Warning: There’s an ‘interactive activity’ in the chapter that will require you to click on the picture to be able to ‘play’. It’s pretty clear, the picture has a “Click to read” on it. It’ll open up a new tab and it works with phones this time!
Before last chapter guys heheheh!
Searing pain searing through my arm.
Did I mention searing?
I’m losing sense of the word.
My teeth were clenched together in pain as I gripped my arm – gripped? There’s nothing to grip!
You would think at this point I would’ve gone back to my body.
Oh fu- I didn’t know you could feel anything in astral let alone PAIN. It’s usually just something like a phantom whisp of smoke or whatever. Nothing really feels concrete, even holding hands with Ashlynn felt fak-
“GOD!” I exclaimed unable to keep the pain in. I finally opened my eyes and realized two things before the intense wave of pain flashed through me again.
One. Ashlynn has a hand on my shoulder and I have the odd feeling that that’s why I’m still in astral.
Two. There’s a huge chunk missing out of my arm.
AGh! There’s a GAPING HOLE in my arm, no WONDER it hurts!
Three. Yes there was a three. After an extra wave of pain. I think Ashe made some kind of force field to protect us from it.
And four. Yeah four, while I’m at it, I’d bet the rest of my limb that the monster is what blew this chunk off my arm when it touched me.
“Just stay with me, I have to-” Ashlynn struggled to say and I ignored enough of the pain to fully take in what was happening. I’d assumed she’d made and finished the force field, but in truth she was struggling to keep it up.
“I’m good.” I forced out with as much struggle as she had. She didn’t need more than that, she let go of my shoulder to bring up her other arm to help hold up the barrier.
I crunched up, trying to will the pain away.
Is the hole getting bigger?
Am I disappearing ?
The monster seemed to silently roar outside causing ripples in the barrier. That was enough to snap me out of the shock I was descending into.
“How can I help?” I asked with more ease. The pain is still just as intense, but the initial shock of it I guess is fading away. Maybe the adrenaline kicked in. Can I have adrenaline in astral?
“I’m just thinking barrier.” She replied, making lines with her hand to solidify the barrier.
“Right.” Cradling whatever’s left of my arm, I set about doing the same.
It took a try or two, but I started making lines as well. They weren’t as straight and rigid as hers, but they did the work.
After a few minutes the field was stable enough on its own.
We let out breaths of relief. The smoke was just angry wind outside now.
“Your arm!” Ashlynn exclaimed.
I’d actually started to forget about it. Guess I wasn’t getting used to the pain, there was just less surface to feel pain on. Most of my arm was already gone. Smoke was also starting to form from the remnants.
“It’s eating away at you!” She said, her arms moving around as she tried to think of something to do to help.
“This probably doesn’t mean I’ll lose my arm in real life.” I grimaced without much conviction.
“Or maybe you will, maybe it’ll kill you. If your soul burns up how do you keep living?” She said as an idea struck her. She made a net and wrapped it around my arm.
“Soul? You think our astral selves are our souls?” I said as a minor distraction. The net wasn’t doing anything. I reached over with my normal hand. “Maybe, it’s the smoke? Just need to put it back?” I half-muttered.
I let out a short shout as the smoke burned my fingers.
“Don’t!” She said, grabbing my hand away from the smoke. “That looks like the same stuff from the curse. I think it’s converting you into smoke.”
“Oh that’s great.” I grinded my jaw.
“Hey look!” She said, bringing my own hand up to my face.
“What?” I said, only afterwards realizing it didn’t hurt anymore. My fingers were intact. Not a trace of smoke.
She grinned and dove two handed onto my arm.
“Wait!” But my warning dissipated into thin air as I watched her drag her hands down my arm, only to repeat the process.
My arm slowly started to rematerialize, the smoke coming back to form my arm until it was as good as new again. “Woah. How did you know?”
She sat back, satisfied with her work. “I’ve touched that smoke before. It only burned a bit then. Also I think this is confirmation that I was never the one cursed. You are.”
I looked down at my freshly healed arm. “Thanks for taking the risk-” I noticed her hands then, curled up but distinctly spotted in black. “Your hands.” I said, grabbing them and flipping them palm up. Well, I grabbed her astral hands, I can’t touch her real hands.
