Magnolia Lane Plantation
April 14, 2013
Remember me saying things would get complicated after Katie got home? Fuck complicated. Things got ridiculous.
One hour. Just one hour from the start of that ghost hunt, things turned south so fast. My camera and flashlight shook in my hands, and goosebumps on my arms felt like sandpaper.
I mouthed curses as I wanted a candlestick float in mid-air several feet from us. All three candles were lit and the flames were tall and straight. It swayed left to right, slow and ominous. Poltergeist activity is nothing new for me, but I’m sure the Wave did more than infect or whatever it did.
“K-keep recording, this stuff is important,” I said to Alex.
“Important? How about breathing? You’ll jerk that camera off your hand,” Alex said with fear.
Before that asteroid crashed, poltergeist activity is rare to find. The most activity I and other investigators and amateurs find were EMP spikes, disembodied voices in voice recordings, and unexplained shadows in night vision videos. But finding actual evidence before Helen? Nope.
After? It’s a daily dose of weird.
“Poke it,” Alex said.
“Poke a candlestick? Knock off the jokes.”
“I’m serious. Who’s the leader? You are.”
I blinked. “That’s not how it’s supposed to go.”
“You convinced us to come here and you were the one needing evidence. It’s your hunt. Jam a pen at it. It has to be wires, or Tabitha screwing with us.”
Alex was a stuck-up skeptic of the supernatural, even at this time. We knew each other since college, covering equipment issues, video storage, and other repairs. Why he was tagged along he needed a hobby between day jobs. Took me a while to convince him and Frank (my audio tech) downstairs for this trip, that they were getting credit for my theory.
Once magic became real, Alex was still skeptical. Most of all, he had hateful tendencies against terrans. Try researching while not hearing a comment about my sister.
“Seriously, kill the jokes and stop it with Tabitha,” I said. “If you think so, check yourself.”
“Nah up. Not me. You-“
The candlestick darted into the bedroom so fast we yelled.
“What’s going on up there?” Frank yelled from downstairs.
“Don’t come up, we got this! Just stick with Tabitha and Sassel,” I said while Alex and I ran into the bedroom.
We found the candlestick on the floor under burning antique window curtains. I ripped them down as we stomped out the flames. The floor was scorched a little, but I wouldn’t risk burning down a historical landmark, and explaining how it happened.
“Oh man, this is getting too dangerous, Robert. We need to stop this hunt," Alex said.
I stomped the curtains a few times before saying, “This is just a small hiccup. I know it’s freaky, but it’s good evidence. Besides, Tabitha hasn’t charged her mana. We would’ve heard the buzzing by now.”
“Small? Listen to yourself! You’re obsessive. We’ll die if we stay here with the freak.”
He had his reasons and I had mine. Calling Tabitha names was hurtful to me as well.
“Alex, this evidence is important for so many reasons. I’m not backing out and neither is Tabitha.”
“Bringing her was a mistake!” Alex's prejudiced tone was the same as everybody else. I tried my best to convince him not all terrans were bad, but everything from mass media was painting them demonic and nothing else. My sister is good. Take it from me.
“Hey, feel free to run out and abandon us. Just stop giving lip about—“
“A shrill scream from downstairs cut me off, then Frank screamed and told Tabitha something I couldn’t make out.
Tabitha’s screaming got louder and higher. Then the buzzing came, deep in my eardrums and head. Charged mana. Tabitha’s scream was filled with fear to make goosebumps form on my arms. I heard electricity pop, then a familiar blue light came from downstairs. Frank screamed again before a shotgun sound cut Tabitha’s scream then a loud thud hit the ground floor.
“No,” I whispered, “not now.”
“Fucking knew it!” Alex said then glared at me. “Nice job getting us killed, dickwad!”
The house suddenly shook around us. I dropped my flashlight and camera from the jolt that by instinct I grabbed for a bed frame pole. Wall decor and furniture rattled from the quake as if the house groaned like an old man. Some of the priceless antiques tipped off shelves and nails and crashed to the floor.
