– The Vision of the Initiation of Hecate:
The Redemption of the Woman of Witchcraft by Love.1 –
“The fear that eats me inside is like a dark monster with blazing eyes.
Its roar paralyzes my heart, its breath freezes the air that I breathe,
its claws burn and tear at my muscles, rendering them useless and shaky...
I feel it alive, pulsing, growing... Its food frail and tired Soul.”
The rest of the week went by rather peacefully, especially when taking into consideration I had a monster, evoked through a Magic Circle, as a cousin.
As to be expected, Rachel started preparing for her departure, which would take place on Sunday, and was even busier than usual. Still I'd never seen her more excited about something, and more that once I found myself smiling as I watched her, thinking that she almost looked more like a child, to whom someone had promised a big party, than an adult about to leave on a long business trip.
As for me, the next days were brightened up by my daily talks with Michael. I returned the book he'd lent me and let him borrow one of mine in return. In truth I wished that, by reading it, he'd learn a bit more about me, the same way I'd learned about him. So I carefully pondered and chose a poetry book that was slightly romantic but not exclusively, and was beyond myself with happiness when he accepted it and promised he'd read it during the weekend.
I spent Saturday shopping with Rachel in a very feminine mother-daughter date that would have to last as a reminder for the next weeks. Of course she made a point to assure me she'd be back on Easter break, which was just a few days away. But, somehow, I thought it unlikely.
When we returned home it was already dark. We were both tired and our arms filled with bags. But the moment we opened the door a delicious, mouth-watering smell greeted us.
Rachel rushed to the kitchen as I stood by the door in disbelief. Gabriel had cooked us dinner.
We ate to the sound of my mother's praises while I suspiciously sniffed every forkful. And yet I just couldn't deny that his baked fish was simply scrumptious.
Before going to bed we helped her with her suitcases, since she would have to be at the airport at eleven-thirty in the morning, and I received the tightest good-night hug of my entire life.
I didn't sleep much. I'd been trying to keep her departure out of my mind as much as possible, but now, the night before it really happened, I couldn't help feeling anxious, wondering if I'd really made the right choice.
Since I could hardly get any sleep, as morning arrived I could easily heard the alarm clock coming from the next room. And so I got up, putting on the first thing my hands found on top of my chair, and hurried downstairs to make breakfast, certain she'd take a bit longer than usual. When Rachel finally came down, the toast was ready and I was vigorously stirring some scrambled eggs.
The three of us sat at the table and Rachel began enumerating her long list of recommendations — Be careful with the door and windows; Don't forget to water the plants; Don't forget to call Dad at least once a week (Gabriel should call his mother); Don't forget to reply to the e-mails she promised to send on a daily basis; Always keep our cells close by, since she'd already entered her contact number in France.
I sighed during the endless roll. Gabriel nodded obediently at every new task Rachel remembered.
When we finished breakfast it was almost nine and the taxi we'd booked the day before was already at the door. A paunchy man came out from behind the steering wheel to help Gabriel with the suitcases while Rachel hugged me tightly, leaving me lost in her warm embrace.
"Anything happens you tell me right away! I'll immediately leave everything and jump on the first flight home," she assured me in a choked voice and I took a deep breath to keep myself from being dragged down by her emotions.
"Everything will be fine. And you'll be back in a few weeks, right?" I reminded her and she nodded, smiling.
"You're my dear girl!"
"Jesus, mom! You almost sound like you'll never see me again!" I criticized her and she released me from her tight embrace.
"That has nothing to do with it!" she retorted, caressing my face. I smiled trying to erase part of the preoccupation I saw in her eyes. "Take good care of yourself. Every now and then I'll be depositing money into your account, but if you need more just tell me."
"All right. Anyway, we'll be talking to each other almost every day, right?"
"Blessed be the Internet!" she agreed and the sound of the trunk closing told us that our time was up.
"You're sure you don't want me to take you to the airport?" I asked, suddenly wanting to extend the time we had together as much as possible, but she shook her head.
"I hate airport farewells," she told me and kissed me gently on the forehead. "Be well, dear."
"Have a safe trip. And call as soon as you arrive!" I reminded her and she turned to Gabriel.
"Anything just call me, okay?" she asked, placing a hand over his arm to reinforce her words and he nodded.
"Don't worry, Aunt," he replied in that velvety voice and I held my breath when I saw him lean over to place a kiss on her cheek. The mark on my wrist burned at the reminder of how painful his touch could be, but the kiss he had given her had been just a Human kiss. Rachel replied with a smile and entered the car.
I watched as she instructed the driver and then waved goodbye as the taxi took off.
I stood there, watching it drive down the road, and even after it was gone from sight, and only returned to the real world when Gabriel walked by me to go back inside.
