They've promised that dreams can come true, but forget to mention that nightmares are dreams, too.
—Oscar Wilde (attributed)
The first thing Mara saw when she awoke was an image of Nico Cairns fading before her eyes, while feeling an almost intangible link with her sister disappearing forever. In the static of her thoughts, she tried to contemplate that word, 'forever,' mankind's attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible in a word. Forever was the void filling the space between being and doing, existence and action, selfhood and free will. Forever was the loneliness of Mara's own plight, adrift in a limbo of dreamless sleep, just one step away from the sleep of death.
Just one more step into that void to reach a memory that was and shall never be again.
Mara took that step and fell . . .
Colbie Amame, Celia Hearn, and Kendra Tellerman fidgeted in their seats at the school nurse's office, still dressed in winter clothes over their school uniforms, because winter break was just days from now after they had completed their final exams, and with it came the chill of the frosty morning air. And right now, they were looking from Connie Davis to the school nurse assistant and back to Connie Davis hiding something in a desk drawer, while the assistant had her back turned.
"I'll be back in thirty minutes," the school nurse assistant said and left the three girls alone with Connie, then paused at the door: "Oh, and Connie, can you fill in for the one o'clock shift?"
Connie spun in her office chair and said, "All right. How long do you need?"
"An hour, tops. Hopefully, no more than that! But if not, then cover me for two hours, and I'll buy us some dinner when my shift's over."
"Gotta deal, then," she said, leaning back in her seat with a mischievous smile on her face. "Is it your ex, or someone new?"
Connie Davis's colleague grimaced. "Not in front of the students!" Then she turned to the three seated at Connie's desk, and said, "Pretend you didn't hear that, girls!"
And all three girls raised their right hands, palms forward, saying, "Scout's honor!"
"Connie, you and your girls are life-savers! Se ya when I get back!" And she rushed from the office.
"See you later," Connie and the three girls said.
Her footsteps echoed down the corridor and receded down the hallway leading to the side exit. Then the door opened, then closed with a woosh and a thud.
Once the coast was clear, the remaining school nurse sprang from her chair, making it spinning as she sped towards the door (left ajar by her coworker on her way to a lunch break and maybe even a date), and pushed the door completely shut and locked it. By doing so, she was breaking every rule in Shad-Row Academy's code of conduct for nurse- and faculty- and student-relations, so she wanted answers from her girls.
Connie then trudged back to her desk and collapsed into the cushion of her chair, folding her arms over her desk, and resting her head in her arms, relieved that her part in the intrigue was over. At least, for now.
The trio of girls traded nervous glances, then leaned forward in their seats, as Colbie whispered, "How did it go?"
Connie raised her head, her bobbed hair slightly unkempt and her forehead soaked in sweat, and said, "Don't worry, girls. I think she fell for it."
All three girls breathed deep sighs of collective relief, leaning back in their chairs.
Connie leaned back against her chair, extending her arms and arching her back in a much-needed stretch to relieve all the tension of an impromptu escapade in the back room of the nurse's office, where she had accessed restricted medical documents on her laptop and had them printed out and hidden inside a manila folder, while her three visitors kept her colleague busy with small talk. While they had her colleague distracted, Connie had crept to her desk and opened the desk drawer as quietly as she could, then slipped the folder inside and closed it just as her colleague got up to leave for her date.
Once she steadied her nerves, Connie reopened the desk drawer and pulled out the envelope and said, “Before I give you this, I need to know what's going on."
“I know what you’re thinking,” Colbie said, “but it's better that you don't know, Ms. Davis."
"Don't go all formal on me!” she said. “I need you three to be straight with me, okay? My hands are tied now, because I'm giving this information to you."
Celia said, "But—"
"No ‘buts,’” Connie said.
"But we don't want you to get in trouble!" Kendra said.
"That's exactly what I mean," Connie said. "You've heard of the reports on TV. The investigation is still on-going, and nobody knows what’s happened to the family or the twins or where they are right now. And," she stressed when the girls were about to protest, "you girls are still minors. If you get in trouble or get hurt, I'll have to notify your parents and explain everything to them and to the authorities. And then," she continued, deflating with another sigh, "the school's gonna fire my ass, and then I'll really be screwed."