The quake settled, then I let go, grabbed my equipment, and ran for the stairs.
I was at the top of the stairs when a loud thud and an “Oof” behind me. I turned seeing Alex on the floor face first. An ottoman was under his legs. I remembered the survey earlier and that ottoman was in the adjacent room by a vanity mirror some few yards from the bedroom.
“Alex, you alright?” I asked.
He looked up with a hate-filled glare in his eyes. “Not dead but fine. Get down there and stop that demon before she kills us all!”
“She’s not a demon,” I rebuked and left him behind.
Midway down the stairs, pictures levitated off their nails and attacked me. I blocked three frames with my flashlight coming for my face. At that point, if any of the priceless paintings or photographs were damaged, I couldn’t care less.
I got to the ground floor and the noise grew louder. Frank dashed past me, dropping all his gear. He ran out the main door screaming “I quit!” Over and over, running bast the rental car and down the long driveway.
“Robert! Tabitha’s out cold!” A female voice called out from the commotion.
Turning, my eyes went to the living room at the strongest poltergeist activity I have ever seen. Antiques and books and furniture plated in a vortex of charged mana near Tabitha’s unconscious body. A voodoo priestess-turned-terran was on her back, her white turban was knocked off exposing her black buzz cut and elf ears. On her chest was Sassel, her black cat totem, failing at CPR and swatting her host’s face.
“Dammit, Tabitha, wake up!” The cat screamed amongst the chaos behind her.
I knelt beside them to check Tabitha, making sure nothing hit my head. It noticed she still breathed, shallow, and her mouth moved. I got closer to hear and all I got were whispers in her ancestral African language without her Southern accent.
“Sassel, please tell me Tabitha didn’t have intention,” I said.
“On purpose? Hell no, she bloody did not! Separate to cover more ground. What a brilliant idea!”
“Never mind that.” I dodged a thick book from clipping my forehead. “What happened?”
She shook her head and then said, “She. Got. Scared.” Sassel’s eyes had murderous intent at me. “She got defensive, charged up, and all her mana got sucked out of her. Happy?”
I wasn’t, but my suspicions were right. “All of it?”
“Every last drop. Don’t you dare question a totem’s intuition.”
Why would I? Totems know their terrans, and terrans know their totems. Pure symbiotic relationship since their transformation, and what I’ve heard, since birth. Why argue a totem about the truth?
“Shit. We gotta get out of here. “I’ll help her up,” I said and took hold of Tabitha’s shoulder’s “Alex, get your ass down here!”
I heard a second later Alex’s distraught voice. “Fuck this shit,” he shouted and ran out the door too.
No time to force him to stop, I dragged Tabitha to the door.
The house shook again. The floorboards rattled under my feet, even pushing against my soles trying to trip me. The space between them emitted the same blue glow from the vortex. Not good, not good, I thought, putting puzzle pieces together in my head.
A booming voice of someone—or something—overwhelmed me, a whaling and bone-splitting cry of pain, came from the vortex. Wind came from nowhere blowing objects out and pulling them to the living room.
Charged mana, a viscous gel-like substance, seeped from the floorboard cracks and into the vortex.
It was close.
That feeling of “Get the hell out!” And “See it to the end!” fought within me, but the ladder won. I watched the vortex morphed just as the other stories and videos from others. Sassel hissed at it, but as it faced us, Sassel ran out of the house. I was frozen in place from fear and awe.
Some places were materialized, some weren’t. I could see through its torso. Organs, intestines, and rib bones from two people expanded with each fluid-filled grunt. Its arms and legs were mismatched: two left arms acted as the right leg, while a left foot was its left arm, holding its liver. The stretched head hanging by a stick of a neck looked at me.
Jesus. Tabitha summoned that? Or it summoned itself? I thought.
The Picasso/John Carpenter stitching of a Confederate soldier and slave worker gurgled in air and the house’s foundation rattled as it screamed.
The scream compelled me to find my strength, pick up Tabitha’s body, and run out of the house.
