The Writer

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The snow had started sometime in the night, soft and light at first, barely sticking.  It let the wind dance and swirl it around.  That kind of magical storm where it looks like the flakes are rising more than falling.  Then, before dawn, the snow grew heavier, the ice crystals jagged and gripping as it began to pile together.  The world was soon blanketed in white folds that despite the sharpness of the ice was soft.  It seemed to glow.  The world seemed to sigh with contentment.

…..

The writer who called himself Trent, sat back in his chair, stretching away from the keyboard to gaze out his office window.  The snow had covered the bottom quarter or so, partially blocking the view of his yard.  The flakes were still falling but not as hard or full as they had before dawn.  In the distance he could hear his children playing.  It sounded like they were getting ready to disturb the peace of the morning.  He wondered briefly if the snow was thick enough and wet enough to build a snowman and actually rose from his chair to get a better view outside.

Trent could feel the cold leaching through the double panes but it did not bother him.  His hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee and he sipped almost lovingly at it.  His eyes still studied his yard.  If he watched long enough he would see his kids.  If he got back to work, he could wrap things up and go join them.  A smile touched his lips and he stayed where he was, knowing on this stormy morning things would slow down and stand still for a change.

The first of his children danced by his window.  Literally, she jumped and spun and tip-toed through the snow, a ballerina in boots and a parka.  Trent’s smile broadened.  The work called to him but he took another sip of coffee and stayed where he was.  The second child raced after the first, laughing and trying to catch her.  The rest came in a jumble, all intent upon reaching the dancer to, perhaps, tackle her into the snow?  Trent didn’t know and their games had taken them beyond his angle of the yard anyway.

Returning to his desk, he quickly read through the world he had begun to craft that morning.  Another sip of coffee, and then he placed his hands on the keyboard and let his mind and fingers get back to building.  A dancer, previously unimagined, entered his story to impart a bit of whimsy.  A storm became a pivotal moment, a reckoning, for the main characters.  It wasn’t a bad one, a tempest, but it forced them to huddle together and take time to think through who they were and what they needed.

Trent leaned back in his chair again and wrapped his hands once more around the coffee mug while his eyes darted here and there in his amassed words.  Did they make sense?  Did they convey the message he wanted?  Would they make the world a better place?  He hoped so.  He wished he could will it to be so.

Laughter from outside reached his ears and Trent glanced to the window.  His children were building a snowman and they were doing it right outside his office window.  It was a sad, misshapen thing.  The body spheres were barely sticking together.  One of the children had found some sticks that made it seem like the snowman was saluting the window.  And, his children had taken one of Trent’s favorite scarves for their project as well. They obviously thought it was the height of comedy because they could barely contain their laughter as they set about their task. 

Their mirth contagious, Trent allowed himself only a moment more to ponder the dancer in his story before he saved his work, and went to join them.   The dancer wasn’t just bit a whimsy after all.  She was the reason, the point, the everything of the story.

…..

As the day wore on the snow began to melt.  Slowly at first it grew thinner and then great chunks of it would collapse upon itself.  The river beneath funneled to the gutters and drain spouts.  The sun would shine before the day was out, making a brief but brilliant appearance before slipping beyond the western horizon.  And the world would sigh, once again, with contentment.  It had been another magical day, as they all were in the end.

….

This story was written for Trent Lewin (https://trentlewin.com/) who you really should be following and reading if you aren’t already. He is a fantastic writer and human. He called me out for my lack of writing… And maybe that’s just what I needed.

A Ghost Story, Part 13

Lucky number 13? Cursed number 13? Read on and find out as Revis and I bring you another segment of our little tale of family and demons. As always, we hope you enjoy.

….

Jake started chanting again but the demon rushed at them, even faster than it had when it still inhabited his mother’s body, and Jake felt himself yanked aside just before the creature could slash him with its clawed hands.  The demon roared and spun towards him again, slashing with its hands, trying to grab him and puncture him at the same time, and once again Jake felt himself moved aside just in time. 

