The Book of Births
Many of the wizards who were searching the grounds outside the Grayson estate stopped what they were doing to look up toward manor hill. They heard an explosion of screams that would make any who heard it wonder aloud: Did something good or bad just happen? The tumultuous uproar sent the owls from the owlry into flight around the house, and most of the forest creatures were suddenly still as if stopping to wonder too what had just happened. The thunderous screams of happy delight were coming from the family room of the vast estate, where Anna was being hoisted up toward the ceiling by Mister Grayson while Eric, Dowla, Tencha and even Damon bellowed and cheered in chorus with every framed image within the house.
The healers had confirmed it; Anna was indeed a witch. At that moment, it didn’t matter how this had happened, or why it had taken so long to be acknowledged. No one knew why her powers were lying dormant for so many years before beginning their inevitable rise within the last few days. All of these questions would be discussed and talked about in the following days to come. For now, the Graysons were in joyous celebration.
Anna was beside herself with joy. As the powerful master of the Grayson family held her above his head, Anna was arched back with her hands pressed against her crying face in utter shock and disbelief. She had told herself this could not happen. She had convinced herself there was no way it could be true. She did these things to protect herself from what she thought would only be the most depressing results. But she was wrong; Anna Grayson was indeed a witch. A sorceress from a most noble family, who could trace its history and accomplishments back several hundred years. She was now exactly what everybody in the Wizarding world expected when they heard her name. She was a Grayson, and Anna would now take full part in that heritage.
“You did it Anna! You’re wonderful, beautiful! Your mother would be so proud of you!” shouted her father. Anna lifted her hands and looked down at her beaming father below her. She reached down and hugged his head, bawling tears of joys into his black hair.
“I can’t believe it, daddy… I can’t believe it. It’s true — isn’t it? I love you so much. Thank you for giving me a chance,” Anna screamed. Her father lowered her down just enough to hug her properly, but low enough to allow the rest of the Grayson family to run in and hug them both.
“I knew it! Didn’t I say it yesterday? Didn’t I tell you? Oh Anna, I’m so happy for you,” yelled Eric, who now grabbed Anna by the waist and hoisted her high again. Anna was passed from Mister Grayson to Eric without her feet ever touching the floor.
Anna hugged Eric with all her might. “You never stopped believing, did you? You never stopped telling me to keep my dreams alive and now look at us. Oh Eric… I can’t believe it,” Anna cried, hugging her brother even tighter.
“Put her down… you’re going to smother her,” yelled Tencha, but when Anna’s feet finally hit the floor she was instantly mobbed again. Tencha and Dowla were still screaming as they attacked Anna from both sides.
“I can’t believe it… oh, Anna, I can’t believe this,” yelled Dowla, tears of joy streaming down her face.
“You’re a witch? How could you keep this from us? I suppose now you’re going to be looking for some serious payback for all those spells I threw at you?” cried Tencha, through a very wet face, as she grabbed and hugged Anna again.
All of their past misdeeds forgotten, Anna sobbed in happy delight as she held her sisters close, swaying side to side in a walking dance between them.
There was a whisper in her ear from Dowla. “Anna…Look at daddy.”
Anna let go of the twins and turned around to see her father who had his back to the family, leaning weakly against the mantel of the fireplace. A single hand covered his face; he was sobbing. Anna looked at Dowla, who smiled, and motioned for her to go to him. Anna walked across the room, amongst the continuing cheers and laughter, and placed her hand upon her father’s shoulder.
“Daddy?” she said softly. Her father turned and smiled down at her, his eyes full of tears.
“I told you before — none of this would matter to me,” he said somberly. “I told you I couldn’t love you anymore than I did a few moments ago… and I meant it. I can’t possibly love you more, but so much is now open to you, Anna. Whatever limitations we thought might have held you back have been washed away. I’ve prayed to God so many times to give me the wisdom and strength to help you, but I never expected this. I will be thanking him for the rest of my days for what’s happened tonight, and for giving you this chance. I now leave the rest to you,” he said, kissing each of her hands.