Alex was starting the Jeep. Sassel was in the passenger seat, demanding him to hurry up. I grabbed the back door, opened it, and jumped in with Tabitha still in my arms. My throat felt dry from the heavy breathing and screaming. Alex got the Jeep running and drove, fast, toward the gates.
A loud crash came from the house. Looking back, the monstrosity broke through the door and lumbered after us, repeating those words in a feverous determination.
“Floor it, Alex!” I yelled and felt the Jeep jerk forward.
Once past the gate and an erect wave crystal by the road, the ghost’s body dissolved into the soil under the dim moonlight.
Sassel looked back at me. She was pissed. “Nice plan, idiot,” she said.
I fucked up. I nearly got people killed and I had no clue how Tabitha was doing.
Walsh Estate Winery
April 15, 2013
It’s funny in a sane sort of way these days. The more I learn and accept my terran body, and the magic within me, the more I notice other changes. I’m a morning person now. I’m sure the transformation did that, or my enthusiasm for magic was the reason.
“Done,” I said with vigor to myself. No more tinkering, playing, adding, prodding, or anything else. The project was done.
I started it about a week ago after weeks of non-stop spellbook research to create magical items. I had to call it done, no matter how hard I wanted to improve the design over and over. The mismatch of twigs, paper, hot glue, and black oil paint sigils looked like a third grader’s craft project.
A small cough behind me pulled my attention from it.
“Are you sure?” Arana asked from her perch above the sliding balcony doors. The perch was added with Dad’s help when opening the doors became cumbersome. It was woven from clipped grape vines from the vineyards, then zip-tied to a plywood shelf screwed to the wall. A hole was cut and covered with a two-way cat door.
It was functional for Arana, but even as the figure of my subconscious, the red-tailed hawk totem fussed for not having enough ceiling space.
“How long were you awake?” I asked.
She stood upright, shaking herself. Her glowing blue eyes looked down at me. “Long enough for the mumbling to start. Is it done, Katie?”
I smiled with pride, rubbing my tired eyes. “It’s done, Arana. I’m serious this time.”
And then a sudden thought came to me. Maybe I should make the sigils bigger, but that would affect the amount of mana I feed them.
I tried to not show it. Arana tilted her head a little. Did she notice what I was thinking? Or notice my body language?
“Do you know how early you woke up?” she asked.
“Uh… I can’t re-“
“Three hours ago.”
I checked the clock on my nightstand.
“And you worked past your alarm. You didn’t flinch once. I had to turn it off for you.” Arana sighed. The nightstand had talon marks on the surface. “The meditation technique you learned is becoming a nuisance for me than a tool for you.”
“Which I didn’t do this time,” I said. “I use it to sort what I learn, not create. You know that. I just… ignored it. Honest.”
Arana took a moment before saying, “Will this not blow up like last time?”
“Oh, come on. I learned my lesson.” I stood up from my desk as my knees and tail popped from not moving for a while. “It will not blow up. I triple-checked the alignments and links.”
“And the store won’t open itself. It’s your turn today.”
I didn’t forget that, but the clock reminded me I had to get ready. A hot shower will help keep the tiredness at bay. “Trust me. I got this.”
Arana tilted her head.
“Seriously. It’ll be different,” I said then stripped my pajamas off.
As the hot water fell on me, it relaxed all my stiff muscles from sitting, but I didn’t count how long I was in there. Five, maybe seven minutes, I think. I’m that obsessive with magic these days. Arana could be right about it, that it’s becoming a problem. For years when I was young, I dreamt about magic—practicing and casting all sorts of spells. What else could I do while cooped up in my family’s winery with the business as slow as it is and in fear of anti-terrans in town? Play video games?
Adjusting to this new life was not easy at first. I had to deal with my tail and my clothes. I had my pants altered to allow my tail out below the beltline by a family friend of ours. My ears weren’t a problem but getting them re-pierced after my transformation took weeks to find a reliable piercer in town. Healing after the job took days.