Colbie, Celia, and Kendra became silent, lowering their gazes to the floor in defeat.
Connie said, "But I can't answer them in good conscience if you don't tell me exactly what's going on. I need to know." She sighed, then said in a gentler tone, "Please, you don't have to be afraid. Tell me everything you know, and I'll try to understand."
So for the next half hour, all three girls told her everything that happened in their dreams that night, including why Colbie was screaming in her dorm, and why Celia and Kendra were clinging to her and crying, and how they encountered Mara and Nico Cairns in last night’s dream dive.
How Mara ended up back in this place, she couldn't imagine. All she knew upon waking was that nothing will ever be the same without Nico by her side. She found herself lying on the same mattress where she slept with her sister every night in their parents' house. During late hours when sleep was impossible, Mara remembered filling the time between waking and sleeping by playing with each others' bodies.
Nico would wrap her arms around Mara's shoulders, holding her close to her body beneath a thick cotton blanket and a layer of linen over their heads, while Mara would wrap her arms around her sister's waist, and her head would rest over her sister's breasts under the cloth of her shirt, listening to her heart beating. Sometimes Nico would hold a chunk of Mara's hair and tickle her nose or cheeks or the base of her throat, eliciting girlish giggles and sniggers and sudden movements on the bed, and they'd hold their breath and listen to see if their parents overheard.
At other times, Nico would sometimes tickle Mara's sides through her shirt. On more daring occasions, she would dig her hands up her shirt and tickle the flesh between her breasts, or dig under her pants to tickle her butt beneath her panties. Through it all, Mara would bite on her lower lip in the agony and pleasure of repressing her bodily urges, her heart and mind racing at the thought of her parents hearing her outburst of ecstasy, as her sister's insistent caresses pushed her closer and closer to moaning, the closest Mara knew to living on the edge.
And on later occasions, as the marriage between their parents got worse, Mara remembered when Nico would wrap her arm around her shoulders in a firm embrace, pillowing Mara's head on her chest and running her free hand through her hair smelling of shampoo, and staring vacantly up at the ceiling in thought. All the while, Mara would slip one of her arms under her sister's shirt to play with her bellybutton or fondle her breasts, her tears falling across her face and dropping into her sister's skin.
All the while, the storm of yet another fight brewed downstairs between mother and father, both fighting over big things and small things and money and work and the welfare of their children. Yells and curses echoed up the stairs like the screams of hell, threatening to invade their world of sisterly love.
And during one of those times in the silence that always followed the fighting, Nico rubbed circles between Mara's shoulder blades, whispering pretty reassurances that everything would be okay, but things weren't okay. Not then, and certainly not now.
Nico said, keeping her gaze to the ceiling, "You scared?"
Mara, who had been listening to her sister's heart, looked up and saw her gazing at the ceiling, or maybe gazing at something else. In her mind.
"When you look up at the ceiling, what do you see?"
Only then did Nico drop her gaze, now looking down at Mara's eyes, full of wonderment clouded in fear. She said, smiling, "That's for me to know, and for you to find out."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"We all have our dreams, Mara," she said, looking back up at the ceiling. "You'll need to find one for yourself."
Nico was always the philosopher, more concerned with being something rather than doing something, but Mara was more the romantic type, more concerned with feeling things and doing things. As such, they were twins, but they were opposites. They were born of the same loins, but they were two sides of the same coin. While Nico would answer with words, Mara would answer with actions, for actions speak louder than words.
So Mara raised herself up and met Nico's gaze, and planted a kiss on her lips.
They made love for the first time that night.
Connie Davis paused for a while after all three girls told her their dreams, which amounted to ten minutes of them rambling and five minutes of Connie redirecting them back to the topic at hand. It was not much different from police work, she observed, in that cops conducted interviews with witnesses.
In addition to being a school nurse, she studied and researched dreams on her time off from her nursing duties at Shad-Row Academy, and sometimes substituted as a special guest speaker at Shad-Row University, the university-level counterpart to Shad-Row Academy in a different part of the campus complex. To most people, it was odd to leave an academic career in dream research at the famous Dream Research Center at Shad-Row University in favor of a menial position as school nurse at Shad-Row Academy on the other side of the campus, but she preferred it this way.
