Chapter 34-Candle Burn
Someone taps my shoulder waking me up. My eyes flutter open. The house is cold and so many voices around me are talking over each other. Bright flashes of red and blue reflect off the black screen of the tv in front of me. Everything is hazy, but when I wake up more my hearing and vision focuses.
I look up from my napping position on the couch and sit up seeing Will. Marcella hovers behind him watching me while a bunch of coven members crowd around them watching us. The police are here too, but most of them aren’t paying attention to me and instead roam about the house snapping pictures and writing things down.
Marcella steps forward, “Someone broke into your house. Stella had tried to close the ward, but they got away. Did anything strange happen before you fell asleep? Stella and Crystal told us nothing happened tonight before the home invasion. We are just waiting to confirm this with you.”
“No, nothing happened prior,” I tell her while hastily standing up.
Stella and Crystal are over by the front door talking to some coven members with a lively conversation. They’re yelling and raising their arms around looking livid. My phone lays on the couch and I check the time, it’s still night. I can’t believe someone managed to break in. If Stella wasn’t here to close the ward who knows what they would have tried to accomplish.
Will turns facing our onlookers, “Alright, everyone. You’re no longer needed here!”
Slowly, the coven and police follow Will outside. They definitely aren’t doing it willingly though. When everyone finally exits the house, I’m left with Marcella. Unfortunately, I don’t see Stella or Crystal anywhere now and I don’t have an excuse to leave Marcella’s sight.
“Now Valerie, I know how much trouble you’ve been in. If there’s something you feel you need to share, now is the time to tell me. Everyone could smell it. This house smells like ashes and we both know what that means. I really hope you haven’t decided to take this route, but I fear the worst for you. Please, explain yourself.” Marcella says while sitting down on the couch.
No wonder the coven brought a bunch of candles in here. They are everywhere. On the coffee table, on the windowsills, in the kitchen, on the steps going up the stairs and probably up in our rooms too. All of the wax candles are either black or white.
Growing up, I learned the black candles our coven makes are infused with protective crafting spells. The white candles are known to bring peace and purification. I’m sure they are hoping to expel any possible lingering trace of black magic. Most of the wax candles are long and skinny. A couple short and wide candles sit on the kitchen table though.
I’ve really done it now. They all must think I am the white witch. If the smell in the air wasn’t enough, the demonic hex signs burned into the floor are. I sit down beside her with reproach. Marcella pats my folded hands and her skin is like ice. She sees me flinch at her touch and withdraws her hand. Stella and Crystal come back inside the house looking frozen.
“Get out of our house.” Stella states loud and firm to Marcella and I cringe.
However, the new headmistress seems to actually comply and doesn’t seem put off at all by Stella’s tone. She stands up and looks down at me crossing her arms with a sigh.
“I know this was black magic. However, the amount of craft we traced in here you would not be capable of yourself. You don’t need to worry about anything.” Marcella says while brushing off her cloak, “We know you are innocent.” She adds gently and I relax a little against the couch.
If only they knew it really was me using magic, but I would never admit it now. I’m lucky they are underestimating me. They must really believe it wasn’t me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have brought all these candles in here to try and protect us.
Stella rolls her eyes and doesn’t move from the doorway -- blocking the headmistress’s path to leave. What is she doing? We need to keep quiet so she doesn’t stay and ask any more questions.
“So who was it? Who managed to escape the ward?” Stella asks sharply.
“We have our own theories. It could have been one of our own, but I have been made aware of some growing rumors.”
“Rumors?” Stella echos.
Marcella gives Stella a curt nod and Crystal limps over to me probably to avoid the headmistress’s sight.
“Devil worshippers. Could be human or could be vampire. Someone with the guts to conjure such satanic craft. This was clearly the handiwork of a cult.” Marcella theorizes and I bite my lip.
Cult? The word has such a dark connotation to it and I shiver remembering the flag hanging in Mr. Silvet’s office. If anyone was capable of running a cult it was him or his...no I can’t think like that.
Not after everything I’ve gone through. Not after how much he’s helped me. Could there really be some kind of satanic cult in our small town? There can’t be something like that here. I’m sure it’s just a couple humans messing around or maybe some vampires in over their heads. Nick’s father sudden awakening won’t put him in any good position with the coven, they’ll look to him first.