“I have tried to tell all of my children — never take anything in life for granted. If anything good can be said about the years leading up to tonight, it’s that I know I’ll never have to remind you of this prudent wisdom. You have been blessed tonight, Anna. God in heaven has decided to smile brightly on you and our family once again. Let us not forget to thank him often for his grace and mercy.”
“Amen,” said Eric.
“I was blessed long before tonight, daddy,” Anna said through her falling tears. “I was blessed the day I was born… because you were my father.” They hugged again, as the portraits around them sang together and cheered.
Mister Grayson suddenly broke away, “Widwick!” he bellowed.
“Yes, Master Grayson, I is here, sir,” said the house elf, wiping his own tears away as he scampered into the middle of the room.
“This calls for a feast! Nothing but the best for the family and our fine guests tonight,” said Mister Grayson.
“Yes, sir; of course, sir. I is proud to do it, I is,” Widwick replied, and with a snap of his fingers and a loud POP, he Disapparated straight to the kitchen.
“I hope you will stay with us for dinner tonight and join in our happy celebration!” Mister Grayson said gleefully to the healers in the room.
Nosova and Doctor Pearl looked at each other and smiled. “Thank you, it vood be an honor.”
“I’ll just need to send an owl to the Chancellor,” Pearl said, beaming. “Oh… and that reminds me.” She walked over to Anna and reached into the pocket of her robes to pull out the invitation to Castlewood. “I believe this belongs to you, my dear?” she said with a smile.
Anna took the letter and held it tight with both hands against her chest. “Thank you,” she said with a shaking voice.
Doctor Pearl straightened. “Can I inform the Chancellor that Miss Anna Grayson of the Grayson Estate accepts this invitation to join us at the Academy in three days?” she said, in a serious and business-like voice.
Anna smiled, wiped her nose, and then straightened to reply. “Yes, you may tell our good friend the Chancellor that Anna Grayson of the Grayson Estate formally accepts his invitation to study the Magical Arts this upcoming year. I look forward to meeting him personally, and participating in all of the many rich traditions of his wonderful school.” Anna and the doctor nodded properly, and then stoically shook hands.
“OH PLEEEESSSSEEEE…” said Dowla, rolling her eyes next to them.
Anna and Doctor Pearl were barely able to contain their giggles, and burst out laughing once again. Anna hugged her. “Thank you so much for helping me, Doctor,” she said softly.
“It was my pleasure, dearie, my truest pleasure,” Pearl replied with a sniff. She pulled away from Anna and smiled up at Mister Grayson. “Could I borrow an owl for my message of good news back to the school?”
“Of course; just go down to my office and ask for Greechins. He can assist you with all your needs. Please join us for dinner afterwards, and give my regards and thanks to Chancellor Thordarson.”
“Thank you, and I will,” said Pearl, and she turned and headed downstairs once again.
Anna turned to find Damon standing behind of her. His smile gone, he was now carrying a very suspicious look on his face.
“So… there is a witch in there after all,” he said haughtily.
“Apparently so,” Anna replied. Even though she was happy, she couldn’t help feeling Damon still looked rather smug for one about to eat his words.
“Yeah — how ‘bout that Damon? It looks like you’ll have to drop the word squib from your vocabulary,” interjected Eric from the side. The rest of the Graysons laughed. Damon smirked; his bony jaws clinched tight as his eyes darted scathingly in Eric’s direction.
“Yes… it’s all very interesting, isn’t it? First a squib… and then you’re not. First a Muggle… and then a witch,” Damon said, in his all too familiar and menacing voice. “Let’s just hope you don’t revert back again in the near future,” he said, with a curled smile. “I’m looking forward to our wizarding duels at the school… little sssssq… sister.”
Anna stared at her brother and then smiled. She then reached out and, for the first time in her life, she hugged Damon, leaning in to whisper into his ear, “Thank you for your support.” Damon pulled away with a very uncomfortable look on his face. Obviously, the hug was not the reaction he had been working for.