She had her reasons, though, one of which left her enough time to participate in another area of interest as a part-time private investigator specializing in dreams. She had cultivated this interest ever since she met Kendra’s stepfather, often for consultations to get a second opinion on a certain aspect of a cold case and sometimes for the application of her specialty on the circumstances of a confusing crime scene.
She had other reasons, of course, three of which included Colbie Amame, Celia Hearn, and Kendra Tellerman. Out of all the people who volunteered for her dream research experiments, these three had become her main research guinea pigs.
Hence, they were her 'girls,’ though Connie still debated whether or not she should tell them that two more candidates had indeed volunteered for her program last week, whose medical records were contained in the mania folder she was about to give them. Instead, she hedged her facts and said, "You do know that my research is crowd-funded, right?"
"Of course we do," Colbie said. "You even have us collect the donations at the Post Office."
"So you know," she continued, "that all my volunteers for my research are students, right?"
"Well, yeah," Celia said. "We send out flyers asking for volunteers every week. Did we receive more volunteers?”
“I did, but . . .” Connie said.
“But what?” Kendra said.
“Well,” Connie said, thinking of a way to hedge her facts again in light of the missing details in her own memory of last week over the weekend. “Look at it this way. Since the police have started their investigation of the Cairn family disappearance, did you notice that all of my volunteers have dwindled to just you three this week?”
"Yeah, we did," Colbie said.
"You think they're connected?" Celia added.
"Yes, I do," she said and pointed to the manila folder. "This folder contains the medical records of Nico Cairns and Mara Cairns, the twins you were talking about. If you look at these records, you'll see a connection, but I can only give you the general details to start you off.”
“Why’s that?” Kendra said.
“Because I don’t have all the details myself,” Connie said, “and I don’t want to influence your thoughts. I want you three to be as objective as you can, so you'll have to study these records in detail on your own. Got that?"
All three girls nodded.
"Good,” she said and took a deep breath before making her decision. “Here's where it gets suspicious. After we finished your sleep experiments last week, I received two students who came in after you left. Guess who they are.”
All three girls guessed, and Colbie said, “You’re kidding.”
“I’m not,” she said.
“Really, Mara and Nico Cairns?” Celia said.
Connie nodded and said, “And they wanted to volunteer for this week's experiment, which was originally scheduled for today."
"Wait, seriously?" Kendra said.
"Yeah, I know. Coincidence, right? Well get this," Connie said and leaned forward in her chair, lowering her voice. "I had them give a waiver for their parents to sign to participate in my experiment, because they're minors, like you. They were supposed to be here with us for today’s experiment, but something must have happened to them. I've been trying to find out more from the Metro Police Station, but they're not telling me anything more than what's been on the news."
Connie's smartphone vibrated on her desk next to her computer. She picked it up and saw Roy Dolan's number and answered, "Connie Davis here. What's going on? . . . Where? . . . I see. Did they find the twins yet? . . . Wait, what? You're kidding! I thought it was still— . . . I see. What's got them so spooked all of the sudden? . . . So it's like that, huh? . . . Right. Well, keep me updated when you can. Oh, and one more thing," she added, looking at Kendra Tellerman. “Kendra’s at my office. . . . No, she's not in trouble, and she’s not hurt. She's just taking another one of my dream experiments with her friends. . . . Sure, you can." She gave her phone to Kendra, saying, "It's Roy.”
Kendra's face turned bright red, so when she answered the phone, she said, "Yes? . . . No, no, it's not like that. Just the usual stuff. . . . Oh, I'm fine. . . . I might drop by the Police Station later when I have time. . . . All right. Will do. . . . Right, bye."
The connection clicked off, and she gave the phone back to Connie, saying, "You could be a little more tactful, you know!"
"What?" Connie said, smiling. "It's always nice seeing your face light up every now and then."
Colbie and Celia giggled and sniggered beside her.
Kendra threw them a death-glare and said, "Ugh, shut it!"
"All right, all right," Connie said, raising her hands to calm the situation. "Let's get back to business."
Colbie and Celia stopped giggling, and Kendra began to cool off.
Kendra said, "What did he say?"
Connie said, "They just found their parents' bodies."
"Where?" said Celia.