It was a very weird sensation to be so detached from what his own body was doing.  He didn’t have much time to dwell on it though as the demon rushed at him again and again.  Each time it missed it snarled louder and eventually a layer of white foam began to form around its mouth, like a raging animal gone rabid.

“This will work better,” his father’s voice came to him, “if you could be in charge of moving yourself out of the way so I can focus on the magic.”

“That makes sense,” Jake replied glibly, and he immediately sensed his father smirking again.

Once more, he began to chant.  Jake didn’t want to wait for the demon to rush him so he began to move in a circle around it, always trying to keep it in front of him while forcing it to spin likewise if it wanted to charge him.  Then the chanting stopped and Jake’s armed raised and pointed towards the demon.  Flames, not black but white, shot from his outstretched hands towards the demon.

Screaming echoed throughout the entire area. Whatever magic he’d just unleashed must’ve hurt it. The demon, Mocregork it had called itself, jumped backwards to escape the flames. It  didn’t jump far enough. The white fire licked its flesh as it continued to roar in pain. 

Jake smiled, but his father reminded him that the fight was far from over. To prove that point, the demon reached down, tore a chunk out of the ground, and threw it at him. He’d seen the entire movement, so he had time to get out of the way. As he did, however, his hands dropped as he darted to the side. When they did, the white flames disappeared. Mocregork must have anticipated that because he was moving toward him the moment the magic blinked out.

It took all Jake had to get away from the attack. Even then, he didn’t fully dodge the attack. Two of the demon’s claws dug lines into his back. They weren’t deep, though they didn’t need to be. The wounds burned with Hellfire, a bit of information that could’ve only come from his father. Soon enough, that pain went away, just like the pain in his leg.

“That’s about the extent of my ability to block your pain,” his father said. “If you get hit again, you’ll feel every bit of it.”

“Let’s try not to let that happen then.”

His voice began chanting again.  Mocregork seemed to have no interest in getting hit by another spell because the demon rushed forward trying to disrupt the casting.  Jake, in control of his body, if not his mouth or his mind at the moment, rolled under another slashing attack.  The claws caught in the tatters of his shirt but missed his flesh.  That didn’t keep Jake from feeling the searing the heat radiating off them.

After continuing his roll, knowing he needed to buy his dad time to finish the spell, Jake then sprang to his feet and moved swiftly away from the demon.  He could hear Mocregork laughing and then all of sudden Jake had to jump away from another attack.  The demon had somehow gotten in front of him again.

“This is my plane, you mortal fool.  I can shape it how I desire.  You can’t run away from me.”

“Who said I was trying to run away?”  His dad had spoken through him, having just finished his chanting.  And then Jake once again felt his arms move of their own accord.  His pinkies and index fingers were pointed at Mocregork and then a blast of energy shot from his body, rocking him backward at the same time.

Jake scrambled to stay on his feet and then watched in awe as a wall of stone, twice his height, formed into the symbol of a cross and slammed into Mocregork. The large stone cross fell on top of the demon, pinning it to the ground. Smoke rose from every part of Mocregork touching the magic construct. An ear piercing shriek erupted from under the cross. Jake was forced to use his hands to cover his ears. He was afraid that if he didn’t, the demon’s cry would rupture his eardrum.

“Quickly,” his father urged. “We need to get over to him so I can cast another spell while he’s distracted.” 

Jake made his way over to where Mocregork lay under the cross. The demon’s wail became louder and more intense with each passing step. His legs began to shake as he moved. Determined to not give up, Jake pushed himself forward until he was standing next to the howling demon. He felt his hands start to move away from his ears and he did everything he could to lock his muscles in place.

“Don’t fight me,” came the plea into his mind. “I need your hands to complete the spell.”

“But I’ll probably lose my hearing if I move them,” Jake protested. 

“That’s better than losing your life,” his father countered, to which Jake had no argument.

Reluctantly, he let his father move his hands for the spell that would hopefully vanquish the demon. 