Recovering adequately, he stretched out his hand with the familiar twist returning to his upper lip. “Good luck in school, then” he said sharply.
Anna looked down at Damon’s hand and raised her own to grasp it tight. “Thank you, Damon. I look forward to seeing you there,” she said with a coiled smile. They shook, but before Damon could move away, Anna yanked him close so that their noses were nearly touching again. “And I’m looking forward to our duels as well… both with and without our wands,” she growled through her steely gaze. Damon’s eyes flashed, as if they had already set the date for their first encounter.
“Oooooooo… now that doesn’t sound too good,” said Dowla, wide eyed and looking around the room.
“Oh boy — I’m reserving a front row seat for that fight,” said Eric, smiling with an evil grin. He looked at Mister Grayson standing by the fire. Their father was smiling too.
“Yes — and make sure you buy an extra ticket for me. I’ll gladly travel the three thousand miles to see that!” said Mister Grayson, who walked over to Anna and Damon, still glaring menacingly at each other, their locked grip squeezing for all the pain they could muster. Their father swatted them both on the shoulders. “Let’s eat!” he said sharply, and then walked between them to break the two apart.
Damon placed his hands into his robes and smiled congenially at his father passing between them. He could see Mister Grayson’s eyes glaring at him from their corners. Damon looked again at Anna, dropped his smile, and then turned to follow their father into the dining room.
As the rest of the family fell in line behind them, the Healer Nosova whispered to Tencha, “Did I miss something? Is there something vong between Damon and Anna?”
Tencha turned. “Oh, it’s just a little misunderstanding they have,” she said, smiling.
“Oh…? And how long ‘ave they been arguing?” he asked suspiciously.
“Since birth, I’m afraid,” said Tencha, and she laughed at the very shocked look on Nosova’s face.
The Grayson feast was a memorable event. Widwick, with Gabby’s help, had presented a fabulous meal. The W-Ds included ham and roast beef and several different casseroles and breads. The wine, as always, was fantastic, and Mister Grayson gleefully showed Healer Nosova his extensive wine cellar before returning to the dinning room to join the family for desert and coffee. Widwick thought it best to avoid serving pies this night, so he offered several old-world puddings and cakes for desert instead. Soon the whole family was full and content, enjoying the company of their guests, and engaging in happy conversation.
“Widwick, as always, you have really outdone yourself again tonight. The meal was outstanding,” said Mister Grayson, who raised his coffee cup in the elf’s honor.
“Yes, the dinner was fantastic — thank you, Widwick,” said Doctor Pearl approvingly.
“You is very welcome, Master-sir. It is always wonderful to have guests to cook for,” Widwick said with pride.
“You mean guests to showoff to,” said Dowla with a laugh. “Widwick is the best cook on the Wizarding west coast.”
Anna had never been so happy, but something had been troubling her thoughts throughout the meal. “Doctor Pearl, may I ask you a question?”
The doctor looked up at Anna, smiling. “Of course… what is it, dear?”
“Well — how did the school know to send me that invitation? It seems they knew I was a witch even before I or my family did. How is that possible?”
Doctor Pearl grinned broadly. “Well… it’s just a bit of simple old magic, really. You see… our school keeps track of all of the children born in America by way of a magical book of births called the Tonnanarsus. When a future wizard or witch is born, either from a wizard or Muggle family, their name is magically written into the book. The founders of the school placed an enchantment on the Tonnanarsus to save them from having to search out these wizarding children, and to keep track of their whereabouts until they reached the age of invitation to the school. For Castlewood — the age of invitation happens on their eleventh birthday. Each day, the book checks for the children of age, and then sends them their invitation before the start of the school year in September.
“So why couldn’t we have just looked in the book when I was born; and saved my family a lot of…” Anna stumbled slightly on her words, “a lot of heartache about my lack of abilities?” Pearl frowned, and then looked at Mister Grayson. She seemed to be searching for permission to explain. Mister Grayson peered over his coffee cup at the doctor, and then nodded his careful approval.