"They're not telling yet," she said, then leaned forward over her desk and eyed the girls in deadly earnest, "but I suspect it's somewhere in the old Rancaster district. It's the perfect place to hide bodies, since that's the only jurisdiction in town where the law doesn't apply."
"What about the twins?" Colbie said.
"They say they haven't found the twins, because they just got spooked out of it."
"What makes you say that?" Kendra said, concern on her face.
"When I talked to your stepfather, he said the case is still open, but now it's pending review for termination. He wouldn't say why, but I could tell that somebody or something has got the whole police department spooked. So I need you three to find out what happened to them. And if what you're saying is true, I need you to find Nico Cairns' body, too. After that, I want you three to report what you find to the police and let them handle it. Once that's done, drop this detective charade. And," she stressed, glaring at the girls and making them flinch and fidget in their seats, "don't you ever—EVER—ask me to break school policy again. Is that clear?"
All three girls gulped and nodded frantically in their seats.
For the next several weeks, Mara and Nico made love to each other after their parents went to sleep at night, but they had to be sly. They would do nothing inappropriate during the day, and both girls knew why. They had to keep their ordinary familial lives separate from their secret lives. They left nothing to chance during the day. At night, when their parents argued, they would wait till their parents had cooled off and gone to bed, and only when both girls heard their parents' snores and slumbrous breathing would they even consider doing it. And even when they did it, they had to be quick and alert to their parents' shifting on their bed, for it could mean anything from moving sheets to mother and father getting up and walking. As such, they never took off their clothes when they did it, because it was too much of a hassle putting their clothes on when they had no lock on their door. Their parents could barge in unannounced at any time and catch them in the act, and placing a chair against the door knob would seem too suspicious.
And if they wanted to keep their own familial relationship on healthy terms, for both sisters knew they were doing something reproachful to their parents, they had to respect their own boundaries. At night, they would wait till their suppers were sufficiently settled in their stomachs, and even then they wouldn't do it if one of them wasn't feeling well or was too sleepy or just wasn't in the mood. And even when they did it, neither of them would ever do it below their waists, because those were the places where they wiped themselves after using the toilet. That left everything else above the waist, but they placed limits there, too. That meant no biting or squeezing, only mild pinching and tickling and kissing.
Those were the ground rules of their nighttime game.
They even tried to rationalize their actions in their own words one night after a bout of love-making, or 'bed wrestling,' as Mara would blushingly have it.
Nico, always the passive one, lay on her back, while Mara rested her head on her sister's breasts, listening to her heart beating through her shirt.
Nico said, running her free hand through Mara's hair, "We can't do this forever, you know."
"Think our parents know about this?"
Mara raised her head from her chest and shook her head. But then she added, "It's not like we're masturbating or anything. And we don't have any sex toys. We're bed-wrestling, that's all."
To this, Nico said, "Do you have any idea how crazy you sound right now?"
Her words invited action, so Mara put actions to her words. She began kissing Nico's cheeks and lips, then went down planting kisses on her neck. All the while, she fondled her sister's breasts through her shirt, and she made love to her again that night.
The trio of girls entered Celia's dorm, located near the staircases going up and down the dorm building, several doors down the hall from Colbie's dorm. Tall bookshelves lined three of the four walls in her dorm, all of them packed with tomes on the occult, witchcraft, and magic, and a few massive grimoires lying underneath her bed. And thick maroon curtains covered the blinds of the window looking over the courtyard, shutting out much of the light from the outside.
She flicked a switch, turning on the dorm lights overhead, and threw the manila envelope onto her desk facing the curtained window, and they all took off their overcoats and sweaters and placed them on top of Celia's bed rest at the foot of her bed.
Celia shut the door and locked it, then headed back to her desk and opened the contents of the envelope and studied the Cairns twins' medical records for several minutes standing up, thumbing through the pages and pausing on certain details that caught her eyes.
Colbie and Kendra, sitting on Celia's bed, waited for her with bated breath, both giddy to find out what the heck was going on with their fellow student, Mara Cairns.
Celia took two of the pages out and handed them to Colbie, then gathered up the rest of the papers and stuffed them back in the envelope. She then crouched down and peered under her bed, lifted the cover of one of the massive tomes and placed the envelope there.