It was all Jake could do to relax enough to let his father take control.  The demon’s shrieks were so painfully loud that every instinct demanded he protect his ears.  The sound enveloped him and rattled his teeth.  His eyes watered.  He tried to force his mind and thoughts away from it but couldn’t.  It was too much.

In the few short seconds he was grappling with that internal struggle, his father had used his hands to draw symbols in the air and then chanted off another spell.  His arms reached forward and white flames shot from his fingertips again.  The fire spread over the stone cross and the demon, reaching from the tip of its horns down to its wickedly curved clawed feet, burning so brightly, so intensely, that Jake stumbled backwards a step so he didn’t get caught up in the flames.

“Hold steady,” admonished his father.

Jake was going to reply sarcastically but the demon suddenly disappeared and his father cursed.  The flames died away as his father ended the spell.

“Get ready to move,” his father warned, “the beast likely flipped the plane on us again so it could get out from the cross.  I’d hoped it wouldn’t be able to.”

Jake came up with another sarcastic reply but before he could give it voice, a snarl of pure hatred and pain rolled over him.  He whipped his head around looking for the source.  He couldn’t see Mocregork anywhere.

“Move.  Move randomly.  It doesn’t matter how or where. Just move so you aren’t a standing target for it!”  There was panic in his father’s voice and Jake didn’t need to be encouraged more than that.  He started zig-zagging, hoping it was at random, away from the cross.

“Left!”

Without thinking, he dove to his left. Jake always saw people in movies be able to roll back into a standing position when they do that move. It was at that moment when he realized that he was not an action movie star. He tried to roll with his dive and smacked his head against the ground as he did so. His vision went blank for a moment and if his head wasn’t momentarily spinning, Jake might have remembered how scary that was in his current situation. 

“Right!”

As his mind recovered from the bump to his cranium, he felt his body respond to his father’s command, rolling off to his right. It once again crossed his mind about how strange it was to have so little control over his body, especially when the one controlling it was someone he just met hours ago. Wait. Had it been hours ago? Or just a few minutes? With all that had happened that night, it was hard telling. Time was not flowing as it normally did.

“Focus on the problem at hand!”

There was a hint of irritation in his father’s voice on that call. Jake wanted to do what was asked of him, but he couldn’t. His thoughts were swimming and he wasn’t able to get them under control. Irritation turned to sadness during his father’s next words. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this. I was hoping we’d get a little more time together. Before I go, I just need to tell you that, even though I wasn’t around, I have loved you since I found out your mother was pregnant.”

With that, Jake felt his father leave his body and watched as his spirit raced for the demon. 

A Ghost Story Part 11

Revis and I are back and things are getting explosive. That might be a bit of foreshadowing… Read on to see what I mean.

…….

“Dad?  Shouldn’t we stay?”

It felt weird using the word “dad.”  It wasn’t something he was used to saying.  Jake’s mom hadn’t talked about him much and growing up without him, not having a father was what he knew, so Jake never felt the need to ask a lot of questions. 

“You should run,” his father replied.

Jake studied the ghost next to him.  In their very short time together he had seen a lot of different emotions displayed on his dad’s face.  In that moment there was a look of determination.  But, the ghost wasn’t looking at Jake.  It was looking at the house.

The ghost began to slide forward and Jake asked, “Where are you going?”

“You should run,” his father repeated.

“That didn’t answer my question.  If I run, what are you going to do?”

“Hopefully nothing.”

Jake was getting angry now.  He was tired of the half answers.  He was tired of not understanding what was happening around him.  He was just plain tired, too.  He knew it had only been one night but it felt like he hadn’t slept in a week.

“I need to know what you are going to do!  I need to know what is happening inside!”

“You need to run,” his father stated just before the roof from the front half of the house exploded upwards in a blaze of black flames.  Timbers and shingles began to rain down on the lawn and street.

Jake dove onto his stomach, hoping for cover, but there was none to be had. Debris pelted him all over. He did his best to not cry out in agony. It was too much, however. A chunk of wood the size of a closed fist landed on his left thigh and he let out a shriek of pain.