The doctor then turned to Anna again. “The staff at the school will not look in the book for individual names born to our wizarding families. This information is considered most private. Who is or is not wizard and Muggle-born should be of no concern to anyone but the families involved. Our traditions for the book’s use are based on these formalities and…” Pearl stopped as if trying to find the right words to explain something delicate, “some very dark history.”
“Dark history?” asked Tencha pryingly. “What do you mean?”
Doctor Pearl gave an unpleasant sigh, glancing again at Mister Grayson. “In the early days of the school, the old wizarding families who knew about the book would contact us to make sure a newborn’s name was written in the Tonnanarsus. The practice of giving out this information, even directly to the families, was stopped nearly two hundred years ago.”
“Why did they stop? I mean if the parents of the baby wanted to know — why wouldn’t the school give them the information?” asked Anna.
The doctor wiped her mouth with her napkin nervously, looking somewhat uncomfortable. “The school stopped giving out this information when reports were delivered to the staff that some of the children… were being killed by their wizarding parents if their names were not found in the book.”
All of the children gasped, except for Damon, who let go an amused chuckle.
“Yes… for whatever reason, be it pride or arrogance, these families apparently saw to it these children did not survive long if they received information not of their liking — God rest their souls,” Pearl said, picking up her wine glass to take another drink. “Now keep in mind, these were very rare occurrences, perpetrated by families whose reputation aligned them to the darker elements of the Wizarding world — but they were not the only ones doing it. There were also reports of Muggle families destroying wizarding children as well.” This time Damon gasped.
“Once a Muggle family found out about the book after one of their children received an invitation — they quite naturally started asking questions about some of their younger brothers and sisters. These were very dark times for the school. So the decision was made not to give out any information from the book about a child until they reached their eleventh birthday.”
Anna glanced over to her father. “Daddy — did you ever have the book checked for my name?”
Mister Grayson set his coffee cup down and looked at Anna. “Yes, I did. Whenever one of my children turned eleven, we usually received an invitation within the same week. I can honestly say I never really expected it, but when your invitation didn’t come, I made contact with the school to have the book checked… just to be sure.”
“And…” asked Anna, “did you find my name written in the book?”
There was a long pause as Mister Grayson leaned back in his chair and looked at Doctor Pearl. He turned to face Anna again. “No… I was told your name was not written in the book of births.”
Anna was shocked, as was everybody else at the table.
“But father — I don’t understand. If Anna’s name wasn’t in the book when you had it checked two years ago, why would she receive a letter now?” asked Eric.
Mister Grayson paused. “Now that’s a very good question, Eric. I think I’m just as confused as you are on that issue.” Everybody at the table turned to Doctor Pearl.
She smiled slightly. “Well — it’s kind of a mystery to us all. When the Chancellor told me about his conversation with Mister Grayson regarding Anna receiving her letter, naturally we went to the book of births to check.” She stopped to take another drink from her wineglass.
“And? What did you see?” demanded Eric.
Doctor Pearl set her glass down and looked up at Anna. “Your name was there in the book of births, dear, but, strangely enough, it was the very last entry made. It was as if the Tonnanarsus only recognized your birth a few days ago, but it must have known how old you were, because it sent out the invitation almost immediately.”
The whole Grayson family sat stunned in their chairs. Even Mister Grayson seemed very surprised. The Doctor seemed to appreciate their confusion.
“We don’t understand it either,” Pearl confessed. “In the entire history of our school — this has never happened before, and both Healer Nosova and I agree, in all our combined years of medicine, we have never heard of anything like this — where a witch’s powers lie dormant for this period of time. Some witches and wizards have very weak magical strength, to the point of almost being a Muggle… but nothing for nearly thirteen years? It’s unprecedented. Even Chancellor Thordarson seemed rather reluctant to try and explain this.”
