The GatheringFandom (is so, include details) or Non Fandom?:
Non Fandom (ie. Original)Chapter Number:
M (due to language & adult content... not entirely sure where this thing is going)Summary:
In 1692 a group of witches sacrificed their powers to prevent death. Almost 3.5 centuries later, these powers have befallen new generations. Those that would be heroes are lost. It is up to those who are left behind to save themselves & the world they're in.Author's Notes:
This is nowhere near finished... (And a mighty TBC!!!)Chapter Nineteen
Penny raced down the stairs, turning the corner sharply and bolting towards the ground floor. She could hear him behind her, pursuing her, but this time she had been quick enough to escape his grasp. Riddled with fear she paused at the base of the stairs, looking around frantically to determine the best direction to go. Hooking left and then left again, she ran blindly until she came across the basement door. Ripping it open, she dashed down the wooden stairs, feeling her way down the rail in the darkness as her feet clattered over each step. Reaching the bottom she swung to one side and hid beneath them. The light clicked, glowing above her now and illuminating the room, exposing everything. She hadn’t heard him come in but she knew he was there. She scooted back, trying to conceal herself further, and bumped into something soft that moved. Thinking she may be able to hide behind it, she looked towards the object and had to cover her mouth to keep from screaming. It was Christian. His body sat limply against the wall. He had been down here all this time. His eyes were empty sockets, blood streaking his pale and gaunt face. His forearms had been sliced open, just like hers, only no-one had known where he was to help him. Nausea took over and she had to turn away to keep from throwing up at the sight of him.
Her heart pounded louder as she saw David’s boots appear partway down the stairs. She almost believed he could hear every beat that sounded in her chest until the moment he turned and headed back up. Shaking, she silently counted to ten in her head before slowly inching her way back out, her eyes fixed on the stairs above and purposefully directed away from her dead cousin.
She heard a rattle behind her and froze. It sounded again. Reaching around the floor before her she tried to find something heavy she could hit him with or at least throw at him. She found a wrench. She didn’t know why it was there, but conveniently it was. Picking it up, she lifted herself quickly from the ground and spun, her straightened brown locks flying across her face as she turned… and found nothing. The washing machine shuddered again, recreating the noise she had heard. She had to wonder who had put the washing on. And then she saw the darkness, spreading from beneath the machine, pooling out towards her. It was like blood, but not. The Shadows. The Shadows! The pool spread much faster than expected, and was much thinner. She didn’t realize it was liquid until it splashed against her sneakers. She didn’t realize it was water until she felt it reach her ankles. Contrary to what she had expected the water was freezing cold and rapidly rising. It made no sense that so much water would come from the washing machine. It had to be magic.
She stepped back onto the stairs, knowing her only choice was to leave via the basement door. He was doing this, she knew it. He was making her choose – either drown or come out and face him. Not willing to face her own death just yet, she turned and raced back up the stairs, taking hold of the handle and turning it. It wouldn’t move. Gripping with both hands, she tried again. It slipped under her hands. Interlacing her fingers, she pulled and tugged but the door would not come unstuck. She looked back over her shoulder. The water had risen three quarters of the way up the stairs. It was happening too fast. If she didn’t get out now, she would be beneath water in minutes.
“David!” she screamed, slapping her hand against the door as she tried to haul the door open again. “David, let me out!”
A chill reached her skin as water surrounded her ankles, seeping into her shoes and turning them into sponges. She wrapped her right hand around her left and tried the door once more. The only impact she had was to create an impression of the handle within her palm. She shook it violently as the water rose to her knees. Desperately she beat both hands against the door, her voice rising with urgency and pitch.
“David! David, please!” she pleaded. Her flat palm balled into a fist as she beat the door again, pressing her head against the wood, hoping to hear him return. The water rose to her waist. “Don’t let me die, David. Don’t do this. Don’t do this.”
A penetrating light caught her eye, shining off some distance to her left. She heard a voice softly calling her name. She had to tread water to keep her head above the surface now that the room had almost completely filled. She thought she would die but this new sound, this new sight, gave her hope. She swam towards it, found herself a window so narrow she did not believe she could squeeze through it, but somehow she did. With a little help from a guiding hand – her father’s guiding hand. She didn’t feel wet anymore as she stood on the grass outside beside him, staring at his figure in disbelief.
“Daddy?” she queried.
“Hello, Sugar Plum,” he replied.
“You can’t be here!” she exclaimed.
“I’m here, honey. I came to protect you.”
“Where have you been?”