I breathed heavily as I considered the possibility of running away from home, and sighed at how foolish my idea sounded, ending up following him and closing the door behind me.
I stood by the door for a moment, trying to incorporate the idea that my mom was really gone, and then raised my head, gathering all the anger I felt for him in order to round up enough courage to march towards the living room. I stopped again by the door. He was tranquilly sitting on an armchair, his elbow on the wide arm, head resting on his white and elegant hand. He was looking towards the open window as if watching something interesting, but when I followed his gaze there was nothing outside but naked treetops against a dark-gray sky.
"Are you ..." I started, trying my wits about me. "Are you staying here?" I asked and he sighed, turning to face me.
"Again back to the questions?" He sounded bored and I bit my tongue.
"Am I not allowed?"
"Sure. Sure you are," he replied softly. "I, on the other hand, might not answer." I allowed myself a moment to breathe and decided I wasn't about to give up.
"So? Are you? Staying," I insisted.
"Does that mean you don't want me here?"
I clenched my fists so hard the nails bit into my skin.
"That's right. I don't want you here!" I confirmed and he smiled, looking amused.
"Interesting. And I'm sorry to disappoint you. But I can't stay anywhere else."
"Why? Because ... of the Contract? Are you afraid I might runway or something?" I tried to guess and he raised a thin eyebrow.
"Runaway? You couldn't even if you tried. I'll always find you," he replied in his smooth tone and I couldn't help shivering, the air around me growing colder. That was the voice of the monster, different from the voice he normally used with Rachel or with my friends at school.
"Then why?" I insisted and his smile became more intense.
"You really do want me out of here." He acted like that was the funniest part, and I frowned, annoyed at the certainty that he was mocking me. "I can't. Not now, anyway. Why?" he anticipated my question and I closed my mouth as he went on. "Because the Circle is here. Yes, the Circle you raised."
"But ... it was destroyed," I argued and he took a deep breath leaning backwards.
"Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there," he pointed out, and I remembered that, in the beginning, others also hadn't been able to see him, although he'd definitely been there to torment me! "Any more questions?" he asked, looking at me sideways and I averted my gaze.
"Yes, but you won't answer them."
"If it's about the Contract, the only thing you need to know is what we both agreed upon," he stated dryly and the harshness of his voice made me take a step back.
Everything was silent for a moment, until I decided to take that chance — since I was still able to think clearly — to ask him some of the questions that had been tumbling around in my head for the last few days.
"Do you ... do you really need to eat?" I stammered and his black eyes opened wide as he stared at me in complete disbelief. Then his laughter filled the room, making me jump, and I couldn't help realizing that that was the first time I really heard him laugh. The sound was deep and rich, making my eardrums vibrate, and all thought escaped my mind for an instant.
He looked at me, noticing that I remained serious and unmoving, and took a deep breath, running a hand over his face.
"All right," he sighed, sounding as if he'd just conceded to some silent agreement, and rested his head on his hand once again, seeming to gather enough patience to give me a reply. "To tell you the truth, no." My mind took its time to realize he'd just answered me. "But it's something ... interesting to do," he added and I asked myself what 'interesting' ameant to him, since it was a word he seemed to use quite often. And yet I couldn't find the courage to ask it out loud, fearing his reaction. Sure, I was proud of the small tolerance I'd been able to develop to his presence. But I didn't want to push it beyond my limited ability to deal with it.
"And to sleep?"
"Not always. In other words, not as frequently as you. But I'd have the say, yes, I do need to sleep," he clarified with a cold smile. I breathed in and out a few times to focus my mind on what was important and to ignore the fear that grew inside me like a dark wave I couldn't control.
"My mother? My friends?" I muttered and he watched me for an instant, trying to decipher my question.
"Oh, nothing much. I just manipulated their memories a little bit," he explained in such a matter-of-fact way that it made me sick. "I'll put everything as it was once our business is finished."
I nodded. That much I'd already gathered and so I went on to my next question.
"And you, now? An illusion?"
"Me?" he inquired looking at his own hand as if it could hold the answer. "Ah, you mean if the me you see right now is an illusion?" I nodded. "No. What you see is real."
"But ... you're ... different."
"I see." He stood up, making me step backwards as fast as I could until I hit the doorframe. "It's not an illusion. This just isn't my true form." He remained completely at ease and closed his eyes. And right before my perplexed gaze his hair began to move, as if a breeze rippled through its dark strands, and started to slowly grow, as if it had been tied and folded all that time. The shiny locks fell softly over his shoulders, sliding like dark water down his chest and back, and over his waist line. And when he opened his eyes again, they weren't black any longer, but crystal violet instead.