There was a strange stillness resident around the table until Nosova spoke. “Vell… that is not entirely true.” The family turned to face him as the man continued. “There vas one other case in the record that described something similar to this occurrence. It involved a vizard over fifteen centuries ago. Now, you must know, the records of that day ver nowhere near as accurate as today, but it seems there vas a boy who did not display any magical ability until he vas almost fifteen years old. Later in life — he became one of the most powerful vizards of the day… and in history.
“And… who was that wizard?” asked Tencha
The doctor paused and looked around the table very slowly — his eyes finally fixing upon Anna. “His name vas Merlin.”
Everyone in the room was stunned. Finally, it was Dowla who spoke first.
“Merlin? You mean — the Merlin? The greatest wizard of all time; that Merlin?” she stammered in amazement.
“That is right,” said Nosova. “Rather strange, is it not? And I never saw the similarities until tonight. After my examination of Anna yesterday, and hearing her accounts of the strange creature-like abilities she described to me, I made contact vit a few of my colleagues to gather their advice on this case. I never mentioned your family’s name, of course, but one of these healers told me some of the patient’s comments and abilities somehow sounded familiar to him. He contacted me again this morning to say he found the information he had remembered in some of the old vitings on Merlin in his early life. Everybody knows, of course, of Merlin’s great magical power, but very few people know about the other abilities that made this skillful vizard unique. For example — did you know Merlin vas an Animagus?”
“Yes — I heard that before,” said Mister Grayson, “But wasn’t there something special about that too? I seem to recall hearing something more than just his being able to self-transform into an animal. However… I can’t remember what it was that made his case special.”
“Very good… yes — in fact, he vas vat ve call a natural Animagus,” replied Nosova.
“Ah, yes… that’s right, now I remember,” said Mister Grayson, who stood and began to pace behind his chair. “As you explained to Anna last night… Animagi usually go through extensive training before attempting this very difficult transformation. But Merlin was able to do it without any training at all. It was spontaneous. I forget what animal he was able to turn himself into — some kind of bird, I believe.”
“Correct — in fact, it vas a falcon,” said Nosova, who seemed impressed with Mister Grayson’s recollection of the facts. “Being a natural Animagus made Merlin unique in the vizarding vorld and throughout most of our history. He vas also able to accomplish the most complex spells vit-out the use of a vand. In fact, in his later years, he vas rarely seen vit a vand at all. But the thing that really made me think about Anna vas the connection Merlin had vit the animals — especially the magical creatures. It is said he could calm the vildest creatures, and even sleep in a den of lions as a brother. Of course, a lot of this is open to interpretation, but some of his encounters are very vell documented. He most definitely had a very deep understanding of the inner nature of all magical creatures and animals. Now, I still hold to my original statement yesterday. No vitch or vizard has ever been able to turn themselves into a magical creature, and that vood also include Merlin himself.” Nosova then turned to Anna with a confronting smile. “Fortunately, Anna, this leads us to believe the Lethifold that attacked you and Damon the other night most definitely came from outside.”
“Well — of course it did,” said Damon, staring at Nosova with a confused look on his face. “Where else would it have come from?” Apparently, neither Eric nor her father had shared Anna’s belief that she had turned into the Lethifold with the other members of the Grayson family. Anna was relieved.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Mister Grayson. Their father obviously didn’t want to share Anna’s fears with anybody else. Healer Nosova seemed to understand Mister Grayson’s wishes and changed the subject.
“Any-vay,” the healer continued, “…ve found this information about Merlin’s abilities laying dormant for most of his childhood. I never knew Mister Grayson had called the school to make the arrangements to have Anna’s abilities checked until I arrived here this morning.” The doctor paused to take another drink. He sat back and then looked at Doctor Pearl. “I think it tis ironic dat my studies of Anna’s case lead me to reading about Merlin’s past, yes? And now we find something in his past that leads us back to Anna tonight.”
“Well, it certainly does make for… hic… interesting dinner conversation, doesn’t it?” said Doctor Pearl, who seemed to be giggling a little too much as she tipped her glass to take another drink. “The fact is — it remains to be seen what kind of witch Anna will be. Because her abilities came to the surface so late, she may be somewhat limited in her abilities,” she said, swaying slightly in her chair. “Or… who knows? She might become the next great Merlin,” she chimed brightly, raising her glass as if toasting to Anna’s unknown future.
