Deep Red, Chapter Thirty-Four

←Chapter Thirty-three

May 19, 1985: Isaak and I moved to Wyoming recently, away from Lucy and the Counsel’s reach. I have masked my absence from the core with feigned grief. I just want to raise my son away from those people…I went to Haven to see Margaret, and Victoria told me I need to minimize my contact with her, stick to birthdays and holidays–of which Otherworlders have four: Yule, Ostara, Midsummer and Mabon, following the human pagan calendar. It’s another month until Midsummer. I don’t know what to do. I contacted Derek and he said to be patient…In the mean time, Isaak has begun developing his powers rapidly, which is unusual for a boy. At five, he can already use his spirit to take snacks from the kitchen, fetch his toys after he’s thrown them into the neighbor’s yard–there’s a Rottweiler over there he’s afraid of–and he lords over the human playground at school. Somehow he has the sense to keep his powers hidden until just the right moments, and he has begun using his spirit to, somehow, strengthen his muscles and attune himself to earth spirits. I hear him talking to them at night, and sometimes, if I listen really closely, I can hear them talk back…June 21, 1985: I brought Isaak with me on this visit to Haven. He and Margaret had not met before, as Kenneth always kept Isaak behind during my visits. I could tell Victoria was upset by Isaak’s presence, but she didn’t say anything. Margaret and Isaak developed an immediate bond–a five and two year old!–and Margaret did cry when we left this time. I know Margaret’s spirit can talk to other spirits. It talks to mine. I wish I could know what it said to Isaak’s spirit, but he said, “Mom, sometimes things are just private.” He’s so precocious. It can be both beautiful and annoying…September 23, 1985: Margaret has started speaking in full sentences, and she and Isaak spent most of this last visit whispering to each other, their  spirits, no doubt, doing the same. I don’t know how those two can be so close so quickly. I must admit a part of me is jealous. I never mentioned this before, but Margaret is peculiar. I look into her eyes sometimes, and I’m not sure what I see. Derek once told me not to be afraid of the unknown, so I try not to be scared of what I see in her. It doesn’t feel dangerous, but, at the same time…December 21, 1985: Margaret does not think much of presents, but she did enjoy the Yule log. She likes coloring, though, and she and Isaak spent most of Yule in a corner together with some crayons, coloring pencils and paper. When the visit finished, they brought me their picture. Somehow, they collaborated on a realistic drawing the mountains, though not the mountains around Haven. I’ve never seen the range they drew, nor the lake in the middle. There was this blueish-green mess coming out of what looked like a crack in the picture. I asked what it was when Isaak was back in the car with me and he shrugged and looked out the window…March 3, 1986: I have begun to wonder if I should continue to bring Isaak with me on our visits. For days after we come home, he is quiet and reserved. He has never been a serious boy. He is so lively and fun. Yet when we leave Haven, he appears to have a weight on his heart. Once the melancholy lifts, he is himself again…Once more, during this last visit Margaret and Isaak secluded themselves, but half-way through the visit, a pair of twins joined them. As the humans do when I go to the park with Isaak, a man and a woman wandered over to where I was watching the children play. The twins belong to Mike and Susie Shinab, who I’ve promised to invite over for dinner. I told them I knew the last name, and they were so excited that I was from Margaret Cayce’s line. They told me about their home, which is also in Wyoming, though it’s a county over…March 18, 1986: As promised, I invited Mike and Susie for dinner. They brought documents with them I’d never seen, though I had seen–and translated–something like them when I was in Montana in 1978. I showed Mike and Susie the translations of my ancestors’ diaries, and so many unexpected pieces fell into place. With only half the information, I didn’t have more than a cautionary tale about how powerful and amoral the Counsel is. Mike and Susie will continue to return every month at the half moon until we can see the children again. We don’t know how long it will take, but we must get the children out of Haven…

excerpt from The Diary of Bobbi Cayce, untranslated.

zoe charcoal

Chapter Thirty-Four

The Nature of Perception

When she returned to her room that night, Marlo set up the easel and the drawing paper she received for her birthday and began etching a charcoal of Zoe’s face. She tried to capture a snapshot of Zoe’s expression directly after the debacle in the temple. Marlo closed her eyes and—against Q’s directives—released her intent to the memory. When Marlo finished, she examined the picture.

Zoe’s eyes were unsettling, as they had been in that initial moment. One eye was that of an survivor, of one whose anger turned outward, though not at Marlo. She was looking at someone or something else. The anger in the other eye, however, turned inward, like that of a victim. Marlo studied some human mythology in college. The eyes were all-important in some cultures, and often multiple beings inhabited a single vessel. But Zoe was not the hybrid. She was just Zoe. Marlo caressed the charcoal around Zoe’s eyes, smudging and deepening the anger. Zoe was a paradox, Marlo decided.