“Somewhere very dangerous,” he explained. “I was tricked by some bad people and they took me away. You have to get away from here. Get in the car.”
Suddenly she felt very small, like she was eight years old again. He spoke to her as if she were still a child, and he seemed to tower over her like any tall adult would. He took her arm and pushed against her backside as he rushed her towards an awaiting vehicle. Everything was moving too fast and she felt like she could barely keep up. The car door was open, waiting for her as she climbed inside. Her father closed it and took a step back. The car felt bigger than it should have, the windows only seemed to begin where her eyes were and she could barely see him through them. He waved as the engine started and she realized he was not coming with her.
“No!” she protested.
She pulled at the lever on the side of the door and tried to push the door open to get back out. It would not move. It stayed closed as if the child’s lock had been activated. Glancing towards the driver’s seat, she saw that David was the one seated beside her - one hand on the keys in the ignition and the other on the steering wheel. She tried to grab for it but only managed to hurt her hands as he raised his protective shield, encompassing him and everything on his side of the car. She turned back to the door and tried to escape again, twisting to kick a foot against the glass of the window. It would not shatter. She felt the car moving backwards and turned again, looking out the window towards her father, beating on the glass.
“Daddy, no! Don’t let him take me! He’s going to kill me! Stop him, daddy! Stop him! Please!” she shouted.
Her cries fell on deaf ears as her father continued to stand and wave as if nothing were wrong. David depressed the accelerator to the floor and she screamed, knowing that while the force field he’d activated would protect him, she was the one who was going to suffer the moment the car impacted with something. And that very object was coming up now…
Penny gripped the bed as she jerked awake. Her heart thundered in her chest, her eyes searching the darkness around her as she familiarized her surroundings. Brushing a hand over her sweaty forehead, she rolled to one side and grabbed the round cushion which sat on her bed, holding it tight to her chest as she curled into a ball.
Waiting until she had managed to calm herself down, she flipped the sheets back and stepped out of her bed. She wouldn’t be able to sleep again. She had barely slept the entire week. This was the fourth nightmare she’d experienced in moments when she could close her eyes. And with every day that passed without incident, now that David had been missing in action since he’d last attacked her, Penny’s nights were filled with torturous dreams.
It took her two attempts to switch on her desk lamp as she remembered the way he had transformed all the cords into snakes. Despite not having been bothered by him recently, the memory still lay fresh in her mind. With light brought relief and she eased herself into the chair, lifting the lid of her laptop and turning it on. Clicking her connection to the internet, she logged into her online email account. The only new message she had received was from Rain.Hey! Just letting you know Professor Paterson rescheduled our exam for the end of this week. Hope you’re ready for it. He’s changed all the questions because he thinks some people would have grabbed copies of the first exam and studied their little hearts out until his announcement. Yeah, right! Like that was something we were all hanging out to hear.
Anyway, hope you’re feeling better. I’ll definitely b there 2morrow.
C U L8R
Penny rolled the mouse to the bottom of the screen, the cursor on the taskbar revealing it was just a little past four in the morning. It already was tomorrow. Her uncle’s funeral was today. Everyone would be coming to show their support. Everyone would be there to mourn Michael’s passing. And she would be spending another day afraid and upset.
She opened the file on her computer where her study notes were typed, trying to take her mind off things. The words blurred into one another, making little to no sense within her tired mind. She lowered her face into her hands, her fingers digging into the crown of her head. She couldn’t focus. She couldn’t think of anything else. The memory of what had happened to her, the feeling of fear that every dream since had inspired, haunted her. Her uncle’s death only served to weigh heavier on her emotions. She did not need the added strain of an important exam. She did not need to be worrying about when David would walk through her bedroom door again. She didn’t need to believe that Christian was dead as her dreams tried to persuade her, that he was never coming back and she was stuck, alone in this world with the one family member who had no hesitation in hurting her.
She slammed the lid back down on the laptop, tears of frustration forming in her eyes. After a moments pause she grabbed the lamp, the laptop, and everything within the path and swept the entire contents of her desk onto the floor. It crashed as her anger subsided and she began to cry. Lifting her hands, she covered her face, silently sobbing and wanting more than anything for somebody to suddenly appear, embrace her and tell her everything would be okay. The stillness of the early morning was the only comfort she received.* * *
“So I guess all those online posts and paper notices did nothing to bring Christian back,” Rain said as she followed Penny into the house.
“No,” Penny answered. “Who would be morbid enough to check the obits everyday anyway?”