“I know that last one hurt you,” his father began, “but can you please move? Now.”

He turned over to see his father standing protectively above him with his hand reached to the sky. Just above the outstretched hand was a much larger piece of the roof. This one was about the size of a small car. Jake almost peed in his pants at the sight of such a large object almost crushing him.

“I can’t hold it much longer!”

As his father said it, the light that made up his ghostly form dimmed once again. That was all the motivation Jake needed to snap out of it. He crawled as quickly as he could until he was no longer under the large piece of his house. His thigh protested with his every movement, but he didn’t care at that moment. All he cared about was that he’d made it to safety.

“Well, well,” came a deep voice from the direction of the house. “Look who I found.”

Out of the wreckage came his mother, holding the head of Marten Revulus in her right hand and the head of the other animated corpse in her left. 

“Jake, it’s going to hurt, and I’m sorry about that, but you really should get out of here.”

Jake was too stunned by what he was seeing to even acknowledge his father.  How do you behead a ghost?  What kind of madness was his mom into?  Was his mom even there anymore or was it all this demon she had summoned?

“Jake!” 

His father’s voice was urgent and startled Jake out of his thoughts.  Focusing again on his surroundings, he immediately saw that his mom had continued to get closer.  He scrambled back to his feet, pain shooting from his injured leg up his spine, causing everything in the lower half of his body to tremble and nearly sending him back to the ground.  He managed to keep his feet and began to shuffle away.

“Where are you going, son?”

Jake glanced over his shoulder.  The grin his mom was wearing wasn’t human.  He pushed through the pain and started to jog. 

“Don’t you want to thank me for saving you from the big, bad ghosts?” 

Her question was full of mirth and then she laughed. Jake picked up his pace further, turning his stumbling jog into a stunted sprint. 

It was like ice shattering.  The laughter.  The pain in his leg.  He’d only made it 4 doors down when he fell to the pavement. Jake looked over his shoulder to see her stalking toward him. He crawled forward, the only thing he could do to try to get away. When he looked back a second time, he knew it wasn’t enough. His mom, or whatever was inside her, would be on top of him soon.

His injured leg erupted again, but it was a new pain this time. Jake’s ankle burned as his mother grabbed onto it and pulled him closer. He twisted around, ending up on his back. She dragged him closer while his mind tried to not only think of a way out of the situation, but also wondered how a person’s touch could burn him like this.

“Back off!”

His mother’s face jerked to the side and she took a few unsteady steps backwards. It looked like she had been punched in the cheek, but he didn’t see it. At that point, Jake didn’t care. Whatever it was, it broke him out of her grip. He scuttled away from her as quickly as his injured leg would allow.

“You dare strike me?” she roared at the space in front of him. 

“You’re not taking my son,” his father’s voice proclaimed. For a moment, Jake wondered where he was, but then he saw him right where she was looking. His glow had faded so much that he was barely visible. 

“You can’t possibly stop me,” his mother laughed. 

“No, but we can.”

With that, his father’s spirit came right at him and entered his body, connecting the two of them together. 

Jake felt like screaming.  Every fiber of his body and mind tingled as the ghost entered him.  Before he could voice this discomfort and growing terror, his father’s voice filled his mind, “She can’t hear me so don’t worry about that.  And remember to breathe.”

Jake released the air he had been holding and the feeling of escalating anxiety he had been feeling started to ebb.  He filled his lungs again and felt even better. 

His dad’s voice continued, “Good.  Keep doing that and to set you at ease further, I am not a demon.  When I’m done helping you I will leave without a trace.  You don’t have to worry about me corrupting you like the demon that’s still controlling your mom has done to her.”

Jake thought, with a small spark of hope, “Is there a way to save her?”

“No.  She is beyond our reach.”

The hope ebbed just as his terror had a moment before.  He felt deflated and weak.  But then his father started talking again and that helped stabilize him.

“Your life, your potential, is more than who she has become.  Don’t let her destroy you in her downfall because her choices have already been made.  She is doomed.  There is still hope and time for you.  Let’s fight her together.  Let’s make that choice and then see what comes of it.”

