Spell It Out
The first time Cassie ever cracked a book on witchcraft, she hadn’t really meant to learn anything. She just wanted to help her friends. She wanted to put a stop to the evil that was hurting people in her town.
The second time Cassie read a book on witchcraft, it was on purpose. It didn’t seem right to assume an entire practice was necessarily evil especially as common as it was. Rachel and Jake were so set on learning to fight and shoot. Marco was so set on learning all he could about demonology. They needed help for when their strength and their knowledge wasn’t enough.
She’d just have to battle for her purity.
When Cassie was caught with a pile of books on world religious practices, summonings, banishing, healing practices, and control spells, she said it was for research. Which was true. What she didn’t say was what she planned on doing with that research.
The first time Cassie used a spell, she saved Jake’s life with a banishment and shattered every object in the room but the one she’d banished the spirit to and knocked herself out.
Jake didn’t talk to her for a week.
The next time Cassie cast, Rachel begged her to while Jake and Marco argued in the other room. Because of her, the child was able to leave the hospital the next morning, feeling fine.
Her friends, however, weren’t okay until they’d drug her to the nearest priest for assurances that her body and soul were not compromised. To her amused surprise, the priest told them to be less closed-minded.
Cassie’s first tattoo was the demon-proofing sigil over her heart. Her friends had refused to have witchcraft embedded into their skin.
After Uryphe had possessed each one of them and wrecked their RV, Cassie calmly informed each of them that they had a choice between volunteering for tattoo or being tied down and forced to endure the procedure the next time they went to sleep.
Then the took her to a priest again.
Cassie’s second tattoo was an endless knot on her forearm, so she’d always have a mesmerizer on her without having to take the time to draw it. By the time the leaves were changing, it had become the team’s number one method of distracting ghosts. And it was Jake who went with her to get her next one, the arsenic symbol at the bottom of her throat.
After the coptic cross and the Eye of Providence, she added her fifth tattoo. But the borromean rings on her shoulder had nothing to do with witchcraft. It simply made her feel closer to her friends. She got it after the first time she told a stranger they were her family.
His only concern at this point was the dogs. He had sent them to Cassie- a letter and a bank card attached to one of the dogs’ collar. He had held them each close to him as they had departed single-file, to where the Hunters would be camping. Tears leaked onto thick fur.
Erek hauled the camping materials and what few pieces of human clothing he had accumulated to a donation site, and walked back to the edge of the forest in man-form, cloaked in glamour made to resemble a typical hiker’s attire. When he reached the edge of the trees, he shifted to dog form and loped through the dense trees for miles. His canine paws were cracked and stained with blood by the time he reached his destination; a grove of ancient trees. In the center of the trunks, he aligned his gaze to the eldest of the trees. With a trembling hand he ripped through a glamoured branch, destroying the illusion and making the contents drop to the ground. A dusty cloak, beautiful as a spiderweb in morning dew, but much warmer, was wrapped around a necklace- a charm for good luck and safety hung from a thin leather cord. The man who called himself Erek slipped the cloak over his body, sighing at the soft feeling of the fabric. He could still hear Zak’s voice, the first time they had met, as if the fold of the fabric had preserved the words, the tone, and the tentative smile over the space of years.
He recalled the violence, the battle against the djinn, Zak’s haunting smile. He remembered the taste of blood thick in his throat, and the flesh between his teeth. The visions of what the hunters had wanted. The confusion. The dying screams. The single, resounding clap from Rachel. Running and never looking back.
He envisioned the fight between Zak- his Zak, only not his anymore, not right as Zak had always been- and Mockingbird, who he was beginning to think of as his as well. He saw the fairy’s spine exiting that slim body, those mismatched lips with a jaw laying on the ground. He felt the slam of his back against the shed, his back snapping from Uryphe- that was who it was, Uryphe-‘s strength, and it felt like sweet redemption and he didn’t want to stop feeling it.
Erek shuddered involuntarily and tightened the cloak around him. He glanced at his feet, at the purple star shaped flowers all around him, and gave the slightest echo of a smile at his true name. He bowed his head as the leather cord was slipped around his neck, the pendant hanging solidly at his breastbone.
Here was as good a place as any to sleep for a while. He stretched his limbs as if he were waking rather than sleeping, and extended his arms to the sky, palms open, fingers extended. He started to speak the first words of the spell. Perhaps when he awoke, things would be better. He fell against the tree trunk. He looked as peaceful as if he were just taking a quick nap. His arms were still stretched to the side, his head resting on the ancient bark.
Erek slept a deep, dreamless sleep while the tiniest seeds of hope lay dormant, hiding deep in his mind.
As he rested, purple flowers grew, stretching towards the sun. They bloomed like jewels, like the stones set in rings, between his slender fingers.