All the while, Colbie and Kendra looked at the information on the pages.
Colbie said, "I know what PK is, but what's LT stand for?"
"Living targets," she said, getting up and pulling a chair from her desk and sitting on it.
Kendra added, "And what's that mean?"
"It's psychokinesis that affects living targets or living things, like people, animals, even plant life. That's what Mara Cairns has: PK-LT."
Colbie and Kendra traded glances.
Kendra said, "So that's why she overpowered us so easily during our dream session."
"Yep,” Celia said. “I’m telling you, Mara’s an immensely powerful psychic. I couldn't even teleport out of there, because her pressure waves were so strong."
Colbie looked down at her feet and said, "And it took everything I had just to withstand her psychic attacks, and even then, I was at her mercy. She's a monster."
"And," Celia said, "it seems that she can wield all that power through her emotions, since Nico's intervention calmed her down a bit. If Nico hadn't said anything that time, we'd be dead right now, which leads us to Nico Cairns. She has ESP, specifically the telepathic kind that can travel across dreamscapes."
"That's why we heard her voice in our dream session," Kendra said. “Nico can communicate through other people's dreams."
"But there's one more thing, Colbie," Celia said.
"What is it?"
"The way Nico saved your life," Celia said, looking at Colbie through sympathetic eyes. “It’s called resurrection, and I’ve read about it in Christian literature. Do you know which gospel I’m talking about?“
"You mean John's Gospel?"
"Yep," Celia said. "Jesus resurrects Lazarus in that one, but I've never read of an account in which a ghost resurrects someone through dreams or even during sleep."
“Is that what Nico did?” Colbie said.
"Yeah," Kendra added. “She invoked a higher power to save you,” and she looked to the floor, downcast at Nico's farewell message at the end of the dream, “but she may have sacrificed her own spirit in the process. It was really sad seeing her go like that."
Colbie looked at her friends' expressions, and a pang of guilt thundered through her heart. "Wait, you don't mean that she experienced a—"
"Soul death?" Celia said. "Yeah, that's exactly what we mean."
The three girls remained silent for a time, lost in their own thoughts. The death of the body was but a change of state from one dimension to another, but the death of the soul meant the loss of one's own inner self, from which there was no turning back.
Colbie took it hard. If Nico really did invoke God's name to destroy her soul in order to bring her back from the dead, Colbie didn't want any part of it. She didn't want that kind of sacrifice, no matter how well-intended, weighing on her.
Celia and Kendra looked at their friend.
"Colbie," Celia said, "you were given a second chance."
“A second chance to do what?” Colbie said. “What exactly did Nico tell you?”
“She wanted us to find Mara,” Celia said, “but we can’t do it without your help.”
“Are you sure that’s what she meant?” Colbie said.
"Please, don't let it get you down,” Kendra said and sat closer to her friend and wrapped her arms around the girl's shoulders, then rubbed her back in soothing circles. "It wasn't just an act of sacrifice; it was an act of love."
"Love for Mara, not for me,” Colbie said.
"Don't say that," Celia said, getting up from her chair and sitting next to Colbie on the bed, wrapping her arms around the girl who was now beginning to cry. "Listen to me. You showed more courage in that dream than Kendra and I, combined. If there's anyone who can save Mara, it's you."
On the last night in their parents' house, the night when everything went south and their mother called it quits and wanted a divorce after months of arguing with their father over the same old things and one new thing, their mother said, "Fine! Tell them!"
"I will, and they'll know how much of a slut you are!"
Footsteps came running up the steps, their mother saying under her breath, but loud enough for them to hear as she came closer to their door, "Can't believe I married that bastard! Doesn't understand a fucking thing I'm going through right now—"
When Nico caught sight of their mother rounding the bend up the stairs, she closed the door she was peeking past and turned back to Mara, raising a finger to her lips.
"And he's using them to hide behind—fucking despicable!" Then the footsteps stopped at their door.
Both girls tensed, standing where they were on their side of the door, holding their breath for the inevitable, listening to their mother's heavy breathing on the other side.
Their mother sighed, then said, "Girls, may I come in?"
"Yeah," Nico said. "Sure, Mom."
