the ranger

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She’d passed the old-timer on her way down river to check on a report of people swimming by the bridge.  He had somehow made it to a large boulder in the middle of the river and was casting lines towards the far bank.  Just from the split second she could see him, she saw his casts were smooth with practiced ease.  Then the sun glinted off the river spray, her eyes darted away and back to the road, which required attention at all times (because of rock falls and wildlife and tourists), and he was gone from view. 

“How in the world did he get out there?”

She made a mental note to check on him on her way back up. The report of people swimming in the more dangerous waters downstream took precedent.  Luckily, whoever it was had been smart enough to get out of the water and move on before she got there, for their sake and her own.  There were no cars matching the descriptions parked nearby and nobody in the water.  She tried her radio to call in an all-clear back to the station but received only static. 

The canyon walls played havoc with radio signals.  There were dead zones all up and down the river, and sometimes spots that worked one day wouldn’t the next.  Jumping back into her truck, she turned it around and headed back towards camp.  She’d make the report in person when she got there. 

As a Ranger, the safety of the visitors to her park was a huge priority.  It wasn’t her first priority as most guests seemed to assume, but it was a big part for sure.  Jumping into the river to save people getting swept through rapids wasn’t actually something she was tasked with.  She would be just as likely to get as injured or worse as the people she was trying to save, but she had some rope and a long pole (which was handy for all sorts of things around the park actually) and she’d do her best if called upon. 

So far, in her nearly ten summers of working the park, she’d never been called upon.  She was thankful for that.  The odds of her being able to save someone who legitimately needed saving were slim to none.  The water was too fast and too cold.  The rocks too slick and too unstable.

The old-timer hadn’t moved very far from where she’d seen him earlier and she pulled her truck into a pullout just beyond and walked back along the road to where he was fishing.  It wasn’t often she saw people of his age out on the river.  When she did, she didn’t often have to worry about them because they usually knew what they were doing.  Still, it didn’t hurt to be friendly and make sure.  Besides, they usually had good stories.  Old-timers almost always did.

She had to yell to be heard over the roaring water, “Catch anything?”

He either hadn’t heard or was ignoring her in the hope that she would go away.  Here she hesitated.  If she scrambled down the bank to river level and he wanted to be ignored she’d be bothering him and wasting her time.  Looking up river, she watched the water tumble and roll.  It growled as it crashed into rocks and screamed as it was sent skyward in beautiful arcs of spray.  The beauty was the problem.  How could something be so beautiful and so dangerous at the same time?

She hadn’t come up with an answer to that in her going on ten years.  She might need at least another ten to figure it out.

Turning back to the fisher, she called again, “Catch anything?”

His head moved just enough for him to glimpse her in his periphery and then shifted back to focusing on the tiny pool he was fishing.  She understood that it was his way of acknowledging her.  She carefully picked her way down to the water and, finding a likely enough rock, she sat and waited for him to finish.  Her guess from her half glimpse before had been correct.  He knew how to fish these waters and if it had been a little later in the day, closer to sunset, she likely would have seen him catch a trout.  As it was though, it was too early in the day for the fish to rise.  She knew he knew that just as surely as she knew he wouldn’t have been safe fishing in the semi-darkness later.  

He cast a few more times, hitting his spots each time, and then reeled in and carefully, slowly, made his way across the rocks back to the bank where she sat.  Each step seemed to take an eternity to her and she busied herself by seeming to be interested in something upstream.  She watched him all the way, though, tensed, ready to spring forward and lend a hand should he wobble too much.  He made it okay, though, and she stood to greet him.

Before she could speak, he was already talking, a broad smile on his face, and not waiting for her to answer any of his questions, which weren’t really questions at all.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?  Haven’t caught anything yet, not yet, but the day is still a bit young, right?  Seems a likely enough spot, though, maybe I’ll try my luck again here in a bit before the light gives out.  Certainly don’t want to be trapped down here in the dark.  But, while the light is still good, you just stop to chat or did you want to see my permit?  Lifetime fisherman, here, though it has been a few years, I’ll admit, since I’ve had the joy of fishing this here river.  Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

With that he turned away from her to gaze up stream as she had been doing moments before.  He seemed so content that she regretted interrupting his time on the river.  “It truly is a beautiful day.  I won’t keep you long just saw you down here by yourself and wanted to check on you.”

“Smart.  Very smart of you,” he replied, a chuckle in his voice.  “I’m not as young as I used to be.  Still, I thought I had at least one more trip in me and here I am, proving it true.”

He didn’t turn to look at her as he answered, his gaze stayed on the canyon walls, the towering pines and the river, the river, the river.

“Glad to hear it.  Have a fun and safe rest of your visit.” 

She turned, her eyes picking the route she would take back up to the road.

“Still, would do me good to rest.  There’s plenty of day left and my legs wouldn’t mind a break for a few minutes.  If you’d stick around, you could maybe help me back to my feet if I sit too long and my legs decide they don’t want to work anymore.”

With that he moved, slowly still, to the rock she’d been sitting and took it for his own.  She found one nearby and waited for him to get settled before asking, “So, you’re having a nice trip?  From the way you talk and the way you fish, I’m pretty sure this isn’t your first time here?”

He laughed.  Then he sighed, glanced at her briefly, and returned his gaze to the roaring waters.  Even then he didn’t answer for a long time, he just smiled. 

She nearly gave up on him replying and was getting ready to ask to another question to try and strike up a conversation when he said, “No, this isn’t my first time here.  My family has been fishing this river since the 40’s.  And, yes, I’m having a nice trip.  More than nice.  It’s exactly what I needed.”