Rain searched the room. Her eyes locked onto David standing on the other side of the lounge, leaning against the fireplace mantle with framed photo in hand. She looked pointedly back towards Penny. The taller girl shifted uncomfortably.
“You have such a love hate relationship with your cousins,” Rain remarked.
“I was hoping he’d stay gone,” Penny said. “I haven’t seen him in days. Except… in my dreams.”
“You don’t get to say ‘in my dreams’ unless it’s a good thing,” Rain said. She paused, feeling she needed an addition to her statement. “Or something you want. Neither of which does torture fall into.”
“He hasn’t said a word,” Penny observed.
“Aren’t you glad? He usually doesn’t shut up. No, wait, that’s Chris. David’s the brooder. And he’s brooding. So I think he’s being totally in character,” she said.
“Hey,” Justin greeted gently as he rounded Penny and placed a hand high against her back, her soft brown hair beneath his palm. He glanced down towards her shoes. “How’s your ankle holding up? Service wasn’t too long, was it?”
“No, it’s fine,” Penny said.
“We could have had more singing,” Rain interrupted. “I think more singing was in order.”
Justin smiled. “I think it was simple enough. He wouldn’t want to draw attention.”
“Oh, Penny, I’m so sorry,” Alisha said, her son stepping aside as she pulled Penny into a tight embrace. Penny closed her eyes and relished the affection, having received none at all for some days. “I don’t know what I can do.”
“Please don’t tell me anything,” Penny replied. “Only if it’s good news.”
Alisha drew back, gripping the young girl’s arms and glancing back over her shoulder to her husband who had managed to drag her son away, quietly talking to him in another part of the hallway. She fixed her eyes on Penny’s.
“You are stronger than you feel right now. And he is going to stand by you, always. But sometimes a girl has to pick up her shoes and walk across those hot coals in bare feet to make it right,” Alisha advised.
“And sometimes a girl has to realize that’s insane and walk around the other way,” Rain piped up. She nodded towards Penny. “Believe me, I saw it in Tahiti. I am not blistering my feet for fun.”
Penny suspected Alisha wasn’t being as literal as Rain had taken the words of guidance, but was more or less telling her she could stand on her own two feet if she tried. And perhaps there was a need to. She had to learn how to proceed in her life without having someone to fall back on, without having to run to someone else to get help. She needed to learn how to handle things on her own.
“Rain, right?” Ashley asked, taking the short girl’s arm and pulling her to one side.
“Hey, fire boy, hands off!” Rain smacked his hands away. “What are you doing?”
“Trying not to disturb the emotional support group,” he returned. “Where are the drinks?”
“Do I look like bar staff?” she asked. Only having met briefly a number of times at the university and the club her parents now owned, Rain sighed indignantly in realization of where the conclusion came from. “Fine, okay, out here.”
She walked to the kitchen without waiting for him. Taking two long strides, he barely managed to catch up to her. She may have been short, but she was certainly fast on her feet. The bottles of red and white wine had been set in ice and she pulled two of them out of the container, placing them on the bench for him.
“Go on, take. Drink yourself silly,” she said, waving him away.
“You know, you don’t have to be so rude,” he remarked.
“Me? Rude?” She laughed. “You were the one who dragged me away from my conversation!”
“It wasn’t your conversation. It was Penny and Mrs Bell’s. You just happened to be there,” he said.
“What? Cause I’m short, I don’t matter?” she questioned, pointing at herself with two index fingers.
“I never said that,” he claimed. “You’ve got an opinion on everything; you won’t let people ignore you.”
“At least I have an opinion, unlike your bubble blonde girlfriend.” She feigned shock as she raised a hand to her mouth and gasped. “Don’t tell me you forgot to bring her! Doesn’t she need your oxygen to survive?”
Ashley grabbed the two bottles of wine by the neck, his grip on the alcohol the only thing restraining his anger. “You really don’t think before you speak, do you? She’s the sweetest girl on the planet. She’d never think to insult you like that!”
“See, you just admitted, she doesn’t think,” Rain said.
“She’s got more brains than you and I put together,” Ashley retaliated. “And for your information she’s at an audition, reciting lines from pages of text longer than your roman law textbook. When she turns up – shut your mouth.”
Rain cocked an eyebrow daringly, showing she wasn’t afraid as she leant against the counter. Ashley retreated back into the living room, wine in hand to distribute to the patiently awaiting guests.
“Did you save a glass for me?”