“I guess I’m not as immune to it as I thought. I guess there must be something in the curse that vaguely includes me?” She said. “Something that also let me heal you?”
I rubbed my thumbs along her palm and watched as the dark spots disappeared.
“Looks like you can heal too.” She smiled.
“I wonder why?”
“I didn’t see anything about how the curse kills in the book, but then again I never finished reading it.”
“Yes! Right, you said you had it nearby?”
“Nearby yes, but not in this bubble of safety. I don’t know if I can move it…”
“We made it, so we can probably move it. Well, you did most of the work, so technically you made it, don’t want to-” I trailed off as I saw her trying not to laugh.
“No, no, the first time was right. We both made this.” She said.
“Are you trying not to laugh?” I said, her smile kind of contagious. Ok I did awkwardly derail there.
“Sorry, sorry, it’s not the time you’re right. We could try.”
“I could always go back to my body though. This happened because of me right? Since I’m the one cursed. If I leave maybe it’ll calm down.”
“I wouldn’t!” She said quickly. “We don’t know how you get back to your body.”
“I always thought it was just,” I snapped my fingers. “There you’re back.”
“I can always feel a sort of woosh? When you get back to your body like you just traveled a distance. I don’t know, maybe you still have to go through space in some form and since we’re surrounded your entire body would be exposed to the curse. You’d probably die. I don’t really want to take the risk…”
“Right, me neither. So book?”
“It’s just on my desk in, uh, that general direction.” Ashlynn said as she got up. I followed suit. She considered the shield, her hands hesitating. “Maybe if we just make it expand and shrink the back or something.”
“I’ll take care of the back.” I said.
“Okay. On the count of three then?” She said as we both got into place.
She did the countdown and as she started to expand the barrier forwards I could already see the rest of the shield thinning and wavering. Shrinking the back was a good idea. I set about pulling the net towards me to shorten it, trying not to reflexively pull back as the curse grew more active.
“I got it!” She said, picking up the book. She dropped it on the ground. “Let’s be quick about it, I don’t know how long this is going to hold.”
I pointed at the drawing of the Eldor Flame. “I’ve seen that before. I’ve definitely seen that before.”
“It was a year ago now. There was a bank robbery and to fool the robbers I had to go in the basement – and I did, in astral, and I saw this statue.”
“Oh wow a bank robbery?”
“It’s kind of amusing thinking back on it. Cause I’ve met the robbers and I’m friends with one of them and the other is a natural grump.” That’s right, I was kind of forgetting about that. I still don’t really know what they were doing there.
“The world is a weird one.” Ashe said. “Did you see the cat appear after?” She asked, bringing us back on track.
“That’s the weird thing. I saw it for the first time weeks later near the end of summer camp.” I said. I frowned as the statement felt false.
“That is a long a time, maybe it’s a delayed curse?”
“A colorful green cat…No actually I think…I think it might’ve been following me before summer camp as well.” I said, vaguely remembering a few times where something green and moving lurked in my peripheral vision. “It was just vaguely out of sight. I’ve touched the cat several times though, this curse monster only ever appears in astral.” I can’t believe I never noticed it then. It seems so obvious the more I think about it.
“Remember how the book says it again and again? The spell is extremely specific, and you said it yourself. You went to see the curse in astral form, so it can probably only get to you via astral.”
“Yeah that’s…that’s probably what it is.” I didn’t make the link, but it seems like a really obvious one to make. “But I don’t get how you were able to help me, or why I wasn’t killed the moment the curse touched me. Or why you’re also affected.”
“The book won’t be much help on this. I don’t think astral situations are very common.” She said with a slight smirk. I might be hallucinating but she looks like she’s having fun from this – even though the curse is still raging outside. Even though we haven’t really learned much at all. We got more questions than anything else. “It’s kind of exciting, being the pioneers of a new discovery. Astral is entirely new territory. I bet you there’s nothing written about it anywhere. And yeah I guess that’s lame if we want to learn stuff, but it’s kind of cool that we get to be the ones to discover it all. Or am I crazy?”
Why am I not thinking the same? I used to. Right?
When did I slip into this neutral husk that’s more concerned with spending hours in my own head replaying the events as if rewatching them was going to reveal something new – or give me a way to change things. These kinds of things are what I used to live for.