They currently are in the middle of their truth examination with the police right now too. The police haven’t argued against it. If any of them were part of some cult surely they would have refused to be tested. Besides, there are more vampires in our community who could have gathered together for the devil. Maybe humans too.
Human or vampire, none of them have any idea what exactly they are dealing with, the devil. Black magic isn’t to be messed with and with the coven’s heightened ‘activities’ I thought people wouldn’t be brave enough to scare us like this.
After Marcella leaves, Will comes back inside with a few more pies. I feel pretty rotten being more joyful in seeing the pies than him. What is wrong with me?
“I’ll stay the night if it’ll help you girls sleep better.” Will offers while patching some holes in the ward.
“Sure,” I sigh.
When a ward is activated it usually breaks completely. Kind of like shattered glass, but Stella is a strong enough witch to repair it almost completely on her own. It’s probably what she and Crystal were doing outside.
I use my sight and quietly eat a piece of lemon curd pie watching Will’s magic fill a gap in the ward above the foyer. Stella helps him and Crystal sits next to me picking at her pie.
Will leaves Stella to fix the rest of the last gap in the ward and follows me up to my room. I try to worry less about what I’m going to say to him and focus on how the coven decided to nearly cover every square inch of my room in candles. The herbal aroma in here is so much stronger in here than downstairs. It’s too nauseating to breathe normally and I hold my nose.
“Okay, this is overkill. Why don’t we take some downstairs?” Will suggests while using his magic.
A good half of the candles leave my room by way of his blue glimmering craft. Some of them get blown out in the process of Will’s magic lowering them to the ground in the hallway outside my room. It still smells really strong in here though.
I’m tempted to open my window, but the magic in the candles would be extinguished. I don’t mind the coven going to this extent to protect me and the magic embedded in the wax was crafted to help me. It’s kind of a pleasant surprise for once and the extra pies were too.
My parents used to light these type of candles in our house. I’ll let them live in here a day and tomorrow I’ll worry about the odor.
“Valerie...” Will mumbles behind me.
“I’m sorry for all this. I’m sorry you’re suffering. I was an idiot to get mad at you and start a fight, but I’m just worried about you. Do you think you’d be...happier without me? Maybe we should just be friends. I know a guy. He’s really a great person. He used to work at the auto shop with me.” Will explains and I bit my lip feeling my sadness swell.
It expands in my chest like a balloon, ready to pop at any given moment.
“What’s his name?” I tremble.
“Bryce Lasser, I used to tell him all about you when my family first took you in. Bryce and I haven’t talked in a bit, but I’d be glad to set you guys up.”
I feel like I’m dreaming and not witnessing my boyfriend trying to set me up to compensate for breaking up with me. I should have known this was coming. With Will’s looks and status now, there must be another girl he likes. Before we started dating, I did see him with other women.
Maybe they never left.
“Say something.” Will’s voice breaks, but my heart hardens.
He doesn’t have a right to be hurt by any of this. Why is he choosing to do this now anyway? The moment the coven finds we have broken up they will kill me. He even called our relationship into question before, but maybe he was right. Maybe I was using him and never did love him. We were just...using each other.
Silently, I hand him my phone along with the rest of my sorrow and he enters in the guy’s number.
When did I become so numb?
“Valerie, talk to me.” Will pleads after handing me back my phone.
I force my face to remain emotionless before answering him, “We never loved each other. Our relationship was just an excuse to escape our own issues, right?”
Before he can say anything, Stella pushes by him into my room. All of the sudden Will looks deeply ashamed and it appears like he’s fumbling for the right words to say. Could he really have ever loved me? He probably felt obligated to watch over me because of the legend. That had to have been the extent of it. Otherwise, he would have elaborated more on why he’s doing this so suddenly.
“Oh, wow. You’re pathetic, just pathetic. Tomorrow is her birthday too!” She huffs and then pushing him toward the door she continues with a screech, “Get the hell out!”
“We’re all scared, but I will continue to protect you. I will get the coven to cooperate with the police for the better of the town. I’m sorry it had to end like this, but we know this is...for the best.” Will finishes with an empty sounding voice.
He turns around then. The coven must be summoning him because a pool of white light glows beneath his feet and he disappears not long after.
“He doesn’t deserve you. It was a shallow move on his end to try and set you up as a farewell gift. Crystal fell asleep downstairs. Do you want to talk?” Stella asks me with worry and the balloon in my chest returns.