His eyes focused once more. Before him, his mother still stood there laughing. “You have no more strength to give him,” her demonic voice cackled. “What you just did won’t even be enough to delay the inevitable, you sad, pathetic spirit. I’ll destroy the boy just as easily as I would if you weren’t in him.”

After seeing the diminished form of his father’s spirit, Jake was afraid that the demon was right. “Don’t worry,” his father’s voice soothed. “It’s not strength that I plan on giving you. You have enough of that on your own. You don’t need mine. What I’m going to give you is all you need to defeat this bastard: knowledge.”

The tingling in his body started all over again. Words recited over and over again in his mind. Jake mumbled them aloud even though he didn’t know what they meant. When he was done, he did his own laughing. The demon inside his mother stopped its mirth immediately upon hearing it. Before it could ask what Jake found so funny, he smiled wickedly and said, “Do your worst.”

A Ghost Story, Part 9

How are we up to this many posts already? Feels like we just started this tale, Revis and I. So it goes, I guess. Hopefully you are still enjoying reading it as much as we are enjoying writing it.

…..

“I’m bored of this conversation,” the ghost stated flatly.  It turned away from Jake and started drifting towards his mother again.  “My time here is growing short again, I’m going to finish what I came for once and for all.”

Jake thought he heard the ghost say, “And then I’ll finally be free,” under its breath.  It definitely said something but he hadn’t heard it clearly enough to be sure.

His mom needed more time.  He had to do something to buy her that time.  He still held the book in his hand.  He wasn’t sure what good it would do but it was the only weapon he had.

Jumping between the ghost and his mom, Jake brandished the book like a club, raised over his shoulder and ready to swing, and said, “You didn’t answer my question.  Why did my mom kill you?”

The spirit narrowed its eyes.  The nearly translucent orbs became slits of anger as it stared down at Jake.  “Remember the wall of rage I mentioned before?” It spit venomously.  “Get out of my way or I’ll turn it against you first, as Marten tried to do, and then I’ll kill your mom as well.  There would actually be something poetic about destroying your family’s legacy in one fell swoop.  I’m starting to think that Marten had the right idea all along.”

Behind him, Jake heard a low voice. It was too deep to be his mother’s. She was the only one in the house with him. Well, the only one in the house that was still alive, at any rate. Had another ghost come in and attacked her while he wasn’t looking? Deciding to risk it, he glanced back over his shoulder. 

His mother was standing where he’d last seen her, but she was different now. Her face was contorted in a psychotic grin. A black fog, almost like smoke but more translucent, floated around her. Most of it moved back and forth in waves, although a tendril of it circled above her head before shooting down into her eyes. They blinked rapidly for a few seconds as if she was trying to get the fog out of them. When they opened up again, they glowed red.

“You tired old ghost,” the deep voice said, coming out of his mother’s mouth. “Did you really think I’d let you take my favorite plaything away from me?”

The spirit possessed body flared in a firelike light. “Let me? I’d like to see you try and stop me!” The hand that Jake smashed on the ground shot up and attached itself to the stump. It could’ve been Jake’s imagination, but it looked like the body grew larger. “Now I’m whole! You can’t defeat me anymore!”

The book nearly slipped from his fingers. His fingers, along with the rest of him, had suddenly gone numb as a blast of air pushed away from the spirit.  He managed to hang on but wasn’t sure it mattered anymore, if the book had ever really mattered.  This crazy situation was rapidly spiraling completely out of control.

Jake shifted his gaze from his mom to the ghost and back again and then decided he needed to move.  Stepping back towards the kitchen counter he freed the space between them. 

His mom, in the same unnaturally deep voice, said, “I don’t need to defeat you.  Not on this plane, anyway.”

Jake had no idea what that meant but the ghost stopped its forward progress with a sharp intake of breath.  “It’s not possible.”