When she heard a knock at the door, she almost knocked the easel over. “Come in?” she said, expecting Drew, though he usually let her be.

“It’s me,” Alexis said. She walked into the room and, before Marlo had a chance to cover up the drawing, said, “Good likeness.”

“Thanks,” Marlo said, bringing the cover of the sketchbook over the picture. “What’s up?”

“I need to talk to you after what happened today.”

Marlo frowned. “What happened?”

“The fight, or sparring, or whatever. I mean, I’m surprised you never tried that before. With your spirit,” Alexis punctuated this last part, no doubt in reaction to the confused look on Marlo’s face. “I’ve kicked your ass all over the blue mats on other days, but…”

“But what?”

“But I don’t think I have the strength to keep sparring you, not in the way you need. Elementals aside, I won’t present any kind of a challenge if you continue to use your spirit as a tool.”

“What’s your solution?” Marlo asked.

“Well, I talked to Victoria…” That never bodes well, Marlo thought. “And she said that Jack would be a good opponent for you.”

Marlo chuckled. “I guess if I fight him, it might give him something more to do than sit in the corner and watch.”

“Not exactly,” Alexis said. “Victoria still wants me to teach you in the new fighting methods. She says Jack will teach you how to fight to win–”

“What’s wrong with that?” Marlo interrupted.

“Against one person,” Alexis finished. “You need to know how to fight at least half a dozen people at once. Maybe more.”

“What the hell is that woman expecting me to do?”

Alexis shrugged. “I couldn’t tell you. And, to be honest, I have no idea how I’m going to collaborate with someone like Jack on your training.”

“What do you know about him?” Marlo asked.

“Just what Victoria’s told me. Judgmental. Bossy. Doesn’t play well with others unless he’s at the controls.”

Marlo shook her head. “I think we’d better wait before making Victoria’s view of Jack become ours.”

“Whatever,” Alexis said. “I figure we’ll take you in shifts. Double your time in the dojo. Q said he won’t be needing to train with you again until after the next full moon?”

“No,” Marlo said. “He won’t. He said, ‘Why teach you control just so you can lose it?’”

“I don’t get that,” Alexis said. “One of the best parts of being changeling is losing control, even if just for the time it takes to become another form.”

“What form do you take?” Marlo asked.

“A bear.”

Marlo laughed. “Really?”

“Really.”

“What kind of a bear? A sun bear?” Marlo couldn’t imagine Alexis as anything bigger.

“When you’ve learned to control your changes, you can become any variation of your core animal,” Alexis said. “I prefer a black bear. They’re more common to this region. I think an Asian bear would stick out around here, don’t you?”

“Of course.” Marlo bit the inside of her cheek and tapped her finger on her side. “Let’s get back to the part of the conversation where I wasn’t being sizeist and slightly racist.”

“Sounds good to me,” Alexis said. “So, yes. You’ll start your sessions with me, and then you’ll practice the moves with Jack.”

“How can Jack simulate half a dozen people?” Marlo asked. Alexis looked at her the same way a lot of unassimilated Otherworlders looked at her.

“Volemics are fast enough to work it out.”

“What if I’m fighting half a dozen volemics?” Marlo asked.

“Unlikely,” Alexis said. “Most of the BKs are kindred and changeling.”

“BKs?” Marlo asked.

“Our enemies. It’s a faction of Otherworlders that splintered from the Counsel,” Alexis said. “You’ll be fighting BKs and the Mirrors, most likely…Once you leave this house. It’s what we’re all trained for, except Jack.”

“What’s Jack trained to fight?” Marlo asked.

Alexis shrugged. “Victoria wouldn’t tell me, but he’s a legend in the Otherworld history books, if you’ve read them.”

“I’ve read them,” Marlo said. “He can’t be the same Jack that fought in the Battle of 1706 or who protected Haven against the Onslaught of 1915…”

“Why not?” Alexis asked.

“Because,” Marlo said. She couldn’t think of anything else to say. It seemed absurd for him to be that Jack. Heroes didn’t take twenty year siestas to guard or watch an–until recently–insignificant kindred. They didn’t get ordered around by people like Victoria. Or maybe they did. Marlo had known since she met Jack that what she didn’t know about him could fill a book. She just didn’t suspect that it could fill actual books. Jack’s role in those battles weren’t his only claims to fame. He was a major character in most of her children’s stories, too. For some reason, this new knowledge made the idea of seeing him again intimidating.

Alexis looked at Marlo, as if searching for some knowledge, but she seemed to come out of the inspection disappointed, because she shook her head and turned to leave.

“Meet me in the dojo at 7 am tomorrow,” Alexis said. “We have a lot to do.”