“Thanks, but I’ll...I’ll be okay. I just need to sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.” I whisper and with a sad smile, she goes to her own room.
I feel like I’m slowly going insane. I shut my bedroom door and go to my bed looking out the window not really feeling anything in particular. I don’t even feel sad at all. Actually, I kind of feel like some invisible weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.
I feel like our break up was pretty crappy and it makes me feel crummy because I just have this feeling there had to of been another girl he was seeing all this time. Besides, what did he even gain by dating me? He certainly put himself at a huge risk with his campaign and all. We never talked really about where we saw our relationship going. I kind of expected Will would be the one to bring it up, but he never did.
One of the candles on my windowsill catches my eye. It’s black, but unlike the other black candles, it has red stripes. I scoot lower in my bed and watch its flame flicker. It teeters back and forth like my hold over my magic. I pick up my phone from my nightstand and delete Will from my contacts feeling satisfied. Why didn’t we ever talk about our own future together? Maybe we both knew it was temporary and were both too afraid to admit it.
Since I was sitting on my covers for a bit, they are nice and warm when I pull them over me and scoot lower in my bed laying my head on my soft pillow.
Eventually, I start to drift off and it’s like I’m already asleep, but my eyes are still open. It’s as if I’m dreaming in some weird half-awake state because I start hearing the strange sound of chanting around me. The voices speak in a foreign language and I sit up gradually in bed listening to the chanting.
In a trance, I stand up following its source. I make my way over to the odd red and black striped candlestick on my windowsill. It stands out against the other plain black and white wax candles. Something is overcoming my body and I can feel it wavering around my aura, but the glow of the flickering red and black candle encaptures my full attention. So I don’t bother to use my sight to check and see what it is.
A small waft of the candle’s smoke drifts by me and I exhale in bliss feeling pretty good. It must be the devil screwing with my mind because I think the soft voices whispering the song are coming from the candle. For some reason, even though I can’t understand the words, I know the song to be satanic.
Schwarz, schwarz ist alles was ich habe
Schwarz, schwarz ist alles was ich bin
Darum lieb ich alles, was so schwarz ist
Denn mein Schatz ist des Teufels Kind...
The soft chanting emitting from the candle continues and my finger catches a drip of its red wax. My mind starts to relax and become unaware as my fingers steal the candle of its flame. My heart shivers. Not with pain, but a silent thrill feeling the candle’s heat lick my skin.
“Black, black is everything I have.” It takes me a moment to realize the words are coming from me.
More words start slipping out of my mouth too as the devil uses me to praise him against my will along with the chanting voices emitting from the candle. I don’t know how else I’m capable of understanding the disturbing chanting still echoing from the extinguished candle or why I’m singing along with it to begin with. It’s almost as though the voices are waiting for me to sing back and it must be the devil that makes me do so.
“Black, black is everything I am,” I whisper quietly.
The candle’s wax smells really sweet and tastes like honey on my lips as I take a taste of the melty liquid I rub between my fingertips. My hair drifts around my face slowly as a new warmth showers over me and soaks into my skin deeply. It makes me grow ecstatic with eagerness, but for what I have no idea.
Denn mein Schatz ist des Teufels Kind, the voices continue whispering.
Feeling giddy, I look down at myself seeing my long black dress and I grin feeling my stomach burn as I sing along, “So I love everything that is so black because my darling is the devil’s child.”
I lick the rest of the yummy wax from my fingertips with excitement and mount my broom ready to find the troublesome demon my stomach burns for. My magic opens my bedroom window with me not even thinking about willing it to and I fly right outside without a second thought.
Schwarz, schwarz ist alles, the voices sing around me.
“Black, black is everything...” I hum along to the never-ending tune letting my long white hair flutter behind me in the wind.
I soar above the house and cackle feeling free as a bird as I drift up higher into the night sky. I lick my lips feeling the flavor of the wax still linger around my mouth. The pain in my stomach leads me beyond the edge of our yard and over the woods behind. I’m not really sure where I’m going, but my magic seems to have a mind of its own as it hovers ahead me like it knows itself where the demon waits.
I fly over a back road and land on the ground near the McCasters’ home just as the comforting and pleasant tune ends. I’m not alone though. A man in a black mask stands on the porch holding a big dead black rat by its tail. It turns in a slow circle in midair. The rat falls to the old wooden porch with a heavy thud as the masked man drops its body upon looking upward and acknowledging my arrival.