The door swung open, revealing the wreckage that had become their mother. Her face and posture said it all. She had the remnant of tears on her face and in her eyes, now red with repeated wiping and repeated bouts of rage and hatred through endless fights. Her shoulders were bowed, as if she had to carry the burdens of a deteriorating marriage alone, through skirmish after skirmish.
At the sight of her, both sisters came to their mother, wrapping their arms around her and crying into her clothes, saying over and over again that they didn't want her to go.
Their mother wrapped her arms around them, saying, "I don't have a choice, girls. I just can't stand being around your father anymore."
Both girls looked at her, tears in their eyes, and their cheeks wet. They looked up at her with expressions of disbelief and disappointment, expressions that undoubtedly tore at their mother's heart to see.
Nico said, "Do you hate him?"
"No, no. Don't ever think that way."
"Then why are you leaving him?" Mara said. "Why are you leaving us?"
Their mother caved in, and she tried to avoid their gazes. Her face scrunched up in agony over their questions, as if she couldn't answer without breaking their faith in her, giving them another reason to cry, and giving them another reason to be doing what they were doing to cope.
She said, "It's all my fault. I . . . I failed you girls. I'm so sorry, but I just can't be around him anymore. I have to leave."
"Then take us with you," Nico said.
"Why?" Mara said.
Again her face scrunched up, and tears fell from her face and onto the ground. "I can't involve you girls in my problems. But please, Nico, Mara," she said, looking from one to the other, "whatever you're doing to deal with your problems, please, don't lose sight of who you both are! You're sisters, damn it! I want you two to grow up and have families of your own! I don't want you two to be like me! I don't want you two to be alone!"
At those words, both girls renewed their tears, saying that they were sorry, so their mother hugged them close to her, saying that it was okay. It was always okay, even when it wasn't, because that's what mothers do to protect their children from getting hurt.
After that, their mother went down the stairs, opened the door, and left the house with the door closing shut, and a chapter in their lives closed forever in its wake.
Silence fell on the house for several moments.
With tears still streaming down her cheeks, Nico closed their bedroom door and went over to her sobbing sister, trying to console her, telling her that everything would get better, but Nico wasn't her mother. She couldn't endure the way her mother could, alone. And even with Mara by her side, Nico doubted they would last long together.
But she tried her best, anyway. Not with words, but with actions. Placing her hand on her sister's shoulder, Nico kissed her eyes, then her cheeks, and then her lips, while her other hand fondled her sister's breasts through her shirt, and she would have gone on—
When they heard their father climbing the stairs and stopping at their door, but never knocking, then heard a shuffling of feet as if he were taking a seat and leaning his back against the wall on the other side.
They stopped what they were doing, and a silence lingered for several moments.
"I heard what your mother said," their father said, "about you two doing things. Not just anything, but . . ." Their father sighed, not finishing his statement.
Both sisters walked towards the door, but neither dared to open it, but only listened from the other side.
Nico said, "Are you mad?"
"I don't know about 'mad.' More like, surprised, or . . . worried." Their father paused for a few moments, then said, "Was it really that bad—the fighting between your mother and I? Was it really that bad that you two decided to . . . deal with it that way, and not tell us what was on your minds?"
Neither sister dared to answer with the truth, that it really was that bad, that they needed some way to deal with the stress of a breaking family without making things worse.
"You don't have to answer, if you don't want to," he said. "And I'm sure your mother's got her own reasons to be worried about you, but you two are old enough to make your own decisions, if that's what you want. Doesn't matter where you go, or what you do, or how you both live your lives. Whatever those decisions are, I'll still love you. Nothing's ever gonna change that."
His words calmed their fears, and Nico opened the door, and both girls stepped out and looked down at their father sitting cross-legged against the wall, his forearms resting on his knees, looking up at their faces.
He motioned them to get closer, and the sisters dropped to their knees and wrapped their arms around his shoulders, crying into his shirt, saying that they missed their mother, that they wanted her back home, that they wanted to be a real family again.
Their father wrapped his arms around them, rubbing their backs in soothing circles and shedding tears of his own, saying that he missed their mother, too, and that he would try his best to be a better father to them than he had been a husband to their mother.
And for that last time in their lives, at least with their father, Mara and Nico felt like they had a real family again.
