit, or whatever, recovered from the fire. Shouldn’t she skip to the important parts instead of taking her time with the lessons?
Despite his frustration, he paid attention to what his mother was saying. Or, at least he was until he felt a thump coming from underneath his feet. Jake wrote it off as his imagination until it happened a second time. He held up his hand to indicate his mother should stop talking. She looked annoyed when she saw him do it, but she followed his suggestion. Her expression changed at once when she felt the third thump.
“Oh no,” she breathed. Her volume increased exponentially when she then shouted, “Block the basement door!”
It was too late. An animated corpse, missing a hand, broke the door down, rage etched on his features.
Jake grabbed the fire extinguisher and prepared to throw it at the thing advancing towards them. His mom screamed, “Don’t! Not that!” and he shifted at the last moment and sent the extinguisher sailing out of the kitchen. It crashed into something with a metallic clang but Jake had turned to his mom, eyebrows raised questioningly, a look of exasperation on his face, so he didn’t see what it had hit.
“The bottle,” his mom said, pointing towards the alcohol they had used earlier.
Jake followed her gesture and understanding hit him. He raced to the far edge of the counter we’re he’d poured the cups earlier, grabbed it by its neck and threw it at the ghastly creature. At the same time, his mom raced forward, the spray can and lighter once again in her hands.
The bottle crashed into the being, it grunted but didn’t slow its advance, and thumped to the floor at its feet where the alcohol began to slosh out the opening. Jake’s heart fell. He’d hoped the bottle would shatter and completely cover the thing in the flammable liquid. His eyes cast about for some other weapon to attack with.
Then his mom was in striking distance and she once again created the black flames. She pointed the jet at the pool of alcohol at the feet of the monster. In a great whoosh, the whole thing became engulfed in flames. A second later, the bottle exploded sending shards of glass flying in every direction.
Jake felt something like a needle prick in his cheek and a stinging sensation in his left arm, just above his elbow. Droplets of blood began appearing at the site, turning into a slow stream of his life fluid. Given the wet feeling on his cheek, he thought it safe to assume that he had a similar cut there. At a glance, he could see that his mother was also sporting a few blood spots, but none of them seemed to be too serious.
She, however, was fixated on the walking corpse. It had just received the exact same treatment that destroyed the severed hand, yet it wasn’t affected at all. The corpse stood in the flames without being harmed by them. Decaying flesh turned upward as a devilish smile worked onto its face. A blast of icy air, one that Jake thought was colder than any winter breeze he’d ever felt, blew in from behind the corpse and extinguished the fire. Still, no damage appeared on the dead body.
“You were warned, boy,” it said without moving its lips. “I gave you a chance to save her. Had you told your mother earlier, she could have prepared a spell to save herself. Now, she must pay for her sins.”
“What sins?” Jake responded with a quaking voice.
“For starters,” it croaked, “she killed me in ritual sacrifice to make herself more powerful.”