She smiled in response, even though he wasn’t looking at her.  The stories would come now.  They always did.  The moments on the river he remembered best.  The times with his family.  The times by himself.  The beauty of it all.  The river.  The river.  The river.

She’d loved it for nearly ten summers now and she was sure she’d love it for at least ten more.

the old man

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Thinking back, years since his last trip, it was the river that he had loved the most.  He’d told people at various times that it was the smell on the way in or the tall trees or the way the canyon captured the light in the mornings and evenings or watching his kids eyes go wide with wonder the first time they saw the campground or the lazy afternoons reading a book in a hammock or the way the stars winked and whispered through the long nights.  And, while those were things he loved, it was the river that he had loved most of all.  It was the river that made all the stress and headaches of their yearly camping trips worthwhile.

It came crashing down the canyon, ice cold, ferocious and wild.  There were misty waterfalls and hidden fishing holes.  There were wide open stretches for swimming and dangerous rapids.  There were countless memories tucked away along the stretches he knew best, and even more memories held dear from the stories handed down from his elders.  The river.  The river.  The river.

Now he was the elder and he missed it.  He missed it something fierce and his mind was made up to go.

The packing list came together quickly enough.  It took a couple extra trips into the attic to find all his gear.  It was tiring work getting some of the heavier stuff safely down the ladder.  But, worth it as he checked things off and moved closer to going.  Food was bought.  The car was packed.  It all happened slower than it would have in his youth but time was funny and it seemed fast to him.  His days weren’t as full as they used to be.  Wife passed on.  Kids moved out with families of their own.  His days could stretch to unseemly lengths and often did.  So, he did not mind the time it took to get ready.  He didn’t really notice it at all.

His mind was buzzing with the prospect of adventure.  His hands shook with excitement.  Well, they shook most of the time anyway but now they shook more.  Some of the times he had to stop weren’t to rest so much as they were to force himself to calm down.  He was going.  He was going to see the river, to walk its banks, to hear its roar. 

The drive went smoothly.  He had to make an extra stop on the way in.  One more in and out of the car than he used to.  Old age had done a number on his bladder.  But, other than that, he stopped for lunch in the same place the family had always eaten before, surprised to find how little the restaurant had changed over the years.  The little train that went in circles in the rafters was still there chugging along.  The menu seemed the same too.  The food didn’t taste the same but that was true of most things, wasn’t it?  It’s rare for food to taste the same from year to year.  It was good enough, though, and didn’t really matter.  The food wasn’t the reason for the trip.  Then he’d made the unscheduled stop.  Then he’d stopped to fill up the tank before the final climb into the mountains.  It was all so familiar.  He was happy about that.

Then the smell had hit him as he wound his way up the mountain.  That smell.  It was no wonder he’d often told people he loved that smell.  It meant he was nearly there.  He wasn’t just on his way.  He was on the doorstep.

Then the trees changed as he rose from the valley floor.  They grew greener and taller and thicker and then he was among the giants.  They truly were giants, some of the largest trees in the world.  The road carved through the forest as it went up and up and up.  It was no wonder he’d often said he loved the trees.  They were so unlike anything he had in his day to day.  He’d never lived near a forest like this.  It was special, enchanting.  The sun filtering through the pine needles held a certain magic he could not define.

Then the road crested and slipped down into the canyon that held his beloved river.  For a moment he had a glimpse of the sheer magnitude and magnificence of it all.  The steep canyon walls.  The cascading waterfalls.  The untamed wild where the only blemish was the narrow road that took him down to his hearts home.  His hands had started shaking again and he’d used a pull out to rest for a minute.  It wouldn’t do at all to lose control on this road.  It was too narrow.  The canyon too steep.  The river at the bottom too fierce.  That particular ending to his story wasn’t one he was interested in at all.

Then he was driving again and his hands fell into the familiar rhythm of turns, like they’d done this drive a thousand times before.  Maybe they hadn’t done it that many times.  But they’d done it enough to know it.  To really know it.  He easily handled the sharp turns.  He quickly and confidently fell back into the pattern of smoothing out the corners.  The worst of them, the nearly 180 degree left hand hairpin that had often made his tires sing when he was younger, came and went.  And then he was to the sharp right hand turn, where the mountain seemed to lean into the road and he had always wondered how the larger vehicles had managed to get by it without crashing. 

One final drop and he was level with the river.  It rolled and splashed to his left.  It was beautiful.  It was everything he’d remembered.  He lowered his window so he could hear it and the sound filled his car.  A high water year, the rapids were raging, the water swift, the sound deafening.  He’d known it would be, of course.  When he’d made up his mind to come, he had looked to see what the snowpack had been like over winter.

He had considered stopping as he crossed over the familiar bridge, one in a dozen landmarks he’d pass with a widening smile, but he continued on.  The campground was only twenty minutes ahead and his old bladder was telling him to make haste.  He listened to it as he’d learned to over the years.  He left the window down and enjoyed the feel of the air as he wound the final few miles to his camp. 

Today he would set up for the week.  He’d pitch his tent, gather wood, string up a hammock, set up the kitchen, and acclimate as best he could.  Tomorrow he’d put his old fishing pole together and find a likely enough spot to toss a line and be on the river.  He didn’t care if he caught anything.  Being on the river had never been about catching things.  Fishing was just an excuse to be on it.  He couldn’t wait. 

He smiled and nodded.

Tomorrow.  The river.  The river.  The river.

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.”