It’d be kind of dumb to ask what happened wouldn’t it.
“Wow this is really not the time or place. We have to concentrate on getting out of this situation.” Ashlynn said laughing at herself.
“No it’s not crazy. You’re right it is exciting.” I replied.
She grinned. “Right?”
I glanced at the curse outside again. “How do you do it? We’ve got a life threatening situation out there and you’re making things seem really chill.” I snorted.
“It’s a gift, I guess.” She chuckled. She looked at the shield again.
It’s not that I’m relaxed around her, but she’s got a way with things that kind of just…keeps things nice?
“We can just be friends right?” I suddenly blurted out.
I don’t even know where that came from, but I can’t take it back – and I don’t want to.
Her surprised stare made my certain brain question itself.
Why did I even say that? Absolutely nothing prompted it. It’s about as impulsive as it gets. What am I really expecting? What am I insinuating? Can she tell what I’m insinuating?
Her surprise lasted as long as those thoughts took – microseconds. “Obviously!”
An unexpected wave of relief washed over me. Obviously!
“Let’s shake on our exclusive friendship.” She said with some light teasing. With a smile tugging at my face I gripped her offered hand.
I know what it was now.
It was fear.
“Now let’s get out of this situation.” Ashe declared. “I have an idea. The curse has always been attached to the cat right?”
“But now it’s not. Now it follows me. One could almost say I’m the carrier now. That means if I physically move away from here, the curse won’t have any choice but to follow me. And you can stay in this bubble until it’s safe again.” She said.
“That’s a really good plan, alright let’s do it.” I nodded.
“Good luck,” She said, getting up and moving out of the bubble.
I waited, staring at where Ashlynn had left. After a few moments the fog started to thin until eventually she’d dragged it away.
I wasted no time, I went back to my body and let Ashlynn know it had gone well.
“It’s a temporary solution for now, but we can figure out if there’s a way to get rid of the curse later. After everything’s settled down.” Ashlynn said. “As long as you don’t come visit me in astral we can keep this up for as long as we need to. So, you don’t need to worry about it. You’ve got more pressing matters anyway. Your grandfather comes first.”
“Well, I’m going to try and get some sleep. Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Yeah, definitely.” I said.
And then I was once again, on the bed, alone with my thoughts.
I wasn’t feeling sleep at all. Didn’t you hear? Insomnia is my new friend.
Ashe bringing up James had me wanting to do something anyway.
This was the laboratory – the famous Hans lab that the Dragons were going to raid after tomorrow – well no its tomorrow now.
With a little astral rewinding, I found the room they were holding James in with ease.
I’ve heard rumors you know – everyone’s heard rumors. I’ve heard things from the family, from school, from James himself. He’s got the title of murderer, of father, of grandfather, of Vampire King. People fear him and others admire him. There’s a consensus – you don’t mess with him. His power is impressive and trumps any other power you can have. He controls people. That doesn’t sound like something you can beat. That’s definitely something to fear.
But somehow he’s here right now. Stuck in a tiny cell. Imprisoned by naturals. He needs help.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare me.
“Just hold out for one more day.” I told him, even though I know he can’t hear me. I glanced at the other prisoners, suddenly recognizing them now. Astral’s black and white hides their most distinctive features – their hair color.
That’s uncle Alec! And my great-grandmother Zyla. I’ve only seen her once when I was little, and the rest was in pictures. The Hans kidnapped them all – and the thing they all have in common is their golden eyes.
I moved to the fourth cell which held someone who looked pale enough to be dead. You can never really tell with vampirism. I don’t recognize this one, but I’d be willing to bet a lot that he also has golden eyes. What are they planning to do? Harvest their power?
“Tomorrow.” I repeated. “We’ll get you all out tomorrow.”
Not that I could’ve gone to sleep, but maybe I should’ve gone back to my body and tried now. Instead I used astral again to find where they were holding Salandra, because they’d also brought her here.
Unsurprisingly the room was empty. It was late, everyone had gone home.
Unsurprisingly she’s awake.
For someone held captive she looks a little too comfortable.
For some reason, she’s holding up two fingers, but I’ve stopped wondering why she does the things she does. Most of them are senseless.
