Soulless in Seattle Chapter 2
By Melissa L. Webb
I stood behind the check-in counter of the Hotel DenMark, filing my nails with a yawn. My passion pink nail polish was chipped in several spots and I was in dire need of a manicure. I filed away, trying to give my mind something to focus on.
It was a losing battle.
I tossed the emery board on the counter behind me in disgust and glanced out onto the empty lobby. I was bored. Bored out of my little blonde head. It was a Sunday afternoon in the beginning of February and no one was checking in.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Most of our rooms were full, but no one graced our lobby, lingering like they normally did. No one needed anything. The phones stayed silent.
For some strange reason, everything was calm and quiet, and it was driving me crazy. After all the excitement I had lived through lately, absolute nothingness was wearing me out.
Ever since Christmas, after my parents had gone home from their vacation, things had calmed down in my life. Nothing had tried to kill me. I was learning to harness all the power that flowed within me.
I was also beginning to learn when to use magic, much to my friend’s relief.
Hey, a girl summons one little God and everyone comes unglued. I just didn’t get it. It wasn’t as if I had gotten anyone killed.
Well…coming close didn’t count in my book. Either you did, or you didn’t. And I definitely didn’t.
Anyway, control was good in their eyes. I wasn’t completely out of the doghouse yet, but it was a start.
Moving to L.A. was the best decision I had ever made. I just wish I had done it sooner. But then again, the Fates always knew what they were doing. Maybe I hadn’t been ready to embrace my witchyness until then. I mean, after all, it had taken me a while before I was willing to accept that I was anything but a freak, even this late in life. And trust me, 23 was way late to find out what you really were.
No wonder why I was always trying to play catch-up with my friends. It was only natural.
I sighed as I stared at the clock. I wondered what Van and her sister were doing. I still thought it was strange she hadn’t mentioned her sister was in town. Did the clueless witch that shared her apartment embarrass her?
That thought stung as I contemplated it. But it only lasted for a second. That wasn’t who Van was. She had welcomed me with opened arms since the first day we met. She was my best friend. She’d never let my naïve actions come between us.
Something else must be going on, but what?
My boredom was put on hold as the front doors opened. The girl of the hour was back and I had a million questions I needed to ask.
She hurried to the counter, a worried look on her face.
“Is everything okay, Van?” I asked immediately, worried at the sight of the frazzled pixie. She was normally so calm and collected. The rock to my off-kilter days.
She looked at me, shadows as thick as smudges under her blue eyes. “I don’t know yet.”
“Why? Is it your sister? What happened?” I had never met any of her family, but I knew how much she loved them. It would rip her heart out if something bad had happened.
“Jenny’s worried,” Van told me quietly. “Something strange is going on with her family.”
Her sister, Jenny, lived in Seattle with her husband and son. I shivered at the thought of the child in danger. I could only imagine what Van was feeling.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Van shrugged, the weight on her shoulders taking up far too much room. “It started at their store. Little things. Lights going on and off. Stuff moving by itself. Voices with no source.”
I frowned. Sounded like some kind of haunting. “There’s a ghost in the store?”
She nodded. “Yes, but that’s not the problem. Their store has always been haunted. No,” she told me seriously, “whatever is in the store now is scaring the ghosts.”
“Okay.” What do you do when something scares ghosts?
“It’s spreading. Things are happening at their home. They see things out of the corner of their eyes. They aren’t the only ones occupying their house now.”
She had my full attention. Someone else living in your home? That was the creepiest thing I had ever heard. “So what is it?”
“It’s never more than a fleeting darkness to Jenny and her husband. But…they think it’s appearing to their son, Mackenzie. They hear him talking to someone at night.” She sighed, leaning wearily on the counter. “He’s changed. Jenny says he’s not the same bright, inquisitive 10-year-old he used to be. He’s become sullen, withdrawn.”
Mmm, sounded like a teenage thing to me, but 10 years was a little young to start, especially if he came from a good home. And if Jenny was anything like her sister, it was one of the best.
“My sister is hoping Mac will talk to me. He’s always loved his Auntie Evangeline. He used to talk to me for hours about nothing just because he could. Maybe he’d be more open with me now.”
I looked around us, half expecting her sister’s family to be right there. “So, when do you get to talk to him? Is he in town, too?”
She shook her head. “That’s the thing. She wants me to come to Seattle. Talk to Mac in his own surroundings.”
Wow. It looked like Van was headed north for a few days. “When do you leave?”