His mom, or rather whatever had taken over his mom’s body, smiled in response.  It was an evil, twisted smile that made Jake cringe away another step.  He tried to look away.  He didn’t want to see his mom that way.  But, he couldn’t.  Whatever happened next, he knew he needed to see it.

“It is possible, of course.  I can smell the stench of fear rolling off you.”  At this, his mom’s nose crinkled as she appeared to sniff at air in front of her.  “It will be a simple thing to pull you down with me.”

Then, surprising Jake so thoroughly that he called out in alarm, his mom lunged towards the ghost with her arms outstretched. The instinct of fight or flight took over Jake’s body. Flight won. Gripping the book tightly in his hand, he ran through the kitchen, cut down the hallway, and toward the front door. Just as his hand touched the knob, the door exploded inward. It hit his hand, sent the book flying, continued until it smacked between his eyes, and knocked him backward onto his butt.

Dazed, he looked up and saw another animated corpse. This one he recognized, though. It was the decaying body of Marten Revulus. Standing over top of him, Marten reached down and grabbed the front of Jake’s shirt. “Where’s my hand?” Revulus demanded. Jake was still slightly out of it from taking the door to the forehead and just stared blankly at the undead being. Marten slapped him across the face to knock some sense back into him. “Where’s my hand?”

Snapping out of it, Jake wanted to ask how Marten appeared as a normal human when he dropped the package off to his mother. Instead,  he tried to back away, but Revulus held him tight. “I don’t know,” he stuttered out. “It exploded.”

Marten picked him up off the ground as if he weighed no more than a bouquet of flowers. “You’re lucky that you may prove useful in the future.” 

With that, Revulus dropped him and started for the kitchen to join the battle.

 Jake scrambled to his feet and raced outside.  A jagged edge of the busted door scratched his arm in his haste to get out of the house.  He felt the stab of pain but didn’t stop to survey the damage.  His need to get out, to get away, to escape the madness within his house was too strong for anything else to get in the way of that solitary goal.

He made it as far as the sidewalk where, suddenly winded, he stopped to catch his breath by the mailbox.  He wondered if he was going into shock.  It didn’t make sense that such a short run would leave him gasping for air.  But the stitch in his side and the searing pain in his lungs told him that, like everything else from the past twelve hours or so, logic need not apply.

Something wet landed with a loud splash on the sidewalk at his feet.  Looking down it took him far longer than it should have to realize the steady drip falling into the growing puddle was blood pouring off his face.  He touched his forehead with a hand and it came away slick with blood.

“Help!”

It was his mom’s voice, ringing clearly in his mind.

Suddenly unsteady on his feet, Jake swayed and would have fallen over if the mailbox hadn’t been there to hold him up.  When the dizziness cleared, he found he was looking back towards the house, the broken door gaping like the mouth of some insane demon.  He didn’t think he could ever set foot in there again.

“Help!”  The cry came again.

Jake took a step back towards the house, but stopped before taking another. Not only was he still a little bit dizzy from the blow to the head, he was also wondering whether he should go back or not. First of all, he wasn’t sure how useful he would be in his current state. Second, even if he was completely healthy, he couldn’t think of a way he would be helpful to his mother. He was just a normal human teenager. There were at least two corpses inside that were possessed by spirits, plus whatever had taken over his mom’s body. Without any knowledge of how to fight those things, if he continued into the house, he’d probably wind up dead.

But, his mom was in there, possibly in trouble. Jake had to admit that what the spirit had revealed about her had shaken him. She had confirmed some of it, however that didn’t mean that all of the accusations were true. And, she was still his mom. Despite all of the things going on around him, he believed in his heart that, deep down, she was a good person. 

“I believed that too, at one point.” 

Jake turned around quickly, too quickly. His dizziness overcame him and he fell to the ground. Fighting through his swirling vision, he saw a man standing there. No, not a man. It was another ghost, a ghost who could read his thoughts. Suddenly the ghost reached out his hand to touch Jake and, no matter how much he tried to move, Jake found himself locked in place. 

A Ghost Story, Part 7

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. 

“Mom!”

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.”