“I gave you so much fucking leeway. She just lost her mom.” I grumbled, glaring at the top of her head. “You’ve dealt to me a bigger blow than you got, and I still don’t see your motivation. There are no excuses.”
I know she can’t hear me, but the timing of her closing one finger felt like it.
“Fuck you.” I snarled. “I hope you rot here.”
She faked shooting the ceiling and I left.
A few moments earlier
No one’s POV
Candice was having trouble concentrating on her work. It was getting late so it wasn’t surprising – though now that she’d closed her documents she was starting to think it might’ve been something else.
She could faintly here murmuring and movement in her daughter’s room.
She got up with an exasperated sigh and made her way over to tell Ashe to go to sleep and to stop bothering the entire house.
When she opened her door however, she watched Ashlynn go through another one of her episodes.
“I’m just thinking barrier.”
Candice crouched in front of her daughter and snapped her fingers, but she just stared ahead, not registering her mother. This was more than just an episode. Usually she was always aware of the people around her.
Candice hurriedly went back to the study and grabbed her materials. She needed to avoid touching Ashe, she didn’t want to risk bringing her out of it. Her daughter usually always noticed her and that seemed to hinder her measurements – which Candice guessed was because Ashe was distracted from her episode.
“Or maybe you will. Maybe it’ll kill you.”
Candice couldn’t believe her luck. She’d never gotten such strong wavelengths. Usually she could get some faint magical activity and it took her weeks to decipher the wavelengths she’d measured. At first she thought she was hallucinating when she cross referenced them.
But no, Candice’s own daughter was emitting a magical wavelength that, up until now, had never gotten registered or recorded. She could win a prize for this – ideally she’d climb up from errand girl to possibly getting her own project for once.
She’d never bring her daughter to work – obviously – especially if she can take all the measures she needs right here at home.
Candice wouldn’t want to risk anyone stealing her thunder either. No, she was going to complete this project alone and surprise the higher ups with her findings.
Sebastien is really, goddamn, annoying. He feeds Ashe lies and probably gossips about her in her back! Ever since he’s come in her life again, Ashe keeps growing progressively more cold towards Candice. Not that she wasn’t before, but they’d established a suitable middle. Their roles were clear.
Ashlynn let Candice take her measurements as well.
Now Ashe seems to question everything she does and gets high and mighty about it. She acts like she knows better, like she has the right to judge.
In a matter of weeks, Sebastien managed to tear her down all over again. If he takes Ashe away from her as well…no Candice wouldn’t let that happen. She’s her mother and she’s been her mother for 15 years. Sebastien’s only been there for a few weeks. No one in their right mind would support that.
No Candice shouldn’t worry. If she could get Sebastian to back off, things can get back to normal.
“Good luck,” Ashlynn said, prepping to get up and leave. Candice quickly grabbed her stuff and left the room. It was better if Ashe didn’t notice she was still taking measurements – even though she’d been asked not to.
I left the bathroom, all showered and clean, ready to head back downstairs. It was going to be a long day of waiting. Tomorrow was the mission. Tomorrow was when we were going to save James. Not today. So today was going to be long.
It’s for that reason that the guys decided we’d go on a field trip. Let me rectify.
Jesse woke up exclaiming about how warm it was and about how the beach was opening today. He somehow managed to convince us all to spend the day at the beach.
I grimaced as I turned around instead of going downstairs. It’s been annoying me all of yesterday and this morning as well.
I don’t know what the hell is up with Tyzel’s dresser, but apparently it beckons to me.
I pulled it open and dug my hand in. When my hand came back out, I was holding a watch. A very familiar watch. One that had me gaping at it.
It’s incredibly similar to the watch Ashlynn was wearing last night.
This…really isn’t a coincidence anymore. This is eerie.
Also kind of makes me want to test this out.
I should put it back, but…I slipped it into my back pocket. I guess I’m not.
I hurried down the stairs, reminding myself that it’s okay if we spend the entire day at the beach. There’s nothing we could do anyway. And if I was tempted to try something the guys have already promised to keep me down.
Everything is already planned. Tomorrow morning, it’s happening. We all just have to hold out till tomorrow morning.
“Whatever happens tomorrow, as long as everyone did their best – and they will – everything will be fine.”
I bring you Nikolas, aspiring master of the self-friendzone.