“She wants me to come as soon as possible. Jenny’s afraid to wait any longer.”
That made sense. When something was wrong with your child, help couldn’t come soon enough. “I suppose you’re leaving with her today.’
“No. She’s already gone. A Djinn who owed her a favor popped her here and back. She wanted to talk to me in person, but needs to be there when Mackenzie comes home from school. She…” Van stopped, staring down at the counter. “She doesn’t want him to know how serious she and James are taking this.”
Hmmm. Was Van’s sister afraid of her own son? What was going on in the Emerald City? “Well, I guess this means a road trip is in your and Danny’s future.”
Van shook her head. “The high school is testing this week. Danny can’t leave his classes,” she told me, a sigh coating her words. “I’m going to fly up there alone. It’s the simplest way to go.”
Van’s hesitation filled the air. That was the last thing she wanted to do, and I couldn’t say I blamed her. Taking a journey alone, no matter what waits at the end, is always a daunting task.
As I stood there, taking in Van’s despair, an idea suddenly started to take form. I knew I still needed to find a way to repay Van for everything she’d done for me.
Like a miracle, she had risen up out of nowhere to help steady me in my time of need. I wanted to do the same for her.
I was going to go with her.
But forget the airplane. Flying was so passé. We would do it in style. An adventure worthy of a witch and a pixie.
“Van,” I said, holding back a squeal. “I’m coming with you. That is, if I can have the time off work.”
She looked at me, the gears in her head turning. “Are you sure? It’s just going to be a lot of boring family time. Nothing too exciting for the great Maxie Duncan.”
“Oh, come on,” I told her. “I don’t have any siblings. I’d love to experience some Auntie time. Even if it’s only vicariously.”
“Okay,” she said with a smile. “I’ll go book our flights. You don’t mind if we leave tomorrow morning, do you?” She turned around, no doubt headed for her office.
“Wait,” I called, practically bubbling over from the anticipation. “We’ll take my convertible. It’ll be fun.”
Van stopped, turning back around, a smile haunting her lips. “It would only be a three day drive,” she said, thinking it over. “Three days wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference.”
My face lit up as the smile I was holding back came out to play. “It’ll be an adventure. You and me on the open road. Some quality BFF time as we Thelma and Louise it up the coast.”
“Deal,” she said, the smile now full fledged. “Just as long as you don’t drive us off any cliffs.”
“You have my word.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” she teased as she walked away, no doubt to preplan our trip. That was Van for you.
I shuffled through the paperwork behind me. It had been a long winter and I was ready for a vacation. True, this would be nothing like a tropical paradise getaway, but a vacation was still a vacation.
Who knew working 9 to 5 could lead to cabin fever?
I couldn’t wait to go home and start packing. I just needed to take a short trip down town first. After all, a girl needed to stock up on essentials before hitting the open road.
This would be my first time seeing the West Coast in all its glory. It would be like one of those coming-of-age movies where the girl discovers everything about herself while seeing the sights.
It was going to be awesome.
Coastal highways, best friend bonding, and tacky souvenirs. This was going to be the road trip of a lifetime.
After all, when a witch hits the road, adventure’s sure to follow. Right?
© 2013 Melissa L. Webb
THE LEFT BEHIND
By Melissa L. Webb
The jacket sat on the playground, sad and lonely. It had been dropped there as its child made a mad dash to the swing sets, eager to beat his friends to the best swing.
It lay there, being trampled by other children, watching as they enjoyed their fleeting escape from the classroom.
As the bell rang, the children disappeared into the school, leaving the playground silent and empty once again. The jacket remained there, alone, in the middle of the gravel near the swings.
It had been forgotten.
The jacket waited patiently as the day progressed. Morning turned into afternoon, and soon more children passed by.
However, none of them was its child.
Gravel spilled onto the jacket as the children played near by, covering most of it. Still the jacket did not worry. It was sure the child would remember it before the day was over. After all, what would his parents say if he came home without his new jacket?
But, alas, the child didn’t come back.
The jacket was left behind, cold and confused, hidden among the gravel.
A week slowly passed, the days bringing children close to the jacket, but none of them was the boy it longed for.
And none of them saved it.
The jacket soon realized it had been more than forgotten; it had been discarded.
Obviously, the boy and his parents didn’t care about the lost and dirty piece of clothing. They’d probably gotten him a new one to replace what had been lost.
That was, after all, how it had entered the boy’s life.
The jacket was only a thing to them. Something to be used and tossed, like trash under their feet.