Damon tutted loudly — sneering at the very idea of Anna’s name being used in the same sentence as the world’s greatest wizard.
“Ah… you may scoff, young man,” retorted Pearl, looking at Damon. “But you never know how a Castlewood student might turn out,” she said with building pride. “However limited or great Anna may be… Castlewood will bring out the best in her, as it does all of its students.” She hiccupped again and took another drink.
“Spoken like a true faculty member,” said Mister Grayson with a smile. “The Chancellor would be proud.”
Two hours later, Anna was warm and in bed, reflecting on her future. Her life had been in a state of utter chaos just two days ago, and now she couldn’t be happier. She was going to Castlewood. She was going to study the magical arts with Eric and the rest of the Grayson children. Anna was almost giddy with delight.
But then, as if remembering the coming of some menacing storm, her thoughts circled around that of the Lethifold. She knew nobody believed her story about changing into the creature. How could she go to Castlewood and put everybody there in danger? But how could I not go? She had prayed for this opportunity, and now here it was within her reach. How could she give up this chance? At that moment, it all seemed too unfair to even consider, and she rolled over onto her side and closed her eyes. She tried to reach out with her mind in the spaces around her room, but found she could not. She summoned a small part of her courage, and began searching deep within her own soul, looking for the coldness of the creature inside her. Was it still there? Would it come back again? She couldn’t tell; there was no trace of the thing within. Anna was cozy and warm, inside and out, and her mind finally relaxed for the briefest moment, but long enough to fall into a deep sleep.
It was several hours later when Anna started to feel very cold again. At first, she thought she had lost her bedding while she slept, because the coldness seemed to sweep over her entire body so completely. It wasn’t until she heard the faint but familiar tinkling of the crystal fixture on the bedroom ceiling that her eyes snapped open. The room was still dark, but Anna could now see her fogged breath in front of her face, as she lay on her side shaking from the cold. Her eyes moved to their edges, searching for what she could see of her room through her tangled hair.
“Ssssssssssssssss,” came an eerie hiss from the foot of her bed. It was that sound again; the same frightening sound made by her visitor three nights ago, when the thing came to deliver its strange warning of danger.
Anna bolted up, her eyes struggling to focus on an image blooming white at the foot of her bed. To her amazement, she could see something floating in mid-air in the center of the room. It was a wisp-filled cloud of luminous radiance that continuously changed its shape and color. The thing seemed to brighten on its circular edges, and then flow in onto itself toward a dark center. It made no sound, but lit the walls with a dim vibrating iridescence, like an unnatural light passing through moving water.
“Danger is coming, child,” the whispery voice said. “You must prepare yourself.”
It was the same message as before. Knowing the thing hadn’t tried to hurt her the first time, Anna responded quickly.
“Who are you?” she asked anxiously. Then, not knowing if the light before her could understand what she was saying, she added — “Can you hear me?”
“I hear you, child. Are you prepared?” asked the strange voice.
“Prepared? Prepared for what?”
“The conflict to come.”
“Conflict? I don’t understand? Who are you?”
“I am… part of the family… an ally,” said the voice, “You are to embark on a crusade, little one. A struggle against madness.”
Anna repeated the only thing she understood. “A crusade? What does that mean? What are you?” Anna’s bravery was growing bolder by the second.
“My name… is… unknown to me now. I have only recently awakened. Chaos is coming. Magic has detected the inevitable clash… and seeks to protect itself.”
“Protect itself? Magic? What are you talking…?”
“I am your interpreter,” the voice interrupted. “I was sent to assist you… and make sure you are ready.”
“Sent by whom?”
“By the forces fighting against madness — by magic itself.”
“You speak of magic as if it were a person. You’re not talking about any magic I know.”
“What of magic do you know? What power, until recently, have you used to touch its existence, to think you understand its nature so well?” the voice said, in an increasingly angry tone.