Ashley turned towards the voice, Shae greeting him with a bright smile. He took a glass from the table, passing it to her and wrapping his hand around the body of the Chardonnay bottle. She nodded eagerly to his choice, her fingers delicately holding the stem of the glass as she held it towards him. The light liquid trickled into her glass as he eased the angle further upwards to gain a more generous flow.
“You look cute all dressed up in your little tux,” she said, adjusting his tie whilst he placed the bottle back down. She stepped in towards him, bringing the now full glass closer to her body.
“I wasn’t sure what to wear,” Ashley admitted. “I’ve haven’t been to a funeral before.”
“You made a very intelligent blending choice,” Shae said. “If you weren’t a guest, you’d at least be the most attractive wait staff in town.”
He lowered his face towards her and she met him halfway, noses touching and lips meeting briefly. Wrapping his arms around her thin waist he pulled her against him. She lifted hers in turn, crossing her wrists over the back of his neck and leaning back just far enough to see his face.
“So how was the funeral?” she inquired.
“Mournful,” he responded. “How was the audition?”
“Brilliant!” she said, enthused. “I might be the very best Juliet yet.”
“Well, Juliet, I might just have to give you something to bequeath my love for you.”
“And what, pray tell, would that be dear Romeo?”
Shaking his head and grinning madly he pulled from her grasp, releasing her waist and taking her free hand. He led her to the vacant chair and sat across from her, reaching into his jacket and producing a gold chain. The links were intertwined, forming little stars, and it was just small enough and thin enough to be able to fit in his pocket without bulging.
“It’s not much, and it’s probably the worst moment to be giving it to you, but I thought I should get you something now that we’ve been together for a year,” he said self-consciously.
Rolling the chain around in his palm he found it hard to look at her thinking that she may not like it, or that she would think him an idiot because he valued her more than perhaps she did him. Taking his fingers she pulled them back, fingering the chain until it was spread across his palm.
“You bought this? For me?” she asked.
“Yeah. If you don’t like it I can—”
She pressed a finger to his lips. “I do. I didn’t expect this from you. I’ve never had anyone buy me something so pretty before.”
Stretching it out across both hands, he wound it around her wrist and threaded the stick through the circular clasp. She turned her hand, admiring the way the light reflected off it.
“You really like it?” he pressed.
“I really do,” she said. She lifted her shoulders slightly. “I didn’t bring anything for you. Maybe I can amend that later.”
“Maybe,” he said, a variety of thoughts crossing his mind as to what that would be whilst she sipped from her glass.
“What is he doing here? Get him out!” David shouted, storming past so fast that he knocked Shae’s chair. Ashley caught hold of her as she fell towards him, her arm jerking forward and cold liquid spilling from the flute onto his lap. He pushed a hand against it, vainly trying to stop the suit from forming a stain.
“David,” Stephen said, pressing a hand to his chest and moving himself in front of his nephew. “David, stop.”
David turned dark eyes towards his uncle. “This is my house now. He is not to be in it.”
“David, this is your father’s wake,” Stephen said, trying to keep his voice low and even in the hopes that the calmness would rub off onto his sister’s son. “Everybody is free to come here and mourn.”
“What does he mourn? The loss of someone he worked to death? The fact he cannot take anymore from my family?” David questioned.
“Do not start a war with Gregor solely on emotion. Grieve for your father as others grieve and stop lashing out,” Stephen said.
David took a step back. “I won’t participate in this farce. These people are full of unapologetic sympathy and think flowers and fruit baskets will make it all better. Look around! My father’s memory has been reduced to canapés and little rolls. This is ridiculous. He was worth more than that.”
“I know you believe that. And I know you also know your father would want you to honour his memory, not cause the same disruption in death that you did for him in life. I know it is painful but you need to put your hostility aside; at least for today.”
“He’s right, David. Don’t cause a scene,” Max said, easing his way into the conversation. “We all know what happened when your mother died. It was a tragedy followed by a whole lot of bad mistakes. We don’t need to see that repeated again.”
“Don’t try to force me to bear your guilt. I was only sixteen then; not yet old enough to know better, and certainly not wise enough to take any responsibility for your actions,” David said.
“David, let’s not forget the trouble you caused yourself,” Stephen reminded him. “I lost count of the amount of times I had to haul you in.”
“He still can’t manage to keep his life in order now,” Neil Hooper intervened. Front door still open and people still involved in their own private conversations and reflections, no-one had seen him arrive. Dressed in a grey suit, the large man had not been a guest but was merely on working rounds with an expression that showed he found the stopover to be more of an inconvenience than a chance to pay his respects. He held a pile of rolled papers out to Stephen. “Here.”