I blink slowly, feeling drained of energy and when I reopen my eyes the stranger stands a foot away from me.
There’s something about his stature that picks at the back of my mind. I feel like I know him, but his red robe and black mask conceal his identity from me, “You have done an impeccable job, my witch. I have extended the date of our fated day. This coming Samhain you will return here to me to fulfill your duty.”
His voice is raspy and comes out in rounds of soft growls and murmurs. I don’t recognize it immediately, but I think I have heard it before in a forgotten dream or memory perhaps. It’s very condescending and quite sinister sounding.
“Am I to come alone?” I ask feeling afraid of angering him for I think it to be the devil who cursed me.
“You may bring your friends as well if you desire them to be spared, but they cannot know of where you lead them.” He says in a frightening voice while handing me an oval mirror picture frame.
The glass is encased in a smooth onyx and a moving picture comes to life inside it. In the background of the picture are big old looking trees spread across the horizon beyond the huge expansion of a dead hayfield. My friends walk alongside me in the field and it makes me wonder if the mirror is showing me the future.
Eventually, my friends and I fade away and just the empty field remains. It’s frozen like a picture for there is no movement in it now. A man steps out of the house ahead of me just as the devil in front of me vanishes into thin air.
“Do not be afraid, I will go with you when the time comes.” The man says while watching me from the doorway of the house.
My heart skips wanting him to close the space between us because I’m fairly certain he is the man the voices and I were singing about. Our magic is connected and pulls us together. I can feel our common desires radiating between us as he leads me inside the dark house and I follow him like a moth to a flame. I clutch the picture frame the devil gave me tightly while he guides me upstairs and into a small room.
“On Samhain, will you remember to come here to me?” He asks me.
He truly must be the devil’s son the voices told me about. That is since he refers to the masked man as his father who I’m fairly certain had to of been the devil checking up on me.
The man locks me in place between his arms gripping the railing of the empty wooden baby crib behind me. He looks so serious and it’s unfair how unaffected he is by my magic when I am left wanting and waiting for his touch to rid me of my misery.
“I...will.” I breathe out heavily feeling sleepy.
I try so hard to remember what I just agreed to, but I can’t remember anything. I don’t even know why I’m clutching this picture frame of a landscape to my chest. Where are we and why am I here? Who even is this man?
“Good.” He replies sounding pleased.
His touch feels familiar and something in me knows, or is hoping, he will make my agony go away. I’m not sure if I truly should be welcoming his touch though because it seems like there’s something off about him. Something itching within him to escape and devour me whole in the darkness of this tiny room. I look up under my lashes into his dark blue eyes that look almost black as he watches me intently. In the dim lighting in here, his hair appears a shade of dark auburn gold.
The pain coming from my stomach does not immediately go away at his touch. Instead, something very tiny, beneath the surface of my curse mark, moves downward inside of my belly with a sharp pinch. It travels a little deeper, further beneath my stomach resting somewhere below.
It pulses just faintly enough for me to feel its presence and then I feel nothing at all. As if nothing was, or is, lying dormant within me.
His hand moves on my stomach between us and stays there. I don’t know why he starts caressing it lightly, but remembering the weird feeling in it a few moments ago I grow nervous.
His breath fans over my neck sending shivers down my spine. When he pulls away his eyes are a deep red as he takes a knife out of his black jacket and he pricks the tip of his pointer finger with its sharp surface. A strange hunger overcomes me. Before I can stop myself, I reach out and snatch his hand by the wrist licking the drip of blood off his finger in one sweeping lick.
After realizing what I’ve done, I tilt my head back to look up at him releasing his wrist from my grasp. His lips part and his downcast gaze makes me feel very small, but his magic hums around me tickling my skin as if to encourage me to keep tasting his blood. Unsure if I like the bittersweet liquid or not I take another quick taste of a droplet of it dripping further down onto his wrist.
This time, when I taste his blood, something moves in my stomach slightly. The man tucks his face into the crook of my neck while giving me a comforting hug as if sensing my confusion. We must know each other, but how is it possible I have forgotten someone like him?
“Father is going to bless us when we fulfill our task.” He tells me in a soft voice.
“Bless us?” I breathe out, but he doesn’t explain.
Instead, he nuzzles his head against the crook of my neck smiling against my skin while speaking in a low whisper, “Happy birthday.”