This statement surprised Anna. Was it her imagination, or did this thing just say it knew about the changes in her abilities? How could it have known… unless?
“Do you know anything about the strange things that have been happening to me?” Anna asked suspiciously.
“Sshh,” hissed the voice, “I know the power given to you at birth has been awakened. Magic has aroused us both to aid in its protection.”
Anna could now see the formless white cloud beginning to take on a defined shape; the smallest resemblance of a person was now standing in the room before her.
“Protection from what?” asked Anna.
“Chaos,” repeated the voice again.
“Look… I don’t understand. You say you’re here to help me, but you can’t tell me who you are. You say I have to prepare for some kind of conflict, but I don’t understand what you mean,” said Anna, walking across the bed on her hands and knees toward the thing floating before her.
“I weaken,” said the dulling form. And judging by the dimming light now projected into her room, Anna knew the thing would be leaving her soon. She decided to dump her remaining caution.
“I have been invited to go to Castlewood and study the magical arts — do you know that?” she asked. There was a long pause.
“Yes…you are to be prepared. You must understand your nature if you are to protect magic from madness.”
“But I can’t go to Castlewood because I…”
“You must go!” the voice said, sounding slightly panicked.
“But… I think… I’ve become a monster. A thing too dangerous to…”
“It is of no consequence,” the glowing figure interrupted sharply.
“What are you talking about?” Anna argued back, “I can’t put all those people at the school in danger.”
“The creature you fear is merely an extension of your own nature. It can be controlled.”
“So… I did change into that… that thing?” Anna’s heart was thumping so hard she thought it was going to explode. “Why?”
“Yes… orbus; you and the creature you dread are one. Do not fear it. There are many such familiarities in your nature. You must learn to control your passions. They will only bring chaos out of the magic you have touched.” The voice was now fading fast; the figure began to turn away as if to leave the room.
“Why do you call me orphan?” Anna asked, her mind searching for as many questions as possible in the time remaining.
The figure stopped and turned toward her again. “Your mother… is gone, yes?” asked the clouded light standing there.
“Well… yes… she died many years ago… but my father is still with me.”
“Your father? Who is… what father is this?”
“Boris Grayson is my father, he’s sleeping in the room down the hall,” Anna answered unthinkingly.
The form seemed to fall back slightly upon hearing this and then, quite unexpectedly, it shot forward. Its far-off shapeless body charged through the air, changing shape as it advanced upon Anna. Anna scrambled backwards trying to get away, finally finding herself pinned against her headboard as a huge featureless face, a dazzling bright head the size of a door, peered at Anna just inches away. Anna’s head was turned; the side of her face pressed against the headboard as her terrified eyes, half closed, cowered before the creature from the corners of their sockets. The coldness of the thing was overwhelming, penetrating straight through her chest and into the skin of her back.
“You… are the daughter of Boris Grayson?” screeched the form in front of her, the enormous head turning slightly, almost pryingly. “ANSWER!” The thing demanded.
Anna could barely breathe. She couldn’t move. She kicked down at her bedding with her heels, pressing herself hard against the headboard, trying to get away from the thing pressing in on her. Finally, Anna managed to speak.
“Yes, my name is Anna Grayson. Boris and Victoria Grayson are my parents. Please get back. I… I… can’t breathe,” Anna said, in a terrified voice.
The massive head moved forward still nearer, inspecting Anna closely as she pressed back against the wall. The figure then backed away, reverting slowly into the shapeless, now walking form at the foot of her bed. Although Anna’s room was still very cold, the air around her seemed to instantly warm as the creature moved away.
“Forgive me,” said the figure, “I have been away for a very long time. Things are not as I remember.” Anna was relieved to see the ghost-like presence return to a less hostile form. “I tire. We shall speak again when I have gained enough strength to return to you. You must work to understand your nature, child. I will help you where and when I can.” And with this final promise, the light began to fade; and in a flash of stunning white, it vanished. The room immediately began to warm again, but Anna was still pressed against her headboard, shivering with fright.