Short Excerpt What’s Witch to Do
Judging from the twenty voicemails, and house phone ringing off the hook, I’d say the demon woke up the whole town. Every witch he came within fifty feet of felt him. I know this because it’s in the book right in front of me Auntie Sara brought over. I sit at the kitchen table with Cora curled up in my lap as I scan the pages. She hasn’t let me go since I retrieved them from the office. Sophie was throwing ingredients into the cauldron as Cora watched. I think it was a protection spell. I just grabbed them and brought them downstairs with me into the kitchen where we’ve set up camp.
Adam hands Auntie Sara a cup of coffee, which she takes with shaky hands. Sophie sits across from me staring at her sister, face made of stone. Adam plops down in the empty chair beside me, sliding a coffee cup over. “Thank you,” I say.
He nods. “So…a demon. I thought they were just myths.”
“Says the werewolf,” I say with a crooked smile. It’s all I can muster right now.
“I cannot believe you lied to me,” Auntie Sara says to me.
I had no choice but to tell her everything. “I’m sorry.”
“What do you know about demons?” Adam asks me.
“Not a whole lot. It’s not something I ever thought would come up. They’re rare, at least the kind I think this one is.”
“There’s more than one type?” Adam asks.
“There’s the kind you summon and the kind that just sneaks through the dimensional cracks,” Auntie Sara instructs. “With the latter you get your basic demonic possession. They’re too weak, so they need a host body. The summoned kind is a specific demon. They have specific traits and powers, depending on who was called.”
“What do they look like?” Adam asks.
“Human,” Sophie says. All eyes dart to her in surprise. “He’ll look like whoever gave the blood for the ritual.” Auntie Sara, Adam, and I all share a concerned look, and Cora grasps me harder. “The murder of something innocent, usually an animal, helps open the doorway. It comes out of the portal, looking like a demon. It’s…” She shakes her head and winces. I get a chill. “It’s unnatural. It doesn’t belong here and can’t survive, so the witch gives her blood and it takes human form.” She looks down at the table away from our stares. “Um, it’ll look, sound, act, even bleed like us. I guess it sort of is us. Just…a little more. And powerful.”
“So it can be killed,” Adam says.
“It’s not as simple as that,” I say. “It’s like a psychic on steroids. If she summoned the demon in charge of fire it can make you spontaneously combust from twenty yards away. If it can read in its dimension, it can invade your mind and trap your consciousness inside yourself.”
“And it’s strong,” Sophie adds. “Probably as strong as you. And it heals fast too.”
My stomach clenches again. “What—what else do you know about them, honey?”
“People can’t tell what they are, but we can because we’re from here and they’re from there. They don’t like us because of it. And they don’t like it that they have to listen to the person who brought them here. But they only have to do one thing, and they’re free. We can trap them, though, with sigils and spells. They can’t hurt us then. Not even with their brains. And they don’t like certain smells, and silver hurts them real bad.”
“An—anything else, honey?” I ask, trying to keep my voice steady.
She just shrugs.
I clear my throat. “Okay um, girls why don’t you go in the living room and pop in a movie?”
Cora burrows deeper into my chest. “No, I don’t want to leave you,” she cries.
“I’ll be in here. I’ll be able to see you the whole time, okay?”
“Come on,” Sophie says as she stands. “We’ll watch Toy Story 3.”
I manage to extract the child from my body and get her to her feet. A stoic Sophie takes her hand and leads her into the living room. Oh hell, what on earth am I going to do? “Mona, how did she know all of that?” Auntie Sara asks. “You don’t think—”
“Auntie Sara, that is a not now question, okay?” The telephone starts ringing again, sending splinters into my already throbbing temples. “Can you just field calls for me?”
“And what am I supposed to tell them?”
“The truth?” My brain is swimming. I rub my temples to focus. “Tell them we’re having an emergency meeting in the morning, time and location in an e-mail to follow.”
“Okay,” Auntie Sara says as she stands. She grabs the portable phone and walks out.
I glance at the girls sitting on the couch, then at Adam. He plays with his cup but his weary eyes stay on me. “Are you okay?” he asks.
I don’t know what it is about those words, or maybe it’s his gentle expression, but I almost burst into tears. Tentatively, he places his hand over mine, squeezing it. No, not now. I gasp and cover my mouth but a few tears make it to my eyes. I shut them. Using all my willpower, I push them away. If I break now I won’t be able to pull myself together again, so I do what I do best. I swallow my emotions so deep an archeologist couldn’t find them. I pull my hand away and wipe the stray tears off my face. Problem. Fix the problem first. “Um, what did you find out from Cheyenne? What time did she get to the bar?”
“She was there when I got there at 10:30. We talked until about 12:30, when I walked her to her car. We woke at 4:30, so she had plenty of time to summon it.”