And not just the body issues. Dealing with the public eye was another. Outsiders distrusting the only terrans of the family winery, us stomaching Jaruka’s bad mood days and the fanatic sopping the drama up like leeches.
No matter what you read from the news, not all terrans are bad. Scott and I are examples.
I dried off, dressed in black pants, a green buttoned shirt, shoes, and stainless-steel loop earrings. Glancing at the mirror one more time, looking like a modern mutant elf has its charm.
I walked over to Scott’s bedroom across from mine. Still considered the guest room of the estate, but it’s more his. I let myself in. The bed took up half of the room, leaving space between the bed and the bathroom entrance to the right. The closet was open with a few scattered dirty clothes.
Scott’s comforter covered half of his terran body, his tail flicked with each breath as he still slept. Keeji, his Siberian husky totem, slept at the foot of the bed, on his back, with his tongue sticking out. Even the goofball of the house still makes people laugh.
I snaked to Scott’s right and leaned over his ear. “Morning,” I whispered.
Scott snorted and opened his eyes to me. “Morning,” he said groaning. “Woke up early again?”
“Liar. The ears never lie.”
“It’s hot this morning,” I said while rubbing my ears.
Scott yawned. “Did your room blow up?”
“It will not.”
“Good.” His tail swept over and touched me. Mine touched his and pushed it back.
“I’ll show you once you help me move those cases by the fourth fermenter to the store.”
“How’s your chest?”
Scott felt his bare chest with his hand. The scar was still visible over his sternum. “Painless. Finally.”
“Really?” I asked and he nodded sullenly. Scott’s chest has been healing since the attack at Area 51 and waking up on the alien battleship. Terrans heal fast, but his mana heart was punctured by a Reaper scythe, something I’m still figuring out why it took so long. While I learned and practiced the most, Scott watched from afar. Couldn’t risk Keeji starting up Scott’s mana heart if it won’t hold full pressure.
“If my sorcerous is skeptical, she can examine it.” Scott spread his arms out to make me get a good look at him. Yeah, the strong, muscled chest was getting to me.
I placed a finger over his lips, silencing him. “Let’s start with stocking the Chester Shiraz first.”
It’s a joke play between us, the whole master an apprentice thing. It stuck ever since.
He got up and showered as I left. Keeji was still sound asleep. No joke. If you plop him by Highway 15 he’ll still sleep through rush hour.
I came down the stairs and heard Mom and Dad debating with each other in the kitchen. Mom sat at the bar top holding her coffee mug. She noticed me and nodded once. No hello or good morning. It’s her way of silently saying to me “I’m annoyed.”
Dad was across from Mom with his coffee, facing into the kitchen as Mom, toward Jacob.
“You sure you don’t want to go?” Dad asked him.
“Go where?” I asked.
Dad noticed me and shrugged heavily.
Jacob was further in the kitchen, still wearing his sweater and sweatpants. “I said I’m not going today. School sucks!”
“It’s the same story every time,” Mom said. “Bullies these days will never settle down, we been over this with the principal. Unless something new came up, you’re still going today.”
Jacob was hesitant for a second then said, “This! I can’t take the pain anymore!” and pulled back both his sweater sleeves. I gasped. Dark rings circled his forearms, about nine of them, almost bleeding. “You think Indian burns hurt? How about terran bullies? They still hurt since Friday.”
Ever since we came back home, Jacob has been bullied so much the physical attacks were just showing themselves. The black eye last month was the first, just the fact that we knew the alien up by Lake Skinner.
“Holy crap, can I check that?” I asked, wondering if there was a lingering spell.
Jacob shook his head and jerked his arms away. “No, not you, Katie, you can’t.”
“M-Maybe I can siphon the mana out. Just let me…”
“No. Please, not yet.”
Mom walked past me to comfort Jacob. “Oh, Jacob, you need to tell us these things sooner. The principal will not like this, Jonathan.” Jacob welcomed Mom’s help. He didn’t look back at me again.
Dad was already dialing the school’s number before saying, “Katie, head off and get the store ready, we’ll handle this.”
