Deep Red, Chapter Twenty-Nine

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July 27, 1970: my mom gave me this journal for my 10th birthday. She told me to write all my important thoughts in it. I told her I wanted a little brother or sister–or even a dog–more than a blank book, and she said, “Cayces have a long tradition of record-keeping through journaling, Bobbi, and you should continue that tradition.” I asked her if I could read her journal and she said no. I asked if I could read any journals by other Cayce women and she said no. I guess being ten really means not getting anything you want, but–instead–you get a blank book where you can write all your gripes about not getting what you want. Grandma Maggie–Grammy–and Grandpa Howard came to the party. Grammy gave me a note and told me to put in my journal and to keep it safe. She gave it to me when no one else was around. I could tell she wrote it today, but it still made me feel special. It said, “Keep looking. Keep questioning.” I taped it under the lamp in my room. Grammy asked me to come and stay with her at Haven next summer. She said I should celebrate my 11th birthday in the mountains…July 27, 1971: this year for my birthday, I got a book on learning Latin. I heard humans get socks, which is pretty much the same thing. Grammy told me not to tell Mom or Dad or Grandpa Howard about the book, though. It’s our secret, she said. Guess it’s better than socks, though I can’t see how. Grammy’s friend, Derek, is going to teach me Latin for the next three weeks–more school. Blech! Then I have to go home and pretend I don’t know it any more, except when I write in my journal. I don’t get it, but Derek seems like a cool guy, and he said if I come back next summer, we can keep learning, and he will let me see one of the changelings change. Awesome…July 27, 1972: Derek told me when he was my age no man could ever tell a Cayce woman what to do. He said I shouldn’t have to listen to my Dad or my Grandpa as much as I do. He said if I was a real Cayce woman, like my great-grandmother, Dorothy, then I would pack up all my stuff and head east. I told him he was so stunned, and he didn’t know what that meant. It’s hard to believe that Derek is older than Grandpa Howard, but he is. Old school. He doesn’t see what happens at home. If I don’t let guys tell me what to do–like when I threw that glass of milk in Jeremy’s face when he tried to kiss me–my mom asks me I dig chicks. If I let guys tell me what to do, like when my dad tells me to clean up my language, my mom asks if I’m feeling okay. It’s like a clash between realities that never made sense to begin with. I’m me. I told Derek that. I’m me, and that’s okay. I’ll move to Chicago when I’m eighteen….

excerpts from the Diary of Bobbi Cayce, translated by Bobbi Cayce.

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

Malleable Nature

When Marlo reached the lobby, Drew was waiting for her.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked.

“I’m your shadow, remember.” Drew managed a weak smile.

“So, you passed the test. What does that mean? Should I congratulate you?”

“In a way, yes. I didn’t give Victoria away when she lied to you, so she still trusts me.”

“Is she right to trust you?” Marlo asked. She wanted him to say no. She wanted him to be on her side.

“Yes,” Drew said. “Because I’m trying to protect you.”

Not “yes, because I’m her puppet and she’s in control of my strings.” Not “yes, because I’m a Counsel Man, through-and-through.” Not “yes, because I’m trying to protect Victoria and the Plan.” He wasn’t just on Marlo’s side. Like Katrina, he was risking himself, his identity, for her.

“I want you to stop,” Marlo said.

“I can’t,” Drew said. “The struggles you feel, the pain, the frustration, the loneliness. I feel it, too.”

“How?” Marlo asked.

“Victoria gave me your blood when you first arrived.” So, Drew was an empath. Why would Victoria have an empath following Marlo around? Wouldn’t she want someone objective to watch Marlo, especially given how emotional Marlo tended to run? “I don’t want to talk about this any more,” Drew said. “We’re going back to your room.”

But what happens if Victoria finds out you’re more interested in my well being than in her plans for me? Marlo thought.

“She moves me to another assignment.”

“You can read my mind, too?” Marlo asked.

“Your intentions.” Drew smiled. “You’d be sad to see me go.”

Marlo berated herself. Why are my feelings always one step ahead of my mind? she asked herself. And that explained everything. “You’ve been reporting my intentions to Victoria this whole time,” she said.

“Yes, and I will continue to do so. I want to be clear. I can’t tell you what you really want to know. I’m Victoria’s right hand, and am under constant scrutiny. We all are. So, please, let’s not talk about this any more.”

Marlo nodded. He was lying, and she would probably never know what the truth was. She didn’t want someone carrying Drew’s limp, dead body into Zoe’s office tomorrow, or ever. Katrina got the light lashing, but it could get worse, and Marlo was beginning to realize the lengths to which Victoria would go. Twenty-one times, Marlo thought. And no doubt the most recent abuse took place over an argument about Marlo. The accusation had cut through Zoe’s tone. Drew wasn’t the only empath, even if Marlo’s powers of perception ran neither so deep nor so specific as his.

* * *

Steve was right about the insomnia. That night, Marlo tried to sleep, but gave up after her clock radio read 2am. She turned on her light and began to read the first few books Steve gave her. The books seemed familiar, though she couldn’t remember reading them. The first one was in Otherworld language and discussed Otherworld politics. The author’s name translated as Justice Cayce. Marlo looked through the books and noticed half the authors were Cayces, and all were women.

The injustice in the Otherworld was staggering. The rulers made Victoria’s run of Haven, of Zoe, and of Marlo, seem like a back rub. Rue Cayce recorded, in graphic detail, the horrors committed against the Otherworlders. Brutal public executions, death camps, infanticide. Almost all the victims were male or male sympathizers. All cruelty was exacted by the consent or hands of their wives, mothers and sisters.

After the third book by Rue, Marlo began to pace the room. Her stomach churned and her mind boiled. In college, the human history of injustice was similar, but there was outrage and successful rebellion. Humans fought for their beliefs, for each other, and against their enemies. It seemed like everyone in the Otherworld was an enemy. Yet the Otherworlders possessed no powers, not like the ones they had here.

Now that Marlo thought on it, volemics in this reality tended to have abilities associated with parenthood. Protection, containment, withdrawing poison, x-ray fingers, healing, empathy. What human parent wouldn’t want those powers? How much better would they be able to love with those powers?

Changelings’ abilities, then, could be associated with Mind and Spirit: eidetic memory, nearly flawless dexterity, strength, and speed, which all translated to hands-on understanding and replication. Invention. How many human scientists would kill for that kind of kinship with knowledge?

In their fiction, humans demonstrated how they yearned for kindred powers: Harry Potter, Sabrina, Tabitha, The Craft, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Every witch character, good or evil, idealized, and/or modified still did not begin to touch the true power of a talented kindred. What if the Plan wasn’t so bad? Marlo balked at her own thoughts. This seemed ridiculous, and completely contrary to who she wanted to be.

And yet.

Humans were evolving, and their obsession with the supernatural indicated a desire to be what she was, what Otherworlders were.

Perhaps, Marlo thought, if I could become influential in the Counsel, I could keep the upgrades from being mandatory. Being exceptional could be optional.

She shook her head, as if trying to shake out sand from her hair, or thoughts from her mind. Too many thoughts. Too much. She stopped pacing and sat on the bed. What the hell am I supposed to do with all this? she thought.

Learn to play the game, the voice said.

Those words echoed in her head for the next few years, because they were the first words the voice said that she truly felt, and also because they were the last words the voice spoke to her.

Chapter Thirty→