While Colbie and Kendra were watching on Celia's bed, Celia pricked the center of her palm with a needle till she drew blood. She then kneeled down in the center of her room and placed her fingertips spread out on the wooden floor, letting a line of blood run down her fingers and drip, then lowered her palm.
Putting all her concentration and will into her spell and into her hand, she said, "Blood on blood, blood to blood, Life is in the blood. Help me find the living blood, help me find the blood of the dead. Help me find Mara Cairns, help me find Nico Cairns."
When a glowing seal of blood roses and black roses appeared on the floor of the room, she raised her hand up to her index finger, pinning the seal in place. She then shifted her concentration to her other hand, placing it flat near the middle of the seal, and in one swift motion she flung her hand wide with all her strength.
The seal expanded and spanned a radius of nearly fifty miles, large enough to cover most of the city of Larkington in its scope.
Celia now broke into a sweat, as she took a short breather to recover her strength.
Which wasn't lost on her two companions, looking on in awe, watching her perform one of her most difficult spells, the signature spell of her legendary grandmother, the Blood Rose Witch.
Kendra was about to say, 'Don't push yourself,' but Colbie stopped her just in time, grabbing her arm and shaking her head. Celia needed all the concentration she could get, and disturbing her now would waste her efforts.
Celia continued her spell, shifting her concentration back to her other hand and into her index finger pinning the spell to the floor. Her spell had its intended effect over the city of Larkington, now shrinking in size over an abandoned district, walled off from the rest of the city, just a block away from Shad-Row Academy.
She said, "I found them."
"Where are they?" Colibe said.
"They're in the Rancaster area."
"Are you serious?" Kendra said, getting up from the bed. "That place is—"
Again, Colbie grabbed her arm and pulled her back onto the bed, then whispered, "She needs to concentrate, so pipe down!"
"She's not done yet, so pipe down!"
Kendra pouted and folded her arms.
Celia continued her spell, placing a second finger (her middle finger) right next to her index finger, then splitting both fingers apart on the ground, focusing all of her concentration in the act, squinting her eyes as if in pain. And over the district of Rancastor, the seal split into two seals, one of blood roses and the other of black roses, both steadily shrinking and zeroing in on the locations of Mara and Nico within the walls of the former district.
When the blood-rose seal located Mara, and the black-rose seal located Nico's body, Celia said, struggling to keep her concentration, "Mara is in the center of the district, next to an old drug store, and Nico is in the eastern part of the district, next to a dumpster."
She released her hand from the floor, wincing in pain, dissipating the spell over Rancaster. She squeezed her hand tight to shake off the pain, dripping more blood onto the floor.
Both girls got off the bed and dropped to their knees beside Celia, when they saw her hand shaking and bleeding out more blood.
"Celia, does it hurt?" Colbie said. "Does it hurt really bad?"
"You want me to get the nurse?" Kendra said.
"No. Just get some medical supplies."
Ever the trooper, Kendra went ahead, unlocking the door to get to her dorm for supplies, then came back with them. "Here," she said, opening the bottle of iodine, and poured it over Celia's hand, making her wince and grit her teeth, as it washed out the blood.
Colbie then opened the bottle of water and poured it over her hand, soothing the pain a bit. "Is it better?"
Colbie then patted her hand with a towel, making sure not to draw new blood, and then Kendra took the bandage and wrapped it gently around Celia's hand, before taping it down.
"Geez," Kendra said. "Your grandmother must've been a really powerful witch!"
"I know," Celia said, inspecting her bandaged hand. "They didn't call her the Blood Rose Witch for nothing."
- Las Vegas
- Foxy, the fluffy butt-stabber!
From Las Vegas, NV, welcome to my profile, RoyalRoadsters! I'm Foxy, the fluffy butt-stabber! I'm weird, introverted, impatient, cheerful (half the time), and friendly. I'm a Catholic, a former college student, a dream diarist, an amateur poet and short story writer and novelist, and a chronic perfectionist, ugh!
Genres I write include dark fantasy, gothic, magical girl, occult detective, action, thriller, horror, genre mashups, LGBT, and a dash of ecchi.
Genres I read include whatever catches my fancy. Who knows? It might be one of yours!