“What did she say?”
“About you? Not a lot. She thinks you’re prissy, unimaginative, and holier than thou. Her words, not mine.”
“I don’t give a shit what she thinks about my character flaws! In between the make-out sessions did she give you any indication she hates me enough to do all this?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t get much out of her, I’m sorry.”
I stand, practically making the chair fall back. “Well, I can’t do much with sorry, can I?”
I can’t breathe in here. I need to breathe so I can think. I stalk into the backyard, taking in huge gulps of air. Instantly, I feel like a jerk. I can’t keep doing that. He is in no way, shape, or form deserving of mu ire.
Even still, a second later he steps outside to check on me. “Mona?”
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m so sorry. I don’t mean to speak to you like that, I really don’t. I’m not normally like this, I swear.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing, Adam. A killer? Now a demon too? What the hell am I going to do?”
“We’ll figure it out.”
“How? I can’t think. I can’t…” Shit, the tears are trying the damndest to get out. I take a ragged breath. “I am so scared.”
“I know.” He steps toward me, and the next thing I know his arms are around me, pulling me into his warm body. Dear goddess does this feel wonderful. He’s so solid and even smells good, like hyssop and soap. “I know,” he whispers. He simply holds me, my head on his shoulder and hand against his racing heart. I just want to melt into him. For a fleeting instant all the world fades except for me and him, and I can actually believe everything will be okay as long as he never lets me go.
But only for an instant. I’m too realistic for false hope. Lust, be gone. I pull away, my back straightening to gain some respectability back. “Thank you. That helped.”
“Happy to oblige,” he says, for some reason unable to look at me.
I step away and turn my back to him. Okay, I can think now. This is good. “So, um, I have a request to make of you.”
I knew he’d say that. “I need you to take the girls away from here. Take them to Jason’s or your house or wherever, and keep them safe for me.”
“That’s not a good idea.”
I spin around. “The hell it isn’t! There is a fucking demon here to kill me!”
“Then you come with us.”
“I can’t! I can’t leave everyone here with a demon on the loose. Just take them and go!”
“I am not leaving you alone here!” he says with enough force to punch through a wall.
“This isn’t your fight.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“The game has changed. It’s far too dangerous around me now. Just take them and go! Please!”
“No. I made a promise and I take promises very seriously.”
I throw my arms up. “I absolve you! Take them and go!”
“No!” Sophie shouts from the door. I turn around as she leads her sister toward us. “If you send us away, we’ll just come right back! We will!” she says, voice shaking. “I can protect you! I can! I know what to do! Please!” She looks at Adam, eyes wild. “Don’t take us away. Please, don’t take us away.”
“Sophie—” I say, my voice breaking along with my heart.
“We are not going anywhere,” Adam says to Sophie. “I promise.”
“You can’t—” I say.
He grabs my arm and yanks me away from the girls, all but dragging me to the other side of the yard. “Now, you listen to me,” he says in a low voice. “You are letting your fear cloud your judgment, and you are scaring the hell out of those girls there. More than even the demon is. Is that what you want?”
“We are not leaving, do you hear me? Do not mention it again.” He takes a deep breath to regain his composure. “Look, I know you’re used to doing everything on your own, but you cannot do this alone. You can’t. So, I am here to protect you and those girls so you don’t have to. But to do that, we all need to be here. Together. A cohesive unit working together. A pack, okay? And since you aren’t thinking clearly right now, I’ll do it for you. If you die, who will take care of them? They need to be near you, a strong you. If they go away, and you die, they will never ever recover. They have lost too damn much already.”
“It could kill them to get to me,” I whisper.
“Mona, if that thing wants them, and is as powerful as you say it is, it won’t matter where they are. It will find them and use them anyway. At least here they have you, and me, and an entire army of witches in this town to go through first. And I will die before I let anything happen to any of you. Do you believe me?”
I absolutely do. I shake my head.
“Good. Then trust me on this. Then we’re sticking together. We will be cautious, but we will not let fear rule our lives. We stick to the plan. We fortify this place and ourselves as best we can, we find who summoned this thing, and stop her. Together. You…and me. I am not going anywhere. I swear it to you.”
I have the strongest urge to hug him again, among other things I won’t admit to. He’s so sincere I can’t help but feel…relief. At least that’s what I think it is. It’s a new sensation. Take me awhile to get used to it. “Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”
“Then let’s get started.” He turns away from me and walks over to the girls, picking up Cora as if it was the most natural thing and holding his hand out for Sophie. She looks at it, but after a second of indecision, puts her hand in his. He leads them inside, off to find a way to save my life.
This time I let the tears flow. Because I can.
About the Author:
Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time, she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.
Tales From the Darkside Blog http://blog.jenniferharlowbooks.com
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