My legs shook uncontrollably and my knees buckled. Before I could understand what had happened, I was already on the floor, staring at him in pure terror, as he smiled softly, running a hand down his long hair.
"I better not bring out my wings. I'm not in the mood to rebuild your living room." His look suggested it was the furniture's fault for being of such poor quality, and I noticed I'd stopped breathing. He looked at me for a moment and seemed slightly annoyed. "Tsk. Had I known you'd be left in that deplorable state, I wouldn't have shown you any of this," he remarked as if someone had just stolen his favorite toy, and sat back on the armchair, looking outside once again, as if those treetops had suddenly more interest than me.
For a while, after he went quiet, all I could hear was the crazed beating of my own heart. Then, as the raging thunder started to slow down, all that was left was my heavy breathing. I made myself count as I breathed in and out repeatedly, and gathered enough autonomy to look away from the nothingness I was staring into to look at the monster sitting in my living room.
He remained completely unmoving, that perfect statue once again. His violet eyes had a slight glow about them, reflecting the light coming from the window, bringing life to that inhumanly beautiful face. This was the image I recalled from that horrific night. The hand in which he rested his head was the same that had almost choked me to death. But, even though his hair had grown longer and his eyes had changed color, he was still the same. The same creature I'd been able to talk to just until a moment ago. The same that had shaken hands with half the girls at school and had just kissed my mother's cheek.
I frowned. Why should I be more afraid of him now? Just because of two insignificant changes! There were still things I wanted to ask him!
"Where ...?" I begun but my lips moved silently without uttering a single word. I pressed them together and swallowed, taking a deep breath to try again. "Where ... did you come from?" I managed to whisper and his unmoving face was once again taken by surprise. Maybe he'd thought I wouldn't be able to speak again, and that I would just sit there like a broken doll.
"Because you want to send me back?" he responded coldly and I couldn't help shivering. In truth I wanted that more than anything. And who could blame me? However, that hadn't been the reason behind my question.
"Um ..." I cleared my throat and tried to explain myself as best as I could. "The ... book," I tried, making use of all my self-control, but the fear that he might get angry was like a rope tied around my neck.
He sat silent as before, trying to understand what I meant with my few mumbled words, and I thought I saw him frown.
"If you're asking me if I came from the book, the answer is no. That book is just a bunch of paper like all the other books lying around," he answered dryly.
"But what then?" I insisted, wondering if it was a good idea trying to pursue the matter.
"The spoken word has a great power. One that most of you foolish Humans ignore." I tried as hard as I could to make sense of what he'd just told me.
"Are you saying that even without the book ..."
"In your case you can even say that that book saved your life. If not for that Protection Circle, you'd most likely have been torn apart by the strength of the words, since you're not even a Magic User," he added with some despise.
I didn't quite understand, except for the fact that the Circle that, until then, I'd thought completely useless, had actually saved my life.
I hesitated before voicing my next question. I dreaded him liking it even less. Maybe he'd end up destroying the living room after all, or worse, the entire house. But not me. He couldn't harm me, right? I repeated that same thought a few times in my head, as if it were some Magic Spell.
"And die? Can you?"
He half closed his eyes until they were nothing but two thin slits. And if he did feel angry, he managed to restrain it perfectly. Unlike the fierce blazing violence that emanated from him every time he got mad, the air around me seemed to grow even colder.
"I can," he answered in his deep voice and for a moment those words filled the room. "However, it's not something none of you Humans can hope to accomplish before I tear you to pieces." This time his words were clearly a threat and I was sure I would have fallen on my knees hadn't already been on the floor. He stood up with a frightening fast movement that made my heart jump, and I cowered against the door frame. "And enough of this game. I'm going out." Before I could say anything else he disappeared right in front of me, leaving in his place a soft rain of shiny dark dust.
When I returned to my senses, I dragged myself to the kitchen and put two frozen pizzas in the oven. I didn't feel like cooking, a strange emptiness filling me inside, leaving my mind in blessed silence. I sat on a chair, arms on the table, and waited.
I'd learned a few important things, and as much about him as about myself. Above all I had come to understand I'd never be able to get rid of him on my own. He was not some spirit one might exorcise. He was flesh and blood, able of the most basic human activities, including dying. And yet, he was far from being Human. That last fact had become especially clear in my mind. Since the night I'd evoked him he'd become my cousin Gabriel. And the ease with which he had mingled in with the Human world had almost diluted the truth. He was, nevertheless, the same from that night. The same creature with dark, long hair, violet eyes and wings of destruction.
At that moment I had only one last idea of how to find a solution to my problem — I'd have to go back to that store, hoping to meet that old woman again. With some luck she'd be able to tell me a bit more about the matter.
It was only after the pizzas were ready that I noticed I had made lunch for two.