“Please, Katie. Not now.”
Like Jacob and my parents, they still saw terran magic as a troublemaker than a tool. It’s all thanks to the media plastering those beliefs on every person in the world. Yet, Scott and I are grateful we still have a roof over our heads. I was still their daughter and Scott was still a guest and my future husband. So I let them be.
It rained last night, and the lingering smell was still in the air, calming me a bit. The front lawn had fresh dewdrops, and the purple Wave crystal was wet and glittered in the light. I heard Arana’s squawk as she flew through the vineyards hunting for rodents. Not to eat, just relocate.
I walked to the warehouse thinking about how to help Jacob without scaring him. Something had to be done. The thoughts stopped when I saw the store’s heavy oak doors were wide open, and the gravel parking lot had a familiar alien motorcycle lying on its side.
None of the workers arrived yet, and the store was locked up last night. And the light was on.
“No, no, no, don’t tell me,” I said and ran into the store. “Jaruka! God, if your hungover again, this…Hey!”
A man screamed from the counter after I noticed him, then he threw a glass bottle at me. I ducked before it crashed against the wall behind me. Terran reflexes have their advantages. My arms were already glowing with Celtic tribal tattoos. Energy flowed through my spine, shoulders, arms, and skin.
Looking closer, it was a man in a hoodie, holding an open white sack. Standing next to the open cash register. Good thing Scott added the earnings to the safe in the house last night.
The man cursed, jumped over the counter, and ran for the back door while raising his gun.
But I was quicker. My project was part of my magic practice, and I got better since.
I raised my open palms at the thief and chanted, “Sciath!” I formed a blue-white shield in front of me. Defense magic was the first to get right, honing it to make it strong as steel.
The gun fired three times. The bullets hit my shield. Each one pinged and fell to the floor.
He dropped the gun with utter shock. “P-Please. Don’t hurt me. Please,” he said with genuine fear, almost like Jacob’s
“Sir, drop the sack and get out!” I said. “I’ll still call the cops.”
He was hesitant. He must have snatched other valuables, I thought.
“Sir, drop it!”
“No!” Then the man turned and ran for the back door.
I dropped my shield and focused my mana in my other hand. Any spell could damage the storefront, but I practiced one spell for a few weeks that could settle the issue. Thank you, internet forums.
I aimed my right hand at the thief and chanted "Tarraingt!" It meant pull, but my thoughts imagined a mess of ropes, which then my mana created. The energy streamed from my tattoos and solidified into several blue ropes that shot out and wrapped around his upper torso before he opened the door. I pulled and he fell backward, hard, and screaming. The sack was dropped.
He sat up, struggling to break free from my construct. "Please, freak. Don't kill me. I-I didn't know you were here. I have a wife. I need my fix."
"I ain’t gonna kill you," I said. “I want you to leave.”
He placed his hands together to plea, so scared of me. It's a common reaction to terrans: they see you as nothing but a demon to them. I never wanted to harm him, just stop him before things got bad. Or was he too drugged up he forgot most of the current events?
"Please, I won't do it again. I swear."
"Listen, sir, if..."
Then a shadow from the fermentation hall crossed over yelling "Yah!" and smashed a half-filled wine bottle across the thief's face. The thief dropped to the floor fast without seeing the attacker. I was startled so much my spell withered and dissolved away.
Under the ceiling lights, Jaruka Teal slouched over the unconscious Man. With the lights on, he looked far worse off, like he hadn’t taken a shower in weeks. His skindreads were so misshapen and jagged as swelled tree roots, his face was half-covered by them, with one black eye’s gold iris exposed, blinking at the thief before him. He was clothed, but not cleaned in a while. I picked off fresh dark red stains on his shirt.
“Jaruka, what the hell!?” I yelled.
He looked up to me with a twitching eye, slouching and swaying a little.
He raised the broken bottle’s neck in his hand, then slurred, “Bastard spilled my drink.”
Jaruka’s eye rolled back into his skull as he fell backward to the floor. Snores followed suit.
“Crap. Not again.”