But the jacket had feelings.
It was more than just a thing. It was something that wanted to embrace people, keeping them warm when things got too cold.
But…that was over now. Never again would it feel the love as it wrapped its child tight, sheltering him from the raging storms.
The jacket’s heart was beginning to harden. The kindness, hope, warmth and compassion it had once felt was all fading away. The only things left now were sadness and pain. A bitter rage was slowly growing in the hollow of its heart.
How could they be so cold and uncaring? How could they treat something that only wanted to give warmth that bad?
The jacket refused to let itself end this way.
Slowly and silently, one cold night, the jacket pulled itself out of the gravel. It slid across the blacktop and called out, looking for an army.
Things slithered out of the darkness, coming to its aid. An old pair of sweatpants. A rotting left shoe. A torn, empty backpack. A soggy, mangled book. Hundreds of forgotten things rose up, eager to do something about their fate.
The jacket was pleased. As pleased as this new life could allow it to be. It might have been left behind, but it wasn’t alone. The other things knew exactly what kind of rage was coursing through it, because they felt it, too.
The jacket crawled across the schoolyard and out the gate, followed by the massive army of unloved things. It was time to show their children what it felt like to be discarded.
© 2013 Melissa L. Webb
By Melissa L. Webb
I picked a penny off the ground this morning…and it hurt. It felt like someone ran a mini spike through my fingers. I let the coin fall from my hand, gasping in pain. The penny laid there on the ground, sparkling innocently in the morning light.
I glanced down at my hand, convinced I had imagined the whole thing. After all, who gets hurt by a penny?
But, no, I hadn’t imagined anything. My fingers stun and there were dark, miniscule spots on them.
I peered closer at my thumb and index finger. Tiny bits of blood leaked from the spots. I couldn’t tell what had burrowed under my skin like splinters, but whatever it was, was black and ugly.
I poked at my fingers, hoping to squeeze them out like slivers of wood. They didn’t budge an inch and I only managed to make the pain intensify for a moment.
I was running late for work and didn’t have time to dwell on it. I’d leave them alone and let them work their way out on their own.
That was the plan…but plans seldom hold up in real life.
All day they continued to sting. It wasn’t enough pain to think there might be something wrong, but it was enough to keep my mind on them, worrying over it in ways that kept my nerves rubbed raw.
How was it possible for a penny to hurt you? I hadn’t noticed anything stuck to the coin when I picked it up. It was clean and shiny, like it had been freshly minted.
Was it possible that it was some freak mint-made error? Maybe part of the metal had been ragged and splintered into my skin? That might have been the answer. Anything was possible. But it wasn’t something I’d heard of before.
Leave it to me to be the first person cut by a penny.
As the end of my day came, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. I needed those splinters out. The stinging wouldn’t stop and I was worried that leaving them in might cause tetanus.
When I got home, I made a beeline to the bathroom and started gathering up medical supplies. I was going to get those things out of me, even if I had to cut the damn things out.
I got busy digging into my flesh with a sewing needle, trying to remove whatever it was. As I sank the needle into my skin, the dark mass retreated farther into me.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. What kind of splinter crawls away from you?
I kept trying, at both spots, but the foreign material in me kept sinking deeper, avoiding the sharp tip of the needle.
I snatched up a straight razor and sliced in, determined to remove whatever had stabbed me. Just like before, as I made the small incision, the black specks burrowed deeper.
I was bleeding freely from both fingers when the specks disappeared altogether, vanishing as if they’d never even been there.
They had gone deep inside my body, maybe even traveling up a vein. Those strange, moving, black things were now living in my body.
I knew trying to cut them out was pointless. I didn’t have a clue where they were anymore and there’d be nothing left of me if I did.
And I couldn’t seek medical attention. What doctor would ever believe a story like this?
No, those splinters knew exactly what they were doing.
I can feel their stinging pain in me, moving around from spot to spot. I don’t know if they are merely relocating or actively searching for something.
Whatever they are, they are alive…and they have a purpose.
I can’t tell you if they come from the earth or some place else we haven’t even begun to imagine. All I am certain of is that they are here, and someday soon, I will know all their plans…because I will no longer be me.
I will be something new. Something that can destroy our way of life.
They infected me when I held that penny. That is another certainty. They know humans can’t resist money left for the taking. Whatever these things are, they are very clever. They know enough to make greed our downfall.
So the next time you see money left laying around, I would think twice about picking it up if I were you.
© 2013 Melissa L. Webb