“What’s this?” Stephen asked, taking and unrolling the parcel.
“Eviction papers,” he answered. “Michael Colliver didn’t keep up with the mortgage payments. Now that he’s dead I won’t be seeing any more money as these two misfits couldn’t hold a job between them. So I’m repossessing the house and putting it back on the market.”
David fixed the rotund man with a steely gaze. With he being the eldest child and Christian no longer around, the sole ownership of the house had fallen to him. It was also true that he had not been employed for the last six months, and Penny was a full-time student who had no outside job from her schoolwork as his parents thought it best to give her as much time as possible to study while they supported her financially, as had been the case with their own two children.
“Max, is that…?” Stephen asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Max confirmed. “He didn’t have any more assets to fall back on. Charlotte had to mortgage the house to keep the club, and Michael had to give up the club after she died because it was too much to handle. The sale kept them afloat for a while but between looking after three kids and with all the non-paying clients, his debts kept accruing. Neil is right – there is no more income. Anything left in reserve would have to pay for this.”
“You have sixty days,” Neil said. “Thought I’d prefer it if they left earlier.”
Pivoting on his heel, Neil Hooper exited just as promptly as he arrived. Still within the hallway, Penny excused herself from Justin and Rain’s company to find out what had just occurred between her uncle and Claire’s father.
Stephen looked back down at the papers again. As Neil had said, he was contractually obliged to give them sixty days. Stephen had no room for his niece and nephew in his small one bedroom apartment. He would only be able to house one of them at most, and that was a decision he preferred not to make. He wondered briefly what would happen if Christian ever returned home and found it was filled with another family, though given the length of his absence it was unlikely he was ever coming back. His older brother, though, was strangely silent. Without saying a word, David disappeared through the crowd, brushing past Penny as he headed upstairs.
“I’m sorry, Stephen. If there’s anything I can do to help,” Max offered.
“I’ll let you know,” Stephen said.
“What happened?” Penny inquired.
“The mortgage lenders are reacquiring the house,” Stephen explained.
“What?” Penny asked, aghast.
“There’s no more money to cover it,” Max said.
“But… where will we go?” she questioned further.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to work that out,” Stephen said.
Penny looked back towards the staircase. As Max and Stephen fell into financially oriented conversation, she slipped away and followed her cousin’s path up the stairs. The first floor was empty and she surmised he would perhaps have retreated to his room in the attic.
She had guessed correctly. Echoes of Bach sounded from the other side of the door. She pushed it open as quietly as possible. He was inside on the couch, his back to her as he leant over. It wasn’t until she saw him crumple another piece of paper and toss it onto the floor with the others did she realize he was writing something. Not wanting to disturb him in case he turned on her, she snuck into the shadows and watched him mumble to himself, pausing in thought before scribbling down another note. Disliking the result, he furiously scratched it out and wrote something beneath him.
Penny inched towards the large screen that divided his bed from the rest of the room. She knew she could duck behind it, unseen, if he happened to look her way. However he proved too intense in thought, the sounds of her footsteps covered by the musical notes of the 2nd Partita in C Minor.
Looking at the table she noticed that it was empty of all except the sheets of paper and the hand he used to write on them. She was surprised at the lack of books surrounding him; there were usually one or two strays sitting on the table. She could only guess his absence had leant itself to the unlived in appearance of the room. Before her eyes in an almost unbelieving fashion she suddenly saw a flash of red to his left, a large gem appearing just beside his hand. The iridescent glow of its abrupt appearance caught his attention, affording a glance to one side.
“Not now,” he growled.
Curious, Penny tried to get closer to see what the strangely shaped object was, and find a clue as to how it had so unexpectedly arrived. David again glanced to his left, this time staring at the gem. Profoundly he sighed, picking up the new object and standing. He closed his eyes and lifted his head, searching for someone she hoped was not her. Taking one of the discarded pieces of paper nearby, Penny flattened it and looked at the scrawl. From what she could read it seemed like he was trying to write a spell. She could not work out what for – the two lines on the page made little sense. She dared to step closer to him as she peered at the paper on the table. Both the one in her hand and the one before him mentioned time. Odd as it seemed, she began to wonder if he was attempting to alter the past so they would not end up in this mess where so many lives had been lost. He opened his eyes and she froze, terrified he had seen her. Quickly probing his mind, she realized he hadn’t, but discovered instead that he was about to head to the Underworld. A light grew around him. Instinctively she lunged and grabbed the back of his jacket. Now connected to the source, the light took her with him as they vanished from the attic.